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Harbor Safari with Cape May Nature Center

Did you know that Cape May is home to over 800 animal species? These range from land dwelling animals such as colorful Box turtles and graceful Monarch butterflies, to marine animals such as the playful Bottlenose Dolphin and nimble Ghost crabs. Cape May is filled with so much spectacular wildlife that we decided to take a trip to learn some more!

girl holding a small fish on the beach

We partnered with the Cape May Nature Center to give our kids an up-close and personal experience with some of the local critters. The policy of the Nature Center emphasizes a hands-on approach that “reflects a philosophy of personal responsibility for education.” What better way to learn than to see an animal first hand, in hand?

Learning on Land

Our day started with meeting a few animals on land first. Including a sweet Chinchilla, colorful Corn Snake, and a friendly Box Turtle. These turtles can often been seen in grassy areas trying to cross the road. Keep an eye out for them on the street to see their bright colors, and make sure they have space to get to the other side safely!

We were also introduced to an animal older than the dinosaurs. Many visitors and locals have seen them on the beach – our friends, the Horseshoe Crab. Their large shells and long wiggling tails look like something prehistoric – and that’s because they are. Horseshoe Crabs are over 445 million years old and are a vital aspect of the food chain. They provide important sustenance for migrating birds and are a familiar sight on the beaches here. Sometimes you’ll see them flipped over, but don’t worry. They use their “tails” to flip themselves over and get back to the ocean.

woman touching a horseshoe crab

Harbor Safari Discoveries

Afterwords, we spent some time collecting various species in the Cape May Harbor using a 20 foot seine net. To use the net, one person stands on each end. Then, the net is pulled through the water and gently gathers different animals, along with the occasional chunk of seaweed.

two girls dragging a seine net through the cape may harbor

Next comes the fun part: sorting, identifying, and then releasing native species back into their natural habitats. This is where the adventure really becomes hands on. The kids picked through the net themselves, with the supervision of trained Nature Center staff.

The REAL Takeaway

The kids didn’t just have a great time, but got to learn about all of the wildlife that exists right here in their hometown. It can be easy to take for granted when we are surrounded by such beauty daily.

By raising awareness of the animals and species present here, the youth will start to develop a better understanding of how we are all connected. And, by association, that we need to nurture and protect the wildlife that is all around us.

Through the power of education, Cape May Cares hopes to improve quality of life for our community members, as well as the community itself.

In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.

Baba dioum, 1968

We’d like to say a special thank you to the Nature Center for having us, and providing such a great experience to the children.

With the support of our donors, and great partners, we are able to continue providing important experiences to our CMC community. Click here to donate, or get in touch if you would like to volunteer, or make a contribution.

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