Big Lake, Alaska and The Susitna Valley News, Weather, Events, And More

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Tuesday, February 20 2018 @ 10:08 AM AKST


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Scenes Around Big Lake - Labrador tea

NatureTook this pic while on a hike:

Photo by Dennis Garrett

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ledum latifolium, an earlier name for Rhododendron groenlandicum

Labrador tea is an herbal tea (not a true tea) made from three closely related species:

Rhododendron tomentosum (Northern Labrador tea, previously Ledum palustre),

Rhododendron groenlandicum, (Bog Labrador tea, previously Ledum groenlandi*barking*or Ledum latifolium) and

Rhododendron neoglandulosum, (Western Labrador tea, or trapper's tea, previously Ledum glandulosum).

All three are primarily wetland plants in the Heath family (Ericaceae). The herbal tea has been a favorite beverage among Athabaskan and Inuit people for many years.

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Scenes Around Big Lake

NatureTook this pic while out for a walk.

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Living in Moose Country

NatureIf you've been around Big Lake more than a few days, this may not be news to you: "People and moose in Alaska have been neighbors for thousands of years. Both humans and moose prefer the same low-lying habitat adjacent to rivers and streams, causing them to come into frequent contact. Moose can be found in Alaska from the Unuk River in the Southeast Panhandle to the Colville River on the Arctic Slope, a span that includes many large Alaskan communities and numerous villages. The key to coexisting with moose is to avoid confrontations by giving moose plenty of space. Never approach a moose!"

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Winter Sunrise in Big Lake, Alaska


Winter Sunrise in Big Lake, Alaska.

Photo by and © 2014 Dennis Garrett

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Shark Species Thought to Be Extinct Found in Fish Market

Nature"After his 1902 trip to Yemen, scholar and naturalist Wilhelm Hein returned with a variety of plants and animals, which he donated to the Vienna Museum. One of these specimens, a shark, sat unnoticed for more than 80 years. In 1985 it was identified as the first (and only known) specimen of Carcharhinus leiodon, the smoothtooth blacktip shark. Because no others had ever been found by scientists, Alec Moore, regional vice chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group’s Indian Ocean group, says that “some suspected it might be extinct or not a valid species.”

In 2008, during a Shark Conservation Society research expedition to Kuwait’s sharq fish market (the name is a coincidence, it means east in Arabic), Moore says that “amongst the many species of whaler shark was one which looked very similar, but different, to a couple of other species.” Later analysis revealed that although this specimen was more than 3,000 kilometers from where Hein caught his, this was a smoothtooth blacktip, the first new individual seen by scientists in over a century."
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Alaska officials warn drivers of caribou crossing Glenn Highway

Nature"After two vehicle accidents last week involving caribou within about five miles of each other along the Glenn Highway leading to the Interior Alaska community of Glennallen, Alaska State Troopers and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are warning that about 10,000 caribou are wintering near a 30-mile stretch of road there and advising travelers to exercise caution."

ADF&G photo Why do the Caribou cross the road?
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Dead moose cluttering up the yard? What next?

Nature"The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reports on the experience of a Big Lake family that learned first-hand about a catch-22 regarding property owners' responsibility for wildlife carcasses. And with this winter as hard as it has been on area moose, the problem may be more common than usual this spring.

A clearly starving young moose started hanging around Lucille Magee's yard in February. About a month later, her granddaughter discovered the moose's carcass about 20 feet from the house."
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What to do with a dead Alaskan moose in your yard?

Nature"So you just realized the moose that was lying in your yard for the last couple of days has rolled over and died. Who you gonna call?

Ten thousand years ago this was an easy decision. You dealt with it yourself. Or you might have hollered for a few friends to give you a hand. You might have followed an established custom or deferred to the head of the tribe or a village elder.

These days, in America at least, moose and other wild animals are owned by us all and managed by the state. People have changed too. If handed a knife and asked to field dress a moose a large number of Alaskans wouldn’t know where to begin. And most of us wouldn’t want to eat a moose that's been marinating in its own juices for a day or more. So who you gonna call?"
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Alaska’s tough insects play a crucial role in the ecosystem and provide a lesson in the resilience of life.

Nature"Unlike birds, Alaska bugs don't migrate. They have to endure subzero temperatures that can beset large areas for months at a time.

But endure they do. Sikes cited one kind of moth can crawl around the North Slope as a caterpillar for seven years before earning its wings.

Some bugs burrow into the ground or huddle with an air pocket around them in snow. "It's warmer under the snow than above it," Sikes observed. Others dehydrate themselves or have developed a protein that works like antifreeze, "strategies" that keep fatal ice crystals from forming in their cells.

Mosquito eggs and larvae develop under ice in water that's usually very cold, but not frozen, a magnificently successful survival strategy, as most Alaskans will attest. But Sikes credits the buzzing nuisances with an important place in the ecosystem. "The larvae are an important food source for fish," he said. "Males are well-known pollinators -- and they don't drink blood. We should be thankful that none of the ones in Alaska transmit diseases to humans."

In fact, insects may be the most important animals around. "They're kind of like this glue in the food web," Sikes said. "They provide a huge food base for birds and other animals, and for plants. They pollinate, assist in decomposition, move fungus around."
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