The first time I saw the fox last February, I did a double take. It was late morning when I glanced out the window on my way from one task to the next. The unexpected flash of red made me stop and forget about the morning’s to-do list.
I watched for several minutes as the fox trotted around boulders and past old apple trees. Every now and then it paused and cocked its head before continuing on a meandering path through the stubbly field. This would be the first of many sightings over the next several weeks. » Continue Reading.
For many Adirondack residents, the onset of mud season brings about the annual problem of water in the basement. Run-off from melting snow and rain, unable to percolate into the still frozen soil, pools on the ground and eventually drains to the lowest spot available. The foundation of older homes may collect some of this water, as do surface tunnels created by small creatures like moles and voles.
While spring flooding can be a serious survival issue for some subterranean mammals, it is not believed to be of any major concern to the star-nosed mole, one of the least physically attractive forms of wildlife in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
If the river otter is the most aquatic member of the mustelid family, and weasels represent the terrestrial branch of the clan, the American mink is the adept middle child, taking advantage of its adaptations both in the water and on land to make a living.
Like both otters and weasels, mink have long, sleek bodies, the sharp teeth of a predator, and small – but keen – ears and eyes. Their fur – long a fashion staple – is a combination of oily guard hairs, which afford some water-repellency, and an undercoat that grows thick in winter to provide warmth. It’s a common makeup in winter-active mammals – and a bit like us humans wearing a waterproof Gore-Tex shell over layers of insulating polypro or wool. » Continue Reading.
All mammals experience difficulty sleeping when it becomes too warm. Because of an insulating layer of fat and an exceptionally thick, dense coat of fur, this temperature is far lower for members of our wildlife community in winter than during summer.
From Thanksgiving through early April, several successive nights with the air hovering around the freezing point is warm enough to cause the raccoon to stir from its prolonged winter slumber and emerge from its den. If the wind is light and there is no precipitation falling, this familiar nocturnal marauder begins to explore the surrounding area for anything edible. » Continue Reading.
The lack of a deep covering of snow can be a benefit to some forms of wildlife, and a detriment to others. Yet for the beaver (Castor canadensis), a limited amount of snow on the ground has little impact on this rodent’s winter routine.
Throughout the autumn, when the water around its primary lodge remains open, the beaver scours the shore near and far in search of those select woody plants on which it relies for food. These items are severed at their base and floated to the area just outside the main entrance to the family’s winter shelter and then pushed underwater as deep as possible. » Continue Reading.
Winter is the time when wildlife activity ebbs in the Adirondacks. Many residents of our fields and forests have retreated to shelters beneath the surface of the soil in an attempt to escape this season of low temperatures, snow and ice, and little if any food.
The woodland jumping mouse (Napaeozapus insignis) is one member of our wildlife community that retires to the seclusion of a cushiony nest underground and lapses into a profound state of dormancy, known as true hibernation, for roughly 6 months beginning sometime in mid-October. » Continue Reading.
Almost every time I checked the game camera last summer – whether it was stationed near the compost, pointed into the field, or hidden at the edge of the woods – I found photos of one of our region’s most outwardly endearing creatures: the raccoon. With their black masks under perfect white eyebrows, their petite black noses, fuzzy ears, and fetchingly striped bushy tails, raccoons are certainly charming to look at. But that soft and cuddly exterior belies a fierce and highly intelligent disposition. » Continue Reading.
The Wild Center family is expanding this fall and visitors have the chance to meet the newest members over Columbus Day Weekend. An otter, porcupine, black rat snake and rare, albino wood turtle are all calling The Wild Center their new home.
There will be animal encounters with the new residents throughout the weekend, a baby-themed golden otter quest and visitors have the chance to make their own baby animal to take home. Born to be Wild! is on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, October 8–10, from 10 am until 5 pm. The Wild Center is located at 45 Museum Drive in Tupper Lake. » Continue Reading.
The first red squirrel appeared at about 50 mph. It climbed up over my headrest and landed in my lap. I don’t recall the next few seconds very clearly, but according to my 5-year-old daughter Lucy, I yelled something along the lines of, “oo squirrel. oo oo. squirrel squirrel.”
What I do remember is concentrating on finding a safe place to pull over, and my surprise that the squirrel remained in my lap for the duration. It had a warm, soft weight. Puppy-like. I brought the car to a stop by some woods and pushed the button to the passenger side window. The squirrel came out of stasis, ricocheted off the steering wheel, and launched itself into the bushes.
And that, I thought, was the end of the anecdote. No harm done, and a cautionary tale about why it’s unwise to leave the sun roof open in squirrel country. » Continue Reading.
Driving home from work the other day, I saw my first road-killed skunk of the year. And if this year is anything like the last few, it won’t be the last one I see this season. While April showers do indeed bring May flowers, it’s also true that warm weather in March and early April is a certain sign that skunks will turn up dead in the road in great numbers. » Continue Reading.
My friend Gordon Russell sent me a letter recently describing a wildlife encounter. He had been following deer tracks along a stone wall when a movement caught his attention. “Almost before its image could travel to my brain,” he wrote, “the white head of a weasel vanished in between the stones.” The animal popped up again, disappeared, and then revealed itself a third time, next to where Gordon was standing.
Gordon looked at the weasel. The weasel looked at Gordon. Gordon squeaked. And then: “my day exploded.” » Continue Reading.
Context is critical, right? Years ago I took a second job loading trucks at night, and a few guys on the dock had what you might call “white-nose syndrome.” All I had was coffee, so they could work faster than I, though they spent a lot more time in the rest room. I hope they eventually recovered.
Addiction is a serious and potentially life-threatening matter, but from a bat’s perspective, white-nose syndrome is something even more devastating. This disease, which is nearly always fatal, has killed 80% of the bats in the Northeastern U.S. in less than a decade. Initially found in central New York in 2007, white-nose syndrome now affects bats in 25 states and 5 Canadian provinces. Since it was first identified, it has felled more than 7 million bats, leaving once-packed hibernation sites, or hibernacula, empty, and pushing some species to the edge of extinction. » Continue Reading.
Researchers are still puzzling over the age-old question, “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood,” but I may have an answer. Re-brand the woodchuck.
Like the words skunk and moose, woodchuck (wojak) is a Native American term, Algonquin in this case. I don’t know its literal translation, but I suspect it means “fat fur-ball that can inhale your garden faster than you can say Punxsutawney Phil,” or something pretty close to that. » Continue Reading.
The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced the release of a fisher “management strategy” that reduces the trapping season in the northern part of the state by 16 days and establishes a new six-day season in the central and western parts of the state.
The fisher plan is expected to guide the agency’s approach to the species for the next 10 years. The plan attempts to advance two of DEC’s stated goals: to maintain or grow fisher populations where suitable habitat exists and to provide trapping opportunities. » Continue Reading.
Despite remarkable similarities in appearance, flying styles and behaviors, not all bats are created equal. In the Adirondacks, there are approximately nine species of these dark, winged mammals during the summer months, yet all possess their own unique physical characteristics and habits.
The manner in which bats deal with the total lack of flying insects that occurs with the onset of winter is one feature that illustrates how bats are different. Even though more than half the species that populate our region migrate to and then enter caves or mines that extend deep underground, all have definite preferences for below the surface. While some species proceed far from the entrance in order to reach warmer and damper locations, others favor cooler and drier spots closer to the world above. » Continue Reading.
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