Tortoise Tales: Newsletter of the Hi-Desert Nature Museum
Family Fun Day: Animal Kingdom!
Enjoy a wild day at the Hi-Desert Nature Museum learning about animals, animals, animals!  This special event offers fun animal-themed activities for all ages including hands-on crafts, face painting, and a scavenger hunt.  Get up close and personal to bugs and touch our Madagascar hissing cockroaches. 
Wild Wonders Animal Show
11:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m. in the Yucca Room
See an alligator, kinkajou, and more!!
Saturday, February 9
10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Animated Dots 
Yucca Valley's Got Talent!
Ballroom Dance    
Do you sing, dance, play an instrument, juggle, sword swallow, or have a way cool talent you want to show off to the community?  Yucca Valley's Got Talent is designed to showcase talented performance artists in the Morongo Basin, providing a fun and competitive venue.  All ages are eligible to audition and contestants must live in the Morongo Basin.  Professional entertainers are not eligible.  Performances are limited to 5 minutes with 3 minutes to setup and 3 minutes to breakdown.    
                      Saturday, January 26
            Yucca Room, Community Center
Auditions 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. & 2:00 - 5:00 p.m.
$10 entry fee per act  (Auditions are open and free to the public for audience members)
The top 10 finalists will compete in a special evening show 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
$2 ticket price per person, paid at the door
Doors open at 6:30 p.m., Space is limited so be sure to arrive early!
The winner will be chosen by a combination of judges' scores and votes cast by the audience.
The winner will receive $300 and a trophy.
Click here for an application form and complete rules and regulations.  Applications can also be picked up at the Community Services Office, Town Hall and the Hi-Desert Nature Museum.
For more information call (760) 369-7212
Animated Dots 
"Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" Exhibition
Jurassic Playground

"Jurassic Playground"

by Rik Livingston

The local community is invited to contribute artwork made from recycled or reused materials for display in our "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" exhibition.  Paintings, sculpture, mixed media creations, photographs of recycled products, or any other art-related objects can be loaned to the museum for display in the exhibition.  Individual and group projects are welcome and children are particularly encouraged to participate.  In conjunction with "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council will be displaying "All Things with Wings."  Visit their website at for information on submitting artwork.
An information sheet regarding participation in the "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" exhibit is available at the museum during operating hours or you can click here to view it on our website.  Please call the museum at (760) 369-7212 for additional information.     
Opening Reception Friday, January 25, 5:00 - 7:00 p.m., FREE!
Enjoy refreshments and the lyrical sounds of Native American flute player Steve Rushingwind
Both exhibits on display January 25 through April 26
Animated Dots 
Science Saturdays: Way Cool Science!
Insect Close Up  
January 12: Desert Creatures
Even though our desert environment does not seem like a place where animals would thrive many desert animals have specially adapted to this arid climate and play an important role in the desert ecosystem.  During this program children will learn interesting facts and identification features regarding different desert animals, specifically some of the cool critters in the museum's mini-zoo.
January 26: Insects
When most people think about bugs they simply think of creepy crawlers, however, insects are some of the most interesting creatures on Earth.  These ancient dwellers are among the most diverse groups of animals on the planet, including more than a million described species, and represent more than half of all known living organisms.  There are insects that jump, others that swim, and some that even walk on water.
11:00 - 11:30 a.m., FREE! No pre-registration required
Children should be of school age for this program
Animated Dots 
Winter Lecture Series
Stream Orchid
Stream Orchid
Enjoy a once-a-month lunch break with your neighbors and friends at the Hi-Desert Nature Museum, while learning about an interesting topic related to the High Desert.  This lecture series is held one Thursday a month through March.
February 21: The Tortoise Intaglio Mystery, presented by John Rafter
March 14: Palms and Orchids, Flowers and Ferns - Plant Diversity in Joshua Tree National Park presented by Mitzi Harding
Starting at Noon
FREE to the public and coffee will be served
Animated Dots 
MBHS Presents "The Hospital House"
Hospital House   
In March 1958, the community of Yucca Valley decided that the surrounding communities needed a hospital.  To raise money for this project, local leaders sold raffle tickets to give away a brand new house.  In the true spirit of the Morongo Basin, land was donated and contractors along with others gave their time and expertise to build what became known as "The Hospital House."  Steve Hanson will tell this fascinating story of a community that made a dream come true.    
Wednesday, January 9, 5:30 p.m.
$5 donation to the MBHS at the door
Animated Dots 
Alligators are reptiles with an armored body, their backs embedded with bony plates called osteoderms or scutes.  They have a long snout with upward facing nostrils which allows them to breathe while the rest of their body is under water.  There are two species of alligator - American and Chinese.  Chinese alligators are found in the Yangtze River but they are critically endangered and only a few remain in the wild.  The American alligator is a rare success story of an endangered animal not only saved from extinction but now thriving.  State and federal protections, habitat preservation efforts, and reduced demand for alligator products have improved the species' wild population to more than one million and growing.
Did You Know?
* Alligators have been on this planet more than 150 million years, and are sometimes described as "living fossils"
* Large male American alligators can reach a weight of 1,000 pounds
* Alligators feed on fish, turtles, birds and mammals, and will even engage in the cannibalistic practice of eating other alligators, but they rarely attack humans unless provoked
* American alligators live up to 50 years in the wild
* The name alligator comes from the Spanish word "el lagarto" which means the lizard
* Alligators will be male or female depending on the temperature in which the eggs are incubated; over 93 degrees the embryos will develop into males, below 86 degrees into females.  Between 86 and 93 degrees the embryo could develop into either sex. 
* Alligators have powerful jaws for biting down on prey, but the muscles that open the jaw are relatively weak.  An adult human could hold the jaws of an alligator shut with their bare hands. But don't try it!
* Being a cold-blooded reptile, when the weather is cold alligators undergo periods of dormancy in a depression they dig out called a "gator hole."
* To tell an alligator and a crocodile apart look at their heads.  Alligators have U-shaped snouts while crocodiles have V-shaped noses.  Also alligator jaws overlap the lower, so teeth are more hidden when the mouth is closed, whereas crocodiles have interlocking teeth so the teeth are very visible even when their mouth is shut.  Where do they live?  Crocodiles live in saltwater habitats while alligators hang out in fresh water marshes and lakes.  
Come see an alligator at the Wild Wonders Animal Show!
Saturday, February 9, 11:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m. in the Yucca Room
Animated Dots 
New Monkey Identified - The Lesula
Lesula Monkey    
In 2012 scientists published information on a new species of monkey found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The lesula (Cercopithecus lomamiensis) is a species of Old World monkey in the guenon family. Found in remote forests, it is only the second new monkey species to be discovered in Africa in 28 years. In 2007 biologist John Hart discovered a specimen being kept as a pet in a local village. After finding the monkey, Hart and his colleagues wanted to make sure it was really a new species before unveiling the primate to the wider scientific community.  Observations and genetic tests confirmed that the lesula was indeed a new species. They have determined that lesula females average 9-10 pounds, while males reach as much as 16 pounds. Also, they spend a lot of time on the forest floor, which is unusual for a monkey.
Animated Dots 
Tree Frogs
Red-eyed tree frog
Red-Eyed Tree Frog
A tree frog is any frog that spends a majority of its lifespan in trees, known as an arboreal state.  As the name implies, these frogs are typically found in very tall trees or high-growing vegetation.  They do not normally descend to the ground, except to mate and spawn, though some build foam nests on leaves and rarely leave the trees at all as adults.  Tree frogs are usually tiny, as their weight has to be carried by branches and twigs.  They have suction disks on their fingers and toes that help them stick to leaves.  Frogs that live in trees tend to walk and climb, rather than hop.  As amphibians, tree frogs go through metamorphosis from egg to tadpole to adult frog.  Tadpoles must develop in water, so tree frogs often deposit their eggs on the leaves of trees or shrubs hanging over water.  After they hatch, the tadpoles fall into the waters below only returning to the trees once their metamorphosis cycle is complete.  (Shown at header of newsletter, a pair of chachi tree frogs from Argentina) 


the Museum

The Hi-Desert Nature Museum is located in the Yucca Valley Community Center Complex at 57116 Twentynine Palms Highway.  The museum is open Tuesday - Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Admission is free; donations support the educational mission of the museum.  The Hi-Desert Nature Museum is operated by the Town of Yucca Valley.    

For more information on our programs and events contact the museum at (760) 369-7212 or visit our website at 


To view a full schedule of Yucca Valley events, sports programs and recreation classes visit the Town's website at