HOLDERNESS — The Squam Lakes Natural Science Center set an all-time attendance record last year when it hosted 50,188 visitors and is poised for an even busier season this year, according to Iain MacLeod, executive director.
He says that the center is expecting more than 1,000 visitors for its annual New Hampshire Day event today, which is the busiest day of the year for the facility, which is now in its 49th season.
In addition to nature trail visitors, the center hosted 9,803 lake cruise passengers last year as well as hosting 14,608 school children and teachers and had 7,314 people attend non-school outreach programs.
MacLeod and Amanda Gillen, marketing and visitor services manager, led a media tour of the center Friday during which they showed new exhibits and new animals for the 2015 season, including a raven which is part of the Celebrate Birds Exhibit.
The raven replaces the blue jays which were part of a three-year research study completed by center in conjunction with the University of New Hampshire. The raven arrived at the Science Center in March as a former pet whose owners could no longer care for him. He is habituated to people and cannot be released into the wild.
MacLeod says that the raven, a very social bird, is adjusting well to its new home. Also new is a northern goshawk, who is still somewhat skittish but has shown signs that it is calming down.
Another new exhibit opening this year is the Gordon Interactive Playscape, A Predator-Prey Adventure. Visitors play the role of a red squirrel searching for food as they climb rocks and logs, scramble through tunnels, and balance on branches to escape predators in search of the bird's nest.
The Playscape is located next to the Gordon Children's Center and will open July 1.
The center is now featuring a three-dimensional art installation in the Mead Discovery Place of the Trailhead Gallery called Stream of Conscience. To build excitement and awareness about water and the upcoming new Water Matters Pavilion (scheduled to open for 2016), the Science Center is working with the non-profit organization Art for Water (artforwater.org) to create this installation. It will be on display through November 1, 2016.
The $1,250,000 Water Matters Pavilion is part of a $4 million Nature Matters Capital Campaign at the 232-acre property. As part of that campaign last year the center opened a $480,000 state-of-the-art wood energy plant. It is also planning to replace two outdated structures, a stockade and winter bird headquarters, at a cost of $200,000, as well as provide $1,450,00 in reserve funds.
Gillen said that the Water Matters Pavilion, which will feature live turtles and mink, as well as native warm water and cold water fish species, aquariums and an outdoor play area, the Adventure Playscape, which will cost $250,000.
The live animal exhibit trail features native New Hampshire animals such as coyote, red fox, gray fox, skunk, bobcats, mountain lions, white-tailed deer, river otters, black bears, and various raptors including bald eagle, great-horned owl, and red-tailed hawk. The Science Center features river otter feeding presentations every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 11:30 a.m. starting May 2. River otter feeding allows visitors to learn about otter biology and ecology while watching the two resident river otters play and enjoy a special treat.
Visitors can also see live mountain lion training on Thursdays at noon during July and August. Mountain lion training and feeding shows off the tasks the mountain lions have learned that enable keepers to ensure the health and safety of the animals while providing enrichment. Up Close to Animals presentations offered five times a day in July and August allow visitors to meet an animal up close and learn about them from a naturalist educator.
CAPTION: photos slugged slsccoyote
A coyote shows off his teeth at anexhibit at the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
A bobcat is one of the native New Hampshire animals featured in a wildlife exhibit at the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. in Holderness. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
A raven is one of the new attractions at the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness this year. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
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