Sketch of Sylvan Runkel

The name of the two salamanders that live at the Dickinson County Nature Center are Sy and Manny. Manny’s name wasn’t very creative, to be honest. It comes from sala”man”der. Sy’s name, however, is in honor of famed Iowa conservationist Sylvan Runkel. Runkel was born in 1906 in Jacksonville, IL, and he graduated from Iowa…

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Photo of luna leopold

Luna the hedgehog’s name works on multiple levels. First, luna means moon in Spanish, and since the Dickinson County Nature Center’s African pygmy hedgehog is nocturnal, a name meaning moon is quite apt. Second, like many of our animals, Luna is named after a famous conservationist — Luna Leopold. Leopold was born in 1915 in…

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Photo of a tiger salamander

Sy the tiger salamander is huge. The Dickinson County Nature Center has two tiger salamander animal ambassadors, named Manny and Sy, and they are members of the largest land salamander species in North America. Tiger salamanders usually grow 7-13 inches long, but Sy is around 14 inches in length from head to tail. That’s one…

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Photo of a bunny

The Dickinson County Nature Center’s bunny animal ambassador, named Bindi, is actually a pet rabbit species. However, this mini rex looks quite a lot like the native rabbit in Iowa, the eastern cottontail. They both have a fluffy white tail, long ears, a brown coat with lighter colors in the undercoat and dark eyes. There…

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Photo of Al the toad

Because frogs are brightly colored, they tend to be looked on with more awe than toads. However, American toads have some pretty neat attributes when you get to know them. They taste bad. American toads are covered in red and yellow wart-looking spots that actually contain glands that secrete poison. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt…

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Photo of a prairie skink missing its tail

Prairie skinks (Plestiodon septentrionalis) are common in Iowa, but you may never have seen one before. They are so tiny, that they blend in extremely well with their prairie surroundings. Prairie skinks range from 5-8 inches in length typically. Schnoodle the prairie skink Some skinks are is a little smaller than a typical prairie skink…

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