More of an open-air zoo than a center for learning, an array of flora and fauna now welcome thousands of visitors annually to the TecH2O Learning Center’s wildlife habitat.
Set in thriving desert landscape in far-east El Paso, where desert cottontail, bobcats and rattlesnakes roam freely – the center is mere miles away from a six-lane highway and tens of thousands of El Pasoans.
The TecH2O center educates visitors on the importance of water conservation, as well as the rich biodiversity of the Chihuahuan Desert.
The center meets the essentials of a Certified Texas Wildscape by providing food, shelter and water for wildlife and features at least 50% of plants native to the region.
Big animal sightings are rare, but a closer look reveals the site is teeming with wildlife.
Anai Padilla, Water Conservation/TecH2O Manager, recounts many close encounters of the wild kind –including coyotes, tarantula hawks and deer – and has the cellphone photos to prove it.
“I was going to my car once when I heard the rattle,” Padilla said. “I broke out into a cold sweat and looked underneath the car. A rattlesnake was there in the shade, and it was about a meter long, with eight rattles.”
Padilla and Alex Avila, Facilities Maintenance Worker, managed to get the snake to move, but the encounter reminded Padilla and her staff that they were visitors in the wildlife habitat.
“This is where they live,” Padilla said. “We are basically invading their home; we have to adapt to them.”
Alma Klages, Water Conservation Technician, reminds even the youngest visitors to be mindful of the surroundings. The grounds feature about 400 trees, but shrubs are rare thanks to the desert cottontails who favor them as a snack.
“We don’t want them to disturb anything,” Klages said. “The wildlife is doing their best to exist and survive around us.”
Workers at the TecH2O Learning Center delight in wildlife sightings on the grounds, but all bets are off when a tarantula is on the premises.
Water Conservation Technician Dawn Walker-Hughes proudly shows off her photos of a recent tarantula sighting.
“I heard they can jump,” Padilla said, as Walker-Hughes giggled.
Activities at the TecH2O take place inside, so as not to disturb the wildlife, such as a family of quail or bees.
“We want our visitors to be cautious and aware of their surroundings,” Padilla said. “Watch your step and value all of the animals and insects you see here because they have a purpose.”
For more information on the TecH2O Learning Center, click here.