Sunday, August 15, 2010

New Name, New Goal

I know I haven’t posted much about the existence of cougars in Virginia. There has been a lull of news in the scheme of things, as the entire Eastern Cougar Foundation has changed direction and focus.

This fact alone has really dampened my spirits, as I really wanted to help prove their existence, but in some ways it has prompted me to try harder to find one. I feel as if the time window is closing and it is important to find a cougar before it doesn’t matter as much. The fact is that there have been more developments in DNA evidence to prove the origin of cougars in North America.

From an arctile in the new Cougar Rewiliding Foundation, (formerly known as the eastern cougar foundation) “Dr. Melanie Culver’s genetic research determined that all of the wild cougars north of Central America are the same subspecies, the idea of an eastern cougar had been rendered moot scientifically. And ECF may prove to be a hurdle in recruiting new members in regions not associated with the East.” CRF Newsletter July, 2010.

To put a damper on the subject, this finding in the DNA suggests that cougars in North America may be but one genetic family, so trying to distinguish an eastern subspecies would be moot.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Chap 1: Chestnut Blight

Early morning on a summer's day, an oven bird calls out as it takes flight. Searching for the reason for so much comotion, we find a small nest tucked under some roots on the forest path. The nest holds three, white and brown speckled eggs. We keep moving to let the mother return to her nest.

Snails and slugs are easily found along the path. Searching the forests rotting tree stumps, some covered in moss and red soldier fungi. Sometimes their hallow crevices are stuffed with acrons by the busy chipmunks that dart across the path. A snail slides it's way around the side of an old chestnut stump that is mostly rotted. Once the chestnut was prominent in these woods, out of every four trees would be a chestnut. But today, the ancient forest of mighty American Chestnuts are a ghostly memory. The chestnut blight fungus, Cryphonectria parasitica decimated the population of American Chestnuts across the entire North American continent. Here on the mountain, there use to be a small community existing on farming and gathering of the chestnut acorns to make flour. After the blight wiped out the trees, there wasn't enough subsistence to keep the town prosperous. Its hard to believe that such a disappearance of one species can change the ability of humans to capitalize on a landscape. But this is not just any land, as the winters are harsh, summers wet, and soil rocky; any small change can create a reaction that ripples through the food chains in the habitat. We may never see the forest quite like they use to be, with towering chestnut trees, but we need to keep in mind that any and all species matters in the entire picture of the environment.