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In Central Park, a Rare Brilliance Spotted

The Free Press WV

If there’s anywhere you’ll see a punk rocker with a “multicolored mohawk,“ New York City would be the place. But the Mandarin duck that’s been hanging out in Central Park since mid-October is another story entirely. The New York Times reports the creature with brilliantly hued plumage was first spotted Oct. 10 and has since gone viral, with spectators all vying for pictures of an animal usually seen only in East Asia. For now, the duck’s origins remain a mystery: None of the city’s zoos have this type of duck missing from the roster, and it’s illegal in NYC to keep a duck as a pet. That means the duck perhaps escaped from, say, an owner in New Jersey and made its way to the city, or maybe the owner itself got sick of the duck and unceremoniously left it and ran.

Either way, the duck has been a huge hit. “It’s just an incredible gift to New York,“ one birder tells CBS New York. Avian experts believe that based on its feeding habits—it likes bugs and vegetation skimmed from the water’s surface—the duck should be able to survive just fine in the Big Apple, and park officials say they’re just going to let it be unless it becomes injured. It already appears to have made friends with the park’s mallards. Read more on how a pair of eager birders tried (and ultimately succeeded) to coax the duck to come closer for pictures, including with a hot pretzel from a nearby cart and, yes, quacking.

Meet the FBI of the National Park Service

The Free Press WV

There are 33 agents assigned to the Investigative Services Branch and they handle the tough cases that arise on land most of us visit for only a few hours or days at a time.

And you’d be surprised at how much crime occurs in our National Parks system.

Here’s the story of a murder case that began with a frantic cry for help from a husband who told rescuers that his wife had suffered a fearsome fall off rocks.

It’s also the story of a police force that began with a “Hippie riot” at Yosemite in 1970.

Learn More:    Outside

North Bend State Park to host 51st Nature Wonder Weekend September. 21-23, 2018

The Free Press WV

North Bend State Park’s Nature Wonder Weekend, North America’s premier and longest-running wild foods event, will celebrate its 51st annual event September 21-23. The theme of this year’s event is “Forage and Feast.”

“This year we will get back to the basics of this long-running event, and participants will enjoy a weekend of foraging and preparation at its best,” said Emily Fleming, deputy director for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “North Bend State Park has long been a forager’s paradise with an abundance of edible wild foods. Experienced foragers will be there to help attendees discover the richness nature provides.”

Wild food foragers from across the country attend the Nature Wonder Weekend every year. This year’s keynote speaker will be Doug Elliott, naturalist, herbalist, storyteller and author from Union Mills, North Carolina. Other guest speakers will include Mike Krebill, wild foods author and teacher from Keokuk, Iowa, and Sam England, chief of West Virginia State Parks.

Events begin Friday evening and conclude Sunday morning. There are scheduled speakers, presentations, nature walks, the event’s first-ever bike hike and collection and preparation of wild foods. Activities include a park tour, wild food identification instruction, the Hazel Wood Commemorative Wild Food Cooking Contest and the Bill Faust Wild Cake Contest. The Wild Drink Contest winner is awarded the honorary Maxine Scarbro Friendship Cup.

Overnight lodging packages as well as day-only attendance and meal options are available. Guests may reserve lodge rooms, cabins or camping sites. Packages for traditional Appalachian-style meals are available at North Bend Lodge restaurant.

To register, contact Wendy Greene by calling 304.558.2754 or send an email to . A registration form is available at and overnight lodging reservation information is available at wvstateparks.com/event/nature-wonder-weekend-north-bend/.     

Nature Wonder Weekend is sponsored by the National Wild Foods Association, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, and North Bend State Park.

State park uses goats to attack invasive weeds

The Free Press WV

After unsuccessful attempts with chemical and mechanical weed treatments at New River Gorge, the National Park Service has decided to try its luck with an all-natural solution: goats.

New River Gorge National River says in a news release that 24 goats began a monthlong intensive grazing period Friday in the Thurmond area of West Virginia.

Officials hope the animals are able to kill fast-growing, invasive weed species that include kudzu and Japanese knotweed.

The release says goats continually eat plants, which will stress and weaken them until they eventually die.

Plans call for the goats to return to the area over the next two years so Park Service biologists can gauge their effectiveness.

Official say the grazed areas will be replanted with native grass and wildflower species.

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