Endangered Species Day

Just a quick post to acknowledge that today (May 16) is Endangered Species Day, “an opportunity for people young and old to learn about the importance of protecting endangered species and everyday actions that we can take to help protect our nation’s disappearing wildlife and last remaining open space,” according to the Endangered Species Coalition.

As we saw in the previous post about Venus flytraps, Hugh Morton was concerned about the preservation of native and rare species, especially later in his life. His greatest impact in this area was on Grandfather Mountain—Morton donated and sold thousands of acres to The Nature Conservancy, establishing a permanent, protected habitat for endangered plants and animals. (In 1992, the mountain was recognized as an International Biosphere Reserve).

[Azalea] Vaseyi [on Grandfather Mountain], 1955

Grandfather is home to several imperiled and rare species, including types of spiders, turtles, salamanders, flying squirrels, peregrine falcons, Heller’s Blazing Star (a vascular plant), and Azalea Vaseyi (pictured above—according to Sherpa Guides, Grandfather has the largest population of Vaseyi in the world).

Rare Bats [on Grandfather Mountain], Spring 1984

This negative was in an envelope labeled “Rare Bats, Spring 1984.” These critters could be Virginia big-eared bats, an endangered species found only on Grandfather Mountain and in one other location, the Cranberry Iron Mine. They could also be Northern Long-eared Bats or Eastern Small-footed Bats, which are both on the list as well. (I’m unable to tell from this image whether these bats have ears that are unusually big and/or long, or if their feet are exceptionally small, but at any rate, I’m glad they have a home on Grandfather).

3 thoughts on “Endangered Species Day

  1. I have always understood that the bats, here in the maternity cave on Grandfather they apparently prefer, are the Virginia Long Eared Bat, a rare and endangered species. The cave is called the Indian Cave because  many indian arrow points, spear points, etc, were found there four or more generations ago by a young boy looking for his father’s sheep. There is a well maintained trail to it, and the bats were being disturbed by smoke from fires visitors occasionally made, by foot traffic, etc. so the entrance was closed with a metal grid that closed it to people but didn’t prevent the bats from flying in and out at will. For the life of me I can’t remember which very well known group of environmentalists spearheaded the project, but I underrstand they return to count the bat population yearly. The bats were doing very well at the time I last heard. I read yesterday  (Greensboro N&R) that some bat colonies have been infected with rabies. Hope they are few and far between and none on Grandfather.

  2. Thanks for drawing attention to Endangered Species Day. I always feel pretty helpless about these kinds of things. When I see news reports about the inevitable extinction of various species I’m at a loss what to do. I visited the Nature Conservancy’s site and made a donation. It’s a start.

  3. At the time of the bats’ discovery and the gating of the cave the various biologists involved IDed them as Virginia big-eared bats. As backcountry manager, I was often at the site when the bats were being scrutinized and when the gate was installed. The maternity cave that Mrs. Morton refers to, which was gated, is actually the Black Rock Cliffs Cave, once a popular destination for hikers on Grandfather Mountain (the trail was closed after the gate was built). Another fissure cave on Grandfather’s eastern flank was also discovered to contain these bats (but I won’t reveal its location). Mrs. Morton’s mention of the “Indian Cave” is another site—called “Indian House Cave” by the trail sign that directs hikers to the overhanging rock from the Grandfather Trail near Attic Window Peak. Her story of arrow heads being found is what I’ve heard also. To see a photo of Mrs. Morton enjoying a visit to Indian House Cave in the 1960s I believe, see my essay “The Grandfather Backcountry: A Bridge Between the Past and Preservation.”Please click the hotlink “Julia Morton” at the end of the 4th paragraph in my essay. On the picture page, the Indian House Cave shot is photo number 5.

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