Archive for the ‘Mammals’ Category

young snowshoe hare in late spring

What do snowshoe hares eat?  Bugs Bunny might subsist on carrots, but hares in the wild seldom have access to them.  After a hare has been weaned, a smorgasbord of healthy fare can be found around Flandrum Hill.  Greens may not be a favorite of young children, but they are certainly enjoyed by young hares.

young snowshoe hare

Below, a young hare sniffs a closed dandelion flower.

young hare smelling dandelion

Plantains and dandelion blooms and stems may taste bitter to us, but not to hares who eat them along with the leaves.

young hare eating dandelion

Below, an older hare decides to give sunflower seeds left out for the chickadees a try in early spring.

snowshoe hair eating sunflower seeds

Year-round, hares have access to the tips of low-hanging evergreen boughs such as spruce and balsam fir.  These are especially tender and delectable in late spring.  In winter, deep snow makes boughs higher up on the trees easier for the hares to reach.


Perhaps we should take note of the hares’ food choices and all consider eating more greens. It’s highly likely that the snowshoe hares’ diet is at least partially responsible for their vitality, which seems to be leaps and bounds ahead of ours.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2015

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red squirrelRed squirrels aren’t usually keen on sharing their dining room with others. The presence of other squirrels and birds is seldom tolerated, especially when black oil sunflower seeds are on the menu.

snowshoe hare in spring coatBut sometimes, on very rare occasions, a special someone comes along whose company can actually enhance the dining experience.  Who knew snowshoe hares had more than just an interest in large families to bring to the conversation, or a palate for fine seeds?

snowshoe hare and red squirrelSnow continues to cover so much of the ground this spring that animals seem more open to eating outside their usual fare and tolerating the presence of other species.  These two have become regular dining partners near the back deck.  I wonder if they’ll continue their ‘friendship’ once the snow cover is gone and dandelions are ripe for the eating.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2015

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hopping down the bunny trailWith so much snow still in the woods, it doesn’t look much like Spring here.  Thankfully, the Easter Bunny hopped by this morning to remind us that not just Easter, but Spring too is on its way. Its coat of blended tawny brown and white indicates the lengthening daylight hours.  Surely all that extra sunlight will help us see grass again soon.

white tailed deerIt’s been a rough winter for wildlife.  Relentless snowfalls have covered food sources and made movement on all types of terrain difficult.  Deer have been frequent visitors in the yard, looking for anything edible.

snowshoe hareNot all creatures are as lucky as the snowshoe hares to be able to leap with ease on top of the snow.  Bobcats haven’t been able to keep up with them in deep snow and have suffered the consequences in their dwindling numbers.  With their small prey buried deep in tunnels beneath the hard snow cover, snowy owls have also suffered.

Sometimes hard winters make it seem like warmer days will never come again, especially when snow continues to fall for weeks after the vernal equinox.

Hopefully, the real spring is just around the corner.

The deep roots never doubt spring will come.

~ Marty Rubin

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2015

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young porcupine

One evening this week, a young porcupine was discovered meandering on the lawn in the backyard.  I’ve seen small porcupines on the lawn before, but never so close to the house. At first glance, this little one appeared soft and fluffy, like a cuddly stuffed toy one would pick up to snuggle. Its manner was certainly docile, but appearances can be deceiving. Longer hairs hide the quills on a porcupine’s backside, especially when viewed from the front.

fluffy porcupine

Porcupines are born, only one at a time, in April or May, after a gestational period of about seven months.  Even though it’s able to defend itself once its quills dry, a few hours after birth, the single young porcupine stays close to its mother for the first summer.

porcupine side view

Once it sensed our presence on the back deck, this little one raised its backside and headed towards the woods.

porcupine tail

Its white tail swayed back and forth as it went on its way, likely back to the arms of its awaiting mother.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

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child with hare

The dead hare was in his arms before I even knew it was there on the forest floor.  It looked so much like a stuffed plush toy.  How could my grandson resist picking it up and cuddling it?  The bunny had not long been dead, with no sign of trauma on its little body.

still hare

It was a young hare, a leveret, with small  ears and soft fur, similar to many others I’ve found and buried over the years.  This time it was different though.  I had a small child as my witness and I wondered how he would react to the bunny being buried in the ground.

Snowshoe hare legs at rest

Snowshoe hare legs at rest

We talked about what might have happened. Perhaps a neighbor’s cat had killed it for sport.  Surely a bobcat or fox would have eaten it or carried it off to its den.

bunny burial

We dug a hole for it in a place in the yard where I’ve buried small bunnies in the past after finding their limp bodies on the lawn.  After gently placing it in the hole, we covered the bunny with earth and placed a stone on top to deter wild animals from digging it up.

Nature is the great teacher.  It shows us how death comes to all, even the young and beautiful.  We may not understand why, but we can still show reverence for all God’s creatures, both in life and death.

Let parents then bequeath to their children not riches but the spirit of reverence.
~ Plato

hare near front steps

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

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porcupine eating maple

Over the past year, chewed tree branches too high for deer to reach indicated a porcupine was likely dining regularly in the backyard.  This week I finally spotted the suspect in action, munching on maple.  Since porcupines are usually active at night, I was surprised to see him late on a bright, sunny morning.

porcupine in sunlightHis black claws and the long hairs of his fur shone in the sunlight.  As soon as he heard me, he froze.  His underbelly appeared soft and vulnerable.  Porcupines are protected by law in some North American locations as they are easy, nutritious prey for humans lost in the woods who may be armed with nothing more than a stick.

When I decided to move closer, his brunch interrupted, he slowly came down from his perch on the tree stump next to the branches, and made his way into the bush.  His quill-covered back was huge but seemed so well camouflaged in its woodland setting.  You wouldn’t want to step on that by mistake.  Another reason to walk, not run, in the woods.

porcupine heading into bush

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

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