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Latta Nature Preserve is chock full of interesting and busy critters. Lots of people think there's no wildlife to be found because they didn't see a fox, deer, or raccoon on their visit. I think those people aren't looking close enough. It's true that megafauna (a.k.a. large animals) are not something we see every day in the preserve, but smaller creatures like lizards, birds, and invertebrates (those without a backbone) are easy to spot if you take your time and look a little closer!

Tips for watching tiny wildlife:

  1. Slow down. Not every walk in the preserve needs to get your heart rate pumping. Slow your pace and open yourself up to nature.

  2. Use your senses. Often you'll hear a creature before you see it. Many frogs and crickets have excellent camouflage so try to follow your ears to the source!

  3. Be patient. We are conditioned for instant gratification, but nature doesn't work like that. You might not find The Most Exciting Creature ever on every walk in the woods, but you never know on which walk that creature is waiting!

  4. Get into bugs! Insects, snails, and slugs are literally everywhere. You should have no trouble finding wildlife as long as your definition of wildlife includes these guys.

  5. Get in close. Many of my discoveries of hidden creatures come about because I stopped to take a picture of this mushroom, or identify that wildflower. Look closely at the plants and you'll be surprised what you find.

  6. Do no harm. Remember to be respectful of the creatures you find. Not every lizard needs to be chased nor every toad picked up. While the wonder of holding these things in your hand is incomparable, be sure you're not causing them too much stress or even injury!

If you head out on your hike and don't find anything exceptional, you can always come visit us at Quest! Get up close to tiny wildlife in the exhibit hall, including an anole, treefrog, and salamander, or look even closer at invertebrate specimens using MicroEye microscopes.

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Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation Day Camps are ending this week! This was the first summer we hosted camps in the new Quest facility. Campers were delighted by the microscopes, water tables, and of course having a cool place to eat lunch! See below for some highlights.

Campers in Outdoor Adventure Camp: H2O had an opportunity to fish in Mountain Island Lake. While some were lucky enough to land a sunfish on the hook, some campers chose to make friends with the bait instead!

Canoeing has always been a staple of summer at Latta Nature Preserve. Park & Rec camps almost always get kids on the water for some practice paddling and to explore the lake's many coves. Raptor Center campers also enjoyed weekly canoe trips!

Quest's exhibit hall played an important part in the educational component of camps. Here, 4-6 year-olds in Nature Discovery Camp took a closer look at some organisms using the Microeye magnifiers. They used this as inspiration for their creative creatures art projects!

Other fun highlights this year were guest visitors from the Schiele Muesum and Raptor Center, Cryptozoology Camp which took place entirely at night, and Nature Preserve Picassos whose art was something to behold! We are always sad to see the end of summer, but staff are already full of ideas for next year's camps: stream searches, archery, mountain biking, bug hunts, orienteering, and so much more!

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With this announcement, Mecklenburg County paved the way for the opening of Quest, a new environmental education center in Huntersville's Latta Nature Preserve. Quest will be open on weekends (Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays) through Labor Day weekend and will begin a 7-day-a-week schedule on Tuesday, September 7. Hours for the facility are 10 am - 5 pm.

Amenities at Quest include the following:

  • 4,000 square foot central exhibit hall featuring "Nothing Survives without Water" permanent exhibition.

  • 6,000 gallon fish tank featuring two large Gar and a variety of other native species fish

  • Water cycle play table

  • Frogs, snakes, lizards, and turtles

  • Micro-eye viewing microscopes

  • Information on Habitats around Mountain Island Lake

  • Fishing rods available for loan

  • Fully-stocked Nature Gift Shop including bait for fishing

  • Three classroom facilities

  • Patio overlooking future site of the Raptor Trail at Quest

  • Catering kitchen

  • Public restrooms during operating hours including a family restroom

An official ribbon cutting will occur this fall. The Raptor Center at Quest will open in 2022.

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