Triangle Pyramid Creations

Horn Toad

In one of my earlier posts I showed you how to fold paper pyramids. In that post I showed you some of the creations you could construct by combing the units. This past week I have been trying to create some paper creatures to show my class Some of the possible things you can make with pyramids.

It Takes Some Patience !

One thing I have learned early on is that it takes a lot of patience and time to create a unique form. Since we have several known creations to use as models found in God’s creations we can try to mimic them or try to capture some of the design features while modifying them to fit our purposes and materials. As I strive to create a believable creature I am reminded how far from the real living thing that my model has achieved. God’s creatures are wonderfully made and designed to function. They are alive! Even though my forms are far from His craftsmanship I can appreciate the creativity and pleasure of creating a form. Here is another of my creations:

The Triangle Tarantula

It’s interesting to consider how each creature is created according to a specific symmetry pattern. In each of these models we see bilateral balance. Each time I added a pyramid element to one side of the figure I had to add one to the opposite side to create balance. As I have studied art and science I have encountered symmetry in every creature formed. Each symmetry type has its advantages. Animals with bilateral symmetry prove be the fastest. Consider the horse, falcon, and cheetah. Animals with radial symmetry, however, are slow moving but able to defend themselves from all sides as well as seek their prey in any direction. Consider the starfish, sea anemone, and sea urchin. As you can see, symmetry plays an important role in all design.

Shape Signifies a Creator

Each building block must be designed to go with the others to fulfill its purpose. In this creation all of the building blocks were triangular. Some were three- sided units while others were four-sided. Notice that they are rigid. Now think of your body. It is also created from building blocks. These are cells. Rather than just two types of building blocks, God has used many. We have skin cells, nerve cells, bone cells, muscle, and more. Rather than being rigid forms these are pliable. They can move, bend, and carry out various functions. And..they are living and able to grow and reproduce more when they have out-lived their usefulness.

On Display for All to See

Each time I share a blog post I am reminded that it will be seen by many. Each person reading a post will have individual responses according to their personalities, worldview, and interests. I love sharing the things I am interested in and for which I have a passion. Think now of God’s creation. What do you think He wants to display to us? In the Book of Romans, chapter one, the Apostle Paul made several interesting statements about creation. The very character of God can clearly be seen in what He has created.

Why Not Try to Make Some Creatures of Your Own?

Since I have already shown you how to make the four-sided pyramids in an earlier blog, let me show you how to make a triangular pyramid.

Start With A Sheet of Paper

Fold the right hand side to the left but do not crease it all the way to the top. Just press on the bottom of the paper to create a crimp mark.

Then take the right hand side and bring it in to the crimp mark. You are now going to make another crimp mark a third of the way up the right side.

Now use the bottom crimp mark as a hinge and fold the bottom left hand side up to touch the crimp mark that is about a third of the way up the paper. Set the crease.

Then bring the other side up to the diagonal edge of the first side so the paper has an airplane point at the bottom.

Now to the Cutting

Take a pair of scissors and make a horizontal cut from the top of the fold on the right hand side all the way go the left.

Now open the paper and cut off the side panels and you have an equal-sided triangle.

Helpful Hint: Save the Side Panels to Make Smaller Pyramids

Now to Fold From 2-D to 3-D

Take the triangle and fold the bottom right hand side to the left and crease. Twist the triangle to the right and repeat two more times. Thus will divide the pyramid in half three ways and create a crease mark for a reference for further folding.

Now Let’s Get to the Point

We are going to fold an airplane point on each of the three points of the triangle.

Back to the Top

After folding the point, bring the sharp end back down to the blunt end and set a dark crease. Repeat this on each point. Hint: Don’t forget to fold end to end on the last point even though from the top it looks like it has already been folded. The crease is only on one layer and needs to travel to all levels. Easy way to check it: Look in the center of the large triangle and you should see a small triangle in the creases in the middle of the paper. If one side of the smaller triangle is missing that indicates the point that still needs to be folded back from sharp to blunt end.

This Will Do In a Pinch

Open up your folds and pinch the middle of each of the three sides. It should pop up to look like this:

You Are Now Ready for Glue

To finish the pyramid you need to add glue. Hint: A little glue is better than a lot. Adjust your glue bottle so you can create a glue line about as thick as a pencil lead. A little glue will set almost immediately while more glue takes a lot longer to set as well as it oozes out and damages the appearance of the finished form. Apply a thin line of glue like in the following picture. The only part of the pyramid that touches is the edge.

Place glue between each of the three sides then carefully align the edges and bring them together into the pyramid form. Hold it firmly for about thirty seconds and the glue should be dry.

Finished Form

How to Use the Side Pieces

If you want to create some smaller pyramids you can take the side strips you cut off earlier and fold the point at the bottom to the top of the same side and it forms another pyramid. Just cut off the one side strip that remains. The pictures below show the process:

 

Interlocks Are Great For Legs

If you want to create long slender legs for your creatures you will have to learn to Interlock. If you take one pyramid and put it above another facing the opposite direction the two pyramids will fit together like the cogs on a gear. The gluing is a little more difficult but is done in the sane manner as before, only that you are using the surfaces of two pyramids to come together instead of one. An Interlock looks like this:

Now It’s Your Turn

By using the outer surfaces of each triangle for gluing tabs you can combine the pyramids in many ways to create your creatures. If you look at the two creatures in this post you can probably locate the interlocks and the standard pyramids. Now it’s time for you to try it. I would love to see what you create.

Braconid Wasps: Small but Mighty

Look what I found in my garden this morning.

I have noticed recently that a lot of my tomatoes and tomato vines have been disappearing. One of the gardener’s worst enemies, the Tomato Horn Worms, have been taking away a lot of my harvest. These little green “worms”, actually caterpillars of  the Tobacco Horn Worm Moth, are very destructive! Their scientific name, “Manduca quinguemaculata”, actually means “Big Eaters”. And believe me, they live up to their name!  Well…., they have met their match!

David vs. Goliath:

My eyes were quickly attracted to the white color of the insect cocoons protruding from the backs of the caterpillars. These white cocoons are the result in an attack from an unlikely little “garden helper”. The female Braconid Wasp flies in and finds the caterpillar and then sticks her ovipositor, (tubular organ through which a female insect deposits eggs), into the skin of the tomato worm. These tiny pointed structures look like stingers and often do carry chemicals that are harmful to the worms they attack. When the eggs hatch the larvae feed from the inside of the caterpillar until they reach the size needed to form a cocoon. The cocoons are the white structures on the backs of the caterpillars. When the wasps are fully formed they emerge out of the cocoons and start looking for flower nectar.  As I viewed pictures of the wasps I was amazed at how small they were in relation to the caterpillars they parasitize. They are barely half the size of the caterpillar’s eye! This reminds me of the battle between David and Goliath. One of the combatants was much larger than the other in yet the smaller was the victor. In the case of David, it was God’s intervention that led to the victory. Size is not always an advantage in the natural world.

More Than One:

It wasn’t very long after discovering the first parasitized worm that I saw another. The white color of the cocoons allows you to see them quickly. Most of the time it is very difficult to locate the worms eating up your garden. I usually find them by seeing where they have been feeding and then look for their “poop” deposited all around where they have been feeding. I look for them on the stems or under the leaves nearby. They seem to be easiest to locate in the morning or just before the sun sets when they more actively are feeding. Did you know the wasps actually also use the “poop” to locate their prey as well? Rather than looking for the feces they actually have keen smell detectors that can pick out chemicals in the waste of the worms. In fact, their ability to detect chemicals has come to the attention of scientists who have found other ways to use their super powers.

Bombs Away!

The ability to “sniff out” chemicals emitted by their prey by smelling the fumes from the feces of the worms has been used as a way to detect the presence of explosives. After being trained to recognize the chemicals used in bombs the wasps demonstrate different behavior when in the presence of these chemicals allowing those looking for these dangerous objects to locate and dismantle or destroy them before they cause any harm to those who would encounter them otherwise. Isn’t it amazing that such a tiny insect could demonstrate such profound abilities? I think that just goes to show how amazing the insect’s Creator is. Who could design such amazing animals?

Have You Had Your Flu Shot?

Something that I learned in my research of these wasps that was interesting is that they actually use chemical warfare. While inserting their eggs in the host caterpillar they often also inject viruses. These viruses compromise the worm’s immune system. As the viruses develop in the worms they retard the growth and slow the worm down allowing the emerging larvae to have an easier time consuming their host. When we get a flu shot at the doctor’s office we are actually getting weakened forms of viruses in the injection process. Because they are weakened before being placed in the serum, they allow our bodies to recognize the virus.  Our strong immune systems create antibodies to prevent any future attacks by the virus thus helping us avoid the devastating effects of the disease. In the case of the worm, however, the worm gets a strong version of a virus that has complete control in its new environment.

Would You Like to Have These Helpers in Your Garden?:

For those looking to grow vegetables without the need for pesticides, organic gardeners, it is good to know what attracts these wasps to your garden. In some cases you can actually order them on-line. Trichogramma pretiosum is the scientific name of some that are often purchased on-line. A better way to get them in your garden is by attracting them with flowers!

Flower Power:

Since the adult wasps feed on the nectar of flowers, you can add plants to your garden like: carrots, radishes, dill, mustard and turnips. These plants naturally attract the wasps. When the wasps come in for dinner they look around, (actually “smell around”), and detect the presence of the caterpillars on other plants in your garden. They alter their feeding and fly over to parasitize the caterpillars insuring another generation of wasps to do the same job next year.

Thank God for the Small Things:

As I read through the Bible in my daily devotional time I have discovered many places where God shows us how He works using the smallest things and what seems to us as “insignificant” to accomplish major tasks. As I think about these tiny wasps overpowering their huge host, I think of passages like the following:

I Corinthians 1:27

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” 

Remember that God can help you face your greatest fears and lead you to victory. He delights in using those who are humble to do His work.

Thank God for His Creation:

As you go through the coming week, think of the tiny, insignificant things around you; things you may not even see but have a profound affect on your life. From the smallest virus to the largest animals, each has a place in the overall design of Creation. Don’t miss the message that God is trying to communicate to you through His Creation, His Word, and His Son, Jesus Christ. Your life can be changed by responding to the message.

Newly Emerged Wasps:

After keeping the caterpillars that had the white cocoons on their backs for a day inside a mason jar, this is what emerged. There were at least 20 tiny wasps flying and crawling around inside the jar. It will be interesting to see how many more emerge. They are so tiny! They are only about as long as the length of a letter typed size twelve on your computer.

Blue-Winged Digger Wasp: Friend or Foe?

 

Should I Be Afraid?

In  a couple of my earlier posts I shared with you my encounters with aggressive Hornets. Those were frightening experiences. Though some wasps and hornets can be aggressive there are exceptions to the rule. The Blue-Winged Digger Wasp is such an example. Even though they can sting, and will, if attacked, they rarely show any aggression towards humans.

The Gardener’s Friend:

Blue-Winged wasps are very helpful to have in your garden. No matter what you are growing the plants need to be pollinated. Wasps and other insects help when they come in to gather nectar from the flowers. At the same time they pick up the pollen and carry it on the tiny hairs on their bodies to the next flower they visit. In this way the important pollen is placed where it is needed to insure a future generation of the plant that provided the pollen grains.

Rose and Hibiscus Gardeners Celebrate:

If you happen to like roses and hibiscus and other flowers you should be glad to have some Blue-Winged Wasps around. They specialize in preying upon one of the gardener’s worst enemies, the Japanese Beetle. These destructive beetles eat the foliage and flowers of flowering plants often killing them or making them less attractive by tearing them apart in their feeding frenzy.

How Do They Do It?: (Why are they also known as Digger Wasps?)

When an adult female Blue-Winged Wasp is ready to have babies she drops to the ground and starts looking for a beetle grub buried under the ground. When she detects its presence she digs into the ground and stings the grub. This paralyzes the grub and immobilizes it for transfer. The wasp then digs another hole, lays and egg on the grub, and reburies it. Several months later, the baby wasp larva emerges and finds itself in contact with its first meal, a fresh beetle larva. The sting of the wasp also acts as a preservative keeping the larva in stasis until needed for food. Obviously, the baby beetle larva never grows up to eat flowers but helps in propagating a new generation of Blue-Winged Wasps. 

Distinguishing Characteristics:

   Lighting Greatly Affects Their Coloration:

All of the following pictures are of the same two wasps. See how differently they look as the lighting is shifted from different angles. As the wasps move about in the wild their colors will change as the light hits them in different positions. As you probably know, color plays an important part in announcing to other creatures danger and other information. Iridescence, ” the ability to gradually change color according to the angle of view” , is a very good way for animals to recognize each other and avoid danger from other creatures. The yellow spots and black and yellow and orange colors are also important indicators of danger, especially when in striped configurations.

Notice the orange abdomen and the yellow spots.

See how blue they appear when the light comes in from a different angle.

You Can’t See It All!:

Many of the colors of these insects are invisible to the human eye but very apparent in the ultra violet and infrared bands of the spectrum. Many animals, especially insects, have keen perception in these frequencies of light. But, of the colors we can see, we can distinguish this wasp from many others.

Bottoms Up!:

Scientific Name & Distribution:

These beautiful wasps have the scientific Name Scolia dubai. They are found as far north as New England and south all the way to Florida. Headed west they can be found as far as the Rocky Mountains. Though solitary they can be seen congregating in large numbers at food sources like wild mint and other nectar producing flowers.

Night Night, Sleep Tight:

One of the interesting things about these solitary wasps is their night behavior. They spend their nights resting on plants. The males even like to curl up around a stalk of grass or a twig. As they sleep water droplets often form on their bodies as the moisture in the air condenses on to the cooler surface of the wasp’s body. This moisture can then be slurped up and it also helps cool the body.

Every Creature Has A Purpose:

Whenever I discover a new species of plant, animal, or a creature from other Kingdom, I am reminded of the vastness of God’s Creation. There are so many things to discover that show us the magnitude of God’s creative character. Each time you take a closer look, you will discover that every single creature God created has a significant purpose in the overall creation. Each has a different job to do which benefits the whole. We, as humans, often refer to creatures like insects as “good bugs” or “bad bugs“. Though this designation may help us avoid getting stung or bitten or seeing our gardens destroyed, it doesn’t reveal the whole picture. Remember, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.” Psalm 119: 1-6.  Be sure you take time to listen and observe His greatness. You can gain a lot of knowledge and come to understand more about our Wonderful Creator.

Beautiful Butterflies of Wyoming

Beauty All Around You:

While on vacation traveling through Wyoming and Montana we saw a lot of beautiful butterflies. They come in all colors and sizes and feed on a wide variety of plants. I thought you would enjoy seeing some of this beauty and share with you a symbol of life in Christ.

yellow swallowtail

Yellow Swallowtail

orange butterfly cropped

Checkerspot butterfly

gold butterfly and moth

Two Together: Smaller one is a Skipper.

gold white brown butterfly

Checkerspot on Yarrow

butterfly on milkweed 2

Copper Butterfly

blue butterfly

Tiny Blue on Thistle Plant

blue and orange 3

Many Varieties in One Area

black and white 2

Above and Below: Weidemeyer’s Admiral (AKA Western Admiral)

Limenitis weidemeyerii

black and white butterfly

Western Admirals are very territorial and often chase off other butterflies as they cruise through their space. They often perch where they can see any intruders. Though more common where we were in Wyoming they are considered endangered species in parts of Canada.

swallowtail closeup

Symbol of New Birth:

Did you know the butterfly is often considered a symbol, a picture of the new birth one experiences when he/she comes to know Christ as Savior/ LORD. Just like the caterpillar goes through a radical transformation from a worm-like creature into a pupa and finally to emerge as a butterfly,  when one comes to know Jesus there is also a beautiful transformation. Just like a butterfly changes its diet from eating leaves to drinking nectar, we acquire a new hunger for the things of the LORD and love to feed on His Word, the Bible. Like the butterfly is a demonstration of the beauty of creation, we become a testimony of transformation as we develop new habits and show His love to others.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.”  II Cor. 5:17

Have you ever experienced this change? Once we become reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross for our sins, He opens up a whole new plan for our lives that brings Him glory and results in true satisfaction to everyone who follows Him.

Fishing for Fossils

Up and Ready:

It was early in the morning after spending the night in a hotel in Kremmerer, Wyoming. We got up and ate breakfast and then were off to go fishing. I had been looking forward to this day for many years. This was no ordinary fishing trip, however. Instead of poles and fishing lures and bait we were going to get our gear at the digging site. That’s right. We were going to dig for our fish.

We were given a hammer and a wide, razor sharp chisel and a rack to place our finds upon.

Hidden for Thousands or Millions of Years?

These fish were fossils that had been buried in the ground for a long time. We would be the first to let them see the light of day after spending so much time locked inside limestone. It’s interesting to consider the evidence for the various theories of the ages of these fossils. The Old Earth Creationists and the Uniformitarians (evolutionists) ascribe much older ages to the fossils believing that life has been on earth for such a long time in order for things to evolve into present-day life forms. Young Earth Creationists, like myself, believe the earth is much younger and that the majority of the fossils we find were formed during the Great Flood of Noah’s day and other catastrophic events. Anyway you look at these fossils you can clearly see that what ever placed them in the rock was sudden and catastrophic in nature, rather than slow gradual change. It’s interesting to note that most fossils are in sedimentary rock or metamorphic that was once sedimentary. Water was involved. Other types of catastrophic events include volcanism, which very likely accompanied the Flood when the water from below and above split the earth open. I found several blue streaks and rings in some of the stone we were splitting and asked what they were. I found out that they were composed of volcanic ash embedded in the rocks.

This Happened Suddenly!

The picture below is one of the fossils on display in the Fossil Butte National Monument museum. It shows a large fish eating a smaller fish. Though rare, a number of these fossils have been found.

Diplomysias dontatus fish fossil

My Digging Partners:

Below are my wife, Janet and my nephew, Caleb. As you can see, we were all smiles.

janet splitting rock

caleb all smiles

img_5120

Before Digging:

Before we got to the digging site the owners had prepared the way. We chose the American Fossils site because it had the best reviews and you could keep everything you found, (not like other sites that only let you keep some of the specimens you find. )

They had dug out a lot of rock for us to split using their caterpillar tractor, shearing off sections of the rock wall where the fossils are located.

cat digging out rock

How to Find Them:

We were not only given the tools but also shown how to split the rocks. You put the piece of rock up on its side and place the chisel in the middle of the rock. You then tap on the stone causing it to split into layers. You can keep splitting the same rock several times this way. Some amazing discoveries have been made even in tiny rocks. We heard that a young kid had found a shrimp in a piece of rock about 6 inches square. The rock layers we were splitting already contained layering so you were just trying to find the layer where the fossils were buried. It wasn’t long before we started finding fossils. Below are some of the ones we found in our two hour dig.

fossils before cutting

Cutting Them Down to Size:

After we collected our haul, we took them over to the area where you can cut them down to size removing the unnecessary weight of the surrounding rock. One of the owners helped us at first and then told us we could continue cutting down our specimens at our own risk using the saws there.

trimming specimens (2)

Our Helper: He not only showed us how to split the rocks, and identify what we found, he also helped us cut them down to size.

The Next Stop:

After we had dug our own fossils we traveled down the hill to the Fossil Butte National Monument to see other fossils that had been found in the area where we were digging. Not only did they have excellent examples of the fish, they also had fossils of plants, insects, bats, reptiles, stingrays, and even a crocodile and horse. If you ever go to Wyoming you have to visit this place! Here are some of the fossils we saw there:

extinct turtle fossil

Hummelichelys guttata turtle fossil

Mioplosus labracoides fish fossil

Below is an example of how vast the numbers of fish were fossilized in this area in a single slab of stone.

multi fish fossil display

wyoming aquarium in stone

dragonfly fossil

Stingray fossil below:

stingray fossil

Shrimp Fossil:

shrimp fossil 2

The Environment Was Much Different Then:

From the vegetation found in fossil form you can see that at one time this area was very tropical in nature. The palm fronds and crocodiles also show you that there were many different types of creatures living there that aren’t there today. The area we were digging was at a high elevation. At one time it must have been much lower.

A Wonderful Experience:

One of my favorite experiences at the museum was talking to a paleontologists who was working on cleaning up a specimen of a fish found in the area. I was standing out in front of the area where he was working and made a comments questioning what was going on and found out that he had a microphone and listening device inside where he could interact with those watching. In front of where he was working was a fish fossil that he said was his favorite of all those he had worked on to date. He was using a special tool that was like a pointed needle that rotated so he could gently remove the surrounding matrix bringing out the bones and other structures of the fossil.

cleaning fossils

The museum workers are very helpful and will answer your many questions.

Do Some Research On Your Own:

If you have never considered the evidence that is used to support the various aging methods of fossils, it is quite interesting. You will find that this area of study can be quite controversial. Don’t let that stop you from studying it! You can find articles and books written from a wide variety of viewpoints. Check out some of the Creation Science sites as well as some of the books written on the subject. You can also find videos in which scientists discuss the evidence they have discovered studying fossils.

Dig Your Own:

If you get the chance, go dig some fossils of your own. It is a fun experience. I have dug trilobite fossils in Utah and fish in Wyoming. I look forward to digging fossils elsewhere in the future.

Fossils Found By Caleb

Is It a Bug, a Beetle, a Wasp?….No! It’s An Ermine Moth.

 

What Is This?

When I first saw this insect on the wall outside my front door I was confused. Was it bug, a beetle? As you can see, only four of its six legs show when it is at rest. When it takes flight it resembles a wasp. But, it is actually a tiny moth with unusual habits.

Lives the Sunlight:

Most moths, as you probably know, are most active at night (nocturnal). You have probably seen many that were attracted to the lights around your front door. These moths, however, are most active by daylight (diurnal) as they gather nectar from a wide variety of flowers. They are actually great pollinators.

Biological Control of Invasive Species:

One benefit of these insects is their feeding habits. An invasive plant known as the Tree of Heaven has widely displaced native species in certain areas. These plants are sometimes sold by nurseries to unsuspecting gardeners only to find out later their new treelike shrub has become many more. Enter our heroes, the Ermine Moths. They have an appetite for these plants and can completely defoliate a plant leading to its eradication.

Communal Groups:

When the young hatch from their eggs they grab two our three nearby leaves of the host plant and then wrap them up with loose webbing. These webs can easily be expanded to accommodate several larvae. The webbing is often reused by other young and expanded. While inside these webs the hungry caterpillars are hard a work chewing down on the leaves within.

Yipes! I See Stripes!

The caterpillars have a green stripe down their backs. They also have white and olive-green stripes on their sides.

Adults Win the Beauty Contest.

I think the adult moths take the award for being the most attractive. I love their coloration. They remind me of a Halloween celebration. It looks like an artist painted their wings with splotches of orange, black, and white. Their appearance is eye catching.Can you imagine a piece of pottery covered with this pattern?

Take a Closer Look:

Scientific Name: Atteva Aires: Thought to be natives of Florida and Costa Rica.

(Formerly classified as Atteva punctella).

 

 

 

Keep Your Eyes Open:

I hope you, like I, have developed the habit of looking around trying to see things you have missed in the past. In God’s creation we often miss some of the most interesting and beautiful creatures due to our fast-paced life style. Take some time each day to have some down-time to just sit and look around you. What have you missed before? You can also set apart some time to fellowship with your Father in Heaven. It’s amazing how refreshing it can be just to slow down a bit and enjoy what God has created for us. He often reminds me with these words of wisdom, “Be still and know that I Am God.”

Pronghorns. The Fastest North American Land Animal

That’s A Lot Of Animals! 

What large terrestrial mammal exceeds the number of persons in Wyoming? You guessed it, the Pronghorns. On our trip through the North West we encountered about 100 of these animals. Some were very close to the road while others were far out in the desert feeding on sagebrush. Most of those we saw were in Wyoming and Montana with their expansive deserts and grasslands.

I Thought They Were Called Antelope!:

Even though these animals are not true antelope, like those found in Africa, they are often called such by name. In fact, they have many different common names. Some call them American Antelope, Prong Bucks, Prairie Antelope and even “Berrendo”. (That’s what the Spanish often call them. It means “stained or tinged with two colors“.) As you can see, it is a pretty good description of the animal’s coloration and patterns, being both reddish brown and white. They also have black patches that make them distinct and help you tell the difference between the males and females.  Did you know they have no close relative in North America. They are most similar to the giraffe, and okapi, though uniquely different. They make up their own group, being the only animals that have branching horns while shedding only the outer portions annually.  The best thing to call them is Antilocapra americana which is their scientific name.

Pronghorns in History: 

Did you know these animals were first described by early Spanish Explorers but it wasn’t until William and Clark first encountered them on their expedition back in 1804-1806 that they became known to the scientific community. They first encountered them in South Dakota. These animals provided them with food along the way as well as a lot of new views of the ecology of the regions they explored.

Able to Survive on Foods Others Can’t Eat:

One of the amazing things about these animals is their ability to extract moisture and sustenance from plants that other animals can not palate. They can eat plants that are toxic to animals like cattle and sheep. Because of this behavior they actually can be of benefit to those who raise these domestic animals even though the pronghorn also feed on the grasses in those territories they help remove the plants that could poison or kill domestic flocks. One of the favorite foods of the pronghorn is sagebrush.

 

How Fast Can They Move?

One of the facts that amazes me is that these animals are only second to the Cheetahs as the fastest land animals. Since there aren’t Cheetahs in North America, that makes them the fastest in our region of the world. Not only can they run quickly, they also can swim and have been known to swim clear across waters up to 1 mile wide. When God created these animals He gave them very large windpipes, hearts and lungs so they could get enough oxygen to endure these sustained tasks. Besides their speed, they also have the ability to change their gait with strides up to 8 yards a stride. They are known to have 13 distinct gaits by those scientists that have studied them. What makes it even more amazing is that these animals are at high elevations when they run. Have you ever tried to run or hike uphill at altitudes over 3,000 feet? The air is much thinner there! Pronghorns are usually found between 3,000 and 5.900 ft. in elevation.

Horns Are Different Than Other Animals:

One thing that is interesting about the Pronghorns is that they only shed the outer sheath of their horns rather than the whole thing like the elk and deer.

Flash Mob:

A unique behavior of the pronghorn is their ability to “flash” a signal that can be seen by humans up to 2.5 miles away. The “flash” however, is not for humans. It is a signal used by the group to warn others of danger. The way this occurs is by the animal raising its stiff white hairs on its rump region.  That’s a neat trick, don’t you think?

The Better to See You:

Pronghorn also have very big eyes and a large field of vision. They can see up to 320 degrees around them. They seem to be more in tune with movement than being able to see distinct images like a hawk. Being curious animals, they have been known to walk up very close to humans as long as they stay still. They have a keen sense of smell as well.

Speaking of Smell!!!

Did you know pronghorns have a distinct odor? They produce this with special scent glands located on the sides of their necks. This musky odor allows them to communicate with others of their own kind about territorial boundaries as well as other things. Males seem to give off the strongest odors allowing them to let other males know to keep their distances when mating season arrives.

 

Stare Down:

Another interesting behavior is how the males indicate aggression. If they hold a staring match with another and the other does not drop his head in submission, there could be a battle. In this way many battles are won without any bloodshed or injury. The younger males and weaker contenders know it’s best to move away and let the stronger ones have their territory and right to the females. Pronghorns also signal aggression by expelling air forcefully through their noses creating a huffing sound.

Who Are Their Greatest Enemies?

You might wonder why these animals have to be so quick and attentive. Did you know there are many potential dangers to the pronghorn. The leading one is humans. Besides hunters, the majority of pronghorn that die are killed by automobile collisions. They are also very vulnerable to attack by cougars, bobcats, coyotes, wolves, and golden eagles. The most danger is for the young when they are first born. God, however, has equipped these animals for the dangers they face. They work well as a group to warn each other and the babies have the ability, in just four days after birth, to outrun a human. Baby pronghorn stay near their mothers who are very watchful.

Male and Female Differences:

The male pronghorn have black face and neck patches. They are 10% larger in size than the females and hold their heads high when on the run. The male’s horns are longer than their ears while the female horns are shorter. Females hold their horns nearly horizontal on the run and lack the black patches. Females and young spend the majority of the time together until the young males reach the age of 3 or 4. Males only spend time with females during the mating season. The rest of the time they live in Bachelor herds or alone. It seems like the ‘loners’ are the oldest of the males that no longer can contend with the younger bucks. Female groups of up to 23 individuals are common, and male bachelor groups are often composed of up to 36 individuals.

Other Interesting Pronghorn Facts:

Pronghorns get their name from their prominent pair of branching two- point horns composed of keratin, the material similar to that in your fingernails.

Pronghorns are most active just before sunset and after the sunrise.

We often saw them in groups in the morning and evenings in depressions between the rolling hills. One spent the night in a depression near our hotel in Kemmerer, Wyoming.

Pronghorns often dig a depression in the ground for their droppings.

Pronghorns can help regulate body temperature by raising and lowering their stiff hairs.

The mothers give birth to a single baby at their first pregnancy and usually twins or even triplets thereafter. The gestation period for females is about 252 days.

The primary mating season is between July and October.

Hunters who seek pronghorn have about a 90% success rate in the regions where they hunt making them a popular game animal.

Pronghorn have a wide range of vocalizations including bleating by the fawns, grunts by the females and bellows by the males.

Pronghorn often dig up food in the winter with their front feet through the snow.

Pronghorn can eat cacti as well as sagebrush. They acquire a great deal of their water from the vegetation they eat.

Females usually move off from the group when they have their young and then rejoin the herd shortly thereafter.

An adult female averages between 75 and 110 lbs while males range between 88 and 140 lbs.

Enjoy All of God’s Creation:

As we travel and explore it is wonderful to know the One who created all this beauty and majesty. I thank God for giving us such a beautiful world in which to live providing us with a lot of new things to discover and ways to see He exists and that He has a plan for our lives. I hope you too have come to know Him and give Him the Glory for all He has done.

 

 

Meet the Buffalo (AKA: American Bison)

 

America’s National Mammal

Did you know that the American Bison was named the National Mammal of the U.S. These amazing animals are very much a part of the history of the U.S. They are also wonderful creatures to observe in the wild.

Where Do The Buffalo Roam?

Though captive bison can be found in many places the best places to observe their natural behaviors is in one of the National Refuges or Parks where they are protected and allowed to roam freely through the plains and mountainsides. I have shown some pictures of the buffalo in an earlier blog about a trip to Yellowstone National Park, but this year we found a little lesser known place where you can view these majestic animals along with much other wildlife. This place is known as the National Bison Range and is located in the Western part of Montana. It covers about 19,00 acres with various ecosystems and a large variety of plant and animal species.

The Safest Way to View Them Is In Your Car!

One of the first things you will find out as you enter the refuge is the rule “Stay in your car!” There are only a couple places where you can get out to walk a short distance. One is at the top of the mountain. It’s a beautiful view of the area. The reason for this rule is your safety and that of the animals. After all, it is a refuge, a sanctuary for wildlife. By staying in your car you can get some incredible photographs of these animals. There are also Grizzly Bears in the refuge!

 

One of the Most Dangerous Animals in the U.S.

Interestingly, the buffalo is considered one of the most dangerous animals in the United States. Records kept in Yellowstone National Park register about three to one the injuries caused by buffalo vs bear within the park. People not willing to abide by the rules often find out the hard way why the rule is established! If you were to encounter a buffalo in the wild and were not in your car, you could actually watch for the animal’s warning signs. A tail wagging and hanging down indicates the animal is peaceful. If that tail rises, you better beware! A charge is about to begin. Best move away but don’t run!

Close Up and Personal:

As you can see from these photos, you can easily capture nice photographs of these animals while remaining in the safety of your car. My wife actually made a video of the animals crossing the road in front of us. Many mothers and calves crossed the road right where we could see them very clearly.

Red Dogs???

Did you know the early settlers often called the baby calves of buffalo “red dogs”? This is because the babies have a reddish brown coloration for the first 3 months of their lives. Mothers are quite protective of their young and the calves stay close by their mothers for protection. Guess what enemies the buffalo face?: Wolves and Grizzly Bears.

Babies can stay with their mothers from 7 to 18 months. If mothers become pregnant that time is reduced. Buffalo mature at about 3 – 4 years of age. Birth order can be significant in establishing dominance. Those born first have a more likely chance of claiming dominance because of their size difference.

The Males Go Off and Leave the Females and Young

At about three years of age the male buffalo go off on their own. The only time they spend time with the females is during the mating season. Males either live alone or gather in Bachelor Herds. We saw some loners around the park. They are much larger than the females.

Males can weigh from 900 to 2,000 lbs. Females to 1,091. And adult can be up to 7 to 11.5 ft. in length. Their shoulder height can be from 60 to 72 inches.

 

Other Interesting Buffalo Facts:

Buffalo once ranged in massive herds. They were very important to the Native Americans who used every part of the animals for food and clothing and other items.

Buffalo were almost driven to extinction due to over hunting by the early European settlers. Their hides were sold and many times the majority of the animals were just left to rot and decay.

Buffalo were often killed to drive out the Indian populations that depended on them.

Buffalo were the “trailblazers” for many of our railroad systems. Their paths were expanded to carry the trains across the country and well as provide highways through the mountains and plains.

“Horning” is a practice used by buffalo to repel insects. They scrape their horns against aromatic trees like cedar and pine to cover their bodies with odor that repels insects. This is especially practiced in the fall of the year when insect pest are most prevalent.

Buffalo communicate with grunting sounds. The male bulls can bellow with sounds that can be heard 3 miles away!

The heads of Buffalo are uniquely designed for use as a snow plow in the winter.

Buffalo usually live to the age of 15 in the wild and can live much longer in captivity.

Buffalo usually travel about 2 miles a day feeding. In this way they can mow down the grasses and allow them to regrow for their future visits.

Buffalo meat is highly desired and deemed even better than beef meat. It is higher in protein, lower in fat and cholesterol than beef. For this reason buffalo are often raised for commercial harvest.  Some of those raised for meat reach the weight of 3,801 lbs.

Buffalo horns are curved upward and are about 2 ft. long.

In the Winter, Buffalo grow a winter coat. In the Springtime these are shed or rubbed off on rocks and trees trunks. They look very shaggy at this time.

Mating usually occurs between July to September of the year. Usually only one calf is born by each mother which can stand up and walk within 30 minutes of birth.

At one time over 50 Million buffalo roamed in North America. In 1890 there were only about 300 left. Fortunately they became a protected species and have since been managed by the Department of Fish and Game.

Buffalo wallow in the dust and mud to help remove and control parasites.

Many cattle farmers are concerned with Buffalo crossing over into their range land. Buffalo can carry a disease called  brucellosis which causes developing  calves to die before birth. Ironically, this disease first arrived via the cattle introduced into the native regions harboring the buffalo.

Buffalo can move very quickly! They have been clocked at 40 miles an hour. They can also jump vertically a 6 ft. fence.

The scientific name of the Buffalo you see in this blog post is Bison bison.

Buffalo Point to Their Creator:

As I have viewed and researched these animals, the more I learn, the more I see God’s handiwork on display. God created these animals with a purpose. Interestingly, it is often man’s sinfulness that leads to the disharmony in Creation. Because of man’s greed and lack of responsibility, many types of animals have been threatened or even have gone extinct! It is important as wise stewards of His Creation to remember the Dominion Mandate given to man by God. We are to oversee and care for His Creation not abuse it. This can start right where you live and where you go. Clean up after yourself and respect the wildlife. Let’s make sure these and other creatures will remain  for future generations to enjoy because of our stewardship.

“Oh, You can’t roller-skate in a buffalo heard. But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to!”  These are the words of a fun song we sang as a kid.

Why Not Learn More About the Buffalo?:

By doing a little research you can learn how the buffalo have impacted the history of the United States. Some things to research are:

How many U.S. coins have the image of a Buffalo on them?

How did the Native Americans use the various parts of these animals to create shelter, clothing, food and other personal items?

How did the railroad industry affect the Buffalo?

What was the significance of a “White Buffalo” (Albino) to the Native American?

How many places have the word “Buffalo” in their names? 

For how many dollars was a Buffalo hide sold?

Elk, The Largest Deer Species in the World

,

Oh Deer, That’s Big!

While on vacation in Montana this summer, my wife and I spent a day in the National Bison Wildlife Refuge. Besides the Bison (Buffalo) we also saw other creatures. One of the most interesting was the Elk. I was immediately impressed by their size! Some bull elk can be over 1,000 lbs. in weight and be over 8 ft. long from nose to tail. Now that’s big!

 

Wapiti??? What’s That?

One new thing I learned while doing research is that these creatures are also known as “Wapiti”, a name given them by the Native Americans in the past. The word means “Light colored deer.” 

An Interesting Fact About Elk:

At one of our first stops in the park we encountered this pile of elk horns. Did you know that elk drop their horns every year and then grow a new pair? These are some that have been found in the park over the years. As you can see, even though I am over 6 ft. tall, the horns are higher than I. Just one pair of horns can weigh up to 40 lbs. Now that’s a weapon to be respected! The male elk often use these to fight for the right of selecting the females for reproduction. These battles have been known to end in death. I wouldn’t want to anger a bull elk! The horns are often gathered and used as decoration and made into various objects. Hunters like to hang them on the wall as a memento of their hunting trip.

 

 Bachelor Herd of Bull Elk

It’s interesting to note that the male elk do not live year round with the females and young. They go off and gather with other bull elk until the mating season comes in the fall of the year. We saw four in one group but these groups can be larger.

Friends Until the Rut:

The bull elk get along well until the rut. Their antlers are covered in velvet, a soft fuzzy covering on newly grown horns. When they harden the velvet is rubbed off on tree limbs and the elk change their behavior from calm and social to aggressive and combative. At this time the males contend for the right to a group of females.

 

 

Flower Power:

Besides the grasses the elk eat, they have a taste for wildflowers. Some of their favorites are dandelions, violets, clover, and asters. They also do the gourmet thing and eat mushrooms.

 

Other Elk Facts:

Generally elk live from 8-12 years though some have lived to 20 years.

A baby elk calf can stand up within 20 minutes of birth.

Bull elk have two canine teeth known as “Ivories”. These are often kept by hunters as trophies of the hunt.

There are several species of elk in the US and Canada.

One species is named after President Theodore Roosevelt. He was the one to establish this National Bison Wildlife Refuge back in 1908. It is one of the oldest of the National Parks in the US.

Elk have quite a vocabulary of sounds. The males are known for their bugling during the rut. They also have various whistles and grunts and squeals which have various meanings to the herd around. Babies will send out an alarm to mothers if they feel threatened. You don’t want to threaten a baby elk! Mothers are very protective.

The species of elk in these pictures are Cervus elaphus.

The meat of elk tastes a lot like beef. It has a mild flavor. I had a meatloaf at Quinn’s Hotsprings after our day of watching bison and elk. The meatloaf was a combination of buffalo (bison), elk, and beef. It was quite tasty.

 

Amazing Design!

As I travel and observe the creatures God created for us to enjoy, I am constantly amazed at their unique design. Each creature was given all that it would need to survive in its habitat. Some can live where others can not. Others live in harmony with surrounding animals and plants. Their diets are different so that all have enough food to survive. Each animal variety serves an important part in the ecosystems of its surroundings. I can’t believe this all happened by chance. It clearly indicates a Divine Creator who had a plan. He also has a plan for your life.

 

Great Horned Owls: Give a Hoot!

Largest Owl in USA

What a find! I found four Great Horned Owls sitting in the loafing shed at the ranch in Kuna, Idaho while on vacation this summer. Three of the four were babies. These majestic birds are fun to watch and they “talk” to you at night time. In addition to the United States, these owls also range into Canada and sections of South America.

 

I’ve Got My Eyes On You!

One of the most distinctive characteristics of these birds is their large yellow eyes. these have been designed by our Creator to see well in the dark. These birds also have the ability to direct their gaze by swiveling their heads almost clear around. You will also notice their ear tufts from which they get their name.

One stayed behind when the others flew the away. 

Well Adapted for Change:

When God created these birds He gave them the ability to adapt to changing environments. They are a very successful species that can be found practically all over the US in a wide variety of habitats. The ones photographed here are very helpful in controlling  rodents, rabbits, birds, and other creatures around the farm.

Known By Other Names:

The Great Horned Owls have also been called “Hoot Owls”. They also go by the name “Tiger Owls” because of their coloration and predatory habits. Their most specific name is their scientific name Bubo virginianus.

Carnivores With a Wide Range of Diets:

The Great Horned owls have a varied diet. They are real “Meat-Lovers”. Some of the creatures eaten include: rats, mice, voles, rabbits, small birds, reptiles, frogs, and on occasion, they even have eaten fish. One of the most interesting food stuffs they eat, however, is skunk. There are not many predators that will eat these smelly creatures. They also eat opossum, and other mammals. With such a wide range of food sources they easily adapt to new territories.

 

Secrecy and Stealth:

Because of their coloration they can easily hide out during the day time and often perch high and watch the territory below to strike prey that move within their territory. They often fly from roost to roost watching the area below.  Most of their hunting is at night but they have also been known to take prey in the day time when the opportunity for a quick meal is present. (The optimum time to view them hunting is between 8:30 PM  to 12:00 AM.) Because of their sound dampening feathers they can approach prey with nearly a sound. When the prey recognizes it has been had, it’s too late. They can apply a great deal of pressure with their long claws which often puncture the prey on contact. They generally eat their prey whole unless it is too big to get down their gullet. In such cases the owls use their beaks to tear their prey into pieces.

 

Home Bodies:

Great Horned Owls tend to be “stay at home” creatures. Once a territory is established they usually remain there year round for their entire life span. An average life span for a Great Horned Owl is about 13 years but they have been known to live to the ripe old age of 29 on occasion.

Beware of Your Enemies!:

Great Horned owls are most vulnerable when they are young. Many creatures like to feed on the eggs and fledglings when located by predators when parents are away. Some creatures that eat owls are coyotes, raccoon, the American black bear, opossum, feral cats, bobcats, and foxes. Crows and Ravens like to torment roosting owls by gathering in large groups and surrounding them and making a lot of noise trying to run them away, since they compete for food resources in the territory surrounding their nesting sites.

Watch What You Eat!

Some owls bite off more than they can handle. A few owls have died being pierced by porcupine quills or killed by the very prey they are trying to subdue. One has to count the cost before engaging some creatures.

Humans Are The Greatest Danger!

Most owl deaths, however, are caused by man-made items like: power lines, barbed wire, and collisions with automobiles. When I lived in Lake County, California, a large Great Horned Owl ran into the power line right outside of my house and I took it to school to give to one of the parents of my students who was a game warden. It is illegal to possess and owl without a special permit for the Department of Fish and Game. The one I delivered was sent to the Warm Springs Dam for mounting and use in their nature center.

Once Thought a Threat, Now a Helper:

At one time many owls were killed by persons who raised chickens and other fowl because they often preyed on their livestock. However, most farmers today, consider the Great Horned Owls a friend desirable to have around your farm and home. They are really helpful in controlling the destructive rodent populations that devour crops and carry diseases. Great Horned Owls are protected and it is illegal to hunt them today.

Have You Ever Dissected an Owl Pellet?

One of the most interesting projects that you can do is to dissect an owl pellet. When you first see one it looks like poop, but it actually comes out of the owl at the other end. These hairy balls of fur and bones contain the parts of the animals eaten that could not be digested. One of my students once found the remains of four mice in just one pellet.

The Owl Pellets Above Were Found Under The Roost In The Loafing Shed.

Some people actually make money collecting owl pellets and selling them to schools. They are usually wrapped up in tin foil and baked in an oven to kill any harmful microbes or insects that might be in the pellets. We often use toothpicks and tweezers to tear the balls apart and set out all the bones we find inside. Many scientists study these in order to see what the owls are eating and how many creatures they eat in a given time.

Listen Up And Keep Your Eyes Open:

If you want to see if any of these creatures live in your area you can listen at night for their characteristic hoots or just look in the trees and inside barns and other roosting places in the daytime . A dead give away is to look under roosting trees for their pellets. You will often find them high in the trees overhead resting during the daylight hours. One of the best places to look is along a tree lined river pathway. A good pair of binoculars will help you  get a closer look if they are a distance away from your viewpoint. Take a camera with a zoom lens and you can blow up the image to see more details. If you go on-line or visit your public library, you can learn a lot more about these important creatures. Thank God for His creation and take time to take a closer look around you. There is a lot to learn and enjoy.