Originally Published in the lookout mountain mirror

Do you know a woman who needs an outdoor adventure? Here’s an opportunity to nominate her for an exciting trip. Danielle Wolter Nolan and Kate Nolan of DNK Presents host an unprecedented event each year, the Live Adventurously, Women’s Adventure Giveaway. This event is a chance for people to nominate a woman in their lives who may win a customized extended backcountry adventure weekend guided by outdoor pros Danielle and Kate. 

This trip takes four women off the grid for four days. Cell phones are taken away! Danielle and Kate will select the adventure activities and may include backpacking, mountain biking, rappelling, bouldering, zip lining, paddling or another thrilling experience! 

When asked why they started this event, Danielle replied, “There are so many reasons! I didn’t notice until Kate and I began getting our wilderness and outdoor guiding certifications that we were definitely outnumbered being women and in the LGBTQ+ family. Fortunately, this number is increasing as well as people of color in the outdoors. Growing our company since 2014, we’ve focused on women’s empowerment and getting more women and girls in the outdoors. We on our women-only adventures saw that many women were having breakthrough moments and surprising themselves saying things such as, 'I never thought I could carry everything I needed for the weekend on my back, make fire, filter my own water and have a blast doing it!' We saw women go on to summit mountains, ask for raises at work and do other amazing things. We noticed these outdoor experiences weren't just fun and educational, but empowering, showing women they could do much more than they thought they could and they got to meet other amazing women who enjoyed the outdoors as well."

"We decided it would be cool to do a give back in some way for women in our community since their stories and experiences had greatly inspired so many. We knew many women ourselves we wanted to share an adventure with and every time we spoke about our adventures, women would mention, 'I know someone who should do this,' or 'so and so needs to do this but she can't because of X' (insert some excuse here). This is what brought the idea of a nomination based giveaway - we found everyone knows someone who could use an adventure in her life!"

"We also produced an award-winning documentary film, Live Adventurously that follows the four women who won our inaugural Women's Adventure Giveaway.” You can see the trailer (embedded here as well) and learn more about the event on the website.

Reflection Riding recently hosted an outdoor viewing of this film. Watching this film proved these women left empowered, excited and more knowledgeable of the outdoors and of themselves. There was lots of laughing, storytelling and camaraderie. It’s good to step outside your comfort zone and push yourself a little and these women definitely did that! 

In addition to a fantastic weekend, DNK Presents has approximately 20 local and corporate sponsors who provide the participating women with over $1,500.00 worth of free gear so they can keep on adventuring. 
For 2019, DNK Presents has opened the giveaway to women in and outside the Chattanooga area. Anyone in Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, and Alabama are welcome to nominate a woman they know who could use an adventure in her life. The winners of the giveaway will need to provide transportation to and from Chattanooga for the weekend of the trip May 16-19, 2019 and 1 or 2 dates prior to the weekend trip. 

Have someone in mind? From now until February 28, 2019, you can nominate a deserving woman. Danielle and Kate say they keep the nomination fairly general because any woman is deserving of the nomination! They recommend nominating a woman who could be overworked, a selfless individual, a busy parent, has overcome an obstacle in her life, has always wanted to try something new in the outdoors, etc. This adventure will provide women with self discovery, empowerment and confidence so they can see how truly amazing they are!

Requirements for nominees include: must be able to carry at least 35lbs on their back, can ride a bicycle (basic), be willing to give up their phone/technology for 4 days, open to living in the woods for 4 days with little to no modern amenities, have an adventurous spirit and willingness to try new things, open to video and photos taken, available May 16-19 for the adventure weekend and a few other dates beforehand. Click here share her story for a chance to win a life changing, wild, adventurous weekend!

You can also schedule your next great adventure with Danielle and Kate! Their trips range from guided hikes, paddling trips, to week long backpacking and yoga retreats in the Grand Canyon, mountain bike rides and clinics in Sedona, Utah, North Carolina, and so much more to come!

Danielle & Kate state,” We truly live our lives adventurously and know the benefits of unplugging from technology, trying something new and immersing yourself in nature. Our own adventures have increased our confidence, inspired us to start a business and boosted our mental, physical and spiritual health and wellness. Because of this we have made it our mission to facilitate these experiences for others."

Several DNK adventurers comment that their trip was no pressure. Their pace helped eliminate jitters and fears about trying new things and thrived in a environment of support, but also space for independence. 

Everyone needs to recharge and unplug from technology,  take adventures to help us know where we belong and to recognize your life should be your greatest adventure - step outside your comfort zone and gain confidence and empowerment through experiential learning.

Posted by Tish Gailmard  | Category: Recreation

With Red Wolf mating season almost over, Director of Wildlife Tish Gailmard explains that it's near impossible to tell whether a female wolf is pregnant until the pups are born. We hope this year brings another litter! Read Tish's explanation below of why Red Wolf breeding is a concern worth your attention as well as different methods for breeding the captive population.

Photo by Bartel/USFWS

The Red Wolf is the most endangered canid in the world. With only 27-35 wild Red Wolves roaming one recovery release site in northeastern North Carolina and 200 in captivity, breeding can be critical to this species’ survival.

Reflection Riding is a breeding and exhibit facility for Red Wolves and has been since its membership in the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan began in 1996. We’ve had litters in 2007, 2011 and 2016.

You might ask what’s the big deal? Why is Red Wolf breeding a concern?

There a few things you need to know.

First of all, we almost lost this species to extinction. In 1980, the Red Wolf was forced into extinction in the wild to conserve the last 17 remaining Red Wolves. Of these 17, only 14 were strong enough to begin a captive breeding program to save this species. That’s a really small gene pool. When you are breeding an endangered species in captivity, it is critical to maintain genetic diversity - we must diversify and grow the family tree. That means hyper vigilance over the breeding co-efficient. We must select Red Wolves to breed that are the least genetically alike. Luckily, science provides the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (RWSSP) with a software program that tracks each Red Wolf’s pedigree - a road map of who’s closely related and who’s less related. Wouldn’t want to breed siblings, right? The idea is for the family tree to fork! 

Secondly, Red Wolves and coyotes can breed. This causes a serious dilution of genes resulting in hybrid offspring. Hybridization can quickly kill the family tree.

Thirdly, Red Wolves only breed one time per year. Males only produce sperm one time per year and females only go into estrus one time per year.  

So what do we do with all this information?

In captivity, we must determine which Red Wolves will breed based on their genetic value and we have to find a suitable mate - one who is the least related. As an institutional representative and management team member, I attend a summit meeting each summer where we determine who’s going to breed with whom based on the needs of the population. We must determine how many litters need to be produced to maintain or grow the population (whichever is deemed necessary for that breeding season), refer to the mean kinship list ( a measure of importance of an animal. Animals with low mean kinship are genetically important.  Mean kinship is calculated by the kinship (relatedness) of that animal with the entire current population (including itself). Therefore mean kinships per animal are relative to the current population) and begin the process of matchmaking. 

We’ve transferred Red Wolves to breed at our facility from as far away as Sioux Falls, SD. Red Wolves do not fly commercially, so all this travel requires driving or private planes. Usually, two institutions will pick a midpoint to meet and pick up or drop off a Red Wolf. Once the Red Wolf arrives at its new facility, there is usually an acclimation period (we call it a Hey, Howdy! time) where the Red Wolves are separated by fencing and have limited visual sight and physical proximity. After about 1 week of this introduction, the Red Wolves are placed in the same enclosure and with a little luck, (cue the Barry White music) they like each other and the relationship begins.

Red Wolf breeding season is January, February, March with the most northwestern facilities typically breeding last. After a 63 day gestation, pups are born in April and May. Litters can range from 1-9 pups. Eyes and ears open after 2 weeks and pups begin to wander out of the birthing place after about 5 weeks.

In the wild population, we do not engineer the breeding. Red Wolves select their own mates. To prevent Red Wolves from mating with coyotes and producing offspring - creative, out of the box thinking biologists came up with an innovative idea - a first in canid recovery. Sterilize coyotes in the recovery area and put them back on the landscape as place holders. Because this is their territory, they will hold out any fertile coyotes who try to move in and if they breed a Red Wolf, no offspring will occur. Brilliant and very successful! (Unfortunately, this has been halted by the state of North Carolina and US Fish and Wildlife based on a gross misinterpretation of data and inaccurate data- more on that in another entry.)

Another out of the box idea is introducing new genes into the wild population with cross fostering. When wild litters and captive litters are born within a few days of one another, captive pups can be fostered into a wild litter and are accepted by the mother with 100% success. This  genius idea is also a first in canid recovery. (and yes, it too has been halted by North Carolina and USFW). Less politics, more wolves!

In some cases when a genetically valuable Red Wolf has not bred, artificial insemination can be an option. Reflection Riding was fortunate enough to participate in this research. All of our current males have been collected and cryopreserved for future use. The research team that worked on this project consisted of our veterinarian, Dr. Chris Keller and his team from Mountain Hospital for Animals and two post doc students, one from the Smithsonian Conservation Institute and another who was on the team that first developed artificial insemination in dogs.

Luckily, Red Wolves breed fairly well in the wild and in captivity provided they are with the correct mate and are of breeding age. Reflection Riding has been fortunate enough to have successful pairs and hope to produce more litters in the future. As a very involved cooperator in the RWSSP, it’s our duty to support this program and this magnificent species. 

Red Wolves are...beauty, not beast and vital, not vicious.

Posted by Tish Gailmard  | Category: Wildlife

What Owl is That?

December 5th, 2017

A Great Horned Owl in the Native Animal Exhibit

A lot of animal questions are asked of me and one of the most frequent is, “I have an owl that lives in my woods that I can hear and see, but I don’t know what kind it is.” That statement is usually followed by imitations of calls, descriptions of birds, stories and locales. I’ve even had folks tell me they hear monkeys in their yard! Yep! We’ll get back to that one! The adjectives and phrases used are - loud hoots, huge, size of a small plane, came out of nowhere, must have been 2-3’ tall, must have weighed 20lbs, really brown, really dark – the one problem is most of the descriptions don’t match reality so then I have to become an investigator; asking questions of the inquiring individual to help narrow things down. One of the easiest things I can do is accurately imitate an owl call or play one on my phone. That usually nails the ID. The inquiring person’s face develops a smile followed by a “Yes, that’s it!” conclusion. Ahhh, success!

The most common owls in our neck of East Tennessee are the Eastern Screech Owl, Barn Owl, Barred Owl and Great Horned Owl. Reflection Riding has all of these species in their animal ambassador collection-some can be seen when you visit the Native Animal Exhibit and some reside off exhibit, but a simple request to see one will usually work.

The app I use on my phone is Sibley eGuide to Birds. There’s a full version and a free LITE version. Sibley is considered by some to be THE bird guide. I also use the Cornell Lab Merlin app. The website I like the most is Cornell’s All About Birds; it’s a comprehensive, user-friendly resource. Check out TWRA’s website Watchable Wildlife, too. You’ll find audio so you can hear a call as well as photos or renderings to help with visual ID.

Tish Gailmard Holding an Eastern Screech Owl - Photo by Mark McKnight

The smallest tufted owl in our woods is the Eastern Screech Owl, weighing in at 4 oz, but packing a HUGE attitude (think Napolean)! If you’re one of the smallest guys in the woods, you’ve got to be tough or get eaten! Many times, this bird is mistaken for a baby Great Horned Owl and I can assure you if the screech owl could speak, he would vehemently defend his age! A loud whinny and trill comes from this small bird. I am often serenaded at night by one in my woods – it’s a beautiful call! You might see either color morph of this species, gray or red. In my opinion, the gray morph has the best camouflage of all the native raptors, looking just like tree bark.

The Barn owl - aka monkey faced owl, heart faced owl and ghost owl - is listed “under management concern” in Tennessee and endangered in nearby states. You just don’t see this magnificently beautiful and unusual bird very often in our area. The Barn owl has a very prominent, heart shaped, white facial disc that acts like a satellite dish bringing sound into its ultra-sensitive ears. Studies on this bird’s hearing have shown it can hear a mouse’s heartbeat 30 feet away – that’s superhero hearing! One cool fact about this very athletic mouser is its performance of a defensive dance called toe dusting. With its head lowered and shaking back and forth, wings spread and super loud screaming call, it’s enough to conjure up ideas of ghosts.

Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all! These would be the words put to the Barred Owl’s call. This round faced, fairly large owl gets its name from the horizontal and vertical dark brown and white barring on its chest. This raptor’s call is very distinctive and the one I mimic the most garnering smiles of, “that’s it!” I love this call! Multiple Barred owls calling together sound like monkeys having a rockin’ party in the trees and definitely make the novice nature enthusiast wonder what is partying in their woods! Even though owls are nocturnal, Barred owls can often be heard and seen in the afternoon. They prefer to be near bodies of water. If you go on one of Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center's Paddle by Moonlight trips, you will have a good chance to see and hear Barred Owls.

Looks like a barred owl, sounds like a monkey?

Large, magnificent, absolutely beautiful and regal are just a few descriptions for the Great Horned Owl. This king of the forest reigns supreme in our neck of the woods and has an attitude to go with its rank. Old timers call this bird of prey the Hoot owl after its similar sounding call. This raptor eats just about anything it wants to and goes just about anywhere it wants to. If an adult Red Shouldered  Hawk and an adult Great Horned Owl crossed territories, there would be a power struggle, otherwise, the Great Horned Owl rules. Massive feet with 4 talons per foot pack a powerful wallup of strength up to 500 psi! This James-Dean-like bird is also equipped with silent flight and is often called the tiger of the sky.

To get more familiar with these incredible raptors, visit Reflection Riding and check out the websites and apps I mentioned, then go out at night and use your newfound knowledge to identify your avian neighbors! You can begin an owl conversation by imitating calls or answering calls - see if you can bring one in closer!

Posted by Tish Gailmard

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