GCPF Wildlife Trail - (Self-Guided Map - pdf 685mb)
#1 Pond Life Signs
Amphibians help us more than most people recognize, keeping wild insect populations from reaching hazardous levels and possessing pharmacological significance. Epibatidine, a chemical extracted from the skin of Epipedobates tricolor, a South American frog, blocks pain 200 times more effectively than morphine! Sadly, these valuable animals are dwindling in number and disappearing across the globe. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as there are a great number of actions you can take to help them! While the amphibians will appreciate your benevolence, you will appreciate the amount of fun you have helping them!
#2 Wetland Wildlife
Wetland habitats perform vital ecological functions, providing a clear example of how seemingly isolated ecosystems are interconnected. Serving as the permanent and temporary estate for numerous species, wetlands help purify water, moderate weather events, mitigate flooding and coastal erosion, and accomplish lots of other important tasks. Separate studies have investigated the economic benefits of healthy wetlands, each concluding that millions of dollars are saved annually in water pollution abatement and flood control and repair costs. Wetlands are disappearing across the country, as are their beneficial impacts. Fortunately, you can become a wetland protector by making simple changes to your lifestyle.
#3 Bird Feeding Station
Have you ever wanted to participate in real scientific research? Check out Project FeederWatch!! Operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada, Project FeederWatch is a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders at backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locations throughout North America. Everyone is able to participate and the data collected by volunteers is used by experts to better understand population ecology, risk factors, and conservation measures to protect over 100 species of birds! Release your inner scientist and help oodles of birds by joining FeederWatch today!
#4 Invasive vs. Naturalized
Several plant and animal species have made a new home for themselves within the borders of New York State, some even within the confines of the Genesee County Park. Many of these species have become invasive, wreaking havoc on their new environments while enjoying the lack of natural predators and pathogens that keep them in check in their native territories. The harmful ecological and economic impacts of invasive species like the Emerald Ash Borer and Garlic Mustard are felt throughout New York and many ongoing efforts are in action to combat them. New York iMapInvasives is a wonderful online tool that helps scientists catalogue, map, and respond to invasive species throughout New York State. Use New York iMapInvasives and find out how you can contribute to relieving the burden of New York’s invasive species!
#5 Deer Signs
Deer have become increasingly familiar animals as their populations in this area have grown in recent years. As deer adapt to human environments, it is important to know how our interactions with them may impact their survival. Feeding deer during the winter months can be fatal to them. Deer are particularly adapted to consuming and digesting certain types of food at different times of the year. During winter, the deer’s digestive system is home to microbes that assist in the breaking down of woody materials. This allows the deer to survive on the small amounts of tough vegetation available in winter. When deer find and eat large quantities of low-fiber carbohydrates, such as corn, which is not part of their natural diet during wintertime, they lack the microorganisms in their stomach to digest the food. The stomach environment adjusts to this new food, and the changes in the stomach lead to a rush of lactic acid. This results in a destructively low pH, which results in dehydration and death of the deer. Because feeding during the winter results in death, along with spread of disease among deer and many other risks of injury, New York State has issued a deer feeding ban. As we discover more about the complex lives of animals like deer, we will better understand how to protect and conserve our wildlife resources.
#6 Nature’s Recycling Crew
Decomposers are a necessary part of any ecosystem, breaking down dead/decaying organic matter and waste products into their elemental parts, making them once again available for other organisms to use. Without decomposers, plants wouldn’t be able to take up essential nutrients, causing them and the life forms dependent on them (including us) to die. In forests, decomposers like bacteria and fungi also create new homes for animals by hollowing out dead fallen trees in which plenty of species take up residence. A super fun activity for parents to do with their kids is to investigate a rotten log that you find here on the trail or the forest floor. Have fun exploring, you never know what, or who you will find!
#7 Forest Clearing
Clearings in a forest and the formation of snags offer new opportunities for plants and animals. Natural clearings (or glades) allow short vegetation, like grasses or ferns, to absorb increased amounts of sunlight and the amplified growth of these plants provides plentiful sums of food for numerous animals. Snags serve as food, shelters, nurseries, and storage units for many animals, illustrating how the death of one organism often grants life to many others. Unfortunately, trees are often cut down before becoming a snag, removing what could have been the future home of hundreds of animals. There are ways to identify what trees may become future snags, and you can even make your own snags! Try finding a snag in your neighborhood or a local park or try creating a snag in your backyard and observing how different animals use it.
#8 Animal Shelters
Animals find shelter in almost every place imaginable, ideally with quick access to food and water. Some animals relocate to find new shelter with the change of the seasons. White-tailed deer travel as far as 12 miles in the winter to reach ranges with continuous tree cover overhead, reduced wind chill, and easier movement in the snow. Proper shelter is a necessity for animals and access to shelter can be highly competitive in the wild. You can make your own backyard into a more suitable environment for animals by constructing different kinds of shelters! Not only will more animals have a place to live, but your yard will look better than ever with all of its new occupants!
#9 Seed Dispersal
Plants have evolved ingenious ways to transport their seeds to new areas. Some plants take advantage of wind or water to transport their seeds, and there are even a select few who have evolved “exploding” fruit to launch their seeds! Many plants rely on animals to accomplish seed dispersal, using various methods to catch a ride on or in the animal. Transporting seeds away from the parent plant has its advantages, preventing competition between the parent plant and its offspring and allowing seeds to reach places with conditions more suitable for germination and growth. Discover the surprising relationships between plants and animals and see nature’s ingenuity with new eyes!
#10 Habitat Management
The habitat of an animal is the place where it has access to food, water, shelter, and adequate amounts of space. Different animals are better adapted to live in specific habitats than others. What may be a suitable habitat for one species may be entirely unlivable for another. Habitats can be managed by stopping or reversing the ecological process of succession. Find out how a “messy” yard can provide a great home for wild animals, and try creating a habitat for native species in your own backyard! Witness how small changes like the types of plants you grow in your yard can influence the types of animals that are found there.
GCPF Forestry Trail - Under Construction
GCPF General Conservation Trail - Under Construction
GCPF Plantation Trail - Under Construction