Curiosity, spots and a red-colored throat make the Greenback Cutthroat Trout a pretty cool fish, according to Braelyn Wilson.
“They’re cool because they have spots and swim in a big tank,” said the Cheyenne Mountain resident, 11, as a trout, curious of the youngster peering into its 300-gallon aquatic home, stared back at the child.
Although undeniably the most popular attraction, the trout was one of several exhibits on display during an Exhibits Open House Saturday at Bear Creek Nature Center in southwest Colorado Springs. Hundreds of citizens attended the event that included an educational presentation from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and live animals from Pikes Peak Community College’s Wild Things program.
According to nature center Supervisor Mary Jo Lewis, the event marked the completion of a years-long exhibits facelift. “This is the moment we can say all our exhibits are open to the public,” Lewis said.
Citizens were amazed to learn the Greenback Cutthroat Trout, once believed extinct, were found alive and flourishing in waters miles upstream from the nature center. Genetic testing proved these trout were the only remaining pure population of Colorado Greenback Cutthroat Trout worldwide. Efforts are being made to replicate and reintroduce Colorado’s state fish into its native South Platte drainages.
The Greenback Cutthroat Trout exhibit offers a rare opportunity to observe this threatened species and learn about its history. “It’s fun to watch a fish swim past me,” said Cheyenne Mountain resident Isabella Anzaldua, 6, who visited the exhibit with her sister, Juliete, 2, and their grandmother, Elfriede. “We come here twice monthly and the kids love it,” Elfriede said.
Nature center Interpretive Program Coordinator Ellie Brown agreed. “Observing live creatures adds to the learning experience because people interact with species they won’t see in the wild,” Brown said.
Though the Greenback Cutthroat Trout commanded the most attention, the centers’ bee display also delighted citizens. When Carmen Hutchinson explained that bees create honey, her daughter, Violet, 5, replied, “I thought honey came from the store.”
Also, a new large-scale pods highlighted the three main habitat types found in the Bear Creek foothills. Meadow, riparian and shrubland offer inviting images and information, and touch-tables inviting tactile exploration for all ages. One table allowed children to study various bird sounds.
“I like birds because their tweet sounds like a beautiful song,” said Clare Bowen, 4, as her sister, Zellie, 3, and their dad, Matt, joined in the experience.
A “Cub’s Corner” invited children to explore their imaginations inside a cozy, warm three-dimensional tree. Children were treated to a Bear Creek Habitats Puppet Show and Papa Murphy’s offered a free slice of pizza to attendees. The All In! Jazz Trio filled the air with live sounds.
A “Most Creative Selfie” contest encouraged participants to take a self portrait alongside one of the new exhibits and upload their photo to the Bear Creek Nature Center Facebook page. A $50 gift certificate to Black Bear Diner was presented to the winner.
Exhibit updates were funded by a combination of $150,000 of voter-approved 1A tax funds, and $100,000 from individual and organization donations. Several existing exhibits were updated or improved and multiple new exhibits have been created and added. The Denver-based Condit Exhibits, a worldwide exhibition and event provider, designed and installed the exhibits.