Tag Archives: Animals

The Discovery of Species

As tech-savvy human beings armed with our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps and other excellent technologies, it’s sometimes easy to forget that we’re not just curious explorers or chroniclers of the manufactured and natural worlds. We’re animals, too, and are part of the community of strange and exotic creatures that we investigate and dutifully record. In discovery of the world, we discover something integral to our own being. This year is already a fascinating foray into that very exploration, with several new species coming to light in some of the most inhospitable or least expected environments.

A Tiny Frog in Karnataka, India

This guy's chirp sounds like a cricket's.

Hey there, little fella. [Image: www.techtimes.com/]

The Laterite narrow-mouthed frog was recently discovered in the Indian state of Karnataka in a namesake laterite marsh area that occurs around rural and semi-urban human settlements. It likely remained undocumented because of its diminutive stature—it is roughly the size of a thumbnail. But its discovery in a developed area is instructive and a crisp reminder that, just because there’s an established human presence somewhere, doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to discover!

Creepy-Crawly in the Southern Oregon Coast Range, Oregon

[Image: www.phys.org]

What has eight legs, too many eyes, and probably wears a neon sign that blazes NOPE? Why, Cryptomaster behemoth, of course! [Image: www.phys.org/]

This spider was recently found in the woods of southwestern Oregon. It was named “behemoth” because its size outstrips nearly all of the other nearly 4,100 described Laniatores, and “Cryptomaster” because it’s good at remaining unseen. Thankfully the behemoth, like most spiders, is perhaps as disinterested in us as we are it and keeps itself hidden beneath decaying leaves and fallen trees of the old-growth forests in the Southern Oregon Coast Range.

Octopod says, “Aloha!” in Hawaiian Archipelago

Thanks, Okeanos!

Another previously unknown creature of the deep to grab our attention and make us think about ecosystems beyond our commutes? Thanks, Okeanos! [Image: www.itv.com/]

Researchers also made another many-legged discovery this year: a disarmingly cute octopod scientists are calling “Casper.” The indeterminately friendly octopus has un-muscled arms, with only a single row of the usual suction cups, and beady black eyes set adorably in its milky-white mantle. But Casper hasn’t been much described by researchers beyond its cursory appearance, as it revealed itself to NOAA scientists while Okeanos Explorer, the remotely operated underwater vehicle, explored the Hawaiian Archipelago. What we do know is that it dwells much deeper in the ocean than its known octopus cousins and that the wee cephalopod serves to keep our expectations in check.

I Don’t Think You’re Ready for this Jelly…Near the Mariana Trench

Cue Twilight Zone music.

In an environment called and characterized as the Midnight Zone, it helps to have glowing reproductive organs, which scientists suppose this jellyfish has in the golden orbs that are very likely its gonads. [Image: www.eutopia.buzz/]

The Mariana Trench is one of the last great terrestrial frontiers to thwart explorers and befuddle scientists, and it’s no wonder that it remains a consistent source of discovery and veritable fount of new species. What is a wonder are the extraterrestrial qualities of the creatures that thrive in that deep, dark pit beneath the ocean. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration is in the midst of conducting a survey of the baseline formation and the areas around the trench that began April 20 and will extend to July 10. Already several new and exciting species have been encountered, but the jellyfish with a “jack-o-lantern meets the future of spaceship engineering” appearance has been a thus-far highlight of the exploration. With more than a month to go, we’d all do well to keep our eyes peeled for more live cam weirdness and intrigue!

Humans are one of the most adaptive and widespread species on the planet, thanks in large part to our combined intelligence and technology. This indispensable combo not only helps us persevere in all sorts of extreme conditions, but also allows us to engage with curiosity in our surroundings. As technologies improve, we are able to explore our world at deeper depths, in greater detail on microscopic and subatomic levels, across more of the electromagnetic spectrum, and sometimes—perhaps just to keep our collective ego in check—right in front of our faces.

*hop*

Or even on our faces! (Happy belated, David!) [Image: www.primogif.com/]

The moral of the story is, of course, that you can get out, explore, and maybe even find a new species in places you have been to before. Our Pocket Ranger® apps are a technology that is here to help. Whether your discovery is new to the scientific community or to you in your observations, it’s your duty as a human to investigate! And it’s always worth the adventure.

Avoiding Animal Heat Stress

On Earth Day, Sambo, an approximately 40–45 year old elephant, dropped dead from heart failure and extreme heat exhaustion after walking for 40 minutes in 40° Celsius weather in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The irony of an elephant dying on Earth Day surely didn’t escape many. It’s a sad event to see that an elephant has been overworked in such intense heat without anyone caring for its physiological needs. One of the questions that begs to be answered then is: How can we avoid animal heat stress?

sambo the elephant

Sambo was only one of the many elephants used as a tourist attraction in Cambodia. She had been working for Angkor Elephant Company since 2001, part of a couple of elephants made to bring tourists to the popular Cambodian temple complex, Angkor Wat. [Image: www.dankoehl.blogspot.com/]

During summer, animals experience heat stress. As temperatures rise, medical risks, such as heat stroke and heart attack, are common symptoms of heat stress for animals. Below are some tips to help keep animals well-cared for in the summer.

Provide easy access to water and shade.

dog tub

This dog is spending his summer in the best way possible: Chilling in his very own pool with other “friends.” [Image: www.opensecretsdc.tumblr.com/]

Summers can be brutal—they can make one dehydrated if there isn’t enough water ready to replenish the system. Shade is also another vital companion to prevent constant exposure to extreme heat, making both water and shade critical aspects of properly caring for animals.

Handle only when the time is right.

playful cat

“But what do you mean I can’t go outside and play? I want to!” [Image: www.wallpaperswide.com/]

It is highly recommended that all handling activities—this includes training animals—be postponed to dates or changed to times when the heat isn’t as intense. The reason for this is that some animals have less of a tolerance to heat than others, and any movement under such high temperatures outside can easily increase the animals’ internal body temperature.

Know heat stroke indications.

grizzly bear bathing

A grizzly bear luxuriously bathing in a creek. [Image: www.grizzlybearblog.wordpress.com/]

Fortunately, heat stroke has a few key identifiable factors. Here are a few:

  • High body temperature (above 104° F/40° C)
  • Altered mental state or behavior
  • Alteration in sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid breathing

Animals are vulnerable to heat stress and heat stroke, so it is important to be able to identify key signs of behavior and physiological symptoms in order to take care of them properly.

This summer, there’s no need to put your animals in danger. And as always, with the help of your Pocket Ranger® mobile apps, you can go out and have some unforgettable adventures together! Make the sun a friend and not a nemesis.

How To Care For Wildlife in Winter

Winter is undeniably making its way toward us this season. As the temperature drops and the wind picks up its frigid pace, various wildlife are preparing themselves for the winter fright. By this time, many creatures have long started their winter survival methods, such as migration, hibernation, or camouflaging to more easily adapt to the harsh temperature drops. As part of such a great ecosystem, many of us may be tempted to help these animals survive the winter wilderness. However, it is important to be aware of the proper ways to care for these creatures if we come across one in need. Below are some tips for how to care for wildlife this winter.

1. Be Mindful with What You Feed Them

Many of us will want to provide some food to precious wildlife, and we can’t blame you! The winter freezes everything in sight, and food is especially scarce during this time. However, there are some animals that are better off not fed. Perhaps the best example of this are deer. During winter, deer undergo physiological changes to acclimate, and their diet becomes more protein-based. This means that the bacteria that was previously present in their gut during spring and summer is now replaced with bacteria best for digesting high protein-based nutrients in fall and winter.

Deer eating in winter

Deer eating in winter. [Image: https://c2.staticflickr.com/]

In fact, there have been multiple cases where deer have died due to a complication in the digestive tract when they were given food that was not appropriate to their current living situation. Deer may starve even when their stomachs are full of food due to bacteria incompatibility in their gut. Therefore it is most appropriate to be mindful of what we feed these creatures. The best route? Don’t feed them at all.

However, if you do choose to, here are some guidelines you must follow:

  • Stick to natural browse plants such as: woody plants (dogwood, honeysuckle, red cedar, oaks); winter forbs (sedges); winter crops (wheat, clover, rye grass); and winter fruits (coralberry, sumac seedheads).
  • DON’T FEED: hay, corn, kitchen scraps, potatoes, or cabbage/lettuce trimmings.
  • Protect feed from moisture.
  • Carefully select deer formulation in pellet form.

If you require more information on how to minimize impacts of deer-feeding during winter, Maine’s government offers a good article on the topic.

2. Leave Water Outside

Because freezing temperatures tend to leave ice instead of liquid, it is even more crucial to leave water outside for wildlife species. Birds, for instance, would benefit from water left outside for them to drink during winter. One can purchase a small heating rod that would prevent water from icing over—this equipment can easily be purchased in your local garden stores.

Alternatively you can invest in an artificial pond or birdbath and keep the water ice-free. It will most definitely be a welcome warmth for these friendly neighbors!

Bird in winter

Bird drinking water in winter. [Image: http://blog.wbu.com/]

3. Winter Garden Wilderness 

If you have a backyard, you can help provide a temporary solace by letting your backyard or garden, whichever is more applicable, run wild this winter. Let dead leaves, grass, and twigs pile up in a designated corner so wildlife can make a home out of this during the following winter months. Birds can also use the twigs for their nests!

compost garden

Garden compost. [Image: http://www.bobsmarket.com/]

4. Be Informed

While some wildlife is better off not fed, you can in fact provide food for some creatures. For instance, hanging feeders containing seed blends, peanuts, and sunflower seeds are great for birds! Hazelnuts, walnuts, and almonds make for happy squirrels while cheese, boiled potatoes, and bread scraps during dusk are a great comfort for foxes. But quantity and mindfulness is key. Leaving too much can make them dependent and can cause a nuisance on you instead. Being ill-informed can prove fatal to their health.

squirrel and bird in hanging seed feeder

Bird and squirrel hanging on a seed feeder. [Image: http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/]

Remember that while helping wildlife is great, it’s also a huge responsibility. Being informed and mindful makes you a more helpful neighbor for wildlife this winter!

Check your Pocket Ranger® mobile apps for more information on habitat and usual wildlife behavior, available in Google Play and the Apple Store.

Find Elk Roaming in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This post is contributed by Justin Fricke of The Weekend Warrior

Forget the stigma and stereotyping you’ve heard about where to see elk roaming and grazing in wide open fields. Unless you’ve heard that you can see them on the east coast in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, because that’s true. We usually associate elk with western states like Wyoming and Montana, but elk are also indigenous to eastern states like North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

For centuries, elk roamed and grazed the southern Appalachian Mountain valleys. There were once thousands of elk on the east coast, until settlers came through and over-hunted them, pushing the animals out of their natural habitat. It’s believed that the last elks were shot in North Carolina in the 1700s and in the 1800s in Tennessee. Centuries went by before elk would roam the southern Appalachian Mountains again.

Part of the National Park Service’s goal is to reintegrate indigenous animals and plants that have been extradited from the areas in the past. Fast forward to 2001 when the National Park Service reintroduced 25 elk to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and then another 27 the next year. Now the herds are doing well, and the park visitors love to see them graze when they come.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Sign

Image Credit: Justin Fricke

You need to be at the right part of the park at the right time of the day and year. Cataloochee Valley is where they hang out, and you’ll need to take exit 20 of I-40 in North Carolina. Turn right onto Cove Creek Road and hang on for the 11-mile ride through the mountains to get to the gate of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Drive safe, and plan for it to take 45 minutes from the exit to the park entrance.

Keep your eyes peeled because the herd could be anywhere—you just have to find them. Most of the time, they’re grazing in a big field surrounded by a wooded area at the back of the park. Follow the one and only road all the way back and set up your viewing area. Sometimes the herd is grazing in a field just off the side of the road.

Elk grazing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Image Credit: Justin Fricke

You might want to bring a blanket, chairs, binoculars, and a camera to see them. If you’re into photography, bring a lens that’s at least 200mm since the elk are usually far away in the field. Be sure to keep your distance, staying at least 50 yards from the elk all the time. They are wild animals after all.

Your best chance at seeing some elk in Cataloochee Valley is in the spring and fall months. Get to the park early and enjoy the park, hiking and exploring the trails and learning the history. Or get to the park late to do the same. Then turn your attention to looking for some elk. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to view them.

Two elk at Smoky Mountain National Park

Image Credit: Justin Fricke

Featured: Yellowstone National Park

This month’s featured park is none other than Yellowstone National Park, a sprawling 2.2 million acres of natural geothermal bedspread based in the northwestern corner of Wyoming and certain parts of Idaho and Montana.

This vast ecological center is seated on top of the Yellowstone Caldera, a massive supervolcano stretching between 35–45 miles. Not to worry, though; the last recorded eruption was approximately 70,000 years ago, and our technology has since improved so that you’re highly unlikely to be caught in the fireworks so to speak.

Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park is dazzling in the summer. [Image: http://www.hdwallpaperscool.com/]

While there are various debates on where the park attained its name, the two outstanding theories are that it may be named after the Yellowstone River from the Minnetaree Indian name Mi tse a-da-zi (Yellow Rock River). However, based on common lore, there is also the possibility that the name was derived from the yellow rock surrounding the area. French trappers came and called the river “Roche Jaune” (Yellow Rock) which, when later translated, was what stuck with travelers and led it to be referred to as “Yellowstone.”

Ferdinand V. Hayden primarily headed the expedition, discovery, and the park’s eventual designation as a protected natural area. It was a slippery discovery that lasted an approximate 30 years before it stepped past the label of myths and folklore. On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant officially signed what was considered The Act of Dedication that protected the park’s area from settlement and occupancy. Since then, the park has been successfully conserved for almost two centuries and is the leading (and arguably most important) geothermal resource in the entire world.

If you’re planning to visit Yellowstone National Park this fall or coming winter, here are some activities and views that you can enjoy while at this wonderful, breathtaking area.

Geothermal Glory

Yellowstone is well known for its geothermal and hydrothermal system and its many geysers that can be found within the park. A study in 2011 estimated the park to have approximately 1,200 geysers with about 400 of them active annually. Impressively, the park is estimated to contain 10,000 geothermal features, meaning that 2/3 of the world’s geysers are concentrated in Yellowstone.

One of its most famous geysers is Old Faithful, which erupts at a rate of 45–120 minutes.

oldfaithful

Old Faithful erupting in the sunset. [Image: http://www.yellowstonenationalpark.org/]

Aside from Old Faithful, other famous geysers in the park include Castle Geyser, Lion Geyser, Beehive Geyser, and the Norris Geyser Basin. You can visit the park at any point throughout the fall and winter to witness these amazing spectacles.

Wildlife Viewing

Because the park’s ecosystem is one of the most primitive and well-preserved on Earth, it makes for a suitable environment to house a diverse population of wildlife. All across its mountains and acres of space, various mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and fish can be found dwelling within this natural ecospace.

Among the mammals that can be found in Yellowstone are coyotes, wolves, the largest purebred bison herd in the Americas, and antelope. Bears are also commonly encountered in Yellowstone, so it is highly advised to read up on safety methods before visiting. Coming near or disturbing the animals is not advised, and visitors are recommended to stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves, and 25 yards away from any other mammals in Yellowstone.

Yellowstone wolves howling. [Image url: http://enchantedseashells.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/us-national-parks-yellowstone-wolf-quest-2-wolves.jpg?w=584&h=304]

Yellowstone wolves howling. [Image: http://enchantedseashells.files.wordpress.com/]

The park is also home to 311 species of birds, including bald eagles, ravens, and even whooping cranes (though the recorded sightings of those are rare). One can also spot harlequins, ducks, ospreys, and peregrine falcons.

Fishing is allowed in Yellowstone, and 18 species of fish can be found here, including lake trout, cutthroat trout, and mountain whitefish. Be sure to check the Rules & Regulations as well as the seasons and bag limits if you wish to go fishing in this reservoir.

Reptiles can be found within the park, including about six types of snakes such as the rubber boa, wandering garter snake, and the prairie rattlesnake. And additionally, amphibians can be found on the park grounds as well. Boreal chorus frogs, boreal toads, and blotched tiger salamanders are only three examples of what can be found within Yellowstone.

Early Winter in Yellowstone

Now that winter is coming, Yellowstone is probably the first park to trudge deep into the season. With its wonderfully arched slopes and miles upon miles of trails, Yellowstone is premium for winter adventuring. Tons of snow piles on top of the surroundings so that the whole scene is a gorgeous blanket of white surrounded by pine trees adorned in silver. It’s particularly beautiful when the setting or rising sun’s soft shades of red, purple, orange, and yellow hug the skies. These same colors illuminate the blanket of snow, truly making for a breathtaking sight.

Winter in Yellowstone [Image url: http://www.nps.gov/features/yell/slidefile/scenics/winterscenes/Images/10029.jpg]

Winter in Yellowstone. [Image: http://www.nps.gov/]

Meanwhile hot springs decorated with tufts of snow erupt in their usual frequency, providing a sense of heat. Coyotes, wolves, bison, and bears trudge through the snow and leave behind paw prints on the winter grounds.

Despite the cold freeze, Yellowstone is a marvelous place for various winter activities, offering miles of perfect, snow-filled trails for skiers and commercially-guided snowmobile tours. Other opportunities include winter ranger programs, guided ski and snowshoe tours, and cross-country skiing.

If you wish to visit Yellowstone, check out the following links to help guide you in your adventure!

And as always, let us help you! The Pocket Ranger® National Park Passport Guide features a comprehensive guide of Yellowstone National Park. Find us in Apple Store and Google Play, and go adventuring today!

Poems for Summer

Whenever a new season comes along we like to celebrate with poems (winter and spring). If you haven’t had the time to peek out your window yet— summer is here! To liven up the first days, we invite you to read our poems for summer, and bask in the images.

Image: www.noelalva.com

Image: www.noelalva.com

Reverie in Open Air
By Rita Dove

I acknowledge my status as a stranger:
Inappropriate clothes, odd habits
Out of sync with wasp and wren.
I admit I don’t know how
To sit still or move without purpose.
I prefer books to moonlight, statuary to trees.

But this lawn has been leveled for looking,
So I kick off my sandals and walk its cool green.
Who claims we’re mere muscle and fluids?
My feet are the primitives here.
As for the rest—ah, the air now
Is a tonic of absence, bearing nothing
But news of a breeze.

Image: www. etherealplant.tumblr.com/post/118795783134

Image: www. etherealplant.tumblr.com/post/118795783134

Alice at Seventeen: Like a Blind Child
Darcy Cummings

One summer afternoon, I learned my body
like a blind child leaving a walled
school for the first time, stumbling
from cool hallways to a world
dense with scent and sound,
pines roaring in the sudden wind
like a huge chorus of insects.
I felt the damp socket of flowers,
touched weeds riding the crest
of a stony ridge, and the scrubby
ground cover on low hills.
Haystacks began to burn,
smoke rose like sheets of
translucent mica. The thick air
hummed over the stretched wires
of wheat as I lay in the overgrown field
listening to the shrieks of small rabbits
bounding beneath my skin.

My Mother on an Evening in Late Summer
Mark Strand

When the moon appears
and a few wind-stricken barns stand out
in the low-domed hills
and shine with a light
that is veiled and dust-filled
and that floats upon the fields,
my mother, with her hair in a bun,
her face in shadow, and the smoke
from her cigarette coiling close
to the faint yellow sheen of her dress,
stands near the house
and watches the seepage of late light
down through the sedges,
the last gray islands of cloud
taken from view, and the wind
ruffling the moon’s ash-colored coat
on the black bay.

Image: www.pinterest.com/pin/258957047293303545/

Image: www.pinterest.com/pin/258957047293303545/

Tropical Courtyard
Joe Bolton

It is a rage against geometry:
The spiked fans of the palmetto arcing
Like improvised brushstrokes in the light breeze;
Like shadowplay, somewhere a dog barking.

Against the height of new and old brick walls,
Confounding stone, transplanted pine and palm
Lift in imperfection, as heavy bells
That would force order fade into the calm

Of azure and a faint scent of musk.
(Is it eucalyptus or just the past?)
There’s nothing in this warm, vegetal dusk
That is not beautiful or that will last.

What Happens to Animals in Forest Fires?

forest fire blaze

Image: www.ecoforumjournal.org

Wildfires wreak havoc every year in forests and grasslands around the world. These seemingly devastating events, whether natural or intentional, may overwhelmingly negatively impact local neighborhoods, but plants and animals in forest fires have acclimated in areas of common fire occurrences.

“Wildlife have a long-standing relationship with fire,” according to ecosystem ecologist Mazeika Sullivan in an article from National Geographic. “Fire is a natural part of these landscapes.” Plants and animals in areas of naturally occurring wildfires (fires caused by hot temperatures and lightening), have adapted. Animals in forest fires know when it’s time to flee. Plants, which seem to be greatly disadvantaged in this situation, have developed certain reproductive and regenerative abilities during fires. There are even some plant species that spread their seeds only after a wildfire.

animals in forest fires

Image: www.http://media3.washingtonpost.com/

NatGeo says sometimes wildfires are important because they help restart life in certain areas, however, this does not mean wildfires should be started purposefully.

According to the National Park Service, ponderosa pines, giant sequoia and slash pine trees have adapted thick barks to ward off extreme heat during wildfires. Some plants like longleaf pine have evolved protective layers of nonflammable foliage to protect their buds.

Animals in forest fires run. Smaller, slower animals such as moles, snakes and lizards burrow deep into the ground to avoid heat. Predators use wildfires as a chance to feast on fleeing animals. Wildfires have been happening probably for millions of years, so these animals know how to react in order to survive. That’s not to say all animals make it, though. Smoke inhalation and the inability to flee means doom for some animals in forest fires.

“In those short-term situations,” Sullivan said in his NatGeo interview, “there’s always winners and losers.”

Although there are quite a few animal deaths with each wildfire, there has never been a case of an entire population wipeout due to a fire.

Below are U.S. wildfire statistics for acres burned  in 10 years ending in 2012.

Image: Michael Hansberry

Image: Michael Hansberry

Suggested Gear List: 

  • Brunton Eterna Compact Binocular
  • Ultimate Survival Technologies 15 Day Flashlight
  • Brunton Nomad V2 Digital Compass

Check out our Pocket Ranger® Gear Store for these items and more!