Halloween spotlights spooky creatures, new plans, new principal at Pratt Education Center – Pratt Tribune

Halloween is Elizabeth Walker’s favorite holiday. New to head Pratt Education Center in April 2022, Walker jumped straight into updates that added new life and spooky creatures to Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks exhibits east of Pratt.

Last week, Walker carved a special pumpkin house for Sunflower, the speckled, slippery royal snake that was part of KDWP’s Halloween stand at Merchants Park on Monday.

She said she had spent time over the past few weeks tracking down fist-sized tarantulas on the roads after dark near Sun City. Several of these are now prominent features near the front door of the Education Center at 512 SE 25th Ave.

And over the past few months, Walker has been thrown into self-proclaimed chaos as she diversifies exhibits, creates better viewing environments, and updates aquariums, pond mechanics, and the very purpose of the education center. .

“I’m so happy to have my dream job,” Walker said. “I have so many ideas for how we can be more engaging with the public, bring more visitors to Pratt and this place. At this point, I just have to take it day by day, take care of the important stuff while working on a major rebranding effort.

Walker said she hopes to create opportunities for more community engagement and turn the education center into a nature center where people can come for weekend nature walks.

“I want to do weekly walks on Saturdays with a different focus,” she said. “We could do bird walks and count local bird species, butterfly walks, frog walks, spider walks and more.”

Beginning this weekend, Walker established weekend hours for the center, with visitors being welcomed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., similar to weekdays. These new weekend hours will continue throughout the fall and winter.

“We have a lot of new reptiles and amphibians here to see, as well as several new invertebrates,” Walker said. “It makes sense to add weekend hours because that’s when parents have more time to bring their kids and experience nature here.”

Since joining the Pratt Education Center, Walker has repaired the pond’s filtration system and established a population of native fish there. She dealt with exploding PVC pipes, quarantines of sick fish and applying for grants to help the renovation/organization project.

“We have grants for the renovation of a new walk-behind structure in the reptile hall,” she said. “It will allow us to get closer to our snakes and herpes rather than just having access to the upper reservoir. I want to vary the environments here to make it closer to nature, and that will make for a safer and better experience. for everyone.

Walker said she spent a lot of time creating diagrams, researching and finding ways to make better use of the center’s assets, as well as expanding the collections.

Along with Streck, the plains hog-nosed snake, and Sunflower, the royal speckled snake, and Rosie, the Sun City tarantula, Walker said more tarantulas, garden spiders, centipedes, herpes cool and legless lizards have been added for visitors to enjoy. with all exhibits of mounted animal species, native to Kansas. “These new additions aren’t pets, but they are animal ambassadors,” Walker said. “They are here to teach people what an animal is. All living beings are cool and have a purpose. I invite all those who have been to the center before, and those who have never been there, to come and see what we are doing again. I have so much fun preparing everything.

As for celebrating Halloween this year, Walker said she had big plans that included costumes for all the dead deer mounts and a children’s carnival at the center, but plans changed and she accompanied the staff of the KDWP who moved to Merchants Park in Pratt. to distribute sweets, gift bags and educational items on Monday afternoons.

“I’m just happy to have the chance to fulfill my dreams of a nature center that’s an integral part of this community,” Walker said. “I would really like to start an internship program with local schools to help young people who are interested in nature have the opportunity to explore this.”

Walker, a native of Dayton, Ohio, earned his bachelor’s degree in biology at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and by a stroke of luck met Mike Rader, wildlife education supervisor of the KDWP, during a bird identification examination. He hired her this spring to run the Pratt Education Center.

“I’m obviously a big nature nerd, really into birdwatching, with a love for education,” Walker said. “I wish Kansas had a few more trees, but other than that, great.”

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