Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites
Winter 2010            

Dear Junior Ranger,
I am looking forward to the second year of our Junior Ranger newsletter and I hope you are too!  This year we will devote each issue to a wonderful wild place in Georgia - beginning with one of my favorites - the longleaf pine forest.  Winter is a wonderful time to get out and explore these fascinating forests of south Georgia!
Cindy Reittinger
Chief Naturalist, Georgia State Parks
Also in this Issue:
* Cool Critter Contest
* Meet an Ecologist
* Leave No Trace Tip
* Georgia Squirrel Match
* Winter Hikes & Happenings
Cool Critter

Can you identify this cool Georgia critter? 

Correctly identify this animal by January 15 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.
Meet An Ecologist

Shan Cammack, an ecologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and "Smokey the Bear" hold a drip torch - a canister containing fuel that is used to start controlled fires. 

Do you think YOU might want to be an ecologist when you grow up?  Shan shares her background in this special interview for Junior Rangers.

What inspired you to become an ecologist?
 I love nature and I was always curious about how plants and animals live together.

What are your job responsibilities?
I help take care of the forests and make sure that the native plants and animals have what they need.
Sometimes that involves setting fires (a controlled burn) to keep the forest healthy.

What do you like most about your job?
I like being outdoors and seeing beautiful places all over Georgia.

What advice would you give a Junior Ranger who may be interested in becoming an ecologist when they grow up?
Study hard and learn as much as you can about the world.

What did you study in college that helped you become an ecologist?  I studied biology but I also got a degree in English which helps me read about the environment and write reports for my job.
Snake-Sniffing Dog Helps Scientists

This chocolate Labrador retriever named "CJ" is a trained search dog.  Georgia scientists are using this specially trained dog to see if it can locate eastern indigo snakes in their natural habitat.  The more we can learn about these elusive snakes the better we will be able to conserve them.
Don't Approach Wildlife Too Closely
At Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites we abide by Leave No Trace principles when exploring in the outdoors.  These guiding principles help us protect the natural places that we love and preserve them for others to enjoy. too! 

Leave No Trace principles tell us to "Keep Wildlife Wild".  That means you need to keep a safe distance from wildlife.
This copyrighted information has been reprinted with permission from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

How Close is Too Close?
You know you are too close if you disturb the animal and it runs or flies away. 

"Rule of Thumb" - if you hold up your thumb in line with the animal you are observing, your thumb should "cover" the animal you are looking at.  If you can still see the animal, you are too close.
Backyard Bird Count
Mark your calendar for February 12-15, 2010 - the dates for the Great Backyard Bird Count
All you have to do is count the number and kind of birds you see at your bird feeder and report what you saw online.  You can spend as little as 15 minutes.  The information you collect helps scientists learn what kinds of birds can been seen in winter and whether there are more or fewer of them than before.
Learn More
Visit your local library and check out these titles:

* Gopher Tracks by Susan Jane Ryan
* The Gopher Tortoise: A Life History by Patricia and Ray Ashton
State Parks Logo
Creatures of the Longleaf Pine Forest
Longleaf pine forests are found in south Georgia and in other southeastern states. They are home to a unique variety of plants and animals. 

Longleaf pine trees have long needles, which is how they got their name - they are eleven inches long!  They also have very large pine cones as pictured above. 

One of the most familiar residents of these forests is the gopher tortoise (the Cool Critter featured in our Fall E-News).  Their large deep burrows in the forest's sandy soil provide shelter to many animals besides themselves.  One such creature is the rare eastern indigo snake - the longest snake in the United States.

Can you find the gopher tortoise burrow in the picture below?

Most longleaf pine forests were cut down many years ago.  We can thank another resident of these forests, the northern bobwhite, (pictured at right) for some of the best remaining stands of longleaf pine in Georgia.  People preserved these forests to provide places to hunt this popular game bird. 

Another bird commonly associated with these forests is the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (pictured at left).  It makes its nest in old longeaf pines - something that is hard to find these days.

Things to do:
* Click on the links above to learn more about creatures of the longleaf pine forest.
*  Take a hike in a longleaf pine forest (see Winter Hikes below)
* Hidden Pictures: Creatures of the longleaf pine forest
* Coloring Pages: Bobwhite, Red- Cockaded Woodpecker
* Listen to and try to imitate the call of the bobwhite
* Look for Georgia license plates that picture the northern bobwhite

Georgia Squirrels
Most Junior Rangers are familiar with the eastern gray squirrel which is commonly seen across Georgia.  They may also  have been lucky enough to see a southern flying squirrel at night.  But, there is another less common Georgia squirrel that lives in south Georgia.  It is called the southern fox squirrel and it prefers to live in longleaf pine forests.

          A                        B                       C
Can you match the squirrel photos above with the correct name?  Send your answers to the Chief Naturalist and if you are correct we will send you a free small magnifier.
Things to do:
* Squirrel Match (above)
* Coloring Page: Southern Fox Squirrel
* Fun Page: Good Fire vs. Bad Fire
Fire Keeps Forests Healthy
Throughout history longleaf pine forests have been maintained by fire.  The first fires were set by lightning strikes.  Nowadays Park Rangers in Georgia's State Parks set controlled fires to keep our Parks' forests healthy.  To protect themselves the rangers wear special clothing that is fire resistant. 

Animals that live in the longleaf forest have developed ways to escape fire.  They may fly or run away or escape to the safety of a gopher tortoise burrow. 
Winter Hikes & Happenings

Take a hike in a longleaf pine forest at any of these Georgia State Parks:

Crooked River SP
George L Smith SP
General Coffee SP
Hofwyl Plantation
Laura Walker SP
Little Ocmulgee SP
Reed Bingham SP
Seminole SP

Buzzard Day
Feb. 6, Reed Bingham State Park, Adel, GA
This popular park in southwest Georgia boasts the largest wintering buzzard roost in the state.  Visitors to this family fun event can take a pontoon ride to gawk at roosting black vultures and turkey vultures (pictured at right), enjoy live animal shows or participate in the Road Kill Run.

Fire on the Mountain
March 13, 2010 (rain date March 20) Sprewell Bluff Outdoor Recreation Area

Visitors to this one-of-a-kind event get a first-hand look at a prescribed fire from a safe viewing site along the Flint River.

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