Box Turtle


Native Wildlife

Most of Fernwood is dominated by moist soil conditions that are populated by a hardwood forest that leads to the banks of the St. Joseph River. Four miles of hiking trails pass by numerous springs, botanical gardens, and a tallgrass prairie that support an abundance of native wildlife.

Visitors enjoy a high probability of viewing small mammals at the Nature Center feeding station year-round. Eastern fox squirrels, deer, and groundhogs can be seen if you walk quietly through the grounds. Stop by the Big Pond to watch painted turtles, snapping turtles, bluegill, and large-mouth bass from the T dock. Queen snakes are often seen basking in the branches at the River Dock, and four-foot-plus black rat snakes, a species of special concern in Michigan, are common throughout the woodlands and gardens. A visit to the South Vista pond allows you to observe bull frogs, green frogs, red-winged blackbirds, and dragonflies.     

Fernwood's Nature Center features displays on local wildlife, as well as a bird feeding station that attracts a variety of resident and seasonal birds. Click here for more information on birding at Fernwood.


In the late spring Fernwood receives many phone calls concerning orphaned or injured animals.  Baby animals are rarely abandoned by their parents, which are often nearby watching them. If you are certain an animal has been abandoned or is injured, contact the licensed organizations or individuals below before attempting to care for or handle the animal.

Please do not bring the animal to Fernwood. We are not licensed and do not have the facilities to handle abandoned or injured wildlife.

To locate a wildlife rehabilitator in your area, please call Fernwood or click here.


With the weather finally warming up, keep an eye out for our box turtles. Some hatched last fall but sensed the coming cold and stayed in their underground nest through the winter. Adults spent the winter hibernating in soft earth or under a pile of leaves. Now they are roaming the forest and gardens, looking for fruit, leafy greens, and insects. Adult males are particularly active as they search for mates.

Fernwood is continuing a long-running box turtle population survey. If you see a box turtle with a number on its back, let the nature center staff know its number and precisely where you saw it. If it doesn’t have a number, you can take a picture of its shell, or even bring it to us. We will figure out if its number has worn off or if it’s a new turtle. They are safe to pick up, and should be held level with some support from the bottom for the turtle’s comfort.