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Wild About PA



Read Marcus Schneck's blog on the great outdoors of Central Pennsylvania.



Last Build Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2017 16:03:07 UTC

Copyright: Copyright 2017
 



Much of Central Pennsylvania still waiting for cicadamania 2013

Wed, 05 Jun 2013 14:00:48 UTC

2013-06-05T15:33:20Z

Where are the cicadas of Brood II?

The explosive emergence of 17-year periodical cicadas expected about now has yet to fully materialize in many parts of Central Pennsylvania, and may indeed not materialize this year.

Brood II, which is the group of the large insects emerging this year, has never been as abundant or widespread as the gargantuan Brood X, which also is known as the Great Eastern Brood. However, some areas like Bergen County, N.J., have seen millions of cicadas emerge in the past couple weeks.
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And, some locations in Central Pennsylvania - notably the Williams Valley/Lykens Valley area between Tower City and the Millersburg-Halifax area - have seen large numbers of cicadas, accompanied by the trademark deafening buzz of the insects in some spots.

Greg Hoover, ornamental entomologist in Penn State's Department of Entomology and one of the leading cicada authorities in Pennsylvania, said one of the questions he's hearing most often from the media the past few days is "Why don't we have them?"

Part of the answer is the smaller nature of Brood II, but another part is that many areas no longer have "an abundance of uninterrupted woodlands" favored by periodical cicadas they once did. The third part of the answer may reside in the unseasonably cold weather just before Memorial Day, which may have held soil temperatures just below the 64 degrees Fahrenheit required to stir the cicada nymphs to leave their tunnels in the soil in search of mating opportunities.

"Some of those colder overnight temperatures may have slowed things down a bit," said Hoover.

However, he noted, areas southeast and northeast of Central Pennsylvania have seen significant emergences, hinting that "by the end of next week, the peak of the emergence will be past. We're getting close to it, if not in some of the southeastern Pennsylvania counties are past peak."

Central Pennsylvania may have one chance to yet see some emergence out of Brood II, and that chance lies in the rainfall forecast the weekend.

"A rainfall event really triggers" the full emergence," explained Hoover.

If you spot cicadas, please report your sighting to mschneck@pennlive.com.


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Pennsylvania gets a bit closer to having an official amphibian

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 15:37:32 UTC

2017-11-17T16:03:07Z

The state Senate is advancing legislation to make the Eastern hellbender the official amphibian of Pennsylvania. Watch video

State flower? Mountain laurel. State animal? White-tailed deer. State bird? Ruffed grouse. State dog? Great Dane. 

But we don't have a state amphibian. That could change.

The state Senate is advancing legislation to make the Eastern hellbender the official amphibian of Pennsylvania, as researchers say its population is shrinking because of pollution, The Associated Press reported. The bill passed, 47-2, and heads to the House.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the hellbender is an aquatic salamander that can grow up to two feet long, making them the largest North American amphibian. They are nocturnal and prefer shallow, clear and fast streams with rocks to live under.

The eastern hellbender is one of the largest living amphibians in the world. A large adult can exceed 2 feet and weigh more than 2 pounds, according to the PennLive/The Patriot-News archives. Hellbenders are completely aquatic and spend their lives under large rocks in clean streams where they feed on crawfish and other aquatic organisms. A hellbender's wrinkled skin is specially adapted to absorb oxygen through the water, while their flattened body allows them to squeeze into tight spots under rocks.

Pa. almost had an official cookie: State symbols that did and didn't make the cut

Researchers across the hellbender's range, which extends from New York and Pennsylvania to Georgia and Missouri, have noted drastic declines in populations. In Ohio, surveys of hellbender populations have found an 82 percent decline in relative abundance compared to previous surveys conducted in the mid-1980s.

Hellbenders don't have federal protected status, although some states give them protected status, The Associated Press reported. Pennsylvania does not.

For more on Pennsylvania outdoors: 

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Severe winter weather ahead, according to wildlife folklore forecast

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 10:00:00 UTC

2017-11-09T11:50:19Z

In a tight vote, more wildlife indicators lean toward severe than those pointing to mild.




Meteor shower will peak on especially dark nights

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 18:00:00 UTC

2017-11-08T18:02:03Z

Leonid meteors will peak at 10-15 per hour on November 17 and 18.

Although nothing spectacular is expected from this year's Leonid meteor shower, when it peaks November 17 and 18 the night sky will be relatively dark and moonless.

The peak of the shower - probably 10-15 per hour - is expected from midnight to dawn on Friday, November 17, and Saturday, November 18

The moon will be in the new-moon phase during that peak period.

The Leonids are bits of debris left behind by Comet Tempel-Tuttle on its 33-year orbit around the sun. When that debris enters the Earth's atmosphere and evaporates, it produces the Leonids.

The meteors will appear to radiate from Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo the Lion, which is how they come by their name.

However, you don't need to locate Leo to see the meteors. They will flash across the night sky.

More important for best viewing is finding a dark sky away from city lights.

Although the Leonids have produced meteor storms in the past - such as the 1833 storm that was reported at more than 100,000 meteors per hour - astronomers do not expect anything like that this year.


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Quarantine expanded to 13 counties in battle against invading insect

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 15:00:00 UTC

2017-11-08T15:03:42Z

Central Pennsylvania counties now included in spotted lanternfly zone. Trying to get ahead of a spreading infestation of the invasive spotted lanternfly, which has been confirmed on nearly 1,500 properties in the southeastern corner of the state, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has expanded a quarantine area to 13 counties, including some in Central Pennsylvania. The department previously relied on quarantines at the municipal level in Berks, Bucks, Chester, Lehigh, Montgomery and Northampton counties, but in this latest expansion has expanded the restricted zone to include the entirety of those counties, as well as Carbon, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Monroe, Philadelphia and Schuylkill counties. In a change of attack, the quarantine now includes area where the lanternfly has not yet been confirmed, but where there is a high risk of the insect spreading rapidly. The spotted lanternfly is an inch-long black, red and white spotted insect native to southeast Asia. When it was accidently introduced to South Korea, where it has attacked 25 plant species that also grow in Pennsylvania, it spread throughout that country, which is roughly the size of Pennsylvania, within three years. The pest was first found in the U.S. in the fall of 2014, when it was found in Berks County. The department has estimated the threat of the lanternfly in the state at $18 billion worth of agricultural products like apples, grapes and hardwoods. In addition, said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, "it's also undermining the quality of life for Pennsylvanians who are coping with hoards found in many infested areas." The department received $2.9 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture this year to control the insect and $25,000 for outreach efforts, as well as USDA personnel, but has requested an additional $10-12 million. The multi-level containment effort to date has confined the lanternfly within the borders of Pennsylvania. However, noted Redding, "it is becoming apparent that we must bring more resources to bear if we want to eradicate this pest. It's also going to take the cooperation and support of the public." Included in that cooperation, the public is asked to: Scrape egg masses from trees or other surfaces, double bag them, and throw them in the garbage, or place the eggs in alcohol or hand sanitizer to kill them. Egg masses, which are laid in the fall, are initially waxy-looking, grey-brown blobs, and later look like dried mud. Check vehicles for egg masses before leaving an infested area. Buy firewood locally. Do not take it with you when you leave. Check lawn furniture, wood products, construction materials, tarps, lawnmowers, trailers and other items stored outdoors before bringing them in for the winter, covering them or moving them. Do not transport brush, yard waste, remodeling or construction waste outside quarantined areas. Anyone who finds the insects or egg masses outside quarantined areas should report sightings to badbug@pa.gov. Include photos, if possible, to help confirm the sighting. You may also call the Invasive Species Report Line at 1-866-253-7189. Please provide details, including the location of the sighting, and your contact information. Calls may not be returned immediately, as call volume is high. Suspect specimens can be submitted to the department's headquarters in Harrisburg or to any of its six regional offices. Specimens also can be submitted to county Penn State Extension offices. Do not submit live specimens.  More about the spotted lanternfly in Pennsylvania: Feds award Pa. almost $3 million to control spotted lanternfly [...]


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How good is the nut crop in Pennsylvania's forests?

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 10:00:00 UTC

2017-11-06T10:03:45Z

Annual survey by the Pennsylvania Game Commission assesses acorns, beech nuts, hickory nuts and more across Pennsylvania.

Wildlife across Pennsylvania is experiencing a boom year of wild foods in the state's forests, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission's annual Wildlife Food Survey.

The survey gathers input from the field staffs of the commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and this year they've reported strong production from many species of nut trees.

"Pretty much anywhere in the state that you find healthy beech trees this year you will find an exceptional crop of beechnuts," said Dave Gustafson, chief forester with the commission and compiler of the survey. "These nuts are highly preferred food for everything from grouse and squirrels to turkeys, deer and bear."

Another outstanding mast crop comes from Hickory this year. Hickory nut crops are being reported as widespread and very heavy. 

Black walnuts, while more of a farmland and woodlot species than a major forest of the forest, also are prolific this year. 

"The situation with acorn mast crops this years is taking some by surprise," noted Gustafson. "Many areas last year had bumper crops of red oak group acorns, and typically you would expect the following year to be very low in production. However, even areas that reported bumper crops last year are still seeing at least decent red oak acorn crops this year. And many areas that didn't see red oak acorns last year have a better than average crop this year.'

White oak and chestnut oak are a little less predictable in distribution of areas producing good crops, but if you find an area where they are producing acorns, they are likely producing in good numbers.

Beyond the nut crops, Gustafson said, most berry crops were reported as exceptional this summer, as were apples earlier this fall.

"This summer proved to be an exceptional growing season for native plants," he explained. The timing of the rains this summer was seemingly perfect, not too much, but just enough to produce tremendous growth on blackberries and native herbaceous plants like asters and pokeweed, as well as spurring significant growth on tree seedling regeneration. 

Gustafson noted, "The biggest challenge for hunters may be finding out which food source their chosen quarry is favoring at a specific time, as many critters will not need to move around much to get all the nutrition they need this year."

More about acorns:


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Great opportunity for last glance of fall foliage this fall

Fri, 03 Nov 2017 14:00:00 UTC

2017-11-03T14:07:46Z

Southcentral and southeastern Pennsylvania are making as last showing of fall color for 2017. Some of the best fall color currently in the state can be found in Weiser State Forest in the east-central counties of Dauphin, Northumberland, Montour, Columbia, Schuylkill, Carbon and Lebanon. Sassafras, hickories, and red and sugar maples are providing some fantastic shades of yellow and orange. A highly recommended scenic drive travels northeast from Route 322 through Powell's Valley, looping back into Clark's Valley on Route 325. From there, continue northeast and make a right onto Gold Mine Road. Head south to Swatara State Park, then Route 443 West and back toward Route 322. In the Southeastern Region (Adams, York, Lancaster, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Bucks, Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties), foliage is at peak. The northern areas are slightly past peak but there is still some great color in Northampton, Lehigh, Berks and Bucks counties. The Wertz Tract in Berks County is still colorful, but many leaves were lost due to this weekend's storm. White and red oaks are adding pleasant fall shades in some higher elevations. A car ride to Mt. Gretna, Lebanon County, offers beautiful scenery in a classic, small-town setting. Fall foliage season is waning across the state, but "some regions in the southeastern quarter of the state still boast great fall color," according to Ryan Reed, environmental education specialist with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources and author of the weekly Fall Foliage Report for Pennsylvania. He noted that "a recent, strong and windy storm system stripped off many leaves statewide, but several species of hickories, maples and oaks are vibrant holdovers. Although at the end of their peak, yellow poplar, sassafras and yellow birch are adding bright color, even if only to the forest floor in some areas." In the Northern Region of McKean, Potter, Tioga, Bradford and Sullivan counties, forests are well-past peak, but a "second peak" of fall color is evident in some oak and beech forests. American beech trees are at peak yellow, but being mostly in the understory beech saplings are best viewed via scenic drives rather than from vistas. In the Northeast a few areas of nice autumn color remain in parts of Monroe and Luzerne counties. A good place to view the last of the fall foliage is Route 209 through Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in eastern Monroe and Pike counties. In the northwestern counties of Erie, Crawford, Warren, Forest and the northern half of Venango, many of the trees have lost or are losing their leaves, as the fall foliage season winds down. In the Central Region, which is a funnel-shaped band with its narrow end in southern Wayne and Pike counties, stretching across the central third of Pennsylvania to Fayette, Greene, and Washington counties, widening to the northwest to include Erie and Warren counties.) In the Mid-State counties of Elk, Cameron, Clearfield, Clinton, Lycoming, Union, Centre, Snyder, Juniata, Mifflin, Huntingdon, Perry and Cumberland, Bald Eagle State Forest heavy rain and high winds last weekend knocked many leaves and even limbs to the ground. In Tuscarora State Forest oak-dominated settings are displaying quintessential fall shades of scarlet, russet, and yellow. Hickories and beeches are adding hues of orange and bright yellow, as well. A car trip down any of the valley roads paralleling Blacklog, Tuscarora, Conococheague, Kittatinny or Blue Mountain offers still-vibrant scenery along Routes 103, 35, 75 and 274. In the approximately half-million combined acres of Sproul and Moshannon state forests, most hardwood species' leaves are now on the ground. Noteworthy species retaining leaves and color are species of oak, including red, black, white and chestnut. Shades of red and pale-yel[...]


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14 things you don't know about the opossum

Wed, 01 Nov 2017 10:00:00 UTC

2017-11-01T10:04:06Z

The Virginia opossum is widespread across the eastern U.S., including all of Pennsylvania, but little is commonly known about the animal. Here are some of the fascinating facts about the animal.




Meteors may strike Earth in November

Mon, 30 Oct 2017 19:00:00 UTC

2017-10-30T19:02:43Z

The peak of the Taurid meteor shower is expected November 10-11.

While the Taurid meteor shower in November won't be among the most abundant showers of the year, but astronomers are expecting some bright fireballs.

Peak for the Taurids will be Friday, Nov. 10, to Saturday, Nov. 11, but even then the meteor rate will be just a handful per hour. Best viewing will be just before dawn.

The moon won't provide much interference during the peak of the Taurids. It will be passing through its last-quarter phase.

The Taurids are debris from the Comet Encke, which some years in its orbit around the sun is pushed closer to Earth by Jupiter and then produces more visible meteors. That is not expected again until November 2019, according to NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke.

However, some of the fragments from Comet Encke may be large enough to survive their flight through Earth's atmosphere and make it to the ground, unlike the vast majority of meteors that burn up in the atmosphere.

The Taurids appear to radiate from the constellation Taurus in the southern night sky, but that's unimportant for simple viewing of the meteors as they zip across the sky.


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Whitewater's fury to be unleashed on Pennsylvania stream

Mon, 30 Oct 2017 15:00:00 UTC

2017-10-30T15:03:50Z

Annual release of millions of gallons of water will draw whitewater boaters from across the country to Tohickon Creek in Bucks County. Watch video

Tohickon Creek in Bucks County will be flooded to Class 3 and 4 whitewater rapids Saturday and Sunday, November 4-5.

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has announced that it will begin its annual fall release of millions of gallons of water from Lake Nockamixon, near Ottsville, into Tohickon Creek at 4 a.m. each day.

Each release will create whitewater boating conditions downstream through Ralph Stover State Park near Pipersville from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Most of the whitewater enthusiasts who converge to run the raised stream will launch at Ralph Stover for a four-mile run to the Delaware River at Point Pleasant.

Suggested hours for viewing the release and boating activity are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Ralph Stover.

DCNR reminds boaters that the release creates technical whitewater with Class 3 and 4 rapids that require boating skills. They should be aware of and abide by the safety code of the American Whitewater Affiliation, wear appropriate personal flotation devices, take appropriate precautions to prevent hypothermia, and use only craft designed for that type of water. 

The agency does a similar release the third weekend of March.

For more information, contact Nockamixon State Park at 215-529-7300.


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Beautiful Pennsylvania: Waterfalls and fall leaves on Northkill Creek

Sun, 29 Oct 2017 10:00:00 UTC

2017-10-29T10:04:13Z

One of the highest quality streams in Berks County, the Northkill Creek near Shartlesville is designated an exceptional value stream and a wild trout stream. Watch video

The Northkill Creek, one of the highest quality streams in Berks County, rises from the side of the Blue Mountain northwest of Shartlesville and descends sharply through a series of small waterfalls.

From its source on State Game Lands 110 south to Shartlesville, the creek is designated an exceptional value stream by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission lists the Northkill as a wild trout stream. Most of the small pools of the headwaters are home to native brook trout.

The creek flows nearly 11 miles south to its confluence with Little Northkill Creek at Bernville and then with Tulpehocken Creek just a bit farther south. In addition to the Little Northkill, major tributaries include Mollhead and Wolf creeks.

A small group of Amish families established a settlement along Northkill Creek at the base of the Blue Mountain in 1736. Family names included Glick, Hartzler, Hetzler, Hostetler, Kauffman, Miller and Jug. After a band of Lenape and Shawnee attached the homestead of Jacob Hochstetler, killed his wife and two children, and took Jacob and two other sons into captivity, the other families fled east and south away from the frontier. Although some returned after the end of the French and Indian War, the settlement eventually was abandoned for good.

(image) Click here for previous installments in the Beautiful Pennsylvania series.


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Why is the full moon of November an almost-supermoon?

Thu, 26 Oct 2017 15:00:00 UTC

2017-10-26T15:05:01Z

The next full moon arrives Saturday, November 4; 1:22 a.m. to be precise.

While the full moon on Saturday, November 4, will be the second-closest full moon to Earth this year, it will not be a supermoon.

It will miss the mark by one day. A supermoon occurs when the full moon comes as the moon reaches perigee, which is its closest distance to Earth. Perigee in November will arrive on Sunday, November 5.

The full moon in November will be an almost-supermoon. While the moon will be at a perigee of 224,587 miles from Earth at 7:10 p.m. November 5, it will be 226,179 miles from Earth when it's full at 1:22 a.m. November 4.

However, some measures name a full moon a supermoon if it occurs when the moon is at 90 percent or greater of perigee. By that definition, the November 4 full moon is a supermoon.

Supermoon is not a scientifically recognized term by the International Astronomical Union, which is the group that names and defines things astronomical.

A full supermoon will appear 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than a full moon at apogee, which is the point in the moon's orbit farthest from Earth. The moon's orbit around Earth is elliptical, with perigee about 30,000 miles closer to Earth than apogee,

Super or not, the full moon November 4 will be the Beaver Moon. Algonquin tribes knew it as such because it was time to set traps for beavers to obtain some new furs before the waters froze over.

The November full moon also is known as the Frost Moon, generally arriving after the first frost of fall, during the frost season and before snow settles across the landscape.

Here's the details of full moon names throughout the year.


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Lizards of Pennsylvania: Celebrate National Reptile Awareness Day

Sat, 21 Oct 2017 10:00:00 UTC

2017-10-21T10:03:45Z

Pennsylvania is home to four species of lizard, 14 species of turtles and 21 species of snakes. They are the reptiles of Pennsylvania. Although even the national websites and databases of national day observances can't tell us why, National Reptile Awareness Day is celebrated annually on October 21, which is today. According to Reptiles Magazine, on October 21, "reptile fanatics have a day that they can celebrate and share their passion; a chance to educate others who may not know about these amazing creatures called reptiles, and the habitat loss and threat of extinction that faces so many reptile species." In its report, "Reptiles and Amphibians - Threats and Concerns," the National Park Service noted that "declines in amphibian and reptile populations have been and are being observed. Herpetofauna across the globe face threats from both known and unknown sources." The NPS pointed to habitat loss and degradation, direct persecution, disease, invasive species, chemical contamination, ultraviolet radiation, drought and illegal collecting as the primary causes of reptile decline. The report also suggested that climate change is impacting reptile species. Reptiles are vertebrates, which means they have internal skeletons. They have dry, scaly skin; claws; and lungs. They are ectotherms, which means their body temperature varies with the temperature of their environment. They lay hand-shelled eggs or give birth to live young. There are about 9,500 species of reptile worldwide. In Pennsylvania, there are 21 native species of snakes, 14 species of turtles and four species of lizards. Earlier this year, PennLive profiled the snakes and turtles of Pennsylvania. Links to those articles are included at the bottom of this post. To complete the picture, for National Reptile Awareness, here's a look at the four lizards that are native to Pennsylvania. Northern fence lizardContributed photo  The northern fence lizard (Sceloporus undulatus hyacinthinus) is part of a group commonly known as spiny lizards. It grows to 4-7 inches in length, and spends much of its time in the branches of trees. Insects, and sometimes snails, make up the diet of the northern fence lizard. The species is found in open woodlands across the southern two-thirds of Pennsylvania. Northern coal skinkContributed photo  The northern coal skink (Eumeces anthracinus anthracinus) grows to about 5-7 inches. It occurs in small, scattered populations in northcentral, northwestern and southwestern Pennsylvania, primarily in damp woodlands, particularly in areas with abundant leaf litter and loose stones. Its diet is entirely insects. Five-lined skink Contributed photo  The five-lined skink (Eumeces fasciatus) is about 5-7 inches as an adult. The five light stripes running the length of the lizard's brown to black body fade with the age of the animal. The species is found in about two-thirds of the state, south of a line drawn from Bucks County in the southeast to Crawford County in the northeast. It's generally found in humid woodlands, but occasionally shows up in gardens. The five-lined skink eats a more varied diet than many other skink species, including insects, insect larvae, spiders, worms, crustaceans and small mice. Broadhead skink.Contributed photo  The broadhead skink (Eumeces laticeps) is the largest lizard species native to Pennsylvania, with some adult reaching lengths of a foot or more. Is it found only in the southeastern corner of the state, which is the northern limit of its ranges. It is a highly arboreal species, generally found in moist woodlands. Its diet is mostly insects. For more about reptiles in Pennsylvania: Turtles of Pennsylvan[...]


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Creatures of the Night celebrates a wild Halloween at ZooAmerica

Fri, 20 Oct 2017 17:35:00 UTC

2017-10-20T17:35:51Z

ZooAmerica in Hershey adds Halloween-themed events, programs and exhibits to its normal array of more than 200 animals from across North America.




What is a hagfish and why is today its day?

Wed, 18 Oct 2017 18:02:35 UTC

2017-10-18T18:06:39Z

Since 2009, a small group of ocean conservationists have pushed the hagfish as the poster-child for the conservation of "ugly" species.

Hagfish are deep-sea, blue-gray, eel-like scavengers known for producing buckets of milky, fibrous slime through a hundred or so glands along their fin-less flanks.

The face is less than beautiful in its non-descript features: eyes that are simple, black spots; a ring of barbels around the mouth, which holds two pair of comb-shaped teeth that protracts and retracts; and a single nostril. Eyes are simple eyespots, not compound eyes that can resolve images.

The hagfish has a day because WhaleTimes created Hagfish Day - the third Wednesday in October - in 2009 "to celebrate the beauty of ugly."

Oregon-based WhaleTimes works to provide children with access to marine science and to create programs for marine-science organizations.

The hagfish was selected as the poster-child for "repugnant and slightly revolting animals" that nevertheless have a conservation need and story worth telling.

According to Ruth Musgrave, director of WhaleTimes, ""Sometimes it seems as if ecological causes are popularity contests that exclude the less attractive and less well-known, though equally vulnerable, creatures. There are species in peril that kids never hear about."

For celebration of Hagfish Day, WhaleTimes recommends making Hagfish Slime or sending a Hagfish Bouquet to a friend.

For more information, check out the WhaleTimes website.


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Are mountain lions on their way to Pennsylvania?

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 10:00:00 UTC

2017-10-17T11:50:03Z

Cougar Network tracks mountain lion expansion from the western U.S. to the east As the latest hoaxed photo of a mountain lion supposedly killed in Pennsylvania died a slow death on Facebook yesterday, the head of an organization tracking the eastern movements of the big cats was preparing a presentation for a Pennsylvania audience tonight. Michelle LaRue, executive director of the Cougar Network and a research ecologist at the University of Minnesota, will discuss the eastern expansion of cougars from their core range in the western U.S. at 7 p.m. in Moravian College's Haupert Union Building, Bethlehem. The Cougar Network, working with state agencies, have documented multiple mountain lions as far east as Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan in recent years, as well as one cat killed on a highway in Milford, Connecticut, in June 2011. Those cats for which DNA evidence was recovered had come east from South Dakota, part of the known, modern-day, U.S. mountain lion range. They are generally believed to be young cats roaming in search of new breeding territories to claim as their own. Although there was no evidence that the 2011 mountain lion ever set foot in Pennsylvania, DNA evidence confirmed that it had been both west and east of the state. It was recorded in Minnesota and Wisconsin in late 2009 and early 2010, and then died in Connecticut in 2011. With the Great Lakes in its way, the cat moved either north or south of the water, and the latter route would have seen it pass through at least some of Pennsylvania. While there have been no confirmed occurrences of mountain lions in Pennsylvania since the late 1800s, dozens of sincere reports of sightings and tracks and even more hoaxed reports emerge across the state each year. Reports generally go uninvestigated by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, which discounts them as mistaken identities, illegal pets escaped or released and outright fabrications. Many of those claiming to have encountered a cougar in Pennsylvania take that non-confirmation by the commission as an attack on their veracity and character. They regularly join the camp of those angrily claiming the commission has introduced the big cats back into Pennsylvania as a control measure against the state's huge deer population. No evidence has ever been produced to support those charges. (PennLive has investigated many reports of mountain lions, and other mystery creatures, and has found no confirming evidence. However, if you've seen a mountain lion, or other mystery creature, or evidence of either, in Pennsylvania, contact outdoor writer Marcus Schneck at mschneck@pennlive.com.) Mountain lions were once widespread across North America, but their range shrunk dramatically as they were pursued through unregulated hunting and by farmers aiming to protect their livestock, and moved off the landscape by habitat fragmentation. According to the commission, the last Pennsylvania mountain lion was killed in the late 1800s. The northeastern U.S. population is thought to have disappeared in the 1930s. The last native mountain lion known to be killed in Pennsylvania is on display in the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg.Marcus Schneck | mschneck@pennlive.com  The State Museum of Pennsylvania, in Harrisburg, displays a taxidermy mount of a mountain lion in glass case, with the notation, "This lion, found near Hawk Mountain in Berks County around 1871, is the last native mountain lion known to have been shot in Pennsylvania." More about mountain lions in Pennsylvania: Mountain lion killed in Connecticut was on the opposite side of Pennsyl[...]


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