Hundreds turn out for EP Outdoor Center’s 28th annual Animal Open House

Outdoor Center staff estimated that more than 600 people attended the Animal Open House. A Harris hawk prepares for an upcoming raptor demonstration. Marthe Hubert presents an African porcupine at the Animal Open House. A pair of bear cubs, one black and one brown, greet event-goers at the Animal Open House. Marthe Hubert of Animal Ambassadors shows a tarantula to the crowd at the Animal Open House.
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Marthe Hubert of Animal Ambassadors shows a tarantula to the crowd at the Animal Open House.

Sun Current staff photos by Sean Miner

For the 28th year, the Eden Prairie Outdoor Center hosted an Animal Open House on April 8. According to Stan Tekiela, supervisor and chief naturalist at the center, the event was a success, bringing in upwards of 600 people.

“I think it was just the right number of people,” said Tekiela. “There were enough things for people to see, enough to do — they could be there for 45 minutes to an hour and be doing things and learning things.”

The open house featured animal guests from a smattering of private companies that raise wild animals. Dozens of reptiles were on display in one building, and outdoor cages held a wolf, fox, two bear cubs and a variety of other animals.

Marthe Herbert of Animal Ambassadors put on several iterations of an animal show, featuring a tarantula and African porcupine.

Those shows alternated with a raptor demonstration, which focused on a Harris hawk.

Tekiela said the main objective of the event – from the outdoor center’s perspective – was to drum up applicants for its summer camps for children. Like the open house, the summer camps are strongly animal-focused, though more in-depth and hands-on.

“What we do is we concentrate on teaching them respect for all creatures, big or small, and how to care for them, and why we should be caring for them,” said Tekiela. “It’s very important because a lot of these kids don’t have any interaction with nature or animals at all.”

He noted that the summer camps were fun for kids, but also made them into better-informed future citizens with regard to the environment.

“I firmly believe that, once you have some knowledge about something, you’re better equipped to make better decisions, for or on behalf of the natural world,” said Tekiela.

Coming this summer, said Tekiela, was a new raptor camp and a wildlife rescue camp.

“There’s going to be a lot of things for kids to really get their teeth into, and learn about animals,” said Tekiela. “Unlike most places, they can touch [the animals], learn to care for them and feed them — that hands-on stuff is important.”

For more information on the Eden Prairie Outdoor Center, visit edenprairie.org/amenities/outdoor-center.

Contact Sean Miner at [email protected]