The Parklands education staff has added a new member to its team! Stop by the PNC Achievement Center in Beckley Creek Park to say hello to our new ambassador of education. Ranger Randy, our new red-eared slider turtle, will join our well-loved box turtle ranger Russell to educate all the children that might visit our park. The education staff is host to many educational events including school field trips, Wednesday Wonders, spring and summer camps, and Junior Explorers—and Ranger Russell has always been the star of the show. We found using live animals as a pathway to education is a very effective tool. Whether it is in our classroom or wild animals we encounter on hikes, it is the highlight of any educational experience. You may be wondering what you can learn from our new addition.
Red-eared sliders are commonly found up and down Floyds Fork basking in groups on rocks or logs. Popular places to see red-eared sliders in The Parklands include Floyds Flats in Beckley Creek Park and the Riparian Ramble trail in Broad Run Park among many others. Although they live most of their life in water, basking in the sun is essential to their survival. Basking helps them to regulate their internal body temperature, which they cannot fully do themselves because they are ectotherms. Basking also helps them to dry out which discourages bacteria growth on shells. However, you may not see them basking for long because at the slightest sign of danger they will quickly slide into the water and into safety. This is in part how they got their name red-eared slider. The red-eared part of the name comes from the vibrant red stripe they possess on the side of their face near their ears. Red-eared sliders are omnivores, meaning they feed on plants and small animals, such as fish, crayfish and other aquatic insects.
Thankfully, the population of red-eared sliders is doing great although habitat destruction and the pet trade do affect them. Actually, these turtles might be doing too great as they have made a top 100 list of invasive species in places where they are not native. Due to their adaptability and small size they make a very popular pet, however when they get bigger pet owners realize they don’t have the means to care for the animal and release them into the wild. This causes real problems as they outcompete native aquatic species for resources and introduce unknown disease to native populations. We are in their native range, meaning red-eared sliders are naturally found here; but dumping a pet in the wild is never a good solution for the animal or the area.
Our red-eared slider was kindly donated by a family who bought him as a hatchling, meaning he never has been a wild turtle. Our staff would like to remind everyone that it is illegal to collect any wild animal and make them your pet, This is usually life threatening to the animal who is happier and healthier in their natural habitat.
There is much more to learn about our new friend, Ranger Randy, in the PNC Achievement Center. When you stop by don’t forget to say hello to our box turtle Ranger Russell as well. If you want to learn more about his story, click here: https://www.theparklands.org/Blog/176/Meet-Russell. Starting March 23 we will be switching to our spring and summer hours: Tuesday- Sunday 10a-4p, we would love to see you!
About the Author
As Director of Education, Curtis Carman oversees The Parklands Outdoor Classroom, promoting STEAM-based education through engaging, hands-on learning both outdoors and inside the classroom. Each year, his team of Education Specialists, Interpretive Rangers and Camp Counselors guide nearly 20,000 participants of all ages through school field trips, camps, Parklands Explorer, Junior Explorer and Wednesday Wonders. Prior to his promotion to Education Director in May of 2018, Curtis first joined The Parklands team as an Interpretive Ranger and led the department as Education Coordinator for three years. A native of Louisville and a graduate of Ballard High School, Curtis returned to his hometown after having worked as an environmental educator in Maine and Colorado at Acadia and Rocky Mountain National Parks. Curtis also served as Membership Manager at the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. Curtis enjoys hiking, biking, camping and kayaking.