Category Archives: Mammals

Let’s Go, Kids

  • Uh oh! We've been seen.

Last week in Schenley Park I heard unusual mewing sounds above me.  Three raccoon kits were whining as their mother assessed whether I was dangerous. She saw me before I saw her family.

Eventually Mama decided her kits should move up the tree for safety’s sake.  “Let’s go, kids!”

After they were safely (almost) hidden she looked down to see if I was gone.  That tiny tail in the last photo is one of her kits.

(photos by Kate St. John)

 

A Fawn In The Backyard

Fawn inside the anti-deer fence (photo by Jennie Barker)
Fawn inside the anti-deer fence (photo by Jennie Barker)

May is the month when fawns are born but it’s rare that you ever see them.

Fawns hide from predators by not moving as they sleep in dappled sunlight that matches their fur.  Their mothers move away from them so the adults don’t attract attention to their fawns’ location.  At night the family reunites.

Sometimes the family picks a “hiding” place that’s visible.  In 2011 Jennie Barker found a fawn in her suburban Pittsburgh backyard.

On Throw Back Thursday, read about her discovery at: Two Mornings of a Fawn

 

(photo by Jennie Barker)

Let’s Talk About Coyotes

Eastern coyote (photo by ForestWander via Wikimedia Commons)
Eastern coyote (photo by ForestWander via Wikimedia Commons)

Taking a break from peregrines today …   Let’s talk about coyotes.

Last fall a coyote showed up in my city neighborhood and was seen at dusk in several locations before he moved on a month later.

Coyote in the City of Pittsburgh, October 2017 (photo by Luanne Lavelle)
Coyote in the City of Pittsburgh, October 2017 (photo by Luanne Lavelle)

We were all surprised that a wild animal chose to be among us and it made me curious. Why would a coyote come to town?  How did coyotes get here?

The answers became a radio piece on The Allegheny Front last week.  Listen to the story here:  When Coyotes Come To Town

Even when coyotes are present they are rarely seen but are sometimes heard.  In urban settings they respond to sirens (click here for a sirens video from Tucson, Arizona(*)

Friends in Pittsburgh tell me they’ve heard coyotes in Sewickley Heights Park, Scott Township, and Hazelwood Greenway.

Have you heard coyotes near you?  Leave a comment and let me know.

 

(photo credits: Coyote closeup by ForestWander via Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original. Coyote in Greenfield in October 2017 by Luanne Lavelle)

(*) p.s. Every time I listen to the Tucson video it makes me laugh.  The siren wails, the coyotes wail back.  On and on.

Only The Size of a Squirrel

Geoffroy's tamarin at a bird feeder at Cerro Azul, Panama (photo by Donna Foyle)
Geoffroy’s tamarin at a bird feeder in Cerro Azul, Panama (photo by Donna Foyle)

When I see photographs of monkeys I think they’re at least the size of chimpanzees but this monkey, native to Panama and northern Colombia, is only the size of a squirrel.

Geoffroy’s tamarins (Saguinus geoffroyi) are small colorful members of the marmoset family with bodies only 9 inches long but tails up to 15 inches.  They live together in family groups of three to five individuals, traveling through the trees to find their favorite foods of insects and fruit.  The brave ones visit bird feeders.

Bird feeders in the tropics are different from ours at home.  Pennsylvania birds are attracted to seeds, suet and mealworms but tropical birds eat fruit so Panamanians put bananas, mangoes and papaya in their feeders.  This inevitably attracts the monkeys.

At Cerro Azul we met a homeowner who feeds Geoffroy’s tamarins in her backyard every day.  If she isn’t quick to fill the feeders they whine at her from the trees, but they are shy and won’t come down unless she is alone.

We all stood far away and Donna Foyle took pictures while the homeowner stabbed fruit chunks with the tip of a knife to hand it to the monkeys.  Later she handed fruit to them directly.

Homeowner feeding backyard monkeys at Cerro Azul, Panama (photo by Donna Foyle)
Homeowner feeding Geoffroy’s tamarin at Cerro Azul, Panama (photo by Donna Foyle)
Geoffroy's tamarin grabs fruit off the knife at Cerro Azul, Panama (photo by Donna Foyle)
Geoffroy’s tamarin grabs fruit off the knife at Cerro Azul, Panama (photo by Donna Foyle)
Homeowner feeding backyard monkeys at Cerro Azul, Panama (photo by Donna Foyle)
Homeowner feeding backyard monkey at Cerro Azul, Panama (photo by Donna Foyle)
Geoffroy's tamarin eating fruit offered by a homeowner at Cerro Azul, Panama (photo by Donna Foyle)
Geoffroy’s tamarin eating fruit offered by a homeowner at Cerro Azul, Panama (photo by Donna Foyle)

Squirrels are scarce in the Panamanian jungle.  We saw only one in Panama and it was at the airport hotel.  So Geoffroy’s tamarins fill the niche of squirrels at the bird feeders.

These “squirrels” have thumbs!

 

Read more here about Geoffroy’s tamarin and see a photo of one with a baby on its back.

(photos taken at Cerro Azul on 23 March 2018 by Donna Foyle)

Puzzling Peanut Feeder

Chipmunks emerged from their winter lairs last month.  Meanwhile blue jays are gathering to prepare for the breeding season.

What happens when both species encounter a peanut attached to a screw?

Let’s see …

 

p.s. Why does the blue jay pick up each peanut and set it down?  I learned this week that blue jays weigh the peanuts and then take the heaviest (best) one.

(video from My Backyard Birding on YouTube)

Tomorrow is a Really Big Day

Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, 2013 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Groundhog Day celebration, 2013 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Tomorrow at a huge celebration a famous groundhog in western Pennsylvania will predict the weather for the next six weeks.

Who is this groundhog?

And, an even harder question, how do you spell the name of town where he makes his prediction?

On Throw Back Thursday, learn all the answers at Tomorrow Is A Really Big Day.

 

(photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the image to see the original)

Pretty Kitty: Bobcat in Minnesota

Bobcat Pretty Kitty 2015 from Sparky Stensaas on Vimeo.

 

Last week I wrote about bobcats in Pennsylvania, Florida, and Arizona.  Here’s one in Minnesota, filmed by Sparky Stensaas in 2015.

Read about her at his blog:  Pretty Kitty — Carleton County Bobcat.

 

p.s. Sparky Stensaas is the Executive Director of the Friends of Sax Zim Bog.  If you’ve never been to Sax Zim Bog in the winter, I highly recommend it!  The Sax Zim Bog Birding Festival is February 16-18 this year.

(video by Sparky Stensaas, The Photonaturalist)

An Adaptable Cat

Bobcat in Florida, 2013 (photo by Don Weiss)
Bobcat in Florida, 2013 (photo by Don Weiss)

Because I live in western Pennsylvania I’m always excited to see a bobcat.

Bobcats (Lynx rufus) are descendants of Eurasian lynx that likely crossed the Bering Land Bridge 2.6 million years ago.  Twice the size of house cats they have short tails, wide faces (actually long face fur) and tufted ears.

Bobcats range from Canada to Mexico but there’s a gap in their distribution from western New York to eastern South Dakota.

Bobcat range map (image from Wikimedia Commons)
Bobcat range map (image from Wikimedia Commons)

The gap is a mystery to me because we have everything they need.  Their preferred habitat is woodland interrupted by old fields and rocky outcrops and they are opportunistic hunters. They eat mostly rabbits, but also squirrels, rodents, birds, frogs and even fish!

Bobcats hunt just like house cats. They crouch and wait for food to walk by, then pounce on it. This technique means they have to be camouflaged so their fur color varies depending on where they live.

The bobcat Don Weiss photographed in Florida, shown at top and below, has dark fur and small spots.

Bobcat in Florida, 2013 (photo by Don Weiss)
Bobcat in Florida, 2013 (photo by Don Weiss)

 

This bobcat in Arizona is much paler with big spots. Donna Memon noticed it in her Tucson backyard when one of them (a family of three!) growled from a distance as if to say, “Stay away. I’m worried that you’re dangerous.”

Bobcat in the backyard, Tucson AZ, 8 Jan 2018 (photo by Donna Memon)
Bobcat in the backyard, Tucson AZ, 8 Jan 2018 (photo by Donna Memon)

It’s normal that the bobcats would be wary of us. We humans and our dogs are their #1 threat.

Bobcats can’t outrun dogs but they can climb … even on telephone poles.

Bobcat on wires at Merritt Island, Florida (photo from NASA via Wikimedia Commons)
Bobcat on wires at Merritt Island, Florida (photo from NASA via Wikimedia Commons)

So why aren’t bobcats in western Pennsylvania?  Well, maybe they’re moving in.

In the mid 1970’s, bobcats were considered so scarce in Pennsylvania that they were listed as Vulnerable.  Back then they lived completely isolated from humans and those locations were disappearing fast.  However, the bobcats adapted.  By 2000 their population had grown enough that the Game Commission allowed limited trapping and now, almost 20 years later, our bobcat population is still growing and expanding its range.

Perhaps bobcats will make it to Schenley Park some day.   🙂

 

(photo credits: bobcats on the ground by Don Weiss and Donna Memon. Map and bobcat on wires from Wikimedia Commons; click on the image to see the original)

Protection For an Ant Eater

The pangolin is not an anteater but he resembles one because he, too, eats ants.

Native to Africa and Asia, pangolins feed on ants and termites by digging up their colonies.  It’s a painful business without protection so the pangolin’s body has built-in defenses against biting, swarming ants (shown in the video).

Pangolins are protected against ants but they’re at the mercy of humans.  Their meat is a delicacy in China and Vietnam and their scales are used in Asian medicine.  They’re hunted illegally until extirpated, even in parts of Africa.  As a species they’re in severe decline.

Four years ago the Western world began to take notice: the pangolin needs protection.  This 2014 article lists 7 Ways to Help Save the Pangolin.  Read an update at the World Wildlife Fund.

 

(YouTube video from National Geographic Wild; click on the YouTube icon to see it full screen)