Tennessee Biologists Go On Two-Day 'Bio-Blitz'

Biologists trapped all kinds of mice and then went looking under rocks and logs for salamanders as part of a 48-hour bio-blitz to document all animals in Tennessee's parks.

Tennessee has adopted its own All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, which has been ongoing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, that is part of a federal initiative to bring in more money for non-game management in the state.

At the 85,000-acre Catoosa Wildlife Management Area in Cumberland and Morgan counties, about 25 biologists worked around the clock last week. It's the state's largest and oldest public hunting areas and one of the most biologically diverse.

Of about 1,300 wildlife species in Tennessee, only about 10 percent can be legally hunted or fished. The others are considered nongame.

Biologists caught white-footed and cotton mice in some traps while the traps for shrews were empty.

"Shrews like to forage under the leaf litter up against natural barriers," said Kirk Miles, a nongame biologist for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. "They're like miniature lions. Their metabolism is so high, they have to constantly eat."

Along a creek, the scientists looked for salamanders.

TWRA biologist Daniel Stanfield caught a Cumberland dusky salamander.

"Flipping over rocks is something I did as a kid. Now I get paid for it," he said.

The biologists were specifically looking for green salamanders and Allegheny wood rats. They found both. The rat was almost 16 inches long from tail to nose.

"They're real territorial," Miles said. "We caught one yesterday under this same rock house. It was another male, and it had a scarred nose."

The captured animals were released unharmed.