Friday, May 30, 2014

DPR's Programs Go to the Dogs this Weekend! Disc Dogs and More

DPR's Canine Recreation is filling a dog lover's weekend with dog fun this Saturday, May 31.  First up is a Disc Dogs event at Rock Quarry Park (701 Stadium Drive) in north Durham, where from 9am--noon you and your furry friend can come watch or participate in the Hyperflite Skyhoundz Local Championship.  Awesome flyball and Treibball demos take place, and there'll be food and vendors.  Registration is from 8:30-9:00am if you want to participate, competition is from 9am--Noon. More info here:

Hanging out with mom
Afterward, on your way through town, drop by the adorable Downtown Durham Dog Park on North Roxboro Street (across from the First Baptist Church downtown) from
3-5 pm for a party that includes free nail trims from Local Mobile Vet and treats from Barley Labs.  DPR will also be giving away travel water bowls, which you can put to good use that day.  Also very cool, if your dog is not yet registered for the the dog park, DPR staff will be on hand to register them the guardian has vaccination records and a credit card at the event (no cash or checks on site).

Downtown Dog Park in Durham

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bikers and Runners: A little slice of car-free heaven on the new ATT section

As an avid cyclist, I'm ecstatic about the completion of the bridge and the upgrades to the ATT into Chatham and Wake counties.  I've popped a few tires south of Herndon Park in the past, which is a general risk of riding on rough trail, but I'm happy to have smooth, car-free pavement to ride on.  Easy parking is located in the Harris Teeter shopping center on Hwy 54 or by Southpoint Crossings shopping center (a map can be found here:, you'll progress quickly past one of the elevated views of Durham county and through fairly thriving wetlands with beaver dams and turtle "beaches", logs with dozens of turtles soaking up the warmth of the sun. 
The pictures below show much better than I could describe, this wide, tree-lined bike trail. From the parking area to the New Hope Rd. parking area was just over 7.5 miles of fairly flat riding through NC Wildlife lands.  The trail changes from asphalt to fine gravel at the Wake County line, but riding a road bike on the trail proved easy enough.  Trail maps are at every road crossing, and there is a bathroom and water fountain at Herndon Park, and a water fountain again near the O'Kelly Chapel Rd. crossing.  You're kind of on your own for snacks, so pack well.

Using an app like Map My Ride will give you a good gauge of the ride--a map of the area, distance traveled, direction and elevation changes.

Parking area at New Hope Road trailhead
Urban wildlife--a turtle beach in a small wetlands near the mall

Finishing with the "whoopee" ride over I-40

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

And the winner is....

Emily Ellis, with the correct guesses of 1) water moccasin, 2) copperhead and 3) Water Snake, or more specifically, northern water snake. Woot!! We had several guesses that were close--David Lakin, of Memphis, TN (formerly of Durham), and Carolyn Kreuger of Durham had a couple of well thought-out votes.

 It's the subtle differences that help us differentiate between the three.  If you look carefully at both moccasins and copperheads, you can see that their heads are those of venomous pit vipers, triangular shaped with heat-sensing "pits".  Key visual differences are that water moccasins have black-and-brown markings that wrap around to it's belly, and the body is thicker and has larger scales.  In contrast, copperheads have smaller bodies, banding that doesn't extend to their bellies and have finer scales. Water moccasins are found primarily in the warmer, more placid waters of the eastern side of the state.

The main visual difference between the copperhead and the northern water snake is the head.  A copperhead is a venomous pit viper (triangular head) and the water snake is not (non-triangular head).  Both have copper-y coloring and banding are similar, at least through the juvenile stages, but a another visual difference is that a copperhead's banding is wider on the sides and more narrow along the backbone, while a northern water snake's banding is wider on the spine and narrower on the sides.  Either can be startling and a little worrisome when stumbled upon along the banks of a lake or river, though.

In closing , I'd like to add a couple of words of advocacy on behalf of copperheads. I know folks who think "a good copperhead is a dead copperhead", but like many other snakes copperheads are truly beneficial in their hunt for rodents.  Without them, it would open season on farmer's crops (and your backyard garden). 

So, a good challenge for the beginning of summer.  Congratulations to Emily, and we'll be in touch to get your laminated folding Wildlife of NC guide to you!

Water moccasin diagram showing triangular head, heat-sensing pits and large scales.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Enter to Win--Can You Identify the Snake?

Can you tell which is which?  If you live in the South you're likely to run into a snake at some point,  and now's the time of year they start appearing on trails, warm asphalt and at water's edge.  It's sometimes difficult in the moment to distinguish between venomous and non-venomous snakes, and people often kill snakes because of either misidentification or fear.  It's easy to misidentify or panic, right?  You're having a lovely day looking at fall leaves or lounging in a canoe and then...SNAKE!! BIG SNAKE!!   Mind you, they still freak me out occasionally, especially black racers, but snakes are an important part of our ecosystem, venomous or not, so taking some time to learn what's a threat, what's not, and how they react to humans is important in their preservation.  My niece Maggie once brought me to my senses when she was just wee 3 year-old.  We were at a snake exhibit and a rather large rattlesnake was a little much for me.  She looked up at me, shrugged her shoulders and said, "It's just a 'nake, Aunt Kim!".  Part of our world.

Enter your comments below and we'll have the results up by Wednesday, May 7. One winner of a North Carolina Wildlife laminated fold-out guide will be selected from those who correctly identify all three snakes.

Snake 1
Snake 2
Snake 3