Steve and Wendy Hall run the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Rehab Center in Wilmington. They've been rehabbing and releasing wild animals for over 45 years, specialize in predators, keep wolves as the cornerstone of their educational program, and have lived in the Adirondacks for the past 20 years. The Adirondack Wildlife Refuge became a non-profit about 10 years ago.
Thirty thousand years before Harry Potter immortalized the snowy owl in popular culture, our European ancestors were drawing them on cave walls.
Snowy owls breed on the treeless northern tundra of Alaska, Canada and Eurasia, using scrapes on snow free boulders, hummocks or rises as nests. Males select and defend their territory, while females choose the nesting site. » Continue Reading.
The opposum is the only marsupial living in North America, and they’re one of the oddest-looking, slowest moving mammals around.
They’ve become sort of a folk hero in America, because of their penchant for annually devouring an average of 5,000 of the lyme bacteria carrying black legged ticks, which make the mistake of hitching a ride on the the possum’s low slung body. » Continue Reading.
North American porcupines are large rodents whose ancestors apparently crossed from Africa to South America on floating trees and logs some 30 million years ago. Their most prominent feature are the approximately 30,000 quills which grow individually everywhere out of the skin musculature, interspersed with bristles, under fur and hair.
The quills help the porcupine defend themselves from attacks by predators. The only quill free areas are the face and underside. » Continue Reading.
Whenever the subject of fishers comes up, you hear they’re mean, nasty and vicious – a smaller wolverine with attitude. Fishers get a pretty bad rap, but when they do, there’s a great deal of projecting and anthropomorphizing going on.
Fishers aren’t mean or evil, and they don’t really eat many house cats at all. » Continue Reading.
Beavers are the great architects of American ponds and streams. The North American beaver competes with the Eurasian beaver to be the 2nd largest rodent in the world, after another semi-aquatic mammal, the South American Capybara. The average weight of a beaver in New York State is 42 lbs, though 60 pounders are not that unusual. Beavers have an average body length of 2 and ½ feet to 3 feet, and a flat swimming rudder tail of 8 to 14 inches. The tail doubles as a warning device, used to loudly slap the water when predators, dogs or people are sighted.
Beavers can stay under water for about 15 minutes, with their ears and nostrils sealed, and can live to be twenty years plus. » Continue Reading.
Wendy Hall, my wife and co-director of the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Rehab Center in Wilmington, rescued Barnaby the bear with a Have-a-Heart trap last September.
Skinny and gaunt, starving and mangy, riddled with internal and external parasites, and less than thirty five pounds, Barnaby was in real tough shape. For a black bear more than a year old, these conditions could be potentially fatal, and we weren’t sure he would live.
Two months later, Barnaby had not only put on 100 pounds, but somewhere between the two months when he began to hibernate in November, and mid-January, Barnaby turned into Barnabee, and gave birth to two cubs. How did this happen? » Continue Reading.
Dinosaurs were the dominant life form on earth for 170 million years, finally going extinct at the end of the cretaceous period, 65 million years ago, when a huge comet crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. Birds of prey are descended from theropods, a type of dinosaur that walked on its hind legs, while their smaller forelimbs were used, like arms and hands, for reaching and grabbing.
Theropods are usually represented by T-Rex, Allosaurus and Velociraptor, though most theropods were no larger than dogs. During this long period, the earth underwent climate change, just as it does today, and fossilized remains indicate that feathers began to develop about 150 million years ago, and those theropods which developed them survived to breed in cooler temperatures, while those lacking them perished. » Continue Reading.
Spring is here, which means baby season! Most mammals and birds in the northern hemisphere, are born in Spring to allow them time to mature physically before Winter, giving them a shot at survival, and many of us will find baby animals in our yards, or while hiking. What should you do?
If it’s a fawn, and it’s lying down, usually surrounded by shrubbery or tall grass, leave it alone. Mom is off browsing, getting the nutrition she’ll need to provide milk for her fawn, while the fawn is doing its job, staying hidden from predators. Thanks to natural selection, which favors prey which are harder to detect, and therefore more likely to survive to breed, and pass along their genes, fawns, as well as moose and elk calves, are nearly odor free, meaning predators like bears and coyotes will pretty much have to step on them to discover them, so get out of the area, as you may spook Mom, who may be watching, or worse, alert predators, who can definitely smell your presence, indicating there may be something of interest to investigate. » Continue Reading.
Bears – we love ‘em, we hate ‘em, we’re fascinated with them, and we fear them. We seemed to have evolved from different ends of the mammalian tree. Humans started out as a fruit and seed eater, who gradually adapted the more efficient role of the omnivore. Black bears (and grizzlies) are creatures who appear better equipped to be carnivores, but pursue an omnivorous diet, learning to exploit a variety of food sources, in many different habitats.
We have our nightmare visions of the wild bear prowling beyond the dissolving glow of the campfire – or the fear that we’ll lose our vegetable garden or livestock or trash barrels to a marauding black bear. Those are balanced by their sometimes comical and often ingenious attempts to break into our stored food and trash, or the way they entertain themselves with the natural toys and circumstances nature provides, such as sledding on their butts. Curiosity and play are characteristics of higher mammals, particularly in predators like humans, wolves and bears. » Continue Reading.
Tourism is a key business in the Adirondacks. About 12.4 % of local employment is tourism related, but only $2 out of every hundred spent on tourism in New York State ends up in the Adirondacks.
It’s often argued that Adirondack towns and villages, particularly those outside the High Peaks, Lake George and Old Forge areas, present a challenging environment in which to make a living.
Some folks say we should attract manufacturing, others see building more resorts or recreation facilities as the answer, but what about tapping into one of our most important natural resources: wildlife? » Continue Reading.
When you ask most folks, which animal is the greatest hunter in the Adirondacks, they’ll usually say “fisher” or “bobcat”, or some other charismatic predator, but I believe the great horned owl may be the most efficient predator that has ever lived on earth – period.
Its approach to hunting is based on a combination of stealth, remarkable powers of prey detection and location, and the application of strength all out of proportion to its size. Victims of a Great Horned Owl’s silent aerial attack typically are not aware of the owl’s presence until they are within the vice-like grip of the owl’s talons. » Continue Reading.
Quick – which animal is most dangerous to humans in the United States? Ask State Farm, and they’ll tell you it’s the white-tailed deer, with about 150 people killed each year in auto accidents involving deer. Most lists cite mosquitoes (think West Nile), followed by bees (allergic reactions to stings), and brown recluse or black widow spiders. Domestic dogs kill about 30 people a year, horses and farm bulls about 20 each, while rattlesnakes and other venomous snakes (usually captive, handled snakes) kill about ten. If you mentioned bears, wolves or sharks, they don’t even make the list, though they always make a huge splash in the news.
Outside National Parks, bears tend to run from people, while wolves almost always flee, regardless of where you see them. Then there are moose. If moose don’t hear or smell your approach, they’re more likely to stand there, taking you in with that impassive gaze, assuming they acknowledge your presence at all. » 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.
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.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
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