Saturday, June 11, 2011

Fire Ants and Black Bears

We have long known that non-native fire ants can be detrimental to bird nests, especially ground-nesting birds.  Today, however, we read that Arthur Ravenel has observed wild turkeys eating fire ants from nests baited with corn.  Has anyone else observed this behavior or might the turkeys simply have been eating the corn?

A question we frequently are asked at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest is, "Are there bears in the swamp?"  We have never seen a bear or signs of a bear on our property, but there is a healthy population in the nearby Francis Marion Forest.  As today's Post and Courier article notes, a black bear was hit and killed on I-26 near Jedburg in 2008, which is south of Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie and just east of the Four Holes Swamp watershed boundary.  The article in the newspaper describes how drought is causing black bears and other animals to change their normal routines and range farther in search of food resources.

As noted in previous blogs, animal behavior has changed in the swamp due to the diminishing water.  Yesterday, we did not detect any water from the boardwalk until we reached stop #8, which is just short of Goodson Lake.  Wading birds, ducks, water snakes, turtles, fish, etc. are concentrating their activities where there is water, which for now is located in the deep holes and behind the beaver dam.  The dry swamp conditions can be seen in the video below of a White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) doe browsing near #3 on the boardwalk.  Visitors later reported seeing a fawn nursing in the same area.

No bears yet, but we'll keep our eyes open!

Video by Mark Musselman

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