Posts Tagged ‘Small Mammals’

Monday, November 17, 2014

Adirondack Wildlife: Wayfaring Porcupines

Porcupine by Mary Harrsch (Wikicommons)Big game hunters and auto body repair shops know well that early to mid November is the time in the Adirondacks when deer are on the move; however the white-tail is not the only creature that breeds during late autumn.

The porcupine also develops its urge to reproduce in the period between Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. As is the case with deer, older male porcupines are currently on the move in their attempt to locate as many females nearing their estrous period as possible over these next several weeks.

Unlike the beaver and red and gray fox which establish a pair bond with only one individual, the porcupine, like most mammals attempts to breed with as many members of the opposite sex as time and opportunity allow. As she becomes receptive, a female engages in a courtship ritual with any older and larger male that happens to encounter her. If the male were to depart shortly after breeding, she may elect to mate again if another suitor were to arrive while her hormones still influenced her behavior. This is why a male typically remains in the immediate area after breeding so as to attack and fend off any male attracted to the smell of her scent. This helps ensure that only his genetic material goes into the fertilization of her egg, perpetuating his blood line. After the female loses her desire to breed, the male quickly abandons her and continues his travels to search for additional females in need of a mating partner. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Researchers Finding Lyme Disease in Adirondacks

#3 - HarringtonResearchers from Paul Smith’s College are finding Lyme Disease in ticks and small mammals in the Adirondack Park.

Paul Smith’s College professor Lee Ann Sporn is heading her college’s involvement in a Lyme Disease study that includes the state Department of Health and Trudeau Institute in Saranac Lake. Trudeau is working to develop a vaccine for Lyme, while Sporn and students are monitoring the disease by testing mammals and ticks for it. Researchers hope to get a better understanding of the biology of the disease, where it is found geographically, and what factors are influencing its spread.

So far, Sporn said that some of the test results have surprised her, including that a high percentage (eight of twelve) of small mammals tested positive for Lyme Disease in Schroon Lake.  The animals — mainly mice, shrews and voles — were trapped in the wild. » Continue Reading.



Monday, October 6, 2014

The Odor Side of Otters

TOS_RiverOtterWe slid our canoe over the beaver dam and paddled into the upper, smaller pond. A breeze rippled the water and rustled the reeds lining the shore. Suddenly I spied four long, sleek brown figures cavorting in the water ― otters! They submerged quickly near the shore, probably into an old beaver bank den with an underwater entrance. This was one of only a few times in my life I’d seen these secretive, often nocturnal, creatures.

We had likely seen an otter family ― mother and young, known as kits. Once the kits were able to swim well enough, at about three months of age, the family would leave this pond and assume a nomadic lifestyle. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Adirondack Wildlife: A Red Squirrel Uprising?

1024px-Tamiasciurus_hudsonicus_CTThe populations of all forms of wildlife continuously rise and fall as a number of highly changeable environmental factors influences the success, or failure of each species. While variations in the abundance, or scarcity of many of our shy and secretive creatures, like the short-tailed shrew, flying squirrel and ermine, go completely unnoticed, the ups and downs in the number of animals that maintain a high profile can be quite evident, especially to anyone that spends a fair amount of time outdoors. In my neighborhood this year, there is a definite upsurge in the population of red squirrels, as there are more of these small, yet conspicuous rusty-tan rodents running around than in recent years.

Regardless of whether its population is peaking, or has crashed, the red squirrel is still described by many naturalists as the most often seen mammal in the Adirondacks. The diurnal habits, vocal inclinations, willingness to live in close proximity to humans, and craving for sunflower seeds make this rodent hard to overlook. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, August 28, 2014

Jumping Mice: Long Tailed Leapers

TOS_JumpingMouseThe woodland jumping mouse, as its name indicates, lives in forested areas. It is hard to observe, but common in the Northeast. If you have a chance to see one up close, perhaps courtesy of a cat, you’ll notice an extremely long tail and large hind feet. The fur is bright yellow to orange on the flanks and face and white on the belly. A broad, brownish-black stripe runs down the back. The tail is 4.5 to 6 inches long and has a white tip (this tip is the easiest way to distinguish it from its cousin, the meadow jumping mouse.)

The mouse walks when moving slowly, but relies on its jumping ability to travel quickly, and to cover distance. How far can this little mouse jump? Accounts vary, but most agree it can jump at least six feet horizontally and two feet high. It uses a four-footed hop. Both front feet are planted at the same time, both back feet an instant later. The large hind feet with long ankle and toe bones provide leverage when pushing off, thrusting the body into the air. The forelimbs are folded into the chest. The long tail trails behind, assisting in balance. » Continue Reading.



Monday, August 11, 2014

Adirondack Wildlife: Maturing Bats

300px-Wiki_batAugust is when a majority of wildlife families dissolve, as the young gradually start to wander from their parent’s care and begin finding food for themselves and developing the strategies for surviving on their own. Among the many maturing creatures achieving independence as summer wanes are the young of the various species of bats that exist within the Park. Regardless of their habitat and the types of bugs on which they prey, all juvenile bats are now capturing their own food and exploring their surroundings without the supervision of their mother. » Continue Reading.



Friday, July 4, 2014

Mink, Muskrat, Beaver Or Otter: Who Goes There?

ed_kanze_ottersNow you see it, now you don’t: something brown in or near the water, hopping, swimming, or doing something else that catches your eye. The suspect list includes mink, muskrat, beaver, and otter. Listen here as I discuss what to look for and how to tell the difference in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze.

The podcast is produced by Mountain Lake PBS’s Josh Clement. Listen to past episodes by visiting Mountain Lake PBS’s Borderless North webpage at mountainlake.org/bn.



Monday, June 30, 2014

Owl Pellets: Down the Hatch and Back Again

Owl_Pellet“She’s so cute!” a little girl coos to the snowy white owl. The owl blinks languidly, ignoring her admirer. No doubt she is used to human attention, as she is one of the more popular raptors housed at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science Nature Center (VINS) in Quechee, Vermont. She likewise ignores the decapitated rat in her food bowl, chirruping softly as if dissatisfied with what’s on the menu. I wait patiently, hoping to witness the moment when she gulps it down.

Owls eat their smaller prey whole, or tear larger prey into chunks with their beaks and talons. Sooner or later, that owl will grab the raw rat out of her food bowl with her sharp beak and knock it back like a shot of whiskey. It will slide down her esophagus and into her two-chambered stomach. The first chamber, called the proventriculus, or glandular stomach, secretes digestive enzymes to break down all the easily digestible parts. Much like our own stomach, this chamber will liquefy the soft tissue (the gooey stuff, including muscle, fat and organs). Whatever isn’t digested in the first chamber, such as the bones, fur and teeth, will pass through to the second chamber, called the gizzard. » Continue Reading.



Monday, June 9, 2014

Beavers And Trees: A Woodland Arms Race

Beaver_castoreumAround a beaver pond, we sometimes catch a whiff of beaver odor. People have described it to me as smoky, woody, or like tobacco. It may waft over from the lodge, or it might emanate from scent mounds – little piles of mud by the water’s edge. Beavers make scent mounds by dredging up mud from the bottom of a pond, then carrying it up on land in their front paws while walking upright. The beaver drops the mud, then squats over the mound and applies castoreum from glands near the base of the tail.

The smell means: keep away! In some neighborhoods, this territorial advertisement works remarkably well. I’ve been involved in studies where human-made scent mounds effectively deterred free-ranging beavers from settling in unoccupied beaver habitat. » Continue Reading.



Friday, April 18, 2014

Ed Kanze: At Dusk A Strange Beast in The Driveway

ed_kanze_porcupineWhile I wish I could boast instant recognition when the animal popped up in front of me, the fact was for a few seconds I was stumped.

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.



Monday, April 7, 2014

Redefining Vermin: A Short History of Wildlife Eradication

Vermin01 BlackList1919Beware! 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.



Sunday, April 6, 2014

Cabin Life: The Chickens and The Fox

The Fox TracksThere’s a steady stream of water pouring off the roof in front of the big window.  There are no more icicles, and the shingles are showing for the first time in months.  It finally feels like spring.

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.



Thursday, April 3, 2014

Adirondack Raccoons: It’s All In The Hands

TOS_footHarry 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.



Thursday, March 20, 2014

Adirondack Birds of Prey: Accipiters

AccipiterI was enjoying a morning cup of coffee in the sunroom when I saw the hawk.

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.



Friday, March 7, 2014

Ed Kanze: Early On A Frosty Morning

ed_kanze_hareSome of us find it easier than others to rise and shine on frigid winter mornings. Sunshine comes late if it comes at all, and the temperature at times hardly rises above zero. What to do? Listen as I tell of one cold morning and what I did and what I saw in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze.

The podcast is produced by Mountain Lake PBS’s Josh Clement.  Listen to past episodes by visiting Mountain Lake PBS’s Borderless North webpage at mountainlake.org/bn.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cabin Life: The Life And Death of Small Mammals

Woodland jumping mouse (Wikipedia Photo)The wild winter weather is continuing.  Friday it was so warm that even several hours after the sun went down, there was still a steady drip-drip-drip coming off the roof.  In the forties Saturday, the season just can’t seem to make up its mind.

That’s not to say that it has been an easy winter.  And to me, there has been a recurring theme out here at that cabin that demonstrates this better than anything else.  I have had a steady supply of small rodents around the house looking for food. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Adirondack Geology: The World Of Talus Slopes

talus screeGeological forces over millions of years coupled with the action of glaciers and weather have created massive piles of boulders at the base of towering rock walls and steep slopes in numerous locations throughout the Adirondacks.

Some of the more prominent accumulation of talus, sometimes called scree by climbers, occurs around Chapel Pond, throughout the Wilmington Notch, in the Cascades, around portions of Bald Mountain near Old Forge, and in many places near the shores of Lake Champlain. Talus is also present along the edges of some sections of rivers and larger streams that cut through substantial deposits of bedrock. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Leave No Trace: Don’t Feed Wildlife

DSCN0174Happening upon this scene brought mixed emotions. I love the weasel family (Mustelidae), especially the American Marten (Martes americana), so I was naturally excited to be able to get so close to this one. That was only because someone had left a pile of dog food at a campsite. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, January 16, 2014

Does This Fur Make Me Look Fat? Woodchucks In Winter

woodchuckFat gets a bad rap in the medical world, for good reason. Excessive body fat is linked to a litany of health risks, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.  Yet in the realm of nature, fat is a lifesaver. If certain mammals that hibernate did not get fat, they would be dead by spring.

The woodchuck is something of a fat specialist. As many an irate gardener can attest, the woodchuck’s diet consists of perishable greens. Because these can’t be stored, the animal stockpiles all the food energy it needs to survive winter in a thick layer of body fat. » Continue Reading.



Monday, December 30, 2013

Finding Snowy Owls in the Adirondacks

Snowy OwlThe vast expanses of wilderness forests that cover the Adirondacks serve as home to many forms of wildlife adapted for survival in areas where visibility is limited by trees and grasses, and grains are nearly non-existent.

Large open areas scattered throughout the Park serve to support the collection of creatures that require much greater visibility and food sources that exist on the soil’s surface. Among those animals drawn toward these open spaces is the snowy owl, which regularly migrates southward from its arctic breeding grounds in autumn to establish a winter hunting territory in more hospitable surroundings. » Continue Reading.



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