Archive for the 'Mammals' Category

Jun 19 2013

I’m a Porcupette

Published by under Mammals

Porcupine youngster, Lycoming, May 2013 (photo by Meredith Lombard)

When I saw this cute photo by Meredith Lombard I knew I had to write about baby porcupines but I soon learned that the truth about these rodents is stranger than fiction.

For starters, baby porcupines are called porcupettes.

Each porcupette is a precocial only child, born with open eyes, well formed teeth, a full coat of fur, and able to climb trees a few hours after birth.  In only two weeks he eats green plants.  In three months, he’s weaned.

Like his parents he has three kinds of fur: a wooly undercoat, long coarse guard hairs, and sharp hollow quills with barbs at the tip that slant backward.  When born his quills are soft and harmless (good thing for his mother!) but within half an hour they’ve stiffened into the protective coat that saves his life.  The only place he doesn’t have quills is on his belly — just like his parents.

Neither he nor his parents “throw” their quills but the quills are so loosely attached that they stick easily to any critter that comes close.  That includes dad when he approaches mom to conceive a porcupette. Needless to say copulation is a very careful business.  No hugs are involved, but there’s a lot of courting to get her in the mood.   Dad whines and dances on three legs, showing her his equipment.  When she says “You’re the one” he showers her with urine.  Then they mate.

I’m not kidding.

All of this happens in October or November.  Seven months later: a porcupette.

(photo by Meredith Lombard)

3 responses so far

Jun 13 2013

Deer Are Not Vegetarians

Published by under Mammals

While hiking in the Laurel Highlands several weeks ago I heard a hooded warbler alarm call.  I looked for the bird and discovered a large deer browsing in the area of the warbler’s voice.

Though I couldn’t see the warbler I knew why he was upset.  Deer eat birds’ eggs, baby birds and any small bird that can’t fly away.  The deer was as big a threat to his nest as a bear.

Years ago at Powdermill Banding Station I learned that deer are one reason they’re careful to quickly retrieve birds from the mist nets.  If they delay, deer eat the birds trapped in the nets.

In the video above two parent birds try to drive off a buck who’s browsing in the vicinity of their nestling.  The nestling tries to escape but cannot fly well.  The parents’ efforts were to no avail.

Deer are so omnivorous that trail-cam studies have shown they’ll readily eat from carcasses of their own species.

Nature is full of surprises.  Deer are not vegetarians.

(video from YouTube)

 

7 responses so far

May 14 2013

Not Tame, But Trusting

Published by under Mammals

Doe and fawn (photo by Sharon Leadbitter)

It used to be that wild animals avoided human contact but that’s not true in Pittsburgh anymore.  We have hawks, wild turkeys, foxes and deer in the city.  Not every animal can cope with city life but the individuals who can tolerate close human approach are doing quite well in our parks and cemeteries.

Sharon Leadbitter visits Allegheny Cemetery often and frequently saw this doe and fawn last summer.  They weren’t tame but they learned that Sharon isn’t dangerous. This was reinforced for the fawn every time it met a human and Mom said “It’s ok.”

Fawns are born in May in Pennsylvania so by now this baby is an adult and it’s mother has a new fawn.  I’ll bet this doe will let Sharon meet her new fawn, too.

And there will probably be four deer this year.  This doe plus her new fawn, and this fawn (now an adult) plus her fawn.  That’s how easy it is to end up with a lot of deer.

(photo by Sharon Leadbitter)

6 responses so far

Apr 11 2013

Raccoons Getting Active

Published by under Mammals,Schenley Park

After a quiet winter this week’s warm weather has brought out the raccoons.

On Monday I heard a strange noise above my head in Schenley Park.  Two raccoons were arguing high in a tree.

Then late at night I heard the scratchy sound of raccoons disagreeing in my back yard.  Safe indoors, my cat looked in the direction of the sound but was unimpressed.

Fortunately we don’t have a cat door or we might have had a visitor like the one in this video… !

 

(video from YourDailyFunny on YouTube)

2 responses so far

Dec 30 2012

Totally Off Topic

Published by under Mammals

This post is totally off topic — not about birds or nature — but it’s so funny that I laughed and laughed.

I have a cat and I have a computer.  Thus far I have avoided acquainting my cat with the printer.  The video shows why.

 

(video by mihaifrancu on YouTube)

5 responses so far

Dec 26 2012

Go on a Virtual Safari, Help Science

Published by under Beyond Bounds,Mammals

Nature observers and webcam lovers, here’s an opportunity to go on a virtual safari and contribute to science from the comfort of your home.

The University of Minnesota has been studying lions in Africa’s Serengeti for over 45 years.  Several years ago, in an effort to determine the population of other species in lion country, they installed 225 motion-detection cameras to record all the animals, both day and night, that pass by the study sites.

They now have thousands and thousands of photographs that contain an animal of interest … but which animal?   And how many?  And what are they doing?  Are there Wildebeest? Zebras? Serval cats?  Eland?  Guinea fowl? Grant’s gazelles (above)?

The task of identifying and counting the animals in so many photos was too huge for just a few people so they teemed up with Zooniverse to launch the Snapshot Serengeti website. It’s a citizen science project and you can help.

Visit snapshotserengeti.org to see the photos.  Try the tutorial. Learn how to identify the animals and how to use the clues for animals you’ve never seen before.  Then checkmark three items: what species, how many, what they’re doing.  Click Finish and you’re onto the next photo.

Of the two Zooniverse projects I’ve tried so far I like this the best.  At first I wasn’t very good at wildebeest vs. eland vs. buffalo but I quickly got better.  I could really tell I’m a “bird person” when I was excited to see two guinea fowl, and then a secretary bird!

Try it yourself.  Sign up at www.snapshotserengeti.org, sign in and you’re off on safari!

(screenshot from Snapshot Serengeti)

One response so far

Dec 06 2012

On Teeth

Published by under Mammals

Adult human adults have 32 teeth — if none have been extracted.

Opossums have 50 teeth!

Possums (Didelphis virginiana) are small mammals with little mouths but they’re loaded with teeth.

What could they possibly be chewing that they need 50 of them?

Imagine their dental bills!   ;)

 

(photo from Shutterstock)

9 responses so far

Oct 25 2012

Who’s The Smartest Of Them All?

Published by under Mammals

Somehow I missed Raccoon Nation! when it premiered on PBS NATURE last February but Oh, my! I watched it online last week and I can hardly wait to see it on the big screen when PBS re-broadcasts it on Halloween.

I’ve already learned that raccoons are the smartest animal in the urban jungle.  They’re relatively small (so it’s easy to hide), nocturnal, omnivorous and adaptable.  They learn from their mothers and they can get into anything because they have thumbs.

I’ve seen this in my city neighborhood:  a mother raccoon guiding her kits to shelter, the sound of racoons arguing over my neighbor’s bird feeders at night, the shadows of ‘coons raiding my bird bath.

There’s not a garbage can they can’t open.  They’re ready for any challenge.  And our attempts to outsmart them make them smarter!

So of course I’m going to pull up a seat on Wednesday October 31 at 8:00pm and watch Raccoon Nation! in living color on WQED. 

I can hardly wait. On Halloween the animals will wear masks.

(photo from PBS NATURE)

2 responses so far

Oct 19 2012

Taking Shelter

Published by under Birds of Prey,Mammals

As winter approaches our local wildlife looks for safe, dry places to take shelter from the cold.  Eastern screech-owls use hollow trees, dense foliage and holes in upright structures.

Last year Bill Powers of PixController set up an eastern screech-owl roosting study with five owl boxes in a dry wetland in Westmoreland County.  Each box is equipped with a small infrared video camera and small microphone wired back to a server that detects motion and streams video.

You can watch all five owl boxes at PixController’s Eastern Screech-Owl webcam page.

When it turned cold last weekend, Bill’s cameras detected motion as an owl checked out two of the boxes at dawn on Saturday.

Here’s the owl staring up at the infrared camera in Box #1 where he eventually roosted.  There’s no color because the light is infrared.

Knowing which box to watch, Bill put up a blind on Saturday and took the owl’s picture when he emerged at dusk.  He’s the handsome screech-owl in full color above.

 

Last night I tuned in at 9:00pm. There were no owls but I found a squirrel in Box #4, rearranging his tail and wrapping it around his body to cover his nose.

Won’t he be surprised if an owl shows up this morning!

 

Visit Bill’s PixController Screech Owl website to watch the cameras.  Click here for more information on the camera setup and a map of the cam locations.

(photos by Bill Powers and PixController, Inc.)

p.s.  If there are no owls when you take a look, come back when it’s colder.  Bill tells me the owls use the boxes more often when it’s 30oF.

6 responses so far

Oct 13 2012

Best View In The Parking Lot?

Published by under Mammals

October’s a good time to take in fall foliage and the autumn activities of Pennsylvania’s wildlife.

If your travels take you to Elk County, stop by the Visitor Center on Winslow Hill Road in Benezette to see Pennsylvania’s elk.

You might get lucky and find them in the parking lot, as Paul Staniszewski did above.

On the other hand, elk are pretty busy right now and more likely to be in their natural setting.  This is their mating season.

Click here for Elk Country information and here for Paul’s guide to photographing elk … when they’re not in the parking lot.

(photo by Paul Staniszewski)

 

p.s. Today I’m hiking at the Quehanna Wild Area in nearby Clearfield County. The fall foliage is colorful but it is *cold*! The growing season just ended with 23 degrees this morning.

One response so far

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