Walking through Preservation Parks is a pretty relaxing activity, with none of the dangers that hikers can run across in mountain (black bear), Western (grizzly bear) or desert (scorpion) locales.

Walking through Preservation Parks is a pretty relaxing activity, with none of the dangers that hikers can run across in mountain (black bear), Western (grizzly bear) or desert (scorpion) locales.

Most of our walks are of the white-tailed deer, squirrel, dragonfly and butterfly variety -- with, for excitement, a few hawks scoping out their prey. Like I said, quite tame. Pretty much the scariest thing that ever happens to me is walking into a spider web.

So we're interested when we get reports of scary creatures in the parks. Two recent ones spurred us to action: the report of a sea creature in a pond, and a coyote that was following park visitors.

A couple of months ago, I received a phone call from a man who had been taking pictures at the pond at Hogback Ridge Preserve. He said he had discovered our own Loch Ness monster -- right here in Delaware County! He described the fierce-looking spines on a back of something emerging from the water, and the strange bulbous eyes peering out at water level. The spiny back would submerge, then re-emerge, as the creature made its way across the pond.

Are you sure it's not just a log, I asked? He said, no, it's swimming, not floating. It looks like a dinosaur back, he added. With a crocodile head.

Of course, I was intrigued with the idea of some unknown creature populating our waters, so I asked the caller for more information. He sent a video. Sure enough, there I saw the spiny back and tail, the bulbous eyes and the reptilian head. The creature looked like it had to be three feet long.

I'm not a trained naturalist, and I really did not know what it was. So I described the sighting to my fellow -- and obviously better informed -- staff members. Within a second or two, I got this from all quarters:

"Snapping turtle." "Big snapping turtle." "Two snapping turtles, probably mating" (accompanied by a roll of the eyes).

I checked out some web pictures of snapping turtles and relayed this information to my new photographer friend. We were both a little disappointed, to tell the truth. It was much more fun to imagine some unknown creature lurking in the depths (shallows) of our pond.

The video he took is a lot of fun; you can view it by searching YouTube for "Loch Ness Monster @ Hogback Ridge Preserve."

The second story is a bit more prosaic. Coyotes are becoming more and more numerous in urban and suburban areas, and therefore we shouldn't be surprised that they show up in the parks now and then. For my part, I've not seen any; I heard some in the distance when leaving a park event late in the evening, but that's it.

Other staff members, especially the officers and operations staff, do see them, however -- mostly early in the morning and at dusk, when the coyotes are regrouping and calling to one another.

Almost without exception, the staff says, the coyotes they see are shy and stay away from humans.

But one particular coyote seemed to be boldly following people and their dogs. While it ultimately did no harm, it was threatening enough that park officers eventually removed it from the park. That was two months ago, and we've had no reports since of assertive coyotes.

However, the coyote population is growing in Delaware County, and with that, there's an increased chance of seeing them in the parks. Park visitors who think a coyote is getting a little too close for comfort should call park police at 614-989-1972.

We'll present a program on coyotes in the fall, at 6 p.m. Nov. 15 at Gallant Woods Preserve, 2151 Buttermilk Hill. It's free and designed for ages 12 and older. So put it on your calendar. And watch for a "Walk in the Park" column in October for a more in-depth look at coyotes and their habits.

In the meantime, that's it for the scary side of the parks. Come out to the Preservation Parks preserves and enjoy your walks among the squirrels, butterflies and songbirds.

Sue Hagan is marketing and communications manager for Preservation Parks of Delaware County.