Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Looking for an ancient species

Looking for ancient species? You might find one here
By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover: Visitor Services Manager
As an adult, he weighs about 800 pounds, is 13 feet long, and has 75 teeth. It’s the teeth that worry me.

I have visions of one of the monster reptiles crawling up the bank of the canal in our backyard to look for a snack.

After reading that a 12 foot alligator was run over and killed by a minivan in Dare county in May, I figured that they are headed my way, too.

e victim, “Cheeseburger,” was so nicknamed by the locals because he especially liked that delicacy fed to him by Dare residents. Apparently, he was just lying on the highway when he was struck and killed.

Because he had been fed by people, he saw no need to protect himself.

Previously, a 12-foot alligator killed an 80-pound Siberian husky near Jacksonville. It is illegal in North Carolina and many other states to feed alligators because it causes them to lose their fear of people. Generally, they prefer to stay away from humans.

Alligators survived an extinction that killed 75 percent of the life on Earth 65 million years ago and are sometimes described as living fossils. There are only two species of alligators.

The Chinese alligator lives in the Yangtze River and only ten to fifteen are known to be surviving. They are much smaller than the American alligator which lives in the south-eastern United States including Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and North Carolina.

In the spring, female alligator move into areas where decomposing vegetation creates more heat for the eggs. The sex of the offspring is determined by the temperature of the nest. Males are produced in the warmest areas and females are hatched in the cooler nests.

The mother looks after the young for a year, and they are considered mature when they are about six feet long.

Because their nests leave deep holes, they contribute to the ecology by providing habitats for other animals. They also help plant diversity in these areas, thus contributing to the ecological balance in the wetlands, rivers, lakes, ponds, swamps, and marshes where they live.

Although they are known for their powerful bite, the jaw muscles are relatively weak. A human can hold the jaws shut with little effort. The reptile’s preferred meal includes small animals such as fish, birds, turtles and small deer.

How many alligators are there in North Carolina? A study sponsored by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has recently tried to estimate that number. The last study was done in 1980.

The results concluded that the highest concentrations were still around Wilmington, the Croatan National Forest, and south of the Albemarle Sound. In our area, alligators have been spotted in a pond near Morgan’s Corner, in Merchant’s Mill Pond, and other isolated areas.

Because North Carolina is cooler, the reptiles are more vulnerable to predators all year long.

Be aware, don’t feed them, and never let them see you smile.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Goat farming gaining in popularity

No kidding, goat farming is gaining popularity in the US
By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover: Visitor Services Manager
Down the road from my home lives a precious, small herd of goats. When our grandchildren come to see us, we usually take them to visit the goats and feed them crackers or carrots.  
Every day when I ride by, they bring a smile to my face. Sometimes, when one gets a horn stuck in the fence, we have to stop and perform a rescue. They are fascinating creatures.  
Goat farming is rapidly increasing worldwide, especially in the U.S. where it is the fastest growing segment of agriculture. The price for goat products is rising to meet the demand of the increasing population of Hispanics, Indians, and Muslims who each view goats as part of their cultural traditions.
In fact, American ranchers are having a difficult time filling the need. Farmers in some parts of the country have used government money to replace their tobacco growing with goat production.
Texas has the most goat farms, and North Carolina is among the top ten producers. Across the world, China and India lead in goat farming and goat meat is the most consumed meat per capita worldwide.   
Growers also cite the benefits of eating and showing goats in comparison to other animals. Many people believe goats have more personality than sheep. They require less land on which to live than cows do.  
Their main enemies are coyotes and foot-and-mouth disease. Goat meat has more protein than beef and is lower in fat than chicken.
Humans first tamed and herded goats 9,000 years ago. They can be taught their name and will then come when called.
A mother goat, called a doe, can recognize her kid’s scent and call from birth, and she usually has two babies a year.  Male goats are called bucks. Domestic goats are called a billy and a nanny.   
Contrary to popular belief, goats are very picky eaters and will refuse anything that they do not consider suitable.  Because they are foragers, not grazers, they are useful in land clearing, and in some areas, herds are rented out for that purpose.
Goats have four stomachs. Food first goes to the rumen from which it is regurgitated for “cud chewing” and then it moves to the reticulum, the omasum and finally to the abomasums. A mature goat can hold four or five gallons of chewed plant material, which then ferments causing loud burps to come from the animal.
There are six recognized dairy breeds in the U.S. which are the Alpine, LaMancha, Oberhasli, Nubian, Saanen, and Toggenburg.  Oberhasli gives the milk that tastes most like cow’s milk, but they each have a distinctive flavor.
Fainting goats only appear to faint.  When they are frightened and panic, a condition of their central nervous system temporarily paralyzes their legs, and they fall over.
Most goats are curious and take objects into their mouths to investigate them, but do not eat them. Legends of Ethiopia give the goat credit for discovering the coffee bean by chewing it and finding it eatable.
No kidding!
(Source: www.glenisk.com)
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