There is a pronounced silence in our forests throughout the winter, except for the occasional sound of a flock of chickadees and the wind blowing through the canopy. Those forms of wildlife that remain active during this season of cold and snow are forced to concentrate all of their energy on finding the limited amount of food present and maintaining a suitable internal temperature, rather than on expending effort generating a noise. As winter’s grip gradually relents in early March and the problems of survival ease, one of the first voices to be heard again in both wilderness settings and residential sections of the Park is the angry chatter of the red squirrel. » Continue Reading.
Posts Tagged ‘Small Mammals’
Unlike most rodents and birds, which hoard food for the cold months, the striped skunk will have spent the fall eating as much as possible so it can stay warm during mid-winter dormancy. This binge eating creates thick layers of fat underneath the skin– a winter jacket, of sorts. The skunk metabolizes this fat during its dormant rests, though at a much slower rate than in summer.
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There is a biological alarm clock within adult raccoons that is genetically programmed to go off during the final days of February and the first week or two of March. Despite a covering of snow on the ground that may hinder travel, these masked, ring-tailed marauders exit the comforts of their den following sunset for the next several weeks in an attempt to locate members of the opposite sex.
Late winter in the Adirondacks is when the breeding urge strikes this familiar forest dweller; and this period of activity can be quite extensive if the temperature remains in the 20’s at night, especially for males that want to engage in as many reproductive encounters as possible. » Continue Reading.
The wild swings in weather over the past few weeks have wreaked havoc with backcountry skiing, reduced the number of usable snowmobile trails, and made the use of snowshoes optional at many lower elevations throughout the Park. (However, always check the current conditions before embarking on any excursion into higher terrain, or into an area impacted by lake effect snows.) The erratic weather has also caused some disappointment among those small game hunters that enjoy listening to the barking cry of a beagle as it tracks the scent of a varying hare.
The varying hare, also known as the snowshoe rabbit, is a small, yet meaty resident of softwood thickets and alder swamps that is rarely seen despite its relative abundance in such settings. Because of this animals protective coloration, its ability to sit perfectly still for hours at a time in a patch of brush, and its hunched-up, or rounded shape that creates an inconspicuous body outline, the varying hare is a challenge to see clearly, even for predators like the coyote and fox.
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Winter is a hard time for wildlife. It brings deep cold, leafless terrain, and a shortage of food and water. Animals have few choices. Most songbirds abandon the region via a perilous migration to warmer climates. Other creatures hunker down in hibernation. But there are a number of species that remain active all winter.
This is no easy task. Mammals and birds must maintain their body heat by burning (metabolizing) their body fat – or perish. » Continue Reading.
The near total lack of snow this year has been a disappointment to skiers that enjoy early season outings and big game hunters that like several inches of powder for tracking the movement of deer. For several members of our wildlife community, a forest floor that remains free of snow into the latter part of November becomes problematic, as a dark background contrasts with their newly developed coat of pure white fur.
Among the creatures that change color in autumn as part of a survival strategy is a small, yet especially fierce predator – the short-tailed weasel, better known to trappers and backwoods sportsmen as the ermine.
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Halloween is that time of the year when ghosts, ghouls and goblins roam freely, with scary things that go bump in the night being the norm more than any other time of the year (with the possible exception of Election Day). The Adirondacks are not immune to these horrors either, with greedy land developers, unhappy hunting clubs and a multitude of other concerns terrorizing even the most steely backcountry adventurer.
Unfortunately, it appears another horrifying threat has reared its ugly head in the Adirondack backcountry. No, it is not Bigfoot, the Mothman or even Champie; it is the deadly hantavirus. News of this new threat arrived just in time for Halloween, as if Hurricane Sandy was not enough. But, is this a real threat, or is this just another case of media hype, an outgrowth of society’s rampant hypersensitivity? » Continue Reading.
The nights are longer and cooler and the daily high temperatures are lower than the summer lows. I’m glad for the solar lights strung around the cabin. They cast a pleasant blueish glow without being blinding. Wearing a headlamp literally all time last winter really got old, and it’s nice to be able to see without one. Now I can find my glass of Maker’s Mark without burning batteries.
Ed got another mouse last night. He can never get them during normal waking hours, only in the middle of the night. So, after work, I didn’t do anything that could be called “chores” or “work” or anything like that. I sat on the boulder that serves as my front step and played guitar. I let all the animals out to enjoy the warmth of the afternoon sun. Pico ate grass and layed around, Ed went out hunting, and Herbie was somewhere doing whatever it is fat cats do. » Continue Reading.
The rainy weather that has persisted over the past month has returned the water in our rivers, lakes, and ponds to levels typical for this time of year, rejuvenated the trees and shrubs in our forests and the grass and weeds in our lawns.
It has also restored the moist soil environment necessary for the continued activity of numerous invertebrates, terrestrial amphibians, and other creatures that reside on the ground and in the dirt. Despite several frosts and the record cold this past Friday night that temporarily froze the surface of the soil, many of the organisms that exist in the ground remain active well into the autumn.
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The nights and days are cool, the leaves are bright and the fire wood is getting stacked in the shed. The field is turning brown, even with the fall rain, and neither of the streams are running. It hasn’t really been that cold, but it is coming.
Ed crashed around last night, and I thought he was going to have a mouse. He didn’t, but it wasn’t from lack of trying. There was a mouse turd on the table though, so the mice are definitely trying to move in for the winter. I checked the small hole in the floor where the sink drains out and the steel wool was gone. I shoved some more in there to try and keep them out. I don’t have anything against mice per se, but I don’t want them in my food or on my bed or on my table. Or in my cabin, actually. » Continue Reading.
Visitors can meet timber wolves, coywolf, coyote, fox, and bobcat, up close, along with bald eagle, owls, hawks, osprey and falcons. Naturalists will show how wildlife interact with each other and with the natural environment. The event starts at 11 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. There is no admission charge, although donations are welcome. » Continue Reading.
What follows is a guest essay by Stacy McNulty, Associate Director of SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry’s Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb. McNulty and her colleagues recently conducted a study of how the availability of forest mast affects small mammals.
Have you noticed a mouse explosion in your camp or garage this summer? Are black bears making mincemeat of your garbage cans?
This summer, reports of stories of Adirondack bears breaking into in candy stores and making off with campers’ food abound. The dry spring has contributed to the scarcity of food in the woods. Yet there is another reason why we’re sometimes overrun with these animals. » Continue Reading.
Discussions regarding the ecological value of wilderness compared to an actively managed forest often centers around the health and well being of specific members of the wildlife community. While the flora and fauna that a tract of wilderness supports may be strikingly similar to that which occurs in periodically logged woodlands, the relative abundance of the various plants and animals contained in each is often quite different.In wilderness regions, there eventually develops a much higher concentration of those organisms whose lives are connected either directly or indirectly to the presence of dead wood.
Forests that are protected from timber harvesting operations contain substantially more dead wood on the ground and on the stump. While some trees that succumb to a disease or insect infestation may remain upright for only a few years after they die, many remain standing for decades before they eventually fall. Standing dead trees, especially ones that are larger than a foot in diameter, harbor numerous living entities and provide many animals with shelter. » Continue Reading.
In the days prior to and immediately following a full moon, there is often enough light in the hours after sunset for a person to meander along a well established woodland trail without the aid of a flashlight. By walking slowly and quietly, one can occasionally detect a small gray squirrel rustling about the dead leaves on the forest floor, climbing up a large trunk, or moving along the limb of a tree. While most squirrels strongly prefer to be active during the light of day, the flying squirrel favors the darkness of night and is the most common nocturnal tree dwelling mammal within the Park.
The flying squirrel is characterized by a loose fold of skin, called a patagium that extends from it front and hind legs and connects to its sides. This thin, furry membrane acts as a wing or airfoil when the animal stretches its appendages outward and enables it to glide forward as it slowly descends after leaping from a tree. The wide and flat tail of this rodent provides additional lift and greatly helps an airborne individual alter its flight path so it can accurately land at a selected spot. » Continue Reading.
Insects adapted for survival in an often cool, high-elevation environment have emerged from their long winter dormancy and are now 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.