Species Tally Update: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

UPDATED October 12, 2019:

As of October 12, 2019, within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (a UNESCO-MAB World Heritage Site), the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory has identified 1006 species new to science and 9564 species new to the park. In total to date, there are 20050 total species in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This inventory includes the study of these species\’ habitats, relationships with similar and disparate species as well as genetics and population dynamics. This data helps us toward understanding the complexity of this unique ecosystem so that we may become better stewards.

(To learn more about the ATBI/DLIA and contribute to the profound work they are doing, visit www.dlia.org.)

Photo Title: Bobcat on the Hunt – (Great Smoky Mountains NP)
Photograph and text: Copyright 2004-2019 Deborah Siminski Tappan. All rights reserved.

Adopt A Pet, Please

By Utah (the dog, not the state) Tappan

“Hi everyone! My name is Utah. I’m Deb’s “littlest peanut” and all around dog pal! We’re strong proponents of pet adoption from area shelters and rescues and equally strong opponents to “puppy mills” and the like. Was I adopted? You betcha! But did you know that nationally fewer than 50% of the animals in shelters find homes and that the fate of the others is, sadly, euthanasia? That’s why I’m writing this article.”   – Wooof, Utah

There are many critters at shelters and rescues and they all desperately need homes! Deb and I recognize that some folks are unfamiliar with or have a misconception about shelter animals. They think that the animals at shelters and rescues are misfits. That we’re there because we’ve either been very, very bad and are unmanageable or that we’ve come from abusive homes or are “wild” strays and therefore could never become a good pet. Actually, every one of us has tremendous potential! Some of us are mixed breeds (like me), some of us are purebred. What we all have in common is that all we want to do is learn and become a part of your life.

I was about 4 1/2 months old when my original humans gave me up and left me at the county animal facility. The particular facility I was taken to was a “kill facility” so you can imagine how terrified I was. After a week or two, with my time running out, the folks at a local rescue noticed me and took me in. They gave me a warm place to stay, food, care and attention with the hopes that someone would want me. There were many of us there. Some were senior critters who remembered what it was like to have a home; others were little fur-babies left abandoned without their mommas; some were there because their humans had to relocate. We all wished for a human of our own and a forever home. All of us dreamed of sharing tenderness and love.

By the time I was 6 months old, I had been at the rescue for one month. I tried to understand every word spoken to me but I didn’t know what they meant and so I was a bit confused. But in spite of that, I had potential. Like all of us, I could learn. Like all of us, I wanted to learn! And then it happened; I was adopted. I was going to my forever home! That made me enormously happy!

I rode to my new home in a car and was so excited I wore myself out within the first five minutes and fell asleep on the way. Over the next few months I was gradually introduced to many new things. There was the house for me to explore and staircases for me to figure out. Those stairs were the ultimate mystery! Getting all four legs to cooperate was definitely a challenge and, given Deb’s exuberant laughter, funny to watch! There was a yard for me to play in filled with so many sights and scents I couldn’t believe it.

Since we dogs are social animals and truly eager to please, we’d gladly do what you want us to if we knew how. In my case, I was pretty rough around the edges; I was lacking in the social graces so to speak. Shoot, I didn’t even know my name. So from that first day home I was taught neat things including how to play nice, be patient (I’m a tad excitable), obedience commands, hide and seek, hiking and jogging, directional cues, how not to eat all the toilet paper on the roll, all kinds of nifty things. I’ve been trying to learn how to swim (Deb gets in the water to show me how it’s done; what a hoot!) and I now go into the water up to my behind. Maybe this summer I’ll take the big plunge! I love hiking and, soon, I’ll be learning how to backpack. I can’t wait!

If you were wondering, yep, I’m part German Shepherd (a working breed) and just love having something important to do. So, first thing in the morning, I sit with Deb while she has a cup of coffee on the back porch and we look out over the yard. Then I alert her to that scary snapping turtle in the creek and hunt for crickets. I’ve helped prune the shrubs and trees and last fall, I dragged my puppy pool (which Deb had filled with leaves) over to where she wanted them dumped. That kind of freaked her out. She didn’t know I had figured out how to do that. When it’s time for Deb to work, I lay near her. She thinks I’m napping but I’m always vigilant. All in all I’m a very happy dog! I have a forever home and am a perfect match to my family!

It’s now been almost a year and a half since I was adopted. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned. I guess the point to all this is that all of the critters at animal rescues and shelters are brimming with potential! Each senior, adolescent and fur-baby would love to be a part of a family. We need you to love and guide us. You know, if I hadn’t been rescued from the kill-facility, I never would have had the chance to be adopted and have such an amazing and joyful life. I was one of the lucky ones. So Deb’s and my wish is for each animal in shelters and rescues to find their forever home. Deb and I would like to ask that you please go to your animal shelter or rescue to adopt your next pet. There are so many adoptable critters in dire need of a home and every one of them is waiting just for you! They’re all wanting to be your “littlest peanut”. We sure hope you’ll help!

If you’d like to learn more about pet adoption; would like to locate a rescue/shelter near you; or conduct an online search for an adoptable pet, please visit the links we’ve listed below. Thanks oodles!!

Remembering …

Irie Tappan

December 1986 to April 17, 2002

(Adopted December 1987 from the HSTV)

Irie was an absolute doll and our “little sweetie” for over 14 years! She did a lot of camping and hiking and loved suntanning her belly. Here she is with her homemade pancake, though I confess, she had a preference for McDonald’s Hotcakes. Irie had been a stray rescued by the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley. – Deb

Photographs and text: Copyright 2004-2019 Deborah Siminski Tappan. All rights reserved.


To find a shelter or rescue in your area; or to search for an adoptable pet, please visit:

Adopt a Pet Logo


Pets 911

To learn more about pet adoption, please visit:

* Adopting from an Animal Shelter or Rescue Group

* Top Reasons to Adopt A Pet

* Stopping Puppy Mills

We’d like to thank the Humane Society of the United States for allowing us to link to their informative articles and helpful sites. – Deb and Utah

Wildlife Photography: Part 1 – Code of Ethics

“Whether you’re out hiking in the backcountry or sightseeing from your car, having a chance encounter with wildlife is a magnificent and treasured moment. Watching little elk calves speed running zigzag among the herd or glimpsing a bear munching on glacier lilies are sights that captivate and inspire us all.”   – Deb

For many however, the experience is so overpowering they lose sight of the fact that the subject of their admiration is a wild creature. Yes, sadly, I’ve seen some foolish human behavior over the years which resulted in tragic consequences to wildlife and humans. Therefore, it’s imperative that you know how to view and photograph wildlife sensitively and responsibly in a low impact manner. You will be rewarded with the most amazing experiences and others will learn from your fine example!

We natural history photographers adhere to a certain code of ethics. These guidelines are designed to ensure no harm is done to wildlife or their natural habitats. This is accomplished by following the points given below and by inquiring into and abiding by the rules and regulations of the area (national park, wilderness area, etc.) you are visiting. Be aware that the ecosystem you visit may be fragile, so tread gently and practice “leave no trace” principles (www.lnt.org).

  • First and foremost, view wildlife from a safe distance for both you and them. Respect their spatial needs. If the animal interrupts its behavior (resting, feeding, etc.), then you are too close and must distance yourself.
  • Never force an action. Be patient! The most beautiful photographs result from natural action.
  • Never come between a parent and its offspring. I’ve seen tiny bear cubs distressed, treed then separated from their mother by a throng of tourists eager for a closer look. This is unacceptable behavior.
  • Never crowd, pursue, prevent escape, make deliberate noises to distract, startle or harass wildlife. This is stressful and wastes valuable energy in needless flight. The impact is cumulative. Consider that you may be the 65th person to yell “hey moose” at that animal that day while it’s attempting to tend to its young.
  • Never feed or leave food (bait) for wildlife. Habituation due to handouts can result in disease or even death of that animal and injury to you.
  • Never encroach on nests or dens as certain species will abandon their young.
  • Never interfere with animals engaged in breeding, nesting, or caring for young. Learn to recognize wildlife alarm signals and never forget that these animals are NOT tame no matter how docile or cuddly they appear. No one would argue that you should not try to pet a bull yet there have been numerous instances where a tourist attempted to have his/her photo taken next to a bison with disastrous consequences.
  • Do not damage or remove any plant, lifeform or natural object.
  • Do pack out any trash.
  • Acquaint yourself with and respect the behaviors and ecosystems of the wildlife you may encounter. By doing so, you will enrich your experience tremendously.
  • Finally, and most significant, remember that the welfare of the subject and habitat are irrefutably more important than the photograph.

May you enjoy the beauty the wild lands have to offer!

Photo title: Moose Cow Feeding in a Pond (view 2) – (Yellowstone NP)
Photograph and text: Copyright 2004-2019 Deborah Siminski Tappan. All rights reserved.

Wildlife Photography: Part 3 – The Issue of Baiting Wildlife

The idea of using attractants, known as baiting, to photograph wildlife is a controversial one. Baiting wild animals is dangerous for both the photographer and animal. There are those who choose to bait but with that approach comes great responsibility.

At the very least, you are training wild animals to disregard their natural protective instincts when you bait. At the very worst, you are causing them to become dependent on a food source that you alone are providing them and this can be catastrophic.

The impacts are cumulative as well as sloping. For instance, if the bait isn’t getting you the results you are after, do you try a “food” which is not naturally a part of that species diet? Are you knowledgeable enough about their physiology to know what food products are safe? For some species, something as seemingly innocuous as potato chips can result in their death. What about using other forms of attractants. Do you now add calls or scents? What about a blind?* If you’re on US national parkland, all of these things are strictly prohibited (eg. Professional Photography Program).

If you bait, you run the chance of habituating the animal to humans. The animals may no longer think that humans are to be feared and that humans equate to the appearance of food. In the case of bears, that’s NOT a good idea at all for obvious reasons. If habituated, the results can be disastrous to both the individual (mauling at the least, death at the worst) and to the bear (relocation at the least, death at the worst). For example, the black bears of one of the US’s premier national parks have a reputation for being quite naughty. They are so habituated to humans that they are notorious for approaching backpackers for the food in their packs and breaking into cars in the parking lots, etc. This habituation is due in part to food access and improper food storage by visitors. (The US National Park Service has been actively engaged in educating visitors as to safe and proper food storage and animal watching behavior. Their efforts in this regard seem to be helping.)

Is getting a photograph worth the risk to yourself or the animal? Another thought to consider, is an animal trained to bait still truly “wild”? Along other lines, if you are a photographer that depends on such tactics, how successful will you be where you are prohibited from their use?

The very essence of wildlife photography is to photograph the animal as it exists in its natural surroundings. This is why we study and learn their patterns and behavior. It is why we back off and/or use longer lenses if the animal does begin to show any signs of stress. It’s also why we take pains not to destroy their habitat. It is why we tread softly.

(*A blind is a camouflaged structure from which a photographer shoots. It may be a permanent structure that is part of the parkland/protected land or a portable structure that an individual carries with them out into the field.)

Photo Title: Dall Sheep Ram – (Alaska)
Photograph and text: Copyright 2004-2019 Deborah Siminski Tappan. All rights reserved.

Wildlife Photography: Part 2 – Tips to Get You Started

Exploring wilderness areas and viewing wildlife in all its varied forms is a thrilling experience. You have the opportunity to witness the intricacies of our natural environment and the interplay of species and habitats. What a delight! To capture any of it photographically is a special treat. No need to ask why I do it; no need to wonder why I tote camera bodies, lenses, tripod, extra batteries, along with the other essentials (water, etc.) while hiking. It’s simply that I love it and you will too! So remember to pack along your camera the next time you’re out exploring.”   – Deb

Here are a few tips to get you started:

      • Always be alert. Know what’s around you and educate yourself on what safety precautions you may need to take.
      • Know your camera. If you have to search and fiddle with the controls, you’ll miss the shot. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the difference it makes using your camera’s manual features instead of its automatic ones.
      • Remember that compact digital cameras have a lag time between the depressing of the shutter button and the actual release of the shutter. Work around this unique challenge by practicing on moving subjects and anticipating the action. Another approach is to simply hold down the shutter button; taking a series of shots. With luck you’ll have captured the action you wanted.
      • When you get to a location, really look at what’s around you. Though you may have stopped for that heron you saw earlier, there may be a magnificently colored centipede at your feet. Yes indeed, centipedes are wildlife too!
      • Wait for natural action. Be very patient and you’ll be rewarded with stunning opportunities.
      • If you’re using a compact digital camera, take advantage of the optical zoom capabilities but IGNORE the digital zoom feature which merely enlarges pixels turning them into unsightly boulders.
      • Don’t use flash. If you’re far from your subject, the flash won’t be of any use. If you’re too close to your subject, you risk startling it and being injured yourself.
      • Don’t feel compelled to have your subject fill your frame. Instead include components of the animal’s habitat thereby adding another layer of interest to the story your photograph will tell.
      • Focus on the animal’s eyes when possible. If they are sharp, then the entire image is more pleasant to view.
      • Select your shutter speed manually. Don’t defer to your automatic mode. You’ll want to be flexible. A running herd shot with a slower shutter speed made while panning produces breathtaking results. (Yep, you’ll want to use a tripod for this.)
      • Experiment with depth-of-field. An equally powerful statement can be made using a deep depth-of-focus as with a short depth-of-focus. It’s entirely dependent on what elements you’ve framed in your foreground, mid-ground and background.
      • Animals are not unlike high-energy toddlers. Neither stay in one place for very long so be prepared. Never chase them but move cautiously, slowly and smoothly. ALWAYS stay the recommended distance from any wildlife (as specified by the National Park Service or other expert).
      • Become familiar with the habits of different species. Enrich your understanding of what they are doing and where you might look for them.
      • Shoot when the sun’s angle isn’t straight overhead and harsh. Morning and early evening light are much more pleasant and reveal more of the subject’s texture.
      • Try to be level with the critter. This may require a bit more athleticism than you expected, particularly if you’re photographing that centipede. Remember, dirt is your pal!
      • Finally, go out on “bad” weather days. Some of the most interesting images are captured during inclement weather.

Happy exploring and have a memorable time!

Photo Title: Strutting Bull Elk – (Great Smoky Mountains NP)
Photograph and text: Copyright 2004-2019 Deborah Siminski Tappan. All rights reserved.

Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics

We’d like to thank the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics for allowing us to post their Leave No Trace Principles here. To learn more about how you can minimize your impact when visiting wilderness areas, go to: Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. – Cheers, DST

Plan Ahead and Prepare:

  • Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
  • Visit in small groups. Split larger parties into groups of 4-6.
  • Repackage food to minimize waste.
  • Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces:

  • Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
  • Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
  • Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.

In popular areas:

  • Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
  • Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
  • Keep campsites small. Focus activities in areas where vegetation is absent.

In pristine areas:

  • Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
  • Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.

Dispose of Waste Properly:

  • Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter.
  • Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
  • Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.

Leave What You Find:

  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
  • Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.

Minimize Campfire Impacts:

  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
  • Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.

Respect Wildlife:

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors:

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
  • Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
  • Let nature\’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.

Printed with permission from the ‘Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics‘.