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.

 

What Are These Little Green Snakes In My Yard?

Great Snake To Have In Your Yard!

This little snake, a Smooth Green Snake, is a great find if it shows up around your house. Guess what it eats?  Spiders and bugs!

Friendly Little Guys:

These snakes rarely bite and are quite tame when you pick them up. If they do bite they rarely break the skin and they are not poisonous. They just enjoy snacking on the spiders and insects in your yard and are fun to watch, if you can spot them.

 

Excellent Camouflage:

Though quite common, they are rarely seen. Of all the snakes in Tennessee these probably have the best camouflage. They are green like a branch and spend a lot of time above the ground crawling through the vegetation. Animals that climb in trees and vegetation are known as “arboreal” creatures. They even sometimes coil up on branches to rest without being seen. They also are quick to stop moving if activity is going on around them so they do not give away their position to animals that use motion to detect their prey. They would be good at the game “Freeze Tag”. This disguise is not merely for protection, it also allows them to wait for their prey to come to them or to sneak up without being detected.

 

Call Me What You Will, I’m Just A Helpful Neighbor.

These snakes go by several different common names. Sometimes called “Grass Snakes” and “Vine Snakes”, because they resemble the vegetation they crawl through. Unlike the true Vine snakes that are found in tropical regions and are mildly poisonous, these are not. Their scientific name is Opheodrys vernalis. 

Small and Skinny:

These snakes usually range between 11 and 20 inches in length and are very skinny. They are sometimes confused with the  Rough Green Snake which often live in the same territory. However, its easy to see why these snakes are called “smooth Green Snakes”. The other variety has rough scales on its skin.

Shake Your Head:

One of the interesting behaviors of this snake is to watch its head. While zeroing in on its prey it often shakes its head back and forth. It also uses its keen sense of smell to locate its prey. They use their tongues to smell, flicking them in and out and withdrawing them back into their Jacobson’s organs to analyze the chemicals in the air. They are very good and finding their dinner in this manner.

 

Water Loving:

These snakes are often found near the water or at least living in moist environments. They also like rocky boarders and areas with lots of grass and vegetation to hunt in. They are important in the ecosystem controlling the amount of insects and arachnids living their.

 

So…..If You See Us, Be Thankful!

As I discover new creatures in God’s Creation I am so thankful to know that each was designed with a specific purpose and is a testimony of the greatest of the Creator that designed them. I thank God for creating such a wonderful variety of creatures for us to discover and study. The more we look, the more we can praise the One who made them all for us to enjoy.

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Colossians 1: 16

“For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by Him and for Him.”

Baby Cottontail Rabbits In My Garden

What’s That Growing in My Garden?

I had an interesting experience this afternoon. As the weather has finally changed to Spring Time, I decided it was time to clear the weeds out of my garden. All was going well until I noticed some fur at the base of one of the large weeds I removed. All of a sudden the ground began to move and out popped the head of a tiny bunny rabbit. In fact, there were five little cottontails inside the shallow fur lined depression. I learned that these are called “forms” and are used as nest for baby rabbits in the Springtime. Apparently, cottontails don’t dig burrows in the ground for homes. Instead, some find old holes dug by skunks, squirrels, and other animals. Since the mother only feeds her baby cottontails twice a day, they choose the best time to avoid detection, morning and evening. The grass, weeds, brush, and other plants around the “forms” provide great concealment during the day.

Many Enemies

Rabbits are very productive. They pump out babies in bunches of five or so, and just keep bringing new ones into the world. The number of individual babies an animal produces is usually directly related to their mortality rate. Since very few of the babies will ever reach maturity the mothers produce many litters every year during their short life spans. Dogs, coyotes, owls, snakes, foxes, cats, many birds of prey, raccoons, weasels, crows, man, and even squirrels attack baby rabbits and their parents. Cottontails are classified as a game animal and rules are established by the Department of Fish and Game for their protection. Farmers are allowed to kill them if they are causing agricultural problems.

Live and Let Live

I don’t mind sharing some of my vegetables with wildlife in my yard. I think it is interesting to observe the creatures that live in my area. In the hope that these little rabbits survive I pushed a little of the dirt around the form and replaced one of the weeds I pulled to partially cover the bunnies. I’m hoping the mother will come back and move them to a more secure place this evening.

Interesting Rabbit Facts

Why the White Tails?

Scientists have studied animals with white tails to try to figure out their function. Most conclude it actually confuses prey animals chasing them as they dart to and fro in their bouncy escape. It’s sort of like a bull fighter waving a red flag.

Wow! That’s a Lot of Babies!

Each batch of babies is called a “kit”. A mother rabbit can produce up to seven kits a year. That potentially would be about 35 bunnies in all, however, most only produce about five kits. A lot depends in the environmental conditions, food, water, and rate of predation.

What’s Been Chewing On My Tree?

Sometimes these rabbits can develop a taste for the bark of certain trees and can cause damage or even death of the trees that they gnaw on. Many tree experts put metal or plastic guards around the bases of trees to prevent this kind of damage.

Worldwide Distribution

Of the more than 60 species of rabbits the kinds of cottontails make up 13 of them. There are nine species of cottontails in North America and Mexico. Cottontails are found all around the world in both cold and warm regions.

And In This Corner We Have The Lightweights

A fully developed Eastern Cottontail is about 15-19 inches long (38-49 cm). They can weigh from two to four pounds.

Speedy Rabbits

Cottontails can run a speeds of 18 mph for up to a half mile. They have to be fast to avoid capture.

The pictures above are two days later. Notice the hair starting to form.

Now That Smells!

They have excellent ability to smell having about 100 million sensing receptors in their noses. (That compares to about 5-6 million in humans).

Specialized Teeth

Rabbits have teeth that just keep growing. The grasses and other vegetation they feed on and their gnawing on tree trunks help keep their teeth trimmed. These unique teeth enable them to maintain healthy teeth for all their dietary needs.

Consider the Evidence for Design

As I observe these, and other creatures, I am called to consider how all this specialized design came to be. I personally believe it all points to a common Designer. How about you?

The picture below was taken on April 19, 2018. Note that one of the original bunnies died. He was the runt of the litter. The others seem to be doing well in spite of some really cold evenings and a couple down pours.

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I finally caught the Mother with the babies in the morning.

Below are some more pictures a few days later:

Notice that they are getting bolder. This one left the nest when I lifted the weeds from on top. He stayed close and went right back into the shelter once I stood back. Not long from now they will have to fend for themselves.

Below is a second bunch of babies discovered in my garden box in mid July. They are very good at blending in to the background.

Baby Snapping Turtles

 

You Must have Been A Beautiful Baby!

Isn’t it fun to look at baby pictures and try to guess who they are many years later? The same is true with animals. Some go through dramatic transformations and look totally different as they go through metamorphosis. Isn’t  it amazing how different a butterfly is from the caterpillar it was formerly? Other animals go through dramatic growth stages. One such animal is the Snapping Turtle.

This last week I received the pictures that are in this post. This little “snapper” was found while my friend, Danae Was cleaning out the garage in Arlington, Texas. You probably remember the blog post about the turtle survey we participated in at Spring Lake. The two large snappers that were seen in that blog are what the turtles look like when they grow up. You can also see pictures of even larger snappers in my earlier blog post. (I’ve included one at the bottom of this post.) So……let me show you the baby one:

Isn’t It A Cutie?

Notice Its Size In Relation to the Quarter.

Bottoms Up! Notice It Already Has Long Claws.

 

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Wow! You’ve Changed A Lot Since I Last Saw You!

Notice how the ridges on the back smooth out as the turtles grow. Turtles have very long life cycles. Some live to be 100 years old. Wow! It’s best to leave the turtles to grow in their natural environments and go and observe them in their home territories. Turtles do best in the wild and you are more likely to observe their natural behaviors there. 

As you look at these turtles and consider their amazing design, just think of the amount of information that must be stored in their DNA for this growth process to occur over the turtle’s life span. Amazing design demands an Amazing Creator. I thank God for designing these amazing creatures.

Why don’t you see if you can find out more about these wonderful creatures? There are many articles on turtles on the internet. See if you can learn something new through ongoing research. You won’t be disappointed!

 

 

 

Turtle Survey at Spring Lake, Texas

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How we captured, measured, weighed, and collected data on the turtles:

I just returned from an exciting trip to Texas where we were invited to participate in a turtle survey at the small lake at my Son’s house in Arlington, Texas. I learned a lot in the process and thought you would love to see how it was done.

The girls around the lake have a club that is interested in studying and preserving wildlife. Three of the turtle specialist from the university there came to show the girls and the rest of us how to conduct a scientific survey of turtle species. They plan to follow up this study with future visits to the lake.

It all began late in the afternoon. Many traps had to be set up and baited. We had to punch holes in plastic bottles and fill them with bait: sardines, chicken liver, chicken legs, chicken breasts, various kinds of fruit, and more. Each bottle then had to be placed inside the nets and hung so they could attract turtles.

Next, the nets had to be placed in the water. It is important when setting nets to keep the top part out of the water so the turtles can come up and take a breath and not drown. Here are some pictures of the process: The girls used kayaks and well as waded in the water to get them in place.

Once the nets were in place it was time to wait. The girls had a camp out by the lake and got up early the next morning to inspect the traps.

Early risers with their turtle pajamas.

The first turtle found in a small net was Cracker. This turtle was the rescued turtle that helped the girls get in contact with the turtle experts. The turtle was near death when first found last year and it was captured and rehabilitated and returned to the lake where it is thriving. Good thing the girls found it before it died in the lake.  It’s interesting that this turtle was the first to be captured in the survey.

This is Cracker. See the broken shell on the left side by the head.

Next, they pulled the other traps. They found two more turtles, both snappers.

Collecting Data:

Once the turtles were captured and placed in containers, it was time to do the measuring, weighing and examining of the turtles. The girls recorded their data in small field logs indicating the species, whether or not they were male or female, their weight, the measurements of their carapace length, width and depth. They also measured the plastroms and checked the female to see if she were carrying eggs. No eggs were found. The two larger snappers were both males. Calipers were used for the measurements.

After measuring, the shells were inspected for damage and any markings. We discovered some of the turtles were missing claws on their feet and others had part of their shell damaged. This data was recorded using the turtle shell maps given the girls for this purpose.

Releasing the Turtles:

After all the data was collected the turtles were released back into the lake and were rewarded with all the left over bait. It was fun to watch them crawl back into the water and know they were living in a safe place where they would be appreciated.

The Celebration:

After all the excitement it was time to celebrate with turtle pancakes for breakfast. 

Clean Up, Clean Up, Everyone Lend a Hand:

After the celebration all the equipment had to be gathered up to be taken to the next survey over at the river. Many hands made light work.

Thank You to Our Leaders:

We would like the thank all the people from Texas Turtles who helped us, especially Viviana Ricardez  , Andrew Brinker, Carl J. Franklin, our turtle experts. We would also like to acknowledge all the residents of Spring Lake who helped set up this adventure and Calvin and Danae and Barbara at whose house we did the survey.

We learned a lot and have a deeper appreciation for these reptilian creatures.