If you've ever gone camping, you might have peeked out through the tent flap during the middle of the night and seen a pair of glowing eyes staring back at you through the darkness. Do you know what kind of animal it was?
Harvey County West Park ranger and naturalist Carol Dilts wants to teach campers how to identify those animals that "go bump in the night" — along with several other nature-related topics — during the 2013 West Park Educational Series. A popular feature at the park years ago, the program was revived by Dilts last year, and she hopes there will be a good turnout again this spring and summer.
"The educational program is something families can go to to build memories, and it doesn't cost anything," Dilts said.
The events take place at 7 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month, from April to September, at stone shelter No. 1. Each program features a different topic and includes a campfire and a marshmallow roast.
The educational series originally started in the 1970s but went on hiatus for a time. Dilts brought back the program in 2012, and the first talk drew a crowd of more than 100 people. Even with hot weather and blue-green algae issues at the park, the rest of the 2012 talks continued to be well-attended, Dilts said.
The educational series this year will kick off with a "nature hike" April 13. Attendees will meet at the lakeside shelter and then go on a short hike, during which Dilts will talk about what's available in the park and will point out animal tracks.
The May 11 program is called "Whoo's There?" and will feature Kansas animals. Visitors will be able to interact with live animals at the event.
June 8 will be "Bug Off," where Dilts will discuss the types of insects that can be found in the park, and whether the insects are safe or dangerous.
Reptiles and amphibians will be the topic at July 13's program, "Slip Slide Away." Dilts said while people may be afraid of snakes they see in the park, most of the time, these snakes aren't poisonous, and she wants to teach people they don't have to be nervous if they come across one.
"The animals are just as afraid of you as you are of them," she said.
The Aug. 10 program is called "Roadkill Stew" and is about animals you may see on the highway on your way to the park, Dilts said.
The final program Sept. 14 is "Bump in the Night." Dilts will share about some of the nocturnal animals who make their home in West Park and how to protect your food and other camping supplies from curious critters.
Dilts recommends families spend the whole day at the park, taking advantage of activities such as hiking, fishing and picnicking, then attend the nature talk in the evening.
The talks draw a wide range of people, from grandparents to small children. Dilts said some people who were children at the time of the original talks have now grown up and are bringing their children to the park.
"It was really great," she said.
West Park Supervisor Shannon Metz encourages community members to attend the programs.
"I think that Harvey County West Park is very fortunate to have someone with Carol's knowledge and ability, who's willing to share her time with the people at the park," Metz said.
In the event of bad weather, the talks will move inside a shelter.
Sponsors for the events are Jackson Meat of Hutchinson and Troy's True Value Hardware of Halstead. For more information about the talks, call 835-3189.