Ever since they were reintroduced to Wisconsin in 1995, I’ve wanted to see an elk in my home state. Last month, my dream was realized when I spotted three of them during a trip to the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. One evening, while driving slowly up and down the forest roads at dusk, my husband and I saw three elk crossing the pavement ahead of us.
There are many Native American stories regarding the stunning red, orange and white hoodoos in Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park. The Paiute Indians call the park Unka-timpe-wa-wince-pockich — which means “red rocks standing like men in a bowl-shaped canyon.” According to one of their myths, a long time ago a group of people moved into the area and made Coyote angry with their bad behavior. Coyote put a curse on the people, turning them to stone. The canyon’s hoodoos are these Legend People.
The white lemuroid possum may soon hold a brand-new world title: First species to go extinct due to climate change.
In December 2009, scientists reported that the possum is missing from its only home in the mountain forests of northern Queensland, Australia. It hasn’t been seen there in three years. A slight temperature rise (of only 1 or 2 degrees) is likely the reason: The possum typically dies in as few as four or five hours at 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you’re a nature enthusiast, chances are that somewhere in your home you display at least one image of a wild animal in its natural habitat: a framed photo hanging on your wall of a black wolf peeking through the leaves, a calendar on your desk with 12 glossy shots of snow leopards in rocky places or several conservation magazines — whose covers depict eagles or hummingbirds in flight — stacked on your coffee table.
National parks need to be killed.
It’s a shocking idea I came across recently. Ken Burns’s newest PBS series aside, they’re doing more harm than good to our places of natural grandeur and dwindling native eco-systems.
It usually starts with one plastic water bottle or one beer can, casually tossed aside, just visible in the underbrush off the side of the trail where I’m walking. My thoughts are soon torn away from nature and “What a beautiful place this is,” to “What an eyesore; what the heck was that person thinking?” And then, all of a sudden, what just a moment ago looked to me like a pristine wilderness transforms into a one-item garbage dump. All I can focus on is that one rusty can or bent bottle.
Credit: Wendy Worrall Redal
I can still feel the Arctic air, sharp and clean. I can see the late-afternoon sunset, a glowing band of gold, then scarlet, then deep rose, lingering on the horizon. I can hear the yip of the sled dogs, avid to dash across the snow. But what remains most vivid in my memories of the past week is the image of my daughter’s face, nose to nose with an enormous polar bear.
“After” photo: ship is gone; more highlights (see the “Before” photo below). ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
It looked perfect through the lens. I had the shot all lined up: blue mountain in the background, a rocky trail winding through the middle, and wildflowers in the foreground that made up two-thirds of the composition. I rotated the polarizing filter just enough so that I had a bright blue sky. Click.
Only about 400 Spirit Bears remain. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
It almost sounds mythical.
But there’s truly a place on the far western edge of our continent where a rare animal — a white black bear — can still hunt, fish, gather berries and raise cubs unbothered by humans. There are no roads here, no cut trails, few settlements and even fewer trappings of civilization. It’s a good place to be a bear.
Undoubtedly, one of the greatest thrills that comes from our nature travels is seeing wild animals in their native habitats. But as we eco-tourists are painfully aware, those goose-bump shivers experienced while witnessing a grizzly bear fishing for salmon or a wolf hunt in Yellowstone National Park could possibly be costing the animals too much.