Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites
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Winter 2012           

Dear Junior Ranger,
I am looking forward to another year of new discoveries in the outdoors and sharing them with you.  This yearThe Georgia Junior Ranger will focus on Growing Up Wild in Georgia as we learn more about wildlife and strategies for survival.  Life in the wild can be a dangerous place for young wildlife - including the young opossum pictured as the Cool Critter  in the Fall E-News.  Can you imagine what life would be like if you had to grow up in the wild?
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 Jan. 15th 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,
What is this I found in my backyard? It has a strong fruit smell.  And, why have I never seen it in my yard before?
                     Loralye, Cordele, GA


Dear Loralye,
Thank you for sending in your photo - my friends and I had fun trying to figure out what kind of mushroom it is!

The picture you sent in shows the fruiting body of a columned stinkhorn, a mushroom that often grows in wood chips.  If you have added wood chip mulch to your yard that would explain their recent appearance.  They typically smell like rotting flesh so count yourself lucky that yours smells like fruit!

Wow - What a Find!

State Park Biologist, Nikki Castleberry, was pleasantly surprised to catch an eastern spotted skunk in one of her live traps this past summer. It was the first time she had ever seen this small relative of the more common striped skunk.  Scientists don't know much about the distribution of spotted skunks in Georgia and Nikki is trying to learn more.  Anyone that finds a spotted skunk is asked to report it.

Correction
The rattlesnakes pictured in the first issue of the Fall 2011 Georgia Junior Ranger were mistakenly listed as eastern diamondback rattlesnakes.  The snakes were actually timber rattlesnakes.

Read & Learn More

Visit your local library and check out these titles:
An Egret's Day by Jane Yolen
Deer Growing Up in the WIld  by Judith Rinard
Opossums (Woodland Animals) by William J. Ripple
Raccoons (Welcome to the World Series) by Diane Swanson


New Mountain Biking Trail

Check out the new Mountain Bike trail for beginners at Fort Yargo State Park.  It is just right for Junior Rangers.  Once you master your skills you can try out more advanced trails at the Park.

Mountain Biking is just one way to have fun and get fit in the outdoors.



Photo credits:
Masthead: Linda Patrick
Mountain Biking: Linda Patrick
Harris Neck NWR: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Spotted Skunk: Bob Gress

State Parks Logo
Growing Up Wild

Dangers to be Faced
Young animals face life-threatening dangers in the wild.  They may be eaten, fall victim to starvation, injury or disease or suffer the effects of weather.  While it may seem harsh to some it is the natural order of things.

Growing Up with Siblings

Many species of wildlife like the raccoons pictured above, have multiple young.  While some may not survive, others will grow up to have their own young.  This ensures a balance in nature - there are not too many and not too few.  Over time if not enough young survive to reproduce, a species may become endangered.

Growing Up in the Ocean

The Northern right whales are beginning to arrive on the Georgia coast to give birth to their calves.  The young whales which may be 15 feet long at birth remain close to their mothers.  She protects the calf from natural threats as well as from human threats - boat collisions or getting caught in commercial fishing gear.

Protection from "Dad"
It's not always "mom" who cares for the young.  For the large mouthed bass it is the male who provides protection.

Growing Up in a Pouch
What do kangaroos and opossums have in common?  Both raise their young inside a pouch.  The opossum mother's pouch is a safe place for the young to nurse and grow.

After spending 8-10 weeks in the pouch the young travel on their mother's back until they are old enough to be on their own. 

Growing Up Together

Scientists believe that nesting in colonies provides better protection from predators.  Colonies of nesting birds are called rookeries
One of the best places in Georgia to see a rookery is Woody Pond at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge (pictured above) on the Georgia coast.   It is a magnificent site to see - hundreds of tree top nests of wading birds including herons, egrets, wood storks and white ibis.

Things to Do:

* Take a walk in your neighborhood and imagine you are a wild animal.  Where would you make your home?  Where would you find food? Where would you raise your young?
*  Build a brush pile in your backyard.  A brush pile is made from branches and other debris in your yard.  Brush piles provide cover for wildlife.
* Visit a State Park Visitor Center, Nature Center, Zoo or Aquarium and view live animals on display to learn more about growing up wild in Georgia.

Outdoor Fun

First Day Hikes - Jan. 1, 2012
Many of our Georgia State Parks will be offering hikes on New Year's Day.  Hiking is a fun way to stay fit and enjoy the great outdoors with your family!  Participating State Parks

For the first time ever every state park system in the country, from Maine to California, is offering First Day Hikes on Jan. 1
Join us for this historic event!
 



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