The Live Animal Exhibit
Come Meet our Live Animals!
In an effort to teach visitors about local wildlife and conservation, the Randall Museum offers a live animal exhibit. Inside the animal exhibit you will be visiting several of California’s diverse habitats. From rich riverlands to sparse, dry deserts to towering redwoods, each habitat has its unique set of animals and plants that are especially adapted to living in these distinct places. We invite you to look deeply into nature by watching the animals in an intimate setting, enjoying our study station activities, and conversing with our animal keepers. We hope that by learning about California’s wildlife and flora you’ll be inspired to visit these places yourself.
If you’d like to bring a group of students to visit the Animal Exhibit see Field Trips for more information.
Chaparral & Grasslands Habitat
The chaparral habitat is an iconic landscape of wild California. From the coasts inland, low shrubs of chamise and scrub oak dot lands of gold and brown. These areas seem dry and barren, but after the winter rains these hills are awash with colors of lupine, poppies, sticky monkey flower, and Indian paintbrush. As coastal slopes gain altitude chaparral morphs into rolling hills of grasslands. Many animals divide their time between both habitats. Animals like the coyote, grey fox, brush rabbit, California quail, California mouse, and Gopher snake are just a few of the creatures one might see.
A river runs through this rich habitat. Rivers, streams, and creeks provide a steady water supply so that plants can grow rampant. Willow, box elder, cottonwood, twisted vines, saplings, poison oak, and nettles all form dense underbrush. This provides cover for numerous bird species. The shaded water’s edge is home to many water insects that in turn are eaten by numerous fish as well as birds. Hardworking beavers make dams along rivers, providing deep pools for turtles. Tule and other grasses provide cover for juvenile fish and newts and other salamanders. Squirrel, coyote, skunk, raccoon, mole and deer mice are visitors or residents as many animals travel to and from these river edges daily for food and water. And finally, the predators of the sky – hawks and owls – complete the picture.
Desert habitats are surprisingly full of life. Despite soaring day-time temperatures and freezing nights hardy creatures and plants thrive here. Creosote bush, cactus, and Joshua trees lend shelter and food to many creatures. Unique ways of surviving in this desert environment are key to all types of animals. Many animals spend time under ground in the heat of the day like burrowing tortoises. Others have adapted to high heat like desert iguanas. When sparse rains do fall, all plants and animals celebrate!
Humans have made artificial habitats of buildings, roads, back yards and parks. Each of these man-made places supports wildlife. Bats can be found in attic spaces, raccoons can den in under road culverts, urban backyards host birds and insects. You can invite wildlife to your yard by planting native California plants, hanging up a bird feeder, or adding a bird bath. Typically in parks around San Francisco one can see many kinds of animals if you look for them – even large animals like coyotes and foxes!
Oceans cover over 75% of our planet and contain the greatest diversity of life on earth. On view are the California coast habitats of salt marsh, sandy beach, rocky shores and bay waters. See mussels, urchins, monkeyface prickleback, and many more animals you may never have heard of. With some help from our friends of The Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary enjoy deep-water footage from NOAA’s submersibles. Interact with ocean plankton with artist Gene Felice’s piece on the importance of these microscopic powerhouses. Dive into still more ocean topics at our study station and maybe even touch a sea star!
Coastal redwood trees are the tallest trees in the world, reaching upwards of 375 feet in the air. The redwood habitat is a complex community of plants and animals. Coastal fog is an intricate part of the redwood habitat. The trees’ needle-like leaves collect the fog’s moisture and slowly drip water to the ground. Our Redwood Hall is a sensory experience using sounds recorded by Bernie Krause. Bernie’s pioneering work in Soundscape Ecology has led to some amazing discoveries. All animals find the perfect frequency for themselves in which to be heard amongst all natural sounds of an area. Listen for animals, water, wind and other sounds as you make your way down to the Ocean exhibit.