It all started in early May of last year with a lightning strike in the Pain’s Bay region of the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. The Pain’s Bay Fire, as it was called, spread over more than 45,000 acres, and had all of us revising our contingency plans with each new acre burned. Some of our biologists even donned their firefighting PPE (personal protective equipment) to fight the blaze.
The fire burned for nearly four months. In fact, the fire wasn’t fully extinguished until Hurricane Irene made landfall on the Outer Banks of North Carolina on the morning of August 27. Hurricane Irene had weakened to a Category 1 hurricane, with winds of 85 mph (140 km/h), just before it made landfall, so the damage from wind was minimal. But the hurricane tracked over eastern North Carolina and the Red Wolf Recovery Area for about ten hours before re-emerging into the Atlantic near the southern end of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. And ten hours of rain left substantial portions of the area severely flooded.
Of course, all the rain from Hurricane Irene and the subsequent flooding made for perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes. And when the mosquitoes hatched, they hatched in force! A plague of mosquitoes had local officials mounting multiple aerial assaults on the blood-sucking pests.
But that’s not all. Less than a week before Hurricane Irene hit, on August 23rd to be exact, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook the Red Wolf Recovery Area. Although the epicenter of the quake was near Richmond, Virginia, the effects were felt throughout the eastern U.S. And several aftershocks, ranging up to 4.5 in magnitude, occurred after the main tremor. The 5.8 earthquake was the largest to have occurred in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains since the earthquake of 1897 in western Virginia.
And as if a fire, a hurricane, a flood, an earthquake, and swarming mosquitoes weren’t enough, the Red Wolf Recovery Program lost several breeding wolves and managed coyotes to gunshot during the fall hunting season (we’ll have more on that in the near future, so stay tuned). But we’ve hit the ground running in 2012. And now whelping season -- when red wolf pups are born -- is just around the corner. So, be on the lookout for more blogs. I promise it won’t be nine months before you can enjoy our next rambling.