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 9, Late Summer 2011

A Newsletter All About Nature From Earthshine Mountain Lodge

Tracking Jimmy Irwin in June.

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.

Mason and a Yonahlossee salamander!

Table of Contents Total Pages 4

1. Introduction to the Issue (Pg.1)

2. Earthshine Nature Programs Update (Pg.1)

3. Turtle Tracks Project Update (Pg.1)

4. Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Update (Pg.1-2)

5. Snake Tracks (Pg.2)

6. New Wild Adventures with Steve Videos (Pg.2)

7. Nature Notes: a. Green Salamanders Are Hatching! (Pg.2)

8. Nature Notes: b. Dangerous Chemical found in Many Common Hand Sanitizers (Pg.2)

9. Nature Notes: c. A frog mutating pesticide! (Pg.2)

10. A New Puzzle (Pg.2)

11. Fundraiser (Pg.3)

12. THANK YOU (Pg.4)

13. Steve's Nature Links and Lore (Pg.4)

Learning about nature is fun!


As summer draws to a close on the mountain top I look back on the memories of a wonderful summer of nature at Earthshine Lodge. It will be those memories--your memories--in photos, videos and stories that will be the focus of this newsletter.

This past spring and summer I took more photos of YOU having fun and learning about wildlife and nature at Earthshine than in all years previous. Some of the highlights are pictured above and below.

Meeting Indigo the Blue Tongue Skink.

Tracking Jimmy Irwin

Steve teaching nature at Camp Carolina in July.

Tracking Catherine.

Creekhikers on Crystal Creek.

This place is amazing!

Scar on Steve's head at a wildlife program. Photo by Jim Hardy.

A beautiful Yonahlossee salamander! Photo by Steve Atkins.

Tracking Catherine.

Meeting Kaa.

Friends enjoying a bonfire in the medicine wheel on top knoll.

Wildlife research and conservation is one of our major goals at ENP.

Didgeridoo master John Vorus playing his didgeridoo while the sun sets in the Australian Outback. John is a good friend of ours and he graciously allows us to use his wonderful didgeridoo music on our nature videos. Check out John's music on his website.

This year John and his music inspired me to begin teaching a Didgeridoo workshop--above is a photo from my first workshop. I call it "The Nature of the Didgeridoo" and in it I will bring my didgeridoos to you (or you can come to Earthshine where we can learn around the fire on top of the mountain!) I will teach you about the history of this ancient and amazing Australian Aboriginal musical instrument, demonstrate how to play it, and then we will all make one and learn the basics of how to play and you will get to keep your bamboo didgeridoo! For more information on this program click here.

That is just a taste of this summer's photos. All of this year’s photos can be viewed on the Earthshine Nature website linked below.

2011 Photo Albums

Beautiful October weekends and our annual Thanksgiving feast are coming up fast so please give us a call today at (828) 862-4207 to reserve your room.

Earthshine Nature Programs and Nature Education Center UPDATE

2011 was the first full year of operation for Earthshine Nature Programs! We started the year off with a wonderful open house and fundraiser. The open house introduced many people to just what it is we do at Earthshine Nature Programs with a slide show, Turtle Dog demonstration with John Rucker and his dogs, turtle tracking expedition, and a visit to the nature center and box turtle rehabilitation enclosure. The fundraiser consisted of many donated items from local artists and businesses in the Brevard area that were auctioned off in a silent auction and given away as door prizes. The fundraiser was a great success and it provided us with the funds needed to complete the rat snake skyway exhibit and get us through most of the summer. To close the day we held a wonderful concert by Didgeridoo Master John Vorus, myself on Didgeridoo and Jason Alfrey on percussion.

Below are a few photos from the festivities.

Shawn and Benny pickin' and grinin'

Turtledog man John Rucker and one of his dogs.

Enjoying the silent auction and raffle.

Going on a turtle tracking expedition.

The closing didgeridoo concert with John Vorus and Steve on didgeridoo and Jason Alfrey on percussion.

Check out all the photos from the fundraiser on the Earthshine Nature Facebook page

at this link. NOTE: you do not need to have a Facebook account or log in to view the photos.

Gollum Update

Hellbender by Lori Williams.

We acquired "Gollum" the Eastern hellbender in June and he has since settled into his new habitat nicely. Gollum is a wild-caught hellbender and since hellbenders are a protected species in North Carolina, Earthshine Nature Programs possess all of the necessary permits and licenses to house and care for this very special animal. Take a look below at photos and videos of Gollum and of Steve and friends hunting for him in the river back in the spring. THANK YOU to everyone who helped us make this possible. Here is a video of our search for Gollum.

Steve searches for Gollum.

Steve finds Gollum.

Gollum in the river.

Gollum in his habitat hunting for food.

Gollum eating smelt.

If you would like to visit Gollum and our other unique animals please contact us today to set up a time for your visit. For more on the Eastern hellbender check out

The Hellbender Homepage

The ENP Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Program UPDATE.

Cullasaja's Story

In June of 2011 a man named Uncle Raoul was driving through a rocky gorge in Western North Carolina when he came upon an adult female Eastern box turtle sitting in the road. He stopped his car to help the turtle across the street because they are usually not lost and do not need to be rescued and do not need to be taken to a new location--but this one was different. The gorge had steep cliffs on either side of the road and the turtle had an eye injury that rendered its left eye swollen closed. The man deduced that the turtle had probably slipped and fallen from the woods at the top of the cliff and had bounced and rolled down into the road only moments before he had arrived on the scene. He understood that the turtle needed veterinary care so he picked her up and took her home. He promptly networked with a friend to get the turtle to me close to 50 miles away. I am a wildlife rehabilitator so I took the turtle--Cullasaja I have named her--to my reptile Veterinarian Dr. Coleman at Haywood Animal Hospital in Hendersonville, NC. Dr. Coleman said that Cullasaja was uninjured other than the swollen eye so he prescribed special eye drops to relieve the conjunctivitis. About a month later Cullasaja's eye opened to reveal a damaged pupil and unusual blue colored iris (most female Eastern box turtles have browish colored irises). Dr. Coleman said that it looked like she had a badly damaged eye and that it seemed to be sightless and that she may have injured it in the fall.

Although blind in the left eye Cullasaja needed to be returned to the wild because a plastic tub full of leaves and moss is not a home for a wild box turtle. She needed to be back in the wild as close to home as possible so that she could be an active part of a healthy ecosystem. The problem was--where exactly was her home? I contacted the woman who had brought Cullasaja to me and she put me in touch with Uncle Raoul who had found her in the road. He sent me several Google Earth images of her discovery location and he even drove back to the site to determine where exactly he had found her. Then we talked on the phone and determined the best course of action. We decided that because box turtles have a very strong homing instinct she would need to be returned to as close as possible to her discovery location--but that location was not safe in any way due to the steep cliffs and the road. We eventually decided that the forested mountainside several hundred yards above the cliffs would be the best site to release her because the cliffs below the road were just too steep and rocky and at the bottom of the cliffs was the fast flowing Cullasaja river.

Then, in late August of 2011 I set out to return Cullasaja to as close to her home as possible. I had no difficulty finding the site and after a drive in the woods along a wooded mountain ridge I found a good spot to release her and said goodbye to Cullasaja. I had no way of knowing that where I released her was her home area--but I did know that it was very near her discovery location on the road below the cliffs so her home area was not far away. I also know that box turtles are better navigators than humans so I feel assured that after I released her near her home she would have oriented towards her preferred area and would then find it on her own--even with just one eye.

As I drove away I felt a great sense of accomplishment knowing that I had helped a turtle get back to its home. This would not have been possible without all of the people who helped make it happen—especially Uncle Raoul. Thank you to you all--you know who you are!

Watch a video of Cullasaja's release HERE.

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 as Cullasaja was, 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 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.

We make some new friends and an old friend finds a new home.

In June I visited one of my favorite places--the Edisto Island Serpentarium. While there I met the owners Heyward and Ted Clamp and was given a beautiful Yellow rat snake for use as an education animal. I soon named "Lori" after NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) Field Biologist Lori Williams who has helped us so much with Gollum the hellbender and our new Snake Tracks project. See a photo of Lori the Yellow rat snake below.

Then in July I was given a new Cornsnake by my friend Steve Atkins (who supplies ENP with amazing wildlife photos for this newsletter!). I named this snake "Gabby" in honor of Gabrielle Graeter--another of our wonderful NCWRC field biologists who have helped ENP over the years with many different wildlife projects and advice. THANK YOU both Lori and Gabrielle for all of your hard work and support of our projects over the years! Here is a photo of Gabby and some friends.

Many of you met Kaa the Boa constrictor this summer at Earthshine. He is an adult snake that has lived with us since the fall of 2010. This summer I noticed that when Kaa was taken outside in the grass to get some exercise he would come alive, flick his tongue rapidly, hold his head up and crawl around energetically. He was a totally different snake than when he was in his enclosure where he acted "bored" and lethargic. I felt that Kaa had outgrown his enclosure and would be much happier at the Serpentarium. Take a look at these photos of Kaa in the grass at Earthshine and meeting some new friends. Maybe you were one of the lucky folks who got to meet Kaa while visiting Earthshine.

Kaa is the first snake I have ever held!

Kaa was a great "therapy snake" because he helped many people overcome their fears of snakes through his calm nature and gentle beauty.

Jenny and her daughter Saya and friends hanging out with Kaa the Boa constrictor.

Meeting Kaa the Boa constrictor.

On September 17th I journeyed again to the Edisto Island Serpentariumfor two reasons: 1. Pick up another new snake for the rat snake skyway exhibit--the beautiful Gray rat snake I named Heyward--pictured below--and 2. Donate Kaa the Boa constrictor to the Serpentarium so that he may live out the rest of his life in a beautiful, huge, forested indoor enclosure made just for giant snakes like Kaa.

While it is sad to see him leave Earthshine, he deserves a better life--a life with much more space, interaction with other Boas and the ability to educate thousands of people yearly on the beauty and importance of reptiles. All of these things Kaa will now have in the grand Boa habitat at the Edisto Island Serpentarium.

A view of Kaa's new home at the Serpentarium.

Kaa exploring his new home.

Check out this video of Steve releasing Kaa into his new habitat at the Serpentarium below.

Below are a couple of photos of Steve's wife Marian and "Heyward" our new Gray ratsnake that was donated to ENP by Heyward and Ted Clamp--owners of the Edisto Island Serpentarium. Thank you Heyward and Ted for donating this beautiful snake to our nature center.

A new turtle named Bernie Mac comes to Earthshine.

Bernie Mac is the newest box turtle in our outdoor education enclosure. He is a gorgeous adult male Eastern box turtle who has lived in captivity for many years after he lost his home to development. He was donated to us in September by some nice folks from Asheville who were no longer able to keep Bernie Mac at their home. Upon introducing Mr. Mac to his new home he immediately started chasing the girls and bullying the dominant turtle--Chewy--as you can see in the photo below.

It looks like Mr. Bernie Mac will be a great addition to the Earthshine turtle enclosure so come by and visit him today.

GO TO PAGE 2 for Potter's Story, Turtle Tracks and Snakes Tracks project updates, new Wild Adventures with Steve nature videos and new Nature Notes and a new puzzle!