As a student studying wildlife biology, I pay close attention to the animals that I see around the gardens. If a visitor spends time at the gardens and is relatively quiet, he or she may be lucky enough to encounter one of our local critters. Here are a few that I was I able to capture with a photo and you can look for when you come by.
This little guy seems undaunted by loud noises as I spotted him while mowing the event lawn. Woodchucks can be a problem in a garden setting as they like to eat the vegetation. However, at the Monk Botanical Gardens we have not noticed our local woodchuck population causing much harm. The one I saw completely ignored the kitchen garden vegetables and remained focused on the unmowed lawn. Their burrows have also not interfered with any of our equipment, so we are content to let them be. I for one enjoy spotting one every now and then. It adds some excitement to the day when I am able to point it out to visitors or a school group. One interesting fact about them is that they hibernate during the winter.
This one I spotted near the compost piles on the edge of the gravel path. This is some distance from the pond so it seems likely that this was a female that was going tolay her eggs. This (early summer) is the time of year that the painted turtle does this and the eggs usually hatch towards the end of the summer. Turtles are reptiles and some reptiles have the unique characteristic of having eggs that respond to temperature to determine the gender of the offspring. The painted turtle is one of these cool animals. For the painted turtle, cooler temperatures produce male offspring and warmer temperatures produce female offspring. It will be interesting to see what will come at the end of the summer. To identify, males are usually smaller than the females and have a concave bottom shell. For more information, you can visit this website: https://www.warnernaturecenter.org/animals/paintedturtle
I am not very skilled in toad or frog identification, but this one seems to me to be an American toad. It was found in the wildflower woods by one of the other interns who was weeding in the landscaping. It was so well camouflaged with an earth brown coloring that it was hard to spot even as I had it pointed out to me. It seems likely that this one lives closer to the pond and was only passing through the area we were in.
This is a very common snake in Wisconsin and I have seen many at the gardens. Overall, they seem quite skittish. I was only able to see this one because its movement as it hurried away from me revealed it. These snakes are harmless and are more scared of us than we are of them. I have seen these snakes in several places around the gardens, but this particular one I found on the outermost path that follows the fence line. It took cover in the wooded area along the path and was difficult to spot in the brush once it stopped moving, despite the bright yellow markings along its sides.
I hope you are able to visit the gardens often and take as much joy in the wildlife you see here as I do. You never know what you may find, and that makes it all the more exciting. Just remember to keep your camera handy and to be a respectful observer of our animal neighbors.