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Heller Nature Center

Heller Nature Center
2821 Ridge Road
Highland Park, Illinois 60035
[+] Map / Directions
Phone: 847.433.6901 Fax: 847.433.8856

About Heller

Oak-hickory forests, tall grass prairie, oak savanna and natural wetlands are an oasis for native plants and animals at this 97-acre preserve of the Park District of Highland Park. Heller has been under public stewardship since 1977 where careful resource management, including restoration and controlled burns, provides a taste of an authentic native landscape. Visitors can enjoy a picnic in our woodlands, visit our nature exhibit, participate in a program, play in Wander Woods or rent cross-country skis and explore our three miles of trails. At Heller, every season is suitable to enjoy the outdoors.

Heller Trail Map

Hours of Operation

Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5:00pm
Saturday-Sunday, 9:00am-3:00pm
Grounds open dawn to dusk daily.

Contact Us

Jeff Smith, Manager
Phone: 847.579.4182
jsmith@pdhp.org

Leah Holloway, Naturalist
Phone: 847.579.4184
lholloway@pdhp.org

Jessica Reyes, Naturalist
Phone: 847.579.4183
jreyes@pdhp.org

Sue Monsen, Office Coordinator
Phone: 847.579.4181
smonsen@pdhp.org

Select A Page:

Nature Programs

The Park District offers a variety of nature-based programs for all ages.  The programs are run by our experienced staff from Heller Nature Center and are held at a variety of locations around the district each season.  For more information, click on the nature program categories below.

After School

Each season brings about spectacular change! Through hands-on after-school programs your child will explore and discover the ever changing environments of Heller and/or learn a new outdoor adventure skill.

Fantastic Science
[Grades K-3]resize
Unlock the beauty of spring and explore the woods to discover what is alive, awake and in full bloom!
Program is entirely outdoors so please dress for the weather. 7 weeks. Min/Max is 6/12.

36031     Thu     Apr 9-May 21     3:45-5pm     $120/140

Mini Adventure Skills
[Grades K-6]
Learn to cook camping food favorites over a campfire and head to the pond to search for frogs, crayfish and bugs.  Choose one adventure, or join them all!
These programs are entirely outdoors so please dress for the weather. 3 weeks. Min/Max is 6/12.
Wilderness Cooking
36033     Wed      Apr 22-May 6     3:45-5pm     $45/65

Pond Critter Tracking (Danny Cunniff)
36034     Wed     May 13-27             3:45-5pm    $45/65

 

Early Childhood Programs

Heller Nature Center’s Early Childhood Programs use the outdoors to help children learn, grow and develop an appreciation of and love for nature. Children get to experience activities and the natural environment first hand using real objects, processes and appropriate equipment. Our classes provide a variety of experiences by exploring the natural world in the safe, secure setting of Heller Nature Center or Park Avenue Beach. To teach our weekly themes, our programs use a combination of role playing, nature stories, touch tables, craft projects, science experiments and games.

Little Pioneers (Ages 4-5)
Pioneer: one who ventures out into previously unknown areas. Discover the magic of the season exploring Heller Nature Center. Activities include arts and crafts, songs, games, experiments and outdoor fun. This class takes place outdoors and indoors and is offered fall, winter and spring.

Kindergarten Naturalist (Grade K)
Encourage your child’s sense of wonder and caring for the Earth. Kindergarteners will use their senses and other scientific tools to explore Heller. Nature, literature, science and art activities are used to investigate habitats and animals. This class takes place outdoors and indoors and is offered fall, winter and spring.

 

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New Starting Fall 2015!

Check out our open house June 20, 2015 from 10am-12pm

Monarchs and Minnows (Ages 4-6) is a new early childhood environmental education program that will be offered at the new Rosewood Beach Interpretive Center.  Sessions will be offered in the Fall, Winter and Spring.  Each season brings new topics, activities and natural discoveries.

Class Offering

Class meets three days a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) from 9-11am or 12:45-2:45pm. The program is designed for children ages 4-6.  There is a 2:12 staff to child ratio.  Staff are CPR/First Aid certified.

Nature Based Learning

Nature-based education has been found to increase children’s attention span as well as their coping, motor and social skills more than traditional education systems.  Your child will build a true connection with nature through kindergarten readiness learning and hands-on-age-appropriate activities with an environmental focus.  Through time spent outside everyday exploring and learning in the beach, ravine, forest and dune habitats students will develop a sense of place and understanding of themselves, life and the natural world.

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Public Programs

Heller Nature Center offers a wide variety of programs for kids, families and adults!  Check out the list of programs available this season below.  Click on the links for more information or to register.
Advanced registration is required unless otherwise specified.  

Refund and Transfer Policy

A refund or transfer for Heller programs must be requested at least four days in advance. No refunds or transfers are issued after this time.

One-Day Family Events
Heller offers a wide variety of nature programs for families with kids of all ages. These programs have something for everyone!  Children must be accompanied by an adult, and everyone attending the program must register.

Babies in Nature: Tuesday, April 28, 10-10:45am; $6/adult & child; no pre-registration required

Stories in the Woods: Thursday, April 30th, 10-11am; $8/adult & child; no pre-registration required

Spanish Campfire: Friday, May 1st, 6-7:30pm; $10/person

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Spring Canoe: Saturday, May 2nd, 4-6pm; $20/person (FULL! check back for more canoe programs this summer)

Babies in Nature: Tuesday, May 5th, 10-10:45am; $6/adult & child; no pre-registration required

Stories in the Woods: Thursday, May 7th, 10-11am; $8/adult & child; no pre-registration required

Old-Fashioned Campfire: Friday, May 8th, 6-7:30pm; $8/person

Bee-tastic Mother’s Day: Sunday, May 10th, 1-2:30pm; $8/person (FULL)

Beekeeping workshop04 stories in the woods exploring FathersDayAdvenure_Runge_011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highland Park Hikers: Middlefork Savanna: Saturday, May 16th, 12:30-2pm; $8/person

Babies in Nature: Tuesday, May 19th, 10-10:45am; $6/adult & child; no pre-registration required

Stories in the Woods: Thursday, May 21st, 10-11am; $8/adult & child; no pre-registration required

Spring Astronomy: Friday, May 29th, 9-10pm; FREE; no pre-registration required

Summer Astronomy: Friday, June 5th, 9:30-10:30pm; FREE; no pre-registration required

Canoe Crazy: Sunday, June 7th, 4:00-6:00pm; $20/person

Babies in Nature: Thursday, June 11th, 9:00-9:45am; $6/adult & child; no pre-registration required

Stories in the Woods: Thursday, June 11th, 10:00-11:00am; $8/adult & child; no pre-registration required

Old-Fashioned Campfires: Friday, June 12th, 8:00-9:30pm; $8/person

Family Adventures – Father’s Day: Sunday, June 21st, 3:00-7:00pm; $12/person

Babies in Nature: Thursday, June 25th, 9:00-9:45am; $6/adult & child; no pre-registration required

Stories in the Woods: Thursday, June 25th, 10:00-11:00am; $8/adult & child; no pre-registration required

Summer Bees: Saturday, June 27th, 3:30-5:00pm; $8/person

Old-Fashioned Campfires: Saturday, June 27th, 7:30-9:00pm; $8/person

Starry Starry Nights: Wednesday, July 1st, 8:30-10:00pm; $8/person

Canoe Crazy: Friday, July 10th, 6:30-8:30pm; $20/person

Old-Fashioned Campfires: Wednesday July 15th, 7:30-9:00pm; $8/person

Babies in Natures: Thursday, July 16th, 9:00-9:45am; $6/adult & child; no pre-registration required

Family Archery: Thursday, July 16th, 7:00-8:30pm; $10/person

Stories in the Woods: Thursday, July 16th, 10:00-11:00am; $8/adult & child; no pre-registration required

Sail Away: Saturday, July 25th, 1:00-4:00pm; $24/person

Babies in Nature: Thursday, July 30th, 9:00-9:45am; $6/adult & child; no pre-registration required

Stories in the Woods: Thursday, July 30th, 10:00-11:00am; $8/adult & child; no pre-registration required

Old-Fashioned Campfires: Friday, July 31st, 8:00-9:30pm; $8/person

Family Fishing: Tuesday, August 4th, 7:00-8:30pm; $10/person

Babies in Nature: Thursday, August 6th, 9:00-9:45am; $6/adult & child; no pre-registration required

Stories  in the Woods: Thursday, August 6th, 10:00-11:00am; $8/adult & child; no pre-registration required

Old-Fashioned Campfires: Sunday, August 9th, 7:00-8:30pm; $8/person

Canoe Crazy: Saturday, August 15th, 9:00-11:00am; $20/person

Canoe Crazy: Saturday, August 15th, 11:30am-1:30pm; $20/person

Family Adventures – One Last Summer Adventure: Sunday August 16th, 3:00-7:00pm; $12/person

Babies in  Nature: Thursday, August 20th, 9:00-9:45am; $6/adult & child; no pre-registration required

Stories in the Woods: Thursday, August 20th, 10:00-11:00am; $8/adult & child; no pre-registration required

Movies in Nature: Fern Gully: Friday, August 21st, 7:00-10:00pm; FREE

Summer Bees: Sunday, August 23rd, 9:30am-11:00am; $8/person


One-Day Adult EventsA Wild Geranium, Bloodroot and White Trillium (top to bottom) in Rosewood Ravine. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Learning never grows old! Continue to explore and discover nature in one of our programs designed specifically for adults who are still curious and excited about new things. 

A Little Dose of Nature Walks: Wednesday, May 13th, 12:15-1pm; FREE; no pre-registration required

Brunch and Learn Nature Workshop Series for Seniors
Presented in cooperation with the Highland Park and Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Senior Centers and sponsored by Comfort Keepers. *Fee is senior center member/non-member. 

Wildflower Walk: Friday, May 15th, 10am-Noon; $10/15*/person; call 847.432.4110 to register

Owls: Friday, June 19th, 10am-Noon; $10/15*/person; call 847.432.4110 to register

Spring Bird Count: Saturday, May 16th, 6:30-10am; FREE; email Liz at eettelson@www.pdhp.org by April 1st to participate

A Little Dose of Nature Walks: Wednesday, June 17th, 7:00-8:00pm; FREE; no pre-registration required

Beach Treasure Mobiles: Friday, June 19th, 6:30-9:00pm; $30/person

A Little Dose of Nature Walks: Thursday, July 23rd, 7:00-8:00pm; FREE; no pre-registration required

A Little Dose of Nature Walks: Thursday, August 13th, 7:00-8:00pm; FREE; no pre-registration required

 


One-Day Youth Events
No school today? Drop the kids off at Heller for a fun and engaging nature program!

Check back in August 2015 for our fall programs for kids ages 6-13!

zipline adventure-Middle Ground magnificent mud-school's out shelter building-Middle Ground


 

School Programs

School Programs at Heller Nature Center offer school groups the opportunity to learn about the natural world throughresize experiences in an outdoor setting. Our hands-on philosophy encourages learners to heighten their awareness of the natural world, understand basic ecological concepts and increase concerns for the earth and all its life. For more information on time and pricing view our School Program Guide. For questions or to book a school program call 847-433-6901.

PRESCHOOL
Time for Wonder • Fall/Spring
Enter the forest and discover all it has to offer. Students use their five senses to develop a sense of wonder about the natural world.

Home Sweet Home • Fall/Spring
Join in a woodland exploration as students discover the homes of many animals living at Heller. Students will find clues that reveal critters in a variety of areas of the forest and have the opportunity to discover many more animal homes themselves!

Growing Up Flowers • Spring (We come to you!)
Beginning as a seed, students will take an active role growing flowers and develop an understanding of their basic needs and body structures. Students will also have the opportunity to plant individual seeds to grow at school or take home!

KINDERGARTEN
Earth Magic • Fall/Winter/Spring
Students will discover the magic of the season through fun, barrier-breaking activities. They will use some very important tools…their senses…to explore the natural world. Activities focus on listening, smelling, looking, and touching.

Groundhog’s Great Tale • February
Knock on the door of our resident groundhog’s den to discover what the life of a true hibernator is really like. This oversized sometimes grouchy groundhog will lead participants into its den and role-play a groundhog’s life through the seasons. This program is indoors.

Tadpole to Frog • Late Spring
Discover how gilled aquatic tadpoles turn into air breathing frogs. Participants role-play the different stages of an amphibian’s life from egg, to tadpole, to adult.

FIRST GRADE
Winter Nature Detectives • Winter
How do things change in winter? Are animals active? What do they eat? How do they survive? As nature detectives, your students will search for clues to answer these and many more questions.

Sun, Seeds and Salads • Spring
Search for roots, stems, leaves, flowers and seeds. Discover a plant’s four basic needs of life and stop at the garden to snack on roots, stems and flowers. Then plant your very own seeds to take home.

Busy as a Bee • Fall
Visit Heller’s apiary to take a glimpse into the life of honeybees. Where does honey come from? What does it taste like? How do bees live? Your students will have these questions and more answered as they get a close-up look inside Heller’s beehives.

Insects • Late Spring/Fall
Insects are an amazing group of animals, loaded with fascinating adaptations. What makes an insect an insect? What is metamorphosis? Students will use nets to catch and release insects for a close-up view of the incredible diversity right here at Heller.

SECOND GRADE
Habitat • Fall/Spring
By using clues to solve riddles, participants discover the four basic components of all habitats and how they are important to the survival of living things. This activity identifies water, shelter, food and space as the components of the habitat and illustrates how they work together as a system. Students also learn about a forest food chain.

Pond Study • Late Spring
With nets in hand, students will capture micro and macro invertebrates; everything from dragonfly nymphs to bullfrog tadpoles. Using microscopes, students will then take a close-up look at this wonderful diversity of creatures.

Exploring Weather • Fall/Winter/Spring
Join us as we participate in hands-on, outdoor experiments to unravel a few of weather’s secrets. Using scientific instruments, students will observe, measure and record weather data to determine the forecast.

THIRD GRADE
Maple Syrup Harvest • Early March
Visit a grove of maple trees to take part in the age-old tradition of tapping trees and collecting sap. End the program by sampling some delicious maple sap and syrup. Program includes identifying sugar maple trees, learning nature’s ingredients for sap and discussing the process by which trees create sap.

Plant-astic • Spring/Fall
Discover basic functions of plant components, how plants work together as a system and adaptations that help them survive. Students will also have the opportunity to dissect flowers and use microscopes to explore their findings.

Prairie • Early Fall
Discover why Illinois is known as the Prairie State. Explore our native tall grass prairie to uncover its hidden wonders. Students will learn the components of a prairie and examine its plants and animals. Prairie cultural history will also be discussed.

Honeybee Basics • Fall
Examine the life of a honeybee up close. Visit the hives, participate in a honey extraction demonstration and use microscopes to get a larger than life perspective on these amazing insects and the flowers they pollinate.

FOURTH GRADE
Ecosystems • Fall/Spring
Choose a one-, two- or three-day experience. One ecosystem may be studied per day (forest, prairie, pond or lake) and core content will include defining an ecosystem, its interdependency of living and non-living parts, food chains, food webs and adaptations. The remaining content is tailored to your school.

What’s Underfoot? • Fall/Winter/Spring (We come to you!)
Students travel through time to discover and describe geological eras and their relationship to the rocks and minerals found in Illinois. 2As geologists, students will describe characteristics, record observations, scientifically test and identify a variety of sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks found in Illinois.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scout/Custom Programs

Have you always wanted to learn about nature and never knew where to begin? A Heller Naturalist can create a program that is based around your interest and needs including leading your group on a nature walk, teaching a workshop, helping you earn a scout badge or visiting your group for an informational discussion. We also have a variety of established programs; pricing information is below.resize

Archery $8/8.25
Beekeeping (here at Heller or we can bring a portable observation beehive to you) $8/8.25
Geocaching $8/8.25
Campfire and hike $10/10.25
Cross country skiing at $10/10.25 a scout
Canoeing at $180 for up to 12 participants.

For more details or to book your program contact Heller Nature Center at 847.433.6901.

Self-Guided
Take yourself through nature. Heller is open dawn to dusk for you and your group to walk the trails and explore the natural wonders of our 97-acre preserve. Visit our Log Cabin’s Design in Nature exhibit filled with hands-on activities. Stop inside the Interpretive Center during business hours (Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5:00pm; Saturday 9:00am-3:00pm) and visit our Nature Exhibit featuring a bird watching station, a 450-gallon aquarium and interactive displays about the three main biological communities found at Heller or check out one of our seasonal scavenger hunts available at the front desk. If you enjoy roasting marshmallows or love sitting by a fire, campfire rings are available for rental upon reservation. Make your reservation at least two weeks in advance by calling 847.433.6901. $50/hour.

A one-of-a-kind experience for your group!Teams Course at Heller 92614 - 2510

Our Teams Course offers a unique and fun opportunity for every member of your group to grow as individuals and as a team!

Located within the beautiful 97-acre woods of Heller Nature Center, our Teams Course feels like a different world, which sets it apart from other teams courses. Programs on the course can be customized to meet your specific team goals such as exploring different communications styles within the group; adult teams 2understanding the roles of leaders and supporters withing a group; developing your group’s specific teamwork, problem-solving and decision-making skills; and discovering the great impact a shared experience can have on group dynamics, all in a safe and private environment.

adult teams 1The course is made up of a series of thought-provoking ground-level puzzles, challenges and obstacles.  Your group will be led by our experienced facilitators through each challenge; every one having a specific set of tasks and an end goal that can only be accomplished by all members working as a cohesive group. Throughout the program the Heller facilitator will lead group discussions on the insights and skills they have learned to help the team progress further along the course and integrate new ideas into their daily lives.

The Heller Teams Course is perfect for groups of 8-15 individuals, including family reunions and organizations such as church and community groups; company work teams; scout troops; and school groups, clubs and teams.

Book your team activity now!
The Teams Course is available year round
For more information call 847.433.6901

Teams Course Programs

Cooperative Games (Grades 1-3)

Younger groups will love these high-energy games and activities that focus on cooperation, not competition.

Group Size:Time:Cost:
8-152 hours$150/group

Teams Course (Grade 4-Adult)

Challenge your group with a progressive series of initiatives and elements that will engage and test your group both mentally and physically.

Group Size:Time:Cost:
8-154 hours$250/non-profit group
$450/profit group

 

Discover New Ways to Play!

Heller Nature Center’s new Wander Woods Nature Play Space, constructed in cooperation with the Chicago Wilderness organization, is a free play natural area designed to nurture a child’s sense of wonder and discovery.

Open to the public dawn to dusk, Wander Woods provides an unstructured play area limited only by the imagination. Nestled in the trees and solitude, children find simple one word suggestions and basic tools such as water, mud, sticks, wheelbarrows, and shovels. Let the creativity and messiness begin.

 

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Heller Nature CenterReserve a date for your next group meeting, family gathering or birthday party at Heller Nature Center. Reservations can be made up to 90 days in advance. The unique, natural and comfortable surroundings of Heller make it a great choice for celebrations!

Contact us at 847.433.6901 for more information or to schedule a visit.

Heller Nature Center and the Park District of Highland Park support green initiatives and encourage our renters to consider ways in which to make their events more sustainable!  If you are looking for ideas, please see our Sustainable Events Suggestions.

Multi-Purpose Room

Our spacious Multi-Purpose Room can accommodate up to 100 people and includes tables, chairs and kitchen use.

Resident               $85 per hour
Nonresident        $105 per hour
Non-Profit           $65 per hour
After hours fee    Additional $20 per hour

Heller_Firepit_1Fire Ring

Perfect for campfires up to 25 people. Heller Nature Center will provide wood,
lighter and water tank. No cooking over the fire is  allowed with the exception of
marshmallows.

$50 per hour

Birthday Parties

Give your child a birthday party to remember!  Hunt for insects, roast marshmallows around a campfire and more.  Each season brings new and exciting discoveries.  Choose from one of several age-appropriate themes.  Parties are an hour and a half.  One hour is led by a naturalist and 30 minutes are for the host to lead party activities on their own.  Parties have a 15-20 child maximum, depending on theme.  The fee is $230-255, depending on theme.  Refundable cleaning deposit of $75 required.
Contact us at 847.433.6901 to schedule your party today!  Themes and prices are subject to change.

Party Themes

  • Animal Guests (Age 4, available all year)
    Follow tracking clues to find animal puppets and invite them to join in the party!  Along the way play games and activities to learn about the animals that call Heller home.
    $230 (20 children maximum)
  • Winter Wonderland (Ages 4-5, available in winter)
    Head out for some winter adventures in the snow!  Activities may include creating snow creatures, sliding on ice puddles or following a trail of tracks and other winter animal signs.
    $230 (20 children maximum)
  • Nature Scavenger Hunt (Ages 5-7, available all year)
    Follow clues through the forests and prairies to discover the natural treasures of Heller on this fun and interactive scavenger hunt.
    $230 (20 children maximum)
  • Insects (Ages 5-9, available May-September)
    Learn what makes insects special by playing games and looking for insects under logs or in the prairie.
    $230 (20 children maximum)
  • Animal Actions (Ages 6-8, available all year)
    Leaping, slithering, climbing and trotting are some of the movements the group will try as they imitate animal actions.  This theme will keep the liveliest of groups engaged and challenged.
    $230 (20 children maximum)
  • Games & Relays (Ages 6-9, available April-October)
    Play a wide variety of hiding, tag and skill-based games on the trails and lawn areas of Heller.  Guests will learn games they can play for a lifetime.
    $230 (20 children maximum)
  • Campfire (Ages 8-12, available all year)
    Play games and activities to learn about the animals that are most active at night.  End your evening with a campfire and s’mores.  Parties begin between 6-8pm.
    $255 (15 children maximum
  • Geocaching (Ages 8-12, available all year)
    Use GPS units to navigate trails and find clues hidden in the forest and prairies.
    $255 (15 children maximum)

HellerProperty014Book Your Rental or Party

Applications are processed on a first-come, first-served basis. A resident may not be the applicant and/or payee for a room rental for a non-resident.

A special permit and proof of insurance is needed to serve alcohol. Alcohol must be kept in the designated area at all times and is not permitted for fire ring rentals.

Park District sponsored activities have priority over other facility use. Public areas including the lobby and restrooms remain open for public use during business hours.

The time written on the application form is the approved rental time. Heller staff will set up tables and chairs for room rentals. Renters may arrive 30 minutes prior to the rental time to deliver food, decorate, etc. Tape cannot be used on any wall surface and paints may not be used for any function. No live animals are allowed.

An additional 30 minutes after the rental time is reserved for clean up. Groups staying beyond the 30 minutes will be charged for the full hour. Clean up is the responsibility of the renter.

Payment in full is required at the time of booking, along with the $75 refundable cleaning/security deposit. Please call 847.433.6901 or email heller@www.pdhp.org for more information or to book your event.

Rentals are 90% refundable if cancelled ten or more working days prior to the rental date. Full refunds will be issued for fire ring rentals cancelled due to poor weather.

All Park District of Highland Park building use policies apply at Heller Nature Center (see back of Application for Rental/Use).

Heller Nature Center Rental Brochure

CrossCountrySkiing_JRunge_02Heller has three miles of ungroomed trails. You can rent skis for the day whenever snow conditions permit (4” base or greater). No overnight rentals available. Rental packages include no-wax skis, boots and poles. Sizes available for six-year-olds through adults. A driver’s license or $20 deposit is required per set of skis. No reservations are taken. Cash, check or credit card payments accepted. Call 847.433.6901 to check snow conditions.

Daily Rental Fees:
•$13/Adult
•$8/Child (12 and under)

Rental Hours (When there is at least 4 inches of snow)

Daily 9:00am-4:00pm (rentals returned by 4:30pm)

If you have your own skis, please feel free to use our trails at your leisure from dawn to dusk!

We are currently sold out of jars of Heller Honey. Honey sticks are available.

jar

Heller Honey is 100% natural and produced in hives at the center. Heller bees gather nectar from local plants, including bee balm, linden, acacia, honeysuckle and other fragrant blossoms to make this flavorful honey. In addition to producing hundreds of pounds of tasty honey, the bees play an essential role, pollinating many flowering plants.

Heller staff and beekeeping volunteers extract the honey in late August. The honey can be purchased at Heller Nature Center while supplies last. Heller honey makes a great party favor, teacher gift, wedding favor or birthday gift.

Honey Jars (1 pound) – $7

Honey Sticks- .25 cents each or 5 for $1

We offer public education programs at Heller’s apiary or we can come to you with our new portable observation hive. If you would like to discover more about bees and beekeeping, call us at 847.433.6901.

Thank you to all of the Volunteer Beekeepers who work so hard in helping us to make the program a success throughout the year.

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Do you have a question about nature? Perhaps you’d like to know what kind of tree is in your backyard or what to do if you find a baby bird. Heller Naturalists are here to help. See our Frequently Asked Questions below or click here to submit your own question.

What do I do if…

Q: I found an injured animal?

A: If an animal has been injured or is bleeding, don’t offer food or water. Contact a rehabilitator immediately. It is illegal for you to care for a wild animal in your home. If you have to chase an animal, it doesn’t need your help.
For raptor rehabilitation, contact: Linda Brewer of Barnswallow 847-487-3606.
For wildlife rescue and relocation, contact: ABC Wildlife Rescue and Relocation: 847-870-7175
Wildlife Discovery Center: 847-615-4388.

Q: I found a baby animal?

A: Baby animals do better when left alone. Many look small and helpless but are already independent. Contrary to common belief, it’s not true that if humans touch a baby animal the mother will abandon it.

Birds: A baby bird with feathers is a fledgling. Hopping around on the ground is normal behavior; its parents will feed it there. Keep animals and people away and watch it from a window. If the bird does not have feathers, it’s a nestling. Locate the nest and put it back. If you can’t locate the nest, poke holes in the bottom of a margarine dish or berry basket and line with dry grasses. Place the bird in the new nest and put the nest in a tree or bush closest to where the bird was found.

Rabbits: Mothers visit the nest about twice a day so you will probably not see them. If the babies have fur and their eyes are open they can survive on their own. If you have already picked them up, simply put them back.

Squirrels: If a baby is looking for food leave it alone. If it has fallen out of a nest or off of a tree, place it in a box (no lid) at the base of a tree where the mother has been seen. Mother squirrels keep two nests and frequently move babies. Keep people and animals away.

Q: a bird flew into my window and is injured or keeps flying into my window?

A: Birds fly into glass because they can’t see it.

If a bird appears stunned, or possibly dead, place it in an empty cardboard box with a lid and air holes. Don’t offer it food or water. Place the box in a dark, quiet area. Check on the bird in an hour. If it has recovered, release it. If not, call a rehabilitator.

Birds may also see their reflection, think there is an intruder and attempt to chase it away. Birds constantly hit the window if this reflection does not disappear. To deter birds from hitting glass, keep blinds closed when possible, relocate feeders and baths to 10 feet from the window, or cut dark silhouettes of a larger flying birds and tape them to the glass.

For raptor rehabilitation, contact Linda Brewer of Barnswallow: 847-487-3606.
For wildlife rescue and relocation, contact ABC Wildlife Rescue and Relocation: 847-870-7175 or
Wildlife Discovery Center: 847-615-4388.

Q: I found an injured raptor (hawk, owl, falcon)?

A: State and federal laws protect all migratory birds, including raptors. It is unlawful for anyone without permits to touch or possess these birds, or any part of one (feathers included), for any reason.

If you find an injured raptor, contact a licensed rehabilitator immediately. Don’t approach or attempt to move it unless the bird is unconscious; raptors have very sharp, powerful beaks and talons (claws). If the bird is unconscious, wear heavy leather gloves, long sleeves and glasses. Place the bird in an empty cardboard box with a lid and ventilation. Weigh the lid down or securely tape it closed. Don’t offer the bird food or water and keep the area dark and quiet. Immediately get the bird to a licensed raptor rehabilitator. NEVER OPEN THE BOX. A bird reaching consciousness will be scared and potentially dangerous.

For raptor rehabilitation, contact Linda Brewer of Barnswallow 847-487-3606.

Q: there is an animal in my attic or chimney?

A: Squirrels, bats and mice commonly enter attics. Raccoons and squirrels commonly enter chimneys.

Attics: Animals enter through tiny holes. Bats hibernate during the winter; moving or awakening them often leads to their death. In the spring, bats, squirrels and mice should leave on their own. Be sure all the critters are safely outside (check nests of mice and squirrels and dark corners and crevices for bats- trapped animals will stop at nothing to get out and dead ones stink!) and seal any holes that lead outdoors. You may choose professional help to remove your visitors. Remember that poisons leave animals to die painful deaths, then other animals often eat them and are in turn also poisoned.

Chimneys: Don’t start a fire! Raccoons can climb up and down chimney walls easily, are active at night and adults usually return about 3:00 a.m. Play a radio loudly or set an alarm randomly during the day while they are resting. This will encourage them to leave. Give mothers several days to remove babies before capping a chimney. A mother raccoon that can’t get to her babies will cause damage to your house. Squirrels behave similarly, except they are active during the day: use a radio and alarm during the night. Squirrels can’t climb up chimneys once they have fallen in. Lower a rope and they will climb out, or open all doors and windows, leave your house, and let them run out. They want out as badly as you want them out!

Q: a woodpecker is pecking at my house?

A: Woodpeckers peck for two reasons:
Males drum to attract a mate. The louder and more resonant sound made the more likely they are to attract a female. This should stop when mating season is over. As a deterrent, increase activity to the area or hang nylon streamers that blow in the wind.

Woodpeckers also peck wood trim searching for insect larvae to eat. Many insects lay eggs in cellulose (plant) material. When the young (larvae) hatch they have a food source. These larvae attract woodpeckers. Overall, the problem is not the woodpeckers, but an insect infestation. There are commercial products available to seal wood and prevent future insect damage. However, professional advice is advised.

Q: a snake, bat, coyote or fox is in my yard? Should I be concerned?

A: No. This is a compliment!

Animals live in areas where their needs are met – food, water and shelter. They are all secretive animals preferring quiet and solitude. These animals can actually be beneficial to you, as they are eating insects and rodents that would otherwise be invading your home or eating your garden!

Snakes common to the Chicagoland area are non-venomous.
Bats are nocturnal (active at night) and eat insects – moths and mosquitoes. There are no vampire bats in this area and fruit bats don’t live in North America. Bats have good eyesight and most use echolocation (a series of sound waves) to search for food. Bats fly in swooping movements and are NOT flying at or attacking you-they are just investigating their surroundings. Bats seldom carry disease and are not dangerous.
Coyotes and fox are the largest predators in the Chicagoland area and are protected by law. They pose no danger to your family. They eat large insects and rodents.

Q: deer are eating my plants?

A: Deer are common in Illinois, eat a variety of plants, and easily jump fences. Using coyote or fox urine around plantings, increasing activity and noise may deter them. Planting deer resistant plants is recommended. Do not feed them.