Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites
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Fall 2011           

Dear Junior Ranger,
 We may not  always be lucky enough to see wild creatures but, we can always see evidence that they are there.  In this issue of The Georgia Junior Ranger  we are going to take a closer look at animal signs. Footprints in the mud, feathers on the ground, scat (animal droppings), nests and even spider webs let us know that wild creatures are everywhere.  
If you have ever walked face first into the web of a golden-silk spider, ourCool Critter pictured in the Summer E-News, you won't forget it!  Commonly seen in south Georgia in the fall this large colorful spider may not be noticed at first but, their strong web strung across the trail alerts us that they are there.
Cindy Reittinger
Chief Naturalist, Georgia State Parks

Also in this Issue:
* Cool Critter Contest
* Ask the Naturalist
* Read More About It
* Wow - What a Find!

* Outdoor Fun

Cool Critter

Can you identify this cool Georgia critter?
Correctly identify this animal by Oct. 25th and be entered to win a free Park Pass - good for free admission to all Georgia State Parks for a whole year!  Email your answer to the Chief Naturalist.

Ask the Naturalist
Have a question about nature?  Junior Rangers can submit their questions to the Chief Naturalist.

Dear Chief Naturalist,
I found a small hole in the ground and my grandpa told me it was a snake hole.  How do snakes dig holes without legs?
                             Claire, Macon,GA

Dear Claire,
That is a great question!  Because snakes sometimes use holes dug by other creatures people have mistakenly thought that the snake dug the hole too. 
For example in south Georgia rattlesnakes and indigo snakes use the burrows dug by gopher tortoises.  But, snakes do not dig their own hole.  They may use their snout to burrow through leaf litter and loose sand but, they cannot dig a hole. 
I find lots of small holes in my backyard that were made by chipmunks.  Perhaps the hole that you saw was also made by a chipmunk.


Wow - What a Find!

A hiker at Sweetwater Creek State Park recently came upon this rare scene - two male eastern diamondback rattlesnakes engaged in what scientists call "combat".  Mating season for eastern diamondbacks is late August-October and these two males are in competition for the same female. It's like hand wrestling with each snake trying to strong arm the other to the ground.  Learn more about eastern diamondbacks.

Read & Learn More

Visit your local library and check out these titles:
*  Bird Egg Feather Nest by Maryjo Koch
* Cicadas (True Books) by Ann O. Squire
* Scats & Tracks of the Southeast by James Halfpenny and Jim Bruchac


Photo credits:
Masthead: Linda Patrick
Cool Critter: Rachel Gorham/Getty Images
Eastern diamondback: Jeremy Reeme
Dog day cicada: Anita Gould

State Parks Logo
Oops! I Lost My Skin

It's hard for us to imagine what it would be like to shed our skin but, it is not such a rare occurrence for some creatures that live in Georgia.  Shed skins are one of the animal signs we sometimes find.

Cicada
Some animals like snakes shed their skin as they grow.  Others like the dog day cicada (pictured above) shed their skin as they change from one stage of their life cycle to the next.

While dog day cicadas are seen every year there
was another cicada seen in Georgia this past spring/summer called the periodic cicada (pictured, right); it lives underground for 13 years.  I hope you got to see one this year; they won't come out again until 2024!

Finding Feathers

Late summer and early fall are a good time to find bird feathers.  This is the time of year when many birds molt - which means old worn feathers are replaced with new ones.  Look for the discarded old feathers on the ground.

It is possible to find feathers at other times of year when damaged feathers are replaced.  If you find a clump of feathers it may indicate that a predator caught a bird there.  Occasionally I find a clump of small feathers near my bird feeder - evidence that our neighborhood Cooper's Hawk has been hunting song birds in my backyard.

Things to Do:
*  Go to a Park or other natural area that has a body of water.  Look for animal tracks in the mud near the water's edge.
*  Set up an animal tracking station in your backyard.
* Listen to the dog day cicada.
* Take a walk in your neighborhood and make a list of all the animal signs you see.   Things to look for include:
Outdoor Fun

Halloween Happenings
Many of our State Parks offer "Haunted" Events starting Oct. 21

Haunted Trail, F.D. Roosevelt
Octoberfest/Haunted Hayride, Florence Marina
Moonlight Madness, General Coffee
Fall Fest/Haunted House, Laura Walker
Halloween Hayrides, Red Top Mountain
Haunted House, Reed Bingham
Haunted Tales, Seminole
Wails to Trails, Tallulah Gorge

Enjoy by Candlelight - Oct. 22
Candle Lantern Tour, Fort McAllister
Candlelight Hike to the Mill, Sweetwater Creek State Park

 
Mill Ruins at Sweetwater Creek
 


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