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ECO-Critters with ZooMontana at the National Discovery Center

Sat, Jun 1
10:00 AM - 04:00 PM
American Prairie National Discovery Center, Lewistown, MT American Prairie National Discovery Center, Lewistown, MT
(406) 600-4906

ZooMontana returns to Lewistown June 1 for Eco-Critters Series

American Prairie is pleased to announce the return of “ECO-Critters” to the National Discovery Center in Lewistown, in partnership with ZooMontana. On Saturday, June 1, from 10am to 4pm, educational staff from ZooMontana in Billings will be bringing a number of live animals to the National Discovery Center, in the second of six visits in 2024.

ECO-Critters, designed for everyone interested in Earth’s living creatures, is one of a number of educational programs developed by American Prairie’s National Discovery Center staff. Four additional ECO-Critters events with ZooMontana are scheduled for July 6, August 24, September 7, and October 6.

Animals visiting on June 1 include Ginger the Garter Snake, Rocket the Box Turtle, and a number of Madagascar Hissing Roaches.

  • Garter snakes, like “Ginger”, can be found throughout North and Central America. They live in a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, fields, grasslands and lawns, but are never far from water, be it a wetland, stream or pond. This is because amphibians (frogs) are a large part of their diet. Garter snakes are highly variable in appearance, but generally have large round eyes with rounded pupils and a pattern of longitudinal stripes. They also vary significantly in length, from 18 to 51 inches. A garter snake hatch can include as many as 57 young. If disturbed, it may coil and strike, but it typically hides its head and flails its tail. These snakes will also discharge a malodorous, musky-scented secretion from a gland near the cloaca. They often use these techniques to escape when ensnared by a predator, such as a hawk or raccoon. They will also slither into the water to escape.
  • The Western Box Turtle is a species of turtle inhabiting the prairie or grassland regions of the Western and Midwestern United States. They usually spend their entire lives in an area of just a few acres and hibernate during the winter in shallow holes they dig. Western Box Turtles, like “Rocket”, are omnivores and eat insects (grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, worms), vegetables, greens, and fruit. They have sharp “beaks” that allow them to tear into their food. Box turtles are also oviparous, meaning they lay their eggs outside their bodies. The Western Box Turtle faces many challenges from human activities, including loss of habitat due to agriculture and urbanization. They are also victims of the pet trade.
  • Madagascar Hissing Roaches are one of the largest living cockroaches in the world. They live in the forests of Madagascar, an island off the southeastern coast of Africa. During the day they hide beneath the leaf litter or in rotting logs and then emerge at night to scavenge for food. They feed mainly on fruit and other plant material. They are known mainly for the “hissing” sound they make, which is made by expelling air through their breathing holes. They make four separate hiss sounds: a male combat hiss, two mating and courtship hisses, and an alarm hiss (that sounds like that of a snake). Although deforestation is somewhat of a threat to this species, they have adapted well to changes in habitat.

During this event, visitors can explore multiple stations and learn about the natural world the animals live in and how they are cared for at the zoo. Visitors can also tour the National Discovery Center exhibits and learn even more about prairie plants and animals. ZooMontana Education and Outreach staff will be on hand to answer questions and handle the animals.

The American Prairie National Discovery Center is located at 302 W. Main Street in Lewistown, and is open Thursday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm. Visit to learn more, and follow American Prairie on Facebook for updates on upcoming events and programming.


About ZooMontana
ZooMontana is Montana’s only zoological and botanical park, and is dedicated to wildlife education and conservation revolving around Earth’s 45th parallel. It is an AZA accredited nonprofit educational organization committed to the best in animal care. ZooMontana’s education program reaches over 20,000 students per year, both on and off zoo grounds. The zoo is located at 2100 S. Shiloh Road in Billings, Montana. Learn more at

About American Prairie
American Prairie’s vision is to create a vast and collaboratively-managed prairie destination that serves as a fully functioning ecosystem for wildlife, and offers visitors permanent access to the landscape that shaped our nation’s character. Already open to the public for recreation including camping and hunting, American Prairie offers visitors an opportunity to connect with nature on a truly grand scale. Learn more at

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