Earthshine Mountain Lodge

Nature Notes and Turtle Tracks Newsletter

Editor: Steve O'Neil

Issue 5, Fall 2009

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

A Newsletter All About Nature From Earthshine Mountain Lodge

The Nature Notes and Turtle Tracks Newsletter is a way for you to connect with your favorite 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 Earthshine Lodge, and select wildlife 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.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction to the issue.

2. Turtle Tracks Project Update.

3. John Rucker and his turtle dogs return to Earthshine.

4. A New Puzzle.

5. Turtle Tracks Fundraiser Update.

6. The Giving Plants by Julie McAleer.

7. Recipes from Nick and Marney

8. Wild Focus: Dr. Coleman DVM

9. Nature Notes

10. Musical Moments.

11. Quote.

12. The Crikey Coin.

13. Nature Joke.

14. Links.

Introduction by Steve

This is the longest newsletter yet so be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom to read all of the news. I have gathered so much nature information to share with you that I have had to report on only what I feel is the most important and save the rest for the next issue. I hope you enjoy this nature report and find the time to wait for it to load entirely before reading on.

Fall is a wonderful time at Earthshine. The weather has been mild during the days and cool at night with just enough rain thrown in to keep the plants and animals happy. The Flight-Thru-The-Treetops zipline course, high ropes course, turtle tracking and other activities have been very busy with folks from all over coming to enjoy the mountain Earthshine style!

Great News! Recently Earthshine Lodge won the Best US Lodge for Families Award from the website! Click the award to check it out!

So if you are looking for an unforgettable place to spend your holiday, vacation or just a weekend getaway--make it Earthshine Mountain Lodge. Please give us a call today at (828) 862-4207. Here is a great pic from Halloween at Earthshine!

2009 was a wonderful year at Earthshine Mountain Lodge! Check out our new

2009 Photo Album with photos of you and your family having fun on the mountain top!

Let's go turtle tracking!


This has been a great year for rain but a slow year for box turtles. We have not found many new turtles probably because they are so well fed that they just are not moving very much. Below are updates on each turtle we are tracking in the project as well as the resident turtles at the Earthshine R & R Box Turtle Rehabilitation Facility.


Mr. Frodo is our newest turtle. I found him on my driveway in July. He is an adult male turtle approximately 25-30 years old and he is quite a good looking turtle for sure.

See if you can you find Mr. Frodo the box turtle in this photo--click the photo when you think you have found him to reveal his location.

Mr. Frodo spends a lot of his time close to his discovery location but occasionally takes sojourns to the area of my cabin. Check out Mr. Frodo's travels in this new map.


Since waking up in the spring Catherine has done very well, gained weight and in late June she journeyed back over the ridge behind the High Ropes course to the Richland Ridge community. She visited the same small field where she laid her eggs last year and although I cannot be 100% sure, I believe that she visited the field again this year to lay her eggs. She then returned and spent the entire summer in "Catherine's Place" across from the barn and now she is in hibernation in almost the exact same spot where she hibernated last year! How does she find all of these exact spots in the forest and fields at almost the exact times each year with such accuracy? Does she use a turtle GPS or high tech map--no--she uses her "turtle sense" and she knows exactly where she is. Totally amazing!!

Check out this pic of a turtle tracks expedition led by Coco the goat--only at Earthshine!!


Arizona Jones is an adult female Eastern Box Turtle. She was found in July 2009 by Allie, a guest of Earthshine who found her near the High Ropes course.

Allie, in green, found Arizona Jones while we were searching for Catherine, whom all the children are holding.

Later that day the children helped me attach a radio transmitter to AJ's shell.

The next day Arizona Jones was released in the exact spot where Allie found her.


Jimmy had a great summer and he was following basically the same movement patterns as he did last year. However, sadly, I must report that Jimmy Irwin is missing. In late July he vanished off my "scanners" and has not been seen since. I enlisted the help of John Rucker and his "turtle dogs" in late August but with no luck. Jimmy's transmitter was only on for three months and although I do not believe that it has failed--that is a possibility that I have not ruled out. John and I believe that Jimmy has moved out of range but despite my search efforts I have not been able to locate him. His transmitter will last for about another year so I will continue to search in the hopes of finding him.


Mojo had a good year up until he vanished about the same time as Jimmy. At first I thought that it may have been his transmitter again but as it was also only three months old, I believe that is not likely...but there is always a small possibility due to equipment failure. Although I have searched several times myself and had John and his dogs search, Mojo has not turned up. Like Jimmy, Mojo's transmitter has about a year of battery power remaining so I will continue to search in an expanding pattern in the hopes of finding him hiding in a remote cove or ravine somewhere.

This is the most recent video of Mojo before he vanished...I truly hope it is not the last.

Wildlife research can be exhausting at times like this but it just goes to show you that animals can be unpredictable and you just never know what will happen next. I am sure that Jimmy and Mojo know exactly where they are and that they are doing just fine--it is up to me to find them and reveal their secrets. I will be sure to keep you updated on Jimmy and Mojo's status through this newsletter and through the Earthshine Turtle Tracks page on Facebook.


The other two turtles we are tracking at the Cedar Mountain study site are doing a lot of moving. Bones woke up this spring and ventured around the farm before he finally ended up back down near the barn and the busy highway. Meredith decided to move Bones up into the forest about 200 yards from the road to get him away from the road and test his homing ability. As predicted he made his way back to the same location. A few days later, during a heavy early summer rain shower he was found in the middle of the highway by a neighbor. The man took him to Billy who owns the land and Billy decided to take Bones deeper into the forest where he would be safe. Bones stayed in the forest for the rest of the summer and although he made his way close to the field near the road he never did return to the danger zone near the highway. Bones is now in hibernation and we will see him again in the spring.


In the last newsletter I wrote about Mrs. Bones' close call with a highway mower. I told of how I moved her a good distance up into the forest preserve where I had hoped she would be out of danger and be able to lay her eggs in a safe place. I even made a video of the situation that you may view below.

What happened next is truly amazing! Mrs. Bones vanished...well, sort of. Turtle Tracks volunteer Meredith Brooks called me a few days later after I returned from out-of-town. She said that she was unable to locate Mrs. Bones so I went over to see if I could find her. I walked all over the mountain on several occasions and had no luck until one day I picked up a very faint beep on the receiver, it was so faint that I would not have heard it if there had been even a slight breeze rustling the leaves. I followed the signal into the forest, up the middle of a creek, through a small gorge, over a ridge and out into the back yard of a rather large house! The signal seemed to be coming from the house so I cautiously approached the house and rang the doorbell and woof, woof, woof came the voice from a large, beautiful golden retriever in a nearby pen. I waited for a few moments and rang the bell again...woof, woof was my only answer so I concluded that nobody was home and walked around the house to see if the signal was indeed coming from inside. Luckily it was only passing through the house and Mrs. Bones was not inside. By this time the dog was going bonkers barking and jumping like crazy so I made my way down the long paved driveway following the signal. Soon I came to a cul-de-sac at the end of a road where I found Mrs. Bones sitting just inside the edge of the forest across the road from the big house with the barking dog. She had moved quite a distance from her home territory into an area where we had never found her before. She stayed there for a week or so and then made her way back home to her habitat. A few days after she returned home she began to make her way toward the grassy median beside the highway but she never went all the way back to the point where I rescued her from the mowing crew. I weighed her and she had lost over 30 grams so I deduced that she may have laid her eggs somewhere in the forest or near the house in the woods. Even with the possible danger of the dog her eggs and offspring would be far safer there than beside a busy highway. Under normal circumstances I would not move a turtle but as Mrs. Bones apparently had decided that the side of the highway was a good place to live I opted to take the chance in order to 1-save her life and 2-give her offspring a chance to survive. It is important to note that although we moved her on several occasions, she did return to her home habitat without any human assistance--that is more than enough to tell me that not only do box turtles have an amazing sense of direction and homing ability but that they must be left where you found them.

Special thanks to Jonathan who volunteers his time to help Meredith track Bones and Mrs. Bones at the Cedar Mountain Study site.

WILD NOTE: We know that box turtles (and other turtles) actually know where they are and prefer to be in their home habitats. Moving them short distances of only a few hundred yards doesn't seem to cause them any issue; however, moving them over longer distances will greatly confuse them and cause them to wander in search of home. Turtles that have been moved great distances will often die crossing roads while searching for their homes. Please, if you find a box turtle just leave it where you found it or if it is crossing a road, move it to the side of the road it was heading toward. It will thank you for the lift.

The residents of the Earthshine outdoor turtle pen--Tripod, Woody, Rose, Rowdy, Meredith and Chewy--are all doing very well.


Tripod has had a great year! She has been a picture of turtle health, very active and in the summer she was adopted by Edy Byrum--thanks Edy! We even collected some of Tripod's DNA (that's what we are doing in the photo above!) so it could be analyzed in a study of box turtle genetics that is being conducted at the University of Texas at Tyler. In late October Karen found Tripod sitting on the surface on a cold day. She had her head out resting on the leaves in an odd position so Karen called me about it and we agreed that Tripod should not be out on such a cold day--she should have been buried deep in a warm blanket of leaves. Karen took Tripod inside and put her in a box until I could check her out. I gave her a soak in warm water and then took her to Dr. Coleman who gave her a check up and she checked out just fine. I put her back in the habitat and she was seen again a few days later, sitting out on the surface on a cool rainy day. I guess she just likes sitting out in the cool, rainy weather.


Meredith was adopted by Meg Byrum this summer. Thank you Meg for your generous donation to the Turtle Tracks conservation project:-) Meg is in the picture with Edy and Tripod above.

Meredith is doing very well, has gained weight and been very active this summer. She bred with Chewy and produced a clutch of 2 eggs--Karen was lucky enough to be there when she was digging her nest! Although I dug up the eggs and incubated them in the Earthshine office, sadly they turned out to be infertile. Check out this photo of the eggs just after they were laid.


Woody is very secretive and has not been seen very much this summer but the times we have seen her she looks beautiful and healthy.


Rose has totally recovered from her injury back in the spring and is doing very well although we have hardley seen shell nor scale of her this year. She seems to be ignoring us and staying well hidden in the vegetation of the enclosure. Rose was adopted by Aaron Weed and his family--thank you Aaron and family and :-)


Rowdy has been very active this summer. We have seen him out and about quite frequently and on one instance he was even seen attempting to breed with Tripod! We are unsure if any eggs were produced and if they were Tripod may have not been able to dig a nest with only one rear leg and the eggs may have been lost. Take a look at this photo of Rowdy courting Tripod in late September.

The turtle near the bottom of the photo is Chewy--he was interested in what was going on but Rowdy is obviously the "alpha" male because Chewy just watched and never made a move.

Rowdy tries to sweet-talk Tripod into opening her shell and releasing his foot!


Chewy is doing very well and has made himself very well known this summer by trying to breed with all of the female turtles in the enclosure. As mentioned above we observed him mating with Meredith who later produced eggs. He was also seen on several occasions attempting to breed with Rose who would not give his macho advances a second look and Tripod who quickly gave in to his powerful turtle mojo. Look for Chewy the next time you are at Earthshine--he is a very handsome and active turtle.


Little Ellie was found by Celena on the way in to work one day just a few hundred yards down the road from the entrance to Earthshine. She was crossing a road and heading directly toward a home with several mongrel dogs that would have surely eaten little Ellie right up. Celena saw the danger and knew that Ellie would be safe at Earthshine. Once at Earthshine Ellie met Edy and Meg Byrum who fell in love with her and thoughtfully made her a little turtle habitat out of a cardboard box. I met Ellie later and then took her home to the juvenile box turtle facility at my home. She is living with three other young turtles--Goliath, Lefty and One-Eyed-Willie who are all from the Earthshine area. In a couple of years Ellie and the others will be large enough to protect themselves and I will release them on the mountain as close to their discovery locations as I am able. Hopefully, I will be able to attach radio transmitters to their shells and we will be able to keep track of these juvenile turtles and see what kinds of adventures they have on Richland Ridge.

Meg and Edy Byrum later adopted Ellie in order to help provide for her while she is in the Earthshine box turtle head-start program. Thank you Meg and Edy!!


In early June 2009 I found One-eyed Willie in the creek that flows through the Pioneer Village after a night of heavy rains. Willie was probably washed into the creek from his hidey-hole during the rains. Willie is a hatchling and was only just a bit larger than a quarter as you can see in this photo!!

Willie had a terrible eye and ear infection--it was so bad that both eyes were swollen shut and he could not see. After a visit to the vet, some antibiotics, and daily soaks in a vitamin, and electrolyte bath, One-eyed Willie opened one eye and began eating everything he could stuff into his mouth! His other eye has not opened so Willie has no depth perception and he misses the things he tries to bite... at first we had to hand feed him by skewering tiny insects and worms and holding them in front of him until he opened his mouth then we then stuck the food item in his mouth and CHOMP! He ate it right down!

I became concerned that Willie's bad eye may have been damaged so I took him to see Dr. Coleman who took a look at his eye and determined that Willie in fact did not have an eye! So he is really One-eyed Willie after all. Check out these photos from Willie's visit with Dr. Coleman.

After visiting Dr. Coleman I gave Willie daily warm soaks for about two weeks and he began to get stronger, perk up and then began eating on his own.

He is now doing very well and living with three other juvenile turtles in the Earthshine box turtle head start program. Check out the video below of One-eyed Willie and two of the other turtles eating lunch.


In May of 2009 my friend Padraig was plowing his garden and turned up a box turtle nest. All the eggs had hatched but one--and out of it crawled a tiny box turtle!

He was not much larger than a penny!

It was so early in the year that this tiny turtle was probably a runt that over-wintered in the egg and would have starved to death had Padraig not plowed him up. Clay has a deformed front leg. It seems to be permanently bent and have an immovable joint.

This may heal as he grows but even if it does not he will be fine once he get a bit larger. We are giving Clay a head start for a couple of years and then he will be released back near the garden where he was found. Here are some pics of Clay eating his first cricket!


Tiny is doing great and is almost twice the size that he was when Benny found him in the Pioneer Village in 2007. His injuries have healed nicely but he will never be able to live in the wild because so much of his shell was damaged when he was attacked. We hope to see Tiny move into the outdoor turtle enclosure in the summer of 2010! Read more about Tiny's story here.


Lefty is doing very well and growing up fast. Gene found Lefty crossing the road near Earthshine in August of 2008. He was only about two years old at the time and missing half of his left front leg! He may have been born that way but it is also possible that a predator chomped it off! Whatever happened it was totally healed when Gene found him. He is staying with us until he gets a bit larger so that he will be better able to protect himself from predators. He will then be released in the forest near where he was found.

Turtle Dogs Return to Earthshine!

In September John Rucker and his wonderful turtle dogs returned to Earthshine to search for Jimmy and Mojo. Unfortunately we did not find Jimmy or Mojo but we did find one new turtle near the high ropes course.

Check out our search for Jimmy and Mojo in the video below.

John and the dogs will return to Earthshine in the spring to search for turtles again--and hopefully we will find the missing turtles and possibly some new ones.

Here's a new puzzle--and it's a hard one this time!

NOTE: If the puzzle does not appear you may need to update your computers flash player or java.

For more puzzles and other fun stuff be sure to check out the Earthshine Nature Notes and Turtle Tracks

Kid Zone Page!

Turtle Tracks Fundraiser UPDATE

Many of you may have talked with me about box turtles and other reptiles at Earthshine Lodge. Some of you may have even attended a turtle tracking expedition searching for one of the turtles that have tiny radio transmitters attached to their shells. These turtles are all part of the Earthshine Turtle Tracks Eastern Box Turtle conservation, rehabilitation and education program which is primarily donation-funded by folks just like you. Several times per year the Turtle Tracks staff (Meredith and I) put together fundraisers to raise money to cover the operational costs of the Turtle Tracks program. Without your generous support and turtle adoptions this wonderful wildlife conservation project would not be possible.

The current Turtle Tracks fundraiser is a unique collectible coin that I designed. This coin will be a primary fundraiser for the Turtle Tracks project for 2009-10. We hope that some of you might be interested in helping out the project by purchasing this new, unique and low-cost collectible coin.

This coin is reptile-themed with an Eastern Box Turtle on one side and an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (my other favorite reptile) on the other--and believe it or not this coin rattles like a rattlesnake when you shake it!! You can buy the new coin now through the Earthshine Nature website by clicking HERE.

There are only a few coins remaining so grab one soon before they all crawl away. All proceeds from the sale of each of these coins will be used to directly provide funds for the;

Earthshine Turtle Tracks Eastern Box Turtle conservation, rehabilitation and education program based at Earthshine Mountain Lodge in Lake Toxaway, North Carolina USA.

Check out the Turtle Tracks coin on its website and read about why I created it and how its other goal is spreading the message of wildlife and habitat conservation to the world through the outdoor and family-oriented scavenger hunt game known as Geocaching.

Check out the Turtle Tracks home page here.

You may also help Earthshine's box turtles by sponsoring them with a monetary donation or a donation of new or used supplies. If you would like to learn how you can become a part of the Turtle Tracks program please click the photo-link below.


By Earthshine's Herbalist Julie McAleer


Since the autumn equinox, the nights are getting longer at the expense of our sunny days. We can enjoy the cooler weather, admire the beautiful foliage colors, and take delight in autumn goodies like warm apple cider and pecan pies. Traditionally, this is a time of stirring in the mountains, not just for the animals looking to pack on a few extra pounds before the winter winds bite down and quiet the wilderness for its long sleep, but for the mountain people, as well. When the pokeberries have ripened to their deep purple and goldenrod sways lazily on the hillsides, it's the perfect time to go sangin'. Ginseng, or sang as it has been called, is that rare and mysterious plant that has a deep history of medicinal use as well as providing extra income to folks skilled enough to find it. And yes, it takes skill. An incredibly slow growing plant, it rarely grows taller than your knee, concealing itself by living among herbs such as bloodroot, goldenseal, and poison ivy, which all look similar to ginseng to an untrained eye. One fourth generation herbalist notes that while most plants are gathered or picked, ginseng is the only one that must be hunted. One can pass by a plant of generous size hundreds of times without noticing it, until one day when the ginseng decides to reveal itself, and you'll see it there, shining in the light of the sun and leaving you wondering how you missed it so many times! Ginseng reproduces slowly, each plant producing only a few round red berries that ripen in one day and fall the next day, just as the entire above ground portion of the plant dies back, giving the root another year to grow before pushing up a new stalk in the spring. If you're a hunter, that small window of opportunity to find the plants exists when the distinguishing red berries shine brightly as if to say "here I am!"

Traditionally the root is carefully dug up and dried for medicine and the ripe red berries are replaced into the hole so that more plants will replace those removed for future years. A ten year old ginseng plant produces a root that when dried is barely as big as your pinkie finger. Though small, the roots pack some serious medicine. Used to help the body combat stress and thus fight off illness, ginseng is one of few plants classified as an adaptogen. These are plants that have an overall normalizing effect on the body. For instance, if your blood sugar is too high, ginseng would help the body store more energy and release less into the bloodstream, whereas if your blood sugar levels were low, it would help the body to release more into the bloodstream. In this way, the plant has been an ally for humankind for centuries. Our most valuable forest crop by far, Appalachian ginseng has been exported from this area to Asia, where demand remains high, since the 1700's. In China, ginseng is taken in small amounts every day to keep the body well and prevent illness.

When purchasing roots from herbal medicine suppliers, make sure that they are sustainably (and legally) harvested. There are very few who still replant and care for the delicate young plants, but there are still many who comb the mountains looking to poach, or collect illegally, someone else's crops. Wild Appalachian ginseng is becoming increasingly rare, yet has been found to contain much higher levels of Ginsenosides (the medicinally active constituents within) than any other type of ginseng known. Anyone interested in growing their own beautiful ginseng crop may contact Eagle Feather Organic Farms (, which supplies young plants, seeds, and education for those willing to take part in replanting this important part of our history, culture, and biodiversity. If you are lucky enough to stumble upon one of these rare beauties, the best thing to do is simply admire it for its presence, and acknowledge that you must have been trustworthy enough for the plant to reveal itself. Happy hunting!

Recipes from Nick and Marney's kitchen

Baked Cranberry Squash Casserole

(Acorn, Butternut, Buttercup, Banana Hubbard)

Butter a 2 qt casserole dish

4 cups of cooked squash mashed and drained

2 eggs beaten

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups raw cranberries halved

2 tsp fresh grated orange zest

1/3 cup butter melted

dash of nutmeg

Combine ingredients in casserole dish, preheat oven and bake at 350 for 40-45 min. ENJOY!


Dr. Coleman DVM

Dr. Chris Coleman of Haywood Animal Hospital in Hendersonville, NC is our veterinarian for the Earthshine Nature programs. He has a great love of all animals and has been providing care for injured turtles and other wildlife at Earthshine since 2007. The first time we needed his services in the spring of 2007 was when he amputated Tripod's badly damaged leg. Since then he has provided medical care for Rose, Woody--who is named after Haywood Animal Hospital, Tiny, Chewy, Chip, Lucky, Scar, Rain, King, One-eyed-Willie, and several wild turtles and snakes that have been rehabilitated and released back into the wild. Without Dr. Coleman's knowledgeable and caring dedication to wildlife, so many wild creatures injured due to encounters with man and his machines would have died unnecessary deaths. Now, we can be glad that those animals Dr. Coleman saved are living full lives in their native habitats.

THANK YOU Dr. Coleman from all of us at Earthshine Nature Programs!


Earthshine Nature Programs has a new website! Check it out at

The Earthshine Nature Center

The construction on the Earthshine Nature Center is nearing the initial stages of completion and hopefully phase one will be finished by the spring of 2010. Phase one will be small at first but we have plans to expand in the future to twice the size of the current space. The Nature Center will be the home base of the Turtle Tracks and R&R programs as well as our amphibian Chytrid monitoring, box Turtle DNA collecting and box turtle head start programs. Most of our resident education animals will live in the nature center including Scar the ratsnake, Indigo the Blue Tongue Skink, Stinky the Stinkpot turtle, Charlie the Painted turtle, Rainy the Rainbow boa, Fluffy the Scorpion, One-eyed-Willie, Lefty, Goliath, Clay, and more! Take a look at these photos of our newly donated 55 gallon fresh water aquarium and some of its inhabitants!

A big crayfish (crawdad)!

This tadpole is transforming into a frog right before our eyes!

Stinky the Stinkpot turtle--isn't he cute!

Stinky and a newly emerged Greenfrog.

Lizzie's Story

Remember Lizzie the Snapping turtle? She was a 10+ year old Common Snapping Turtle that was donated to the Earthshine Nature Center in the spring of this year. She was from Miami Florida and had spent most of her life in captivity. At first I thought she would be able to live at the nature center but I changed my mind when we just could not find a large enough enclosure for her to live in comfortably. I called and emailed several aquariums, zoos and nature centers in the southeast and was unable to find a home for this beautiful turtle so the only option was release her into the wild. However, this option was a bit complicated because of several factors that I had to consider; 1. She had lived most of her life in captivity and I was unsure if she would be able to live in the wild. 2. She may have had a pathogen that she would transmit to wild turtles where she was released. 3. How was I going to get her home to Miami, Florida?

I decided to see if I could rule out all of the problems and come up with a solution. First I wanted to see if she could feed herself on wild foods successfully (she had been eating chicken most of her life!) so I offered her various food items, live and dead, plant and animal and she was able to hunt and eat them with no problem at all--the snapping turtle's survival instinct does not seem to be reduced by long periods of captivity so problem one was solved--she could feed herself. The second problem was the possibility of a contagious pathogen or parasite. I spoke with several knowledgeable turtle folks who assured me that because she had lived most of her life in captivity, had never been sick, gained weight and grew normally that she was most likely healthy and free from pathogens and could be safely released back into the wild as long it was in her home habitat--problem two solved. The final problem--how to get her home? I knew that she was from the Miami, Florida area and since downtown Miami is not the best habitat for a large snapping turtle I concluded that the swamps, marshes, creeks, canals and sloughs of the Everglades would be the best place to take her and that being a snapping turtle she should be able to adapt to life in the Everglades just fine. I called up a friend who was heading south and he agreed to give her a ride to the sunshine state and give her a new home in one of the most beautiful and wild places in the world! Problem three solved, Lizzie was going home!!

Take a look at the photos of her release. Charlie said that after he set her on the grass she momentarily looked around at the huge world around her then slowly walked into the water.

She then stopped, looked around at the fish and aquatic plants and absolute freedom...

...and then disappeared into the murk never to be seen again. How amazing it must have been for her to be able to swim freely and go anywhere she would like, eat more than just chicken and live like a snapping turtle should! Hopefully she will live many more years wild and free. What a great ending to a beautiful turtle's story. I only wish I could have put a transmitter on her and followed in her tracks to see how well she adapted to live in the river of grass.

Box turtle DNA sampling season update.

The first season of box turtle DNA sampling has come to a close. We have collected over 40 samples from living and deceased turtles from all over Western North Carolina, coastal South Carolina and New York City. These DNA samples will be analyzed by researchers at the University of Texas at Tyler to help us better understand the distributions of all species of box turtles as well as the genetic connections between species. Check out this photo of Tripod having her DNA sampled! She had only two tiny pieces of her claws removed and although she did not enjoy the process it did not hurt her in any way and will only help her species survive--very cool stuff!

Take a look at this video of DNA collection while tracking Jimmy Irwin!

Rattlesnake Research

In August I joined reptile researcher Professor Ron Davis from Western Carolina University for a Timber rattlesnake tracking expedition. We searched the rugged mountainsides of Ron's remote study site and eventually found the snake--check out the video below for the entire story. There are two parts to the video so be sure to watch them both for the full adventure!

Part 1

Part 2

The Timber Rattlesnake is a master of camouflage. Look carefully at the below photo and see if you can spot the rattler. After you think you have found the snake click the photo to reveal his hiding place.

Check out my most recent video of a very sad encounter I had with a rattlesnake.

A few words about Black Bears.

We all love bears because they are a beautiful and mystical part of our natural world. But if we do not learn to live with Black bears they can quickly become extremely damaging to our property and quickly become a nuisance if we do not learn the bear facts. As an example take a look at the photos that my neighbor Larry took of a large bear investigating his garbage can just a few weeks ago!

This bear saw Larry and didn't seem very concerned and stuck it head back into the trash can for another bite. Only after Larry opened the door for a better picture did the bear get out of the trash and amble off into the forest! Just look at the size of this bear compared to the picnic table--WOW!

Bears like this become fearless of humans and will destroy garbage cans and bird feeders and may tear into cars, storage sheds and even houses in their search for food. Many years ago while I was working as a research assistant in a large national park I watched as a large male black bear walk up to a locked car in a campground, look inside for a moment, smash the window with one swipe of its paw, reach inside and grab a cooler and carry it off into the forest. This bear had learned what to look for and had become a very destructive and dangerous bear because he had lost his fear of humans. It was only a matter of time before he would have hurt someone in his search for food. Unfortunately, we had to tranquilize this bear and the rangers then put it down. If you have been having problems with bears becoming a nuisance near your home you should follow the simple rules of never putting any food items in garbage that will be set outside, do not leave pet food outside at night and do not put out bird seed. If you have livestock or fowl such as chickens feed them in the morning only as much as they will eat during the day so that no food is left to sit in the feeder overnight. All of these are attractants for hungry bears and they will stop at nothing to find a feed. Bears feeding on human food and garbage often become overweight, suffer health problems and even die. Please help keep wild bears wild.

Here is a great picture of a young bear that just had to find out if this statue was real or not. Photo by Sharon Horan--thank you Sharon:-)

Read more about living with Black bears on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park's website.

MUDDY SNEAKERS at Earthshine

The crew from Muddy Sneakers visited Earthshine in November to learn all about Eastern box turtles. We found AJ and Catherine but since they are now hibernating all we could do is point at their location. Muddy Sneakers is a wonderful non profit organization that takes kids out of the classroom into nature's classroom for incredible wilderness-based learning opportunities. For more information on the Muddy Sneakers Education program just click the picture to go to their website.

Eastern Hognose Snake

Check out one of my newest videos about one of my all time favorite snakes the Eastern Hognose Snake!

Not only do I work as naturalist and outdoor educator at Earthshine, I am also a volunteer for the NC Wildlife Resources Commission's Non-game Endangered Wildlife program. I put in a great deal of time collecting data on reptiles and amphibians in order to help them survive the perils that they face due to living in a human dominated world. Why do I do it? I do it because it needs to be done or these animals and their habitats will not survive. Although reptiles and amphibians are integral parts of a healthy ecosystem, they are widely misunderstood, irrationally feared and often killed on sight due to this fear and ignorance. In many areas of the world they are poached from the wild by the millions, shipped overseas and end up in markets where they are then sold and eaten. Some local beliefs say that eating the meat of these long-lived, sometimes venomous (poisonous) and unusual animals will help a person live longer or have some other positive health benefit--nothing could be further from the truth. Science has shown that it may actually be the opposite because many of these creatures like turtles for example, are reservoirs of heavy metals such as lead and mercury. Eating animals such as turtles my actually shorten your life rather than extend it--chew on that for awhile. Many of these creatures are also being negatively affected by climate change that is directly a result of human actions. Since I am human then I am part of the problem so I feel that I need to do all that I can to be part of the solution.

New Wild Adventures

In July I attended the Wildlife and Wilderness days festival in Cashiers, NC. I had the privalage to visit with Rob Gudger of Wolf Tails and Doris Mager the Eagle Lady. Check out my video interviews with Rob and Doris and their amazing animals.

Meeting Rob and Doris was one of the highlights of the year for me. They are both wonderful folks working hard to preserve wildlife through exciting public education. We need more dedicated people like them if our wildlife are going to survive.

Musical Moments with Steve

Some of you that have visited Earthshine may have had the chance to go turtle tracking or creek hiking with me and some of you may have heard me play my Didgeridoo around the campfire. Well, back in the summer I had the privilege to play in a duet with Cellist Jean Gay. The event was a musical milestone for me that I will always remember--especially since I had my trusty camcorder and got it on video! Check out this truly beautiful and unusual musical performance in the video below.

You may be wondering what this video has to do with nature...some people say that the sound of the didgeridoo is the sound of the earth. The didgeridoo and cello are made from wood and wood comes from nature...enough said.

Quote of the Issue

"Whatever you want to do in this world, it is achievable. The most important thing that I've found, that perhaps you could use, is be passionate and enthusiastic in the direction that you choose in life, and you'll be a winner." --Steve Irwin

The Crikey Coin

Many of you may know that Steve Irwin was my hero. He was my greatest inspiration to continue to follow my dream of working with wildlife conservation and environmental education. I truly believe that the world lost a mighty voice for wildlife and wild places when he left us. I will never really understand why this has happened but what I do know is that Steve made a great impact on this earth, he helped countless animals survive, he preserved vast tracts of wildlife habitat and land from development, he educated millions of people about the importance of wildlife and wild places and he had a great positive impact on millions of wildlife and nature loving children and adults everywhere and he will be greatly missed.

Now more than ever, those of us who remain...those of us who have been gifted with the love, the understanding and the passion to bring nature knowledge to the masses--we have a challenge, a goal and a true purpose to take action and not let Steve's death be the end of his message.

We must fight tooth and claw, hoof and horn to help people hear and understand how important and beautiful nature, wildlife and wild places are to the healthy functioning of this earth and to our very existence.

Steve Irwin's wildlife conservation message inspired me greatly to continue to follow my lifelong dream of wildlife conservation and education and I am doing just that as naturalist and outdoor educator with Earthshine Mountain Lodge and now with Muddy Sneakers!

After Steve Irwin died I wanted to do something in his memory and help wildlife so I teamed up with a friend who operates a coin company and designed a memorial coin called a geocoin. This coin is called the Crikey! Fundraiser Geocoin, it was first minted in spring 2007 and sold out by September 2008 and raised several thousand dollars which I donated to Wildlife Warriors Worldwide. Since then I have had many people interested in acquiring a Crikey coin so I have decided to do a second minting of a very limited number of coins. This time I will donate 1/2 of the money to Wildlife Warriors and 1/2 to the Bob Irwin Wildlife Fund. For more information on the Crikey Fundraiser Geocoin and how to get one just click the picture of the coin below.


Nature Joke


Check out Earthshine Naturalist Steve's favorite nature links and reptile lore page by clicking the photo-link below.

Check out the Earthshine Nature World Wildlife News for wildlife news from all over the planet.

Read about Steve's previous Eastern box turtle research experiences HERE.

Do you mow your grass or fields on a semi-regular basis? If you do you may be endangering box turtles. Read more about how you can help box turtles on your land.

Check out this page if you are you interested in ideas on how you can provide more homes and habitat for box turtles and other wildlife on your land.

NATURE NOTE: This newsletter is GREEN! The Earthshine Nature Department chose to produce this newsletter in a website-based format for several reasons: 1-It saves trees and energy! Paper newsletters are made from paper and paper is made from trees so making it an e-newsletter saves trees! 2-It saves energy. Making a paper newsletter uses loads of electricity during the editing, printing and delivery phase. 3-It saves resources such as printer ink, staples, tape, stamps and the fuel the postman would use to deliver it to your mailbox. 4-It saves money! It costs far less to produce than a paper newsletter. 5-It has full color, snappy graphics and interactive features that you just can't find in a paper newsletter. 6-All back issues will always be available in the newsletter archive if you would like to read them again one day. The only bad thing about an e-newsletter is that you can't use it to line your birdcage when you have finished reading it. ;-) Enjoy!

Sign up for the Earthshine Nature Notes and Turtle Tracks Newsletter and receive regular email updates on all of the nature related events at Earthshine, updates on the status of the Turtle Tracks conservation project and turtle and wildlife news and trivia from around the world! Newsletters will be in the form of a periodic email with a link to this web based newsletter so sign up now it's fun, free and educational--what more could you ask for!

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