Quehanna Wild Area - Ecology - Fauna


Some animals, previously present in abundance, have disappeared, or the populations declined, through habitat loss. By 1912, after the forests had been clearcut, Quehanna was covered by "vast expanses of brush, created when the root systems of cut-off trees sprouted up through the discarded tops and limbs of the logged forest". Once the forest fires were controlled, this brush offered habitat for many game species. By the early 1940s, the CCC had thinned brush in many areas, and the forest had matured. Shade from the canopy decreased brush in the understory. By the early 21st century, many of the trees in Quehanna were 80 to 100 years old, and the maturation of the forests led to the disappearance of species like bobwhite quail, ring-necked pheasant, and snowshoe hare, while white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, black squirrel, and cottontail rabbit all became less common than they had been. Efforts by the Mosquito Creek Sportsmen's Association (MCSA) to reintroduce bobwhite quail, ring-necked pheasant, and snowshoe hare have been unsuccessful.

Other animals became locally extinct through overhunting. The last elk in Pennsylvania was killed in Elk County in 1867. The Pennsylvania Game Commission brought 177 animals from the Rocky Mountains to the state from 1913 to 1926; today the elk herd of over 600 animals can often be seen in Quehanna Wild Area. Between 1906 and 1925, Pennsylvania became so concerned about declining numbers of white-tailed deer that it imported nearly 1,200 animals from Michigan to re-establish the species, and made it the official state animal in 1959. In the early 21st century, over-grazing by deer threatens plant diversity. By the early 20th century, the fisher, a small mammal similar to the European polecat or American marten, was hunted to extinction in Pennsylvania. Between 1994 and 1998, 190 animals were released in five sites in the northern part of the state, including 23 animals along Quehanna's Wykoff Run in 1995. Breeding populations of fisher appear to have been reestablished.

Still other animals seem to thrive regardless of the maturity of the forest or the presence of the understory. Common animals found in Quehanna include chipmunks, porcupine, and beaver, omnivores such as the black bear and raccoon, and predators like bobcat, red fox, and coyote (which has been in Pennsylvania since the 1930s). Many of the streams in Quehanna Wild Area are known for trout (brook, brown and rainbow); some populations are wild and others are stocked by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and Mosquito Creek Sportsmen's Association. The wild area is also home to timber rattlesnake, eastern garter snake, and spring peeper (a type of frog), as well as butterflies like great spangled fritillary, monarch, red-spotted purple, and black, eastern tiger, and spicebush swallowtails. Any of these mammals, especially the white-tailed deer, can carry ticks, and such tick-born diseases as Lyme disease are a health concern for hikers.

As an International Bird Area, Quehanna's forests are recognized as a "large, unfragmented tract with exceptional diversity of woodland species" and are home to 102 species of birds. Common birds include American crow, black-capped chickadee, blue jay, broad-winged hawk, common raven, hermit thrush, house sparrow, northern waterthrush, starling, whip-poor-will, and wild turkey. Quehanna Wild Area includes a variety of forest, riparian, and wetland habitats that support a diversity of animals. The shrub and scrubland areas left by the 1985 tornado and cleared for elk to feed in are home to indigo bunting and prairie warbler, while ponds and wetlands attract waterfowl such as hooded merganser and wood duck, and wading birds like great blue heron. The birch forest of Marion Brooks Natural Area is home to downy, hairy, and pileated woodpeckers, the oak forest of Wykoff Run Natural Area has black-throated green warbler, red-eyed vireo, and white-breasted huthatch, and its aspen groves have woodcock. In addition to the commonly seen red-tailed hawk, other raptors include the northern goshawk and the golden and bald eagles.

Read more about this topic:  Quehanna Wild Area, Ecology

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