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Tenkiller State Park
Driftwood Nature Center - Sept. 2006

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I spent an entire morning visiting with Leann Bunn, the Naturalist who takes care of the natural life at the Driftwood Nature Center. She's been with this park for 7 years and you can tell she has chosen the right profession. She was so eager to show me her charges - her knowledge and enthusiasm made my tour a lot of fun as well as taught me a bunch about the animals native to this area.
She obviously has a very special communication going with Solomon, the grey squirrel born this year and needing a little TLC before he gets on with his life in the wild. A friend of hers donated him to the center and he is such a sweet, friendly fellow!
It was amazing how gentle he was as he hopped from her to me and back again - sometimes giving little tickly nips as he "tasted" me - I just fell in love with Solomon!

Which of the animals in the above group are stuffed and which are real? And which animal doesn't belong with the others?

I actually got to touch the corn snake pictured upper right - and no, snakes are not slimy in the least! The Western Diamond Rattlesnake on the left was really active that morning, coiling and uncoiling, exercising her rattles and forked tongue. Of course, we weren't gonna mess with her! Top middle is Silky the flying squirrel who really lives up to her name. Leann has cared for her since she was less than a month old - she's full grown now at over 4 years old and her fur is truly silken - a real thrill to pet this nocturnal animal I've never seen before. Ms. Posey Possum woke from her nap to see if we were disturbing her for some good reason - like being fed. Hoo-Doo (a/k/a Girlfriend), the Barred Owl has been here for 5 years, since she was 2 weeks old. She likes getting her neck scratched by Leann, but don't go near her claws! Being Australian, the Sugar Glider gal on the bottom left is technically not a native, but she is still welcome here. After all, she's a marsupial, so that gives her a connection with Posey.

The grey fox in the bad mood is the stuffy one - he's part of the diorama (pic in the background) that is very well done and informative. And that's not all - even more surprising and entertaining exhibits are found here, so check it out and give Leann a hug for me.
And what did I see on the road on the way back from the Nature Center? My favorite nature animal - the deer!

I also really appreciated the sign I saw at the center - here's a portion of it:

"The lake before you was once a forested valley through which the Illiniois River flowed... Take a moment and imagine how this valley appeared to Cherokee travelers of the 1800's. This ridge on which you now stand was likely the location of a trail used by these people as they approached the river crossing. Listen to the breeze as it flows across the water. Although many pathways are kept secret underneath this lake, the old stories of this land may reach you through the gentle rhythm of a wave, or the whispering of the wind."
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