Friday, November 7, 2014

Seventh visit to Panther Nation

Powell High School AP Environmental Science class fall 2014

Monday, I once again visited with the AP Environmental Science class taught by Coach Will Roberts at Powell High School, a.k.a. Panther Nation. It's become an annual tradition.

We talked about conservation, environmental studies, book writing and my ancestral link
to the Great Smokies. Each student had been assigned to read a portion of my two books: Natural Histories and Ghost Birds.

Chapters we discussed included freshwater mussels, pawpaws and freshwater jellyfish. Also of interest were hawks, Ijams and the new hiking and biking trails in the Knoxville Urban Wilderness: South Loop adjacent to the nature center. Click here for: map.

One question came late, really after the bell. It concerned Sasquatch. I quickly had to answer that I viewed Big Foot as a metaphor for all that's still mysterious and unknown in nature. Is there anything hiding out there? 

For a more amplified answer, I would have had to look no farther than Powell's own mascot, the panther (Puma concolor). Adult males are up to 7.9 feet long nose-to-tail, up to 35 inches tall at the shoulders and weigh up to 220 pounds.

My Smoky Mountain grandfather called them "painters." But do they still exist in Southeastern forests? Some wildlife officials say no. We killed them all. But I have spoken to many people who have seen the big cats crossing roads in the park; and even one man who followed one on the shoreline of Norris Lake.

So, the panther is the Big Foot, or Big Paw of the Appalachians.  

Best of luck to all of you! Thanks, Coach Roberts.

Panther (Puma concolor) Wiki media

Click these links for a look back at past visits:

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