Without the marvel of modern air conditioning or the uniquely human ability to sweat, the animals of the forest must adjust their periods of activity to avoid the heat of summer. That means early mornings and late evenings are best for wildlife viewing in the park now that we are living through the dog days of summer. An exception is the birds nesting within the park. The breeding season has been going on for more than two months now and some mated pairs are working on their third broods of the season. You may notice the bluebird boxes erected along the park road in the Paddy’s Creek Area. These iconic songbirds are thriving in the artificial cavities maintained by the park staff. During the 1970s and 80s, eastern bluebirds had declined to the point that biologists were getting concerned. The subsequent campaign to provide nest boxes in suitable habitat resulted in a surge in the bluebird population and today we enjoy bluebirds as a fairly common resident around Lake James.
Another exception to the midday siesta rule is a resident black bear that has been occasionally spotted by hikers and bikers in the Paddy’s Creek Area. Black bears are typically shy around humans but they can become habituated quickly if they make a connection between people and food. If you encounter a bear, or any other wild animal for that matter, do not, under any circumstances, offer it something to eat. Feeding a bear is the surest way to turn it into a destructive and potentially dangerous nuisance.
Be aware as you drive the park roads that young animals are on the move. Spotted fawns, fuzzy turkey poults and miniature raccoons and opossums are following their mothers around as best they can, but they’re slower than the adults and have yet to learn the hazards of cars and roads.
Sure it’s hot outside, but the park trails are shaded and cool, so come on out for a hike or a swim. See you on the trail!