What we love about our animal ambassadors

We love the animal ambassadors at the Dickinson County Nature Center! Here are some reasons why:

Pinki hair

Pinki's irridescent hair

Pink is the perfect color for Valentine's Day, so Pinki the tarantula fits right in. She has irridescent pink hairs that were the reason her species was named Chilean rose-haired tarantula.

Those hairs are more than pretty though. They have a distinct purpose.

Hairs on the bottom of their abdomen — the stomach — are a defense weapon for them. The have sharp tips with little barbs that can only be seen under a microscope. When scared, the tarantula will use its back legs to kick off a cloud of hairs at its attacker.

Luna's spines

A hedgehog's spines might seem like most unappealing part of them, because they are poky and used as a defense mechanism against predators.

However, we love that we can tell Luna's mood through the use of her spines. She is a pretty chill hedgehog and rarely uses the muscles attached to her spines to make them spiky and erect. Instead, when she feels safe with us, she relaxes her spines and lets us see her cute little face.

Learn more about spines in this video, featuring former hedgehog animal ambassador Honey.

Bindi's twitchy nose

When people try to act like a cute little bunny, usually the first thing they do is twitch their nose. It's adorable.

Rabbits actually have a purpose to twitching their noses --- to smell. They have 100 million scent receptors in their noses, and twitching helps expose all of them.

ornate box turtle in shell

Teddy the ornate box turtle

Teddy's personality

We usually call Teddy the ornate box turtle grumpy, but that is just because he's an introvert --- someone that gets energized being alone instead of in social situations. There's nothing wrong with that.

Box turtles are solitary animals and do not interact with each other except when it is time to mate.

Annie's breathing skills

Normally, turtles breathe oxygen just like humans, into their lungs. However, when surviving the winter underwater, they cannot breathe oxygen in the same way.

Instead, oxygen is absorbed from the water as it passes over parts of the body that are filled with blood vessels, including the skin, mouth and cloaca, or the hind end. That means that painted turtles, like Annie or her partner-in-crime Jeff, can hold their breath all winter when hibernating underwater.

Great Plains toad

Al & Wally's chubby frames

Our two Great Plains toads are a little, well, toady. They have thick, chunky bodies that are just endearing.


Sy's coloring

Sy the tiger salamander has neat coloring of yellow-green dots on a dark greenish-black background. However, not all salamanders look like him.

There are also tiger salamanders that have vertical yellow stripes running down the body, ones with golden blotches, and I’ve even seen some that look more green than yellow or black. Young tiger salamanders are olive green and get their adult markings a few weeks after hatching.

Capone's biting wit

OK, snapping turtles aren't actually witty, but they are bite-y!

A common snapping turtle has a bite strength of up to 656.81 newtons of force, although a typical bite is around 209 newtons. However, a human can also apply 1,300 newtons of force between the second molars.

Bites are severe because of the sharp beak that is designed to help tear meat apart.

Ada and Darling's red ears

Red is another color that just screams Valentine's Day, and Ada and Darling the red-eared sliders have red spots on their sides of their heads that helped them get their species name. The spots aren't actually ears, though, just in a place where one would expect the ears to be.

red-eared slider turtle on beige background

The Dickinson County Nature Center has two red-eared slider animal ambassadors.