Floracliff Nature Reserve: land untouched for centuries

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Walking in the woods with wildlife experts is a unique experience. On a rainy June morning at Floracliff Nature Reserve, you could see the sun’s rays battling to shine through a dense canopy.

Looking around you would see scientists and tour guides happily leaning into the bushes – knocking over rocks and then gently replacing them. Their aim was much more specific than looking at the sun.

“I found another one!” exclaimed a young woman as she nearly dived down an embankment to capture a salamander.

Nature lovers stroll along a creek at Floracliff Nature Reserve in Lexington. (Spectrum News 1/David Guildford)

More than a dozen national and local scientists with various areas of expertise have come to the reserve to visit some of its 360 acres and collect data on plants and animals — data, terrestrial zoologist Shelby explained. Fulton, which can mean more than numbers.

“We can’t necessarily always say, ‘That’s the exact value of this species. That’s the dollar amount this species saves us,’” she remarked. “Unfortunately, we don’t learn this information until it’s too late.”

Examination of a snake found in the nature reserve. (Spectrum News 1/David Guildford)

In other words, count every animal, whether endangered or abundant, because one day an abundant creature might become endangered. If scientists have data on this species, they may be better prepared to bring it back from the brink.

The reserve, itself, is a rarity. It’s on the outskirts of Lexington but, for Zeb Weese, it’s a portal to another time.

“A place like this, for example, is about the only place in Fayette County you’re going to come to that’s going to look a bit like what it looked like in the early 1700s when the pioneers and settlers were first arrived in this area,” Weese explained. He is the executive director of the Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves.

Winding through the woods, the group reached the highlight of the trip: a breathtaking calcium carbonate formation – a “frozen waterfall” for the uninitiated. They are told they can stop for a break. Instead, they scatter to search for other tiny animals.

With the Wild Sanctuaries of Kentucky as their office, they don’t seem to be in a rush to get out for the day.

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