Posts Tagged ‘mammals’

Throwback Thursday: Baby Bison

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Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Baby Bison by Jack Ballard

American Bison

American Bison by Jim Peaco

For North American hoofed mammals, the month spanning a couple of weeks on either side of Memorial Day is the height of the birthing season. Most elk calves, deer fawns, and bighorn sheep lambs are born during this time. Moose and pronghorn also birth their young after spring is well underway. However, there is one hoofed mammal of the American West that births its babies sooner. American Bison (bison bison) may begin calving as early as April, sometimes dropping their young to an earth that is still covered in snow.

While some young ungulates such as pronghorn and mountain goats appear much like miniature adults, baby bison look quite different than their parents. Their coat is reddish brown or golden, much lighter than the dark brown and nearly black hair found on adult bison. Baby bison lack the curving horns found on adults of both sexes, although a close inspection of a newborn bison’s head by an expert can reveal the tiny buds from which its horns will grow.

Healthy, adult bison are essentially immune from predation. However, wolves and grizzly bears will readily attempt to catch newborn bison. If a bison herd stands its ground against a potential predation attempt by wolves, the young are normally safe. If the herd panics and young bison are separated from the adults, they are much more easily taken by wolves.

Impressive and powerful, it’s not likely that anyone would describe an adult bison as “cute.” But for the first couple months of life, their babies certainly fit the definition, perhaps an odd descriptor for little ones that may one day weigh a ton.

Throwback Thursday: Ocelots in the Sky Islands

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Wednesday, May 15th, 2013
Ocelot

Ocelot © C. Allan Morgan

Throwback Thursday: Ocelots in the Sky Islands by Sheri Williamson

Originally Posted May 23rd, 2012

A little cat has been making big news in Arizona. Back in November 2009, a remote camera in the Huachuca Mountains, placed by volunteers with Tucson-based Sky Island Alliance, captured a blurry but recognizable photo of an Ocelot. This was the first solid evidence for the species’ presence in Arizona in almost 50 years.

Tantalizing to be sure, but anyone who spends time in the wild knows just how rare it is to see even the relatively common Bobcat. That’s why it was so exciting to hear on February 8, 2011 that dogs had treed an Ocelot in the Huachucas. The animal, which appeared to be a healthy adult male, was allowed to go on its way unharmed after photo and video documentation. It was much grayer and shorter-nosed than the more familiar tropical subspecies, as befits an Ocelot of the colder, more arid Southwest.

Four months later, the Monument fire swept through the southern part of the Huachuca Mountains, causing many to fear for the life of this very special feline neighbor. The story recently took an optimistic turn in late April, when a private citizen’s remote camera captured new Ocelot photos in the Huachucas. These are being examined by biologists with the Arizona Game & Fish Department and compared with the 2011 photos. Whether or not the spot patterns match, we know that there is still at least one Ocelot roaming Arizona’ssky islands.”

Less than 40 miles as the raven flies from the Arizona encounters, other remote cameras at El Aribabi Conservation Ranch in Sonora, Mexico have recorded multiple Ocelots and at least one Jaguar in addition to Bobcats and Mountain Lions. The bigger felines can no longer travel freely where the border fence has been completed, but I’m glad there’s room for the Ocelot to slip through.

-Sheri Williamson

Javelinas

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Monday, March 25th, 2013
Collard Peccary

Collard Peccary © G. C. Kelley

Javelinas by Gene Walz

Big Bend National Park is a magnificent place – a desert full of mountains of every size, shape and color. If it were closer to civilization, it would be much more popular. But you have to drive through the rest of Texas to reach it. Not many people want to. So, it’s one of the least frequented of the national parks.

That’s great! The fewer the people, the more natural the experience.

I went camping there with my dog Buddy in February without knowing a single thing about the place. Buddy and I both wished we’d done some preliminary research.

For instance: it gets bloody cold in the west Texas desert! Usually around freezing or below at night (once it went down to 14 Fahrenheit), and “the wild Texas winds” that Marty Robbins sang about can make it feel colder.

For instance number two: the west Texas desert is full of too many spiky, thorny, prickly things that stick in a dog’s paws and fur. That makes it a bad place for dogs. I had to inspect and groom Buddy daily; invariably prickly things came off of him and stuck to me.

Also: several wild things that like to mess with dogs. We kept seeing notices about mountain lions, bears and javelinas. The signs warned that dogs must be kept on short leashes and never left alone because of them. That made it tough on both of us.

We never did see bears or mountain lions. (We heard wolves and coyotes.) But javelinas were our constant companions.

Javelinas (aka, Collared Peccary – Pecari tajacu) don’t look particularly dangerous.

They’re less than two feet tall and look like black, furry pigs with skinny legs and big heads. I heard a dunderhead call them “cute” and approach them for a photo. Bad idea! They have sharp tusks and bad tempers. They can gore and gut a dog in seconds. Probably a tourist too.

Collard Peccary hoof prints © NatureShare

Collard Peccary hoof prints © NatureShare

In Big Bend, Texas and nearby they are habituated to tourists. They hang around campsites and slake their thirsts in easily accessible areas of the Rio Grande (actually Rio Puny!).

Another example of wild things adapting. They hardly seem wild!

Throwback: Bat Sniffer

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Monday, December 17th, 2012
Mexican Free-tailed Bat

Mexican Free-tailed Bat © NatureShare

Originally post December 2, 2009 by Jungle Pete

I like a faint smell of skunk, a gentle waft of monkey musk and even an odiferous breeze of bat. Don’t get me wrong, I like traditionally pleasant scents too. Orange blossom. Honeycomb. Fresh mown grass. But when I smell the distinct pungent perfume of the chiropterans I can’t help but get all aflutter.

Bats belong to the Order Chiroptera and number well over 1000 species. Considering that there are roughly 4000+ known species of mammals in the world, bats account for at least one quarter of them. Florida is home to 13 species of flying mammalians yet I was starting to think they had all disappeared. Since 2007, I had seen only one bat. One. But on a warm fall October evening, that would change.

The bridge over Judd Creek in Fort Myers Florida harbors a natural wonder. The underside is full of bats. The double lane concrete structure bridges a narrow gap on the mangrove-lined tidal creek and every evening at dusk, motorists whizz by unaware of the 1000+ bats that emerge for a night of insectivorous snacking.

To witness this spectacle, we kayaked to the bridge before dusk and like clockwork, the first of the bats began to gracefully dive from their concrete roost as the light faded. The expansion joints on the belly of the bridge are spaced perfectly for the two species of bats that roost here. In fact Mexican Free-tailed Bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) roost exclusively in manmade structures in Florida. On the other hand the Evening Bat (Nycticeius humeralis) is more often found roosting under loose bark or in dead trees but they have been known to roost in the bridge as well.

Normally it would be tough to identify one species of bat from another in flight but Mexican Free-tails are unique. They have brown to grey fur and a twelve-inch wingspan but most notably they have a tail that extends out beyond the uropatagium, a membrane that typically connects the hind legs and boney tail.

As the bats plunge and ascend, swirl and dive again, the six foot gap between bridge and creek fills with hundreds of elegant, swarming bats and the evening breeze bellows a fantastic scent of bat musk. Often confused for the smell of guano or bat droppings, the pheromone helps bats identify one another. The swirling mass begins to separate and one by one the bats zip off into the night.

I gently float with a subtle current, watching a wisp of a blackened wind trail off into the darkness leaving me in the lightless night with an ephemeral aroma of bat.

Throwback Thursday: The Sounds of Snow

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Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
Dog Tracks

Dog Tracks by David Tyler

We often associate snow with silence, except when there’s a fierce snowstorm or blizzard. Then the wind seems to fill our heads with noise, a ferocious kind of white noise.
Gently falling snow can dampen the soundscape. That’s because a fresh layer of snow can absorb sound. Air gets trapped between the grounded snowflakes and minimizes vibrations. It’s the same principal as holes in ceiling tiles. Tiny holes in the snow mean sound waves get impeded, and the world seems a softer, quieter place.

When snow settles or melts and refreezes, the world suddenly gets noisy again. The holes between flakes disappear, and sound waves accelerate. That’s why sound carries so well in winter. You can hear a wolf howl or a dog barking from what seems like miles away.

Walking through the snow in Winnipeg is much noisier than walking was in my hometown of Rochester, NY. It makes a creaking sound – like the rail of a rocking chair on a loose floorboard. Rrrrutch. Rrrrutch.

Rochester has very temperate winters. Snow quickly turns to slush. You get a squishy sound. Snow above the temperature of 15 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 10 Celsius) will not squeak. The pressure of your boots partially melts the snow underneath it; you’re essentially walking on a thin layer of water.

In Winnipeg where it’s usually colder than minus 10 Celsius for much of the winter (November 1st to April 1st), the pressure of your boots and body weight crushes the ice crystals and makes a distinctive, rrrutching sound.

When Foley artists add the sounds of footsteps in the snow during the editing of a Winnipeg movie, they usually bring along an unopened box of baking soda. Press your thumb hard into the side of the baking soda box, and you get the sound of a footstep through the snow in Winnipeg. Try it!

Whitetails in a Tizzy

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Monday, November 26th, 2012
White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer © Lisa Densmore

Whitetails in a Tizzy by Lisa Densmore

Location: Red Lodge, MT

There are a lot of nervous White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in my neighborhood at the moment. It’s the same expanding population of deer that always grazes on my lawn, trims my aspen trees and gorges on my lilacs, but now they’re in a tizzy. With the rut only a week or so away, the chests of the bucks are puffed out, and they’re trying feverishly to herd the does into harems. The annoyed does tend to comply rather than receive an antler in the behind. The bucks and does are so distracted by each other, they seem oblivious to a passerby such as me, whereas a week ago they would have put up their trademark white tails and bounded away.

Several evenings ago just after clock moved an hour earlier, I inadvertently took my late afternoon jog during the early evening. As I rounded the last corner on my street, I pondered whether to pick up my pace for the home stretch. Good thing I didn’t simply break into a sprint. Two deer would have run me over in their hell bent charge across the road. I always watch diligently for deer while driving my car, particularly at dusk and after dark when deer are most active, but it never occurred to me that a deer might run me over.

The next evening, I wanted to take a walk to help ease that over-stuffed feeling after a particularly hearty dinner. My sweetheart insisted he come with me. He was worried about the whitetails. Deer are herbivores. They graze on grass, grains and alfalfa; browse leaves, twigs and berries; and nibble nuts and lichens. What danger could a white-tailed deer pose a human?

“A buck in the rut wouldn’t think twice about butting you with an antler if you happened onto his turf,” he explained, “People have been killed by ornery deer.”

Onery? I think he meant horny.

A Hoppin’ Year for the Snowshoe Hare

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Monday, November 19th, 2012
Snowshoe Hare

Snowshoe Hare Tracks © Lisa Densmore

A Hoppin’ Year for the Snowshoe Hare by Lisa Densmore

Location: Snowcrest Mountains, MT

It’s a banner year for snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) in Montana’s Snowcrest Mountains. For the last three years, I’ve spent the third week in October in this rugged region of the northern Rockies where elk, deer and moose commonly wander the boreal and montane forests. The snowshoe hares are there, too, but a rare sight. Not this year! While hiking the high country, I twice pushed a snowshoe hare out of his twiggy cover while plopping myself on a random log to rest. It was fun to see them in their newly acquired white phase.

Snowshoe hares are well-known for their rusty brown summer coat which changes to white in the winter. Its ears, which are shorter than other hare species, are another trademark.

Though technically mid-fall, the Snowcrests were already covered with a half-foot of snow and it snowed every day while I was there. While the ungulates kept a low profile, leaving a few rubs on the trees, frozen scat and a depression or two in the snow where they bedded for the day, snowshoe hares trampled the open forests of Douglas fir and lodgepole pine literally everywhere. Their tracks were easy to identify with their large hind feet and small forefeet.

Snowshoe Hare © NatureShare

It’s their hind feet which give them their common moniker. Shaped like miniature snowshoes, their oversized back paws allow this shy yet active hopper to stay on top of the snow, a helpful skill when a lynx or a wolf fancies it for dinner. Not surprising, its feet have fur top and bottom to protect them from wintery temperatures. Sometimes I wish my feet had a little more fur on them. My trip to the Snowcrest Range was this year’s first brush with sub-freezing temperatures. Even with toe warmers, my feet were cold.

All We Have To Fear…

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Monday, October 29th, 2012

All We Have To Fear © Jungle Pete

All We Have To Fear… by Jungle Pete Corradino 

Arachnids with web spinning architectural prowess
Long-legged daddies with eight legs more or less
Brown furred mammalians with leathery wings
These are a few of my favorite things

Snakes striped with colors that will kill-a-fella
Turtles accused of passing salmonella
Poisonous ivy that desperately clings
These are a few of my favorite things

Aquatic finned creatures with razor sharp gnashers
Thundering, bumbling, honeycomb crashers
Well armored grubbers with nine banded rings
These are a few of my favorite things

When people fear them
When they kill them
This makes me mad
Please would you respect my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

Did You Know: Creepy Crawlers

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Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Did You Know: Creepy Crawlers

Daring Jumping Spider

Daring Jumping Spider © Ken Meyer

  • Did you know that jumping spiders can propel themselves for distances up to 50 times their body length! Mix this with their 360-degree viewing ability with eyes on the backs of their heads and you have one spider that you don’t want to mess with!
  • The Australian funnel-web spider is infamous for its venom that can kill a person in less than an hour and for its sharp fangs that can bite through a shoe!
Black Widow Spider

Black Widow Spider Male, and female © James H. Robinsons

  • Did you know that when spiders are born, they have almost no coloring making them nearly invisible? You better keep your eyes peeled for these creepy crawlers!
  • Did you know that bats have colonized nearly every type of ecosystem on earth, taking residency on all continents except Antarctica?
  • The biggest single gathering of bats in the world is in San Antonio, Texas, where 20-40 million Mexican free-tailed bats pour out of Bracken Cave each night in search of food!
Hairy-legged Vampire Bat

Hairy-legged Vampire Bat

  • Did you know that some bats, including the vampire bat, really do feast on the blood of animals, including humans!
  • Scientists have found an almost perfectly preserved spider fossil in China dating back to the middle Jurassic era, 165 million years ago. The fossilized spiders, Eoplectreurys gertschi, are older than the only two other specimens known by around 120 million years.
Brown Recluse Spider

Brown Recluse Spider © Steven J. Prchal

  • Out of 34,000 species of spiders in this world, only 27 have the power to kill a human with their venom.

Japanese Giant Hornet

  • Whatever you do, avoid contact with a Japanese Giant Hornet. This hornet is the size of your thumb and sprays flesh-melting poison which also acts as a pheromone to attract other hornets from the hive to come and sting you until you are no longer alive.
  • Colonies of soldier ants, which can be up to one million strong, are infamous for dismantling anything living that crosses their path, regardless of its size; they have even been known to take down horses in the Amazon Basin.

Did You Know: Petrified Forest National Park

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Thursday, October 11th, 2012
Petrified Forest National Park

Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park

34.910147° N 109.807377° W

Petrified Forest National Park, located on the Colorado Plateau in northeastern Arizona, is known for its Late Triassic fossils. Here you’ll find native Arizona grassland, mesas, buttes, rivers, springs, and wildflowers. Over 13,000 years of human history and culture can be found here. Best known for globally significant Late Triassic fossils, the park attracts many researchers. Geologists study the multi-hued Chinle Formation. Archeologists research over 13,000 years of history. Biologists explore one of the best remnants of native Arizona grassland. Air quality is an ongoing study in the park. Discover your own passion at Petrified Forest!

Petrified Forest National Park

Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park

1 Park Road
P.O. Box 2217
Petrified Forest, AZ 86028

(928) 524-6228

Petrified Forest National Park

Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Did you know? Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park has one of the most diverse collections of prehistoric pottery fragments in the Southwest.

The ecosystem at Petrified Forest National Park is not a desert. It’s one of the largest areas of intact grassland in the Southwest.

Petrified Forest National Park is the only national park unit to protect a section of Historic Route 66!

In addition to the world-class fossil record at Petrified Forest National Park, archeological resources are so abundant and so significant that they could stand alone within their own park!

On clear days in the Southwest, especially on crisp, cold winter days, you can see landscape features almost 100 miles away!

Petrified Forest National Park

Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Nature

Birds:

A bird list can be found here.

Petrified Forest National Park

Pronghorn Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Mammals:

Coyote, Gray Fox, Swift Fox, Bobcat, Mule Deer, Pronghorn, Ringtail, Raccoon, Badger, Striped Skunk, Western Spotted Skunk, Black-tailed Jackrabbit, Desert Cottontail, Desert Shrew, Pallid Bat, Townsend’s Big-eared Bat, California Myotis, Fringed Myotis, Yuma Myotis, Canyon Bat, Porcupine, Gunnison’s Prairie Dog, White-tailed Antelope Squirrel, Spotted Ground Squirrel, Rock Squirrel, Botta’s Pocket Gopher, White-throated Woodrat, Stephens’ Woodrat, Ord’s Kangaroo Rat, Silky Pocket Mouse, Northern Grasshopper Mouse, Brush Mouse, Canyon Mouse, White-footed Mouse, Deer Mouse, Pinon Mouse, Western Harvest Mouse, House Mouse

Eastern Collard Lizard

Eastern Collard Lizard © Rod Planck, Photo Researchers, Inc.

Reptiles and Amphibians:

Tiger Salamander, Great Plains Toad, Red-spotted Toad, Woodhouse’s Toad, Couch’s Spadefoot, Mexican Spadefoot, Plains Spadefoot. Reptiles are Plateau Striped Whiptail, Eastern Collared Lizard, Common Lesser Earless Lizard, Greater Short-horned lizard, Sagebrush Lizard, Plateau Lizard, Common Side-blotched Lizard, Ornate Box Turtle, Glossy Snake, Rattlesnake, Nightsnake, Common Kingsnake, Milksnake, Pai Striped Whiptail, New Mexico Whiptail, Striped Whipsnake, Gophersnake, Black-necked Gartersnake

Colorado Pinyon Pine

Colorado Pinyon Pine © Lance Beeny

Trees:

Two needle Pinyon/Pinyon Pine, One Seed Juniper, Little Utah Juniper, James Narrow Cottonwood, Fremont Cottonwood, Narrow Leaf Willow, Coyote Willow, Goodding’s Willow, Russian Olive, Tamarisk, Nevada Jointfir, Torrey’s Jointfir, Siberian Elm

Wildflowers:

A wildflower list can be found here.

Petrified Forest National Park

Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

 

Petrified Forest National Park

Photo Courtesy of Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona