November is Manatee Awareness Month; but no matter what time of year it is, manatees deserve to be celebrated. These amazing creatures fulfill a unique niche by serving as indicator species for ecosystems across the United States. Because of their reliance on the health of their habitat, manatees often act as a signal of their environment’s well-being. NOAA photo by Michael Buchanan.
Spring is coming early in 3/4 of national parks, according to a new study. Awesome? Not so much. As flowers bloom earlier every year, it’s disrupting the link between the wildflowers and the arrival of birds, bees, and butterflies that feed on and pollinate the flowers. In Shenandoah, an earlier spring is giving invasive plants a head start, and they’re displacing native wildflowers, leading to costly management issues.
Before the 1960s almost everything about living openly as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) person was illegal. New York City laws against homosexual activities were particularly harsh. The Stonewall Uprising on June 28, 1969 is a milestone in the quest for LGBT civil rights and provided momentum for a movement.
Vine Creek Ranch at Death Valley National Park. Steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.
This is Sparky, one tough bison at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa. In summer 2013, Sparky was struck by lightning on his shoulder hump.
While doing a survey of bison on the refuge in late July 2013, Wildlife Biologist Karen Viste-Sparkman noticed a bull standing by himself. On closer inspection, it was clear that he had been struck by lightning and burned over a large area of his body. “Sparky” was thin after the strike and wasn't expected to live long. Since a lightning strike is something that could happen to wild bison anywhere, the refuge let nature take its course. But two years later, Sparky is going strong!
Sparky is just one of the bison that call Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge home. The refuge was established to protect, restore, reconstruct and manage the diverse native ecosystems of tallgrass prairie, oak savanna and sedge meadow. As part of that mission, Neal Smith has a small herd of bison.