Rolling into the summer months, the High Peak wilderness experiences a sharp expansion of its wildlife community.
Insects adapted for survival in an often cool, high-elevation environment emerge from their long winter dormancy and are engaged in eating and breeding. Various species of birds have traveled to our upper elevation slopes to mate and nest, and numerous mammals that reside in this harsh climatic zone are now busy rearing infants which can temporarily double their populations.
One predator that is occasionally seen by people who pass through this region and whose young are currently developing to the stage at which they are leaving their mother’s den for the first time is the American marten (Martes Americana), a creature that symbolizes the great North woods character of the Central Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
Although my Irish-American mother taught me that the prefix O’ (descendent of) was originally part of common Irish surnames such as Kelly, Murphy, Hogan and Kennedy, it would sound odd to my ears were these families to suddenly revert to the Old-World form.
I have the same issue with the distinctly New-World marsupial, the opossum. In the Genesee Valley of New York State where I grew up, these omnipresent critters were known to all as possums, and it still sounds foreign to hear their name pronounced with three syllables. » Continue Reading.
Big cats such as panthers, tigers and lions are often featured in popular media. With their great strength, size, and seemingly endless confidence, these felines command attention. There are other members of the Felidae family however that go more unnoticed.
Bobcats (Lynx rufus), Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis), Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), and the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus), although dispersed throughout most of the world, appear to share a similar ancestor, Lynx issiodorensis or Issoire lynx, which went extinct more than 12,000 years ago. » 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.
On a walk one winter afternoon, I spotted two white objects darting across a snow-covered field. White on white, they were difficult to identify at first. It was a short-tailed weasel chasing a snowshoe hare!
Apart from the snowshoe hare, short- and long-tailed weasels are the only animals in the Northeast whose coats turn white in preparation for winter. The smaller short-tailed weasel, also known as an ermine, is more common than the long-tailed weasel. It lives in a variety of habitats, is an adept hunter, and has a reputation for being curious and bold. » 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.
Two chipmunks vie for seeds on our front lawn. One lives directly underneath the bird feeder. Another hails from the far side of the house, address unknown.
The chipmunks appear identical to me: same size, same stripes. Same interests, namely seed hoarding, aggressive chittering, jumping into the bushes and back out again, and brazen stiff-tailed standoffs with the dog. » Continue Reading.
In my humble opinion, one of the most adorable animals in our Adirondack woods is the weasel in winter. To be more precise, it’s two animals: the short-tailed weasel, or ermine (Mustela erminea), and the long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata). Both animals, with their pristine white fur, black-tipped tails, black button noses and alert black eyes, embody the essence of cute and curious, while at the same time filling the role of efficient predator. Most of us, upon encountering a weasel, would be hard pressed to say if it was the long- or short-tailed variety, mainly because the encounter is likely to be fleeting. » Continue Reading.
Several years ago, a friend of mine from England came visiting with his wife. I was living in rural central New York at the time, and it was summer. Because I was gone most of the day at one job or another, David and Karen had lots of time on their hands to explore.
One of the things they enjoyed greatly was watching the many birds and squirrels that lived around the property, especially the chipmunks. I was surprised when David told me that in England chipmunks were sold as pets in the pet stores. Jokingly I told him we could make our fortune: I’d send him chipmunks, he could sell them and we’d split the proceeds. » Continue Reading.
Tucked behind a stonewall on the edge of a hardwood forest, my six-year-old students and I spy on an Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) as it climbs out of a tree cavity and scurries down to the ground.
There is a dusting of snow. My students, bundled in vibrant snowsuits, are the only flash of color on this cold winter day. They are astoundingly quiet as they watch the scampering squirrel.
We see it slide to a halt, stand on its hind legs, flick its tail, and then it’s off again until it stops to dig into the cold winter ground. As it pulls out a nut-brown acorn, I hear a buzz of excitement travel through my fellow squirrel professionals. » Continue Reading.
Furbearer trapping and hunting seasons have begun in New York State. Trappers should note special permit requirements for fisher and marten trapping seasons. DEC encourages all trappers to report trapped fishers and martens, and to provide required samples.
Fishers and martens are medium-sized members of the weasel family, which also includes weasels, ermine, mink, and river otters. While fishers have been expanding their range throughout New York in recent decades, the state’s martens are restricted to the Adirondacks.
Human disturbance is especially harmful to the state’s bat populations since the arrival of the disease known as white-nose syndrome, a fungus that has killed more than 90 percent of bats at hibernation sites in New York due to how closely bats congregate in caves during winter months.
Even a single, seemingly quiet visit to a cave can cause bats to temporarily increase their metabolism and expend significantly more energy than normal. » Continue Reading.
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