Thursday, November 21, 2013

They Call it a "Tripod" because... - by Stephanne

Picture a tripod in your head.  I don’t care what you want your tripod to support… just make sure that you have a clear picture of what it looks like – the structure – in your mind. 
Got it?
Great, hold that. 
SO… looking at your tripod, what makes it work? Most likely, it’s a connector or connection of the three legs near the top of the tripod.  Doesn’t matter if your connection is made by a platform, from rope tying the three legs together, or superglue… it’s generally going to be a functional tripod because it has a connection where the connection is most needed – the top.  If you think about why a tripod works, it’s that all three of the legs are equal (or close) in length and all provide the same amount of support where the connection exists at the top.  If one leg is drastically shorter, or if one leg is weaker, or if you lack a means of connection for the 3 legs… will the tripod function correctly?  I doubt it.
Curious on why I bring this up? Well, probably not, but lend a girl your ears (eyes) and I’ll try to make it worth your time. 
I see a vast disconnect between the three legs that hold up the platform of “Wildlife Conservation and Management.”  So, what do we look at first… the platform, or the legs?  OK, we’ll go for platform because it’s quick and dirty. 
In the tripod I’m currently thinking of, the realm of Wildlife Conservation is the platform.  We need to define that there is a very distinct difference between the words “conservation” and ”preservation”.  Conservation equates to wise and sustainable use. Preservation means “hands off – let it be.”  I’d love to be a hardcore preservationist, but I’d be a very hypocritical hardcore preservationist as I’d be all “everyone get the hell out… except me.”  <grin>  So, seeing my own shortcoming here… I shall stick with Conservation. 
Now, let’s look at the three legs that, if they were working together like they should, should provide ample support for my wildlife platform:

Resource Management

The Resource Management aspect encompasses those who are responsible for setting limits (many kinds of limits) and they use science to help them define those limits. 
One of the issues that this leg faces is that they are pretty much responsible to a demographic that pays their bills.  We like to call this the “hook and bullet” demographic.  First, you may need to know:
A lot of people are under the misconception that public lands (wildlife management areas, refuges, etc) and the agency that manages all of the aspects of those are paid for and by the taxpayers.  The only thing that makes that statement true is that the people who fund the agency pay and endeavors also happen to be taxpayers.  Outside of that, the general public needs to understand that taxpayer dollars from a “general fund” don’t go for these people, land, or animals.  The money they receive are additional taxes on hunting gear (i.e. ammo, etc) and from licensing fees (in addition to other small contributing factors). 
So now that we have that definition in place, the hurdle here is that when you’re performing a lot of your science and marketing your product, you’re marketing to the people who are tried-and-true buyers of your product.  You market to keep your current clientele and – maybe – work a bit to expand that client base.  So, the agencies are seen as ‘catering to’ “nothing but hook-and-bullet people” because that is who their usual audience (and their primary customer) is. 
Another thing is the lack of standards when it comes to their governing body.  The agency doesn’t usually have free reign to do whatever they feel is best for the resource.  They have a ‘board’ of sorts that they answer to and who has the power to overrule them.  That board, in many cases, is comprised of people who are not required to have degrees or any advanced education in wildlife biology, ecology, or conservation.  So the agency may opt to recommend – for example – not hunting a resource due to whatever factors and they can simply be overruled by the governing body. 

Academia, Philanthropic

The academic and philanthropic arena is slightly harder to quantify.  These are, generally, people that really do mean well.  They help to get the word out about things that may need some attention to further their cause.  The problem here is a few things.
First, the information they provide to the general public is often one-sided.  I remember awhile back sending a letter to my state representative surrounding the export of horses for medical research and/or slaughter.  American’s have an affinity toward horses and I feel that same affinity.  So, I read what the organization put out, was enraged and emboldened by their comments, and fired off a letter to someone who had a voice.  The legislation was passed and I felt vindicated… until I found out that, as a consequence, tons of horses were starving because the people who were ‘farming’ them no longer had an avenue to sell their product.  SO, I helped to save many horses from a humane and expedient death only to have them slowly starving on farms.  Why? Because I trusted someone else’s information instead of doing some research on my own… I let them make up my mind instead of making it up for myself based on a fuller picture of reality. 
Further, the academic and philanthropic organizations will usually work with the local agencies; the agency staff promote the communications and everyone is happy and singing Kum By Ya… until the agency doesn’t do exactly what the organization wants.  Then the organization is in the media crying foul. 
Lastly, the organizations often have an unrealistic ideal of what should and should not be.  I’m a prime example of this… I have an affinity toward apex predators and I have a very staunch belief that they shouldn’t be hunted.  Period.  Ever.  Others will disagree and say that they are entitled to hunt a “surplus” or that they aren’t responsible for the emigration of a species to other areas.  Get me fired up on that topic and I promise you that the only “reason” I see is the one that I feel.  In this case, I’m likely considered an extremist,… which is where many of the people in this category fall in.

Media and the General Public

The media and the General Public (“GP” from here on) are the scariest group.  They both feed on the information above but there seems to be a focus on the extremists.  The media likes the extremist because they are far more dramatic and sensational and provide a ‘better, more exciting story’ and the agency science is downplayed as an “excuse”.  This mindset means that the GP hears that extremist point of view.  So we hear that the evil agency is going to shoot the little birdies or critters because they are a bunch of gun-toting wackos who live only to “shoot sh*t”.  Is that true?  The vast majority of the time, no.  But it’s what the GP hears and, we all know, if it’s on the news it must be true. 
Now, remember, this is the same GP that gets to click a button to autopopulate a letter with verbiage and then flood the email boxes of legislators and agency staff… all while only knowing a portion of the truth that we were fed.  How scary is that?  Think about all the things you complain about in a day that you heard on the news… all the possibilities for the partial information that we use to make a decision on where we stand.  It’s really pretty scary how much we rely on a rating-driven company who is out to make a profit to give us a full and unbiased story. 
Worse, how much of our decision-making on what we believe is based on what I call “Ignorance-fueled hysteria”?  Here’s examples I see of that hysteria in my world:
·         “Cougars, bear, and wolves are dangerous predators who will sneak into a subdivision at night and steal a sleeping child from their room.” 

I realize this is insane, but this is the attitude that I hear about.  It’s a ignorance-fueled hysteria from people who have better odds of winning back-to-back mega lottery drawings than ever even seeing one of these creatures in the wild.  Why? Because they don’t go into the wild.  Their version of “outdoors” equates to their manicured lawn or that stretch of “outside” between their car and the store.  So the question I ask myself often is, “Do these people have as much right to have input on wildlife issues as I – a backpacker – do?”  You tell me. 
·         “We shouldn’t hunt animals because that’s why we have grocery stores.”

That’s fine to know that I can go to a grocery and pick up a slab of ribs that may or may not have antibiotics and hormones and whatever else lingering in them.  It is my right to go to that store and choose what meat to buy and when to buy it.  But we have other options.  Deer, as a good example, have no natural predators (except us) in my region and they are in abundance.  I say it is my right to hunt and consume a deer just as it’s my right to “hunt” for a package of meat at the store.   Honestly, it’s not really a right… it’s a privilege. Just like it’s a privilege that there are stores and meat I could purchase.   I realize the deer is pretty.  I realize the deer need a ‘voice’.  And that is why I rely on my agency to provide me – a voice for the deer (and, sometimes, a voice for me). 
·         “We shouldn’t hunt those because we almost drove them to extinction already!”

Well… I’m sorry to say that humans driving something to the brink of extinction is poor management.  But – when we can and are lucky and successful – the agency and the academics and the philanthropic organizations and the general public work together to restore a population to sustainable numbers.  Letting those numbers then simply continue to increase is great in a preservationist world (which I am fond of in some regard) but it is almost just as irresponsible in the terms of management.  Why?  Because we are a fickle species who loves to vocalize how wretched we are when we negatively impact a species…. And also equally vocal when a species rebounds to population numbers that we then consider the species a nuisance.  Need examples?  I’m glad you asked because I have tons!  Deer.  Geese.  Turkey.  Black Bear.  Cougar (west of me, sadly!).  Should I keep going?  In the eyes of the GP the wildlife is great as long as it’s not so high in concentration that it’s in their back yard.  Hello, hypocrites, welcome to the world
So what’s the lesson that we have learned? Pffft, as if I could begin to pull a lesson out of this? I guess if I had to, the lesson I have learned in the past year is:
 My local wildlife agency isn’t evil… they do what they hear and see as what the public wants usually… so the onus is on the public to be logically vocal about things. If you’re “tired” of them ‘catering’ to the usual suspects, then give them a valid and rational reason to listen to you, too.  I don’t mean to start blasting them with “don’t hunt EVER EVER again you bad, bad humans!”… I mean “hey… I realize you manage public lands and I’d like to visit them if you gave me a reason to go without a rifle or rod.”  Or “tell me who all you talked to, what the science says, and why you’d want to implement a season for blahblah animal?”
It’s simply amazing what we can do with educated dialogue. 
And that’s the lesson.  Educated, clear, and honest dialogue rather than finger-pointing, whining in the media, blatant assumptions, and more.   We need all of the categories of our tripod above to be on a level playing field and being open, clear, honest, and unbiased in what they are telling people. 
If you can’t be all of those things, then (in the great words of teenaged texters everywhere): Shut It. 

Stephanne Dennis is an outdoor enthusiast extraordinaire. A highly skilled backpacker and apex predator specialist, she shares her love of the outdoors with her unrivaled writing skills and her faithful companion, Bandit McKaye, her Anatolian Shepherd. She is currently studying Wildlife Biology at Oregon State University and dedicates her time and skills to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation.

Lost in a World of Hidden Enchantment - by Stephanne

Most girls would consider a weekend "good" if they got to do their nails, or their hair, or went shopping and found a perfect outfit, or maybe hung out with friends.

Me?... well, I don't know that I fall into the realm of 'normal girl'.  

Most girls probably wouldn't enjoy the smell of week old, very ripe sardines or multiple chigger bites on each ankle or the tendency to say, "Uck, another tick" as they pull the parasitic little buggers off and char them with a flame.

Again... I don't know if I remotely qualify for the realm of 'normal girl'.  

Most girls wouldn't considering hiking up relatively steep hills with a backpack, hiking back on the same steep hills after dark, or the constant humming of mosquitos and flies as fun.  I'd venture that the vast majority wouldn't want to be out in the middle of nowhere-ville potential bear country toting a can of bear spray and a .22 on a good day; much less on a dreary, rain-prone weekend where the cloud-shrouded mountains hide even the most conspicuous landmarks.  Yes,... most girls don't want to be in the woods... much less baiting bears to check for density and distribution.

Thank god I don't fall anywhere near, much less into, the realm of normal.  

For the last two weekends I have been working with my bud(s) at the TWRA learning how to hang and distribute bear bait stations to see if we can't get a gauge on the bear density and distribution in the mid- to northern Cumberland Plateau region.  The first weekend that we were out I was learning how to hang stations and it was educational.  I admit that the biologists for TWRA are some amazing people and I learn so much every time I'm exposed to them (especially Daryl - THANK YOU!).  The second weekend was primarily checking the bait stations and removing all traces that we had hung them.  Let me tell you... this was the smelly part of the job.  I pride myself on being someone who can handle quite an array of organic smells (generally it's the non-organics, like heavy perfume, that bother me) but I will admit that the smells we were hauling could singe the nose hair off a far more jaded person than I!

The one thing that was amazing about this past weekend was a discovery of an area that I can't say I had ever paid any attention to when I saw it on the maps.  Usually parks 'annoy' me.  They are too highly accessible and too perfectly manicured.  But sometimes you're thrown a gem and this weekend was the most beautiful emerald I had seen in our state.  We had only one bait station to hang this weekend and we crossed a 'river' in the big truck (quad on back) and, at first, I didn't see anything remotely special about the place.  Trees going up a ridge, us parked in a chigger-filled field at the bottom.  No biggie.  We unloaded the ATV and packed up the gear and started through the field and up the trail.  It wasn't even 30 seconds before the world transformed in front of me.  I was transported from Tennessee to the wet, decaying, and uber-luscious greenery that defines the Pacific Northwest.  Everything was alive from the amazingly high canopy to the moss-coated, decaying fallen trees.  The most picturesque stream gurgled lazily through the middle of the enchanted area and it felt almost surreal.  Perfect waterfalls cascaded down a 12-inch drop only to meander for a dozen feet to cascade again.  The forest floor didn't crunch as you traversed it... it squished every so audibly as the water oozed from between the leaves underfoot.  Ferns and mosses coated everything and, just when you thought it couldn't get any more enchanted, the sunlight would break through a cloud and burst through the canopy to highlight the stream or turn a fern from envy-inducing green to a blazing emerald.  It was heart-breakingly beautiful and my recurrent quote was "Just leave me here".  "For the week?" my guide would ask.  "No... forever would be fine," was my reply.  The serenity of that quiet mountain stream... until you experience something like that, you really don't know the splendor that nature hides from the mere mortal world.

Sadly, I couldn't be left there to fend for myself for the remainder of my years because there were GPS coordinates to mark and bait stations to hang.  Near the top of our journey up the mountain I discovered something else that was new to me:  a Legacy tree.  I asked my TWRA bud what a Legacy tree is and he gave a round-about idea but we agreed it needed to be looked into more.  Essentially, I wiki'd that a legacy tree is one very stout veteran tree that may be several hundreds of years old.  Usually their size defines them, like a girth of over 9 ft 10 in (sometimes varies based on species) and have a very high conservation value.  Sometimes the conservation value is dead limbs, hollows, rot holes, splits, etc.  These are things that the normal human may see as bad or undesirable, but the value of those features to the immediate ecological area is astounding (because they turn into habitats for so many things).  You can liken it to the tree of life in Fern Gully or Home Tree from Avatar, if you choose.  If you had asked me to tell you where trees like this exist, I would have pointed you towards Joyce Kilmer - home of the Eastern epics - but it was so refreshing to find one in Tennessee.  I leaned against it, staring up at the  never-ending trunk as it reached regally towards the sky.  In the Apps it is so easy to visualize the low, dense fog as it gently brushed the leaves at the top.

This was the top of the journey, the last of the stations to hang (albeit there were more to collect).  Next weekend I am so pleased to know that I get to revisit my surreal forest and the Legacy tree (a chestnut oak, in case you were wondering!) and - although I have mixed feelings about the journey because it will be on foot - I will apparently be retrieving the data myself and get to daydream of being forever "lost" in enchantment...

...maybe I'll haul my camera next time and snap some shots for you?  Hard to say... when I find places like this, it's VERY hard to get me to share!

Just in case I haven't mentioned it, I love that I'm not a normal girl!

Stephanne Dennis is an outdoor enthusiast extraordinaire. A highly skilled backpacker and apex predator specialist, she shares her love of the outdoors with her unrivaled writing skills and her faithful companion, Bandit McKaye, her Anatolian Shepherd. She is currently studying Wildlife Biology at Oregon State University and dedicates her time and skills to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation.

Melancholy and the Art of Distraction - by Stephanne

Today was supposed to be fun.  Sort of... fulfilling.  I woke at 6 a.m. with the intent of having a good day, one full of hiking in a splendid area and being all "official intern" collecting and analyzing bear bait stations by myself.  I was ok at first; my daughter and my pup were going with me so it was a casual, fun day.  I had my maps, I had the GPS, I had the ziplock baggies to seal in the "stanky" that I was off to collect.  It was supposed to be fun.  We were on the road by 7 and the weather was perfect (with a threat of uck that held off).  However, about an hour up the road, in a little city called Rockwood... it dawned me:  

This was the last day of the bear study for me and I was going it "alone"... and that would be the end of it for me... the last official tie... complete.  

I tried to shake off the feeling of melancholy that was looming but... maybe because it has just been a really rough week, it wasn't budging.  It actually got worse as I went.  We hit the trail around 9 and huffed it up the mountain, agreeing that I'd gather the last bait station first to try and fend off the odors.  On the way up, just before getting to the top bait station, there were hog tracks - fresh - all in the trail.  I pointed out an older deer track to Jess and explained to her how to tell the difference.  An hour later the station gathered, we were already headed back down.

When we were about halfway back Jess and Bandit took off, opting to follow the creekline which was far more scenic.  I don't know why, but I didn't have the urge to follow.  I stayed on the trail, ensuring I didn't get too far ahead of them every now and again (keen ears sure help) and collected station 3.  I waited there... looking around at the lush and moss-covered surroundings with more sadness than awe... for Jess and Bandit to catch up.  We again parted ways, me going back to the trail while they stuck to the creekline.
At station 2 they were waiting on me, the creek was the more direct route this time and I *may* have been distracted by three butterflies that created their kaleidoscope around me as I walked.  I analyzed the
area and removed the bait and Jess asked if we could stop there to eat.  Sure.  Why not. Why was I in such a hurry to get off the mountain?  We ate in virtual silence as Bandit played in the water. I cleaned up our mess and told Jess to head back to the trail with me since we were only a half-mile from the trailhead.  We continued down the hill in silence. 

Before I knew it I was at the end... or the beginning I suppose?... I collected the last bait station and we crossed the creek in our shoes. We all piled into the car and headed back.  They slept on the way home and that was ok with me because I felt the urge to hide within myself... marvel at the joy that I recently felt as I gallivanted from mountain to mountain for days on end.
...the end of things... things, even while appreciative, you still find tht you didn't appreciate as much as you should have.   

After we got home the skies finally caught my mood and the clouds let slip their hold on the rain.  It was ok... rain masks so much.   

Stephanne Dennis is an outdoor enthusiast extraordinaire. A highly skilled backpacker and apex predator specialist, she shares her love of the outdoors with her unrivaled writing skills and her faithful companion, Bandit McKaye, her Anatolian Shepherd. She is currently studying Wildlife Biology at Oregon State University and dedicates her time and skills to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation.

Sanctuary - by Stephanne

Sanctuary... Google defines "sanctuary" as: 

  1. a place of refuge or safety
  2. a nature reserve, such as "bird sanctuary"
  3. a holy place, temple or church

How close can they come, yet miss it?  How snugly can they skirt the point? Let's do the word some justice, shall we? Let's truly define "Sanctuary".  

Sanctuary: A place ( not quite...)  

Sanctuary: A holy place or refuge in nature. 

A friend asked, "what is nature to you?" and the immediate thought and feeling that surfaced: Sanctuary.  There is no place like the wild for me.  It recharges me and resets my internal batteries... it melts my stress.... it transforms my life to a simple yet deeply rewarding time.  Nature is my Sanctuary. 

Who can argue the awe-inspiring sense of wonder and humility when viewing sunrise across an expanse of rugged, snow-capped peaks?  Nature is my Sanctuary. 

Who can negate the sense of peace and internal harmony as a babbling brook playfully dances with the rocks of a mountain stream?  Nature is my Sanctuary.  

Who can dispute the calm serenity of ocean waves rhythmically thrumming the ever-steady heartbeat of the earth, chorused by calling gulls?  Nature is my Sanctuary.  

Even the side of nature that scares us, yet is an integral part of this world, gives us a sense of awe with her raw power, beauty, and grace?  Lightening messily scratching its light across the skies... volcanoes with their powerful bellows and blood of magma... twisting delicate ropes of destruction in tornadoes... the immense splendor of a hurricane viewed from space... the 'reclaimable energy' of floods or avalanches.  Yes, even these capture us in wonder.  

Nature, you see, is in our genes... etched into the very atoms that create us.  We are part of nature and nature is a part of us.  The benefits of being ensconced in that nature are numerous and immeasurable.  Perhaps that oneness is why nature resets and recharges, inspires and enamors, instills peace and serenity?  Regardless if your version of being in nature is a vista view from a car or the most hidden secret lakes and meadows shrouded in mountains and mist... nature is a sanctuary.  It heals what wounds we cannot see... may not feel... and sometimes have not yet begun to fathom.  

How? Why?  It's simple...

...Nature is a Sanctuary. 

...maybe you should find your sanctuary in nature...
 just remember to take care of it.

Stephanne Dennis is an outdoor enthusiast extraordinaire. A highly skilled backpacker and apex predator specialist, she shares her love of the outdoors with her unrivaled writing skills and her faithful companion, Bandit McKaye, her Anatolian Shepherd. She is currently studying Wildlife Biology at Oregon State University and dedicates her time and skills to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation.

Giving Back to Our Defenders of Freedom - by Stephanne

There are many things that I've never done and, ironically, millions that I didn't realize I really wanted to do. This weekend was one such occassion. This past year I've become more and more involved in things that surround the workings of the TWRA (Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency) and the TWRF (Tennessee Wildlife Resource Foundation). This has afforded me exciting opportunities to both broaden my horizons as well as provide new experiences. Most of these experiences have to do with wildlife or outdoor-related activities, but this weekend brought something really great to the plate: The Wounded Warriors Hunt.

You know, I've read this blog post over and over and I just can't seem to 'nail it'. "It" being that emotion that filled me yesterday where I wanted to stay all night long and spend time with the boys who had already given far too much in service of our country. One of those guys, Wade, would have told me "That's not true... you gave us your son who serves as well." Maybe... but they all have Moms as well so I'm not exactly super special for that. Wounded Warriors. The title is befitting but the boys themselves were still upbeat, fun, and I would give my all to protect each and every one of them from anything.

What the event means... for them and for me

When I arrived at the event on Sunday early afternoon, I wasn't sure what to expect. It was being hosted by a friend of mine and I had silently questioned why an individual would put so much time, effort, and money into something that he wasn't necessarily impacted by. Wow, how wrong could I be when I thought 'wasn't necessarily impacted by'? Everyone there was impacted by what we were doing in one way or another. The TWRA and SCI helped the local host with some resources and a lot of man power for activities, which ranged from a skeet shooting competition (I was impressed... and I'm hard to impress!) to bow targets to rifle targets. There was a live band (who were pretty darn good - Overland Express, I think?) and a catered lunch and grilled Cajun hotdog dinner. The bonfire was nothing short of epic and - thankfully - warm as the temp dropped with the waning sunlight. The participants were relatively local guys (the ones I spent the most time with were stationed at Fort Campbell, KY) and had all been wounded serving our country. I'm well known for being a staunch supporter of our defenders of freedom (which has gone into hyperdrive since my son left for the Navy) and always expressed great pride in my hockey team (Nashville Predators) for honoring a soldier at each and every game... but the standing applause I provide at games is still somewhat distant (even if tear jerking).

This weekend was far more up close and personal. I ended up hanging out with a group of young men from Fort Campbell and spending the majority of my day listening to them talk about the random things occurring in their lives. They asked me about my son (I was sporting my pink cammo "Proud Navy Mom" shirt!) and they reassured me countless times that with his profession he likely wouldn't ever end up at one of their Wounded Warrior events.

How does one respond to something like that? "Thank you"? or "I'm glad to hear that"? Or what?! What doesn't sound selfish or self-serving in light of what they've done?

I appreciated their concern for my emotions but I can't tell you it didn't really strike home that the majority of the boys were just that: boys. Of the group I befriended, all were younger than I and the majority were merely a few years older than my son and here they were: Wounded Warriors. They had been deployed across the world, traversed mountains and caves in the middle east and bore scars telling of their travels. Stephen, only 24 (4 years older than my own son) had leg injuries. Chase, 24, knee and hip and both ankles. I wanted to hug them... to tell them I was sorry for what happened. But I didn't think that was appropriate necessarily... so I opted, instead, to treat them with utmost respect and express verbally that I was so very proud of them and would forever be indebted to their service in honor of my freedom. And the boys? Can you believe they were touched by the what we were doing for them? It was nothing compared to what they have done… yet their appreciation was obvious and outspoken and knowing that we provided a comfort and fun for them was heartwarming. So… of course I had to drag ALL of my gang into the field to “dance” for the last song of the night (of note, we officially tapped right feet in tune, held a few lighters in the air, and even managed a sway or two! HAHAHA).

Why the TWRA

Another thing that was shocking to me was the involvement and service by and from the TWRA in support of this event. The things that are occurring today and tomorrow - the actual hunts - are greatly assisted by the TWRA and I don't know how many people know that they do events like this. They provide opportunities for these wounded service men and women to participate in a guided hunt in some locally well known 'honey holes' for game. To say I am proud to be an intern/volunteer with the TWRA/TWRF is a drastic understatement. The staff from the Agency showed in force - from retired law enforcement officers to the Chief of Wildlife - all to lend a helping hand and express personal gratitude for our heroes.

My pride runneth over both for our Warriors and for the Agencies with which I am affiliated. My personal thanks for being a part of this event - and hopefully those to come - has no limits.

Stephanne Dennis is an outdoor enthusiast extraordinaire. A highly skilled backpacker and apex predator specialist, she shares her love of the outdoors with her unrivaled writing skills and her faithful companion, Bandit McKaye, her Anatolian Shepherd. She is currently studying Wildlife Biology at Oregon State University and dedicates her time and skills to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation.