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Discover the cold-blooded creatures that inhabit the Kansas City region.
Discover the cold-blooded creatures that inhabit the Kansas City region.

Reptile Roundup 🦎 

Around Kansas City, we’re mostly used to our wildlife in the form of squirrels, chipmunks 🐿️ and birds. And depending on where you live, you might see the occasional fox 🦊, deer, raccoon 🦝 or possum.

But if you look a little closer, you'll notice the cold-blooded kinds that live here, too.

Kansas is home to 102 species of reptiles and amphibians, while Missouri is home to 54 species — not counting subspecies. We’re talking salamanders, snakes, turtles, toads 🐸 and even cute little lizards. 🦎

If you live in the city or suburbs on either side of State Line, you may catch glimpses of them from time to time in your neighborhood or nearby parks. But if not, you can grab a field guide for Missouri or Kansas, and get moving!

And we're sure this goes without saying, but as with every park, trail or natural site you explore: Remember to leave nature in its place and take out any garbage you bring in. 🚯

1. Box Turtles 🐢
You’re likely to see one of these guys on a hike, or maybe even hiding in your yard or wooded areas nearby. 🐢

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, most turtles in Missouri live an average of 15 to 30 years — but box turtles can live 50 to 80 years, and sometimes longer! 

Box turtles are shy and docile creatures and can be great helpers in teaching kids to appreciate indigenous reptiles and the importance of wildlife conservation.

If you can't find any turtles in the wild, head to Ernie Miller Park and Nature Center in Olathe. You’ll not only find box turtles but people who can talk about them and other indigenous species. 🐢

Turn your visit into a wildlife expedition with the park's Family Scavenger Hunt — search for animal tracks 🐾, prairie grasses and even animal scat. 💩 Points awarded to most items found on the list.

📍 Ernie Miller Park and Nature Center — 909 North, KS-7, Olathe, KS
🕒 The Park is open from dawn to dusk daily, but the nature center and gift shop are open Mon-Fri, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
2. Collared Lizard 🦎
The Lakeside Nature Center in Swope Park is a great place to get a look at some indigenous animals — including the collared lizard — without getting too close.

Due to population declines, collared lizards are labeled as a Species of Conservation Concern by the Missouri Department of Conservation — so if you see one, please leave it be! The department is working to improve glade habitats in the Missouri Ozarks to preserve the species.

Among other creatures, such as tiger salamanders and an 80-year-old box turtle named Wilma, the Lakeside Nature Center has a collared lizard and a copperhead 🐍 ready for you to view. You don’t even have to hunt for them. 🔎

But if you're looking for a hunt, you can turn your trip into a family adventure while learning more about indigenous species with Lakeside Nature Center's Scavenger Hunt. 🕵️‍♀️

📍 Lakeside Nature Center — 4701 E. Gregory Blvd., Kansas City, MO
🕒 Open Tues-Sun, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
3. Red Milksnake 🐍
Prairie Oak Nature Center in Leawood has a milksnake and a king snake inside — so there's no need to hunt for them, though the center does have two miles of trails to explore. 🏞️

Commonly referred to as the red milksnake, the eastern milksnake is rarely seen out in the open. They're about 21-28 inches long and are more often found on rocky hillsides.

If you do see a milksnake slithering across your path, you might think they’re dangerous because of their markings. But don't fret — the only dangerous snakes in these parts are rattlesnakes and copperheads. 🐍 The nature center will teach you how to read the markings and know when you need to turn and go the other way.

You can visit the Prairie Oak Nature Center now through September.

📍 Prairie Oak Nature Center
— Ironwoods Park, 14701 Mission Road, Leawood, KS
🕒 Open Tues-Sat, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, 1-5 p.m.
4. Blue-tailed Skink 🦎
The indoor part of the Burr Oak Woods Nature Center is closed due to the pandemic, but you can still walk the trails and watch for turtles, snakes 🐍 and skinks, which the Missouri Department of Conservation says are most active between April and October.

The five-lined skink, commonly called the "blue-tailed" skink, is Missouri's most common skink. 🦎 These harmless lizards are about 6-1/2 inches long and adorned with shiny dark scales and light stripes that vary with sex and age.

Spot them in cracks along your patio, or out in nature in rock crevices and beneath tree stumps and logs. Sometimes you'll see them climbing trees in search of bugs to eat. 🐜

📍 Burr Oak Woods Nature Center — 1401 NW Park Road, Blue Springs, MO
🕒 The park is open daily, 6 a.m.-8 p.m., but the indoor nature center is open Tues-Sat, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

 More Adventures in Kansas City

Coterie Theatre: A Kids Play About Racism

Tune in for a theatrical adaptation of Jelani Memory's A Kids Book About Racism. This virtual play offers families a way to engage in meaningful conversation about race, and will stream online for free, Aug. 1-2.
Parking Lot Concert Series

Head to The Campground's parking lot for a live concert by Kansas City Symphony Musicians. This free monthly series begins July 30 at 7 p.m. Find more information here.

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Photo Credits:
All photos in today's Creative Adventure email are used courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
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