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Wind Cave National Park: A most unusual cave and wildlife preserve

Wind Cave Entrance

Wind Cave Entrance

Fun Facts About Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Tom and Jesse Bingham are credited with the discovery of Wind Cave in 1881.

Exploration has revealed 87 miles of passageways to date, which makes Wind Cave the fifth largest cave system in the United States, and eighth in the world.

The Cave gets its name from the wind that blows through, which during March-August of 1985 was measured to be >75 mph (120 kph) is highest recorded measurement at Walk-In Entrance before revolving door was installed. The highest recorded measurement at the Natural Entance was 25 mph (40 kph). North Room 0.28-1.75 mph (.5-2.8 kph).

An average of 1,000,000 ft³ (28317 m³) of air from the cave is exchanged with the surface each hour.

The Park features the most boxwork of any known cave and the most complex 3D rectilinear maze cave (network maze).

The Park also features one of the most diverse mineralogical and speleothem assemblages and one of the largest barometric wind caves in the United States.

Boxwork - a rare rock formation, or "speleothem"

Boxwork - a rare rock formation, or "speleothem"

Other natural features of the Cave are helictite bushes, quartz rinds, logomites, hydromagnesite ballons, dogtooth and nailhead spar, quartz, christmas trees, button popcorn, sawtooth flowstone, gypsum luster, flowers, starbursts, and hair conulites.

Wind Cave is over 300 million years old, making it one of the oldest in the world. Besides extreme age, other features make Wind Cave unique. The cave is large and extremely complex, the 81 miles of known cave (1998) fit under one square mile of land. The boxwork is rare and found in few other caves. Wind Cave has undergone many geological changes and the processes continue.

The Cave’s boundaries are within a 1.1 by 1.3 mile rectangle (370.4 ha) on the surface.

The park was heavily exploited during it’s early days. Many features were removed, names carved on walls, and a lot of trash and outside debris was brought in.

On Jan 3, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill creating Wind Cave National Park. It was the seventh national park and the first one created to protect a cave. The parklands at that time were small and there were no bison, elk, or pronghorn. They came later as the park boundaries expanded.

In 1912, the American Bison Society was looking for a place to reestablish a bison herd. Because of the excellent prairie habitat around the park, a national game preserve was established bordering Wind Cave. It was managed by the U.S. Biological Survey. In 1913 and 1914, the animals began to arrive. Fourteen bison came from the New York Zoological Society, twenty-one elk arrived from Wyoming and thirteen pronghorn came from Alberta, Canada.

In July of 1935, the game preserve became part of Wind Cave National Park. During the early years of the preserve, the animals were kept in small enclosures. Eventually, it was realized that they needed more space. The bison and elk needed additional forage and the pronghorn needed room to escape from predators. With the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), fences within the park were removed. And in 1946, 16,341 additional acres were added, enlarging the park to 28,059 acres.

Aside from the Cave, the park is a nature preserve for bison and other fauna

Aside from the Cave, the park is a nature preserve for bison and other fauna

Serious exploration of the caves did not begin until 1956, and during 1963 to 1965 major additions to the known territory of Wind Cave were made.

In the 1970’s and 80’s, managers continued to focus on caring for the wildlife and rangeland by building an understanding of how the natural systems should function. The reintroduction of fire as a natural means to improve the range and to limit the expansion of the forest onto the prairie was researched. An active fire program was started, with the first prescribed fire occurring in 1972.

Exploration is still on going today (and the ranks of which cave is largest changes frequently).

Wind Cave National Park is open year round with visitation the highest in June, July and August and lowest in December, January and February.

The length of the surveyed cave is 135 miles (217.26 kilometers).

The deepest point surveyed are the underground lakes, which are 654 feet (199.3 m) below the highest point in the cave.

On the banks of Wind Cave's underground lake

On the banks of Wind Cave's underground lake

Not only does Wind Cave National Park protect the 87 miles of passageways below it, but is home to a host of Black Hills features including mountains, ponderosa forest, prairies, and the most miles of established, maintained, hiking trails of all of the National Park facilities located in South Dakota.

Wind Cave National Park by default is also an excellent jumping off point to see other Black Hills attractions like Custer State Park, Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, Jewel Cave National Monument, and the Crazy Horse Memorial.

Calcite Rafts, a thin layer of calcite stone, floats on the top of the lakes.  The unusual stone formation will sink when the surface tension of the water is broken.  These formations have been found in dry parts of the cave, adding to the evidence that the water levels in the Black Hills have rose and receded over the millennium, creating the numerous caves we can see today.

Wind Cave National Park also offers a wider variety of tours and programs for visitors than it’s smaller sibling to the west, Jewel Cave National Monument.

 

Special thanks to wind.cave.national-park.comoutdoorplaces.com and nps.gov

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The Turkey: Holiday Delicacy and One-time Proposed Symbol of the United States

A Broad Breasted Bronze tom (male turkey)

A Broad Breasted Bronze tom (male turkey)

Fun Facts About the Turkey

 

  • Wild turkeys in their natural habitat

    Wild turkeys in their natural habitat

    Turkeys originated in North and Central America.

  • Usually the turkeys are found in hardwood forests with grassy areas but they are capable of adapting themselves to different habitats.
  • Turkeys spend the night in trees.
  • You can easily see a turkey on a warm clear day or during light rain.
  • Turkeys fly to the ground at first light and feed until mid-morning. Feeding resumes in mid-afternoon.
  • Turkeys start gobbling before sunrise and generally continue through most of the morning.
  • The field of vision of wild turkey is so good that it is about 270 degrees.
  • The wild turkey has excellent hearing.
  • A turkey can run up to 20 mph

    A turkey can run up to 20 mph

    A spooked turkey can run at speed up to 20 miles per hour.

  • A wild turkey can run at speed of up to 25 miles per hour.
  • A wild turkey can fly for short distances at up to 55 miles per hour.
  • Domesticated turkeys or the farm-raised turkeys cannot fly.
  • Turkeys were one of the first birds to be domesticated in the America.
  • The male turkeys are called ‘tom’, the female turkeys are called ‘hen’ and the baby turkeys are called ‘poult’.
  • The male turkeys gobble whereas female turkeys make a clicking noise.
  • The male turkeys gobble to attract the female turkeys for mating. The gobble is a seasonal call made during the spring and fall.
  • A mature turkey generally has around 3,500 feathers. The Apache Indians considered the turkey timid and wouldn’t eat it or use its feathers on their arrows.
  • Roast turkey is typically consumed in America during Thanksgiving and/or Christmas

    Roast turkey is typically consumed in America during Thanksgiving and/or Christmas

    According to an estimate, during the Thanksgiving holiday more than 45 million turkeys are cooked and around 525 million pounds of turkey is eaten.

  • About ninety-five percent of American families eat turkey on the Thanksgiving Day whereas fifty percent eat turkey on Christmas holiday.
  • Almost fifty percent of Americans eat turkey at least once every 2 weeks.
  • According to the National Turkey Federation about twenty-four percent of Americans purchase fresh turkeys for Thanksgiving and seventy percent purchase frozen turkeys.
  • North Carolina is the number one producer of turkeys. It produces around 61 million turkeys per year. Minnesota and Arkansas are second and third number producers of turkey.
  • The part of the turkey that is used in a good luck ritual is known as the ‘wishbone’.
  • The red fleshy growth from the base of the beak that hangs down over the beak is called ‘snood’. It is very long on male turkeys.

 

Special thanks to www.thanksgivingnovember.com

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The Giant Panda: China’s Endangered and Solitary Creatures

The Giant Panda

The Giant Panda

Fun Facts About the Giant Panda

Order: Carnivora

Family: Ursidae

Genus and species: Ailuropoda melanoleuca

Geographic distribution

Giant pandas live in a few mountain ranges in central China, in Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces. They once lived in lowland areas, but farming, forest clearing, and other development now restrict giant pandas to the mountains.

Habitat

Giant pandas live in broadleaf and coniferous forests with a dense understory of bamboo, at elevations between 5,000 and 10,000 feet. Torrential rains or dense mist throughout the year characterizes these forests, often shrouded in heavy clouds.

Physical description

The giant panda, a black-and-white bear, has a body typical of bears. It has black fur on ears, eye patches, muzzle, legs, and shoulders. The rest of the animal’s coat is white. Although scientists do not know why these unusual bears are black and white, some speculate that the bold coloring provides effective camouflage into their shade-dappled snowy and rocky surroundings. The panda’s thick, wooly coat keeps it warm in the cool forests of its habitat. Giant pandas have large molar teeth and strong jaw muscles for crushing tough bamboo. Many people find these chunky, lumbering animals to be cute, but giant pandas can be as dangerous as any other bear.

Size

About the size of an American black bear, giant pandas stand between two and three feet tall at the shoulder (on all four legs), and reach four to six feet long. Males are larger than females, weighing up to 250 pounds in the wild. Females rarely reach 220 pounds.

Status

The giant panda is listed as endangered in the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN’s) Red List of Threatened Animals. There are about 1,600 left in the wild. Nearly 300 pandas live in zoos and breeding centers around the world, mostly in China.

Life span

Scientists aren’t sure how long giant pandas live in the wild, but they are sure it’s shorter than lifespans in zoos. Chinese scientists have reported zoo pandas as old as 35. The National Zoo’s Hsing-Hsing died at age 28 in 1999.

Diet

A wild giant panda’s diet is almost exclusively (99 percent) bamboo. The balance consists of other grasses and occasional small rodents or musk deer fawns. In zoos, giant pandas eat bamboo, sugar cane, rice gruel, a special high-fiber biscuit, carrots, apples, and sweet potatoes.

Social structure

Adult giant pandas are generally solitary, but they do communicate periodically through scent marks, calls, and occasional meetings. Offspring stay with their mothers from one and a half to three years.

The giant panda has lived in bamboo forests for several million years. It is a highly specialized animal, with unique adaptations.

Feeding adaptations

Millions of Zoo visitors enjoy watching giant pandas eat. A panda usually eats while sitting upright, in a pose that resembles how humans sit on the floor. This posture leaves the front paws free to grasp bamboo stems with the help of a “pseudo thumb,” formed by an elongated and enlarged wrist bone covered with a fleshy pad of skin. The panda also uses its powerful jaws and strong teeth to crush the tough, fibrous bamboo into bits.

A giant panda’s digestive system is more similar to that of a carnivore than an herbivore, and so much of what is eaten is passed as waste. To make up for the inefficient digestion, a panda needs to consume a comparatively large amount of food—from 20 to 40 pounds of bamboo

each day—to get all its nutrients. To obtain this much food means that a panda must spend 10 to 16 hours a day foraging and eating. The rest of its time is spent mostly sleeping and resting.

Water

Wild giant pandas get much of the water they need from bamboo, a grass whose contents are about half water. (New bamboo shoots are about 90 percent water.) But giant pandas need more water than what bamboo alone can provide. So almost every day wild pandas also drink fresh water from rivers and streams that are fed by melting snowfall in high mountain peaks. The temperate forests of central China where giant pandas live receive about 30 to 40 inches of rain and snow a year. Charleston, West Virginia—a city with a similar temperate climate—receives about the same amount of rain and snow: an average of 42.5 inches a year.

Reproduction

Giant pandas reach breeding maturity between four and eight years of age. They may be reproductive until about age 20. Female pandas ovulate only once a year, in the spring. A short period of two to three days around ovulation is the only time she is able to conceive. Calls and scents draw males and females to each other.

Female giant pandas give birth between 95 and 160 days after mating. Although females may give birth to two young, usually only one survives. Giant panda cubs may stay with their mothers for up to three years before striking out on their own. This means a wild female, at best, can produce young only every other year; in her lifetime, she may successfully raise only five to eight cubs. The giant pandas’ naturally slow breeding rate prevents a population from recovering quickly from illegal hunting, habitat loss, and other human-related causes of mortality.

Development

At birth, the cub is helpless, and it takes considerable effort on the mother’s part to raise it. A newborn cub weighs three to five ounces and is about the size of a stick of butter. Pink, hairless, and blind, the cub is 1/900th the size of its mother. Except for a marsupial (such as the kangaroo or opossum), a giant panda baby is the smallest mammal newborn relative to its mother’s size.

Cubs do not open their eyes until they are six to eight weeks of age and are not mobile until three months. A cub may nurse for eight to nine months. A cub is nutritionally weaned at one year, but not socially weaned for up to two years.

Lifestyle

A wild panda spends much of its day resting, feeding, and seeking food. Unlike other bears from temperate climates, giant pandas do not hibernate. Until recently, scientists thought giant pandas spent most of their lives alone, with males and females meeting only during the breeding season. Recent studies paint a different picture, in which small groups of pandas share a large territory and sometimes meet outside the breeding season. Much remains to be learned about the secret lives of these elusive animals, and every new discovery helps scientists in their battle to save this species.

 

Special thanks to nationalzoo.si.edu

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