Unseen to visitors as the temperature drops, many of Pettit Preserve’s creatures are still thriving, just at “a much slower pace.” Titled Mammals in Winter, the venue’s Explore Nature Saturday program will be presented Dec. 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“We’re covering mammals in winter to talk about what bears, raccoons, groundhogs and other mammals do to cope with the cold temperatures, which is also a time where less food is available from nature,” Preserve Executive Director Marina Robertson said. “Some species enter hibernation each year at the same time, regardless of temperature or food availability, and are called obligate hibernators. Their body temperatures may fall as low as the ambient temperature, but they may wake up periodically to eat and eliminate waste. Also, hibernation is not ‘sleep,’ since sleep is not characterized by extreme reductions in metabolism common with hibernation. For many years, scientists did not consider bears ‘true’ hibernators since their body temperatures did not fall a tremendous amount. But now we know they do hibernate and that there are different ways to hibernate.
“Since we’re covering mammals in December, in January we will follow up with Reptiles in Winter, which will cover brumation and how it affects local animals. We hope people will remember that animals are still around even if we don’t see them as much in winter. Nature doesn’t close up shop just because it gets cold and all the leaves are off the trees. Life is still going on even when we can’t see it, just in a different way, with a much slower pace.”
Situated off Ga. Highway 61 in southwest Bartow County, the preserve was formed as a private, nonprofit corporation — The Margaret and Luke Pettit Environmental Preserve Inc. — in 1999 when the late Gay Pettit Dellinger and her children initially donated 60 acres of property.
According to www.pettitpreserve.org, the venue “strives to provide:
• A nature preserve for environmental studies.
• An opportunity for children to experience the joy of nature.
• A safe haven for native species.
• A research area of educational and scientific value.
• An outdoor teaching laboratory.
“The Pettit Preserve offers quarterly programs, monthly hikes, children/youth camps and school field trips and is available as a venue for business and family events.”
Open to the general public during scheduled programs, the 70-acre venue consists of various trails, a swinging bridge, a 9-acre lake, two aquatic stations, three amphitheaters, self-contained composting toilets and a Learning Shed. More than 18,000 patrons have visited the preserve or received outreach through its programs since the site opened in 2006.
“The preserve started Explore Nature Saturdays in May of this year as a way to expand our programming and offer interesting nature topics every month,” Robertson said. “We love offering special speakers from around the state for our quarterly programs, but we wanted to offer more to our members and to the public, providing regular opportunities to learn more about nature. Since May, Explore Nature Saturday topics have included tracks and scat, wildflowers, tree identification and an insect scavenger hunt. Every month, we have folks who come out specifically for the topic and [others] who are glad to have fun environmental education opportunities on a day they just came out to hike. We encourage visitors to suggest topics that they want to learn about for future programs.
“While we will increase the number of monthly programs with outside speakers to six in 2018, we will continue the Explore Nature Saturdays for folks who want a less structured learning experience available all day, not just at certain times. All of our hikes are a fun and inexpensive way to spend a Saturday enjoying nature, and visitors are welcome to bring leashed dogs with them to enjoy the trails. We also have two picnic shelters available if folks want to bring their lunch to eat before or after hiking.”
Free to preserve members, Saturday’s event will cost $3 per person, with a maximum $10 fee per family. Along with the mammals program, the offering also will feature self-led hikes and a craft for children at the Learning Shed.
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