Okay, so it’s probably becoming obvious that I love bats. In recent posts I’ve talked about white-nose syndrome (WNS), a deadly fungal infection that’s devastating American bat populations. I just donated to FightWNS.org, ordering a super-cool WNS awareness ribbon with bat wings (left). I urge you to find ways to help bats in your own community. Read more
Less than one month ago, I posted a story about white-nose syndrome killing bats in Mammoth Cave National Park. Today, more bad news came from another national park site, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, where white-nose has just been documented for the first time.
I contacted Katie Gillies, the imperiled species coordinator at Bat Conservation International, to ask what can be done to combat the spread of white-nose.
"There is an extensive amount of research being conducted on several fronts right now," she told me. "A few years ago, the fungus didn’t even have a name, and today the full genome has been mapped, sensitive molecular tools to detect it have been developed, and we understand the histology of the fungal invasion and believe we understand the proximate and ultimate causes of death."
The wolverine is one of the most astonishing and most misunderstood creatures on earth. Its scientific name of Gulo gulo, or “glutton glutton,” is hardly complimentary, and offers insight into what wolverine biologist Kerry Murphy described as “a serious PR problem” back in late June 2008.
Murphy was teaching a Yellowstone Association Institute field course, Yellowstone’s Pack of Predator Concerns. Though it’s been almost five years since I attended the four-day class, I still remember the key points Murphy hammered home: wolverines are rare, they’re in trouble, and they get remarkably little sympathy.
As a park ranger, I’ve lived in lots of beautiful places … but I don’t think there’s anywhere in the world that can match the Badlands of South Dakota for the beauty of its sunsets. This brilliant pink sky is from two weeks ago, the night before a major winter storm hit the area. Though all sunsets are the same, in that the earth’s rotation brings the sun slowly out of view behind the horizon, every one is different.
Work for one day in the visitor center at Badlands National Park, and someone is sure to ask, “Why is it called that?” The term “badlands” is a translation from the Lakota “mako sica” and the French fur traders’ “les mauvaises terres à traverser”—which is to say, “bad lands to travel across.” The rugged terrain is part of the problem, of course, as is the harsh climate. Winters can see the mercury plummet to well below zero, while summer temperatures can reach triple digits (in Fahrenheit, of course). Winds over fifty miles per hour can occur at any time of year, and the starkness of the prairie affords little shelter from the gusts.
But I often think that the lack of potable water in the badlands is what really made this area earn its name. Read more
In keeping with my pledge to spend more time in nature this year, I made my first visit to the Outdoor Campus – West in Rapid City this past weekend. Run by South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, the Outdoor Campus — West opened in 2011. The facility features a LEED Gold building (one of only eight structures in South Dakota that have attained this level of certification from the U.S. Green Building Council) situated on 32 acres that include two small ponds, a stream, and 1.5 miles of trails.
Sad news today from Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park, where Superintendent Sarah Craighead confirmed the death of a northern long-eared bat from white-nose syndrome, a deadly infection that affects bats that hibernate in colonies. It is named for the frosty white fungal growths that appear on the muzzles of sick bats.
Ah, mid-January: time to start fantasizing about summer backpacking trips! This year, I’m planning a long road trip with several stops for hiking and backpacking at some of the prettiest parks in the western U.S. and Canada. Explore the map below to learn more about what promises to be a dream vacation.
Whee! Can’t wait!