Bald eagles are “birds of prey” with sharp talons and hooked beaks for catching and eating meat - especially fish! Bald eagles have a wingspan of up to 8 feet, build nests over 5 feet wide, and can spot a meal from a mile away! For many years Bald Eagles were considered an endangered species, but thanks to the hard work of state and federal wildlife agencies and private conservation organizations, they have recovered. The US Fish and Wildlife Service "delisted" them on June 28, 2007. Male and female eagles are identical in color and both contribute equally to the care of their young. Unlike mammals, however, female eagles are usually larger than the males. Wonder why this powerful bird doesn't fly away? Unfortunately, she suffered a permanent wing injury and cannot fly. This exhibit is sponsored by Morehead University.
Listen to the Animal Tracks Audio Tour for the bald eagle exhibit.
Bison or Buffalo? It’s bison. The commonly used word buffalo may have come from the French word boeuf, meaning beef or meat. Both sexes have horns, which are made of the same material as your fingernails: keratin. Though deer and elk shed their antlers every year, bison keep their horns for life. The huge hump on its back is a muscle, used to hold up that enormous head! Bison initially carved out many of the roads we use today (like the Wilderness Trail) and lent their names to many places throughout the state, such as Buffalo Trace Distillery - the sponsor of this exhibit!
Listen to the Animal Tracks Audio Tour for the bison exhibit.
North American Black Bears also come in blonde, cinnamon, and white - and all colors are hungry! These “omnivores” can consume 15,000 calories a day. Give it a try. That’s 25 Big Macs! Their diet consists of nuts, roots, berries, insects, small animals, …and garbage. Though it’s true that black bears love honey, it’s not true that they hibernate. Though similar to hibernation, bears in Kentucky go through something called "torpor". This means that they may sleep for several days or weeks at a time, but they do not sleep through the entire winter like other bears. Right now, black bears are making their way into Kentucky from Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee. If you see one, use common sense: respect its territory, never approach any wild animal, and no matter how hungry it claims to be, please don’t feed the bears!
Listen to the Animal Tracks Audio Tour for the black bear exhibit.
What's a wapiti? Wapiti means "white rump" in Shawnee and is another name for “elk”. Elk disappeared from Kentucky in the mid 1800’s due to unregulated hunting and habitat loss. Now, thanks to a successful reintroduction program by the KDFWR and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Kentucky boasts the largest elk herd east of the Mississippi! …And people think Kentucky is just about horses... Elk are the noisiest members of the deer family. The bulls bugle, the calves bleat and squeal, and the cows bark, grunt, and squeal to communicate! Like deer, only the males have antlers and they shed them each winter and grow a new pair. Ask us where you can go to view these majestic animals in the wild..
Listen to the Animal Tracks Audio Tour for the elk exhibit.
Backyard Wildlife Viewing Area
Want to attract more wildlife to your backyard? Then garden using native plants! This exhibit demonstrates three types of attractive water features and a variety if native plants, shrubs and trees you might use to provide year-round beauty in your own backyard habitat. Visitors can view this exhibit from a comfortable seating area indoors. Native wildlife prefer native plants for food and shelter and you will see numerous birds, butterflies, and mammals enjoying the habitat we've created. This exhibit is sponsored, and the water features constructed by H2O Designs, Inc in Nicholasville.
Wetlands provide habitat for many of Kentucky's native plants and animals, as well as critical rest stops for migratory waterfowl. Depending on the time of year, you may see redeared sliders basking on a log, hear spring peepers calling for mates, or watch a great blue heron take off from the shore. Close your eyes and listen... this marsh is full of living things! The Dragonfly Marsh is sponsored by Ducks Unlimited.
Listen to the Animal Tracks Audio Tour for the dragonfly marsh.
The eastern deciduous forest is characterized by tall hardwoods, such as oak, hickory, elm, and walnut, and is the dominant forest type of central Kentucky. A deciduous forest dominated by oaks and hickories is a sub-type of this. A short, accessible trail in this exhibit will let you examine the forest up close. Did you know that the giant American Elm in this exhibit helps to heat and cool the building? To protect the tree, two types of “pervious”paving are used: Pervious concrete and pervious paving grids made from recycled plastic allow rainwater to pass through pores to the roots. The pervious concrete deck was donated by Harrod Concrete and stone, Kentucky Ready Mixed Concrete Association, and Interstar Pigments, Admixtures, and Fibers.
Located in moist, low-lying areas of the Appalachian Mountains, you'll find the Cove Forest. The Cove Forest is just a small part of the Mixed Appalachian Forest, one of the most diverse forests in North America. Within this exhibit you will find many of the plant species common to the Appalachians, including tulip poplar, hemlock, umbrella magnolia, devil's walking stick, and spicebush. Among the trees, and lined by natural sandstone boulders is an ephemeral stream. Ephemeral streams are created by heavy rains and snowmelt and exist only a short time before drying up again. They often last just long enough for the eggs of frogs, salamanders, and some insects to hatch and mature.
The forest is expanding! We are currently planting more species to make this exhibit even larger and better than before. Come back and watch this exhibit grow!
Bluegrass Prairie Exhibit
How does habitat help wildlife? In this hands-on, interactive exhibit, you’ll hatch from an oversized quail egg, then face several kid-fun obstacles – including a giant hawk flying overhead – as you try to reunite with the mother quail. Visitors must decide which path to take: the prairie, which provides cover in the form of play tunnels; or the open, mowed field, featuring a balance beam and tire obstacles. The missing mother quail is located in a large, walk-through aviary containing several live quail. This exhibit is sponsered by Quail Unlimited (Salt River Chapter), Quail Forever (Commonwealth Chapter), Bobwhite Quail Special License Plate Fund, and Jackson Construction.
Listen to the Animal Tracks Audio Tour for the prairie exhibit.
The plants in this exhibit thrive in damp soil and bright sunlight. River birch, witch-hazel, indigo bush, and willow provide a low, shrubby overstory, while dense growths of goldenrod, ironweed, river oats, and cardinal flower make up the groundcover. These plants are common in the "riparian zones" of Kentucky rivers and streams. The riparian zone is a narrow strip of moist soil found between the water and dry land. The plants that grow here host a wide diversity of animal life.
Click here to listen to a sample of the new Animal Tracks Audio Tour for the wet meadow.
Raptor Aviary and Weathering Area
The Salato Center manages several non-releasable birds of prey which are used in interpretive programs. Their “home” is an off-exhibit area known as a mews, but thanks to the hard work of the Frankfort Plant Board and Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Georgetown, they can now be exhibited for visitors during the day. Depending upon weather and health, the birds are rotated through the exhibit (known as a weathering aviary) to assure that they get plenty of outdoor time – and to keep them used to the public. This, of course, provides our visitors with an opportunity to view these majestic animals up close.
No living thing can survive without clean water. In fact, it is so important that we have dedicated our newest exhibit to water quality. This huge, outdoor aquarium is modeled after the Elkhorn Creek in Georgetown, and features a large waterfall, rock cliffs, and a tunnel within which you may view many of the aquatic species that make the Elkhorn their home. The Living Stream continues below the falls past riffles, cascades, and backwaters, ending in a large pool filled with more native fish, turtles, and other fresh-water species.
The Living Stream is sponsored by Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Georgetown, a major corporation which helps assure the quality of water in Elkhorn Creek, and in the process benefits all of the creatures who depend upon it for life.
Click here to listen to a sample of the new Animal Tracks Audio Tour for the Living Stream.
White Tailed Deer and Wild Turkey
White-tailed deer and wild turkey are two of Kentucky’s biggest conservation success stories. Not so long ago, it was rare to spot one at all. Thanks to the efforts of concerned hunters and the establishment of regulations to prevent over-harvest, we now have a robust population of both and are considered one of the top states in the nation for hunting. Deer and turkey eat a mixed diet of grasses, forbes, acorns, and other items found in deciduous forests and fields, and as a result, they tend to be found sharing the same habitats. They even warn one another about danger! If the deer’s tails go up and they begin to run, turkeys know to take flight as well to be safe. Likewise, a spooked turkey is a sign to deer to get out of harm’s way. Hunters truly do pay for conservation as he sale of hunting licenses, a great deal of which are used to hunt deer and turkey, funds programs at the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife which benefit all species.
This exhibit is sponsored by Wild Turkey Distillery and Louisville Gas and Electric/Kentucky Utilities.
Listen to the Animal Tracks Audio Tour for the white tailed deer exhibit.
Also known as a bay lynx, catamount, or wildcat, bobcats are nocturnal and very shy, but they are extremely effective predators, able to jump 8 feet high and 12 feet across to catch their prey. Even Michael Jordan can’t top that! Their favorite meal? Small mammals like the cottontail rabbit. Though they may look and act like overgrown house cats, they’re not! Either of these cats could easily remove a finger …and would thank you for the meal. Remember: Wild animals are always wild.
Listen to the Animal Tracks Audio Tour for the wildcats exhibit.