Forests Don’t Need to Disappear

We often hear about how the Amazon rain forests are being decimated. They are cut and burned to make way for agricultural crops, though the soil is thin and poor. It is easy to start getting the impression that the forests around the world are dwindling, though the Amazon isn’t close to being the only forest in the world. The truth is actually a little different from what most people are led to believe. There are places where forests have indeed been destroyed. For instance, the area that is now Iran and Iraq was once a place dominated by vast forests. Most of the forests have been destroyed now, leaving the land to be taken over by desert. Without the trees, the land has also become salty, due to irrigation practices, and in some areas they can’t even grow rye anymore. Rye is one of the hardiest grains known to man. With some knowledge, effort and time, the land where forests are gone can be reforested, though. Israel has and is doing exactly that. They are a world leader in reclaiming land that was once barren and waste. Their techniques are innovative and they work. The number of trees and the amount of food crops the Israelis produce is phenomenal. The land has been reclaimed, the salt has been removed and fruit trees and other crops are grown in places where very little would grow, only one or two hundred years ago. It isn’t fair to say that the forests Continue Reading →

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The Often-Elusive Ring Tailed Cat

This is another case where the common name of an animal is quite inaccurate. Ring tailed cats aren’t felines. This can be seen from the scientific name: Bassariscus astutus. However, they are common in many states in the United States, particularly in the west, and they are interesting little creatures. Ring Tailed Cat Range Ring tails have been sighted in Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas and even in Mexico. They have also been seen in Ohio. Part of the reason they are widespread could be that these animals seem to be just about as comfortable in conifer and scrub forests as they are in canyons, desert locations, rocky areas, and even along rivers, lake shores, streams and in marshy areas. They also live from lowlands to nearly the tree line in mountainous areas like the Cascade Mountains. Ring tailed cats in general These creatures have also been called cacomistles, to which they are closely related, although they aren’t cacomistles. True cacomistles belong to the same genus, Bassariscus, though. The genus name means ‘cunning little fox’, even though it also isn’t a member of the vulpine or fox family. They are actually members of the raccoon, or Procyonidae, family. Since the mid 1980s, this species has also been the state mammal of the state of Arizona. Appearance and description of ring tailed cats In appearance, these are slender animals and somewhat shaped like a cat. Their coloration is similar to that of a Continue Reading →

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Montana Tree Profiles – Pussy Willows

It is really a misnomer to speak of pussy willows as if they are a single species, though it does show the reason that the scientific name is important. In the mountains of Montana, the pussy willows we have are Salix discolor, sometimes called the American pussy willow. Almost any species of willow that is small can, has been or is called pussy willows. Because of that, there are pussy willows in North and South America, Europe and Asia. They just aren’t usually the same species. Still, they are similar in appearance and I’m focusing here on Salix discolor. Pussy willow in general This pussy willow is found throughout the northern half of the United States and into Canada, and from coast to coast. While it is usually classified as a tree and it can grow up to 25 feet tall, it more often is much smaller. Pussy willows are extremely hardy (withstanding temperatures well below zero), fast growing and they require a large amount of water for growth, so they are commonly found on the banks of streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. That makes them numerous in the mountains of Montana. In fact, willow branches or ‘switches’ are often used by campers for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows in camp. Part of the reason is that the wood is soft and flexible when it is green, so the branches don’t break easily, unless they are dry. Appearance Pussy willows have leaves that are up to four or five inches Continue Reading →

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Getting to Know the Mule Deer

Though mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) are relatively well known in North America, this is a North American species so people living in countries other than Canada, United States and Mexico might be unacquainted with the animal. It is a deer that mostly lives in the western part of North America, so people in the east may also not know this species, though they may have seen many white tailed deer, which are related. General characteristics of mule deer Fully grown, this is often a large animal. It can get nearly four feet tall at the shoulder, nearly seven feet long from the snout to the tail and may weigh as much as 325 pounds, with large bucks sometimes exceeding this. The color varies from rich brown in the summer to grayish brown in the winter. The underside is pale and both the does (females) and bucks (males) have light throat and rump patches. The tail is white except for a black tip. Mule deer are named for their ears, which are large like those of a mule. Only the bucks have antlers, which are not true horns and are shed every year. Unlike white tails, which have antler tines that stem upward from the forward facing central tine, a mule deer has antlers that branch directly upward, first outward and then inward, and it isn’t uncommon for the smaller tines to have even more tines. Mule deer behavior Mule deer have a separation of the sexes during most of the Continue Reading →

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