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Reptilian fun at nature center

Molly Shore

Many adults would blanch at the sight, but children returning from a

morning hike at Stough Canyon Nature Center on Monday were delighted

by what they encountered along the way.


“When we were hiking, we saw a dead rattlesnake with a lizard in

its mouth,” Timothy Lewis, 8, said. “I thought it was really cool.”

Timothy and about three dozen other children between the ages of 6

and 9 were hiking as part of a nature day camp at the center


sponsored by the city’s park, recreation and community services


Kevin Mark, 9, said the dead rattler had a hole in its neck, where

the horned lizard had gored him.

“Also a [bicycle] ran over him,” he said.

Now in their third summer, the weekly half-day camps are

supervised by recreation leader Mike McHorney, and assisted by

archeologist Dana Bleitz.


“What’s really neat is we’re turning out a bunch of naturalists,”

Bleitz said. “They remember what they learned last year.

“They’re rattling off the names of the flowers as we’re going up

the trail,” he added. “Even college kids don’t know the names.”

Charlotte Cox, 8, is a rockhound. On her Monday morning hike,

Charlotte picked up a small rock, which she said contains mica, a

mineral that breaks easily.

“It looks like gold,” she said, holding up the rock to show the


tiny gold flecks.

When the boys and girls returned from their hike, McHorney took a

photo of each camper posing inside a 55-pound tortoise shell.

Bleitz told the children that at the time of its death in 1991,

the 650-pound tortoise was the world’s largest Galapagos Island

tortoise in captivity. The Los Angeles Zoo acquired the tortoise in

1930 when it was 119 years old, he said.

The nature camps are from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday.

For information, call the center at 238-5440.