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Adventures on the Halloween trail

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Animal characters tell youngsters about life in the forest

By Sandy Barnes

A large, furry rattlesnake was lying in wait for unsuspecting youngsters to appear on the trail at Lookout Mountain Nature Center on Saturday afternoon.

“You know what I do?” the reptile said when the kids met up with him. “I smell with my tongue. When I see a mouse, I take my two fangs and zap it with a bit of venom. And I eat it up.”

Decked out in their Halloween costumes, the kids seemed impressed with the snake’s skills, as well as his wealth of knowledge.

Volunteer Jim Wamboldt was portraying the rattler as one of many characters at the annual Halloween Trails and Tales event at the nature center.

“He loves it,” said Peg Alig, nature center director. “The volunteers who work here are big little kids.”

Alig was doing a feminine portrayal of an Abert’s squirrel in her dark gray costume with tufted ears, a tiara and fancy glasses.

She explained to the youngsters how squirrels in the Ponderosa forest eat seeds from pinecones, some of which are dropped onto the ground and grow into trees.

“I’m a tree-seed spreader and a dirt maker,” she said. “I’m an environmentalist.”

The animal characters on the trail were being interviewed for the position of forest health steward by one of Mother Nature’s assistants.

“I am very, very fast,” said the brown bat character during her interview.

“Some people would say I have ‘batitude,’ ” she remarked. “But I’m not going to fly into your hair … . We eat insects. I’m the only flying mammal.”

Other characters the children encountered were a scavenger coyote-magpie team and an owl who said she was “swift and quiet as a feather.”

Among the new characters at this year’s event were two pine-bark beetles who described themselves as being “a little over-eager and enthusiastic.”

At the end of the nature hike, the group gathered to decide which animal should be selected as steward.

“I like the bat because it eats insects,” said Freddy Whitten of Genesee.

However, the youngsters decided that all of the creatures should be keepers of the forest.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com.