If you love Innsbrook, Nature, and Missouri outdoors this past weekend, the first of fall, was just splendid. For many IBKers the fall season is their favorite to experience Nature. IBK trails through forests are full of families, pets, individuals, and of course plentiful wildlife viewing opportunities. There’s good reason that scientists have documented a walk in the woods – or “forest bathing” as it now often called – is good for the body, mind, and spirit. We remain ever so thankful to the founders of Innsbrook who had the vision to create a retreat in rural Missouri with an ethos to live in harmony with nature, of which we are protective.
In this IBK Nature Group (ING) newsletter you will find information about the Sept. 29 Bear Aware program, wildlife sightings, deer populations, nature survey results, noise pollution, oversized UTVs, Charrette Creek monitoring, lake water levels, tick diseases, fall colors, and thoughts from our program on living in harmony with nature. Help us grow a community that values Nature and aspires to live in harmony with nature by sharing this link https://ibknature.com/newsletters/fall-2018-newsletter/ with your IBK friends and neighbors. You can also download to read or share the newsletter HERE.
Bear Safety Awareness Program This Saturday Morning
As many already know, Warren County is now home to one or more American Black Bears. There have been numerous reports of bear sightings and bear scat in and around IBK in recent months. In July the ING hosted a summer meeting to learn about bear behavior and what our community needs to do to avoid property damage or an incident that threatens life. There are good reasons to be cautious, but no need to be overly alarmed. Rural communities, parks, and resorts all over the country have avoided problems, but it often required education and changes.
To help that process we now have a Bear Aware page on our website where you can view our recent presentation as well as find many resources that property owners can review for the safety of their family, pets, and guests. DYK that a bear cub born to a sow, which may be on average 250 pounds, is less than 1 pound at birth? It would be so easy to not see and get too close to a cub and then encounter a very defensive momma bear not far away.
In August we provided this public comment to the Village of Innsbrook Trustees requesting that they help our community prepare for safely living around bears. This Saturday, Sept. 29, the Village has invited a wildlife educator from the Missouri Dept. of Conservation (MDC) to provide a more complete program on becoming Bear Aware. We encourage at least one member from your family attend. The program is from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Village Hall. For more information call the Village office at 636-745-8844. Until then listen to “Keeping Bears Wild”.
As the summer ends we often look back at all the wildlife we shared IBK with over the past season, and compare it to our recollection and records of previous years. We are out several times a day, regardless of the weather, walking Kyp (or actually being walked by Kyp), riding our bikes to get the mail, or hiking on a nearby trail. (Isn’t it priceless that you can do all these things at IBK on short notice, without jumping into a car, and even in the middle of a work-from-home day?) This summer we noted more deer, turtles, vultures, opossum, otters, and blue herons. We saw about the same number and variety of land snakes, fish, skunks, owls, hawks, groundhogs and moles/voles. We saw fewer fox, turkeys, eagles, squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, paddlefish, armadillos, coyotes (heard), bats, water snakes, and rodents. Fewer bats especially worries us. We heard others report rare sightings like Baltimore Orioles, Cedar Waxwings and of course bears. Let us know what did you see that was unusual with a comment inserted below or a note and photo to email@example.com.
If you are new to IBK and the thought of all these wild neighbors outside your doors worries you; don’t fret and try to let them be. Many property owners came here to be close to rural nature, not because it was a resort, and have learned to live with wildlife. With few exceptions each critter has a role in keeping the increasingly fragile ecosystem balanced. Most long-time IBKers know that snakes keep rodents in check, which are more responsible for spreading tick-borne diseases than deer. DYK there is a wildlife inventory sheet created by Innsbrook Resort where you can keep a log of the wildlife your family sights over the years?
Oh Dear, Our Deer
The deer population within IBK continues to grow. Maybe it’s because of mild winters with little snow due to a changing climate, or more plentiful tree nuts that fell in a mast event two years ago. Some years ago we might normally see a couple of deer together at anyone time, but now it’s often four to six in a multi-generational herd. We all love watching them, and since deer don’t really move beyond a 1 square mile home range, we often see the same ones that we even give nicknames to. Unfortunately, our hardwood forests and understory are starting to be impacted by overgrazing. Plants we thought were deer resistant are also being eaten, which worries us more about the deer than our landscaping.
The forest changes were really obvious this year when in many areas the deer had picked or browsed clean some 4-5 feet off the forest floor, especially along forest edges. Looking deep into the forest at eye level is now much easier. While that might help us to spot a bear, it is not good news for the regeneration of our forests or for other wildlife and birds that depend on vegetation of the lower forest. I am not a wildlife biologist, so I do not have the expertise to know what the carrying level is of our local forests, but I worry we will have painful choices to make in the future. That said, mankind does not understand all the ways that Nature can self-correct imbalances, such as with the CWD disease killing off some deer in Missouri. And we need to keep in perspective any damage to the forest an overabundance of wildlife may cause compared to what we do as property owners, especially those that clear-cut their lots. We do hope that IBK residents are kept informed and involved with the decision-making and allowed to voice our concerns about managed hunts when alternatives may be available.
Nature Value Survey
Each of the past three years we have conducted a survey on what elements of Nature do property owners value the most from their time at IBK. Here’s the results from this year:
1. Silence, quiet, solitude in nature
2. Lakes, streams, clean water, boating
3. Clean air & blue skies
4. Forests, trees, undeveloped areas
5. Fauna, animals, wildlife
6. Dark starry skies at night
7. Flora, plants, flowers
8. Scenery, visual, photography
9. Exercising, running, cycling in outdoors
10. Family, kids and pets in nature
11. Seasons and weather diversity
12. Community to enjoy nature and learn with
13. Walking, hiking, trails
14. Unplugged from man-made, remoteness
15. Finding God in Nature, spirituality
16. Sports, fishing, open water swimming
As we found last year, there’s not much difference between the top vote-getters on the scale of 1-10 that we used. Items 1-7 above were very close to a tie for first place. We’ve done this survey for 4 years and enjoying silence and fauna have been in the top 5 picks each of those years! Clean air and forests were top 5 in 3 out of 4 years. If you would like to see the survey or take it yourself, print this out and return it to us. Can there be any doubt that a major reason we have ever-increasing property values is because of the economic value of Nature that some may not miss until it is gone.
With silence in nature at the top of the list it is no surprise that many IBKers find objectionable the noise pollution which comes from nearby shooting ranges as well as increasing shooting off of fireworks and guns across Warren County for any occasion. We are not alone as over 100 Warren County residents packed a county planning and zoning meeting on Sept. 18 to learn about a new target practice shooting range just west of IBK and south of the Linden Gate. We learned that a St. Louis-based organization wants to use an old quarry for what to us looks like a weapons training boot camp using military-grade arms.
Residents near this location were both fearful for the safety of their families, pets, and wildlife as well as angry for the noise pollution that sounds like a battlefield. You can read more about we learned in this email shared with IBK residents. In our own public comments to the P&Z Commission we also shared concerns that many shooting ranges have become highly toxic sites dues to lead contamination from ammunition that enters streams, groundwater, and the food chain of mammals, fish, and birds, including bald eagles, which inhabit IBK and Warren County.
Utility Vehicle Pollution
Unfortunately, we can’t blame what goes on outside the gates for all of our noise pollution. The roads inside the gates are used by not just golf carts and modest utility vehicles, which seem reasonable for a resort, but louder and fouler-smelling supersized UTVs that often annoy walkers, bikers, and horses sharing the road. If you have ever been passed by one while out walking, you know what we mean. In our copy of the indentures we see that the size and weight of UTVs is supposed to be restricted. Yet we see vehicles like this one photographed recently that upon research appear to exceed the size and weight limits, without mention of noise and exhaust. What a shame, as one of the wisest things IBK did was to keep our lakes free of loud, fast, dangerous and polluting watercraft. We hope our trustees will reconsider enforcement of all the vehicles that share our roads. DYK that even a 5-decibel increase in the noise pollution of our “soundscape” has been found to adversely impact wildlife including insects, frogs, birds, and mammals?
Living in Harmony with Nature
In our summer newsletter we started a conversation about what happened to a focus on living in harmony at Innsbrook, especially as the community grows. As example, living in harmony with nature was removed from the resort’s newsletter masthead several years ago. In our summer ING meeting there was a heartfelt conversation about the changes occurring at IBK. Many nature lovers bought property or moved here permanently not just to avoid suburban life but also the ruckus of a Lake of the Ozarks style development. In our most recent poll we asked “are you worried that IBK is losing its emphasis on Living in Harmony with Nature”. By IBK I don’t mean just the resort or the developers, but our community overall including all stakeholders. Here’s the result:
The good news is that many still feel we do a good job at living our mission as shown here, even though more believe we are not as good as we could be:
Read more about what others think and want to do about this important issue here. A recommendation was made that we create a new property owner guide for “Living in Harmony with Nature”, hopefully with the support and participation of Innsbrook Resort or the Village of Innsbrook. Let us know if you would like to contribute to this project.
Charrette Creek Stream Team Monitoring
Our new IBK Missouri Stream Team will conduct a Charrette Creek Water Monitoring exercise on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 13 from 1-2:30 pm. Charrette Creek flows out of Lake Aspen and into the Tyrolean Valley where it becomes the most important watershed in Warren County flowing all the way into the Missouri River. As profiled in our Spring Newsletter, our team is just one of hundreds operating across Missouri to help protect our waters for recreation, irrigation, and fishing. We seek volunteers to learn and lend a hand as we measure water flow, characterize the riparian zone, and most importantly identify and count the macro-invertebrates which are key indicators of overall stream health. Most appropriately, we will meet up at the Charrette Creek Commons parking lot and take a short walk across Arlberg Pass to the site. Be sure to wear water shoes, sandals or boots and bug spray.
Lake Water Levels
IBK is not alone with our worries about recreational lake levels, especially as our regional weather becomes more unpredictable. While the average rainfall may appear the same from year to year, when too much of it comes at one time in downpours water can run off without soaking into the groundwater where it does the most good. And recent winters with so little snowfall do little to help recharge the aquifer. It no longer surprises us to see drilling rigs around Warren County digging deeper wells, including an IBK wellhead.
Earlier this year NASA released a map showing shallow groundwater wetness, and eastern Missouri was a hotspot as bad as the Southwest USA. Is it possible that declining groundwater and aquifer levels also contribute to how fragile our lake levels are to changing climate and rainfall patterns? We wonder if it is a sustainable practice to pump water out of the ground to maintain our lake levels. We don’t know, but the experts should be asked.
Peak Fall Foliage Color
We are not sure what it means for fall color this year, but the fruit of trees started falling early this year around Labor Day weekend. Nuts are raining down with such thumps we wonder that they don’t knock squirrels out. Persimmon trees have been especially bountiful this year. As we write this, only a few sumac and dogwood show any signs of fall color. In our phenology log we have been tracking peak fall color for the past four years. We learned that IBK, like many rural areas away from city heat zones, actually has two peaks in October separated by 1-2 weeks. The best times are usually the first or second weeks of October when the dogwoods, sumac, sycamores, hickory and maple leaves turn yellow and red, followed by the third or fourth week of October when the elder oaks turn gold, bronze, and brown. That said, in the past few Septembers and Octobers we have had record-breaking heat spells with first frost and freezes coming later, as has peak fall color. Here’s a handy guide from the MDC we use to identify fall tree leaves by color and shape.
Mark your calendars that Nov. 17 is National Take-A-Hike-Day. If you can’t make it out then we recommend a Thanksgiving Day hike with the whole family after that big meal, regardless of the weather. We find late fall and winter hiking when the leaves have fallen, the views more expansive, and most bugs and ticks are gone, is actually more enjoyable than summer hikes.
Our favorite IBK trail in late fall is the Tyrolean Trail as it meanders along the valley below Alpine Dam. Be sure to take the Waterfalls section, along with a hiking stick, just in case the waterfall disappears soon due to plugging the Lake Alpine leak. With more time and without young children you may want to try the nearly 2-mile loop section that climbs up to Alpine Woods Drive, as it is nearly impassable during summer months with tall vegetation. A reminder that maps of IBK trails can be found on-line.
Lyme and Other Tick-borne Diseases
With so many more families using our outstanding nature trails at IBK, it is wise to remind hikers of the risk of tick-borne diseases. The list of possible diseases is long and growing and includes: Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, meat-induced allergies, and the newer Heartland and Bourbon viruses. Whew! Over the past 15 years of a warming climate with less severe winters we have found more ticks in months they were once simply not around.
The CDC reports that disease transmitted by ticks have doubled in 12 years, and in Missouri during 2017 there were over 1,000 cases officially reported with many more that weren’t. But we don’t let this keep us from enjoying the outdoors, so we now use insect repellant with DEET or picaridin on us and treatments on our pets for most months of the year. For more information on what you can do to avoid ticks visit this Missouri Dept of Health website page and especially the fact sheets. Be advised that some city doctors may discount your risk and concern about tick diseases, but they may have never experienced a nature wonderland like IBK that constantly draws you outside.
Don’t forget that the fall is the easiest time to locate invasive honeysuckle on your property. Its bright red berries are hard to miss. It also keeps its green leaves longer, even into November, than nearly all other plants. To see what your property can look like if honeysuckle is not controlled watch this Stop Honeysuckle video. For help on identifying and eradicating honeysuckle visit this MDC Field Guide page or this Innsbrook Resort page.
Blessing of the Animals Closing Nature Quote
The annual blessing of the animals occurs on Thursday, Oct. 4. While we don’t have an event like this at IBK this year, as we once did, we encourage you to gather your pets or honor the wildlife outside your windows, and read them the following blessing:
“O God, we pray for all the animals of the earth today:
Watch over our pets, and those waiting to be adopted,
Watch over the wild animals, and the habitats they call home,
and help us to be good stewards of the gifts of creation.”
Rich & Kath for the Innsbrook Nature Group
P.S. If you have received this newsletter from a neighbor, you can sign up to receive future IBK Nature Group newsletters and event announcements by entering your email where prompted on the top right hand side of any page or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.