While enjoying the great outdoors, it is important to respect nature. “Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics focuses on educating people—instead of costly restoration programs or access restrictions—as the most effective and least resource-intensive solution to land protection.” The organization does many things in order to educate the public on how to “Leave No Trace”. The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace is a great base to learn how to lessen one's impact and preserve the land. The Leave No Trace Organization understands that situations change and the Principals need to be revised in all situations. Regardless, here are the Principals, and ways you can Leave No Trace:
Please visit the Leave No Trace Website for additional information:
Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) are a butterfly species and an important pollinator throughout America and Mexico. Here in Nevada we have the Western Monarch. The monarch life cycle “metamorphosis” starts as an egg; they lay their eggs on milkweed plants. The egg hatches into a larva also known as a caterpillar they feed on the milkweed which contains cardiac glycosides. This is poisonous to birds and other animals but not the monarchs. The butterfly lara molts into a chrysalis; their body hardens and they enter the pupa stage (moth larvae construct cocoons an external structure to protect their pupa body), after almost a month in the chrysalis stage an adult monarch butterfly emerges. Because the adult butterfly ate milkweed as a larva they are poisonous to birds and other predatory animals. They are bright orange and black/brown with white spots the bright color warns off predators indicating they are poisonous. Monarchs migrate south in the winter and north in the summer, one generation goes south the next goes north and this migration pattern continues. Western Monarchs migration is currently threatened according to Xerces Society for invertebrate conservation “In both 2018 and 2019, volunteers counted under 30,000 monarchs—less than 1% of the population’s historic size.” A few reasons for the decline in monarch populations is due to loss of habitat, degradation of their habitats, pesticides, and climate change.
The five key steps to recovering the western monarch population in the short term are from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation:
1. Protect and manage California overwintering sites
2. Restore breeding and migratory habitat in California
3. Protect monarchs and their habitat from pesticides
4. Protect, manage, and restore summer breeding and fall migration monarch habitat outside of California
5. Answer key research questions about how to best aid western monarch recovery
If you’ve ever hiked the Jones-Whites Creek Loop to Church’s Pond, you may have wondered why it’s called Church’s Pond. James Edward Church came to Nevada from Michigan in 1892 to teach Latin, German, Literature, and Art Appreciation at the University of Nevada, Reno. In our neck of the woods, he is most famous for being the first Euro-American to climb Mt. Rose in the winter, which he completed in 1895. After travelling to complete graduate studies, he returned to Reno and helped start the Mount Rose Meteorological Observatory in 1906. Through this endeavor, he made regular winter ascents of Mt. Rose to gather data about winter conditions and snowpack, and eventually developed the Mt. Rose snow sampler in 1909 to measure the water content of snow, a system that is still used today. In the 1920s and 1930s, he traveled internationally to consult on snow sampling and measuring techniques, gaining an international reputation as an expert in snow science. In addition to this important invention, Church also contributed to the cultural development of Reno through founding the Nevada Art Gallery (now the Nevada Museum of Art). Dr. Church is one of the many visionaries and innovators who has played a role in making Reno the fascinating place it is today.
Did you know black bears are not always black? They often appear in different shades of cinnamon and brown. Their large ears, long snout, and round head help biologists distinguish them from brown bears and grizzlies. There are 16 subspecies of black bears in North America, with 10,000-15,000 individuals of the California Black Bear, Ursus americanus californiensis, residing in the Sierra Nevadas. Black bears primarily forage omnivorously on grass, berries, blossoms, grubs, fish, and small mammals at night, but occasionally feed during the day, which is when they run into problems with humans. Car strikes and bear-human conflicts, because of unprotected trash and pet food, have caused the deaths of about 80 black bears each year between Nevada and California. When bears are involved in a conflict with a human or human property, they are removed or killed to prevent public safety concerns. However, bear complaints have increased because more people are living in bear habitat. These bears are difficult to deter as they have become increasingly habituated to getting food from garbage cans. Efforts to diminish habituation have been led by the Nevada Department of Wildlife, who first trap the bear, release it in the same area, then deter the bear with pepper spray or rubber bullets. In the springtime, bears come out of hibernation hungry and search for whatever food they can find. In many cases, this is human trash out in the open, and this is the season when most conflicts occur. Remember to keep your trash contained and locked, get bear-proof containers, and monitor your pets, fruit trees, and bird feeders. If you do find a bear in your neighborhood or backyard, call the NDOW Bear Hotline at 775-688-BEAR.
If you’ve ever stopped by the Visitor Center, you’ve probably seen this structure outside. This is our Insect Hotel, which was complete in 2015 through the efforts of several volunteers, community members, and government organizations, and funded through a grant from the Reno Sparks Association of Realtors. The purpose of an Insect Hotel is to provide habitat for native pollinators to build nests and reproduce. Unlike European honeybees and their iconic beehives, many native bees are solitary and build small nests in hollowed out stems, underground, or in trees. Native bees, flies, beetles, and other pollinators are important for our native plants, because some flowers have evolved to only be pollinated by one species of native pollinator or group of pollinators. The Insect Hotel was built right in the middle of our Upper Pollinator Garden to provide the plants with pollinators and the pollinators with food, and so visitors can see what native pollinator habitat looks like. If you’re interested in providing habitat for native pollinators in your own yard, there are many easy, inexpensive ways to do this. Check out these links for more information:
Recycled Insect Hotel
Wooden Insect Hotel
One important thing to remember about these habitat structures is they require maintenance after construction, so if you build one, make sure to check on it regularly, replace habitat materials, and understand the timing of the insects you are helping.
If you’ve been out and about recently you’ve probably noticed that the lizards and snakes are back out. Reptiles are ectotherms, which means they get body heat (aka energy) from outside forces, like the sun. Unlike plants, they can’t make their food out of this sunlight, but the heat activates their bodies to process food into energy and nutrients. That’s why you see lizards sitting on rocks in the sun; they’re getting ready for the day! In contrast, humans, and all other mammals, are endotherms, which means we use our food to create body heat. Because of this, mammals can still be active in the winter when it’s very cold and there is little heat from the sun available, but reptiles don’t do very well. When it’s cold, reptiles are very slow and therefore vulnerable to predators and have a hard time catching prey. So, most reptiles spend the winter in burrows underground. Although many reptiles are solitary creatures, the winter is a time when they group up and share burrows, generally all of the same species. Similar to hibernation, they slow their metabolism to almost nothing, just enough to keep them alive. When it warms up, they will exit their burrows and begin another season of slithering, scurrying, and sunning.
This blog is managed by the staff and volunteers of Galena Creek Visitor Center. We write about parts of the natural world that we find fascinating and want to teach others about, as well as keeping you updated on the Visitor Center and park. If you want to learn more, please sign up for our monthly newsletter, where we share upcoming events, updates on the ecology of the park, and highlights from each month.