Monday, October 7, 2013

Scales Nature park, near Orillia, Ontario

Today we went to Scales Nature Park near Orillia. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. We had a groupon to enter for half price so our admission for a family of four was $16. Even at regular admission price of $32 I still think it is well worth it!

We arrived shortly after opening and there were only a couple other people there. Right away we were met by a staff member and unlike other "zoo" type places we didn't just walk around and look at the animals; we were basically given a guided tour.

The zoo area isn't that big but it's well laid out and never felt too squishy even as it got busier. There are many, many native and non native species to Ontario housed here.

The iguanas were the first reptiles the girls saw and within the first minute learned from the staff member how to tell the males from the females... (the males have much longer tails then the females).

On every cage there are colour coded signs. The green ones are native species to Ontario and the red ones are not native to Ontario. Here's an example of the green ones... it gives a basic description and information about each species. Somehow I didn't take a picture of any of the red ones.
I wonder if this one will turn into a prince???
 Here Sierra is observing the American Toad habitat to see if there is anything else she could do at home to help make her toads habitat more natural. As it turns out she has done a great job at home!
An up close view of the American Toad habitat
Certain enclosures have stickers on them that encourage you to ask to be able to handle the reptile inside. Sierra and Aayla both LOVED searching for the stickers and having hands on time with each reptile. We also learned that they don't handle the amphibians because their skin can absorb lotions, sunscreen etc from your skin which is harmful to them. After hearing this we asked about the toads we have been observing at home as Sierra quite often plays with them. We found out that toads have a higher tolerance and playing occasionally is fine. They just do not bring them out for tours as it would be too many people touching them all day.

One snake that wasn't on the touchable list was the Massassagua Rattlesnake...gee I wonder why???
My favourite hands on animal was Sulcata Tortoise... this tortoise was a rescue. Someone got him for a pet and then their circumstances changed and they needed to find him a new home. This species of tortoise is the third largest species of tortoise in the world (this guy is still considered a baby) and they live between 50-150 years and sometimes longer! Turtles and tortoises are really pets for life...and even can outlive your children so even though they are a common pet, they really are not a good choice for pets.
 Note the spikes/spurs on his legs in the picture below. These give added protection to his head when he hides inside his shell.
The bottom of his shell is fully plated as well.
 He was fun to watch crawl around...and also fun to crawl around with :)
Next we, (or should I say the girls...I'm lets just say not a snake fan...and I'm beginning to realize I am out numbered in my house!) got to meet a Western Hognose Snake.

 Next up was an Eastern Fox Snake
This was Sierras favourite snake. She loved the colouring on his head.

Next up was Canada's longest snake and Ian's favourite of the day...the Black Rat Snake.

 This snake had what looked like a cut near the end of his tail...
Turns out it was a flap and I was staring at his privates...what goes in must come out. Normally it isn't so noticeable and you can only tell where the flap is by turning the snake over. From the flap to the tip of the tail there are two plates in each row instead of one as pictured below.
Next up was a bearded dragon. His colour was beautiful. I thought it was interesting that when you touched his skin it was bumpy and rough but when you touched the spikes along his side; which I expected to be sharp, were actually really soft. Reptiles don't have ears like us but have ear holes inplace of ears so he can hear. Unlike the snakes who rely on their tounge to smell.
There were many varieties of turtles and snakes as well as a few species of fish. They also have two of Ontarios only Lizards...the Five-Lined skink.
 Apparently these guys hide a lot most days but today they were eager for visitors I guess as they were both out.
Next we headed upstairs...this area is used for art projects etc with groups and had wonderful touch tables. It was a great hands on exploration area. The only thing it was missing was a couple of magnifying glasses :)
Aayla loved the coyote tail! It was amazingly soft.
This shell shows something that looks like a ribcage almost. This is the area that is molded through the turtles skin and holds the shell on the turtle. The shell can not be lifted off...another tidbit of new info for me :)
And do you remember the picture of the underside of the tortoise I posted near the beginning? It was a full plate on the bottom of the shell. Picture below is the shell of a snapping turtle. It is quite different as there is a large area that is not protected by shell. This is the reason the snapping turtle snaps. Snapping is his defense against predators as their shell is not fully protective for them.
Upstairs also houses a couple of Geckos. We learned that geckos tails are fat because they store their food in their tails for use when food is not abundant. This one show a tail that has regrown (it is slightly different in shape). They can drop their tails when they are scared.
And last but not least there was a ball python. They get their name from their tendancy to curl up in a ball when stressed or frightened.

 The ball pythons also have 3 small holes just above their mouth which helps them smell along with their tongue.

When we visited it was raining and we weren't prepared for a walk in the rain so we didn't check out the outside trail area. I did see on their website that they have a natural habitat set up outside to encouarage wildlife to live there. Their website also has a resource link HERE you can download to help various species by creating natural areas in your own yards. You can bet we will be making a hibernation hole for snakes and a hotel for other critters. We already have a toad city in the making :)

We spent about 2 hours here without exploring outdoors. You could definietly rush through faster if you didn't explore so many touching tanks but...what fun would that be?

Overall we were very impressed. You leave feeling like you got your moneys worth and more. We all learned new things and could easily go back again and learn more. Our guide was wonderful. She was very knowledgeable and happy to answer any and all questions. We definitely recommend you spend an afternoon here if you have any reptile or amphibian lovers in your household.

Scales is currently applying for a grant which we ran home and voted for them. You can vote once a day until voting ends. They are trying to build a turtle hospital as the closest one is in Peterborough. There are little to no grants available which are able to be used for rehabilitation of animals. With so many endangered species in Ontario it seems to me there should be more grants for rehabilitation! If you'd like to help them try to receive this grant please visit THEIR facebook page by searching for Scales nature park. Like their page and vote for them to receive the grant! All the details are on their facebook page.

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