Earthshine Mountain Lodge

Earthshine Nature Programs Newsletter

The ENP Newsletter is a way for you to connect with your favorite nature, outdoor education, and adventure vacation destination: Earthshine Mountain Lodge. Within the pages of this periodic email newsletter, you will receive updates on the Turtle Tracks Eastern Box Turtle Conservation program, current nature related events from ENP, and wildlife and nature related news from around the world. Within this newsletter you will also find photos from around Earthshine taken by the staff and you, the guests of Earthshine, as well as nature and outdoor education related trivia, games and puzzles. We will also keep you up-to-date on new things happening at Earthshine that we believe you may be interested in.

Earthshine Nature Programs is a separate entity from Earthshine Mountain Lodge and is 501c3 non-profit charity. We work to conserve the Eastern box turtle and our native wildlife and educate YOU about why wildlife and wild places are so important. We are all volunteers and do not draw a salary so 100% of ALL donations support the daily operational costs of ENP and our education and conservation programs and they are also tax deductible. Check out the Earthshine Nature Programs website for information on all of our programs and our Nature Center.

Editor: Earthshine's Resident Naturalist Steve O'Neil

Issue 10, Winter Special Edition 2011

A Newsletter All About Nature From Earthshine Mountain Lodge


High-Tech-Geek-Note: This newsletter is long so it may load slowly on some computers. Please be patient because we believe that nature knowledge is worth the wait.

Awesome double rainbow from the upper deck by Dallas Skornia of Beaches Episcopal School.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction to the Issue and 2011 Recap

2. Goals for 2012

3. Turtle Tracks Project Update

4. Snake Tracks Project Update

5. New Blog!

6. Ongoing Fundraiser

7. A New Puzzle (page 2)

7. Adopt a Critter (page 2)

7. THANK YOU (page 3)

Introduction and 2011 Recap

Another year is coming to a close for Earthshine Nature Programs and what a wonderful year it has been! The year started off with a donation from Mandy Jordan of the Schiele Museum in Gastonia, NC of a beautiful Canebrake Rattlesnake we named Gandalf. In early April, Potter the Opossum came to Earthshine to live with us. Take a look at Potter now--he sure has grown! He is using his tail to pick up straw to insulate his bed!

Also in April we held our first annual open house/Earth Day Celebration and fundraiser event which was a big success as it helped to raise awareness of our cause in the local community and to fund our programs and animal care costs for the summer. Then Gollum the Hellbender came to live at the Earthshine Nature Center where he has been one of the star attractions to this day. I greatly enjoyed our many shared educational and exciting wildlife adventures over the past year. Many of you joined us for wildlife encounters in the nature center and out in the fields and forests surrounding Earthshine Mountain Lodge. We radio tracked turtles, searched for snakes, frogs and salamanders, netted tadpoles, caught catfish, hiked crystal creek and became members of the Salamander Club!

As in years past I went on the road with many of the nature center's animals and presented wildlife and nature education shows at many local parties, wildlife events, camp groups and school classrooms. This year I developed an indigenous music program called The Nature of the Didgeridoo in which I take my didgeridoo's into classrooms, teach a bit of history while participants construct their very own bamboo didgeridoo that they get to take home.

In the late summer Kaa the Boa Constrictor found a new home in Edisto, SC and two new ratsnakes were donated to us for the the Ratsnake Skyway exhibit which is now complete. I began radio tracking two Timber rattlesnakes and continue to track our two resident Eastern box turtles, Catherine and Jimmy Irwin. Working together with volunteers Karen and Jenny we have rescued and rehabilitated a total of 7 box turtles. Three fully recovered from their injuries/ailments and were released back into the wild where they were discovered. Cullasaja, one of these released turtles, made the "big time" on the online animal rescue site The Great Animal Rescue Chase! Three of the turtles remain in my care and hopefully will be released in the spring. Crash, one of the rehab turtles that was badly damaged when she was hit by a car in June, will live permanently in the outdoor turtle pen at Earthshine starting next spring. That is Crash in the photo below.

Crash had such severe damage to her shell that I had to make a cast with epoxy and a plastic strap to hold both halves of her shell together (the strap is hidden under the moss)! She is doing very well now but her injuries make her shell much weaker than a normal turtle so she will never be able to live in the wild again.

I also put in many volunteer hours working for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) in their Bat Acoustic Monitoring Project (NCBAMP), the Calling Amphibian Survey Project (CASP) and the Box Turtle Connection (BTC).

Check out the latest video walk-thru of the Earthshine Nature Center.

Goals for 2012

Some of my major goals for 2012 are outlined below.

Apply for more grants and search for more donations to help cover the operational costs of operating ENP. If you would like to make a year end (or new year) gift to our cause now just click the PayPal link below--THANK YOU!

Develop an Outreach Plan focusing on local and regional schools and camps with the goals of finding a grant(s) to provide funding which will allow me to take my animals into many more classrooms at the more underprivileged schools that are unable to afford the costs of any outside services.

Teach many more people the wonders of nature and science through onsite nature programming, outreach programs at schools, events and camps, on the ENP website, Facebook Pages, Youtube site , and on the new ENP Blog.

Build a new large box turtle rehabilitation pen at my home in Pisgah Forest. This will be a recovery area for local box turtles that need more than one season to recover from their injuries before being released.

Replace the radio transmitters on all 4 of the Turtle Tracks turtles to facilitate the continued tracking of their movements on the mountain.

Survey all of the rock outcrops on the property of Earthshine Mountain Lodge in the hopes of finding a population of the endangered Green Salamander.

Continue to attempt to locate the missing Mr. Bones so that I can replace his defective transmitter and continue following his movements.

Continue to volunteer with the NCWRC, NCBAMP, CASP and BTC.

And much more!

An awesome albino Bullfrog donated to us by our friend Steve Atkins.


Turtle Tracks by Aaron Weed.

2011 was an interesting year for Catherine. She started out in the spring by following what looked like her normal routine moving about the mountainside feeding and mating with turtle #ABI (who I have found her mating with twice before) before heading up and over the ridge to visit our neighbors in the Richland Ridge community where she deposits her nest of eggs in a small field. It was when she arrived in Richland Ridge that things changed. She moved several hundred yards outside of her "normal" home range and I found her under a large log mating with a previously undiscovered turtle—see that encounter in the video below!

She then took her time in returning home and lingered in the neighbors’ field at Hog Heaven for a few weeks before finally coming back to Catherine's Place where she stayed for a short time before the cooler fall weather set in. With the onset of fall she moved back to the exact location where she over-wintered last year!

Jimmy Irwin followed a similar pattern as he has followed in previous years and now he is also over-wintering in almost the exact location as he did last year.

Mr. Bones is still missing in action and I still continue the search. Over the winter, after a heavy snow pushes down all of the dry leaves, I will use a metal detector in the attempt to locate him via locating the metal in his dead transmitter...wish me luck.

Mrs. Bones followed her usual patterns in the community where she lives and when it came time to dig in for her long winter's nap she chose an area only ~20 feet from her last years over-wintering site!

Here is a great photo of Mrs. Bones eating a mushroom!

How do box turtles find the same place year after year?! How did Catherine find the EXACT turtle sized patch of ground where she spent last winter? Smell--probably, sight--surely helps, the earth's magnetic fields--possibly a big factor, the stars--who knows...the turtles know. Over the last four years Catherine in particular has used an area of only about 100 square feet as her over-wintering location and to me that is remarkable. We know so little about the lives of these beautiful and ancient creatures, so little about how their lives are intertwined with the lives and processes of wildlife and nature and humans locally and globally. It is my goal to bring the story of their lives to you in the hopes that you will be inspired to care for them and conserve them as I do.

If you went on a turtle tracking expedition with me over the summer and you have not seen your video, all of this summer’s turtle tracking expedition videos are listed on this page. You may also search for your video in each turtles' tracking day indexes found on their individual pages linked from the main Turtle Tracks home page here. Below is one of my favorite turtle tracks videos from the summer of 2011. In this video Rachael and family and friends lead us to find Catherine who really shows off for us all.

A note about box turtles that you find crossing the road: turtles crossing roads are not lost--they are on the move between points of "business" --feeding sites, wintering sites, watering and nesting sites and so on. Unless they are injured they do not need to be rescued--only moved across the road to the side that they are walking or pointing towards. Simply pick them up and carry them into the woods a few yards and release them. Box turtles are land turtles so do not drop them into deep water since they cannot swim--they will sink and may drown. Please do not take them home as a "pet" or move them to a new place. This stresses them and can cause sickness and death. Relocated turtles that are moved far from home will often attempt to walk home and will usually die in the process. Simply help them across the road--that is all they need.

If you find an injured turtle please take it to a veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitator and be sure to remember the exact discovery location so the turtle can be returned after it recovers.


Utsanati covered in morning dew.

Snake Tracks, our newest research project is similar to Turtle Tracks in that it is a wildlife conservation, research and environmental education program…but it is different in that we are studying the Timber rattlesnake. Currently, we are following the movements of two wild rattlesnakes with radio telemetry in order to learn more about their natural movements in the deep forests near Earthshine. The first snake we named Utsanati--the Cherokee word for rattlesnake--and the second snake is a female that we have named Zoe. We plan to follow both of these snakes for several years in order to educate you on the interesting, beautiful and greatly misunderstood life of the Timber rattlesnake.

Zoe resting on dry leaves.

Zoe's Story. Tadpole and I discovered Zoe in late September crawling through the grass near the garden. She is a beautiful adult female Timber rattlesnake. She was found in an area that is near where guests of the lodge may occasionally visit so we decided, in the interests of safety along with science and education, to implant a radio transmitter into her coelomic cavity as we had done with Utsanati. Her surgery went flawlessly and she was released at her capture location in early October. She immediately made a dash for the safety of the deep forest where I followed her movements on a weekly basis until late November when she retreated into an underground cavity under a dead oak tree. It is my thought that she will spend the remainder of the winter in this location.

Here is another beautiful photo of Utsanati taken by Steve Atkins.

I will continue to bring you updates on the travels of Utsanati and Zoe on the new ENP BLOG in the form of stories, photos, videos and maps. Unlike in the Turtle Tracks project I do not plan to take most of our visitors into the field in search of these snakes or reveal their exact locations...for obvious safety reasons. However, if you are a biologist, herpetologist, biology professor, scientist or naturalist with a genuine educational reason for wanting to venture into the field in search of these rattlesnakes then a trip into the field might be able to be arranged.

Please email me with your interest and we will discuss it. Learn much more and follow in Utsanati and Zoe's tracks via the blog and maps, videos and photos on their website.

NC Wildlife Resources Commission Field Biologist Lori Williams with Utsanati.

Take a look at the playlist of all of the Snake Tracks videos below.


I have started a new blog site! Within the pages of this blog I will keep you updated on the many projects and programs that are occurring at the Earthshine Nature Center as well as other wildlife related stories and articles that I find interesting and useful to naturalists, nature nerds and wildlife warriors everywhere. If you are interested in following in Turtle Tracks or Snake Tracks or any of the other interesting nature and wildlife related projects we get into then simply click here to visit the blog site and then enter your email address in the follow box, click follow, and you will receive an email update whenever I post a new story to the blog.


If you would like to support Earthshine Nature Programs in 2012 please consider a year end (or year beginning) gift. 100% of your gift will help cover the operational costs of running the nature center, caring for the animals and funding our wildlife conservation and education programs and projects.

In 2011 we presented wildlife and nature education programs to thousands of people in the Earthshine Nature Center, camps, schools, libraries, at special events and in the woods! That is thousands of people who have learned about wildlife and nature and hopefully been inspired to conserve and protect wildlife so that future generations will have wildlife and nature as a part of their world. THANK YOU to everyone who attended our first fundraiser and open house and all of our programs over the last year. Thank you to those of you that donated money, time and love to our wonderful wildlife education and conservation cause. We could not have done it without you all!

We still have a few items remaining from the spring fundraiser that are for sale. 100% of the sale price of these items will help cover the operational costs of running the nature center, caring for the animals and funding our wildlife conservation and education projects.

Please join us again next spring for our second annual fundraiser and open house--date to be announced soon.

The paintings pictured below are for sale! 100% of the purchase price of any of these paintings or any of our other unique items directly supports our education and wildlife conservation programs. To purchase any of our items please contact us now.

Blue Ridge Sunrise by Christina Ramsey.

Box Turtle by Christina Ramsey.

Tiny Turtle by Christina Ramsey.

These paintings are the original artwork of Lake Toxaway Artist Christina Ramsey. Christina has graciously donated some of her wonderful landscape and wildlife paintings to help support Earthshine Nature Programs--THANK YOU Christina! Check out Christina's website for more of her beautiful works of art.

Earthshine Nature Programs is a separate entity from Earthshine Mountain Lodge and is a 501c3 non-profit charity. We work to conserve the Eastern box turtle and our native wildlife and educate YOU about why wildlife and wild places are so important to us all. We are all volunteers and do not draw a salary so 100% of ALL donations support the daily operational costs of ENP and our education and conservation programs and they are also tax deductible. Check out the Earthshine Nature Programs website for information on all of our programs and our Nature Center.

If you are unable to visit us at Earthshine but would still like to support Earthshine Nature Programs please consider supporting us with a donation using the Pay Pal link below.

You may also donate by sending a check or supplies (see list below) directly to the address below:

Earthshine Nature Programs

Steve O'Neil Exec. Director

1600 Golden Road

Lake Toxaway, NC 28747

Please make checks payable to: Earthshine Nature Programs or Steve O'Neil, Executive Director Earthshine Nature Programs.

At Earthshine we teach the recycle and zero waste ethics and we would like to hold true to those ethics as much as possible in the nature center by using recycled and reused items in the construction and operation of the center. The items we are looking for are listed below. If you would care to donate any of these items (or any others) to the nature center please contact Steve at 828-606-8939. All items and monetary donations are now tax deductible. Just ask for a tax receipt and I will be happy to provide you with one for your records.

Items that we currently need for the 2012 year are as follows:

Large but portable dry erase whiteboard.

6 Holohil reptile transmitters for the continued tracking of the turtles and snakes. Please Please contact us for more information if you would like to donate one or more of these units to ENP.

1 Wildlife Materials Radio Telemetry Receiver model TRX-1000WR. Please contact us for more information if you would like to donate this unit to ENP.

Animal foods, filters, lights and habitat supplies. Contact us for more information on exactly what we need.

Dissection scopes or one digital dissection scope/microscope with USB attachment or USB microscope attachment.

1 new or slightly used desktop or laptop computer with a windows operating system. Preferably with a flat screen due to space constraints.

1 used or new data projector.

Nature Quote: "What I have could be a message, Or just some words from my heart, My respect to the ones making changes, For all the lives they'll give their all" --Xavier Rudd.