The light was poor and it was nearly 5:30 on a dim winter afternoon. What was this strange beast in the driveway? Find out in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze. » Continue Reading.
New York bear hunters took 1,358 black bears during the 2013 hunting seasons, making last year the second highest bear harvest on record in New York. The bear take in the Adirondacks however, continues to decline.
According to Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) wildlife managers, the high take elsewhere in the state is a result of increased bear populations and the abundance of hard mast that kept bears actively feeding later into the fall when deer season was open. » Continue Reading.
The very rapid loss of the snow pack that covered our region has created flooding concerns, curtailed, or completely ended, back country skiing for another year and has greatly improved foraging conditions for our ground feeding birds. Among the avian summer residents that benefit from periods of unseasonably warm weather, and the accompanying loss of snow, is a bird renowned for its scavenging talents.
Over eons of time, the turkey vulture has evolved various features to locate and capitalize on recently thawed carcasses of animals that were unable to survive the winter, and has become one of the most effective and visible scavengers in the Park. » Continue Reading.
We’ve had several hiking dogs, but two of my favorites were Chino, a wolf-husky mix we brought back from Alaska in 1990, and Roscoe, a nondescript gene pool who looked like a million other mutts you’ve seen, and whose ancestry is anyone’s guess. Our oldest son, Dan, another animal lover, became a veterinarian and later a veterinary cardiologist, partly because of his experiences with Chino. He also does some pro-bono care, which led to our adopting Roscoe as a pup around 2005.
Both of these canids did a fair amount of High Peaks hiking with us. Chino hiked his last peak, Dix, in 2002, and died in 2004, a year before Roscoe came on the scene, and continued the hiking tradition. The other common thread between them? Porcupines! » Continue Reading.
It’s spring. Red-winged blackbirds are calling, chipmunks are foraging and flocks of robins abound. Bending down to smell the first subtle scents of crocuses and daffodils, we give thanks that winter is over. Sometimes, we also take a whiff of skunk cabbage flowers, just for the olfactory shock value.
Skunk cabbage grows throughout the Northeast and Midwest, ranging from North Carolina well up into the northernmost reaches of Quebec. The flower emerges through the snow and ice of March in the understory of wooded swamps, along riverbanks, lakeshores, and in other habitats with rich wet soils. First growth is an exotic, crimson-hued, three to six inch tall cowl –called a spathe – that surrounds and protects a spherical cluster of flowers. Each flower measures ¾-inch across and consists of 50 to 100 tightly packed florets. » Continue Reading.
At one time, the state’s bears were largely confined to the Adirondacks, Catskills, and Allegheny Plateau. During the past two decades, however, they have spread to every county outside New York City and Long Island.
As a result, the number of bear complaints has risen dramatically in recent years. In most cases, bears in search of food—such as crops, bird seed, and garbage—cause property damage. Occasionally, they might break into a residence, attack pets, or act aggressively toward people. » Continue Reading.
Spring seems to be painfully slow in returning to the Adirondacks this year. Substantial amounts of snow still linger in most places, and ice continues to cover the surface of nearly all stationary bodies of water throughout the Park. Despite the reluctance of winter to yield to spring, scattered patches of land devoid of ice and snow always develop in late March and early April, signaling the coming change in seasons.
These places of bare ground and open water inevitably attract birds that have returned northward in the weeks around the vernal equinox in their attempt to reach their breeding grounds early and lay claim to a prime mating territory. » Continue Reading.
Beware! Pictured here are your adversaries—the official enemies of the state. Don’t be distracted by the pretty colors, lovely feathers, or furry critters. These are vermin, and citizens are urged to kill them at every opportunity. The poster, by the way, represents only the top nine targets from a group of notorious killers, presented here alphabetically: bobcat, Cooper’s hawk, crow, English sparrow, goshawk, gray fox, great gray owl, great horned owl, house rat, “hunting” house cat, lynx, porcupine, red fox, red squirrel, sharp-shinned hawk, snowy owl, starling, weasel, and woodchuck. Kingfishers and a number of snakes were later added, and osprey were fair game as well.
While some of the phrases used above—“official enemies … kill them at every opportunity … new job requirement”—might sound like exaggerations, they were, in fact, official conservation policies of New York State a century ago.
It was all part of a Conservation Commission campaign in the early 1900s to eradicate undesirables (their word, not mine) from the food chain. The above-named animals were deemed undesirable in the realms of farming and hunting. They were just doing what comes natural—killing to eat, or gathering food—but those foods included barnyard animals, garden and field crops, and the vaguely defined “sporting” game that hunters treasured, particularly grouse, pheasant, and rabbits. Lest you think eradicate is too strong a word, the actual order in one state pamphlet was, “Destroy the Vermin.” » Continue Reading.
I sat outside most of the afternoon, relaxing in a lawn chair enjoying a good book. As I sat there soaking up the sun, the snow melted around me. The chicken coop roof is clear after being baked in the sun all day, and the snow fossils of old footprints are melting away.
The chickens have been enjoying the warmer weather and are basking in the sunlight. For a couple of months, I hadn’t gotten more than an egg per day from the three girls, and sometimes not even that. But in the last week, I’ve gotten more than a dozen. » Continue Reading.
Harry Houdini was a great break-out artist: handcuffed, straight-jacketed, chained and submerged in water, he’d always emerge. Raccoons are famous break-in artists. No chimney flue, garbage can, or campground cooler is safe from their prying hands.
Like Harry Houdini, it’s partly clever hand work that makes the raccoon so good…and so bad. Raccoons have remarkably sensitive hands, with five long, tapered fingers and long nails. They lack thumbs, so can’t grasp objects with one hand the way we can, but they use both forepaws together to lift and then acutely manipulate objects. Thanks to this tactile intelligence, raccoons are problem solvers that adapt easily to cities, suburbs, and other manmade habitats. » Continue Reading.
As part of a collaborative effort to mitigate the impact of acid rain and restore brook trout to the Adirondacks, state helicopters delivered 34 tons of lime to an acidified pond in the Five Ponds Wilderness Area in the town of Webb, Herkimer County, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Regional Director Judy Drabicki has announced.
According to the announcement, on March 6 and 7, approximately 40 DEC staff and New York State Police helicopter crews conducted the liming operation, which included 46 helicopter flights to transport 1,500 pounds of lime from a staging area near the boat launch at Stillwater Reservoir to Hawk Pond. The lime was deposited on the ice at the pond and later spread across the frozen surface. The liming of acidic lakes or ponds is a management tool used to neutralize the water’s acidity and create water quality that is more favorable for fish and aquatic life. When the pond thaws this spring, the lime will enter the water and reduce its acidity level. » Continue Reading.
The recent proposal to remove Endangered Species Act protections for the gray wolf (Canis lupus) is almost entirely about politics. The American alligator and the bald eagle, to use two examples, were not delisted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until they had repopulated their former ranges, while wolves have repopulated only a fraction of their former ranges, and are already under heavy hunting pressure by the state governments of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
How many Americans are aware of the fact that in 1915, the US Congress, acting, as usual, under pressure from special interests, in that case, the ranching and hunting lobbies, provided funds to the Interior Department, to eliminate wolves, mountain lions and other predators from the United States? The Interior Department set up their “Animal Damage Control Unit”, and spent millions of taxpayer dollars to shoot, trap and poison wolves over several decades, with the only survivors being in the Boundary Waters area of Northern Minnesota, one of the most inaccessible regions of the U.S., not to mention a paradise for kayakers, canoeists and fisherman. » Continue Reading.
Out of all the months in the year March is the busiest time for the timber harvesting industry – what many call “the big push.” This is our last chance to produce as much product as possible before the end of winter.
This year winter seems to be lasting longer than usual, and that has given us a few more weeks of production until the spring thaw. The big push is everything you can imagine it would be. Chaotic, stressful, and tiring to say the least. It’s what we have planned for all season long. At its end is mud season, which brings a nice break from a daily routine and some much needed time off. Mud season usually lasts until the hardwood trees start to bud, somewhere around the middle of May. » Continue Reading.
Pruning is a skill that can be readily learned, and, if you practice it enough, you’ll enter into the art of it. It requires the application of a few basic principals using the right equipment. » Continue Reading.
The Northeast Wolf Coalition, a group of national, regional and local conservation organizations, has submitted a statement to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in opposition to its 2013 proposal to remove Endangered Species Act protections for the gray wolf (Canis lupus) in the contiguous United States.
In a statement isued to the press the Coalition says it took action in response to FWS’ reopening of the comment period as a result of a peer review report by an independent panel of scientists produced by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at UC Santa Barbara. According to the report, FWS’ move to strip federal protection from nearly all gray wolves in the lower 48 states is based on insufficient science. » Continue Reading.
On the first full day of spring I was cross-country skiing, breaking trail through about 6-8 inches of powder – on top of an 18-24” inch base of snow that’s been here most of the winter. It was warm and sunny, the snow a bit sticky, and as I enjoyed the late winter experience I thought of the ways we Adirondackers know it’s really spring.
So in no particular order, here are some tell-tale signs that it is actually spring in the Adirondacks. They don’t all have to happen – if you notice a few, spring is on the way.
Unlike today, when every little finger of every branch of every evergreen is carrying a couple of inches of fluffy snow, there will be the bright green of new needles on the tip of every branch.
The faded orange beech leaves, which provide welcome color in the black and white winter woods and tinkle and rustle with every little breeze, will finally fall off, leaving the way for new leaves to burst out.
The sweet smell of maple syrup production in the air and you might notice clouds of smoke from cute little sugar shacks with huge piles of firewood. » Continue Reading.
It was perched across the road, maybe 30 yards away, its chest puffed up against the cold. It appeared to be eyeing the activity at our birdfeeder.
As I was trying to decide if it was a female sharp-shinned hawk or a male Cooper’s hawk, the bird launched from its perch, and in an instant had threaded its way through a dense tangle of road-side branches while in hot pursuit of a blue jay.
It all happened so quickly that I wasn’t even sure if the jay had been captured, although I was able to identify it as a Cooper’s hawk. » Continue Reading.
My children seem to attract wildlife like iron to a magnet. It is not because they are good trackers or particularly quiet, as neither attribute is consistently true. It seems that they are observant and often at the right place at the right time.
Quite consistently when they accompany me on a hike we seem to view more wildlife, though eagles and snowy owls have evaded me to date. Opportunities to come across such majestic creatures come down to timing, organization and just luck. » Continue Reading.