If bears had birthday parties, they’d all be in January and February. That’s when winter dens across New York State turn into nurseries as most pregnant black bears give birth to cubs weighing in at less than a pound that would easily fit into your hands. Human moms would probably envy a mother bear’s ability to give birth to one, two, or three or more tiny cubs while half-asleep. [Read more…] about It’s Baby Bear Season in New York State
Hibernation: How It Works
Mammals and birds are endotherms, which means they generate their own body heat through relatively high metabolic rates. That high metabolism requires energy, which these animals garner from food. We typically think of endotherms as warm-blooded; however, some of them are not warm all of the time.
Most active birds and mammals maintain relatively high and stable body temperatures – often around 100 degrees. But they also lose heat to the surrounding environment, especially during the cold winter months. [Read more…] about Hibernation: How It Works
Hair Ice and Frost Flowers
If you are out walking on a winter morning, you might be lucky enough to see some of nature’s most beautiful and ephemeral sights: hair ice and frost flowers, both snow-white and delicate against the dull forest floor. [Read more…] about Hair Ice and Frost Flowers
Moose Are Back in New York State: A Population Update
Moose have been present in the northern tier of New York since the Pleistocene. However, by as early as the 1860s over-exploitation and habitat degradation had extirpated moose from all of New York State.
In response, a handful of small-scale moose restoration efforts were undertaken between 1870 and 1902, but none proved successful. Over the next eighty years there were periodic moose sightings, but none seemed to suggest an established population. [Read more…] about Moose Are Back in New York State: A Population Update
Woodsman Willard Howland and his Amazing Critters
“Lotsa Screes in here tonight,” Willard spoke low. “Puts me in mind of a he-scree I see up in Hawk’s Nest one fall when I was trappin’.”
And so began a story that would enliven the trailside or campsite for those who had the privilege to spend time with Willard Howland. Little has been written about the life of this woodsman beyond bits and pieces of the stories he told. It could even be said that his tales, everything from experiences in the woods, to amazing fantasy creatures that inhabited his wilderness, tell more of who Willard was than anything a written history could reveal. [Read more…] about Woodsman Willard Howland and his Amazing Critters
Deadwood: The Importance of Standing Dead Trees
Some of the most important trees in your woodlot are the ones that are no longer alive. Large, standing dead or dying trees — called snags — are an important component of healthy forests and a critical habitat feature for wildlife.
They provide places for many birds and mammals to forage, den, nest, perch, and roost. Snags are particularly important for cavity nesting birds like woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees; for bats that roost within cavities, crevices, and flaky bark; and for countless species that rely on the abundant insects, fungi, and lichens as a food source. [Read more…] about Deadwood: The Importance of Standing Dead Trees
How Does A Land Trust Protect A Watershed? One Parcel At A Time
Species start to vanish from streams during the first stages of suburban development, according to the United States Geological Service. By the time impervious surfaces had absorbed 20 percent of the terrain of some New England watersheds, for example, those streams’ aquatic invertebrate communities had shrunk by roughly 25 percent. [Read more…] about How Does A Land Trust Protect A Watershed? One Parcel At A Time
Psychrophiles: Cold Lovers of Frigid Temperatures
We humans tend to cringe at winter temperatures. We put on extra layers, crank up the thermostat, and wait impatiently for the tell-tale drip of spring thaw. However, there are plenty of tiny organisms all around us that aren’t just biding their time; they’re thriving in the bitter cold. If you could listen to as well as watch them under a microscope, you wouldn’t hear a single complaint about the temperature.
Psychrophiles, literally “cold lovers,” are organisms adapted to live at extremely cold temperatures. These are single-celled life forms, most often bacteria, but also blue green algae, yeasts, and fungi that can grow at temperatures as low as -13 degrees. [Read more…] about Psychrophiles: Cold Lovers of Frigid Temperatures
Consequences of Feeding Deer in Winter
It may be tempting to feed deer to “help” them through the winter. However, feeding whitetail deer during the winter or other times of the year is unnecessary, prohibited in New York State, and can have very negative consequences for deer, your neighbors, and surrounding wildlife habitat. [Read more…] about Consequences of Feeding Deer in Winter
Trees, Knees, and Other Deep-Freeze Creaks
In winter, when temperatures dip well below zero Fahrenheit, especially if they fall precipitously, things go bump in the night. Frozen lakes and ponds emit ominous groans, snaps and booms that reverberate through the ice. Wood siding and old knee joints might creak. And if soil moisture is high and snow cover sparse, the soil can freeze deeply, causing the earth to shift in a harmless, localized cryoseism, or “frost quake” that produces a nerve-rattling bang. [Read more…] about Trees, Knees, and Other Deep-Freeze Creaks