Category Archives: Mammals

Mirror Test in the Woods

Dog looks in a mirror (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

9 January 2024

When we look in a mirror we know we’re looking at ourselves, but most animals cannot master this. In fact, baby humans don’t recognize themselves in mirrors until about age two.

@KeepingItWild set up a big mirror in the woods in Australia (i.e. “the bush”) and captured animal reactions. Interestingly many of the animals in this 8-minute video are not native to Australia. For instance: red deer, rabbits and pheasants.

video embedded from KeepingItWild on YouTube

According to Wikipedia, the only animals known to have passed the mirror test are great apes, a single Asiatic elephant, the Eurasian magpie, giant oceanic manta raysdolphinsorcas, and the cleaner wrasse (fish). (NEWS THIS WEEK! Apparently mice pass the test, too. See the comments!)

Sadly, in flight most birds are completely fooled. They fly into the reflection and die.

The Raccoon’s Cousin

8 January 2024

If you’ve been to the American Southwest, Central America or northern Colombia, you may have encountered a white-nosed coati (Nasua narica), the tropical daytime equivalent of the raccoon. Like his cousin he has a long striped tail, can climb trees and is not picky about what he eats.

Coati from behind (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Coati in a tree (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Interestingly he loves balsa (Ochroma pyramidale) nectar and is important to the tree’s propagation. Coatis insert their long narrow snouts into the flowers, get pollen on their noses and move on to pollinate other flowers. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

Balsa tree flower (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Coatis are relatively rare in the American Southwest so it was cool when this one made an appearance at the Visitor Center at Coronado NPS in southeastern Arizona.

Coati outside the Coronado NPS Visitor Center, Arizona

If food is plentiful near humans, coatis overcome their wariness as they have done in a big way at this park in Villahermosa, Mexico.

Coatis in Parque Tomás Garrido Canabal in Villahermosa, MX (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Inevitably the brave ones cause trouble, just like raccoons.

Coati getting into trouble at Parque Museo La Venta, Villahermosa, MX (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

These animal cousins might encounter each other within the coati’s more limited range though they operate at different times — the coati during the day, the raccoon at night.

Range maps of white-nosed coati and raccoon in the Americas (maps from Wikimedia Commons)

I wonder how they react when they meet each other.

“Hello there, cousin.”

(credits are in the captions)

Are You Saying Something?

Horse in flehmen response to a scent (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

4 January 2024

Is this horse neighing? Is the lion roaring?

Male lion in flehmen response (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

No. In both cases they have smelled something interesting, perhaps a female in heat, and are breathing through their mouths and opening their airways to take in as much scent as possible into a special olfactory organ called the vomeronasal organ.

They are making a flehmen response. On Throwback Thursday, learn more and see a video in this vintage article:

Coyote Sends Greetings

“The suspicious coyote adds her full throated song to the music of Cleveland’s finest” (photo by oblende via Flickr Creative Commons license)

2 January 2024

Coyotes (Canis latrans) live in Pittsburgh but you might never notice because most of them keep a low profile. In Pennsylvania coyotes are hunted and trapped all year long — and they know it — so they generally avoid humans and operate at night.

Occasionally coyotes howl in Pittsburgh, usually from the woods, but I have yet to hear it. Since they’re larger than their western cousins you probably won’t see an amazing performance like this one in Tucson.

This coyote was sending greetings so important that he had to climb up high to say them.

Reindeer Cyclone

Herd of reindeer, Ljungris, Sweden (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

15 December 2023

Reindeer, also known as caribou (Rangifer tarandus), have been hunted by humans for thousands of years. An individual reindeer is vulnerable but the herd has a defense mechanism that protects them from humans, polar bears, grizzlies, wolves and other predators. It’s called a reindeer cyclone.

For another view, see this video excerpt from PBS Nature’s program about Vikings that shows reindeer making a cyclone to evade a hunter and it works.

Wildlife in the Borderlands

Ringtail resting on a rock, Phoenix, AZ (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

14 December 2023

Watering holes are places of abundant wildlife in Arizona’s Sonoran desert as captured on this trail cam in the borderlands. One of the night visitors is a ringtail (Bassariscus astutus), a member of the raccoon family, shown above. (There are two embedded videos below; please wait for them to refresh.)

When water crosses political boundaries animals cross, too, back and forth from Arizona to Mexico. But now the Border Wall makes most of that impossible.

This vintage article explains.

UPDATE on 15 Dec: Here’s the Border Wall.

Caught In The Act

Great egret chases a cattle egret that’s carrying a mouse (photo by Wendy Miller via Flickr Creative Commons license)

10 November 2023

“Hey!” says the great egret as it chases the cattle egret. “That’s my mouse!”

Cameras capture birds and animals in surprising ways. A stack of shorebirds. A bobcat on a prickly perch.

tweet embedded from @AubertHeidi1
tweet embedded from @AZStateParks

And deer running from …?

In New Jersey a buck ran through a front yard, jumped over two cars, and miscalculated the landing. Despite that he hopped out of the truck bed and ran away.

video embedded from Fox 26Houston

This month deer are still in the rut and still running into traffic. Caught in the act.

(credits are in the captions)

Getting Serious About Winter

Gray squirrel (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

3 November 2023

This week is the coldest we’ve had since last March or early April. Squirrels are getting serious about winter in @YardGoneWild‘s North Carolina backyard.

(photo of squirrel in Woodbridge, VA from Wikimedia Commons)

Feeling Thirsty?

Rock pigeon taking a drink (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

19 October 2023

Do you feel thirsty when you wake up in the morning?

It turns out that as we exhale we also breath out water vapor, so during the hours of sleep we lose water. According to sleep specialist Dr. Michael Breus, the healthy solution is to drink a full glass of water in the morning before you drink coffee because caffeine is a diuretic.

We could avoid this by getting up in the middle of the night to drink water, but perhaps our bodies are compensating in another way …

(credits are in the captions)