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Indiana Department of Natural Resources

DNR Home > Divisions > Communications > Outdoor Indiana Magazine - Archives > Outdoor Indiana - January/February 2011 > Outdoor Indiana - January/February 2011 - Feature Stories Outdoor Indiana - January/February 2011 - Feature Stories

Director's Column
Creature Feature
In IHT we trust
Asian Carp - including slide show

Director’s Column

Going outdoors is great child care
Robert E. Carter, Jr.

Director Robert E. Carter, Jr. Ever since Richard Louv’s book “Last Child in the Woods” was published five or six years ago, considerable attention has been focused on how a generation of children is being lost to what he termed “nature-deficit disorder.”

No doubt you have heard of, or perhaps experienced it firsthand—many children today seem more interested in video games than outdoor games.

One report noted the average American child between ages 8 and 18 spends almost eight hours each day of the year inside, looking at an electronic screen.

Toss in sleep, eating and school, and not much time’s left in a day for good old-fashioned exploring.

It’s no wonder childhood obesity, academic performance, and misunderstanding of (or worse, total disinterest in) our natural surroundings have become growing concerns.

While Louv’s book launched a national discussion that resulted in several take-charge initiatives to reverse these trends, providing outdoor experiences to children and adults is nothing new to the Department of Natural Resources. In fact, it’s been a key part of our mission for decades.

It’s no surprise to us when we read that the National Wildlife Federation cites studies showing the numerous benefits of an active outdoor lifestyle for children: stronger bones and lower cancer risk, trimmer and more healthy kids, improved eyesight, less depression and hyperactivity, longer attention spans, better ability to make friends, more creativity, less “acting out” at home and school, measurably better grades in school, and a longer lifespan and happier adult life.

As 2011 begins, make getting kids outdoors one of your New Year’s resolutions.

Visit one—or more—of our state parks and reservoirs, nature preserves, fish and wildlife areas, or state forests. Take a child for a hike, a camping trip, or just have a picnic. Explore on your own or join the many organized activities led by our interpretive naturalists, where they’re on staff.

There’s a lot to see, so, turn off the TV, shut down the video games, get off the couch, and come outside.

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Creature Feature

Plains pocket gopher
(Geomys bursarius)
By Ben Shadley

An excellent sense of hearing and smell allow the pocket gopher to navigate in the darkness of its tunnels and detect predators. Above ground, the animal is nearly blind.Animal lovers prone to literal interpretation should avoid the plains pocket gopher.

According to Dan Sparks of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, taking this rodent’s name as an invitation to carry it around in one’s jeans could have unpleasant results.

“Pocket gophers have a generally poor disposition,” he said. “They have highly developed front legs for digging, and they can chew through almost anything.”

Sparks studied pocket gophers while earning a master’s degree in wildlife science. Of handling the highly specialized subterranean animals, he said, “If you just got pulled out of the ground and that’s all you knew, you’d probably be mad, too.”

An excellent sense of hearing and smell allow the pocket gopher to navigate in the darkness of its tunnels and detect predators. Above ground, the animal is nearly blind.

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Borders and Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

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In IHT we trust

License plate purchase means more public land
By Don Kaczorowski

Fall settles in at this Hamilton County property near Arcadia where more than 150 blue herons traditionally nest along the banks of Cicero Creek. Sycamore trees house their nests.Many people think of themselves as environmentalists, some more than others. The people who support Indiana Heritage Trust are a group of “mores” that gets consistent results.

Every year IHT acquires acres of valuable land. Last year was no different, with nine properties and more than 1,206 acres protected on behalf of Hoosiers.

IHT properties are often examples of outstanding natural resources and habitat, or historical or archaeological significance. One of this year’s acquisitions, a heron rookery, is a Hamilton County property near Arcadia where more than 150 blue herons traditionally nest along the banks of Cicero Creek.

“Acquiring the land, we are going to preserve and keep it as-is,” said Allen Patterson, director of Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Department. “The herons naturally selected to nest in the sycamore trees. We aren’t going to do anything to disturb them.”

An observation tower is being built at the rookery to enhance public use. Patterson said the blue herons nest between March and September. He said he hopes to have the tower completed in time for the herons’ spring return.

Fall settles in at this Hamilton County property near Arcadia where more than 150 blue herons traditionally nest along the banks of Cicero Creek. Sycamore trees house their nests.

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Borders and Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

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Asian Carp
Fencing out fishy intruders

By Phil Bloom

Silver carp jump from the water around DNR aquatic biologist Brant Fisher’s boat near Elnora on the White River’s west fork. “Y’all know me. Know how I earn a livin’. I’ll catch this bird for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin’ bluegills and tommycods.”
–Sam Quint, “Jaws”

Unwanted, unwelcome guests.

Like the great white shark that visited terror on the fictional village of Amity Island in the Peter Benchley novel and Steven Spielberg movie “Jaws,” Asian carp have become unwanted, unwelcome guests in Indiana’s waterways.

There’s no ominous background music with this story, no Quint onboard the Orca, and no Chief Brody or Matt Hooper to save the day.

Instead, it falls to people like Doug Keller, a DNR biologist who specializes in combating invasive species. He used to spend most of his time dealing with aquatic pests like zebra mussels, Eurasian milfoil and hydrilla.

That was until last summer.

Asian carp slide show

Silver carp jump from the water around DNR aquatic biologist Brant Fisher’s boat near Elnora on the White River’s west fork. Silver carp sometimes leap from the water to escape perceived danger, such as boat motor noise.

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Borders and Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

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