Archive for the 'Mammals' Category

Oct 30 2014

How To Open A Black Walnut

Published by under Mammals

Fox squirrel with partially open black walnut (photo by Donna Foyle)

There’s a bumper crop of black walnuts in my neighborhood this month, so many that they’ve stained the sidewalk black.  They’re good to eat but how do you open them?

If you’re a human, you put on rubber gloves and safety glasses and hit the nuts with a hammer.  The first whack cracks the greenish-yellow husk that stains everything black, hence the gloves.

The husk is the easy part.  The shells are very, very hard to crack.  Some people suggest using a vise instead of a hammer to open the nuts but no matter what you do pieces of shell go flying, hence the safety glasses.

If you’re a squirrel you don’t have tools but you do have teeth.

Donna Foyle watched a fox squirrel open a black walnut outside her window.  The squirrels open peanuts in a flash but this black walnut took a long time.

The squirrel began by gnawing a hole on the side of the nut.
Fox squirrel opening a black walnut (photo by Donna Foyle)

“He quickly gnawed the shell, turning it, gnawing many times, turning it, gnawing almost in continuous quick motion, turning it again.  He never deliberately stopped gnawing to spit out the shredded shell,”  wrote Donna.

You can see he made the “sawdust” fly.  No goggles for him!
Fox squirrel making the sawdust fly as he opens a black walnut (photo by Donna Foyle)

After 40 minutes he’d made real headway.  The hole was a bowl from which he ate the nutmeat.
Fox squirrel opening a black walnut (photo by Donna Foyle)

Did he save the rest for later?

The squirrels in my neighborhood are eating fewer and saving more, burying them in everyone’s mulch.

 

 

(photos by Donna Foyle)

6 responses so far

Oct 14 2014

Quiz: Which Ones Are Ungulates?

Published by under Mammals,Quiz

Deer eats snow (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

While writing about elk, I wanted to use the word ungulate so I looked up how to spell it.  I learned more than I bargained for … and ultimately didn’t use the word.

Ungulates are mammals with hooves, right?  Well, some are obvious, some are not.  Here’s a quiz to test your knowledge.

Which of these animals are ungulates?

A.  Deer (photo above):

B.  Horse:
Nokota horses (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

C.  Llama
Llama (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

D. Leopard:
Leopard on a tree (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

E. Hippopotamus:
Hippopotamus (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

F. Porpoise:
Harbor porpoise (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

Leave a comment with your answer.

If you’re stumped, I’ll post the answer in the comments later.

Can’t wait for the answer?  Click here. No cheating!

 

p.s. See the comments for an explanation about the oddest ungulates.

(All photos from Wikimedia Commons. Click the image to see the original.)

7 responses so far

Oct 03 2014

He’s In A Rut

Published by under Mammals

Elk among the flowers (photo by aul Staniszewski)

This animal is in a rut.  Which one?

Rut (1):
1.  a long deep track made by the repeated passage of the wheels of vehicles.
2. a habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change.

Rut (2):  An annual period of sexual activity in deer and some other mammals, during which the males fight each other for access to the females.

In September and October Pennsylvania’s elk herd has an annual period of sexual activity.  The males pursue the ladies, spar with other males, and “sing” their bugling love song.

Visit the Elk Country Visitor’s Center in Benezette to see and hear what this is like.  For a preview, watch this handheld video of the herd in October 2010.  The elk are so preoccupied that they ignore the people.

So yes, in October this elk is in a rut.

If things don’t go well, he may feel he’s in a habit or pattern of behavior that’s become dull and unproductive but is hard to change.”

 

(Thanks to Paul Stanszewski for the photo.)

(*) Definitions of rut from GoogleRut(1) comes from the same word as “route.”  Rut(2) comes from the same word as “roar.”

6 responses so far

Sep 03 2014

River Otters Chirp Like Birds

Published by under Mammals

Curious river otter (photo by David Stanley via Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s something I learned by being fooled:  River otters can sound like birds.

I found this out in Belfast, Maine one summer when my husband and I walked across the footbridge in the evening.  The Passagassawakeag River was beautiful at sunset as the birds gathered to roost and a family of river otters swam at the Belfast shore.

We were on the other side of the bridge when I heard a loud bird chirping.  What bird was that?  Intrigued, I approached the sound to find out.

For the life of me I could not find that bird.  Its voice echoed under the bridge but no songbird was down there.  Finally I realized the sound came from the otters. They were whistling to each other.

This recording from the University of Utah’s streaming library is close to what they sounded like:

Who knew that river otters could sound like birds?!

 

(photo by David Stanley via Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)

One response so far

Aug 22 2014

Very Close To Bears

Published by under Mammals

If you want to see black bears, northern Minnesota is the place to be.

Ely is home to the North American Bear Center where PixController‘s webcam made Lily the Bear internationally famous, and just west of Orr the American Bear Association’s Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary allows brave photographers to get very close to wild black bears.

The Vince Shute Sanctuary protects wild bears and provides educational opportunities in its 360-acre sanctuary.  The bears are encouraged to visit a two-acre clearing at the heart of the property where, on the summer evenings, the general public can watch them from the sanctuary’s elevated viewing platform.   Photographers wishing a close encounter can pay hundreds of dollars, learn about bear safety and sign a release. Then up to four photographers at a time can stand on the ground among the bears during the day.

Sparky Stensaas visited in early June and signed the release.  “Basically you sign your life away,” he says, but you can see why the sanctuary does that.  The bears come that close!

Watch Sparky’s video for cute cubs and a very close bear encounter.  Click here to see his video on Vimeo’s full screen and read more about his experience with the bears.

 

p.s. Listen to the sound track for crows and some odd calls that sound like humans saying “wooo.”  Those are ravens!

(video by Sparky Stensaas, The Photonaturalist)

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Jul 18 2014

Cute Gray Kits

Published by under Mammals

Gray fox kits, Allegheny County, June 2014 (image from Tana A's video)

Last month when I wrote about red fox kits in Calgary, Tana left a comment that she had gray fox kits in her suburban backyard north of Pittsburgh!  Her discovery is especially cool because gray foxes are said to be less tolerant of civilization than red ones.

Filming from her upstairs window, Tana captured the gray fox family on video on June 21.  The screenshot above shows only four but click on it to watch the entire 16 minutes and you’ll see seven!  Don’t forget to read her description below the video for the background story.

Meanwhile here are some cool facts about gray foxes:

  • Unlike the red fox, which was imported around 1750 for the fox hunt sport, the gray fox is an expert at climbing trees.  It easily shinnies up trees and nimbly jumps from branch to branch.
  • Gray foxes eat the same foods as red foxes but make their home in deciduous forests with rocky, brushy terrain while the red fox prefers old fields and rolling farmland.
  • Gray foxes are monogamous and pair for life.  Both parents raise the family of 4-6 kits during the spring and summer.  (Seven is a big litter!)
  • The family group stays together until the juveniles disperse in late fall. The youngsters may later make their home as much as 52 miles away from their birthplace.
  • Predators of the gray fox include humans (people hunt them), great horned owls, domestic dogs and sometimes coyotes. Unfortunately vehicles kill them, too.

Tana was lucky to see the kits.  Within days their parents taught them to conceal themselves as they move about.  She only gets an occasional glimpse at dusk or hears a parent make a warning bark.

What a privilege to see them.  So cute!

 

(screenshot from video by Tana on YouTube)

4 responses so far

Jun 27 2014

Cute Kits

Published by under Mammals

Red fox kit (photo by Dan Arndt)

Most baby animals are cute but fox kits could win the Cutest prize.

Last month in Alberta, Dan Arndt photographed three red fox kits playing and exploring while their mother supervised nearby.  They tussled like puppies and paused to look curiously at the human with the camera.

Click on Dan’s photo above to see his Foxes 2014 album on his Flickr page.

Soooo cute!

(photo by Dan Arndt, Creative Commons license on Flickr.  Dan lives in Calgary and writes for two blogs: Birds Calgary and Bird Canada.)

3 responses so far

Jun 17 2014

Stotting

Published by under Mammals

Springbok pronking (photo by Yathin_sk, Wikimedia Commons)

Last month I learned a new word that describes what this springbok is doing.

Stotting, also called pronking or pronging, is a stiff-legged trot punctuated every few paces by a high jump.

Here’s a quick look at a stotting gazelle in real time.

And here’s a longer look at springboks in slow motion from the BBC.

Cheetahs make the springbok run.  What makes them stott?  One theory is that they do it to show off.

It’s certainly a “Look at me!” moment when a springbok jumps 13 feet into the air with his back arched and legs dangling.  When a male jumps he opens the pocket of skin that runs from his back to his tail, as you can see in the photo above.  This flashes his patch of white hair and, according to Wikipedia, emits a sweaty odor.

Springbok and Thomson’s gazelles aren’t the only animals that stott.  North American mule deer and pronghorn do it and young sheep stott, too, as a form of play.

Who knew?!

(photo by Yathin_sk on Wikimedia Commons.  Click on the image to see the original)

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Jun 11 2014

Protective Mothers

Published by under Mammals

Elk cow and calf, Benezette (photo by Paul Staniszewski)

June is “baby” time in Pennsylvania’s woods with fledgling birds, tiny rabbits, young groundhogs and cute fawns.

As I mentioned last week young animals found alone are not abandoned, they’re just waiting for mom.  You shouldn’t “rescue” fawns and if you’re lucky enough to see an elk calf in Pennsylvania, don’t go near it!

Just like white-tailed deer, elk mothers tell their calves to “Stay!” while they go off to feed.  White-tailed deer are afraid of humans and don’t raise a fuss about their fawns but elk cows are big and powerful.  If you approach an elk calf, its mother may attack.

An elk cow doesn’t have antlers, but she’s not something you want to tangle with.  She weighs about 500 pounds, stands 4.5 feet tall at the shoulder and is 6.5 feet long from nose to rump.  When she charges, you’re the one who’ll need to be rescued!

Paul Staniszewski is quite familiar with the elk herd near Benezette, PA and explains: “Although the elk are used to seeing people, they are still very much wild and will become unpredictable and aggressive when it comes to protecting their young.  If a protective female elk is endangering people in a public area, move away and call the PA Game Commission. They will temporarily close the area until the mother moves on with her calf.”

Just like humans, wildlife mothers do what they can to protect their young.  Hawks and peregrines swoop at humans, mother skunks spray, black bears and elk charge.  Yes, a sudden attack by a wild animal is frightening.  It’s meant to be!  You’re at the hands of an outraged mother and she wants you to leave.

When you’re outdoors be aware of your surroundings and watch for wildlife.  Remember that mothers are protective.  It’s all part of being a mom.

 

(photo by Paul Staniszewski)

9 responses so far

Jun 05 2014

Don’t “Rescue” Me

Published by under Mammals

Fawn at Allegheny Cemetery, May 2014 (photo by Sharon Leadbitter)

This month you might find a fawn resting alone in the woods. He wants you to know: “Don’t kidnap me! My mother is nearby. I’m not abandoned!”

This fawn is resting in a place that looks like a field of square, granite boulders. Sharon Leadbitter found him as she drove through Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood in late May. He was hiding by a headstone near the road.

Sharon often looks for wildlife in the cemetery where she’s seen groundhogs, foxes, deer, and many kinds of birds. When she pulled to the side of the road on May 28 she was surprised to find a fawn curled up close by. Sharon wrote, “So tiny!! Can’t be more than 2-3 days old. The hooves are still shiny. I was within 3 feet of it.”

The fawn is doing what comes naturally, resting during the day while his mother feeds elsewhere. He’s still too young to keep up with her so she told him to “Stay!” and left him alone so her presence won’t attract a predator to his location.

Six days later Sharon found a second fawn under the cemetery trees and this same fawn near another headstone. He has stayed here for many days because his mother knows it’s such a safe location. He’s bigger … and so are his ears!

If you find a fawn resting alone, don’t touch! Leave him alone! His mother has not abandoned him. She knows where he is (she’s a Mom!) and will come back when the humans are gone. She’s relying on her baby to stay motionless during the day. The worst thing that could happen is if a human “rescues” him and takes him away from his mother and her milk.  She will search for him when he’s gone.

The Animal Rescue League Wildlife Center in Verona, PA receives many calls about “abandoned” fawns at this time of year. Click here for their helpful fact sheet.  The Wildlife Center of Virginia urges us:  Don’t Be a Fawn Kidnapper!

Meanwhile, if you drive through Allegheny Cemetery move very slowly and be alert for wildlife. Perhaps you’ll see a fawn.

 

(photo and video by Sharon Leadbitter)

One response so far

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