Almanack Contributor Steve Hall

Steve Hall

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.

Visit www.AdirondackWildlife.org to learn more.


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Red Fox: Nature’s Rodent Control

A smaller member of the Canidae family, which includes wolves and coyotes, red foxes are found in multiple habitats throughout North America, Europe and Asia, their numbers increasing in areas where their larger canid cousins have been hunted, trapped or otherwise extirpated.

Just as wolves, limiting competition for smaller prey, hold down coyote numbers, both wolves and coyotes keep fox numbers in check. Red foxes were introduced into Southern Australia in the 19th century, and to parts of the southern United States in the 18th century, to provide sport for hunters, and, as you’d expect, with the loss of predators, they are a problem in some areas in their impact on older native species.

» Continue Reading.


Saturday, May 9, 2020

Bald Eagle: America’s ‘comeback kid’

The bald eagle is not only our nation’s most recognizable natural symbol, and the only eagle found exclusively in North America, it is also the Endangered Species Act’s most prominent success story, and a reminder of how important are the protection of our wildlife, critical habitat and natural resources generally.

Populations of breeding pairs of bald eagles in the lower forty-eight states crashed in the late 1960s to just over 400 pairs, due to hunting, habitat destruction and most prominently, the use of chemical pesticides in agriculture, such as DDT. In a scary process, known as “biomagnification,” bald eagles, being an apex predator at the top on their food chain, and feeding mainly on  fish, occasional small rodents and carrion, in other words, wildlife which had themselves absorbed toxins in various forms ultimately from pesticide-laden vegetation or runoff from agricultural fields, suffer highly concentrated, elevated levels of these toxins, negatively impacting birth and mortality rates. Calcium deficiencies caused by the toxins resulted in the thinning of eggshells, which would collapse under the nesting female’s weight, causing a nosedive in successful eaglet births.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, May 8, 2020

Bald Eagle: National symbol, bird of ‘bad moral character’?

Part one of two about the bald eagle

Ben Franklin, the statesman, philosopher, naturalist, inventor and all around Renaissance Man, was not all that thrilled with the choice of the Bald Eagle as our national symbol, and seemed to prefer the wild turkey as a utilitarian symbol, which is uniquely American, and often spelled the difference between our wilderness forefathers eating or starving. In a letter to his daughter, Franklin said, in part…..

“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk (osprey); and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him. 

» Continue Reading.


Monday, April 27, 2020

Ravens, Crows and Wolves: A harmonious group

raven

Part 2 of 2 (click here for Part 1)

Wherever wolves hunt, ravens are present, scavenging prey, and sometimes leading upwind wolves to potential prey, or to carcasses too frozen or tough for even the ravens’ heavy, pick-like beaks to penetrate. 

Ravens not only scavenge wolf kills, but steal up to one third of a carcass, by continually carrying away chunks of meat, caching and hiding them both from the wolves and their fellow ravens. A fascinating study suggested that, since an adult wolf can, by itself, kill any prey smaller than a small moose, the real reason wolves hunt in packs, is to minimize the portion of a carcass lost to ravens! And while it may seem that wolves have the short end of this symbiotic relationship with ravens, idle wolves and ravens have been observed playing together, with ravens pulling on wolf tails, and wolf pups chasing after teasing ravens.

» Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 26, 2020

Ravens and Crows: Telling them apart

Part 1 of 2

 

Ravens, crows and jays make up the corvid family, arguably the most intelligent of birds. We may honor the bald eagle as our national symbol, but compared to any corvid, the eagle is definitely a bird brain. Ravens in particular, based on their omnivorous adaptability to almost any environment, their fascination with colorful toys and glittery objects, their use of natural tools, and their remarkably diverse repertoire of sounds and vocalizations, appear to be exceptionally intelligent. In fact, ravens remind me of us humans, with no formidable anatomical weapons, but large brains to help us figure out how to get whatever we need.  

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Snowy Owls Are Tundra Terminators

female Snowy Owl by Joe Kostoss of Eye in the ParkThirty 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.

In a typical year, when adult snowies consume an average of 1,600 lemmings each, half of their clutch of four to eight eggs will survive to adulthood.  In a banner year, when the constantly fluctuating lemming populations explode, the female may lay a larger clutch, up to 12 eggs, and all the chicks may survive, and many head south in what are called “Irruptions,” in search of territory or prey, which is why we may see some in the Adirondacks in Winter.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 27, 2020

Don’t Make Fun of Possums

Possums courtesy US Fish and WildlifeThe 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.


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Strange Lives of Porcupines

Porcupine in Denali by Steve HallNorth 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.


Monday, February 3, 2020

Fishers: Don’t Give A Damn About Their Bad Reputation

fisher provided by Adirondack Wildlife RefugeWhenever 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.


Monday, January 27, 2020

Beavers: Nature’s Architects and Engineers

Beaver in Algonquin Park by Steve HallBeavers 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.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Unusual Life of Barnabee Bear

barnaby 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.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Steve Hall: Feathers, Dinosaurs and Birds

ArchæopteryxDinosaurs 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.


Monday, April 18, 2016

You Found A Baby Animal: Now What?

Porcupine Baby PorcupetteSpring 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.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Appreciating Bears Through The Seasons

black_bear_Deb-mckenzie_070110_aBears – 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.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Economic Potential of Rewilding the Adirondacks

almanack-julie-Clark-111613-Zeebie1Tourism 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.



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