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Posts tagged “Animal Signs

Raccoon Tracks

12-6-12 raccoon tracks IMG_0046The relatively warm, wet start to winter has provided us with the opportunity to see riverside tracks that might otherwise not be evident.  Raccoons are known for their ability to go anywhere and get into anything and the reason for this dexterity is revealed in their tracks.  Both front and hind feet have five long toes.  Although the “thumb” is not opposable, it is long enough to grasp things. Because of this dexterity, raccoon tracks can vary widely.   In mud and snow, they often resemble small human hands.  Typically the toes of the front feet are more splayed out than those of the hind feet.


Signs of Striped Skunks

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If you are finding small, conical pits in your lawn, you probably have a striped skunk to thank for reducing your grub population.  During the spring and summer, invertebrates make up a large percentage of this nocturnal omnivore’s diet.  With the help of their well-developed sense of smell and their long nails (which make them excellent diggers), they locate, gain access to and consume subterranean insect larvae with relative ease.   Another sign of skunk activity, in addition to lawn divots, are the excavated ground nests of yellowjackets.  If they’ve met with success, skunks will often leave sections of empty, paper cells scattered about the nest site.  Apparently, even though yellowjackets can sting multiple times, they’re not very effective at discouraging foraging skunks.  Should you be so inclined, a close examination of skunk scat will reveal bits of insect exoskeletons, as well as the bones and hair of small rodents.  The pictured scat (next to the divot) contained, in addition to insect parts, the fur of another nocturnal animal, a flying squirrel.  (Thanks to Emily and Joe Silver for photo op.)


Black Walnut

Even though a late spring frost may have reduced this year’s crop of Black Walnuts (Juglans nigra), and even though the few that made it haven’t started falling on the ground yet, squirrels have already located and started consuming this nut’s fatty meat.  Inside the green husk is the actual nut, and if you look closely at the edges of the chewed hole as well as the inner surface of the nut, you will see tiny incisor marks, most likely left by red squirrels.  This particular rodent typically chews a hole on both sides of the nut, so that it can gain access to both halves of the meat.


Beaver Scat

 

Beavers are meticulous housekeepers, in that they almost always defecate in the water, not in their lodge, and rarely on land. The best place to find their scat, should you be so inclined, is where they have been working for an extended period of time — for example, in the water adjacent to their dam.  Their scat consists of kumquat-size pellets, which, as you might expect, are full of tiny bits of woody fiber.  The pellets are essentially little balls of sawdust, and disintegrate easily if disturbed. Their light color makes them visible even under water.  Congratulations to all who guessed correctly — I’ll make the next mystery post even more challenging!

 


Mystery Scat

Do you know whose scat this is?  Chances are that you may never have seen the scat of this animal, but a close look at its composition will give you a large hint.  An additional clue can be found by examining the log that the scat is sitting on (the log is there for display purposes – the scat was originally deposited in the water).  The identity of the scat-maker will be posted tomorrow!

 


Fisher Scat

Contrary to their name, fishers seldom eat fish.  While they prey on a wide range of animals and even plants, their preference is for small mammals (80% of their diet), snowshoe hares and porcupines.  Because fishers are well equipped to kill porcupines, and because there is little competition for them, porcupines are an important prey of fishers –up to 35% of fisher diet samples contain the remains of porcupines, as this photograph of fisher scat attests to.  There is no mistaking the bumpy porcupine foot pads (and quills)!


Turtle Nest Raid

A hole 4” – 5” deep surrounded by scattered empty, dried up eggshells is a telltale sign of turtle nest predation.  A painted turtle (judging from the size, depth and location of the nest) dug a hole in the bank of a beaver pond last summer and proceeded to lay roughly a dozen or more eggs in it.  After covering the eggs with soil, the turtle returned to her pond.  The eggs hatched in August or September.  Sometimes young turtles immediately climb up through the earth and emerge above ground, but occasionally, this far north, they overwinter in their underground nest and emerge in the spring. A raccoon, fox or skunk discovered this painted turtle nest early this spring (the digging was fresh) and one can only hope that by the time the nest was raided, the young had already exited and headed for the nearby pond.  Research has found that a very small percentage of turtle nests avoid detection by a predator.