Indoor Exhibit Animals
These smaller animals are on permanent display in the museum’s exhibit hall.
Learn More About These Animals...
Screech Owl (Megascops asio)
Wingspan: about 20 inches /50 centimeters
Weight: about 6 ounces /180 grams
- Perhaps the worst-named bird, Screech Owl calls can be described as whinnies, trilling whistles, or a harsh rasp.
- Screech Owls come in a range of colors, from gray to brown to rusty red.
- This small owl survives very well in human suburbs.
Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
Wingspan: about 44 inches / 110 centimeters
Weight: about 3 pounds /1,400 grams
- Great Horned Owls are the first birds to begin nesting in Massachusetts every year, sometimes laying their eggs in January.
- These owls don’t build their own nest. Instead, they take possession of an unused hawk, crow, or even eagle nest.
- Just about anything up to the size of a rabbit can be on a Great Horned Owl’s dinner menu, even skunks. Owls have virtually no sense of smell, a good thing when you’re skunk hunting!
Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)
Length: about 17 inches/45 centimeters
Weight: from 1 ¾ pounds/800 grams to 3 pounds/1,500 grams
- Eastern Cottontails mothers have a very hands-off approach to mothering. The mother will leave the babies in a safe place and will visit only two or three times a day to nurse. Very young rabbits are almost odorless and nearly invisible to predators.
- Unlike their European cousins, American rabbits don’t dig burrows. They may make use of a rock crevice, a hollow log, or an old animal burrow to get out of the worst weather.
- Eastern Cottontails have been expanding their range and competing with New England Cottontails. The differences between these two species of rabbits are very slight, but enough to give the Eastern Cottontail an advantage. The New England Cottontail is now considered a threatened species in Massachusetts.
Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis)
Length: 18 – 32 inches / 47 – 81 centimeters
Weight: 1 ½ - 13 pounds / 0.7 – 6.3 kilograms
- Striped Skunks will puff out their fur on their backs and tail, and stamp their front feet to give plenty of warning before using their ill-scented spray.
- Although dogs have a tendency to get sprayed, Striped Skunks will usually ignore cats and have even been recorded sharing food bowls with them.
- To avoid conflicts with skunks, dispose of garbage properly, don’t leave pet food outdoors, and block openings that a skunk might use to enter the crawlspace under a building.
American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus, formerly Bufo americanus)
Length: about 3 inches /8 centimeters
- American Toads protect themselves from predators by being poisonous. The poison is stored in the two large lumps above and behind the toad’s eyes. Only animals which bite the toad and break its skin are affected by the poison.
- In spite of their poison, toads are still hunted by garter snakes, some hawks, and skunks. Toads are hunters themselves, catching and eating worms, slugs, and insects.
- Toad tadpoles change into adults very quickly, in only about three weeks. The emerging toadlets are tiny enough to sit on your smallest fingernail.
Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)
Length: 36 – 60 inches / 90 – 150 centimeters
Weight: 20 – 32 ounces / 580 – 900 grams
- Rattlesnakes use their heat-sensing pits to specialize in hunting small, warm-blooded mammals such as mice, chipmunks, shrews, and meadow voles.
- The snake’s rattle is made from scraps of shed skin. The number of rattles does not reveal the snake’s age, as the rattles may break and fall off and the snake does not shed on an annual schedule.
- Rattlesnakes in the Blue Hills are threatened by a recent outbreak of a fungal skin infection, which is fatal without treatment. Timber Rattlesnakes are considered “Endangered” in Massachusetts.
Copperhead Snake (Agkistrodon contortrix)
Length: 24 – 36 inches / 60 – 90 centimeters
Weight: 8 – 12 ounces / 225 – 340 grams
- Copperheads have a heat-sensing pit located between each eye and nostril. This pit helps them locate the small mammals and frogs which are the main sources of food.
- Copperheads in the Blue Hills spend the winter in crevices between the rocks on the hillsides, but move into the wetland areas between the hills in summer.
- Because of their scarcity and declining numbers, Copperheads are an “Endangered” species in Massachusetts.
Honeybees (Apis melifera)
Length: about 3/8 of an inch / 1 centimeter
Weight: 0.004 ounces /0.1 gram
- Honeybees are domestic animals which were introduced to North America by European colonists in the seventeenth century.
- Because they have a complex social structure, successful colonies of Honeybees can number in the thousands, many more than are found in the tiny colonies of native bumblebee species.
- The industrialization of agriculture, use of persistent pesticides, and pests inadvertently transported by international trade have all greatly reduced the ability of Honeybees to survive in this country.