We two-leggeds build inviting habitats and fill them with ample food supplies. We heat these spaces in winter, cool them in summer, and keep them dry year-round. And when our wild neighbors have the audacity to move in, we frequently kill them on sight.
My wife and I recently restored an old brick farmhouse that was built in 1790, back when Vermont was still an independent republic. We removed walls and ceilings to expose and repair the original structure, then vacuumed every nook and cranny to remove debris left behind by two centuries of sundry inhabitants. » Continue Reading.
For the past 14 years, my Winter Ecology students and I have spent a lot of time outdoors, studying the preferred habitat features and winter foods of snowshoe hares. We’re likely to find hare tracks hopping in and around lowland conifers near wetland edges, and then again at higher elevations, where the forest transitions into fir, birch, and spruce. Where we won’t find them, at least not very often, is in broad bands of open, leafless hardwood. On the rare occasions that we find tracks in this habitat, they have almost always been single strands of widely spaced prints – suggesting an animal that’s really moving! » Continue Reading.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has proposed weakening protections for the northern long-eared bat by reducing its stats from “endangered” to “threatened”. Advocates for endangered species say FWS has included a special rule aimed at conceding to pressure from industries and politicians critical of the Endangered Species Act.
The less-protective proposal comes despite the fact that the bat, which has been decimated by the fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome, has already declined by up to 99 percent in the Northeast. » Continue Reading.
In the woods behind our house, there’s a pile of cones and gnawed apart bracts – easily two feet deep and twice as wide – built against the trunk of a tall hemlock. We’ve watched over consecutive winters – when the newly discarded bracts stand out against the snowy white backdrop – as the heap continues to expand.
This pile, called a midden, is the work of a single red squirrel. Red squirrels are active year round and generally easy to spot – and even easier to hear as they scold passersby in their high, chattering voice. » Continue Reading.
New Years is a time when many people contemplate shedding those extra pounds gained between Thanksgiving and Christmas. For numerous forms of wildlife, late autumn through winter can be a protracted season of weight loss, however, this is the result of shortages of food during these bleak months, rather than any conscious effort to become trim.
For the meadow vole, a weight loss phase of its life begins in mid autumn, causing this common rodent to lose more than a quarter of its body mass. This natural reduction in the intake of food is triggered by a specific decrease in the amount of daylight, known as photoperiodism, and typically occurs regardless of the availability of items to eat. » Continue Reading.
The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is revising its list of Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN), which includes species that are at risk in New York. The list is now in it’s final draft form and DEC is seeking comments. » Continue Reading.
Every animal must develop its own way of dealing with winter. Migrate, hibernate, or insulate; these are common strategies. For a few small mammals, survival depends on the snow itself, and the deeper the better.
The subnivean zone is the area between the surface of the ground and the bottom of the snowpack. The word subnivean comes from the Latin “sub” (under) and “nives” (snow). Mice, voles, and shrews retreat here for protection from cold temperatures, bitter winds, and hungry predators. Food is right at hand: grass, leaves, bark, seeds, and insects are free and unfrozen. Under the snow, these tiny mammals create long tunnel systems complete with air shafts to the surface above. » Continue Reading.
Animosity is an emotion not solely restricted to humans, as several forms of wildlife occasionally display an outward aversion to specific creatures, even through such an antagonistic attitude seems to have little to no value to their current survival.
Perhaps the best example of such an overt repulsion of one animal for another is the crow’s reaction to seeing an owl at this time of year. Upon detecting one of these round-faced predators, a crow quickly starts producing a squawking caw designed to summon any other crows in the immediate area. It is believed by some naturalists that a crow, upon hearing this alarm sound, will relay the information to others unable to hear the initial call that an owl has been spotted. This is an attempt to assemble as sizeable a mob of birds as possible. » Continue Reading.
One fall a young beaver, probably a two-year-old kicked out by its parents, built a small lodge in the old mill pond below our house. On cold January days when temperatures were below zero, I looked at the snow-covered lodge and wondered if the beaver was still alive. But when the ice melted in late March, it was swimming around again.
Mortality rates are higher among young, lone beavers than established adults. Winter is especially daunting: no sooner had the mill pond beaver taken up residence, than it had to prepare for months of cold and food scarcity. How did it survive? » Continue Reading.
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. » Continue Reading.
Researchers 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.
We 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.
The 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.
The 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.
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