Archive | January, 2017

Update: ENP/Trails Classroom Solar Project – Phase One is Complete!

31 Jan

January 20, 2017.

Today a great milestone was achieved.

It had nothing to do with events happening in Washington DC and everything to do with the celebration and support of a long and prosperous future for all people and all creatures everywhere on planet Earth.

It was a celebration of the children and the students – the leaders of tomorrow – who will mold and shape our country and our planet’s future into one that supports all of our needs through a strong connection to nature, balanced with and connected to the findings and tools of science.  These peer reviewed tools will need to be wielded carefully and thoughtfully, through the teamwork of dedicated, caring, thinking individuals, organizations, communities, and the like-minded forward thinking future policy makers that work to support them for the betterment of all.

It was a celebration of life, of clean air, clean water, a healthy earth and the support of wild places and wildlife though the protection of our life-giving environment.

It was a celebration of working toward a more stable climate through the promotion and demonstration of the renewable energy innovations and innovators working toward transitioning our society away from a dirty, toxic, fossil fuel based energy and transportation systems, to a clean, sustainable, domestically produced renewable energy and electrically driven transportation system future for us all.

It was a celebration of science, of human ingenuity, and of the countless American and international workers, scientists, innovators, entrepreneurs, laborers, naturalists, educators, artists, activists, business leaders, enlightened individuals, and forward thinking leaders working tirelessly to make positive change happen for us all. A good and lasting change that supports the continued protection of our wild places, the creatures that live there, and the essential environmental, renewable energy, and EV technologies and policies that will form the backbone of a healthy and prosperous future for us all – no matter what your species may be.

Today was 100% AWESOME!

Today, my Environmental Science and Natural Resource Management (NRM) students and I completed the primary construction on our classroom’s 5.3kW off-grid solar array!

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The students and I sliding the last solar module into place! 

Watch the video of the array’s construction below!

Now that the classroom array is complete, we only have a few more tasks to complete and a few more components to source* before the array goes online!  At that time we will begin producing a large percentage of the classroom’s electricity needs from on-site produced renewable solar electricity!  *If you are interested in assisting us with the acquisition of the final components please visit our donate page.

Once fully realized and operational, this technological achievement will, above all else, serve to educate and inspire the young minds of today on the possibilities of tomorrow – and that is an accomplishment to be proud of.

On top of that grand achievement this solar power station will-

  1. Dramatically lower our reliance on energy produced by the burning of always toxic and dirty,  life and atmosphere, killing coal and other fossil fuels that generate the majority of the electricity in our area.
  2. It will drastically lower the building’s power costs.
  3. On top of all that awesome it will also solar charge the ENP/Trails Science 100% electric Nissan Leaf EV outreach vehicle making it truly zero emission and free to fuel!

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The Leaf charging up at possibly the planet’s only chicken coop EV charging station while the chickens look on.  This station will soon be solar powered making free solar fuel for the vehicle! 

Old Dreams and a New Hope

Today the old dreams of a starry-eyed geeky child of the 70’s and 80’s, and the new hopes of a more seasoned, science minded man of today, took a great leap toward becoming a grand reality.

The grand reality of this project is the manifestation of a childhood dream that I have carried with me since way back in 1981 when I was only 12 years old.  This dream was to one day produce electricity for my home, and fuel for my vehicle – with clean energy from the sun so that my actions (my carbon footprint) would not harm the very earth, environment, and wild creatures that I love so much and rely on for my very existence.

You may ask why a 12 year old was thinking about such things?  Well, to understand that you need some background.  Today I am a self proclaimed and very proud nerd, geek, dweeb, whatever you want to call it but back in 1981 I was anything but proud of my nerdish attributes.  I was the skinny little kid in school that was picked on and harassed by the insecure “jocks” and looked down upon by the popular girls.  My escape from the constant torture was immersion in nature and animals for they were not judgmental and did not care what I looked like – they accepted me as I was.  I soon became the kid that everyone in the neighborhood brought injured bunnies, turtles, and orphaned birds to for care.  I was the kid who would go exploring for hours alone in the forest and fields after school rather than play a sport.  I was most happy in the woods, within my own thoughts, a fishing line in the water, and a frog in my pocket. I could not have cared any less about the ladder climbing status and power junkies and talking heads on the news or in the halls at school. Being surrounded by nature and wild creatures fueled my great curiosity in how nature worked. I was captivated by the amazing things I found in the forests, fields, and creeks, the mysterious biological and ecological connections and interrelationships that made things work, and by the wonderful mysteries of the great cosmic space-time trip that we all exist within and are a part of.

The natural sciences and space sciences were most captivating to me, and because I was always at the library checking out books on animals, nature, science, space etc. I quickly became a data junkie and was labeled a “bookworm” “nerd” “geek” etc. by my friends and fellow students.  By age 10 I had read every encyclopedia in the house several times over, every new and old National Geographic, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science magazine I could find and I was fascinated by everything.  My early heroes that inspired me the most were my father – a botanist, who would drop everything to take me into the forest whenever I wanted to go, my mother – a teacher, who let me follow my own path and provided me with great loads of books to digest and learn from, my heroes were David Attenborough, Jacques Cousteau, Capt. James T. Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, Scotty, Uhura and the others, Charles Darwin, Carl Sagan, Neil and Buzz and any and all Astronauts and Cosmonauts, Isaac Newton, Mark Twain, Spiderman, Rachel Carson, Albert Einstein (even though I despised math), Roger Tory Peterson, Grizzly Adams, Jane Goodall, Stephen Hawking…you get the idea.

I soon realized that this thing called science was what had built, and what was was running the modern world.  I also realized that this thing called science, when placed in the wrong hands, had made killing each other, our beloved animals, and even our life-giving mother earth all that much easier. This was a hard lesson to learn but it awakened my mind to the double edged sword that is science. For some, this revelation might cause a distrust and fear of science but for me it was entirely the opposite.  It made me want to learn more about the world, about nature, and about science, because science is the study of nature and what makes it exist, act, and behave the way it does. I wanted to know what makes nature tick and through this curiosity came a great love for all things and for the power of the scientific method.  As I grew and learned I decided that I wanted to do all in my power to share the complex beauty of nature with everyone I met in the hopes that like me, they would come to love nature and science as I do.  Like the saying goes “when you come to understand something, you then come to love it, once you love something you will do anything in your power to protect it.”

Mentors

During my formative years I was also fortunate to have had several amazing mentors in the form of wonderful elementary school science teachers who offered not only great lessons on these topics but also working examples of these technologies in their classes in the form of small models such as these science experimentation kits.  These hands-on project kits, backed up by inspiring classroom lessons, allowed me to see how these technologies work, and to understand their applications to our future and above all else they had a great and lasting impact on my young mind.

Lessons from good TV

At the same time I was encountering great messages of hope and learning of ways to solve our problems through science and teamwork.  These messages were revealed to me on two of the most influential TV series on at the time: the revolutionary TV documentary series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage written and hosed by the great visionary Carl Sagan, and that most popular “wagon train to the stars” space opera – Star Trek.  While not the same as a good text book and hands-on lessons, the ideas, positive messages, and amazing imagery of these television shows had a great and formative impact on my young mind and laid the groundwork for the course of my life.

Bringing it all together

 

These facts, revealed to me by my sixth grade teacher, and supported by my heroes in real life and on TV, collided one day in an epiphany moment that I will never forget.

I was standing at the window in my 6th grade classroom, holding a small solar cell that was attached to a small electric motor with an attached fan.  When I moved the solar cell into the sun that was streaming in from the window – the fan started to blow air in my face!  I then and there in that moment that I connected everything and began to realize the great potential of solar electricity and the countless positive benefits it could provide to our species.   This moment was so very powerful and it so greatly influenced the many factors that have shaped and directed the entire course of my life.

Recently, I came full circle and drove my 100% electric-and-soon-to-be-solar-fueled Nissan EV back to my old elementary school and visited the very same spot where it all came together for me and snapped these photos.

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In my right hand a solar cell and in my left a matchbox version of my EV!

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My EV at my elementary school!

With all of this knowledge and front loading on future possibilities mixing together within my young mind it was soon that I realized the following:

1. Clean, non-polluting electricity can be produced with energy from the sun with a solar panel (module).

2. Highway capable vehicles can be powered by clean electricity.

3. These technologies can help clean up the earth, air, and water and make it safe and healthy for all creatures now and into the future.

Later on in life I experienced two more moments of clarity that have never left my mind and continue to give me focus and drive to this day:

1. These amazing technologies, when coupled with recent advances in photovoltaics, and battery storage, are part of the solution that will give us a 100% renewable powered society free from the addictive grip of toxic fossil fuels and from the downward spiral of dependency and environmental destruction that they represent.

2. This knowledge needs to be shared with the world and most importantly with the next generation, the children, for they are the future.

These powerful realizations have given the dreams of a geeky little 12 year old boy, much more focus and have served to mold my old ideas into a newly modified goals that will have much greater impact and importance on the word of today.  My newly evolved dream is as follows:

While it is an admirable goal to use renewable energy and EV technologies to benefit myself and my family, I feel that for me personally, that goal is a bit selfish and only helps out a small number of people (although I applaud and support anyone who takes the steps to install renewable energy on their rooftop/property – you are the change makers and you are heroes!)

For me a much grander goal would be to share that knowledge with the world just as my elementary school teachers and heroes on TV did for me.  It is for these reasons that I have been so driven and focused to make this project a reality for my classroom and for my students through the construction of our new classroom solar array.  These technologies and knowledge need to be shared with as many people as possible so that together we can all work to change the world for the better in support of all people and all creatures everywhere.

To that end this project is the realization of my evolved childhood dream has become the goal I have worked toward for the last three years – to power my classroom and EV on clean, site produced, renewable solar electricity that will allow my students and visitors to experience the first hand functioning of real world, off-the-shelf and off-the-lot renewable energy applications such as solar-electric power, and electric vehicles.

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The ENP Outreach vehicle at a local solar farm that provides clean solar electricity to around 400 homes!  I regularly take my students on field trips to visit this facility – so cool!!

In our solar powered science classroom my students bust through the negative myths often associated with solar power, renewable energy, and electric vehicles by assisting with the maintenance and operation of working examples of renewable energy and EV technologies in class.  After leaving my classroom my students will be more informed, up to date, connected, and ready to accept the reality of, and make use of, sustainable clean energy and transportation technologies and applications to power their lives and their futures for the benefit of themselves and for the environment that supports them.

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Success!!

As stated before, and I cannot stress enough – these projects will be wonderful and inspiring, mind opening STEM teaching tools for my science class students, for all who visit the ENP/Trails Science and Nature Center, and for the participants of my ENP outreach programs for many, many years to come!

It is the students and children of today that will run the country and the planet tomorrow so it is up to us to present them with working examples of the best ethics, best practices and best technologies that will lead us all into a clean, safe, prosperous, shared future for all people and all creatures everywhere.

This grand accomplishment will always be there for my students and visitors to experience as it demonstrates “The New Normal*” in showing the next generation that – YES this is possible and YES it works and YES we can! We can make a  better future through the application of clean, renewable energy and Electric Vehicle (EV) technologies!  We can work together to clean up and protect the earth, the atmosphere, the waters, and the lands, and we can make life better for ourselves and for the wild creatures with which we share this planet by applying the findings of science, technology, engineering and math and a good dose of common sense to fix the problems of today and make a better tomorrow for us all. *Thank you Bob Harris for the inspiring words of wisdom.

Even More Awesome!

On top of the amazing achievement made today I later watched as my Leaf’s odometer turned over to 45,000 miles of petroleum free driving!  Shortly thereafter I was honored to charge alongside another Leaf at a local EV charging station that was made possible by many of the same individuals and organizations that have helped us make this wonderful solar array possible.

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All of these amazing advancements have been made possible with the support and teamwork of my wonderful students and the staff of Trails Carolina and The Academy at Trails Carolina, my volunteer interns, great friends and project supporters Bob Harris and Jim Hardy, Black Bear Solar Institute, Siemens Corporation, members of the Blue Ridge EV Club,  and many local and regional EV owners, forward thinkers, businesses, individuals, nonprofits, and educational institutions teaming up to make this project and others like it possible.

THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR SUPPORT

Together we are all working to change the world for the better, great things are happening and it is we the people that are making these things happen.

BE THE CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD AND THE WORLD WILL CHANGE

A note from Steve

I am passionate about sharing my love, curiosity, and respect for nature, wildlife and wild places, and the methods and tools of science with everyone I meet – especially my classroom and outreach programming students and participants and readers of this blog.  

I truly feel that it is the open minded students and lifelong learners of today that will make the most important wildlife, nature, and energy conservation decisions of the future.  It is my goal to give them the best possible exposure to the realities of these disciplines by demonstrating what is possible for today and for tomorrow so they will be better informed and ready to change the world for the better as they mature. 

Toward that end I am working very hard to complete all of these upgrades and enhancements to my programming under my very small wildlife, nature and science conservation, education and outreach organization Earthshine Nature Programs (501c3) which is supported primarily through monetary, resource, and time donations from concerned individuals just like you. 

To cover the remaining materials and costs associated with this solar project, and the other upgrades to the Science and Nature Center, I am working on acquiring donations from any and all sources that would like to support us. Every little bit helps get us closer to our grand goals that will serve to upgrade our education animal habitats, classroom, education, and citizen science research equipment, and to power our classroom facility and outreach vehicle via the endless energy from the sun and most importantly – educate and inspire our students on the proper respect, understanding and value of wildlife and wild places, and the wise and responsible application of clean energy sources that we can all use to provide for, and empower our shared futures. 

I feel that by demonstrating what is possible, and working together toward the common goal of creating and maintaining a better world for all living things today and into the future, we will be able to make all of our dreams come true for the betterment and health of us all and in support of the planet and the complex life systems that in turn, supports us. 

Please consider supporting us in any way you are able.   

Thank you.   Sincerely, 

Steve O’Neil 

Executive Director of Earthshine Nature Programs (501c3)

and

Naturalist with Trails Carolina and The Academy at Trails Carolina

www.earthshinenature.com

Email: earthshine.nature@gmail.com

If you would like to support this project in its final hour of need please consider making a donation today.

Follow this blog for updates on this project and more!

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Alien Close Encounter – a thought experiment

15 Jan

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Utsanati in a resting coil. Photo by Steve O’Neil

I entitle this story “Alien Close Encounter.”  By Steve O’Neil

For the next few moments tap into your all-too-human willing suspension of disbelief, and imagine what it must be like to be a Timber rattlesnake.  Please keep in mind that reptiles, with their reptilian brains, do not possess human-like emotions or “higher” reasoning skills and therefore function on instinct alone not sensing their environment the same way us macrocephalic humans do.   For the reader to better understand and “feel” what it must be like to exist as a Timber rattlesnake, I have taken the liberty of anthropomorphizing the situation in the attempt to give you an idea of what it would be like to be a Timber rattlesnake – from an entirely human point of view.

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It is mid July.  A warm, soaking summer rain has recently fallen and there is thunder in the distance. The forest covered mountain you call home is warm, wet, steamy, calm…and alive with a myriad of diverse and wonderful living things.  Slowly, cautiously, you ease out of the safe crack under the sheltering log you used to get out of the rain, and move into a bright beam of warmth filtering down through the still heavily dripping canopy.  You sit in a loose resting coil, your yellow-gold scales shining in the warm summer sun. You soak up the warm sky-heat and the life-giving energy from last night’s Chipmunk meal coursing through your body.  Your belly is full…you are safe, warm, and partially hidden from view by the tall berry-filled bushes all around you…and by your cryptic camouflage that breaks up your pattern against the leaf litter…you are as content as a rattlesnake can be.  Soon you doze off to sleep and your rattle hangs silent and unused for you have nothing to fear because you are in your own living room.  Time passes…

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Zoe is a beautiful creature.  Photo by Steve Atkins

Suddenly, you are jolted awake…you are now in the shade but still very warm…what woke you…the forest is still quiet, steamy, and dripping with rainwater…could it have been the water drops still falling from the canopy world high above?  You sense the tiny vibrations from all around as the last droplets of water strike the nearby leaves and rocks…even your scales are covered by tiny, glistening droplets of water that have fallen from the canopy…it must have been something else.  A small dark spider crosses silently over your back unaware of your presence…you do not move.

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Utsanati covered in dewdrops. Photo by Steve O’Neil

The only other thing that has changed is the position of the life-giving fire in the sky…it is closer to “End of the day Mountain” where the lions once lived.  You stay very still…assessing the forest for more information…then suddenly your senses tell that something is not right…you feel it through your belly scales…a vibration coming up through the warm, wet, leaf litter…there is something large moving through the forest and it is coming your way…it is getting closer…you flick your tongue tasting the air…nothing but wet forest…moss…leaves…trees…a slight hint of last night’s meal…there it is again, you can feel its footfalls…they are not gentle, not close together and ambling such as deer would make…not the wayward scurrying of your favorite meal…not the bounding of bobcat or the lumbering gait of bear…no, these are widely spaced heavy footfalls and their vibrations tell you this creature is large…maybe as large as bear…yet different somehow…its footfalls are so very different…you cannot see it…you flick your tongue…tasting the air again…there…a new taste…an old memory forms…you taste something you have only occasionally tasted…only when the winds blow from the to-be-avoided, odd looking, very loud, rock and tree habitat-caves on top of the ridge.  It is a complex pungent taste, unlike anything in the forest…a blending of so many unusual and foreign tastes and odors…it is so alien to you…but now the taste is so much stronger than you have ever sensed…then you see it…taller than bear…walking on two legs as bear does when he wants to look around…what is this thing?!  It crashes forward through the bushes, small forest creatures and birds rapidly move out of its way as it advances.  It moves plants and even small trees out of its way with long, lanky, fore limbs…it  must be almost as strong as bear!  Unlike bear its coat is bright and oddly colored – how does it hide from predators with a coat like that?!  Your “little voice”(instinct) tells you that animals with bright colors are to be avoided – maybe it is dangerous! You flatten your body against the ground attempting to blend in more with the forest floor…your heat sensors tell you that its body is very warm like bear…it must be wonderful to always be warm.  Unlike bear it seems to have a large shell on its back like old turtle?  Just what is this odd looking creature – so many questions but no time to answer them!  It is coming directly toward you…it is SO LOUD…it is SO TALL…it is SO LARGE…all your instincts tell you it must be DANGEROUS and must be avoided. You feel so small…so vulnerable…out in the open of the forest floor…in your world, large animals almost always try to EAT smaller ones like you…if only you could dash into the cover of your sheltering crack under the nearby log without being seen…ever since you can remember you have spent many safe nights under there yet now you are frozen with fear and afraid to move…afraid to reveal your position to this massive creature…you are very afraid…SO VERY AFRAID!

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Zoe close up. Notice her heat sensing pit organ in front of and below her eye.

Photo by Steve Atkins

You do not want to die – you still have many things you must do.  You know you are vulnerable and exposed in the middle of the small clearing in the forest.  You are visible…but only if you move and the creature sees you.  Your “little voice” screams out again and tells you to remain absolutely still and do not move because you have a very unique form of camouflage that breaks up the outline of your body and hides you very well…unless you move.  The monstrously strange creature moves still closer…your senses are on red alert…adrenaline surges through your muscles and a tingling sensation moves throughout your body…if it gets much closer you will be forced to let it know that it is too close…you will be forced to shake your tail and that changes everything.  If you shake your tail you may even be forced to defend your life using the only defense you have-the venom in your teeth.

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Zoe after having a recent large feed. Photo by Steve O’Neil

The towering, ugly, stinking, loud, alien creature moves a bit closer, its massive flat feet crushing the leaves, breaking sticks, and probably small forest creatures underneath…it is terrifying to think what it’s huge feet would do to you if it stepped on you!! Suddenly, just when you are about to shake your rattle, it stops just a few snake lengths from where you are coiled.  It takes off its turtle shell…how strange…old turtle cannot take off her shell!?  It removes some sort of shiny, cylindrical object from within the shell and raises it to its whiskered, somewhat Raccoon-like face – you smell water for a moment – some droplets of the life-giving liquid fall to the ground and you feel their impact as they splatter on nearby Deermouse rock – then it puts the watery object back into its turtle shell, puts the shell on its back, turns toward the valley, and moves off toward the Land of the loud and shaggy slave wolf clan to the north.  That was just too close.  You stay totally still but for your deep breathing and the occasional flick of your tongue.  You wait until you do not feel its vibrations or smell its pungent aroma any longer and only then do you slowly move back under your rock.  You coil tightly as you can coil feeling the unbelievable stress and exhaustion brought on by the horrifying encounter start to fade away from your muscles.  Now in the comfort of your favorite summer shelter you soon fall deep asleep as a soft rain starts to fall on your ancient forest and the sun slips away behind End of the day Mountain.

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Zoe resting on a low limb. Photo by Steve O’Neil

Did that story help you understand and respect the Timber rattlesnake even just a little bit more?  I hope so.  Not only are they part of a healthy ecosystem but they have a place in this world, a place in the wild doing what rattlesnakes do–controlling rodent populations, moving energy around the forest, and providing food for other animals.  They are not “evil,” “mean,” and “nasty” “monsters” that are out to hunt down and ruthlessly kill people.  They are peaceful, solitary creatures that, operate on instinct rather than emotion and prefer to be left alone, but they will protect themselves if threatened accidentally or intentionally with harm.

So would I.

Statistics show that only about 5 people a year die from venomous snake bites in the USA.  However, between 2006 and 2015, 313 people were killed by lightning.  In 2015 alone 35,092 people died in vehicle related accidents and cigarette smoking kills an estimated 480,000 deaths annually!   These stats suggest that you have an exponentially greater chance of being struck by lightening, meeting your end in a car accident and/or due to your nasty habit of smoking toxic tobacco than from the bite of an indigenous venomous snake.

These statistics speak for themselves so why do people continue to target and kill venomous snakes?  Fear? Erroneous beliefs that snakes are somehow “bad” or “evil?”  Lack of information and quality education?  Misunderstandings?  Bad television, movies, and media representation?  Collection for the illegal bush meat, “pet,” and clothing trades? Some kind of macho insecurity?  The answer is all of the above.  If we do not stop the killing and ignorant persecution, then one day they will all be gone and what then will the forest have lost…

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Collecting data while Zoe looks on.  Photo by Steve Atkins

Recently, I visited an ancient Timber rattlesnake den site not far from my study area.  For eons this site hosted dozens of healthy rattlesnakes of all ages.  About a week before my visit the site had been plundered by snake hunters who had not a care in the world for the snakes or the habitat.  I saw not a single snake.  The habitat was destroyed.  All the snakes had been captured or killed and for what–skins, money, meat, small minded machismo–probably all of those reasons. I am saddened to think that this site had existed for probably millions of years as a rattlesnake haven and in only a few hours it was reduced to ruin by ignorant sub-humans out for a few dollars.

This practice must end.

Education is the key to understanding and with understanding comes respect, conservation, and preservation.

This is why I do what I do.  This is why I am passionate about educating everyone I meet about why Timber rattlesnakes and all wildlife and wild places are of utmost importance to us all.

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Can you find Zoe in this photo?  Photo by Steve Atkins.

I’m not saying that you should run out and become a “snake handler.”  I am just asking you to please learn the facts about these beautiful and misunderstood creatures and their most important and interconnected role in nature.  Please work to develop a great respect and admiration for them as I do for they are true, one-of-a-kind jewels of the forest.

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Utsanati on the move. Photo by Steve O’Neil

Utsanati and Zoe are two wild Timber rattlesnakes that I followed for almost four years in a radio telemetry based habitat use and movement study in the mountains of Western North Carolina, USA.

Watch highlights from the the study on my YouTube playlist.  

Adds that appear below this line are not promoted or authorized by Steve O’Neil or Earthshine Nature Programs.

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Why I Save Snakes (and turtles, and Opossums…)

8 Jan

In a recent article I read about two women who save rattlesnakes from being killed on roads.  These women are heroes to me and their journey has inspired me to put my thoughts down on “paper” and share them with all of you.

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Photo by Tim Peacock from the article by W.R.Shaw 

Like these amazing women I too have been saving snakes – Rattlesnakes included – and all others as well as turtles, salamanders and Opossums for as long as I have been driving.

With most incidents I quickly move the animal to to the side of the road it is moving toward and then move on without incident.  Below are a few videos of some of my rescues when I was toting a video camera.

Box turtles (and all others) need our help across the road

And just last year I rescued one Timber rattlesnake from a garden and then another as I drove home from the first rescue – two in one night!

On another occasion several people worked together to get one small box turtle back to her home in the remote forest.

A copperhead rescue…

Most of the times when I am rescuing wildlife from the road the other drivers will slow down and wait for me to rescue the animal and sometimes even thank me out the window as they pass.  I believe most people are really good and helpful and may only hit small creatures crossing the roads on accident.

Other, thankfully more rare times, I have had drivers swerve their vehicles toward me and speed up in the attempt to hit the animal before I get to it.

Once this happened as a friend and I had just pulled over and were jogging toward an Eastern box turtle that was attempting to cross a curvy 2 lane road in the mountains near Boone, NC.  As we were approaching the turtle a huge jacked up “redneck” truck with nasty diesel smoke belching from over-sized “hey look at me” loud exhaust pipes swerved past us, accelerated and aimed for the animal.  We could only watch as the helpless reptile died in a cartwheel of blood and gore under the giant tires of the infantile drivers weapon of death. As the truck hit the turtle with a very audible “pop” we could hear the hoots and catcalls from the driver and passenger as they celebrated their murder of an innocent and helpless creature. I am normally a calm, easy going person but at that moment I was so mad and disgusted with humanity that if that driver had turned around I do not know what I would have done but it would not have been nice.

Many years ago I witnessed the aftermath of a similar incident that I recorded in the below video.

In the following video a scientist conducts an experiment to explore the connections between the species of the animal and how many drivers target them.

In another incident, as I was driving home one warm summer night when I noticed a medium sized Copperhead warming its belly on a remote road.  I saw the snake in the last instant and was forced to straddle it with my car to avoid hitting it and then I quickly pulled off the road and jumped out to move it before the approaching vehicle could hit it.  Unfortunately the driver was only a few car lengths behind and probably did not see it as they came into the dark curve and hit the snake which quickly died…and so did the 9 babies gestating in its belly.

Yet another time I watched as a driver on a cellphone driving on a busy Florida highway mowed down an adult Gopher tortoise as it tried to cross the road – yet another cartwheel of blood and gore from a protected keystone species. The driver never even tapped her brakes but from my vantage point I have no idea how she did not see the animal.

Other times I have stopped to move road-killed animals off the road in order to not cause the deaths of the scavengers that come to feed on them. When I have moved rattlesnakes they almost always have a missing rattle (see the video below in which I find just that).  – This is evidence that the murderer took the snake’s rattle as a trophy of their conquest of the “fearsome deadly beast” they now probably brag about to their friends to boost their machismo at the expense of another creatures life – now you see how I feel about trophy hunting.

Then there’s the type of people that swerve in the attempt to maybe intimidate me into;

A. Dropping the animal and running so they can kill it with their rolling death machine.

B. Assisting with their deadly plans by throwing it under their wheels so they can kill it with their rolling death machine.

C. Possibly kill us both with their rolling death machine because they are holding onto some misplaced ancient dogma that insists that snakes are “evil” and anyone who associates with them must also be “evil” so it would be appropriate to kill both of the “evil” creatures at the same time. Really? Yes, there are misguided people like that still out there walking and driving the earth – some of them are even toting guns – yikes!

It is truly sad that in this day of scientific breakthroughs leading to technological achievements that allow us to drive great distances in machines of science (cars, planes, trains, ships, rockets etc..), connect with others at the speed of light using devices of science (smartphones, internet, satellites, computers,…), and the fact that many of us owe our very lives to the findings of science by way of medications derived from snake venom such as snake bite antivenin and some cancer and pain treatments and more and even more). Watch the video below for more on this.

Crofab antivenin is used in treating the bite of pitvipers.  The video below shows how venom is extracted from Rattlesnakes before used to produce lifesaving antivenin.

Here is a another good, but a bit over dramatized, video of how Crofab is used to treat the bite of Pitvipers.

Then there is the simple fact that through thousands of years of direct observation and the findings of science, that we now know for absolute fact that snakes eat lots of rodents (mice, rats, voles etc…) and that these rodents, if not kept in check by snakes and other predators, would overpopulate destroying our crops and spreading deadly disease–watch an example in the following video.

Rodents directly and indirectly carry or play a part in the vectoring diseases that sicken and kill humans the world over in huge numbers (Bubonic plague, Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted FeverHantavirus and Hantavirus Hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, Lassa Fever,  Leptospirosis, Lymphocytic Chorio-meningitis, Rat Bite Fever, Salmonella, Arenaviridae, Tularemia need I go on…), so logic and reason would dictate that we should never ever choose to willingly harm a snake and we should in fact honor and protect them if only for the rodent removal service they provide our homes, farms, forests and fields thereby keeping us fed and healthy.

Many, like the women in the article I noted at the start of this posting, and others like John Sealy, Alan Cameron, William H. Martin,  Bruce Means, and organizations like The Orianne Society, The Center for Snake Conservation, The Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Davidson River Herpetology Lab, and many bloggers like the Wandering Herpetologist and Living Alongside Wildlife and myself are working to share the facts, truths and benefits of snakes and other reptiles with you, our readers.

Sadly it seems that there remain many good and bad people, or should I say “Sheeple,” who choose to live their lives blindly following ancient or ignorant beliefs rather than truth, reason, logic, and the findings of science.
sheeple
I feel sorry for these people.
I feel sorry for them because they are so closed to the facts that their actions of killing snakes and other wildlife end up make this thing called life harder for us all – from the snake crossing the road to the rest of us just trying to make a living.
Yes, I rescue snakes and other wildlife from roads, homes, and wherever else they are in need. I rescue them because they need rescuing from the bullying humans who are BY FAR more dangerous and deadly than the snakes they target with their cars, hoes, shovels and fear driven ancient beliefs and venom spitting narrow-minded hatreds.  I also choose to make a difference by teaching the scientific truths — based on reason, knowledge and experimentation as well as thousands of years of collective observation by countless scientists, naturalists, animal lovers and farmers all over the planet — to anyone and everyone who will listen.  I do this through my science classes, my small nonprofit education and outreach organization Earthshine Nature Programs, my YouTube Channel and this blog.
Please, do not be a sheeple. Before you decide to harm or kill a snake, do some simple research and learn more about the creature who’s life you are preparing to end.
BTW, yes I have been bitten by a Rattlesnake and no, I did not kill it in vengeance – in fact, I let it go so it could eat more rodents. Oh and thank you science for saving the finger that I am using to type these words with antivenin derived from snake venom and the findings of science.
I leave you with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi – “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way it’s animals are treated. “
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