Rules & FAQs

Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary’s rules are based on safety for our guests and residents, courtesy to all guests, and the Heard’s mission to bring nature and people together. To make sure you have a great time and get the most out of your visit, all guests are asked to follow our rules.

 

The following rules are general to our museum and nature preserve. For rules related to a specific program or event, please visit that page for more information.

General Rules

The Heard Wildlife Sanctuary is a private property set aside to conserve local fish, wildlife, and plants. Except for non-releasable animals in enclosures, all animals at the Heard are able to move throughout the sanctuary. Nature trails are designed to be walked; vehicles are not permitted. Approaching on foot within 25 yards (23 m) of wildlife is prohibited. Use binoculars or telephoto lenses for safe viewing and to avoid disturbing them. By being sensitive to its needs, you will see more of an animal’s natural behavior and activity. If you cause an animal to move, you are too close! Do not remain near or approach wildlife, including birds, within ANY distance that disturbs or displaces the animal.

Pets of any kind are prohibited from the Wildlife Sanctuary for reasons of animal health and safety (for both resident Heard animals and your pets). Only service animals are permitted.

 

Please treat the Heard Animal Ambassadors with the respect they deserve. Remember, the Heard is their home. Animals act naturally and are easier to see in a calm environment.

Do not feed animals, captive or otherwise, or throw foreign objects at them. Animals’ diets include specific foods. Any food not part of that diet may cause them to get sick or even die. Foreign objects should never be given or thrown to the animals. Foreign objects put the animals at risk and can cause medical problems. Persons caught feeding or throwing objects at animals will be immediately asked to leave and will not receive a refund for their visit.

Do not attempt to pet or touch or interact with animals at the Heard without explicit direction from a member of the Animal Curatorial staff. Also, do not ever cross any fence or barrier at the Heard. All animals can bite. Barriers are in place for the safety of Heard animals and guests. Persons caught trying to touch animals without permission or crossing fences/barriers will be immediately asked to leave and will not receive a refund for their visit.

Do not use any audio or mechanical device (including apps, recorded calls, etc.) to attract birds and other wildlife. The use of such devices may induce stress and disrupt mating/nesting activities of wildlife. The energy birds use to respond to these artificial stresses could be used instead for foraging or raising young. (Code of Federal Regulations)

Be quiet near birds, especially nesting birds. Birds need to stay on their nests to protect their eggs and young. Also, a bird flying off a nest could accidentally crush its eggs or young, and if it stays away too long the eggs or young could die from overheating or cold. An additional benefit of quiet observation is that you’ll have greater success of viewing the birds if you don’t frighten them off.

 

Maintain a distance of about 300 feet from colonies of birds. This is the recommended set-back distance to minimize human disturbance to birds.

Please note: If you observe Heard wildlife in distress, please provide details about the species involved, the location, date, and time to the front desk staff by calling 972-562-5566.

 

Do not attempt to get involved in the situation since wild animals can react unpredictably when in distress. Wild animals should never be handled by untrained individuals lacking proper gear and protective equipment.

An adult must accompany all children under the age of 18 at all times, whether indoors or outside. One adult per five children is recommended; for children under 5 years of age, one adult per three children is recommended. Parents/chaperones are responsible for the safety and discipline of their children.

While the museum typically closes at 5PM, our visitors may not be granted entry to exhibits or trails after 4PM, to ensure the best possible experience. On days where we close earlier than 5PM, guests are not granted entry less than an hour before closing time. There are many things to see and explore at the Heard, and one hour is simply not enough time!

Please check in at the front desk before entering the sanctuary. The Heard is private property, and visitors who have not checked in are trespassing. We will also not know to locate you in case of emergency. Also, entry gates remain closed during non-business hours; we would like to make sure you do not get locked in!

Please stay on trails while in the nature preserve. This will help to minimize exposure to poison ivy and insect bites. Straying from trails can also lead to receiving snake bites.

Please use walking feet and indoor voices, whether indoors or outside. The Wildlife Sanctuary is home to many native animals, birds, and more. Exhibits at the Heard also often include animals and loud noises and abrupt movements can disturb them. Please be courteous to our Animal Ambassadors. Running indoors or on the Wildlife Sanctuary can also result in injuries to adults or children.

Curiosity is an important part of learning, but simply touching some exhibits can leave acids and residue on very valuable objects that may not be able to be removed. Please do not touch objects in the galleries unless otherwise instructed. Exhibits that can be touched will be clearly labeled.

Please also do not remove plants (including their flowers, seeds or branches) while on the trails. Please do not spread seeds or plant plants without permission from Heard staff.

The Heard also invites visitors to take personal video or still photography while enjoying their visit. View our photographic/video policy below for complete information.

While we understand the importance of communication, the use of cell phones can be very disruptive to other visitors. Please use cell phones sparingly.

Outside food and beverage are not permitted in the exhibit halls. Please enjoy your food and beverage purchases at one of our designated outdoor picnic facilities (only), available on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Smoking is only allowed in designated areas. No smoking is permitted on the Wildlife Sanctuary. NO Alcohol, drugs or firearms are allowed on the Heard property.

Roller blades, skateboards, and bikes are not allowed. While our indoor exhibits are wheelchair and stroller accessible, the Heard nature trails are not currently wheelchair or walker accessible. The trails are not paved and are only accessible to running strollers (not umbrella strollers).

Costumes are only allowed during designated special events and only in designated areas at those times. Visitors wearing costumes during general admission may be asked to leave.

Please note that all hunting and fishing is prohibited on Heard private property. Cameras and staff are available to monitor activity during both daytime and nighttime hours. Vehicles and trespassers are subject to video and photo identification, and trespassers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Be sure to ask museum staff for help if you are in need of assistance. Heard Staff will remove anyone who violates Heard Rules. We reserve the right to inspect anything that is brought into the Heard.

Drones and other unmanned aerial devices are not allowed on Heard property.

Commercial Photography Rules

Heard Wildlife Sanctuary exists to provide a safe habitat for wildlife, we limit the use of the sanctuary for other uses such as commercial and portrait photography and videography. All commercial and portrait photography and videography groups are required to pre-register and to pay a permit fee. Commercial and portrait photography and videography groups must schedule with the marketing and communications director at least one week in advance. Approval or denial will be given after the consideration process.

 

All photographers must abide by Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary general visitor rules as well as these specific rules concerning portrait photography below.

Photographers and their clients should be considerate of other patrons at the facility. Do not block trails or pathways or obstruct access for other visitors when posing for photographs. Because photography sessions are scheduled during operating hours, we are unable to restrict access to any portion of the sanctuary. This means that classes, groups of students, or the general public may pass through the grounds. Do not disrupt or impede sanctuary programs.

All guests are welcome to take nature photographs of the Heard Wildlife Sanctuary and to take casual snapshots during visits. However, all portrait photographers and videographers (amateur or professional) must preregister and pay the Heard a permit fee to take posed portraits or videos of individuals or groups on our grounds. We appreciate your cooperation.

Bookings are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Photo and video sessions must be scheduled at least 7 business days in advance within our regular hours of operation (see our hours page for full details). Photo and video sessions are a maximum of two hours long. Upon arrival for scheduled session, photographer must check in at Heard front desk in the main museum building.

Photographer must display permit while on grounds. Photographer and their portrait subjects must comply with all policies at all times. The Heard reserves the right to ask those participating photographers or clients who are not in compliance to leave without refund. Pets are now allowed.

The maximum group size is 8 persons and the maximum session time is two hours.

Photographer must pay fee for permit for portrait photography. No refunds or reschedules will be available.

Your equipment must be limited to cameras and tripods. No costumes, furniture or other props are allowed. No lighting equipment is allowed. Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary is not responsible for lost, damaged or stolen equipment. Drones are not allowed.

Photography sittings and videography must be family appropriate (G rated). No nudity or inappropriate messages\clothing\language. Proper attire is required at all times. Subjects may not wear bathing suits of any style anywhere at the Heard. Indecent or revealing low-cut blouses, short dresses, skirts, or shorts are not allowed. Male subjects must wear a shirt at all times.

For safety reasons, do not pose subjects in trees (tree climbing not allowed), on rocks, or on other structures. Do not tamper with hoses, equipment, tools or signs. Do not attach any item to plant material, trees, buildings, or water features. No shots are permitted near areas where Heard programs or sanctuary maintenance tasks are taking place.

Changing rooms are not available. Limited restroom facilities are available but are not designed to handle changing activities. Use by the public of these facilities may not be obstructed.

All persons under age 18 must be supervised by an adult at all times.

Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary reserves the right to cancel any reservation. In such cases, all fees for the cancelled day will be fully refunded.

All guests may park in our public lot.

Photographs taken at Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary may not be sold, published, reproduced, transferred, distributed or otherwise commercially exploited without the express written consent of the marketing and communication director (at least one week in advance). Any photographs that may be authorized for use must give location credit as Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary.

Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary reserves the right, at its discretion, to withhold and/or withdraw permission to photograph on its premises, to refuse admittance for photography, and/or to change its Photography Terms and Conditions at any time without advance notice. Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary staff may enforce photography terms and conditions at any time. Any exception to the above must have prior written approval of the marketing and communications director.

Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 Guidelines

We are closely monitoring and following federal, state and local guidelines.

 

Face Mask Requirements

Executive Order GA-34, Section 4 states: “Nothing in this executive order precludes businesses or other establishments from requiring employees or customers to follow additional hygiene measures, including the wearing of a face covering.”

Therefore, per CDC guidance, the Heard will require face masks that cover the nose and mouth for all visitors and employees when they are in an area or while performing an activity which will necessarily involve close contact or proximity to other visitors (who are not in your visiting group), Heard staff or any captive animals* at the Heard (including those on the outdoor exhibit trail). This guideline applies in both indoor spaces as well as those as outdoors including, but not limited to, the Dinosaurs Live! exhibit trail, the Native Texas Butterfly House & Garden, the Animals of the World Exhibit trail, the Pioneer Village and picnic areas. We reserve the right to ask any visitor that chooses not to comply to leave the property without refund.**

**Executive Order GA-34, Section 2, Subsection iii: “…a legally authorized official may act to enforce trespassing laws and remove violators at the request of a business establishment or other property owner.”
 

Additional Protocols

Please practice all other recommended safety practices including

  • Maintain social distancing (remain 6 feet from anyone who is not in your household).
  • Frequently wash or sanitize your hands as necessary.
  • Please stay home if you have symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive for COVID-19, or if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.


*A number of animal species have already been shown to be susceptible to COVID-19. Scientists are also still working to determine the risks to additional species. Please help us keep our animal ambassadors safe. Learn More


To minimize contact, general admission and membership may be purchased online in advance. The Heard is comprised of over 289-acres with 6 miles of hiking trails–a great spot for social distancing.

The Dinosaurs Live! exhibit is only a seasonal exhibit (generally during fall through winter). Before visiting the museum to see it, please check our exhibit page to verify that the exhibit is at the Heard. Or, feel free to ask by calling our front desk at 972.562.5566 or emailing us at info@heardmuseum.org

Heard nature trails are not currently wheelchair accessible. The trails are only accessible to running strollers. The trails are not suitable for strollers with small wheels. We recently paved our Animals of the World Trail. Our indoor exhibits, however, are wheelchair and stroller accessible.

Baby Changing Tables in the main building are located in the downstairs bathrooms. 

Guided trails are available by reservation only. At least two weeks in advance, please call 972.562.5566 x241 to reserve a trail guide.  Minimum group size of 15 persons required to schedule. Fees may apply.

Please visit our Hours page for our complete schedule and any applicable exceptions.

Yes, we do. Because the Heard is a private, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, we rely on the support of the public through general admission, memberships and donations to operate.

Please note: guests will not be granted entry to museum and wildlife sanctuary less than an hour before closing time. Our typical closing time is 5 p.m., meaning that on those days, we do not allow guests to enter after 4 p.m. (Please check our Hours page for earlier closing times during special events.) Guests must leave Heard property by closing time unless prior arrangements have been made with Heard staff.

Pets of any kind are prohibited from the Wildlife Sanctuary for reasons of animal health and safety (for both resident Heard animals and your pets). Only service animals are permitted. See our General Rules for additional information.

Because we are a wildlife sanctuary, for your pets’ protection, please leave them at home. Large dogs and cats can harm the animals we exist to protect and little animals might make a good meal for a larger native Texas animal.

Many of our visitors are under 5. Children of all ages love to see native animals, dig for fossils in the sand pit, and we begin offering preschool nature classes as early as age 3. Visit our Guide: Early Childhood for more information.

Insects are a normal part of any nature experience and vary in prevalence seasonally. If you bring bug spray, we ask that you apply it outside as a courtesy to those with allergies.

We have 2 picnic areas. One is located on the Bluestem Trail and the other is next to our outdoor amphitheater. They are available on a first come, first serve basis. Please ask the front desk for directions. Please note that these are the only areas in the nature preserve where picnicking is allowed.

We welcome you to do so. All visitors, including members, must check in at the front desk before entering the Heard Wildlife Sanctuary. Visitors must stay on the designated trails both for your safety and because we exist to protect all of the native plants and animals for the next generation.

Wildlife Questions and Concerns

Visit the DFW Wildlife Coalition website at www.dfwwildlife.org or call the DFW Wildlife Coalition at 972.234.9453. The mission of the DFW Wildlife Coalition is to reduce the incidence of orphaned and euthanized native wildlife in the DFW metroplex through public outreach and education. They accomplish their mission by combining a solution driven hotline – operated 365 days a year from 7am-10pm – and a website with resources to address FAQs about local wildlife.

Roads present a major challenge to turtles and other animals. Imagine having to crawl across Central Expressway to get to your favorite grocery store! At certain times of the year turtles move about looking for mates or new homes. So, if it’s safe for you and other drivers, stop and help the turtle cross the road. Point the turtle in the direction it was headed and let it go do its wild animal “thing.” Watch out for Snapping turtles though! They have very long necks and can reach around to inflict a nasty bite.

Birds often see their reflections in glass and think it’s another bird invading their territory. They sometimes attack this reflection and will do so repeatedly until the invader disappears or the extreme urge to defend their territory diminishes. Homeowners can help the situation by temporarily covering the invader (the window or mirror), with a non-reflective substance such as brown paper.

Tarantula venom is no more toxic than a bee sting. If left alone, tarantulas rarely, if ever, inflict a bite. If you find a spider in your home, carefully scoop it into a box or similar container. Cover the box and take the animal outside to a safe location for release. Tarantulas can, if threatened, shower your hand with the fine hairs on their abdomen. These hairs can be quite irritating to the skin so wear a glove. Tarantulas do not jump up to attack humans, but they will rear back on their legs to look more threatening. Remember, all wildlife, including spiders, have their place in the web of life; everything in nature has a job to do.

The most common venomous snake in our area of Texas is the Copperhead. They are venomous but most are not aggressive. Keep in mind that if it weren’t for snakes, mice and rats, which follow humans wherever they live, would be everywhere…under your bed, in your Cheerios, or stashed in your sock drawer! Snakes do us a great service by helping to keep rodent populations in check.

 

The best way to handle a snake problem is to wear protective clothing such as heavy gloves, long pants and shoes with a closed toe and sweep the snake into a deep bucket or waste basket. Cover the bucket and release the snake outside in a safe place. If you are in doubt about whether the snake is venomous, call your local animal control office for help.

 

For help in identifying native snakes try the following links

Texas Parks & Wildlife Snake ID

Or, take a digital photograph and email it to mdudas@heardmuseum.org. The snake will be identified as soon as possible.

Although we use native animals in education programs we cannot take in pets from the public. Animal lovers should always consider the life span of an animal before making the purchase of a pet. There’s nothing cuter than a baby animal in need of a home but we should always consider that, if taken care of properly, pets can live for many years!

Cats are predators; this is “hardwired” into them. For cats, the need to hunt is independent of the need to eat. As sweet and lovable as they are, cats do not belong outside, ever! Domestic and feral cats (and there are millions of them in the United States), are responsible for the decimation of many wild animal species throughout North America and the world. The best way to help wild animals survive in an already challenging world is to keep the kitties inside. If you permit your cat to roam outdoors and you maintain bird feeders, please stop feeding the birds. This practice makes the birds “sitting ducks.” Cats can be quite happy living indoors and experiencing their time outside on a leash. There are many unique cat toys available which allow pet cats to fulfill the need to stalk and hunt.

We cannot accept wild baby animals. It is always best to make major changes to a landscape in late autumn and winter. Baby animal season in North Texas typically runs from late February until September. By scheduling our landscape needs for the “off-season” you help wild animals succeed in their efforts to reproduce. When it comes to birds, however, homeowners should bear in mind that all native bird species are protected by federal and state law! It is illegal to possess, or tamper with, any native birds, their eggs, nests or feathers. The only birds not protected by law are Rock pigeons (city pigeons), House (English) sparrows, European Starlings and Eurasian Collared doves. Please be certain that you identify any birds correctly before making changes to a backyard habitat or tampering with a nest.

Please use the following suggestions for capturing and transporting wildlife:

  • All wildlife rehabilitators must be permitted by Texas Parks and Wildlife and, in the case of native birds, U.S. Fish and Wildlife. Again, for help finding a permitted rehabilitator please contact the DFW Wildlife Coalition: www.dfwwildlife.org or call 972-234-9453.
  • In advance, prepare the container you will put the animal in. Be sure to use a container that has proper ventilation and is such that the animal cannot escape. Use an old clean t-shirt or similar fabric to line the container. Do not use terry cloth towels as animal toes are easily caught in them.
  • Protect yourself.
  • Carefully pick up the animal and place it in the container.
  • Do not hold or cuddle a wild animal. To them you are just a big, scary predator and cuddling them only stresses them out.
  • Wash your hands after handling a wild animal.
  • Keep pets and children away from the animal.
  • Loud noise and constant “peeking” will further stress a wild animal.
  •  When transporting an animal, do not play the radio, smoke or spray deodorizer in your vehicle.