Category Archives: Mammals

Reindeer Are Off The Clock

Reindeer at Svalbard (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

I don’t know about you, but I often check my watch or cellphone to find out what time it is. Do you ever wish that the time of day didn’t matter? It doesn’t matter to reindeer.

Reindeer live in daylight all summer and darkness all winter so they threw out their daily internal clocks a long time ago. Find out how they did it in this vintage article: They’re Off The Clock.

My Sweet Emmalina is Gone

Emmalina in the bag, March 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Instead of bird and nature news, today is devoted to my sweet cat Emmalina who passed away yesterday at age 14 with a massive tumor in her belly. She was the soul and spirit of our house and we miss her at every turn. If you’ve lost a pet I’m sure you understand.

We adopted Emmy at Animal Rescue League (now Human Animal Rescue) in September 2006 when she was five months old. She had been a stray and was very thin but she was beautiful. I chose her because she purred so loudly while I petted her on my lap.

Emmy just after she was adopted, September 2006

Emmy captured our hearts and earned a longer name, Emmalina, both of which I use when writing about her (see links below). She was an indoor cat but that didn’t mean her life was boring.

Emmy taught us tricks she wanted us to perform by using non-verbal communication. She inspired science blogs, chased house centipedes, watched birds outside the window and subdued a turnip (she hated turnips). In late 2011 she heard a mouse under the sunroom floor that lead to weeks of activity and three articles:

Here are some photo highlights of her life.

Emmy at the stair rail, December 2006
Miss Emmy, February 2007
Emmy objects to the Pet Rules posted on the refrigerator, January 2008
Emmy discovers the highest spot in the house, September 2008
Emmalina rampant, Let’s Play, June 2010
Emmy loves her treat ball, Nov 2018
Emmalina pensive in January 2020
Sniffing a treat, Feb 2020

In January Emmalina started losing weight but the vet couldn’t find anything wrong; the cancer was sneaky. This month she declined rapidly. Unable to eat, she slept most of the time and was no longer herself. We began to miss the kitty she once was.

Emmalina was very sick by the time this photo was taken, Monday 22 June 2020

Emmalina never lost her purr until her last days on earth. That’s how I knew her end was near.

Sleep well, sweet Emmalina. See you on the other side. Much love, Kate.

(photos by Kate St. John)

What Do You Call a Baby Porcupine?

Two porcupines cross the road in Eugene, Oregon, 20 July 2012 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

If you live in a forested area shown gray on the map below, chances are you’ll encounter a porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) some day. In Pennsylvania you have an even better chance to see one in the summer because young porcupines, born in May or June, stay with their mothers until they’re six months old.

Range of North American porcupine shown in gray (map from Wikimedia Commons)

If you see a baby porcupine, what do you call it?

Find the answer and amazing facts about porcupine social behavior in this vintage article: I’m a Porcupette

(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)

Nighttime Gardeners

Nighttime gardeners trimmed these trees, Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

Every night gardeners roam Pennsylvania’s forests and trim the vegetation. We see their footprints in the morning and the landscape they’ve left behind. Our nighttime gardeners are white-tailed deer.

A doe browsing in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

Unlike human gardeners, deer cut back the plants they like instead of removing weeds. It’s easy to notice what they over-browse (see arborvitae above), but the mix of plants they leave behind tell a story of poison and preference. Last weekend I decided to read that story in Schenley Park.

In early June the forest floor is green with native plants that deer won’t eat and invasive aliens that deer don’t like.

The “poison” story:

Native plants that thrive in Schenley Park are those that are toxic to deer.

Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), photo by Kate St. John
Mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)
Golden alexanders (Zizia aurea), photo by Kate St. John
White snakeroot (Ageratina altissima), photo by Kate St. John

The “preference” story:

These alien plants are unpalatable to deer and some are toxic. Interestingly some aliens cannot out-compete native plants without the help of deer. Where there are fewer deer, there’s less garlic mustard.

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)
Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria) in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)
Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) at DPW staging area in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)

Check out the mix of plants in your local forest or woodlot. If you find only toxic natives and unpalatable aliens it’s the cumulative effect of too many “gardeners” every night.

(photos by Kate St. John)

Five Little Foxes

  • Five little foxes, Schenley Park, 25 April 2020 (photo by Frank Izaguirre)

Looking back to a month ago…

Back in April, five little foxes lived with their mother in a den under the old log cabin in Schenley Park.

During the day, while mom was asleep, they came out to play inside the chain link fence that surrounds the cabin. Frank Izaguirre photographed them on 25 April 2020 and tweeted about them here.

Inevitably the fox kits attracted a crowd.

Six people watching the fox kits in Schenley Park, 27 April 2020 (photo by Kate St. John)

As soon as they were old enough to move, their mother got them out of there.

The kits have grown up and haven’t been seen in a long time.

(photos by Frank Izaguirre @BirdIzLife)

Unusual And Wonderful Things

African penguin, Boulders Beach, Cape Town, SA (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

1 May 2020

No matter what stage your local COVID-19 shutdown is in — whether it’s active or about to end — make a list right now of the unusual and wonderful things that happened while we stayed at home so we don’t forget.

When the shutdown eventually ends I will miss amazing wildlife in cities, free time, no traffic, and clean air.

Here’s #1 on my list:

What will you miss?

Leave a comment with your answer.

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

He’s Stealing The Carpet!

Raccoon appears at a cat door (screenshot from YouTube video)

24 April 2020

While we shelter indoors for COVID-19, raccoons are busy all night in our neighborhoods. With kits in the nest they’re on the lookout for an easy meal. It can lead to hilarious results.

If you see a raccoon don’t approach and don’t touch, not even the babies. Remember, raccoons are rabies vectors. Stay safe and take a video like one of these.

From 2012: Raccoon Steals a Carpet.

From 2018: A cat tells a raccoon where to go.

If you have raccoons in your house, call for help. This 20 minute video from Gates Wildlife Control in Ontario, Canada shows how a family of raccoons got in and how they got them out!

(screenshot from YouTube, videos embedded. Click on the YouTube logos to see the originals)

Lions Reclaim The Land

With South Africa shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic, wild animals are taking back the human spaces in Kruger National Park.

Above, a pride of lions takes a nap on the road just outside Orpen Rest Camp on 15 April. Click on the photos in the tweet below to see closeups of the lions.

The BBC explains:

But why anyway, you might ask, would lions prefer tarmac to the softness of grass?

Probably for the simple reason that it had been raining on Tuesday night and, as Mr Phaala explained, “The tar was drier than the grass at the time – big cats and water don’t mix.”

— from Coronavirus: Lions nap on road during South African lockdown, BBC News, 16 April 2020

While the humans are away, the cats will play.

(tweets embedded from BBC News and Kruger National Park; video from The Guardian)

Twirl A Squirrel

Squirrel reaches for the pole while the feeder gives him a wild ride (screenshot from Twitter movie)

10 April 2020: As expected the U.S. now has the most COVID-19 cases on earth.

We really need a laugh. Squirrels to the rescue.

Watch this bird feeder gave a squirrel a wild ride. He reaches out to grab the feeder pole but misses every time.

If you haven’t laughed enough, here’s a fox squirrel with more staying power. Imagine how dizzy he felt when he landed!

In case you’re wondering, this is Droll Yankee’s feeder called the “Yankee Flipper.”

(videos from Twitter and YouTube; click on the embedded video to see the originals)