As temperatures drop for the winter, layers of ice begin to form on bodies of freshwater. If you’re anything like me, you might be wondering what happens to all the fish at the bottom of the lakes, ponds, and rivers across the country during the cold months. After all, many living things don’t survive such harsh drops in temperature. For example, earth worms lay eggs before the harsh winter kills them. Then their eggs hatch in the spring and the cycle continues. So, what about fish? Do they turn into icicles and die out every year like the earth worm? The answer, is no.
Many animals struggle to survive the cold months. By taking some time to follow these simple tips, you can ensure that your backyard is an abundant for wildlife this winter.
1. Leave Small Amounts of Food for Hungry Birds and Squirrels
All living things need to eat, but food can be scarce during the winter. Leaving food for backyard animals can be done in many ways. Stocking a bird feeder, putting loose seed or dried fruit in a container in your yard, or even certain kitchen scraps can make a lovely meal for a hungry backyard animal. Check out my article The Do’s and Don’ts of Feeding Wildlife for more information, and always proceed with caution when feeding wildlife. Another option is a DIY birdseed ornament. These are a fun craft that are great for backyard birds and squirrels as well. Check out my recipe for a DIY birdseed ornament feeder!
That is a great question! Although the pronghorn is similar to deer or antelopes, they belong to a family all their own. They live across North America, spanning from southern Canada to Mexico, according to the National Wildlife Federation. They prefer to dwell in open fields, plains, grassy areas, and desert type environments. According to National Geographic, pronghorns are the second fastest mammal in the world only second to the cheetah. Clocking speeds of up to sixty miles per hour! Pronghorns are also known for having one of the longest land migration of any animal in the United States! Trekking in large herds about one-hundred and fifty miles one way between the Upper Green River Basin in Wyoming and Grand Teton National Park. Because of their speed, they are able to to easily outrun predators such as coyotes or bobcats, but also can run great distances at half of their maximum speed.
The addax antelope is one of the most critically endangered species of antelope. No one is certain of the exact amount of addax left in the wild with numbers ranging from only three to fewer than one hundred individuals. One thing however is certain, this species is critically endangered and extremely close to extinction in its natural habitat. Although on the verge of being wiped out in its native habitat in northern Africa, the species is fortunately thriving in captivity with approximately two thousand individuals in zoos and sanctuaries worldwide. I was fortunate enough to get to experience the addax antelope up close and personal during my internship at Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium, and Safari Park in the summer of 2016. As you can see from the featured photo, quite a few babies were born to the addax that summer.
The Seacoast Science Center (SSC) is a nature center located in Rye, New Hampshire. SSC’s mission focuses on ocean conservation and education. I have been exploring at SSC since I was a kid. It was there that my curiosity for wildlife began blooming. Whether I was a toddler who had my arm shoulder-deep in the touch-tank checking out snails, sea stars, and urchins, or as a 9 -year-old camper at their nature day camp, or as a teen at their “Music by the Sea” summer concert series, I spent a lot of my youth there.
I recently began an internship with SSC doing marketing, social media, and event planning. This has involved everything from taking photos for social media, to writing interesting blog posts, deciding the best place in the center for donation signs, and planning virtual events! I am getting experience working on a marketing team, advancing my writing skills, and crafting photographs that interest the public. Although I am working remotely due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, I am gaining experience in a field that I want to go into. Nothing is more important to me than conservation education through creative expressions like writing, videography, and photography. It is my hope to work as a wildlife journalist and photojournalist in the near future.
Just this past week, I got to go into the center and play with Raspberry, a 35-year-old box turtle that was brought to the center when it first opened after being found abandoned at a construction site. He has become the unofficial mascot of SSC and is well-loved by both children and adults who visit. I spent my afternoon filming a cute, bouncy video starring Razz (as the staff call him) on our reopening plan. What a tough job, right? (Kidding of course!)
I also got to be one of the first people to see the new exhibit on coral reef restoration. I’ve seen many changes to this humble non-profit over the years, but this one is particularly exciting as they are expanding their animal collection. There was a very personable eel (I’m unsure of his species, I’ll have to ask) that came out of his hiding place and slunk next to the tank, moving with whoever was walking by.
SSC will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m fortunate enough to be gaining experience at this beloved facility for the summer that will hopefully help to further my career as a serious wildlife writer and educator in the future. Thanks SSC, with a special shout out to my supervisors Nichole VP, Karen the marketing director, and Heidi the social media specialist.
To learn more about the Seacoast Science Center, check out their website here
If you happened to see my most recent post about the three-banded armadillo, you would know that I recently attended a local event that had a New Hampshire based organization called Wildlife Encounters present. This organization provides education and outreach through live animal interactions. This program actually came to the University of New England during finals week and I had the chance to bond with an African spurred tortoise, also known as a sulcata tortoise, named Rex. I once again came across Rex at this particular event, clearly having a good time munching on some grass, so I decided to ask the wildlife educators some questions so I could tell everyone here about the African spurred tortoise!
Recently I attended an event put on by a local farm in Kingston, New Hampshire. While there, I came across an organization called Wildlife Encounters. This New Hampshire-based program provides education and outreach through live animal interactions. As I observed the various animals, one interesting little critter caught my eye. Quickly running back and forth within an enclosed area, was a small armadillo about the size of a softball. There are over twenty species of armadillos, all of which, aside from one, live in Latin America. These omnivores can vary in size and characteristics, but have one very distinct feature in common. They are the only mammal covered with a shell. This unique adaptation which provides protection from predators, is where they get their name. Armadillo translates to “little armored one” in Spanish. This armor is made up of boney plates that cover most of their body including the back, head, legs, and tail. The armadillo on display through Wildlife Encounters was a three-banded armadillo named Athena, after the Greek goddess of war who is often depicted in armor, of course!
Unlike its counterpart the white stork, associated with the mythology of bringing babies, the marabou stork’s unruly appearance and unsettling scavenging behaviors make this bird the center of death folklore.
Appearance and Physical Characteristics
The marabou stork is a unique species of bird. Known for its large stature, its long, hollow legs, large beak, and a droopy, pink wattle, the purpose of which is strictly for show, many would consider the marabou stork an unappealing animal. In spite of not having any feathers on their spotted head or legs, their bodies are covered in dark grey feathers. Unlike the traditional stork mythology, the marabou stork is associated with death rather than the bringer of babies. Sometimes called the undertaker bird, African folklore says this awkward looking stork was created by God out of remaining bird pieces when he ran out of animal parts; this is why its appearance is so unpleasant. Although unique looking, these birds have many fascinating characteristics.
Despite commonly being called starfish, sea stars are not a fish species. They do not have gills, scales, or tails like fish. They also do not have a backbone, so they are considered an invertebrate species. More specifically, they belong to a family called Echinoderms. Being an Echinoderm means that members of these species have five-point radial symmetry (even though some sea stars have different numbers of arms! (See fact number 2) Some other species in the Echinoderm family include, sand dollars, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers. Another interesting characteristic that makes sea stars unique is how they move through the water. They have small tube feet under their body that helps to propel them through the water. These feet also have suction cups which allows the sea star to attach to rocks and prey. There are approximately 2,000 sea star species, all of which exist in ocean habitats.
Springtime brings an abundance of wildlife. With a rise in temperature, many animals come out of winter hibernation. Here are three easy ways you can help and enjoy the wildlife in your backyard this season.
1. Leave Baby Animals Where You Find Them
Mother knows best! Baby animals are very difficult to care for and most wildlife rehablitators recommend that you leave wild animals where you find them. Most baby animals that appear to be abandoned, are in fact being cared for by their mothers. Deer commonly leave their fawns in wooded areas and only visit a few times a day. Rabbits only visit their nest two or three times a day. Another common myth is that if you touch a baby bird, their mother will smell your scent and abandon their nest. Aside from some large birds of prey, most wild birds actually don’t have much of a sense of smell! If you see a baby bird on the ground, you can place the baby back in the nest.
Of course, there may be a time when an animal does need your help. Some circumstances where you may need to intervene:
If an animal appears injured or sick (i.e., obvious signs of injury, visible blood, or limping)
If an animal is stuck or in an unsafe situation (i.e., trapped in a fence, stuck in the road)
If you suspect a nest has been abandoned
For rabbits, you can leave two sticks in the shape of an X over the nest. If it is not disturbed for over 12 hours, then it is best to call a wildlife rehabilitator.
If you find yourself in a position where you are concerned about the well-being of a wild animal, please contact your local wildlife rehabilitation center. It is best to leave the care of wildlife to the professionals!
2. Provide Nesting Materials
Springtime is when most wild birds in North America begin to build nests in preparation for hatching young. You’d be surprised to find you have many household items that would work as nesting materials for birds! Yarn, cloth strips, wool, and even dog fur (that has not been treated with flee and tick prevention) are great options. You can also gather natural materials from your yard, such as grass clippings and twigs. Click here to read my tutorial on how to make a DIY nesting material craft.
3. Get a Birdhouse
Whether you choose to purchase a bird house or decide to make your own, bird houses provide a safe environment for birds to nest and raise their young. There are a few key things you can do to make your birdhouse habitable.
Your birdhouse should be located in a quiet area of your yard that is unlikely to be disturbed.
Make sure the hole is a small enough. A larger hole means potential predators can make their way in. About two inches in diameter should be the perfect size.
The birdhouse should be raised off the ground at least five feet.
I hope you enjoyed these tips! For more information on how you can help wildlife in different seasons, check out the links below.