Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Elusive Ringtail

Dried out basketflowers in Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Copyright (c) 2008 Wendee Holtcamp

My latest article is out! "The Elusive Ringtail: A new study sheds light on a little-known mammal in Palo Duro Canyon" appears in the April issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine. It is also available online (ie the link above)! And here is a PDF reproduction of the article.

It starts out:

I’m walking through a field of basketflowers — robust, pale stalks that grow to my waist, evidence of a flush season long past, but now they’re brittle as straw. A few mesquite bushes green up an otherwise pale sea of grasses. Pocket
gopher mounds pock the reddish brown earth and tumbleweeds blow periodically across the roadside as if a tumbleweed factory churned them out, just beyond sight. In the midst of this quintessentially Texan landscape typical of the panhandle plains, a massive gash of a canyon slashes its way across the land — 120 miles long, 6 to 20 miles wide, and 800 feet deep.

Carved by the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River, the ruggedly beautiful Palo Duro Canyon arises where it seems it shouldn’t. Its striated rock layers tell history as the Grand Canyon does — covering four major geological periods spanning more than 240 million years. The canyon forms part of the eastern edge of the Llano Estacado, the largest plateau in the United States, which stretches westward into New Mexico. Water has worn caves, pillars, hoodoos, buttes and mesas in the rock, creating an enticing landscape for exploration. But the rocky escarpment and cliff ledges also create ideal habitat for one of Texas’ lesser known but most endearing species — the agile, rock-face-loving ringtail.

I brought Sam & Savannah on this trip which is always fun. We actually flew into Denver, Colorado and then drove to Palo Duro Canyon State Park near Amarillo, Texas which is about 5 hours away if I recall (then we drove back, for Easter last year with the Epperson family and we also went skiing!). We went out in the field with West Texas A&M University Professor Ray Matlack and his grad student Naima Montacer trapping mesocarnivores (meso=middle sized), which include ringtails, foxes and raccoons. Sadly I did not get to see a ringtail, because they are absolutely adorable!! However we did catch a raccoon, which they weighed and measured and Savannah even got to hold (it was anesthetized for that part). I blogged about it all with some other pics last March.

Naima just finished her PhD - yea for her!

During that trip, we also visited with the Epperson family, who were involved in the landmark Epperson v Arkansas court case, and my visit will be a chapter in my book. That is one that is already written! And as soon as I finish this piece on sharks, it's back to the grindstone on the book chapters.

And I'll leave you with this prayer that my pastor offered in church a few weeks ago. It is a modification of a prayer by John Baille from A Diary of Private Prayer which was written in the early 1900s.

God, You are from eternity to eternity, and are not at one time in one place because all times and places are in You; I would now seek to understand my destiny as Your child.

Here I am, weak and mortal, amid the immensities of this world. But blessed are You, Lord God, that You have made me in Your own likeness and breathed into me the breath of Your own life. You have given me your Holy Spirit that I am a new creation in Jesus Christ. So from this place I can lift up my mind beyond all time and space to You, the uncreated One, for the light of Your countenance illumines all my life.

Let me keep in mind that my mortal body is but the servant of my immortal soul;
Let me keep in mind how uncertain is my hold on my bodily life;
Let me remember that here I have no continuing city, but only a place of sojourn and a time of testing and training;
Let me use this world but not abuse it;
Let me be in this world but not of it;

Let me be as one who has nothing yet possesses all things;
Let me understand the vanity of the temporal and the glory of the eternal;
Let my world be centered not in myself but in You. Whatever I myself can do, give me grace this day to begin; through Jesus Christ.

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