Archive for the ‘Flora and Fauna’ Category

There is a certain challenge to a week in the wilderness. Especially when you are with a group of teenagers and it is their first time camping.  I wanted the trip to be a great one. It ended up being great, but probably in hindsight and because of the challenges. We experienced the extremes of weather during our 5 day trip. It’s a challenge to have a lazy summer’s day one day and a chilly rainstorm the next, which requires all your wool sweaters and socks.  Nevertheless we saw some amazing wildlife and plants, braved the rain and wind, and the youth proved they could work harder and do more than they thought possible…

I’d like to share some photos from our trip with Central Christian High School of Kidron, Ohio.  Photos are by Michael Amstutz, Greg Summers and Susan Mershon. Our route was Lake One to Snowbank Lake.

Trip Participants at Cattyman Falls:  Rear: Greg Summers (WW staff), Peter Dutcher, Aleks Hazlett, Malesa Whitmer.
Front: Michael Amstutz (Central Christian trip organizer), Seth Pedrozo, Raina Workman, Susan Mershon (WW staff), Annie Durbin.

Some highlights:

We explored the lakeshore near our campsites, discovering crawdads and tadpoles in the water and dragonfly carapaces perched on rocks. Dragonflies start their lives as nymphs underwater, then when the time comes, crawl out onto rocks and wait for transformation. The nymph carapace splits open in the back like an ill fitting suit, and then out comes the dragonfly. We saw dozens of these carapaces at one campsite.

As mayflies came out at sunset to do a lazy dance above the calm water, we stoked a fire and settled down to ponder what the week might bring.

We saw two huge snapping turtles and one painted turtle during the course of one day, all up on shore, presumably to lay eggs. In another location, we saw eggshells and scuffed out holes where baby turtles had recently hatched.

A bog yielded carnivorous pitcher plants with gaudy magenta flowers, as well as tall purple irises.

We met a loon mother sitting on a tiny island of twigs in a lake.

“I’ve learned that I can do anything in Christ,” one youth exclaimed at week’s end, reflecting on the challenge of portaging and of paddling in wind. Another mentioned, “I don’t see why it would be such a bad thing to be an environmentalist!”  A young woman shared, “I’m trying to recycle more at home.”

And so the wilderness changes us in beautiful ways…

Post by Susan Mershon, Wilderness Wind trip leader. Hometown: Portland, OR via Boston, MA.


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Halloween is starting to become a significant visual holiday around town. Growing up, Halloween was an opportunity to get dressed up, go visit the neighbors, tell jokes and be grateful for the apples or the freshly-made peanut butter popcorn that came your way. People left their lights on for you then as they do now.

Some of that is still happening today, but along with it you can see orange lights lining the edges of houses, a human-sized Scooby Do in the yard to greet you and large bats swooping down from corners of porches. Bats, however, are one of those creatures we, especially those who visit the North Woods, should be very thankful for.

This past summer, Greg Thiessen did some research about bats.  Keep reading to find out more about bats and how they are helpful. Maybe next Halloween you will be inspired to put up a bat house!

Ecological Value

Most bats eat only insects, while others eat fruit. A single bat can eat up to 600 mosquitoes in an hour. The 20 million free-tailed bats from Bracken Cave in Central Texas, eat a quarter of a million pounds of insects in a single night. So from that aspect, the bat can easily be called the protector of human sanity. Bats are also very important flower pollinators. Throughout the tropics the seed dispersal and pollination activities of bats are vital to the survival of rain forests. Many varieties of the world’s most economical plants also rely on the bats for pollination, such as bananas, breadfruit, avocados, dates, figs, peaches, and mangoes. Studies of bats has helped contribute to the development of navigational aids for the blind, vaccine production, and drug testing, as well as a better understanding of low-temperature surgical procedures.


Bats have been around for approximately 50 million years.  In contrast, science dates the “arrival” of the human species at 200,000 years ago.  Like humans, bats give birth to poorly developed young and nurse them with milk. The bat is very unique in that it is the only mammal that can truly fly. It’s “wings” are really just a thin skin membrane connected between its four fingers. The thumb hangs free. There about 1,100 different bat species worldwide, with seven species inhabiting the canoe country. The majority of species inhabit the tropical forests.  Of all mammal species, bats make up a quarter of them.


Bats communicate and navigate by echolocation. This means that bats emit a high-frequency sound that travels out around them. When the sound wave hits an object, or insect, it will bounce back to the bat telling them about their surroundings. Their unique echolocation system is estimated to be literally billions of times more efficient than any similar system developed by humans.


1.     Bats are not blind. Some even have excellent vision, so you don’t have to fear them becoming entangled in your hair.

2.   Many also mistake bats as disease infested rabies carriers. While bats can contract rabies, this misconception seems to stem from the fact that they can survive longer without showing symptoms. Many people became entrenched in the belief that large bat populations are rabies and disease reservoirs, ready to infect us all. In actuality, less than half of 1 percent of bats contract rabies and those that do seldom become aggressive.

3.   The other disease that humans can contract from bats, histoplasmosis, is rare. It is caused by a fungus that prefers soil enriched by bird or bat droppings. Human infection occurs from breathing dust containing contaminated spores. In wide areas of the Americas, Europe, Africa, and the Far East up to 80 percent of the human population has been exposed.

4.    The last possible danger, parasites, carried by bats has been exceedingly exaggerated. Bat parasites are highly specific, so once separated from their host they soon die.

Boundary Water Species

Little Brown Bat Big Brown Bat Northern Myotis Silver-Haired Bat Red Bat Hoary Bat
Wingspan & Flight Characteristics 8-10 inches low zig-zag flight 12-14 inches strong, steady flight 10-12 inches 10-12 ½ inches slow and low 11-13 inches long pointy wings 14-16 inches long narrow wings
Color uniformly glossy brown uniformly glossy brown dark dull brown long pelage, frosted with silvery white bright reddish/ orange to chestnut brown with silver tips
Favorite Food moths, beetles, mosquitoes true bugs and beetles variety of insects insects hatching from streams moths, beetles, and flies moths, also beetles, bugs, and flies
Hunting Times late dusk active all night dusk and dawn early in evening early in evening active all night
Hunting Pattern usually over water over water and wooded clearings over trees and ponds zig-zag flight over streams near streams and woodlots wooded areas
Daytime Roost caves, buildings, hollow trees caves, buildings, hollow trees caves, buildings, hollow trees roosts singly in hollow trees roosts in trees, hangs by one foot roosts singly in tall woody vegetation
Solitary/ Communal maternity colonies of several thousand maternity colonies maternity colonies up to 30 solitary solitary solitary, except in migration
Migrate/ Hibernate hibernates hibernates hibernates migrates migrates migrates
Winter Home caves and mines buildings/ caves just above 0°C migrates south to hibernate in small groups far south as NE Mexico moves south in loose groups Mexico, sexes migrate separately
Number of Young 1 (rarely 2) 2 born June/early July 1 young 2 born June/early July 1-5, usually 3-4 2 young in May/ early July
The Giant Golden-Crowned Flying Fox is the largest bat in the world with a wingspan of up to 5 ft. Don’t worry, it lives in the Philippines.

Wilderness Wind Bat Boxes

We have several bat boxes located around camp. They can be found on the eastern walls of The Rookery and Garage. Per bat preferences, they face east to catch the morning sun and are located 10-15 feet off the ground. To help them roost, the inside surfaces must be rough or horizontally grained to help them hang on upside down. The lumber must also be untreated, since some wood is impregnated with wood preservatives and insecticides. Bats are very sensitive to pesticides and can easily be harmed by them. Lastly, the bat house must be well sealed to prevent air and heat loss, which may result in an unsuitable home for them.

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