A discovery recently brought to my attention has stumped this naturalist. What you are looking at is a collection of Flying Squirrel tails lying within a 30-square-foot patch of ground adjacent to a stand of Eastern Hemlocks. For several days in succession, additional tails appeared each morning, eventually totaling 20 or more.
Flying Squirrels, both Northern and Southern, are part of many animals’ diet. Among the documented predators are Great Horned Owls, Barred Owls, Screech Owls, Northern Goshawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Martens, River Otters, Weasels, Fishers, Red Foxes and Bobcat. Many of these animals can gain access to the trees where the Flying Squirrels reside. Others take advantage of squirrels foraging on the ground.
The puzzling part of this mystery is the large number of tails. In cold weather (usually in winter, but we’ve had below-freezing nights recently), Flying Squirrels huddle together in tree cavities in an attempt to provide themselves with added warmth. Did a foraging Fisher discover a communal den? How did it manage to capture so many squirrels? Did the survivors remain in the same cavity, only to be captured in subsequent nights? So many questions that this naturalist cannot answer. Perhaps a reader can! (Thanks to John Quimby and Michael O’Donnell, who kindly shared their fascinating discovery with me.)
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November 2, 2018 | Categories: Barred Owl, Flying Squirrels, Great Horned Owl, Marten, Mystery Photo, Northern Flying Squirrel, Northern Goshawk, November, Predator-Prey, Red Foxes, Red-tailed Hawk, River Otter, Rodents, Screech Owl, Southern Flying Squirrel, Uncategorized, Weasel Family | 44 Comments
The drama that goes on in our woodlands is never-ending, and winter provides us with a window into life and death scenarios. One of the most sought-after prey animals in northern New England is the snowshoe hare. Bobcats, lynxes, coyotes, foxes and fishers are some of the mammalian predators of this lagomorph. In this particular case, however, the predator had wings (determined by wing imprints in the snow and lack of tracks). While great horned owls do prey on hares, there was a tell-tale sign that it was a hawk, not an owl, which produced this pile of fur and bones. If you look to the upper left of the photograph, and to the upper right, you will see lengthy curved lines of bird droppings, or sprays, that were left by the predator as it plucked its prey. Because it was ejected forcibly, and didn’t just drop down on the snow where the bird was situated, the scat leads one to the conclusion that it was a hawk, not an owl, which deposited it. A woodland accipiter capable of capturing a snowshoe hare after an extensive chase, which this was, is the northern goshawk. (Thanks to Nicole Cormen for photo op.)
Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.
January 14, 2015 | Categories: Bobcats, Coyotes, Fishers, Foxes, Great Horned Owl, January, Lagomorph, Lynx, Northern Goshawk, Snowshoe Hares, Uncategorized | Tags: Accipiter gentilis, Lepus americanus | 1 Comment
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