Posts Tagged ‘wild animals’

Many nature lovers ache for more close encounters with wildlife.  If wilderness adventures aren’t a possibility for you right now, perhaps answering the call of the wild lies in managing your expectations.

Wild fly visiting a wild daisy

Maybe you’re unknowingly already surrounded by wildlife.  This wildlife may not be getting picked up by your radar because as much as you may want to see it… it doesn’t want to risk any encounter with you.  Back in 2006, scientists estimated that up to 2,000 coyotes were thriving in the city of Chicago.  Raccoons and squirrels also thrive in urban areas.  These often become pests if they are intentionally or inadvertently fed by humans.

Unseen local wildlife may also be nocturnal (like the Eastern American toad shown at top or the raccoon below).  The best times to see activity are at dawn and dusk when animals are waking up or going home to sleep.

Tired raccoon still looking for grubs at the edge of the lawn at sunrise

You may also be underestimating the wild nature of creatures in your own backyard.   Just as fashion magazines have narrowed our vision of beauty over the years, so too have nature programs in exotic locales narrowed our idea of what’s wild.  Even small or unsightly creatures deserve a closer look.  Just be sure to keep a safe distance!  Some  creatures might seem tame but wild is wild. 

Once you begin to observe wildlife in your own backyard, you may notice qualities you didn’t before.  For example, the red squirrel with the sleek fur at bottom left is younger than the one with the nipped ear at right.  You can also see a black stripe between its white underside and brown back which will fade in winter.  Good luck in seeing more wildlife!

Young and old red squirrels foraging for food just before sunrise

If you’d like to learn more about how to see more wildlife, see Sea Urchins in the Woods:  How to See More Wildlife.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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In an effort to increase awareness and encourage positive change, 2010 has been designated the International Year of Biodiversity by the United Nations.

What is biodiversity?
Basically, it’s the variety of life on earth: plant and animal species and the ecosystems that sustain them.

How does this variety affect our daily lives?
From the foods we eat to climate change, biodiversity affects us all.

Why should we be concerned?
Loss of biodiversity on the planet is happening at a rapid rate.
For example…
– Forests are being changed into croplands with devastating effects to climate.
– Species of plants and animals are being harvested at unsustainable rates.
– Changes to the timing of flowering and migration routes are affecting relationships between species within ecosystems.
– Introduced invasive species (plants, animals and micro-organisms) are threatening native species by competing for food and habitat.
– Pollution is creating dead zones in the ocean which can no longer sustain life.

What can be done at the local level?
Doing something about biodiversity can be as simple as encouraging the growth of native trees in your yard as opposed to growing exotic species that require extra maintenance to ensure their survival.  It’s always amazed me how people move from the city to the country wanting to be close to nature, and then work so hard to tame the wild spaces in order to make them look ‘civilized.’

In the year ahead, I’ll be writing more on the subject of biodiversity, but for now it’s enough to simply introduce the subject.

We cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature as well – for we will not fight to save what we do not love.
~ Stephen Jay Gould

For more information about 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity, see the Convention on Biological Diversity.

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Snowshoe Hare in Spring
Wild hares don’t seem too intimidated by my presence.  They let me get within a couple of feet of them while they’re eating and seem fairly comfortable, as shown by the photo of the scratching hare below.   It’s not just the hares in my yard.  A few days ago while walking along the Salt Marsh Trail, I was just thinking about hares when one jumped out in front of me on the path.  Hmmm…. Could I be on the road to becoming a ‘Hare Whisperer?’ 
An animal whisperer is usually a person who is in-tune with the needs and motivations of an animal.  Where the hares are concerned, I know what they want:  to eat my Dandelions and Plantains in peace and quiet.  Intuitively, I try not to get between them and the weeds.  I also tread lightly as every little sound is picked up by their huge ears.  Since their eyes are super sensitive to changes in light, I also refrain from making any fast moves, especially ones that might suddenly block the sun in their surroundings. 
I’m sure it also helps that we no longer have a dog and our indoor cat observes the hares from behind glass.  I try to chase away any cats that I do find here, as hare kits (baby bunnies) are often found in the rosebushes next to the house during the summer months. Their presence is first made known when they hop out as I’m mowing the grass nearby.  I’ve easily caught them and placed them gently back into the rosebushes.  They’ve fussed and made a little growling sound whenever I’ve handled them, but seemed to stay in the bushes once I put them back.  The grass is usually left to grow long in that part of the yard until they’ve grown up and moved elsewhere.   
The other afternoon as I was unloading groceries from the car I noticed a hare sitting still under a tree nearby.  The sound of the car coming into the driveway must have frightened it into hiding.  There are many places for them to hide here:  areas with tall grass, thick with young trees;  beneath sweeping low evergreen branches that will offer new growth for them to nibble on in the weeks ahead.  
There’s no voodoo involved in hare whispering.  Anyone can do it.  It simply requires the practice of  being hospitable and making these wild creatures feel at home and unthreatened.   
Look at the size of those back paws!

Look at the size of that back paw!

For more information about hares, see The Advantages of Being Harebrained and Hare Snares.

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snowsquirrel1Whenever there’s a snowstorm, do you ever wonder how the wild animals are staying safe and warm? 

Mammals have heavier coats at this time of year.  These provide extra space in their fur to trap air and keep the heat in.  But Nova Scotia’s winter winds can be brutally cold.  Luckily, there’s snow.

Who would have thought that dry, fluffy snow is 95% air, a fact that makes it an excellent insulator.  By snuggling into a snow drift, mice, squirrels and hares can prevent substantial heat loss.  My dog Kulik, an Alaskan Malamute and Timber Wolf cross, often curled himself into a ball and hunkered down into a snow bank during snowstorms.  He looked quite cozy and content.

Although wild animals instinctively seem to know how to use snow to their best advantage, domestic animals like cats are best kept indoors during snowstorms.  My brother lost one of his cats one year when she became trapped in a snow drift.  Sadly, he didn’t find her until the following Spring.

If a blanket of snow stays on the ground during the winter months, small animals like mice will create tunnels in it.  Besides sheltering them from the winter cold, these tunnels allow the mice to travel to food sources without the worry of predators.  One winter in Southern Ontario, when some mice took up residence in my home, I was told it was because there wasn’t a constant snow cover in the nearby fields that year. 

A blanket of snow will also insulate flower beds and plants from the winter cold.  Snow shoveled next to a house’s foundation will also work at keeping the heat in.  Considering the new Nova Scotia Power rate hikes set to come into effect in January, I’m wondering if it might be worthwhile to start reading up on igloo construction techniques.

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