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Have beavers canceled Pa.'s best wildlife show?

Plus, a potato chip scientist tells all.

Welcome to PA Local, a free weekly newsletter about the great people, amazing places, and delicious food of Pennsylvania.

January 14, 2023
Inside this edition: Lightning capital, general stores, deer dropboxes, tractor dancing, professor potato, and the best wildlife show in Pennsylvania.
A Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.
In honor of Friday the 13th, a Jason Voorhees question: 

The real Camp Crystal Lake can be found in a state that neighbors Pennsylvania. Which of these states is it? 

A. Maryland 
B. New Jersey 
C. Ohio
D. New York 

(Keep scrolling for the answer, but don't miss all the good stuff in between. Like what you read? Forward this email to a friend.)
Our five favorite Pennsylvania stories of the week.

» One thing worth sharing: Quarryville in Lancaster County is Pennsylvania's "lightning capital," according to the weather watchers at Vaisala, with 76 strikes per square kilometer in 2022. Four Corners, Florida, the nation's leader, saw 474 strikes per square kilometer.

» One thing worth watching: Apropos of very little except for my love of offline businesses, here's a decade-old tour of Greene County's still-active general store scene, courtesy of the good folks at WQED. 

» One thing worth knowing: If you see a deer-head deposit box like this one on your next Pennsylvania excursion, know it's part of an effort to get ahead of a nasty disease afflicting herds around the state. 

» One thing worth seeing: It's Farm Show season in Pennsylvania, and that means finding square dancing tractors on the TV set at your local gym and mountains of manure piling up in center city Harrisburg.

» One thing worth reading: The Herr's "flavored by Philly" contest is back with a twist for the new year. Philly Mag spoke with one of the food scientists who make the seemingly impossible flavors a reality

» COVID-19 UPDATE: Your guide to finding resources on cases, vaccines, and tests

» What Tom Wolf will be remembered for as Pa. governor
» Pa. House at a standstill as amendment deadline looms
» How a constitutional amendment gets on the ballot in Pa.
» The behind-the-scenes story of Pa.'s House speaker surprise
» What Rozzi’s record can tell us about his speakership
» Penn State University police fall shot on data promise
» Pa. county conducts a 2020 election recount in 2023
» Join a free panel on Pa.'s patchwork of local governments
Support Spotlight PA's independent, nonpartisan journalism for Pennsylvania.
A bobcat face-to-face with a trail camera.
A bobcat on "The Log." (Courtesy of Robert Bush Sr.)

Maybe the only guarantee that comes with running a popular webcam series about the wilds of Pennsylvania is that there are no guarantees.

For years, Robert Bush Sr., creator of the viral YouTube series "The Log," has offered the internet a bird's eye view of the commonwealth's animal kingdom via a well-placed and motion-activated camera. 

It's positioned at the end of a natural footbridge over a busy stream and has captured close encounters with a litany of fauna, including bears, bobcats, the elusive fisher, and a brawl between an owl and a turkey.

The latter video is four years old and has two million views. 

But it's the beavers who delivered the biggest surprise of last season and a cliffhanger worthy of David Chase.

Bush, who periodically returns to the undisclosed location to physically retrieve the raw footage, which he then edits down, way down, said a beaver dam had completely submerged the log as of his last check.

That was in October, and while the already rotted log has gone underwater before, it's never stayed there for so long, he added. The water level was also within a foot of another log he's filming 200 yards downstream.

It's possible that the original remains hidden — beaver dams have been known to last — and that the animal crossing will fade into obscurity, or will get washed away with the deluges of spring. 

A bear walks across a stream and toward a trail camera.
(Courtesy of Robert Bush Sr.)
Bush thinks the second log, which sits higher up, is better off.

But even if they both were to somehow go, he's not worried: The 54-year-old resident of Houtzdale in Clearfield County says nature is fleeting and there's a lot more forest out there to watch.

"Every time I go to the original log, I expect it to be gone," he told PA Local. "And someday it will be. Everyone says that's their favorite, but they like them all."

Bush has nearly a dozen cameras surveilling places like Black Moshannon State Park, home to this black bear bathtub

And while content creation isn't normally a que sera, sera business, Bush — whose day job is at a facility for older adults in Blair County — is appropriately zen given the tone of his channel, which The Inquirer framed as a meditative antidote of sorts for the anxieties of modern life.

Bush has heard this from viewers too, an especially large share of which reside in cities, per his YouTube analytics. 

"Of the cities in the U.S., there are more viewers in Philadelphia than the others, and that's just slightly higher than Pittsburgh," he added.

His videos have racked up millions of views across more than 100 countries in the years since the idea to place a trail camera on a log first occurred to him in 2017. The clips have even been incorporated into a display at the Cook Museum of Natural Science in Alabama. 

"My sister lives in Maine and is the reason I started the whole thing," Bush explained. "She has health conditions and can't really get out into the woods. So I said let's put some stuff out for her to see, you know?" 

Bush said he doesn't use bait to lure animals to his cameras, he just knows where to place them based on a lifetime spent in the woods.

The exact filming locations aren't publicized — both logs are somewhere in Pennsylvania Wildlife Management Unit 4D, roughly 2,740 square miles of land in the central part of the state. 

Bush said he could go check on his famous logs as soon as this weekend, weather permitting. Whatever happens, his cameras will keep rolling.

"If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million."

Colin Deppen, PA Local editor 
Support Spotlight PA's independent, nonpartisan journalism for Pennsylvania.
Our favorite photo of the week submitted by a PA Local reader.

Slip sliding away at Buttermilk Falls in Erie County, via @johnmcculloughphotographySend us your photos, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

A waterfall in the woods empties into a natural pool.
The answer to this week's Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.
The original Friday the 13th was filmed at an active Boy Scouts camp in Hardwick, New Jersey — and it's available for tours.

Thanks for reading PA Local! We'll see you back here next week. But first ... send us your feedback. What did you like? What didn't you like? 
Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

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