My Dream Nature Property (Part 1)

I’m starting a new irregular series on this blog–my dream nature property.  My fantasy of living in Georgia 36,000 BP is not really possible.  Instead, I’ll be wishing and dreaming about properties in rural Georgia that I hope to one day purchase.  I’ll stick a trailer or cabin on the land and live out my days there.  So this fantasy has a possibility of coming true.

The first property I’d like to salivate over as a naturalist is this little gem on a Broad River Bluff.

http://www.landflip.com/land.asp?listing_id=7417

It’s 154 acres of mostly wooded land in the middle of nowhere.  I drove through this area of Wilkes County last spring and summer.  I only stepped out of my car for brief periods of time but saw deer and turkey instantly.  This property is only a few miles upstream from the spectacular Anthony Shoals.   I can imagine a nice canoe or kayak trip back and forth to the shoals. Most of this part of Wilkes County is abandoned farmland that has grown up into second growth forest or overgrown fields.  It’s very quiet and there is little traffic, unlike some of our crowded National Parks and National Forests.

Over 4,300 ft. on gently flowing Broad River

View of the Broad River from this beautiful property.

The property itself is said to consist of a mixture of hardwoods and pines.  A satellite view shows the wooded property is surrounded by hayfields and cow pastures.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing–open spaces attract grassland and forest edge species.  Hayfields and cow pastures are a lot better than suburbs anyway.  Because of the river, I’d be sure to see a great variety of aquatic animals and birds.  The bluff forest may hold some rare types of plants as well.  It appears the owners use the land for hunting and fishing.  I’d most likely use it for birdwatching, nature walking, and fishing, though, who knows, I might take up hunting as well.

Unusual open water duck pond

A duck pond on the property.

Scenic picnic & camping area beside river

A nice picnic area for  private beer parties and outdoor grilling or just quiet solitude.  Note the large leaning trees.

The property is selling for $369,668.  I’m going to have to get real lucky on the stock market to be able to afford something like this.  There’s no house on the property, so if I decide to live here, I’d have to pay for that as well.  When considering buying rural land, it’s best to realize how much property taxes will be.  A buyer should understand that not only do they need to come up with the money or credit to purchase the land, but they need to have a lot of money socked away to pay property taxes every year.

I think government should give tax breaks to people who allow their properties to remain natural, especially if they harbor rare environments.  Much of Georgia’s remaining rural land is destined to be ruined by monocultured tree farms and row crops, so the owners can afford to pay property taxes.  They may be more inclined to let it remain wild, if they don’t have to pay property taxes on it.

New Study of Burmese Pythons in South Florida is Ripe for Debunking

The National Academy of Science often publishes some really bad studies.  One example was a paper that proclaimed Ice Age mammal extinction, the Younger Dryas cold phase, and Carolina Bays were all caused by a comet colliding with the Laurentide Glacier 12,900 years ago.  This illogical paper has since been thoroughly debunked.  Another study ripe for debunking is one that made headline news last week. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/01/23/1115226109.full.pdf+html

Scientists claim the populations of medium-sized mammals in Everglades National Park has been reduced by up to 100% since the accidental introduction of Burmese pythons.  I suspect this is alarmist bullshit.  Reptiles have very slow metabolisms and do not eat as much as carnivorous mammals.  Moreover, if an introduced predator reduced its food supply, it in turn would suffer a population decline, because they would have nothing left to eat.  The number of Burmese pythons captured has steadily increased (with the exception of the 2010 when there was a snake-killing hard freeze), suggesting the species is increasing in number.  This increase in python population couldn’t happen, if they were wiping out their prey base.

The method they used to count deer, raccoon, possums, rabbits, bobcats, and foxes is highly questionable and somewhat bizarre.  Scientists drove at night 331 times over an 8 year period in cars with 1-4 people in them, and counted live and road-killed animals within Everglades National Park.  Supposedly, they did the same thing during the 1990’s before Burmese pythons colonized the park, though as far as I know this data wasn’t published then, and they could be pulling numbers out of their ass.

The results confirm (in my opinion) that this study is full of shit.  From 2003-2011 these scientists only counted 9 raccoons and 5 possums.  9 raccoons and 5 possums in 8 years?  No way. No way!  That is 1 raccoon and less than 1 possum per year.  (Why didn’t they count armadilloes?– Another common small mammal in south Florida.)  These results are just not credible.  To get a good estimate of small mammal populations, the scientists should have used live traps which I guarantee would catch raccoons and possums with a high frequency.  I’m certain these animals are still abundant in the park.  In fact a recent series on the Discovery channel featuring a nature park adjacent to the Everglades that is run by the Seminole Indians showed the Indians frequently capturing problem or injured raccoons and bobcats.

The scientists admit they have no direct evidence that snakes are behind the so-called decline in the population of medium-sized mammals in the park, but point to anecdotal evidence.  If all they have is anecdotal evidence, they’ve got nothing.

The introduction of Burmese pythons has been a wonderful addition to an ecosystem that was in desperate need of more large predators.  I have no doubt that the population of medium-sized mammals has been reduced, but there is no way they’ve decreased as much as this ridiculous study claims.  The introduction of Burmese pythons has been highly beneficial for box turtles and birds whose eggs were vulnerable to the overpopulation of raccoons and possums.

By the way, the Everglades is overrated.  The most beautiful and productive ecosystem in Florida was destroyed by Walt Disney.  The creator of Bambi killed more wildlife than a millenia of hunters.  William Bartram and other explorers all agreed that the region now ruined by Disney World and Orlando was the most beautiful wild place they’d ever seen, and this was in the 18th century when just about every place on the continent was wild.

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4 Responses to “My Dream Nature Property (Part 1)”

  1. jamesrobertsmith Says:

    That looks like a nice piece of property. I was never much of a flatlander, despite having been born on the coastal plains of Georgia. And I spent a long time living in the Piedmont, too. But for pure solitude and recreation, nothing beats the mountains. I also never could take the insects in the low country. Too many mosquitoes, deer flies, horse flies, ticks, etc. Lots of wildlife, though. I always see far more wildlife in the river drainages and coastal plains than I ever do in the mountains.

    I think the news of the pythons is true. Invasive species are a hideous problem here in North America (and everywhere else, it seems.) Over the past decade I have watched our native hemlock forests in North Carolina go from lush to completely dead. I do not doubt for a second that the introduction of an apex predator like the Burmese python has created utter havoc on the mammal species in its new range. There’s nothing in south Florida that can compete with or struggle against an ambush predator such as that. Add to the list such things as Nile monitors, tegu, caimans, cane toads, walking catfish, snakeheads, fire ants, etc. The list goes on. It’s not hard at all for an invasive species to have a tremendous and almost immediate impact on an ecosystem that has not evolved with them as a component.

    Similarly, I have read accounts of problems in Spain where raccoons have been introduced and are causing tremendous problems in the woodlands there. And American gray squirrels which were introduced in the UK are squeezing out the native squirrels.

  2. markgelbart Says:

    There was probably an overpopulation of raccoons and possums in the Everglades anyway because there aren’t enough large predators left.

    I think Burmese pythons are balancing out the ecosystem.

    Alligators, black bears, wild hogs, and Florida panthers could all kill a Burmese python at least half the time they encountered the snakes.

    None of the invasive species you mention are even close to as bad as the ultimate invasive species–man.

  3. Bob Cooksey Says:

    Love this blog! My comment is a general one–I am a fossil hunter down in Texas who shares your fascination with Ice Age mammals and the like and thought I’d pass along something I was told by a guy named Neal who is the curator of the Houston Museum of Natural History. I went on a hunt with him a while back, and asked him to tell me some cool stuff he’d learned about recently. He told me that he is in contact with miners in Alaska who tell him that they are routinely digging up perfectly preserved, 6 ft beavers from the permafrost! He said not skeletons, not partial carcasses–but intact giant beavers!

    He also told me that he believed mammoths may have lived on longer than is generally thought these days (not talking about the mini-versions that lived on that island 4000 years ago) because scientists have found hieroglyphics in Egypt that clearly show a mammoth, not an elephant.

    Fascinating stuff! Anyway keep up the good work.

    BobC
    Austin Texas

    • markgelbart Says:

      Thanks. I’m glad you love it.

      Wow, that’s really interesting. I didn’t think giant beavers had been recorded from Alaska.

      SedaDNA from horses and woolly mammoths has been recorded in Alaska permafrost that dates to much younger than their supposed extinction. I think, if I remember correctly, the sedaDNA dated to about 7,000 years ago. SedaDNA comes from hair, urine, and feces in sediment where fossil are abasent. This proves the animals were there, despite the lack of fossils.

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