Monday, August 13, 2012

Winners and Losers

How hot was it?  A fried squirrel.
I knew it had been hot when this squirrel sprawled out on the deck to cool off.  After another 100 degree day, it had dropped to 62 degrees deep in the valley.  This squirrel found the residual cool of the deck as the day warmed up and threw caution to the winds just three feet from where I sat.

Every change in nature creates winners and losers.  The drought and scorching temperatures this month creates lots of losers.  The winners are hard to find but they are there, those species that like it hot and dry.

Click to enlarge
Our local drought on Bull Creek has been even more severe than the surrounding area, getting no rain from the last three fronts passing through in June and July.  The creek bed is mostly dry gravel, a good 90% becoming a losing stream.

We had an unusual number of fawn sightings in early June with at least 4 separate does with 2 and one with 3 fawns.  We would see them every time we were out on the property.

Doe and fawn- Click to enla
The last two weeks we have found 3 dead spotted fawn and one doe at scattered locations without signs of predation.   In fifteen years prior we have only found 2 dead fawns.

This picture was taken along Red Bridge Road.  The doe was 15 feet away and made no move to run or even walk away.  You can appreciate her emaciation - note her flank in the picture below.  The fawn was also scrawny and moved very slowly, even though it appears to be several months old.

Note ribs and sunken flank
Aside from the tree and shrub leaves which are all drooping and dry, there are few weeds to browse and the fields are crisp with an inch of brown stubble.  I suspect that this is all the impact of drought and starvation, making them more susceptable to disease as well.  Deer that are sick frequently head to water, which is where we have found some of our dead deer.    

And what are the winners when it comes to drought?  One would be Horse Nettle, Solanum carolinense, virtually the only green plant in the garden area that we don't water.  It is growing all alone on stretches we sprayed two months ago in preparation for the fall garlic planting.

Not a true nettle, it is a member of the Solanaceae, or nightshade family. It is a perennial native of the southern United States and apparently loves the hot and dry climate.

Its fruit has been called the "devil's tomatoes" as they, like the whole plant, contain solanine, a toxic alkaloid.  Between toxicity and the tiny thorns, this means that the only green plant around can't be eaten by wildlife.

The drought has hit Kansas hard.  An Ellsworth Independent Reporter story describes a city law banning all outdoor watering, including gardens.  Ironically that doesn't include the city owned golf course because of the cost of replacement turf.  "We can't afford to lose the greens," according to the city administrator.  Once again, winners and losers.

MDC has information on deer diseases such as hemorrhagic disease and blue tongue.

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