This week's article will focus on the mammals observed in the county during the winter season; however, before proceeding, I would like to take this opportunity to thank those of you for the tremendous response to the Allen Benton Feeder Watch. I know Allen appreciates your input and I am also most appreciative for the excellent data you have provided. As I perused the data the one bird that stood out this year was the Pine Siskin. This little irruptive finch was seen and heard throughout most of our area by many. Records I have maintained indicate that it is a variable winter visitor during irruption years from about the last week of September to about the middle of June. I am attaching a photo of this bird for your review.
As indicated in my column title for this week, I would like to discuss the mammals of our county that are active in winter and some of the variations that exist. This is not the first article I have written on this topic, however as I receive article ideas from many of you, it became apparent that it would be worthwhile to repeat this topic with current modifications. Starting with a little statistics on mammals as maintained by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C, there are 4629 different mammals in the World (assuming no genetic mutations have occurred since that original data was collected), 426 species in North America, 102 different species in New York State, and according to my records, 49 that have been recorded here in Chautauqua County. While many of us are excited and fascinated by birds, we are also treated to interesting behaviors of our mammal friends, especially those near our homes that may visit our feeding areas during all seasons of the year. Some of these visitors are squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, skunks, deer, and rabbits, to mention a few. I am sure that many of you are aware of many of the interesting animals that we have around our homes and nearby woodlands and fields. Not all these animals are observed in the daytime, as some are more nocturnal (Night Active) as others. Also a good number of you have reported to me about the mammals that hibernate near your property or aestivate (summer dormancy) near that same location.
The majority of mammals we observe in winter that we know such as mink, weasels, fox, field mice, muskrats and rabbits, to name a few, are usually active all winter. Even though they are active, the mink, weasels and rabbits will usually face the hardships of winter squarely while they hunt for food except in the severest of conditions. The little field mouse is a notorious cache animal, which means it stores food in a concealed place for future use just like us humans with our freezers and pantry's. It will survive on as many nuts and seeds it can find, and, many are often found around or under seed droppings of bird feeders. Watch for signs of these small visitors the next time you go out to fill up your bird feeder, there may be signs of tunneling under the snow created by these little guys as they conceal themselves from danger of predators. Two survival methods employed by several species of mammals are hibernation and in some cases like larger animals like the elk, they may migrate to locations that offer a more abundant source of food. These migrations have attracted large number of human followers complete with journals and cameras to record these magnificent events.
Deer cross a road.
The activity of hibernation has been studied just about more than any than that of any other animal behavior pattern resulting in volumes of information. In the case of this behavior, scientists believe that external physical factors such as cold, hunger, darkness and even quiet periods will not necessarily induce hibernation, especially if that particular species of animal is not a natural hibernator. Scientists believe that the act of hibernation appears to be an innate behavior in an animal. They either hibernate or they don't. While food availability has been proposed as a reason for the act of hibernating, this theory has been occasionally challenged over the years. Preparation for hibernation takes place with the animal during a period of increased food intake allowing the animal to establish a reserve of fat necessary for survival during dormancy. The pictures included with this article in addition to the Pine Siskin are of a Cottontail Rabbit, Red Squirrel, and two pictures of White-tailed Deer, one at my feeder and another picture of several deer crossing the road near my home In the process of conclusion of this article; I am always interested in ideas, topics and article suggestions along with comments from you. You may reach me by U.S. Mail at 38 Elm St. Fredonia N.Y. 14063, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.