When it comes to wildlife viewing, Jones Park provides a convenient location for spotting animals right here in our neighborhood. The park is home to thousands of animal species who inhabit the waterways, trees, brush, and ground. Look closely and you can often spot deer, birds, and other unique creatures along the trails.
From otters to bald eagles to giant turtles, our volunteers and employees share a few of their most memorable finds below. Be sure to keep an eye out for these critters the next time you visit the park.
A couple of years ago, I noticed a giant snapping turtle in danger of getting hit by a car as it crossed the street to a ditch outside of the park. I found park ranger Jason Naivar and asked him to help me relocate the turtle. Together, we brought him to the Turtle Pond and named him Godzilla. To this day, I still catch him enjoying his new home in the pond. So the next time you visit the park, purchase some turtle food and visit the Turtle Pond to see if you can find Godzilla.
Mary Jo Chapman
JJPV 1st Vice President
I was on the Jones-Bender cut-through trail two years ago when I noticed some movement downhill. I stopped to look and saw four young armadillos rooting through the underbrush.
Armadillos in this region, called nine-banded armadillos, always give birth to four identical babies in every litter. Seeing all four armadillos together was quite rare, as they are usually solitary creatures.
Armadillos have gotten a bad rap over the years because of their reputation for spreading leprosy. Although they can carry the disease, it is rare, and humans usually contract it from eating armadillo meat.
Armadillos are fascinating creatures and extremely good for the environment. When they root for food in the woods, they help thin out overgrowth and create a healthy ecosystem.
Unfortunately, they are often hit by cars because they tend to jump 3 to 4 feet in the air when startled. They can cross rivers and other bodies of water by holding their breath and walking underwater for short distances. They can also inhale air and become buoyant enough to float across.
Historical Program Coordinator
While giving a private tour, I spotted something larger than average swimming in the Turtle Pond in early January. I couldn’t tell what it was at first, but I later noticed three separate shapes moving swiftly beneath the water. I finally realized what they were once one of them popped its head up after capturing a fish. It was a family of river otters playing and hunting in the pond. We ended up watching the otters for more than an hour.
JJPV 2nd Vice President
I’ve spotted more wildlife in the past few months than I have in a long time. I’ve seen the usual array of God’s creations – herons, egrets, bald eagles, squirrels, turtles, deer, hawks, pileated woodpeckers, as well as the sparkling waters of Spring Creek. But I’ve also seen some rarely encountered species.
April was a month to remember because I spotted my first pair of summer tanagers, a brilliant red male bird and his drab female companion near the Old Logging Trail. Not far away, I also noticed a pileated woodpecker up in a tree.
I saw my first funnel-web grass spider in May, which made a fantastic web on a decaying tree stump off the Palmetto Trail. These spiders build tube-like funnels leading to a burrow that serves as a hiding spot and lair. When prey gets trapped in its web, the spider drags the victim back to its hidey-hole for its next meal.
Memorable finds in June include a prothonotary warbler, a beautiful coral snake off the Palmetto Trail, and two baby armadillos rooting in the underbrush along the River Birch Trail.
In July, I discovered the rare green kingfisher, another first, perched on a cement piling in a drainage ditch, a killdeer on the beach near the Old Logging Trail, and a golden orb weaver spider near Big Pond.
Jones Park Volunteer
I love visiting Jones Park with my dog early in the morning on the weekends and late in the evening during the weekdays when it is not too hot.
My favorite thing to do is to walk along the paths looking for deer. They come out early in the morning or late in the evening when the park is quiet. I’ve had quite a few encounters with them, but my most memorable experience was when my dog spotted one for the first time. She was mesmerized and did not know what to make of the four-legged beauties.
I have also seen copperhead snakes late in the evenings on the trails, an owl, and what I think was an eagle.
My grandson and I often visit the Cypress Boardwalk Trail. This trail takes us through a surprisingly swampy area that reminds me of my home state of Louisiana. The boardwalk offers an opportunity to stop and enjoy native birds, beautiful cypress trees, cypress knees, frogs, and all sorts of critters. We like visiting this trail in the autumn when the cypress trees are changing colors.
Ever hear the song “While Strollin’ Through the Park?”
While strollin’ through the park one day
In the merry, merry month of May
I was taken by surprise
By a pair of roguish eyes
I was scared, but I didn’t run away. (link to song)
I was reminded of this song last week. While strolling through Jones Park down the Boat Launch Trail, I noticed several pairs of eyes staring at me. It turns out, four beautiful does had crossed my path.
The moment made me reflect on how grateful I am that wildlife makes its home in the park.
It’s a rare opportunity to get up close to such wild creatures and not just catch glimpses of them or hear them scampering away. With all the hustle and bustle of life outside the park, it’s nice to know that deer remain protected and that we have a peaceful and harmonious haven in which we can explore nature.
Mary Jo Chapman
JJPV 1st Vice President