Evi Came Home!

June 13th, 2019

Evi is home! We'll keep you updated as she adjusts to being back at home. She's lost quite a bit of weight so we'll be watching her carefully and will work to slowly bring her back up to her full healthy weight. 

Evi takes her first bite of food from her keeper Taylor Berry after returning home on Monday morning.

Evi has been hiding out in her cave after unexpectedly having a week in the wild.

Update: June 17, 2019 11:00AM Evi is home! 

She walked into her enclosure a few minutes before 11am this morning. THANK YOU to all who helped in this effort!

Update: June 17, 2019, 10:10AM

We have spotted Evi several times on game cameras and we know that she is eating the food that we put out for her. We're continuing to work to put her and Taylor (her keeper) in contact so that she can return home. 

Reflection Riding received a tip last week from an individual that has helped us determine the identity of at least one of the two suspects in this case and that tip also led us to believe that Evi is in the nearby forest. At that time, we changed focus from trying to find an individual holding her captive to trying to find her in the forest surrounding our property. 

We are currently gathering more information and working with the Chattanooga Police Department, the National Park Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and TWRA as we work toward an arrest.

As we've stated several times previously, we do not consider Evi a threat to humans. She will probably not approach you, but she will also not run away like a truly wild bobcat would. Taylor Berry, her handler, has spent countless hours searching for her. We are excited to know she is not being held captive or entered the exotic pet trade, but we must still get her safely back to our facility. As Taylor explains it, “we’re so close in getting her back and yet so far.” At this time, we do not need search volunteers. More people in the woods may spook Evi. 

Evi is habituated to humans. She is not a threat to people, but does not have all the skills she needs to be successful in the forest. We're hoping for her return as soon as possible. Our top priority is the health and safety of Evi, so if you see a bobcat in the Lookout Mountain area please do not approach, but take a picture of the area (most phones attach GPS coordinates to the photo) and send that photo along with your contact information directly to her keeper Taylor Berry at 423-309-9969.

Help us bring evi home.

Your financial support will allow us to continue to move trained staff to focus on her recovery, working with law enforcement, and processing any further information that comes in along the way.

Update: June 13, 2019, 5:35PM

We now believe that on Monday evening, we experienced a forced and illegal entry at Reflection Riding. Presumably, the young people who trespassed on our property paddled in from Lookout Creek and then illegally entered our boardwalk and the native animal area. They forced entry into the home of our bald eagle Flora Nooga, a federally protected migratory bird. While the eagle is currently unsettled, she appears to be uninjured. 

Unfortunately, they also forced their way into the home of our bobcat Evi, who is still missing. We originally presumed she had been trafficked for the illegal exotic animal trade. We now believe Evi fought back against the criminals and was able to escape before she could be stolen. Federal law enforcement is now working the case alongside TWRA. Our top priority is the health and safety of Evi, so if you see a bobcat in the Lookout Mountain area please do not approach, but take a picture of the area (most phones attach GPS coordinates to the photo) and send that photo along with your contact information directly to her keeper Taylor Berry at 423-309-9969.

We have received an overwhelming response from people concerned for Evi who want to aid us in her recovery. We are so grateful for the support of the community in this difficult time and want to thank you for your willingness to help us increase the reward for her safe return. Thankfully, a larger reward does not seem necessary at this time for her return. With the information we have currently, we need to shift toward ensuring Evi’s safe recovery. 

Your financial support will allow us to continue to mobilize trained professionals to focus on her recovery, working with law enforcement, and processing any further information that comes in along the way.

Thank you again for this outpouring of support. We are letting the forest calm down in the area where she is presumed for now, and continuing the search tomorrow morning. Evi is an incredibly important part of our community and is greatly missed. 

As we said in our previous statement: She would have difficulty successfully surviving in the wild and her survival is at stake. She is not a domestic animal and while she has been imprinted on humans, she does not behave like a house cat and is not suitable as a pet. Holding wildlife such as a bobcat in captivity is also illegal under Tennessee law.


Original statement: June 12, 2019

Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center experienced a forced and illegal entry after hours sometime after our regular staff left for the day on Monday and before dawn Tuesday morning. The enclosures for the injured and non-releasable bald eagle and the human-imprinted bobcat both showed signs of a break-in. The bald eagle appears to be unharmed but the bobcat is missing and presumed stolen for the illegal exotic pet trade.


We are offering a $500 reward for information leading to the return of our beloved bobcat. If you have any information on who may have taken her or if you have seen a bobcat, please contact our staff member Taylor Berry who cares for this animal at 423-309-9969.

Bobcats are solitary and normally do not approach people. However, our bobcat is non-releasable and habituated to humans. If you encounter a bobcat, back up and move away slowly. Talk, make noise and do not run away. While we presume the bobcat has been stolen, we are concerned that someone may release her into the wild.

She would have difficulty successfully surviving in the wild and her survival is at stake. She is not a domestic animal and while she has been imprinted on humans, she does not behave like a house cat and is not suitable as a pet. Holding wildlife such as a bobcat in captivity is also illegal under Tennessee law.

We have filed a police report and have consulted with various regulating bodies as well as the National Park Service who patrol the federal land surrounding our property. We have some evidence including photo and video footage and are assisting in every way possible with the police investigation. We go through a rigorous annual permitting process with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and meet all requirements for enclosure standards and safety. Her only suitable home is back in captivity with us. Our bobcat is a wonderful addition to our animal ambassador team and our staff have spent countless hours working with her. We need the community’s support to help locate her and bring her back home to safety.

Again, if you have any information on who may have taken her or if you have seen a bobcat, please contact our staff member Taylor Berry who cares for this animal at 423-309-9969.

Posted by Mark McKnight

 

When we hear about scientific research, we imagine a group of serious people with half the alphabet after their names, signifying endless degrees that prove a proficiency in concepts that would give the average person a headache. We imagine these geniuses sitting in labs, or in exotic places with millions of dollars worth of equipment, laptops and notebooks in hand to jot down scientific observations that will reveal the complexities of the world. We don’t often think that we could collect the same information by standing in our backyard, looking at birds with a pair of cheap binoculars. It’s nowhere near the official image that we hold in our minds. In addition, most people don’t seem to have the training to take part in such endeavors. But why not? What if we, as a community, were able to do that kind of research with nothing more than time, a camera, and good old-fashioned curiosity?

This is community science.

Community science has many definitions that have evolved with this field of research since its inception in the 1990s. Though there is no set definition, the core of community science (also known as citizen science) is that scientific projects can involve everyday citizens who volunteer time, knowledge, and experience to advance the research and study of a scientific work. Alan Irwin, a British sociologist who was one of the pioneers for community science, emphasized that the scientific projects being done should benefit the citizens who aid the research.

Though the definition for citizen science is new, the concept is not. Throughout history, everyday citizens contributed time and energy into explaining the complexities of the universe, prompted solely by curiosity.

An unlikely example of citizen scientists through history were the founding fathers. Benjamin Franklin is a prime example of a citizen scientist. Franklin had little to no formal training as a scientist, yet revolutionized the scientific world through simple observation. Franklin’s purpose for creating his inventions and conducting his experiments was to improve the lives of everyday people. Writer Shawn Carlson stated that “Franklin was the first person to prove that pure science could benefit ordinary people.” This founding father and citizen scientist created a legacy through scientific discoveries such as the scale of an atom, suggesting the origin of climate change, hurricane tracking, and inventions such as batteries, bifocals, and the glass armonica.


Citizens have continued to revolutionize science through observation and experimentation, and are now coming together to build a community that can exchange and compare data that can be passed on to the wider scientific community. As an example, in 2017 sixty smallholder farmers, in two Ethiopian highland communities, worked with researchers from universities and scientific institutes across Italy and Ethiopia to collect research on how to conduct “modern, genomic-driven breeding”. These farmers drew from generational knowledge of their crops to observe the traits of 400 varieties of wheat, to find ways to grow crops according to local agriculture and to improve modern crop breeding. In the end, they collected “200 thousand data points, that the researchers related to 30 million molecular data deriving from the genomic characterization of the wheat varieties” (Phys.org). This kind of community science drew from generational knowledge ingrained in farmers who have worked the land for decades, and paired it with the experience of trained science to collect data that will benefit the world at large.

Involvement in this kind of community science is available at Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center through programs like BioBlitz and iNaturalist. BioBlitz, which will be from 1 p.m. to 1 p.m. April 19-20, is a 24-hour cataloging blitz led by scientists and specialists. These scientists will guide participants on an educational hike around the property to find and catalog the different species in the arboretum. The cataloging will be done through the iNaturalist app, which is a public app that helps identify and catalog the species through photographs or recordings which then give listings of what the animal, or plant may be. This app can identify the species not just through images and sound, but by location and the results found by other users of the app. Reflection Riding will be partnering with another citizen science project at the Chattanooga Zoo called "Frog Watch USA," where the BioBlitz identification process will occur to catalog local frogs and toads.

Corey Hagen, the Director of Education for Reflection Riding Arboretum, hopes that the iNaturalist program will engage people during their time outdoors. He wants “people to realize that you can participate in valuable science and fun activities outdoors using your mobile device. The hopeful outcome for the BioBlitz is just to introduce people to the amazingly diverse community of plants and animals that we have to enjoy in Southeast Tennessee.”

Works Cited

The Electric Ben Franklin

Benjamin Franklin: Founding Father, Citizen Scientist

Harnessing Traditional Knowledge to Wheat Breeding in Ethiopia

Combining Genomics with Farmers' Traditional Knowledge to Improve Wheat Production

Citizen Science

About the Author
Nicole Dominguez is an experienced writer, in creative fiction and nonfiction, academic/research articles, literary and fine art analysis, poetry, and literary journalism. She is passionate about intergenerational and intercultural relationships, creativity, and the preservation of the past to ensure the creation of a better future.

Posted by Nicole Dominguez

Wauhatchie Forest School, Tennessee’s first forest kindergarten program based in Chattanooga, Tenn., will expand its campus to include additional sites in 2019.

Beginning this fall, Wauhatchie School will continue to offer classes at its main campus at Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Lookout Lake in Lookout Valley, and will expand to include sites at the Chattanooga Audubon Society and Ivy Academy in the Chattanooga area.

“It's been so much fun working with Wauhatchie School as they grow their presence across Chattanooga,” says Mark McKnight, President of Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center. “As we establish Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center as a hub for environmental education and conservation, we want to see these ideas spread. We want environmental education and access to the outdoors to be expected for all kids rather than some oddity. From our Forest Kindergarten workshop last year to hosting the students on a daily basis, the energy that Wauhatchie has brought to the property has been phenomenal.”

Forest Kindergarten is based on the German concept of waldkindergarten, meaning “forest nursery,” and it is gaining popularity in the United States. Typically serving children ages 3 to 6 years, Forest Kindergarten takes place entirely outdoors, rain or shine. Teachers supervise students in their explorations and play, but do not lead.

Wauhatchie School is a dream come true for the school’s founder, Jean Lomino, an educator of 40-plus years with a doctorate in leadership with an emphasis in environmental education. 

According to Lomino, “Research shows that long-term exposure to the outdoors-particularly in one place-is the most effective way to develop a strong connection to nature. Studies have also shown that this kind of experience for children provides many important physical, social, emotional and academic benefits as well.”

Since its beginnings in 2015, Wauhatchie School has become a leader in forest school education. Lomino has been consulting with teachers at Gilbert Elementary in Lafayette, Georgia, to start the first public school Forest Kindergarten program in the country. She has also worked with Red Bank Elementary School’s Forest Kindergarten and outdoor education programs.  Over the past four years, over 90 teachers have trained at Wauhatchie School, and most went on to establish new Forest Kindergarten programs throughout the southeast.

In 2017, Lomino spent two months working with Forest Kindergarten teachers and consulting in Guangzhou, China.  Last spring a group of Chinese teachers from Jinan, as well as a teacher from Cape Town, South Africa, came to Wauhatchie School for training.

Lomino has also collaborated on research with the vice-chair of the Korean Forest Kindergarten Association and university professor, Dr. Jiyoun Shin. They studied character strength development in Forest Kindergarten with four Forest Kindergarten programs in the Chattanooga area.  They are currently writing the results of their research which will be presented this summer and authoring a Forest Kindergarten guidebook.

Open House events for parents are being held at all four locations this winter. For more information, visit www.Wauhatchie.org.

Posted by Bess Turner  | Category: Forest School

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