Squam Lakes Natural Science Center - Nearer To Nature
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Animal Exhibits and Trails

Gephart Trail - Live Animal Exhibit Trail (click to expand)

He treasured this corner of the earth and wondered of its mysteries.

The Gephart Trail is named in memory of William Stephen Gephart (1951-1968). His parents, F. Thomas Gephart and Sarah Lou Taylor Gephart, shared that love and helped others to know it through their support of the Science Center.

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center has educated and enlightened visitors since 1966 about the importance of our natural world thanks to the vision, energy, and generosity of people such as the Gephart family. Tom and Sally were involved in the early days and both served terms on the Board of Trustees, as later did their son John.

The Gephart Trail is informally and frequently called the live animal exhibit trail or live animal trail on this website and in other published pieces.

2017 Trail Map
Click map for larger version.

Click on an exhibit to learn more.

Wood Energy Exhibit

Wood Energy ExhibitA model of sustainability: saving energy and dollars. The Wood Energy Exhibit uses sustainably-harvested, locally-sourced wood, it heats five major buildings on the Science Center's campus.

Trailhead Gallery

Trailhead GalleryThe Trailhead Gallery features our Introductory Exhibit, Barred Owl Exhibit and Mead Discovery Place, and also houses the Blue Heron School.

The Introductory Exhibit introduces four concepts that are reinforced throughout the exhibits on the live animal exhibit trail: Habitat, Interrelationships, Adaptations, and Populations. Each concept is illustrated through an interactive exhibit, which includes an opportunity to view live barred owls and white-footed mice and learn about their adaptations.

Mead Discovery Place is a small exhibit space devoted to short term exhibits, focused on current issues about the environment. Exhibits change periodically and center on natural themes not explored in the permanent exhibits on the live animal exhibit trail.

Mead Discovery Place was dedicated in 2003 in memory of William R.L. Mead, a founding member of Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. He was an award-winning architect based in Hartford, Connecticut, and grew up in the Squam Lakes area where he championed sustainable development. The original passive solar Webster Building, dedicated in 1982, was designed by Mead’s firm.

The People’s Forest: A Centennial Celebration of the White Mountain National Forest will be on view at Plymouth State University’s Museum of the White Mountains from May 16 to September 12, 2018. The Mead Discovery Place will host a traveling exhibit from May 16 until late June of The People’s Forest, which shares elements of the full exhibit. It tells stories of the past, present, and future of the Forest and how stewardship lies at the heart of the Forest’s creation.

Life Underground

Life Underground ExhibitAn amazing number of animals make their living in the soil. One handful of healthy topsoil may contain more living organisms than there are humans on Earth! You will meet ants and earthworms up close and peer at tiny soil animals through a microscope. You can also travel down a human-size chipmunk burrow. This exhibit addresses concepts such as how soil is formed, which organisms can help create and aerate soil, and what adaptations animals may have in order to survive underground.

Water Matters Pavilion

Life Underground ExhibitLearn about water with 18 water-related exhibits including live mink, turtles, fish, and frogs.

Coyote Exhibit

Coyote ExhibitCoyotes are cousins to dogs, wolves, and foxes. They were first seen in New Hampshire in 1944 and have spread across the state from the northernmost reaches down to the seacoast. Coyotes are currently common throughout the state. Coyotes typically live for 4 to 5 years in the wild. They are intelligent and opportunistic hunters, eating a variety of animals, and sometimes working together to hunt. They are animals who adapt quickly to new situations, taking advantage of changes in their habitat. This exhibit houses the Science Center's resident male coyote.

Ecotone Mammal Exhibit

Ecotone Mammal ExhibitThe Ecotone Mammal Exhibit reveals the interrelationships of creatures living in an "ecotone" or the edge between two natural communities. There is often greater diversity in wildlife at these edges. Using interactive displays, this exhibit describes these areas, provides examples of animals that depend on them, and also addresses some of their adptations. This exhibit is the home to three different types of animals that are generally found living in an ecotone: red fox, fisher, and gray fox.

Bobcat Exhibit

Bobcat ExhibitThe bobcat gets its name from its short, or "bobbed" tail. An adult weighs 15 to 25 pounds and can live up to 14 years. Predators like bobcats help maintain healthy populations of prey animals by weeding out sick and injured animals. This in turn reduces the chance the prey animals will overeat and damage their habitat or starve. See live bobcats up close as you learn if bobcats have any predators and what they eat.

Mountain Lion Exhibit

Mountain Lion ExhibitThe mountain lion has one of the widest distributions of any mammal in the western hemisphere. They are able to survive a wide range of conditions and have the skills to hunt many different types of prey. This exhibit emphasizes the adaptations these animals have to hunt - how high and far they can jump or how much they can lift - and also addresses the ecological concept of extirpation. Large carnivores are rarely seen in New England since they need a lot of uninhabited space. An example of the interrelationships between mountain lions and humans would be when early settlers, afraid for their safety and that of their livestock, over-hunted and eliminated mountain lions in New England. See if you can see the retractable claws of the live mountain lions at this exhibit. Mountain Lion Training takes place every Thursday at 12:00 p.m. at the Mountain Lion Exhibit during July and August.

White-tailed Deer Exhibit

White-tailed deer exhibitWhite-tailed deer are found throughout New Hampshire. This exhibit addresses many of the adaptations that enable deer to outwit their predators and survive, and also emphasizes some of the natural conditions that limit the population of deer in New Hampshire. Most natural predators (wolves and mountain lions) were extirpated in New Hampshire by the turn of the nineteenth. The only remaining predators of white-tailed deer in New Hampshire are humans and also occasionally domestic dogs, coyotes, and bobcats. Observe the live white-tailed deer in this exhibit and learn about their habitat through hands-on activities.

River Otter Exhibit

River Otter ExhibitRiver otters have adaptations that allow them to live in marshes, swamps, rivers, ponds, and lakes. Otters are commonly found in New Hampshire. Their habitat requirements include unpolluted aquatic environments with unmanaged tree-lined shores. This exhibit emphasizes these requirements and also provides examples of aquatic adaptations and threats to otter populations. Watch live river otters swim with underwater viewing at this exhibit. Join us for River Otter Feeding Time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 11:30 a.m. from May 1-November 1.

Gordon Interactive Playscape: A Predator-Prey Adventure

Gordon Interactive Playscape: A Predator-Prey AdventureGo on an adventure as you play the role of a red squirrel. Climb rocks and logs, scramble through tunnels, and balance on branches to escape predators.

To better enjoy your visit, please follow the Playscape Guidelines:

  • Adults must supervise children while they are on the Playscape.
  • Children under 5 must be accompanied by an adult at all times.
  • Children must have appropriate footwear. No flip-flops.
  • To provide a safe and enjoyable environment for everyone, please:
    • Walk, do not run
    • Take turns
    • Leave room to play safely
    • Be kind
    • Have fun
    • Explore
    • Discover and learn

Gordon Children's Center

Gordon Children's CenterThis two-story barn inspires students to learn more about natural concepts including adaptations, habitats, and interrelationships. Students learn as they use their eyes, ears, noses, hands, and brains while they climb through a giant spider web, invent an insect, crawl through an underground tunnel, listen to nocturnal animal sounds, and explore this activity-filled space.

Black Bear Exhibit

Black Bear ExhibitBlack bears live in heavily wooded areas in New Hampshire. Although classified as carnivores, the majority of their diet consists of plant materials. Black bears have many interrelationships in the forest. This exhibit provides examples of some of these interrelationships and also provides details about their diet, behavior, and populations. You can learn about bears by crawing into a winter den, completing puzzles, learning about bees with our viewable hive, and observing live black bears in their habitat.

Celebrate Birds Exhibit

Celebrate Birds ExhibitThis exhibit celebrates the life of birds by providing examples of unique adaptations birds have for flight and examining some concerns about bird populations. Through the use of bird mounts, you will see birds in various habitats. You will also observe live wild birds make their way to and from feeding stations. Learn about adaptations birds have for living in different habitats through interactive activities. Find out about one of Squam Lake's treasures, the common loon, the factors that threaten it, including loss of habitat due to increased human activity along the lake shore, the decrease in privacy on open waters, and predation by increased gull and raccoon populations.

Raptor Exhibit

Raptor ExhibitRaptors are a group of birds that catch, kill, and eat other animals (prey) using sharp talons and a sharp hooked beak. This exhibit highlights adaptations unique to raptors and demonstrates interrelationships between raptors and other living things. The Raptor Exhibit is comprised of four pavilions exhibiting the diversity of raptors, a group of birds that includes hawks, owls, eagles, and falcons. Live examples of some species found in New Hampshire include the red-tailed hawk, great horned owl, broad-winged hawk, bald eagle, red-shouldered hawk, goshawk, and turkey vulture.

Upper Pond

Upper PondThe Upper Pond provides examples of different types of wildlife that depend on wetlands and ponds. Some animals spend their entire life in water, like fish, while others rely on water for part of their life cycles, like toads. If you listen closely you can usually hear the croak of a frog or may even observe a great blue heron, duck, or other water-loving bird at the Upper Pond.

Wetlands Walk

Marsh BoardwalkThe Wetlands Walk takes you across a small man-made wetland, over an area of wet meadow, and across a small stream. Watch for frogs, salamanders, and turtles, as you learn the importance of wetlands along the way.

Geology Exhibit

NH Geology ExhibitThis exhibit highlights the geologic history of our planet and provides examples of the different types of rocks found in New Hampshire. Explore different rock types and take a walk through time to learn about the formation of our Earth.

Exhibit Animal Information Sheets:

Hiking Trails (download the hiking trail map)

Mt. Fayal Trail
Ecotone Trail
Forest Trail

Kirkwood Gardens

Learn more about the history of some of the exhibit animals at the Science Center.