You Otter Know about the Otters

With trapping season approaching, one of the animals that may come to mind is the river otter.  The river otter was almost extirpated from the state of Iowa due to unregulated trapping and habitat loss.  Reintroduction efforts began in 1985 at Red Rock Reservoir.  A total of 345 otters were released between 1985 and 2005.  Reintroduction, along with wetland restoration and conservation, has allowed for the growth and distribution of the otter population in our state.

Otters are a lovable creature and a great source of entertainment. Otters are a playful animal, starting as pups when their mother pushes them out of their den in order to teach them to swim. Pups are born in an underground den, usually one abandoned by a beaver or badger.

As otters mature, they will take part in playing on their own homemade slip-and-slide. Running up the hill of a river bank and sliding down into the water, you can see them pop back out and chirrup at each other.

With their desired pelts and playful personality, Iowans can be thankful for the efforts to make sure river otters are no longer threatened in our state.


No See Ums

No See Ums

You usually don’t see them coming, which has earned these pesky bugs the nickname of “no see ums”.  They are minute pirate bugs and can actually be a helpful insect when they aren’t biting you.  This insect is a top predator for corn earworm eggs, which makes them an ally to grain farmers.  They will also feast on prey in gardens, lawns, and greenhouses.

Despite their small size, these insects can give a powerful bite! The minute pirate bug feeds a lot on eggs of other insects. In order to feed, they puncture them with a long beak that is moistened with a bit of saliva. They will then suck out the fluids. It is not a blood sucker, but it bites potential prey to see if it is an insect or an egg. The fluid on the beak is what causes the reaction we feel. The stinging sensation is not caused by acid or urine.


Big Bluestem

If you have been driving around lately, you have probably noticed a color change on some of our prairies and even in some ditches.  These grassy areas are now appearing to have a blue or purple color.  Big Bluestem is the reason for the color and is one of Iowa’s native prairie grasses.

Big Bluestem can grow 6′ to 8′ tall.  This grass is a favorite to grazing livestock and wildlife, giving it a nickname of “ice cream grass.”  Another common nickname for this grass is “turkey foot” because of the appearance of the flowering head typically having three stalks similar to the toes of a turkey.  Not only do mammalian herbivores enjoy this plant, but many insects, including caterpillars of a variety of skippers, and grasshoppers also feast off of Big Blue.  This native grass also serves as cover for many songbirds.

Big Bluestem grows tall in height above the ground, but like many of our prairie plants, the roots can grow downwards of 10 feet!  These long roots help with the stabilization of the soil, making Big Bluestem an important grass on the prairie.



Lost Island Trail Improvements

This summer the Lost Island Trail was extended and now provides two miles of paved surface for joggers, walkers, and bicyclists.  People are getting out more and enjoying the expanded trail along Lost Island Lake.

A bike fix-it station and bench was also added to the trail near Lost Island Prairie Wetland Nature Center.  The bike fix-it station has a tire pump area, as well as a tower with a lift and tools to help repair a bike that may break down on the trail.  Pictured are the Degen and Danielson families using the bike fix-it station this summer to tune up their bikes for a morning trail ride.

Explore nature on the Lost Island Trail!

Our Amazing Campground Hosts

Every summer Bill and Tammy Horst welcome campers as hosts for the campground at Huston Park near Lost Island Lake.  They have been campground hosts for at least eight years.

Bill and Tammy have a love for nature and the outdoors that they share with guests to our campground.  We appreciate all that Bill and Tammy do for us at Huston Park Campground.

Thank you, Bill and Tammy!

New Exhibits at the Nature Center

Visitors are enjoying new exhibits at the Nature Center, including an interactive digital kiosk, balancing challenges, a large tree and forest interactive exhibit, a nature blind, bird houses and creature homes display.

Musical Patio

Sounds around the Lost Island Nature Center have become livelier lately with the addition of the Musical Patio.  Kids of all ages enjoy making music with the outdoor percussion instruments added to the patio near the nature center.