So many amazing animals!
Many different creatures call the Children of Indiana Nature Park home. Let’s explore what can be found in the area and what makes these critters unique. We’ll periodically rotate this list so there will always be someone new to learn about!
Also known as the common snapping turtle, this animal lives everywhere from Canada to the southwest edge of the Rocky Mountains, and down to Florida. It is known for its combative nature when out of the water and has powerful beak-like jaws and can easily move its head and neck.
In the water, snapping turtles are more likely to run away and hide. These turtles can reach up 20 inches in length and weigh as much as 35 pounds. They usually live around shallow ponds or streams and are sometimes known to bask in the sun – though it is rarely seen.
Snapping turtles are scavenging and hunting omnivores. They will eat plants as well as any animals they can shallow such as fish, frogs, and even small mammals. They will travel over large areas of land to reach new habitats or lay eggs and many factors such as pollution and food scarcity can push these animals quite far away from the nearest water source.
The indigo bunting is a small migratory bird found in much of the United States during the summer and move south to Central America in the winter. They migrate during the night and use the stars to guide their path. When it is not migrating time, indigo buntings are solitary birds.
They tend to be found on the edge of forests in the brush, open forests, and even farm fields. They communicate through chirps and both males and females will use a sharp “chirp” as an alarm if their nests or chicks are being threatened. While perched, the birds will often swish their tails from side to side, so watch for movement in the trees!
Males are bright blue in the summer and brown during the winter while females are brown year-round. Their bodies are stocky with short, thick bills shaped like cones. Their tails are short and rounded.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
This native butterfly of eastern North America is just one type of swallowtail butterfly. The Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly is common in many different habitats. They fly from spring to fall and will have two or three rounds of young during this time.
Adult Eastern tiger swallowtails feed on nectar from flowers. Males are yellow and have four black “tiger stripes” on each front wing. The females can be yellow or black. When they are yellow, they look similar to males but have blue along their bottom wings. Their wingspans are between three and five and a half inches.
These butterflies are mostly solitary and fly high, often seen above the tree tops of deciduous forests and along streams. They enjoy the nectar of a variety of flowers like milkweeds, azaleas, and thistles. Easter tiger swallowtails also have a many host plants on which they lay their eggs and the caterpillars eat from including cottonwood, ash, and wild black cherry trees.
Deer mice are similar in appearance to white-footed mice. However, they have smaller feet and are more bright brown in color than the white-footed mice. They are generally two-toned with darker colors over the top of their bodies and white on their lower bodies. The mouse’s fur is soft, dense, and short.
Deer mice can be found in a variety of habitats ranging from woodlands, to grasslands, even to deserts. However, they prefer areas of woodlands, bushy areas, and prairies. They are most active during the night, which makes them primarily nocturnal creatures. Most of their activities are focused on building and maintaining their nest or obtaining and storing food. They eat both plants and animals including insects, seeds, fruits, flowers, other invertebrates, and nuts. Deer mice help to spread seeds around the areas where they live.
Mice can have home ranges as big as almost two square miles. They also function as an important part of the food chain. Deer mice are carriers of Lyme and other diseases, which makes them an animal to avoid contact with in the wild.
Let’s talk about plants!
The park is home to a variety of plants. Some belong here (they’re called native plants) and some do not belong here (they're called invasive plants). We’ll explore both native and common invasive plants here, sharing a little about each one to help you learn about what grows on your land. We will periodically update this list, so be sure to come back so you can become a native plant expert!
Native: Rattlesnake Fern (Botrychium virginianum)
Rattlesnake fern prefers to grow in shaded areas of moist woods and is typically up to a foot tall. Leaves are compound with many leaflets, grow parallel to the ground and are roughly shaped like a triangle. Some leaves are fertile while others are not. The fertile leaves produce spores that are released in the fall and distributed by the wind.
Native: Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Virginia Creeper is a climbing vine native to eastern and central North America. Part of the grape family, this flowering plant produces small hard dark purple berries which provide food for birds during the winter but are poisonous to humans. It is often confused with poison ivy, but Virginia Creeper has five leaves instead of three as poison ivy does. The leaves are comprised of five leaflets joined at the center on the leafstalk. They can range in size from one inch to eight inches and are “toothed” or serrated on the edges. It can grow on trees or the sides of structures as well as along the ground. It will grow anywhere from forests to fields and gardens or along stream and river banks. They produce tiny yellow-green flowers June – August. Many caterpillars rely on Virginia Creeper for food, eating the plant’s leaves. It also provides cover for small animals and is a good native alternative to plant in gardens.
Invasive: Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
Japanese honeysuckle is an invasive woody vine which spreads by seeds, roots, and above ground runners. It damages forests because it takes resources such as light and space from native species and outcompeting them. It forms a dense ground cover that is hard to remove. As the name suggests, it is native to East Asia including Japan and Korea. It was introduced to the U.S. for use in landscaping and as food for wildlife. Japanese honeysuckle can be found everywhere in Indiana, but is the most prominent in the southern part of the state. When planning for a garden or landscape project it is important to choose only native plants.
Invasive: Autumn Olive (Eleagnus umbellata)
Indigenous to eastern Asia, autumn olive was introduced to the United States to provide food for wildlife. However, it quickly became invasive throughout the eastern U.S. as birds spread its fruits. It grows as a shrub or small tree about 15 feet tall, with thorns and leaves that grow alternately on the stem. The underside of the leaves is covered in small silvery scales, and the pale yellow-white flowers bloom in clusters during the month of April. The fruit is silvery and yellow in color until it ripens and turns red. When considering plants for landscaping or gardening, choose native plants.
Caring for the Land
On this page we feature stories about how people work to keep native habitats healthy and wild, by caring for our lands and waters.
Boy Scouts of America’s Carmel Pack 132 removing invasives at Bitternut Woods.
Scouts Make a Difference at Hamilton County Nature Preserve
In these stressful and anxious times, many folks—be it from walking through their backyard or looking out their window—turn to nature to provide solace and a bit of calm.
But who does Mother Nature turn to when she needs a little help? At a nature preserve in Hamilton County last fall, she got plenty of help from the Boy Scouts of America’s Carmel Pack 132 .
Read the rest of the story!
A Natural Park
NOPE, you won’t find slides and swings at the Children of Indiana Nature Park (Park), but you WILL find trees, insects, signs of critters, and life around every corner. This land was deeded to all of the children in Indiana because we think YOU ARE IMPORTANT and because PROTECTING NATURE MATTERS! As you explore the land, you will learn about ways we are changing the property to make your land as healthy as possible!
My Spot Now
Depending where your deed is located, your spot may be in a hay pasture or your spot may be in a wooded area. The Park is mostly flat with a ravine running north-south through the center of the Park. The eastern part of the Park is largely an old white pine plantation where the trees were harvested for building materials. The western part of the Park is a hay pasture that is bordered on the east by hardwood forest that generally follows the ravine. There are mowed trails throughout the property for people to walk. In time, this area will be restored to its natural state as it was before the hay pastures and the pine plantation.
Making the Park Healthier
In the future, the Children of Indiana Nature Park will look more like it should with native plants and animals, thanks to the great care that many children gave to the land, and all deeds to the Park will be located in hardwood forest habitat. The Park will be a native hardwood forest with a diverse understory of native plants, and will reflect the natural features of the Central Tillplain region. The Park will look as settlers may have found the land in the area in the mid 1800's. A new trail system will also allow easy access throughout the Park.
Caring for My Land
What people do on the land affects the plants and animals that live there - sometimes good, sometimes not-so-good. People who care for the land and the creatures that live on the land are called conservationists. At the Children of Indiana Nature Park, we are planning conservation activities that will maximize the number of native plants and animals that call the Park “home.” Read about some of the big changes
occuring at the Park!