This is from Vladimir Dinets
Right now there is a rare opportunity to look for rarely-seen high-elevation mammals in the southern Appalachians. There is very little or no snow even on the highest peaks. I walked the 7-mile road from Newfound Gap to Clingman’s Dome (the highest point in GSM NP) twice in the last few days. This road is closed for traffic until March 15, but this year, unusually, there is either zero or about an inch of snow all the way to the summit, so it’s very easy to walk. I was hoping for white snowshoe hares or least weasels. No such luck (least weasel is exceptionally rare that far south, and hares have probably been eaten out by now – I didn’t see a single track), but there were some long-tailed weasel tracks, lots of cottontail tracks, and I did see an Allegheny cottontail at dusk. There are currently lots of rock voles and Northern short-tailed shrews around the summit parking lot and along the short trail to the summit viewtower; they are most active at dawn, and are easy to see from afar when they cross snow patches. I also saw a smoky shrew, a rock shrew, a Southern red-backed vole, and a deer mouse along the road. If you’d like to use this opportunity, you have to be at Newfound Gap at 4 am to make it to the summit at dawn (be careful: the pavement is slippery at night!). I’d recommend spending the day at the summit and walking back after sunset. There were also deer, coyote, red fox, black bear and bobcat tracks. Water shrews and woodland voles are possible near roadside streams. Be sure to call the park the day before as they sometimes close Newfound Gap Road on cold nights or during snowfalls. And check the weather forecast frequently! You are welcome to stop by at our place in Knoxville.
>>>> Vladimir Dinets
>>>> Assistant Research Professor
>>>> University of Tennessee, Knoxville
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