Archive for the 'Mammals' Category

Oct 19 2016

Prevent Lyme Disease In Your Own Backyard

White-footed mouse raiding the peanut feeder at night (photo by Rob Ireton, Creative Commons license on Flickr)

White-footed mouse raiding a backyard peanut feeder at night (photo by Rob Ireton, Creative Commons license on Flickr)

If you live in a Lyme disease area and feed the birds, you might get Lyme disease in your own backyard.  Here’s what makes that possible and how you can make your yard safe.

When you provide food for birds, a lot of other animals eat that food as well.  Squirrels and chipmunks eat during the day.  The mice come at night, especially white-footed mice pictured above at a peanut feeder.

Animals live close to their food sources so they live in your backyard or even your house. Here’s a favorite mouse and chipmunk home — the nooks and crannies of stone walls.

Stone wall (located in Vermont, photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Stone wall (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

The abundance of birds and rodents in your yard attracts predators: hawks, owls, cats and even ticks. You’ll see the big predators but you might not notice the tiny ones.  Adult black-footed ticks are very hungry in October and November so watch out.

Chart of black-legged tick life stages (image from Wikimedia Commons)

Birdseed –> mice –> ticks –>  Here’s the Lyme disease connection:  White-footed mice are reservoirs for Lyme disease so the black-footed ticks that feed on your backyard mice may be infected.

What to do?

It’s impossible to get rid of all the mice — even if you stop feeding the birds — but you can get rid of ticks, and that’s what counts in this battle against Lyme disease.

The mice will help you do it.  Mice like soft fluffy bedding in their nests and will carry it into their secret hiding places.  If you give them anti-tick bedding it kills the ticks on them and in their nests.

This ingenious defense is described here at TickEncounter.org.  In their photo below, a mouse is gathering anti-tick bedding — permethrin-sprayed cottonballs — from the blue-green tube.

White-footed mouse with anti-tick tube and cottonball bedding (photo from tickencounter.org)

White-footed mouse with anti-tick tube and cottonball bedding (photo from tickencounter.org)

You can make your own tubes (cottonballs, paper tubes, Permethrin) or buy them complete with instructions at ticktubes.com.  Be sure to read about this technique at Tick Encounter before you begin.  And then …

No more ticks!

 

p.s. You’ll see at Tick Encounter that July and August are the optimal time for setting out Tick Tubes.  Sorry my timing is off.

p.s. Be sure to read the comments about Permethrin hazards. It is very bad for pets!

(photo credits: Click on the images to see the originals in context
White-footed mouse at night by Rob Ireton, Creative Commons license on Flickr,
Stone wall photo from Wikimedia Commons,
Chart of black-legged tick life stages from Wikimedia Commons,
White-footed mouse with anti-tick tube and cottonball bedding from tickencounter.org
)

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Oct 13 2016

Chipmunks Are Packing It In

Published by under Mammals

Chipmunk with food in his cheeks (photo by Chuck Tague)

Chipmunk with food in his cheeks (photo by Chuck Tague)

If you haven’t seen a chipmunk all summer, I guarantee you’ll see one now.

The “chippies” are very busy getting ready for winter, running to and fro with their cheeks stuffed with food.  This vintage article from 2009 explains why they’re …

Packing It In

 

(photo by Chuck Tague)

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Oct 10 2016

Why Are We Thirsty Before We Sleep?

Published by under Mammals

Glass of water (photo by Kate St.John)

Tall glass of water (photo by Kate St.John)

Have you noticed that you’re thirsty before you go to sleep?  Why is that?

A recent study published in the journal Nature might not provide the answer for humans but it feels right to me.

Researchers at McGill University noticed that two hours before they went to sleep mice drank more water than they actually needed.  The scientists restricted access to water before bedtime and the mice became dehydrated while they slept.  Obviously drinking water ahead of time is a survival mechanism.

But how did the mice know to drink so much?  Using ingenious tests the research team found that the animal’s biological clock was sending a “drink water” signal to the brain’s thirst center.

I’ll bet this is true of humans, too.  My biological clocks says, “Drink water” and so I do.

Read more about the study here in Science Daily.

 

(photo by Kate St. John)

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Oct 08 2016

A Visit to Elk Country

Published by under Mammals,Travel

Bull elk grazing in a front yard in Elk County, 4 Oct 2016 (photo by Kate St.John)

Bull elk grazing in a front yard in Elk County, Pennsylvania, 4 Oct 2016 (photo by Kate St.John)

Last Tuesday Geralyn Pundzak, Kathy Miller and I made a one day trip to see the elk near Benezette, PA.  During the rut, September-October, the males pursue the ladies, spar with other males and “sing” a bugling love song.

Our first two stops came up empty and we began to worry that we’d miss them.  Geralyn, who drove us there, said she wouldn’t leave until she saw an elk. The pressure was on!

At Woodring Farm we heard an elk bugling on the hill above us.  He soon crossed the gravel road only 100 yards away, then stopped to bugle among the trees.  I was so excited I forgot to take pictures.

On our way to Dents Run we saw an elk lying down, almost on a front porch. Was he a statue?  No, his head moved!  We returned to an elk traffic jam and took these photos.

Bull elk in Elk Country, 4 Oct 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Bull elk in Elk Country, 4 Oct 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Bull elk grazing in a front yard, 4 Oct 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Bull elk grazing in a front yard, 4 Oct 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Bull elk in Elk Country, Pennsylvania, 4Oct 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Bull elk in Elk Country, Pennsylvania, 4 Oct 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

In addition to the elk we enjoyed birding, scenic overlooks and the Field of Flowers at Woodring Farm.

A view of Elk County from Woodring Farm overlook (photo by Kate St. John)

Elk County view from Woodring Farm overlook (photo by Kate St. John)

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At the Field of Flowers, Woodring Farm, Elk County, PA, 4 Oct 2016 (photo by Kate St.John)

At the Field of Flowers, Woodring Farm, Elk County, PA, 4 Oct 2016 (photo by Kate St.John)

Visit Elk Country now while the elk are bugling and the leaves are changing.

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

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Sep 16 2016

Cheeps Like A Bird

Published by under Mammals,Vocalizations

The birds aren’t singing and many aren’t even making contact calls but you’ll still hear something in the forest that sounds like a bird.

Listen to the video above as a chipmunk makes chirpy calls that resemble a northern cardinal — except that they’re too fast and “sweet.”

Chipmunks make sounds we don’t expect from such a small body.  Lang Elliott recorded three of them:  “chip”, “tock” and squeak.  Click here to hear.

Want to know what they mean? Jim McCormac explains them in Deciphering the language of chipmunks.

You’ll get a lot of practice with these sounds in the weeks ahead.  The chipmunks are in overdrive and very vocal, storing up food for the winter.

 

(video by PAphotofun on YouTube. Chipmunk audio by Lang Elliott via Wildlife of Connecticut website)

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Sep 04 2016

The Skunk Whisperer

Published by under Mammals

Skunk Videos, Day 3:

Skunks in the window well?

Yesterday’s long video showed Ray Kremer’s success in getting the skunks out of his window well but the comment on his video says they went right back in there the next day.

Here’s a guy who can “whisper” them out.

And he probably recommends a window well cover.

By the way, skunks can carry rabies without showing any symptoms.  Do not handle skunks!  This guy is a professional from SkedaddleWildlife in Ontario, Canada.

 

p.s. Don’t even dream of keeping a wild baby skunk as a pet. In most states it’s illegal. Where they are legal you must get a permit and must get the skunk from a breeder, not from the wild, to insure that the pet is not carrying rabies.

(video from SkedaddleWildlife on YouTube)

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Sep 03 2016

Skunks in the Window Well

Published by under Mammals

Skunk Videos, Day 2:

What happens when a skunk family gets into a place where you don’t want them?

Ray Kremer figured out an elaborate bucket scheme to get this family of five out of his window well.  He had to be careful!

The video lasts more than 11 minutes, the rescue took longer.  Ray explains in the video comment that the skunks jumped back into the well the next day.

What is it about window wells?

Tomorrow: The Skunk Whisperer!

 

(video by Ray Kremer on YouTube)

2 responses so far

Sep 02 2016

A Run on Skunks

Published by under Mammals

Today I’m starting a three-day extravaganza of skunk videos, inspired by this one that swept the Internet a few weeks ago.

Here a cyclist freezes in place when a very cute family comes down the path to visit him.  Yikes!  Don’t move.

Tomorrow:  What happens when a skunk family gets into a crawl space where you don’t want them?

 

(video posted by Recommended For You on YouTube)

5 responses so far

Jul 02 2016

The Element Of Surprise

Published by under Mammals,Travel

Grizzly bear (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Grizzly bear (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

While visiting Glacier National Park on a Road Scholar birding trip this week, we heard that a mountain biker was killed by a bear just south of the Park. The incident made international news.

When a bear kills someone, wildlife officials investigate by collecting information on what happened, DNA samples of the bear and, ideally, the bear itself.  If it’s clear the bear was predatory (if it ate or wanted to eat the person) then the bear is euthanized.  If it was defending itself or cubs, officials weigh the evidence and it often goes free.

As of this writing the investigation is still underway, the bear hasn’t been found, and it’s not confirmed that it was a grizzly.  The only thing we know for sure is that everyone was surprised — the bear, the victim, his fellow cyclist, and the local community.  Montanans are especially surprised and saddened because the victim was a very knowledgeable local resident, an officer in the U.S. Forest Service who knew all about bear safety.

How could such a thing happen?   Imagine this: A mountain biker is traveling downhill fast on a silent bike on a narrow trail through a thicket. There’s a bear in the thicket but there is no sound to warn the bear and no time for it to move away.  Bears have a chase instinct and will pursue things that are moving fast.  UPDATE JULY 3: The cyclist collided with the bear before the fatal attack.

Here’s more about what happened near West Glacier, Montana:

Hopes Dimming But Search Continues for Bear that Killed Cyclist Near Glacier Park

 

Were we worried about bears while visiting the park?  No.  We followed the guidelines on what to do in bear country. These are from the Glacier National Park website:

  • Never travel alone. Don’t trail run. (There were 11 of us walking and birding.)
  • Carry bear spray and know how to use it.  (Our guide carried this form of pepper spray that has a special nozzle.)
  • Make human noise especially talking, singing, clapping or calling out at regular intervals.  NPS says, most bear bells are not enough.  (We talked a lot!)
  • Never leave food, garbage and scented items unattended. Always secure them. (We were always with our food, packing in and packing out.)
  • Be aware of your surroundings, especially when you are near bear foods, running water or thickets. Notice bears signs. (Our guide showed us bear claw marks and dig-outs.)

Bear attacks are extremely rare events.  There would be even fewer if we could eliminate the element of surprise.

 

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

p.s. We never saw any bears at all, not a grizzly, not even a black bear.  It would have been nice to see a grizzly on a distant hillside from the car — but only under those circumstances!

2 responses so far

Jun 18 2016

Groundhog Family

Published by under Mammals,Schenley Park

Groundhog family in the wall on the Lower Trail, Schenley Park, 13 June 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

Groundhog family in the wall on the Lower Trail, Schenley Park, 13 June 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

On Monday at Schenley Park’s Lower Trail I heard some rustling and turned to see a mother and baby groundhog peering at me from their underground home.

They’re probably descended from the family that lived in this wall in 2012.  The habitat has changed (DPW sprayed the wall with defoliant last August, oh no!) but the groundhogs remain.  Here’s the family I saw in May 2012.

Perhaps we’ll see them tomorrow during my Schenley Park outing.  Hope to see you there. Click here for more information.

 

(photo by Kate St.John)

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