Every spring and summer, without fail, a frog or a lizard of some sort gets into the house at least once. Usually, we get it back outside before the cats spot it, but it’s been a reliable learning moment: The kids learn something about North Carolina’s cold-blooded population as the creature returns to its habitat. Hopefully, too, this keeps them from viewing these animals as “creepy crawlies,” but as part of natural North Carolina. Several events in the next week offer a level-headed view of snakes, lizards and salamanders – as endemic to spring as daffodils and azaleas.
• The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences skips straight to that “scariest” reptile – the snake – and celebrates it. Saturday’s Reptile and Amphibian Day features animals both familiar (box turtles) and exotic (Gila monsters), but serpents get the marquee. Throughout the day, there are presentations on topics like snake venom and conservation and a handful of feedings (neat!). Museum admission is free. Details at naturalsciences.org.
• While similar in focus, Harris Lake’s Super Salamanders events are geared specifically toward 1- to 5-year-olds. (The atmosphere is better for little kids, who sometimes get overwhelmed in busy museums.) The Super Salamanders mission, accordingly, addresses just a single question: How are salamanders and lizards different? The program for ages 1-3 starts at 10 a.m., while one for ages 3-5 runs 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Both cost $4 per child and meet at the Cypress Shelter. Details: wakegov.com/parks.
• With 2014 declared the Year of the Salamander by a herpetology conservation group, there’s no shortage of opportunities to learn about these amphibians. The Wake County segment of the American Tobacco Trail holds a salamander hike at 2 p.m. Thursday (March 20 – the first day of spring). The cost is $3 per person or $5 per family. Details: wakegov.com/parks.
• Or you can go look under rocks for yourself. While you may not find much more than mud and gravel, there may be sluggish lizards or salamanders waking up from the long winter and warming in the sun. This way, too, you’re not just encouraging your kids to explore, but exploring with them! North Raleigh has creeks aplenty, and Chatham County has some excellent spots for this – like Deep River or the Haw near Bynum. Occoneechee Mountain in Hillsborough or, really, anywhere along the Eno should work nicely, too. This is free, but unguided, so be sure you know how to spot a venomous snake in case any are out and about.
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