Mark Wiley, Radford, Virginia, using remote cameras got this excellent picture of a bobcat in Floyd County, Virginia, 4:13 am, May 15, 2009. He said, "I've seen a bobcat in Floyd on 2 occasions - once while climbing the ridge while I was hunting and another time ambushing a turkey." Mark's about 50 so such sightings, even clear pictures, are rare.
I have dreams of a rural enterprise related to bobcats. They are scarce and with coming land use changes, they are likely to need intensive management. We know much about them now but a major sustained research program is needed for them to clarify their population status, likely impacts from housing and industrial development and carbon storage and biomass production, their disease relations (rabies, etc.), effects of an increasing coyote population and the effects of hunting and trapping on the state population.
“Coarse woody debris” is wood in the forest from dead limbs and fallen trees. It’s a lot of stored carbon and that’s a good thing as society tries to deduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The trees themselves are stored or bound carbon and their fallen parts are part of the cycle that releases carbon and minerals. In the healthy forest floor, there is long-term build up of organic matter, carbon and decaying plant parts … all habitats for a great diversity of plants and animals … microscopic to giant bears. Such soils protect tree roots, stabilize moisture and mineral flows, and prevent erosion. The trees, plants, and “mulch” of the forests are the re-charge platform for our water supplies.
Trees, all parts of them, now look good for fuels to replace losses from the high costs of fossil fuel. A different look suggests that what you see in a forest is production of a few years. Oil is that from hundreds of years. A different look suggests we might take wood for fuel (chipping, bundling, or even converting it to a liquid fuel) and lose our water supply. An historical look will convince us that other societies have excessively harvested their forests and lost their land to wind and water erosion. It will be as important to prevent taking too much coarse woody debris from the forest as it is to prevent over harvesting the trees for lumber, pulp, and other products. It will be very difficult to balance the total amount of carbon removed from each forest tract against the total amount of carbon stored within the trees there AND the amount of carbon in the coarse woody debris essential for the long-term health and lasting productivity of that tract. Without balancing done well, taking trees and debris is “mining” by the current society.
I just have to call spear points “arrowheads.” That’s the way I was “brought up.” It probably does not make any difference. The arrow is a much more modern invention than the spear. Sharpening a long stick was a major advance by primitive people over using a rock for collecting fish, reptiles, and small birds and mammals. Tying a sharp rock onto a stick must have been a great day for the remembered praise for the inventor. The practice surely spread rapidly, regionally, and only by personal demonstrations. Before people added rocks to sticks they were throwing spears with incredible force using the atlatl (pronounce it at-ul-at-ul)
It was a spear “handle” that effectively gave the thrower a longer than natural arm. Later a doughnut shaped stone was added to the atlatl. With each throw, the stone slid from the hand up the atlatl toward the spear. These had to have been the first delvings into applications of ideas about centrifugal force.
A sport has emerged and there are pockets of interest. An association exists and I think new interests will be gained from people traveling less, becoming more attached to their past, and becoming more interested in primitive weapons and survival techniques and surviving.
The New York Times, May 6, 2009, in an editorial asked "Who Will Protect the Forests?" Their's is a title, I know, but the wrong questions invariably produce the wrong answers.
The National Forests (within the US Department of Agriculture) have wilderness and related areas and these are "set aside" to be preserved and protected from major uses such as timber cutting. Hunting and recreation are permitted and protection of a sort is provided but in general these areas are following their natural processes.
It seems lame to continue to make these distinctions in such areas but the needs are real when it come to citizen input, the understanding of Congressional staff, and judicial bodies. The needs are understand that these National Forests are very different. I contend that every 10 x 10 meter square area of them is unique. It takes supremely educated foresters to analyze and prescribe for each such area. That action is part of their management, a type of control to achieve diverse citizen benefits from the lands and waters for this and next century ... then beyond. Preserving and preventing uses is at one extreme of the decision options. The decisions can be sequenced. There are thousands more of other options between that and the other extreme ... to burn, to doze, to trade, to sell.
Intensive site-specific management (and the legislation and budgets that supports it) is needed (often with GIS and computer assistance), not sweeping set-asides. Failing to get the needed management, then the set-asides" (call them "protection") may be all that can be achieved. Protecting forests from fire, trespass, insects, diseases, erosion, vandalism, air pollution, visual blight, and thieves are all part of management. Protecting them from wasteful or inefficient tree removals is also good management. Preservation efforts can reduce some protection, add significant, often-essential other protection. The decisions on what to do on the land need to be in the hands of the resource managers. (of course informed by the public about their ever-changing objectives). Modern sophisticated National Forest management includes protection.
Years ago I climbed trees to sample insects high in the canopy. Here is a picture of (part of my boot and) colleague Tim Dilworth, now a PhD. We suspended sampling devices (sticky boards) a different levels and recorded species at each level through an Ohio hardwood. We found unknown insects.
Importantly, the experience gave me true “new perspective.” I had lectured on "the world from 5-feet up," a common human viewing height. To understand the natural world requires snorkeling and digging in earth pits and laying prone on the forest floor for extended periods for things change rapidly. It requires seeing the blended layers of the forest canopy for just as mammals and some birds defend territory and are area and habitat specific, many insects, bats, and birds are layer specific. The world is not flat to them but three dimensional and they know the bounds inside of their “box.”
Animal density, the numbers per unit area, may not be the appropriate expression for analyzing populations animals per unit of available quality volume may be the measure. Its use will reduce variation in studies and help understand and predict future populations.
Skinks are lizards in the family Scincidae. A spectacle, this large male broad-headed skink, Eumeces (or Plestiodon?) laticepts, was photographed by Brad Rimbey, Homosassa, Florida, near the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. It's 3-4 times the length of a common screen-door skink. This male seemed to be fighting with another male over a female (as reported by others) just before the picture was taken.
I saw my first and only one in 1947 in Lynchburg, Virginia. Their range is from southern Pennsylvania to Florida and westward to Central Texas. Their olive skin and orange head suggest that energy conservation is not a dominant evolutionary strategy of the species but is one more like that of the multi-colored gaudy tropical birds high in treeswhere this skink is most commonly found.
It’s a woodland species and usually lives in tree-holes suggesting older forests as most suitable for it. It’s also found in rotting forest debris where it eats insects and similar creatures and even small mice or bird eggs. The female lays 8 to 22 eggs and defends the nest. The bite is said to be painful but not poisonous even though the skink has been called a scorpion (which it is not.) It’s tail, which as in other skinks easily breaks off and re-grows, is likely to have toxic properties to mammals, thus the source of its local name.
I was on a walk into the Rich Hole Wild Area
(then being proposed) in the George Washington National Forest ,Virginia, with wilderness and watershed management great, Bernard Frank. He surprised us all when, flat on the ground, he began describing the insect “highways” he was seeing, commenting on the similarities in our lives and those of the creatures he was observing. I devised from that brief experience an experiment with students on a pleasant day on a class field trip. We formed a circle and then all lay down and described to each other what we were seeing with our eyes six inches from the ground. We were not experts in entomology so our comments were general. I was most interested in them realizing the world view of foraging ruffed grouse and wild turkeys, the impacts that intensive recreation, mountain bikes, horses, or fire might have on a food supply … or on organisms busily breaking down the forest litter on its way, dissolved in root waters, to re-enter trees. I was interested in them appreciating “biodiversity” and ecological “richness” terms that were rarely used then. They readily saw that their small on-abdomen-world would look different if seen through hand lens or a dissecting scope.
I know that the world looks different to people when viewed from high places and with their eyes at about five feet. I also know that the world looks different to squirrels and most birds (with their eyes on the sides of their head, probably preventing 3-d perception). Insects only see select color spectra. Television with special lenses can allow us to see what insects “see.” The microscope changed the world. Electron microscopy expanded human perception significantly. There is much more “out there” than ever imagined, ever seen. New sights and perspectives are the stuff of the new technology of the new enterprise.