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Archive for the ‘Mammals’ Category

snowshoe hare up close

Wild snowshoe hares are frequently seen in the yard.  They’re present year-round, but most visible during the spring and summer months.

Watching a hare through the window

Watching a hare through the window

We often watch them through the window as they munch on the lawn or rest under the trees.

Snowshoe hare resting under fir trees next to driveway

Snowshoe hare resting under fir trees next to driveway

One in particular often lays under some trees next to the driveway. It was looking especially relaxed yesterday afternoon.  If we are quiet as we come up the driveway and walk into the house, it will usually just open its eyes for a moment and then go back to its rest.

Hare with blended coat of brown and white fur in early spring

Hare with blended coat of brown and white fur in early spring

Unlike most rabbits, hares don’t make underground burrows.  When startled, they either freeze or leap out of sight.  Blending into the landscape is made easier by their varying coat color which is white in winter and brown in summer, a change dictated by daylight hours rather than how much snow is on the ground.  Consequently, a lack of snow cover in winter, or snow on the ground in late spring makes them vulnerable to predators.

snowshoe hare next to deck

Lately I’ve been looking for hare nests in the yard.  Unlike rabbits, hares are born with fur and open eyes, making them more alert to their above-ground surroundings.  In the past, I’ve replaced leverets (baby hares) back into their nest as they’ve jumped out after being startled by my lawnmower.  Leverets are left unattended during the day, visited by their mother only at night.

I haven’t found any nests yet this year, but it’s still early in the season.  Unfortunately, I’m not the only one looking…

Trespassing cat on the prowl

Trespassing cat on the prowl

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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Being Handy

The ‘Peel and Eat’ Buffet

While much human labor involves manipulating tools, most wild creatures depend solely on their hands to do the work for them. Imagine how finger numbing it would be to peel back a lawn using only your hands?  The raccoon whose handiwork this is must have been peeling for some time before he made such a mess of my lawn.

Maybe I’d be in a peeling frenzy too if I shared his appetite for worms.  Considering all the worms I found under the sod, it’s no wonder he keeps coming back for more.

Some of the worms that managed to not get eaten by the raccoon (yet)

Besides their awesome dexterity, raccoons’ compulsive hand washing is also a source of fascination.  One popular theory suggests that these ‘Little Washing Bears’ simply wash their food prior to eating it.  However, researchers Rasmusson and Turnbull discovered that wetting actually enhances the sensitivity of raccoons’ hand nerves (Sensory innervation of the raccoon forepaw: 2. Response properties and classification of slowly adapting fibers’ ).  This wetting process would certainly give raccoons more information regarding the edibility of their food and make it easier for them to catch food underwater.

If women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.
~ Red Green

Raccoons have managed to use their dexterity to repeatedly lift off my garbage can lid, pluck tomatoes from my garden and abscond with the suet balls I thought I had carefully tied to tree branches.

Considering how much their survival is linked to their handiwork, I wonder to what extent a raccoon’s handiness is considered in the choice of mates.

For more about raccoons see:
The Lawn Ripper and When Bandits Strike

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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Can you find the mouse in this picture?

This afternoon, a deer mouse climbed the vines that cling to the house and made its way to the window ledge.

Its scurrying movements back and forth along the ledge quickly caught the attention of everyone inside.

Deer mice are recognizable by their white underbelly which contrasts with the rest of their brownish grey fur.  They have big ears and beautiful dark eyes.  They can scale vertical surfaces and are extremely agile.  Especially hardy, they’re known to survive for 5 to 7 years, twice the life expectancy of most mice.

Unfortunately, these mice are also carriers of the hanta virus and lyme disease.  The best way to appreciate them is through glass.  Care should also be taken to avoid their nests and droppings.

This little mouse was quite busy checking out the vine leaves during its short visit.   It seemed to be eating little translucent granules that were clinging to some of the stems.  It was very active and managed to even climb a few of them.

Hang in there baby!

Before we could say ‘Appley Dapply’ our cute little visitor was gone, but not before it managed to give us one good look through the glass.  It was probably wondering what all the fuss was about.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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porcupine quills

We all know about porcupine quills, but what about this creature’s other parts?  Like humans, there’s a lot more to porcupines than first meets the eye.

Their lovely coat for example…  Due to the odd quill embedded with the fur, bristles and hair, it doesn’t necessarily invite petting, but certainly appears quite thick and warm.  Porcupines don’t hibernate, so this heavy coat would make our cold winters more tolerable.

porcupine coat

Look at those shiny black claws.  They’d come in handy for climbing and digging up roots.  And see that soft underbelly?  This is the tender, vulnerable part of porcupines that predators such as coyotes and fishers try to expose by flipping them over.  No wonder they keep it hidden.

porcupine claws

A quick whack of a porcupine’s tail will embed quills into an unwary predator.  The quills are barbed and a likely death sentence to an animal that gets a mouthful of them and becomes unable to eat.  Yikes!

porcupine tail

Though its orange teeth may leave something to be desired by the whitestrips crowd, this is a winning smile if ever there was one.  Like the beaver, a porcupine’s ever-growing rodent teeth are kept sharp and short by constant chewing on trees.

porcupine smile showing orange teeth

Who knew there was so much more to porcupines than just their quills?  This porcupine was more than generous with its willingness to pose before 6 am, especially while doing chin-ups for its early morning exercise routine.  Oops!  Since porcupines are nocturnal, better make that a late night exercise routine.

porcupine doing chin-ups

For more on porcupines, see:
Bark Nibblers
Porcupines in Apple Trees
Porcupines Along the Salt Marsh Trail

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Bobcat Tale

Bobcat in Cow Bay

At first glance, this tawny feline looks like just another neighborhood pussycat visiting the yard.

Bobcat in the Yard

Posing among the spring flowers it almost seems to smile for the camera.  But there’s something a little wilder than usual in its expression and the size of its cheek ruffs and paws.

Bobcat HeadThe facial markings are a bit more pronounced than those of a domestic cat and then there are those black ear tufts and bobbed tail…

Ryan Shaw was surprised early one evening when he realized he had spotted a  bobcat (Felis rufus) in his yard.  Though his first thoughts raced to the whereabouts of his own housecat, he couldn’t help but be mesmerized by this wildcat’s awesome beauty.  He wondered if perhaps he was the one trespassing on the bobcat’s territory.

In January 2010 I spotted two bobcats in the backyard.  Besides this recent spotting on Green Bay Road, they’ve also been seen on Orion Drive.  They seem to be on the prowl throughout Cow Bay and it’s no wonder why.

Bobcats feed on snowshoe hares, squirrels, porcupines and ground birds which are all plentiful here.  They’re also comfortable climbing among the trees blown down in our backwoods by Hurricane Juan in 2003.

Bobcat litters of one to six kittens are born at this time of year.  Since they breed in the first year, it likely won’t be long before there are more of them in our neck of the woods.

Nova Scotia Bobcat

If you see a large tawny cat in your yard, especially one with a bobbed tail, don’t approach it. They may look friendly, but wild animals are best admired from a safe distance.  

Photo credits:  Ryan Shaw

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maple buds in spring

Canadian maple buds.  Check. 

coltsfoot in bloom

Coltsfoot.  Check.

junco attacking car mirror

Mating-crazed junco obsessed with its reflection in my car’s mirror.  Check.

chickadee and mourning dove calling from treetops

Chickadee and mourning dove calling from the treetops.  Check.  Check.

crawly creatures under rocks

Creepy crawlies under the garden stones:  Millipede, earthworm, beetle, salamander.  Check.  Check.  Check.  Check.

Nova Scotia slug

Slug.  Check.

red squirrel defending its territory

Red squirrel defending its territory.  Check.

snowshoe hare in april

Snowshoe hare on the lawn.  Check.

periwinkle or myrtle

The first periwinkle of the season.  Check.

Hope rekindled.  Check.

 

 

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