About 850 different species of amphibians, reptiles, fish, insects, plants and birds call Conner Prairie home.
By Hannah Kiefer
When visitors think of Conner Prairie, they may often think of the characters who reside in 1836 Prairietown or who entertain in our 1863 Civil War Journey and Lenape Indian Camp. But, there’s a much more wild set of residents on our grounds: The wildlife.
Conner Prairie has more than 1,100 acres of land and most of that is untouched, so there’s quite a bit of wild space. Couple that with the fact that Conner Prairie is surrounded by roads and suburban neighborhoods and much wildlife in the area finds refuge on our property. This can include everything from mammals and birds to amphibians and reptiles.
Our grounds provide a variety of different environments, thanks to the White River, forested areas and the prairie, just to name a few features.
The White River borders Conner Prairie’s developed property, including the prairie, and runs through the heart of its undeveloped property.
A comprehensive analysis of what’s alive at Conner Prairie was completed in 2013 and uncovered about 850 different species of amphibians, reptiles, fish, insects, plants and birds. But many more species inhabit our grounds. Next time you visit, you might just get to see a few if you know where to look.
Here are some of the most interesting animals that live on our grounds. But remember: Much of our property isn’t accessible to visitors, including the White River. If you do happen to see one of these animals, be sure to watch and enjoy from a distance.
Groundhogs: We have groundhogs that live around our property. These creatures aren’t often seen during the day when there are people on our grounds, but they live on the forest edges and under several of the buildings in 1836 Prairietown, among other areas.
Raccoons: Raccoons travel all over our grounds. They’re nocturnal, so during the day they’re often sleeping in the forested parts of our grounds, away from people.
Possums: Much like raccoons, possums are nocturnal and unlikely to be spotted. They live in dark areas during the day.
Flying Squirrels: Yes, we have flying squirrels at Conner Prairie. They’re nocturnal but have been spotted in the trees close to Animal Encounters.
Bats: Bats live throughout our property and during the day they often sleep behind tree bark.
Deer: We have many deer that live at Conner Prairie. They’re most often seen early or late in the day and they like to stay near the wooded areas, although sometimes they’re seen right out on the prairie in front of William Conner House. The best spot to see them is along our Nature Walk early in the day.
Hawks: Various species of hawks live on our property and they often hunt along the White River. The best place to look for them would be to spend some time looking out over the prairie in front of William Conner House. Occasionally, hawks will even choose to nest in the more secluded areas of our property.
Eagles: Species of eagle visit our property, including bald eagles. They also hunt along the White River and can sometimes be seen soaring over the prairie.
Turkey Vultures: Much like the other birds, these birds are easiest to spot when they fly over the prairie looking for food.
Woodpeckers: You’re more likely to hear woodpeckers than see them but they are out during the day pecking away at the trees near Lenape Indian Camp and other wooded areas.
Reptiles and Amphibians
Turtles: If you get to Conner Prairie early when we open, you can sometimes find turtles sunning themselves on the Nature Walk by Treetop Outpost or in the ponds in Civil War Journey. We have red-eared sliders, painted turtles, spiny softshell turtles and snapping turtles.
Frogs: Bullfrogs and American Toads can be seen hopping all over our grounds early in the day but they often hang out in the ponds in Civil War Journey or along the Nature Walk, close to the White River.
Snakes: Rat snakes and garden snakes love to sun themselves on the Nature Walk or on various secluded paths along our property. They’re harmless to humans.
Lizards: Blue tail skinks are all over our grounds and you can see them scurrying around our fences, stone walls or on paths throughout the day.
So the next time you are visiting Conner Prairie, remember to slow down or stop in some of the quieter places to listen and look around. You never know what you might encounter on the wilder side.