Posts Tagged ‘Small Mammals’

Monday, December 16, 2013

Porcupine Courtship: A Raucous Affair

porkyIn November, as the last colors of autumn are fading, the stark outlines of tree branches are revealed. During this time you might be lucky enough to see an occasional dark mass, looking from a distance like a burl.

Recently, on a hike through a dense forest, I spied one such anomaly high up in a white ash tree. Walking closer, I saw that this shape was a porcupine. It seemed asleep. After circling the area looking for quills and other markings, I shuffled noisily away. When I turned back, the porcupine was heading further up the tree. The branch it clung to bent precariously as the wind picked up, but the tenacious climber hung on. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: The Short-Tailed Shrew

Short Tailed shrewThe powdery layer of snow covering the forest floor across the Adirondacks is still too thin in many areas for back country skiing and snowshoeing; however, several inches of fluff is ideal for noting the tracks of wildlife. Among the most common of mammals that populate the Park is a miniature predator, whose tracks typically appear from beneath an old stump, a rotted log, a surface boulder or a pile of brush and zigzag in an erratic pattern for roughly a dozen feet before disappearing under some other chunk of debris.

In our mixed forests and woodland edges, the short-tailed shrew is a prolific, but rarely seen, member of the wildlife community, yet its abundance becomes evident by the presence of its tracks in the snow, especially in late autumn and early winter before an increased snow depth reduces this creature’s visits to the surface. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mites: Wildlife Bed Bugs

mitesThe arrival of weather with temperatures favorable for snowmaking, blustery northwest winds, and damp, unstable air that produces periodic bouts of flurries forces many forms of wildlife into a less active routine and causes them to spend more time in some type of shelter. As the length of their daily confinement to a nest or den increases, there is an expansion of the population of tiny organisms that make their home on the skin of many forms of wildlife.

While vast stretches of wilderness serve the ecological needs of numerous warm-blooded animals, the microenvironment that exists at the very base of a mammal’s dense coat of fur provides countless invertebrates with the space they need in which to carry out their life cycle. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Wildlife Food: More On Mast

nutsHard mast, the term used to refer to the nuts wild trees produce, is humbling this way. We know that, generally speaking, trees require a lot of energy to produce nuts, and so a tree won’t produce them every year. The books say every two or three years for beech nuts and three to seven years for oaks, but take it all with a grain of salt.

There are advantages, from a tree’s perspective, to being unpredictable. Abundant years followed by lean years keep seed predators in check. (Biologists call this predator satiation.) In a good year, the woods are flooded with nuts – more than any squirrel or mouse can eat. The next fall, when rodent populations are high thanks to all the easy living, the trees take the year off and the surplus rodents starve.
» Continue Reading.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Singing The Bobcat Blues

ed_kanze_bobcatFeeling blue one morning, I headed into the woods and found my thoughts full of bobcats. Listen to what the cats had to teach me in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze.

The podcast is produced by Mountain Lake PBS’s Josh Clement. “All Things Natural” has been published continuously since 1987 and approaches its one-millionth published word. It currently appears in the Bedford, NY Record-Review. Listen to past episodes by visiting Mountain Lake PBS’s Borderless North webpage at mountainlake.org/bn.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Small Mammals: The Shrew That Walks On Water

shrewOn a morning walk around the pond, the dog and I encountered a dead shrew – perhaps the unfortunate casualty of a neighborhood feline or a red fox (shrews are well-known for being distasteful to mammalian predators). When I picked it up and noticed its velvety black fur, long tail, and unusually large hind feet, I realized that this was a species I did not recognize. I tossed it on the passenger seat of the car so I could identify it later at work.

Like all shrews, this small, mouse-like mammal lying on my desk had a long pointed snout and tiny eyes. Its minuscule ears were barely visible, covered by short velvety fur. As I stroked the soft black hair, I noticed that the fur offered little resistance no matter which direction my finger passed over it, a perfect adaptation for life underground, permitting the animal to slide easily through a tight tunnel in any direction. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Preparing For Winter: Chipmunk Game Theory 101

chipmunkTwo 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.

However, some aspects of these chipmunks’ behavior are probably distinctive. Experiments have demonstrated that a chipmunks’ choosiness about what food they collect, how fully they stuff their cheek pouches, and even how quickly they stuff food in there all relate to the distance between a foraging site and a home burrow. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Touchy-Feely World of Animal Whiskers

whiskingOf the many questions one is left with after listening to the nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice”, none is more vexing than how three blind rodents were able to chase anything, let alone a farmer’s wife. As the three mice in question died in 1805, we’ll probably never know the full answer. There are some clues in the scientific record, though. The fact is, mice and other nocturnal rodents can take in sophisticated three dimensional information about their surroundings without using their eyes.

Rodent eyes don’t function like our eyes. Ours are on the front of our head and we see in stereo, their eyes are on the side of their head and their field of vision doesn’t overlap. Our eyes always move together, a rodent’s eyes can move in opposite directions. If a rat points its snout downward, its eyes look up, rather than where its nose is pointing. If its head tilts down to the right, the right eye looks up while the left eye looks down.   » Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Mouse In The Outhouse

Fall ColorsWinter is approaching, and rather more quickly than I would really like.  Sure, I’ve got the new stove and a shed chock full of dry hardwood, but I have to admit that I’ve really enjoyed our summer-like fall.  “They” are calling for snow next week, but we’ll see what happens.

I had an inkling that this was coming anyway.  Yes, I know that it’s October and that it’s a reasonable assumption to think that we’ll be getting snow soon.  But last Friday, I got home from work and opened the front door.  I let Pico and the cats out to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather.  But when I went inside the cabin, I found a sight that told me winter was right around the corner. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cabin Life: A Fox On The Road And A Fire In The Stove

The Lower FieldGrowing up, I lived in only two houses.   Both had fireplaces, so fall was always special to me.  From eating roasted pumpkin seeds in front of the fire to cuddling under a blanket and watching a movie while the snow fell outside, we usually had a fire going if we were home for the night.  I miss those days, but I have taken a big step towards making the cabin more like the home of my childhood.

Last week, my new (new to me) stove was delivered and installed.  There’s a shiny new chimney poking up above the peak of the cabin, and gone is the huge black box that was my old woodstove.  Of course, on the day the stove was delivered, it was close to seventy degrees out, so I could not get a fire going right away.  That did not stop me from sitting and staring at the new stove with its nice glass doors, just beckoning me to get a fire going and sit there enjoying the flames for the first time in years. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Wildlife Architecture: Building A Beaver Lodge

Beaver_lodgeAll mammals that employ the use of a shelter in winter instinctively attempt to find a place completely hidden from the view of humans for their home, except for one. When the time comes in late summer or early autumn for establishing a protective enclosure for the coming season of cold, ice and snow, only the beaver places its residence in a spot that can be readily noticed by a person passing through the area.

When hiking, canoeing, biking or driving past a stretch of quiet water, you can often see a sizeable, cone-shaped mound of sticks packed with mud jutting well above the water’s surface. This is the temporary, winter residence of a family of beaver which provides these flat-tailed creatures with shelter from the cold, and protection against their few natural enemies. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: The Gray Fox

Grey-Fox-Website_49The end of August through mid-September is the time in the Adirondacks when the urge to be independent becomes strong enough in fox pups to cause them to vacate their parents’ territory and seek out a place they can claim as their own. As the near adult-size animal travels for many dozens, to a hundred miles or more searching for a suitable setting without a current resident, it may occasionally be glimpsed, especially around dusk and dawn, walking across a road, meandering through a backyard, trotting along the edge of a field or quietly weaving its way into a brushy thicket.

The red fox is traditionally associated with northern regions, and it is the fox most commonly seen within the Blue Line over the last two centuries. However, the geographic range of the gray fox has been steadily expanding into higher latitudes during the course of the past several decades and is now just as likely to be seen as the red fox in many locations in the Park, especially in lowland valleys where the climate is less severe. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Remember Adirondack Dumps?

LandscapeRemember that long-ago weekly ritual, the trip to the dump with Dad? I’m talking about the 1960s, and maybe in some cases the 1970s. If you’re not old enough to look back that far, you’ll be amazed (appalled) to see how trash, garbage, and another-man’s-treasures were disposed of by most folks.

It was a part of small-town life that we can now look back on and be thankful it has largely vanished. From a child’s perspective, the dump was a mysterious and somewhat scary place that you couldn’t wait to visit, and soon enough couldn’t wait to leave. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: Mice and More Mice

deer mouseThe growing season two years ago was considered to have been excellent. There were numerous periods of mild weather in the spring along with a lack of a late hard frost which allowed for an abundance of flowers to successfully begin their initial stage of developing our crops of seeds and berries. Summer that year provided ample sunshine and an adequate supply of rain to bring to maturity the numerous wild fruits and mast that can grow in this region.

Whenever an abundance of nutritious edibles develops in nature, there is an explosion in the population of mice, voles, chipmunks and other small creatures that utilize such items as their principle source of food. By the end of autumn, it became evident that the number of small herbivores, especially mice, was near or at an all time high for many areas throughout the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Adirondack Wildlife: Meadow Voles

meadow_voleIn years when the snow is deep, voles, the most abundant mammal in the Northeast, thrive. When the snow recedes, the glaring white of rodent-chewed bark shows up on saplings along field edges, roadsides, and, especially, in orchards.

In addition to bark, meadow voles will eat almost every agricultural crop. When, as sometimes happens, there are thousands of these metabolically active animals per acre, the damage can be significant, even though each one weighs just an ounce or two. » Continue Reading.


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