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2018 Wrap Up

By Nick Hadad

Hello Wild Things!

It has been a busy year here at ROC Animal School! Here’s what we’ve been up to over the last several months.

Farmers Markets:

This year, we worked closely with our friends at Impact Earth and tabled at both the Pittsford and Lakeside Farmers Markets. Each month, we would showcase a different theme regarding local wildlife, typically using a different talking mascot character to front each one.

In June, we talked about Backyard Wildlife with our mascot, Swift the Red Fox as the expert on the subject. It generated a lot of discussion about wildlife found across New York state and some of the issues they face and ways to help them.

In July, it was Ask Howler Wolf month. I suited up as our friendly wolf and would answer any questions the public had about wildlife. If anyone managed to stump me, I would then research their inquiries and answer them through a video post on our Facebook page, as part of our ongoing “Ask Howler Wolf” series. Only two people stumped the wolf!

In August, it was Curious about Coyotes month with Dakota Coyote. It proved to be a perfect time to cover that topic as our local coyote population had grown quite large with numerous sightings popping up in urban areas. There were a lot of questions from passersby and we were very happy to help folks with their concerns.

September was Lend a Wing with Skye the Bald Eagle. The focus here was to cover what species of birds of prey could be found in our area, the issues they faced and the current science behind these birds. There was a lot of buzz around this subject as numerous sightings of black vultures, a bird more commonly found in the southern United States, were being documented across the county and further east.

We rounded out our season at the market by talking about Creatures of the Night, showcasing local nocturnal animals. We debuted our owl character, Oslo, and our marble fox mascot, Thor. Both were big hits!

Programs, Expos and Festivals:

We enjoyed getting out and about this year! We made appearances at both the Mendon Ponds and Irondequoit WinterFests, the East Rochester Public Library, the Eastside Resource Center at the Penfield YMCA, the 2018 Rochester March for Science and Expo, Working Like a Dog event at the Genesee Country Village & Museum, Bird of Prey Days at Braddock Bay, the Rochester Museum and Science Center, various day cares and day schools and many other places.

A PAWSitive Impact:

In October, we started to work more with our friends at Impact Earth. We created some educational programs focused on a zero waste initiative, the impact of pollution on wildlife and society and a stronger focus on school zero waste programs. We employed the use of some of our mascots as well, bringing a “wild animal” to talk first hand about the impact of trash on their daily lives. This has been quite exciting for students and we can’t wait to do more come 2019!

Wildlife and Science:

I have been trying to keep current on scientific studies on wildlife and ecosystems. This is so our program content will remain up to date but also to spread knowledge and awareness of what’s going on in the environment. There have been some new discoveries with wolves regarding genetics, new and rediscovered species and the wolf’s impact on the spread of diseases that harm ungulate species. It has been a very fascinating year!

2019:

The new year is right around the corner! We have a lot of things to look forward to and we will keep all you posted as things develop! Of course, you can always book us for programs and events by contacting us at nickhadad12@gmail.com

Until next time, stay wild!

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Rudolph Arrives in Rochester

Welcome back, Wild Things!

The holidays are now in full swing, and a special friend of ours has flown into Western New York to help our community celebrate. Listen to the jingle we made about it:

That’s right, Rudolph has arrived! He is available for all sorts of holiday-related gigs across the Greater Rochester Area. Time slots we have available are listed in the video description. Book us now to ensure Rudolph can come to your event!

For more information, or to book Rudolph, contact Nick Hadad at nickhadad12@gmail.com. We offer flexible pricing so that our reindeer pal’s presence is affordable to as many people in the region as possible. From being in parades to handing out candy canes or taking pictures with kids and families, Rudolph is game for all sorts of festive, family-friendly activities.

Happy holidays, everyone!

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ROC Animal School Spring & Summer Outlook

Swift the Red Fox mascot

The spring and summer of 2018 will be a very productive period for us here at ROC Animal School. After a successful February, we are eager to keep the momentum going! Here’s what we’re up to!

New Programs in Development

We’ve been hard at work creating new educational content. Obviously, our goal is to spread knowledge and to be as involved in the community as possible. While some programs are ready to launch (see below), we have some others in the works that will be ready to go later this year. Currently in development are initiatives to educate people on wildlife native to our area (county and statewide), a program on being a pet parent/domestic animals, an in depth program on local nocturnal animals, as well as new bird of prey programs.

New Programs Launching

We are adding to our list of available programs! Here’s what’s ready to go!

  • Curious about “Coywolves?” – The Eastern Coyote: This program will be hosted by our talking coyote mascot, Dakota, and will focus on the amazing eastern coyote, sometimes referred to as the coywolf. This animal is has a mixture of coyote, wolf and dog DNA which makes it quite an adaptable creature with the ability to call both the countryside and urban areas home. Are you curious about coywolves?
  • Coyote Class: Coyotes are often dubbed the song dog because of their dynamic range of vocalizations. This incredible canine is one of the most adaptable animals of all time, expanding its range across much of North America and making itself right at home in cities as well as the wilderness. Do you have what it takes to live as a coyote? Our mascot, Dakota Coyote will get everyone howling along!
  • Animal Jams – Nature Rocks! Animals can make a lot of noise! Some animals are more musically inclined than others. Come learn about the songs of birds, coyotes, wolves, owls, insects and other wild animals!

And as always, we can create custom programs to fit your needs. Just let us know what you’re looking for!

Animal School: Out and About!

This year, we will be appearing regularly at the Pittsford Famers Market, showcasing new themes every month. This will give us a great chance to interact with more of you while allowing us to hopefully shed some light on what creatures might be living in your backyard and some local environmental issues you might not know about. Or, you can just pop by to learn some fun animal facts while shopping! We’ll have one of our talking mascots on hand at each appearance to give folks the chance to ask them questions about wildlife and maybe get a few selfies!

We will also be appearing at area libraries over the summer, as well as some area festivals. If you haven’t heard by now, we will be attending this year’s Rochester March for Science and Expo on April 14th. We’re really excited!

New Mascot Characters

We are slowly adding to our roster of educational talking mascots. Oslo the Owl just debuted at the annual Owl Moon event at the Genesee Country Village and Museum. We hope to have our lion and Dalmatian up and running by the fall as well. Skye the Eagle, who debuted in October, has been making several appearances alongside our friends from Braddock bay Raptor Research through the month of February.

Stay tuned for more updates as they come!

Until next time, stay wild!

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Updates, Updates, Updates!

By Katie Gill, @CaffeinatedKid

Welcome back, Wild Things!

We’re well into the new year, and Nick and I have been busy bees with Animal School.

First off, note that we have officially been operating as our own independent business, ROC Animal School, since January.

Second, to reflect that change, we have new fliers, complete with our new logo! Check it out, and share with anyone who may be interested in our programs. 2018 ROC Animal School Flier

We also have some fun events coming up, including our Vulpinology program (i.e. life as a fox) at the East Rochester Public Library at 11 a.m. on February 21, the second annual ROC March for Science Expo on April 14 at the Riverside Hotel from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and a bunch of Easter Bunny gigs coming up! We do still have dates available if you are interested in having the Easter Bunny at your event, so contact Nick soon to make sure you get a spot.

As an added bonus, you can get a sneak peek at one of the things we’ll be handing out at the science expo: fun experiments to do with your pets. These are simple and safe experiments kids can do to help pique their interest in science and scientific inquiry. Fun Experiments to Do with Your Pets

Additionally, I will be making a vlog that gives my perspective about science and STEM education, including my thoughts and insight into why many girls lose interest in science by the time they reach secondary school.

Lastly, for fun, free, hands-on activities, I have uploaded copies of our fox mask and kestrel head coloring pages for you to print out and share with any kids or adults who love to color.

Animal School Kestrel Coloring Page

Easy Print Fox Mask

That’s everything I have cooking for now. Nick has been working on his coywolf presentation, which has been a big talking point with many people, lately.

Until next time: keep your wild side roarin’!

 

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National Wolf Awareness Week

Happy National Wolf Awareness Week!

PAW

By Nick Hadad

It’s National Wolf Awareness Week! We here at Animal School have been hard at work! We’ve filmed multiple videos this week featuring our talking wolf mascot, Howler Wolf, showcasing wolf facts and profiling some of the different wolves found in North America. Each short video will lead into a blog post regarding each wolf.

These will include the gray wolf, red wolf, eastern wolf, the Mexican gray wolf, arctic wolf, island wolf, and the coywolf (aka, the eastern coyote). We’ll wrap up the series with some information about wolf conservation. So keep your eyes open, Wild Things!

We wanted to make everyone aware of wolves! With such a varied reputation, it’s sometimes hard to separate fact from fiction regarding these lupines. Wolves aren’t as big and bad as they’re often made out to be. They’re actually extremely important creatures in their ecosystems.

As many of the wolf sanctuaries, biologists and wolf fans share their knowledge as we celebrate National Wolf Awareness Week, we wanted to do our part. We hope you enjoy the videos and the posts!

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Promotional Handouts

By Katie Gill, @CaffeinatedKid

Welcome back, Wild Things.

As I mentioned a few days ago, we have a couple of events coming up that we have been creating materials for. In case we don’t see you at the Walworth Harvest Moon Festival on October 14 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., you can still check out our new kestrel coloring page, along with last year’s fox face and our updated Animal School flier. Links to all three are below. Make sure to share our info with anyone you think may be interested in our programs. Thanks, buddies!

Animal School 2017 Flier

Fox Face Coloring Page

Animal School Kestrel Coloring Page

Until next time, keep your wild side roarin’.

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The Great American Kestrel Coloring Page!

By Katie Gill, @CaffeinatedKid

Welcome back, Wild Things! We have been busy behind the scenes, crafting up new characters, programs and materials, not to mention going to various events to promote ourselves.

Speaking of, we will be at the Pittsford Farmers Market this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. One of our talking characters will be there to answer any questions you may have about animals. We will also have coloring pages for the kids and origami animals for sale to help us keep running!

Additionally, we will be at the Walworth Harvest Moon Festival on October 14 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Kele Kestrel will be teaching people about kestrels and other birds of prey. We will also have a coloring station set up, and for that reason we made a new coloring page! It’s an American Kestrel. Originally, I was going to make a male and female head, since their bodies have different colors and markings, but, since either sex has a nearly identical head to the other, it didn’t make sense for me to produce two.

So, freebie for you all today: Animal School Kestrel Coloring Page

Tell your friends about Animal School, because we can use all the publicity and word of mouth possible.

Until we cross paths again: keep your wild side roarin’.

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Vulpinology Retrospective – Loki is Anything but Low Key

–By Nick Hadad—

Looking Back:

Just about a year ago, we here at Animal School filmed our Vulpinology 101 series, hosted by two of our talking mascots, Swift the Fox and Inola the Arctic Fox. The purpose of the series was to introduce and talk about the six different species of fox in North America and some of the interesting fox facts about the species in general. We filmed a total of eight episodes.

Those six species of fox include:

The Swift Fox

The Arctic Fox

The Kit Fox

The Red Fox

The Gray Fox

The Channel Island Fox

We also discussed the impressive come back for the six different Channel Island fox species in Episode 8, as they were almost driven to extinction by predation by golden eagles that were invasive to the islands, and a devastating outbreak of canine distemper. In fact, these foxes have had the quickest population increase for an endangered species, coming from just fifteen individual animals in some cases to normal levels between the late 1990s and 2016.

From there, we talked about fox fur color mutations and phases in Episode 7. At the time, a photo of a Pink Champagne fox was going viral, and for good reason. It was a beautiful animal! A lot of folks believed it was a rare species but after doing some research, we discovered that foxes with such wild colorations were still technically red foxes and had been bred for decades to get a specific fur color. Sometimes, this was done for the fur trade and other times, more for domestication.

Some Foxy News!

LOKI LOKI

Speaking of domestic foxes, a few months ago, the Wildlife Educators Coalition adopted a Georgian Marble Fox, named Loki. Loki has a number of colors in his fur, ranging from white to tawny, to brown, silver and black, hence the marble description. His domestic ancestry can be traced 60 years back to a farm in Russia, where a lot of the fur mutation projects began.

Loki is adorable! But I was quickly reminded how difficult it is to own a fox. As we say, Loki is a fox that is great at being a fox because that’s what he’s supposed to be, and therefore, he makes a terrible pet!

Pet Fox Considerations:

It’s important to note that if you are interested in adopting a fox, it’s our strong recommendation that you do as much research as you can on the subject. While foxes are canines, they are very different from dogs and have very specific needs. To start off, they have unique health and nutritional needs (for example, their digestive system cannot handle beef). Therefore, their diet needs to be fairly beef free but varied enough to ensure they get the complete nutritional requirements.

Also, since domestic foxes are still very much foxes, they need a lot of room to run and play and require lots of enrichment. You also need to keep your home “fox proof.” That is to say, they will try and succeed at getting into everything you do not want them to. Keeping things out of harm’s way will be a challenge for both you and your fox.

Also, certain types of domestic foxes may not be able to properly handle outdoor temperatures in winter or summer. Arctic foxes may be all right handling trips to play in the snow but might need some help keeping cool in the summer. Fennec foxes may need a lot more attention in the cooler weather.

Is it Legal to have a Fox?

Is it legal in your area to even have a fox? Each state has its own set of rules. In some places, you can adopt a domestic fox but must have proof it was from a breeder and not from the wild. In other areas, it may come down to the legalities of owning a specific type of fox species (i.e., it might be legal to have a marble or fennec fox but not a gray or a pure red one). Some states do not allow you to have a pet fox at all.

Certain states might also have strict regulations on where the fox can come from, so make sure you adhere to any transportation and import laws. At times, it might not be lawful to bring in a fox from out of state or even from another county in the same state.

And lastly, you might require licensing. Loki was indeed bred specifically for domestication but he was obtained with an educational permit for the WEC. This means that he is an animal used for educational purposes and not really as a pet. This type of licensing is required in New York for marble foxes.

Considering Adopting a Fox? Think Twice!

Why? Unlike dogs and cats that have been in domestication for most of human history, foxes have only just started to be bred for this purpose. Again, only between 60 and 100 years (this doesn’t include the 300 years of breeding just for fur as domestication was not the objective of those breeders at the time). Thus, they are still very much wild. And, Loki’s adoptive human, Donna, can share with you countless stories of how he’s destroying her house.

An Animal School Development!

THOR THOR

Despite the chaos that little fox stirs up, he’s an amazing ambassador for wildlife. And, his introduction to the group inspired us to start work on a new project here at Animal School. In early August, we began work on creating a marble fox program, complete with a talking marble fox mascot designed to look exactly like Loki. The idea is that the mascot would open the program and educate folks on life as a fox with some fun interactive demonstrations and what it takes to as a species to undergo domestication. And of course, we’ll talk about the difficulties of foxes as pets. The program will then switch over to the real fox, Loki. It’s no secret that he’ll be the true star of the show!

This program is set to be available for booking in September. For more information, please contact Nick Hadad at nhadad12@yahoo.com

Need More Marble Fox Facts?

We’ll have another blog post up soon focusing on this unique fox. Until then, stay wild!

 

 

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A Litter of Fox Facts

By Katie Gill, @CaffeinatedKid

 

Welcome back, Wild Things! Since we have been working on our fox adaptation program, we thought it would be fun to share some facts about foxes and what makes various vulpine species unique.

 

  • There are six major fox species in North America (excluding subspecies and admixtures): the Red Fox, A­rctic Fox, Kit Fox, Swift Fox, Channel Island Fox and Gray Fox
  • Red Foxes are the longest foxes in the world and Fennec Foxes are the shortest. From nose to tail, Red Foxes are usually between 30 to 56 inches long (762 – 1,422.40 mm), whereas Fennec Foxes are typically 17 to 28 inches long (431.80 – 711.20 mm).
  • Generally speaking, a fox’s tail is ¾ the length of its body. In other words, a fox with a body length of 20 inches would have a tail that is 15 inches long. Obvious, length and size vary depending on the species, the fox’s age and its sex, but most foxes’ tails are long and serve as blankets for the foxes to wrap around themselves to stay warm while they sleep.
Red Fox on mom.me pets.jpg
Red Fox, from Mom.me Pets
  • Red Foxes are well adapted to a variety of environments. In fact, they will live in cities and urban areas where people live and take advantage of the free meals our trash cans provide!
  • Foxes will stash excess food underground for safekeeping. To keep other animals away from the food, and in order to find it later, the fox will mark its cache by urinating over the buried pile.
  • Red Foxes are the most common species of fox on the planet
  • Red Foxes have a lot of stamina to hunt prey and avoid predators. They can run up to 30 mph!
Arctic Fox from True Wildlife.jpg
Arctic Fox, from True Wild Life
  • Because Arctic Foxes live in cold, barren locations, they are physically adapted to their environments. They have white fur to blend in with snow, which camouflages them from prey and predators alike.
  • Arctic Foxes also have round, compact bodies to minimize their exposure to cold air. Their short muzzles, ears and legs conserve heat, and their deep, thick fur allows them to maintain a consistent body temperature. They even have thick fur on their paws that allows them to walk on snow and ice.
  • The Arctic Fox is Iceland’s only native land animal
  • Arctic Foxes have lighter weight brown fur coats in summer that, again, allow them to be camouflaged in their surroundings

 

  • Foxes get the jump on their prey! They use their ears to locate the precise position of their prey, which is sometimes underground. When they hear the prey, they will leap into the air and pounce, breaking through any soil or snow to land right onto the prey underneath. Arctic Fox Pounces For Prey, via Discovery
  • Foxes will change their diets with the season in order to survive. They are opportunistic eaters, and will eat animals and plants. They will also scavenge for other animals’ leftovers.
  • Foxes are typically nocturnal. They evade predators and have an edge over their prey this way! Their speed, sense of sight and hearing give them an advantage.
Kit Fox foxes world.jpg
Kit Fox, from Foxes Worlds
  • Kit Foxes, which live in warm desert regions, are named in reference to their size. Fox babies are called “kits,” “pups” and “cubs.” Kit Foxes are called such because they are small. They have slender bodies, large heads, large ears, long tails and bushy fur
  • Kit Foxes only weigh around 4 pounds!
  • Kit Foxes big ears act as cooling vents, releasing excess heat from their bodies through the veins
  • Kit Foxes will occasionally come out during the day, which makes people more likely to see these guys around
  • Kit Foxes mate annually. Sometimes, they will keep the same partner, but they will often pick a new one each year.
  • Kit Foxes do establish territories, but they are not as protective of them as other fox species. It is common for Kit Foxes to share hunting ground with other Kits, but they will hunt at different times of the day or night.
Swift Fox From Earth Rangers
Swift Fox, from Earth Rangers
  • Swift Foxes are named for their speed. They can reach speeds of 31 mph, which allows them to catch fast prey and escape predators
  • The Swift Fox lives in the Great Plains region, between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. Swifts can be found as far North as Canada, and have historically lived in Western Canada.
  • Swift Foxes hunt mostly at night, when it’s cooler out. This way, they won’t easily overheat from strenuous exercise. They usually only go out during the day to sun themselves, and only during winter.
  • Swift Foxes build several entrances to their underground burrows, which are up to 13 feet deep, so they can avoid being cornered by predators. When Swifts hunt at night, they don’t stray far from their den, in case they need to scurry back to safety.
  • Swift Foxes prefer open desert and short-or-mixed grass prairies, generally avoiding dense areas of vegetation. They live in cropland habitats such as wheat fields and ranch areas.
  • Swift Foxes can survive high on hilltops or down in valleys, as long as they can dig burrows that won’t be exposed to environmental threats like flooding.
Island Fox Pup on island fox.org.jpg
Channel Island Pup, from islandfox.org
  • Channel Island Foxes live on six of the eight Channel Islands in California. Because the foxes are specially adapted to their specific islands, each island has a distinct species, meaning there are six species of Channel Island Foxes.
  • Channel Island Foxes are offshoots of Gray Foxes, which is why they look similar. Channel Island Foxes are smaller than Gray Foxes, though
  • Channel Island Foxes get fish not by hunting but, rather, by scavenging for leftovers in bald eagles’ nests.
  • Channel Island Foxes have long legs, which help them to run fast, sneak up on prey and escape predators. In fact, their legs are the longest part of their bodies.
  • Channel Island Foxes turn their paws inward to climb, which helps them get fruit and birds to eat and, again, lets them escape predators.
Gray Fox from Wildlife Science Center.JPG
Gray Fox, from Wildlife Science Center
  • Gray Foxes are the only species of fox, excluding the Channel Island Fox, that can climb trees! They do so to escape predators like coyotes and wolves. They take advantage of this ability to hunt tree prey, such as squirrels
  • Gray Foxes are incredibly nervous around people. Therefore, unlike the Red Fox, the Gray Fox rarely enters urban areas.
  • Gray Foxes are gray, white, black, and russet, or reddish-brown. They blend into their woodland habitats, which camouflages them to predators and prey alike.
Fennec Fox from national Geographic Kids.jpg
Fennec Fox, from National Geographic Kids
  • Fennec Foxes are the smallest fox species in the world. They are native to North Africa, are less than 5 pounds and only about 2 feet long from nose to tail!
  • Fennec Foxes are nocturnal, since the North African deserts are HOT! The deserts get ridiculously cold at night, though, so the Fennecs have thick fur to keep them warm when they’re out on the prowl.
  • Fennec Foxes have massive ears. They can get as long as 6 inches, which is about ¼ of their total body length. These ears let them ear bugs and rodents that are underground, which Fennecs love to eat. Their ears also provide extra body surface area, which reduces the little guys’ body heat and keeps them cool!
  • Fennecs have thick, sandy fur that reflects sunlight and keeps them cool if they must go out during the day. Fur also covers the bottoms of their feet, preventing the hot sand from burning their little toes. The fur on their soles also provides traction, so they fox can easily run on loose sand and quickly dig burrows.
  • Fennec Foxes’ kidneys retain water to prevent dehydration, since deserts have little to no free water. These foxes can survive for long periods on only the moisture from what they eat, and possibly from dew that collects on the insides of their burrows.

 

Until next time: keep your wild side roaring.

Follow Animal School online!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WECAnimalSchool/

Twitter: @WECAnimalSchool

Instagram: Animal School @animal_school

YouTube: WEC’s Animal School: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLI0kQykroXfLe8_JT_YK8VEwcllHwZY-_

Sources

Fox Adaptations – http://www.sciencemadesimple.co.uk/curriculum-blogs/biology-blogs/animal-adaptations

Red Foxes – http://animals.mom.me/survival-adaptations-red-fox-6193.html

Arctic Foxes – http://www.defenders.org/arctic-fox/basic-facts

Kit Foxes – http://www.foxesworlds.com/kit-fox/

Swift Foxes – http://animals.mom.me/adaptations-swift-fox-9268.html

Channel Island Foxes – http://www1.islandfox.org/p/about-island-fox.html?m=1

http://funfoxfactskids.weebly.com/dietsurvival-adaptations.html

Gray Foxes – http://sciencing.com/gray-fox-adaptations-survival-behaviors-8447034.html

Fennec Foxes – http://animals.mom.me/physical-adaptations-fennec-foxes-6101.html

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The Coyote Upgrade

Dakota Coyote 1

By Nick Hadad, @Hound_of_Music

Back in 2008, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I designed a coyote character to be a storyteller and educator of sorts. The body suit was a refurbished wolf I bought on eBay and a friend of mine built the head.  I named the coyote Kyp, and was really proud of what I was able to put together.

As events increased in frequency, I realized the costume just wasn’t working in the way I had hoped. The mask was very much a traditional mascot-styled head. That is to say, it was made of thick foam and it was very hard for people to hear my voice through it. And, more importantly, it was hard to breathe in.

For those reasons, I shelved the character and focused my attention on other projects. Eventually, once I had come across the mouth-mover masks from Elope Inc., I realized I had finally found a solution to the issue of not being heard at programs. Once we had our red fox, gray wolf and arctic fox, we put out a request to get a second wolf mask donated so I could, in theory, switch the colors around a bit and fashion it into a coyote.

After several months, we had the extra mask. I thought I could apply the colorations with an airbrush, but sadly, it was far too costly to purchase one and I was not able to find anyone locally who had one. So, the head sat on the costume rack for another year.

I was at a standstill on the coyote project until a friend of mine, Erin, who is a professional mascot costume designer, suggested I try just using various permanent markers to apply the colors. Honestly, I was afraid to try, as I feared the ink would smear after use. So, for another few months, it sat there.

Finally, a few weeks ago, I was shopping for supplies at an art store in town when I spotted some high quality markers that would work on fabric in the colors I needed. I decided to take a risk and buy them. I quickly returned home and experimented on scraps of faux fur. I worked until I had the results I wanted before trying it out on the mask.

After two days of work, the wolf had transformed into a coyote. It was realistic enough for my liking and once we tweaked the eye color a bit, friendly as well.

We decided to change the name of the character since the new look was a far departure from the old one. Katie and I narrowed it down to four names with the help of our friends and posted an online poll for our fans to vote on.

As luck would have it, we were able to debut the coyote character at the Pittsford Community Farmers Market. We brought a tally sheet with us and invited folks to vote in person as they shopped. At the end of the day, we counted the votes from both polls and announced the winning name the next morning.

Dakota won in a landslide!

Now I’m working hard behind the scenes to rewrite the coyote program. There’s some new information out there on coyotes, yet I’m finding there is a lot of information that seems to be missing. The song dog is quite fascinating, yet mysterious! Once I get all of the pieces together, I can promise an entertaining and engaging program.

In the meantime, Dakota Coyote has been appearing at area farmers markets as we at Animal School celebrate our first anniversary. So keep your eyes and ears open for the newest howler in town!

Until next time, stay wild!

 

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Attack of the 50-Foot Snail Ants!

By Katie Gill, @CaffeinatedKid

 

You never know what information a person is going to divulge when you start a conversation with him or her.

Origami Box
The shoebox of 50 origami animals we brought to the Eco-Fair. People who gave us a howl or a fun animal fact got to bring home one of these creatures.

On Sunday, June 18, we attended the Brighton Eco-Fair. Fun fact: this was the first official event Animal School participated in after we began working as a mom-and-pop operation last year. To celebrate our paper anniversary, I crafted up 50 origami animals, packed them in a shoebox and gave one to each person at the event who told us a fun animal fact. We later extended our offer to those who performed one of the wolf calls Howler was teaching.

One of my favorite things about working with Animal School has been meeting so many interesting people. You all have such an amazing breadth of knowledge, experience and creativity. The cute kids and dogs who run up to our mascots, greet them with great big smiles and start playing are high on the list, too. Having fun while learning is what Animal School is all about. We are constantly learning new things from the people we meet, and we strive to share our knowledge with you.

Origami 1
The origami animals we gave away (from left to right): a flapping butterfly, angel fish, rabbit, pelican and wolf/fox/coyote

This year’s Eco-Fair focused on the theme of conservation, so we had Howler Wolf talking about why conserving wolf populations is vital. As anyone who has seen our Lupinology presentation knows, wolves are a keystone species, crucial to an ecosystem. Pluck them out of their environment, and all other living things are drastically affected. Everyone’s favorite example of this is the gray wolf’s reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, which allowed several animal species to thrive. It also kept coyote populations in check – ’yotes tend to become invasive species that throw off the balance of an ecosystem when their numbers get too high. Even some tree species that had long been absent started to grow again once the wolves were brought back into the ecosystem.

Eco Fair Howler
Howler Wolf at the Brighton Eco-Fair, teaching folks all about wolves and why they are so important to their ecosystems

The results of this reintroduction teach us two things. One: wolves are imperative to their ecosystems. Two: we can never be entirely certain how a plant or animal affects its surroundings. Therefore, we should never assume that adding infrastructure, plants or animals to an ecosystem will be perfectly safe. Even when scientists and environmentalists perform studies to project what will happen when we build architecture in an ecosystem, there can still be unanticipated consequences. Nature exists in a delicate balance, and we must be mindful of that so that we can conserve it and flourish for generations to come.

Wolves used to live all around North America. However, when hunters started becoming overzealous, particularly as myths about wolves attacking livestock and people without provocation rose, the lupines’ numbers plummeted. Today, there are only a handful of areas in the U.S. where wolves live. Here in upstate New York, there are no known wolves roaming around, though there have been some unconfirmed sightings in the Adirondacks and extreme upstate region. The good news is that wolves are slowly being reintroduced to various states across the U.S., so there is still hope of reviving their grand ecosystems of centuries past.

Now, moving on to fun animal facts, we got a good number of responses from people at the event. Some of our favorites are:

  • Owls’ wings are structured in a way that prevents other animals from hearing the birds coming. There are a couple of mechanisms at work here. First, the broadness of owls’ wings keeps them from flapping too much, which reduces noise. Furthermore, as How Stuff Works states, “When most birds fly, turbulence – created when air gushes over the surface of their wings – causes noise. Owls’ wings, however, are unique because they reduce noise caused by turbulence. An owl’s primary feathers are serrated like a comb. This design breaks down turbulence into smaller currents called micro-turbulences.”
  • We learned from Braddock Bay Raptor Research that you can tell the age of a broad-winged hawk by its tail feathers. Juveniles’ tails have narrow bands of color, whereas adults have broad black and white bands on their tails. At about one year of age, a hawk reaches adulthood and will molt its feathers, allowing its new plumage to come in. This is similar to how humans lose their baby teeth and have adult ones grow in their places!
  • As we mentioned above, in 1995, humans reintroduced gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park, which changed the park’s entire ecosystem. Someone informed us about a documentary she saw regarding Yellowstone, which showed how even the bends and path of a river changed as a result of the wolves’ presence. Remember: wolves are important to an ecosystem because they bring vitality. Ask Howler Wolf if you would like to learn more.
  • There is widespread misconception about how two species crossbreeding is a symptom of climate change, global warming and habitat loss. However, as one woman mentioned to us, creatures have been mating with other species for centuries, so these hybrids are not necessarily a result of negative effects on our environment. I will have to do additional research before I say anything conclusively, but it is probable that the convergence of certain traits between species could produce evolutionary advantages and be examples of adaptation. On the other hand, there are animals that breed with other species due to loss of habitat and human interference. Pugs, for example, which humans have and continue to selectively breed, have severe respiratory distress throughout their lives due to the shapes of their skulls. (Yet another reason it’s always better to #AdoptDontShop, because some animal breeders inbreed cats and dogs for their purebred status, which can cause severe and lifelong health problems for the animals.) Other possible concerns for interspecies offspring are health problems, infertility and shorter lifespans. A few common examples of hybrids species are wolfdogs, coywolves, coydogs and grizzly-polar bear hybrids.

The best response of the day, however, came from a young man with a vivid imagination and knack for storytelling. He said that snails and ants are two of the strongest creatures in existence, and that a snail-ant hybrid could take over the planet by invading power plants. These snail ant assailants would be the ultimate destroyers and overtake the earth!

Immature Radioactive Samurai Slugs
This young man’s tale about snail-ant hybrids reminds me of the Tiny Toon’s Immature Radioactive Samurai Slugs, a parody of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

This kid captivated me. I just stood there, eager to hear more, engrossed in the yarn he spun. So many questions came to mind, including: where would these hybrids come from? Why is this not already an amazing splatstick B-Movie horror flick? Where did this elementary-school-aged kid come up with this dystopian future filled with Godzilla-like super bugs? (Thinking back, I don’t know if he ever said they were giant monsters, but I was definitely getting a Mothra vibe from what he described.) Which parts of the snails and ants would be the strongest? How do the two fuse into one species? Genetic engineering? Would they be able to naturally reproduce, or be infertile like mules, the horse-donkey hybrids? Would these creatures stay their original sizes, or adapt to support their larger and smaller sections? Which sections of each animal would make the evolutionary cut? Would they be giga-snail ants, or under-the-radar mini assailants? Would it be a gradual takeover or a snowballing situation? Where would the takeover start? Would the world end up like the “true” ending of Little Shop of Horrors, with these devious creatures we unknowingly nurtured taking over humanity? How intelligent would they be? Are these snails intentionally seeking out power plants, or just looking for shelter and sustenance? What draws them in? How do they get in? Does their slime make machines and electricity malfunction, or does this massive wave of them get into nuclear reactors, which turn them into Hulk-like beasts? Where do the ants fit into this equation? Do they become snail ants before or after taking over the power plants? Can this be avoided if we switch to greener energy? Do the snails feel malice towards humanity? Do they have an agenda? This scenario prompts a lot of thought-provoking questions, and I want to know more about the world this little guy created with his words. Most importantly, where did he come up with this idea?

I am going to have to do some research into snails and ants to see if they are like cockroaches and can allegedly survive a nuclear blast. I also want to see if I can find media that may have inspired this kid, because I am now invested in finding answers to this hypothetical scenario, and maybe making some concept art.

The funny thing was, after this kid told us all about the snail ant takeover, he didn’t even want an origami animal! So we ended up giving one to his brother instead.

It is amazing what you can uncover when you have an inquisitive mind, a thirst for knowledge, natural curiosity and the ability to problem solve creatively.

Speaking of …

Stay tuned, Wild Things.

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Animals I Have Become: A Fun Animal Facts Recap

By Katie Gill

Sixteen years in a mascot head will give you such a crick in the neck!

Yes, I just made an Aladdin reference, but how better to introduce a person who puts on masks for a living? Nick has dressed up in many different personalities and donned countless names during the past 16 years, all for the amusement of others.

Living with a mascot is a unique experience. Trying to address Nick as his character(s) of the day ends up with my sounding like a frazzled parent, just cycling through the pile of names until I land on the right one.

He has been a lot characters, each with a distinct personality. It’s neurotic and annoying how much thought he puts into a character’s persona, minutiae that 99 percent of people would never notice or care about. Frankly, an existential crisis seems imminent with how often he switches personalities.

Hence, making a pun with the Three Days Grace song, “Animal I Have Become,” we compiled some fun animal facts based on the creatures Nick has been over the years.

Here’s what we came up with:

  • Fox cubs’ eyes and ears open two weeks
    fox-cubs
    Fox Cubs

    after birth. At four weeks, the cubs will emerge from their dens. The pups have short noses resembling puppies’.

https://onekind.org/animal/fox-red/

  • Coyotes are omnivores, eating both meat and vegetation. They will eat anything they find. Their favorite food include: rabbits, rodents such as rats, mice, and squirrels, antelopes, lizards, birds, cactus fruits, flowers. They will even eat dead animal carcasses and garbage if they cannot find anything else.

coyote1

http://www.softschools.com/facts/animals/coyote_facts/79/

Photo: http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/coyotes.html

  • Rhinoceros horns are made from a protein called keratin, the same substance that our fingernails and hair are made of!rhino4

https://www.savetherhino.org/rhin…/for_kids/everything_rhino

  • Armadillos are the only mammals whose bodies are covered with hard shell.armadillo They vary in size, ranging from 5 – 59 inches in length and 3 – 120 pounds in weight.

http://www.softschools.com/facts/animals/armadillo_facts/49/

  • There are more than 150 dog breeds, divided into 8 classes: sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting, herding, and miscellaneous.32d8fa97973d4686a7f3309029c2fc4d.jpg

https://www.mspca.org/pet_res…/interesting-facts-about-dogs/

  • The red-winged blackbird, a North American songbird, changes its diet with the seasons.
    red_winged_blackbird_7
    Red-Winged Blackbird

    During the breeding season it eats mostly insects. As the babies fledge, the bird switches to eating more and more seeds, and can become a problem for farmers. During winter, the bird eats almost entirely seeds.

https://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/spring/RedwingFacts.html

 

 

Until next time: stay wild, friends.

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Birds of Braddock: Fun Animal Facts Recap

By Katie Gill

Welcome back, wild ones!

fb_img_1485892909765
Kele the Kestrel and his pal, Jingo, at a local farmers market

For this set of facts, we explored the world of birds. In particular, we had our gaze set upon birds of prey that can be found around our neck of the woods, Rochester, NY. I’m talking about the kinds of avians that are frequently banded, tracked and studied by the folks at Braddock Bay Raptor Research, a group hailed by our kestrel, Kele.

We now present to you a mere sample of the Birds of Braddock:

  • Kestrels, the smallest birds of prey in North America, nest in cavities. They rely on old woodpecker holes, natural tree hollows, rock crevices, and nooks in buildings or other human-built structures.
    14375472-lg-copy-2
    Male Kestrel

    Typically, nest sites are in trees along wood edges or in the middle of open ground. American Kestrels also take readily to nest boxes people put up.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Kestrel/lifehistory

  • The most common hawk in North America, the Red-Tailed Hawk is a bird of prey that mates for life.
    red-tailed-hawk
    Red-Tailed Hawk

    During breeding season, hawk pairs fly in large circles and gain great height before the male plunges into a deep dive and subsequent steep climb back to circling height. Later, the birds grab hold of one another with their talons and fall spiraling towards earth.

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/red-tailed-hawk/

  • Falcons are diurnal raptors, birds of prey that hunt during the day, and can catch their prey in mid-air!

http://www.atozkidsstuff.com/falcons.html

  • sharp-shinned-hawk
    Sharp-Shinned Hawk

    Sharp-Shinned Hawks are stealthy! They hunt by lurking in the woods, waiting for small birds to approach. The hawks then burst forth with incredibly swift flight to capture prey in their talons.

http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/sharp-shinned-hawk

  • Northern Saw-whet Owls may be the most kawaii birds of prey. Tiny owls with catlike faces, oversized heads, bright yellow eyes and high-pitched calls, Northern Saw-whets are nocturnal and rarely seen.

    http://owladdict.blogspot.com/2013/07/northern-saw-whet-owl.html
    Northern Saw-Whet Owl

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_Saw-whet_Owl/id

  • The osprey is a bird that fishes! Since its diet is essentially all fish, the osprey can be found near ponds, rivers, lakes, and coastal waterways around the world.
    ospreyp14_osprey
    Osprey

    Ospreys hunt by diving to the water’s surface from some 30 to 100 feet (9 to 30 meters) up. They have curved claws and gripping pads on their feet to help them pluck fish from the water and carry them for great distances. In flight, ospreys will orient the fish headfirst to ease wind resistance.

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/osprey/

broad-winged-hawk-kettle
A Kettle of Broad-Winged Hawks
  • A kettle is a group of birds wheeling and circling in the air, something that people in Upstate New York see on a regular basis!

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kettle_(birds)

Until next time: stay wild, friends.

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Chill Dudes

For this round of Fun Animal Facts, we’re taking a look at animals that thrive in the cold. Maybe we can learn some coping techniques from them for the winter months!

  • Polar bears have two layers of fur and a thick layer of body fat, which serve as insulation. Their compact ears and small tails also help prevent heat loss. http://www.polarbearsinternational.org/adaptation/cold-climate
  • Arctic foxes have incredible hearing, aided by their wide, front-facing ears, which allow them to locate the precise position of their prey beneath the snow. When an Arctic fox hears its next meal under the snow-pack, it leaps into the air and pounces, breaking through the layer of snow right onto the prey beneath. http://www.defenders.org/arctic-fox/basic-facts
  • Harp seals often hunt for fish and crustaceans at depths of 300 feet (90 meters) and may dive to nearly 1,000 feet (300 meters). They are able to remain submerged for up to 15 minutes! http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/animals/harp-seal/#harp-seal-closeup.jpg
  •  There are 17 species of penguins in the world, all of which live in the Southern Hemisphere.

    The Little Penguin, also known as the Blue Penguin, is most likely the inspiration for the penguins in the Mario Kart series. http://www.kidzone.ws/animals/penguins/facts10.htm

  • Snow leopards, native to the rugged and snowy highlands of Central Asia, have fur on their stomachs that is about 5 inches thick. https://owlcation.com/stem/Facts-about-Snow-Leopards
  • Snowy owls, like Hedwig from the Harry Potter series, are unique because they mainly hunt in the daytime. http://www.defenders.org/snowy-owl/basic-facts
  • As we’ve mentioned before, fish that live close to icy surfaces have an anti-freeze in their blood that prevents ice from spreading throughout their bodies if they come in contact with it. These “anti-freeze” glycoprotein molecules also provide fish a tiny cushion against the end of sharp ice crystals so the crystals are less likely to puncture cell membranes.

    However, only fish that are likely to encounter ice have these anti-freezes. Deeper living fish, way below the level of floating ice, don’t have anti-freeze, they have a freezing point above that of the sea-water in which they live, and really should be frozen solid. http://www.coolantarctica.com/Antarctica%20fact%20file/science/cold_all_animals.php

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Fun Animal Fact Recap: Newborns!

By Katie Gill

To ring in 2017, we went with the theme “Newborns.” Also, an important fact to remember: humans are animals, which is something we should all embrace, not downplay. We are part of this beautiful kingdom! So let’s get this party started:

 

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Ask Howler Episode 2

Episode 2 of Ask Howler is here! In this episode, we discuss marsupials, wolf fur variations and the differences between ravens and crows!

As always, you can submit your wildlife questions by commenting here or on our YouTube, Facebook and Twitter pages. Howler is always eager to lend a paw!

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Animal School: Our Year In Review

By Katie Gill

Happy New Year, everyone!

With 2017 officially here, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on what Animal School has accomplished since its inception this summer and what we have to look forward to.

keleFirst off, on Sunday, January 15,we will be at the Mendon Ponds Winterfest from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Inola the arctic fox will be there representing us as well as Braddock Bay Raptor Research. If you recall, we did a video series called “Bird Eye’s View” this summer with BBRR, which you can find here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfVO60UBicM&t=2s&list=PLI0kQykroXfLe8_JT_YK8VEwcllHwZY-_&index=15. Mendon Ponds Winterfest is a family-friendly event open to the public, so we hope to see you there!

Now, regarding our past year: Animal School, in its current form, took place after Nick asked me to design a brochure to help him promote his educational wildlife mascot program. I ended up coming with him to the 2016 Brighton Eco Fest, since we had done a fair amount of sales and marketing work together already and, having been in a relationship for the better part of a decade, already had a shorthand with one another.

inolaAt Eco Fest, we caught the eye of Robert, from Impact Earth, Inc., who invited us to tour with his group at the Pittsford, Churchville, Lakeside (Charlotte) and Macedon Farmers Markets. We even crashed the Brighton Farmers Market a few times. During this period, we received useful insight from the public about roc-pridebuilding our program to include more interactive elements and appealing to people of all ages. Hence, we began our fun animal facts and grew our social media presence to include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, this blog and YouTube.

In the summer we were invited to the Rochester Pride Fest with the Wildlife Educators Coalition. Nick and I both got to be part of the gen-sum-festparade, which was the biggest, most fun parade either of us has ever experienced. Everyone was so nice and supportive of one another, I genuinely can’t think of a better festival I’ve been to in Rochester.We also went with WEC to the Geneseo Summer Festival and did an event with Cool Kids! in Brockport, NY, our old college town.

We transitioned into the fall with the Walworth walworthHarvest Moon Festival, where we had a coloring station set up for kids so they could draw while learning about the various types of foxes that exist in North America. And yes, I did draw and color those foxes on the display board. I hope to do a display of kestrels at some point in the future.

foxesThose are all the big and successful events I can think of. We tried to do a Turtles Around Town feature, which was like an interactive Where’s Waldo? and conveniently coincided with the release of Pokémon Go! Unfortunately, it did not receive enough engagement to warrant its continuation, especially considering the amount of work it took to find new locations each week and the cost of driving around to scout out locations.

Moreover, we did a series of videos entitled Vulpinology, in which our fox characters, Swift and Inola, talked about different species of foxes, as well as the latest news surrounding them. Again, costs and time spent for these videos deterred us from producing more, especially since the audio quality was not up to our standards — a result of our lack of equipment — and it was too difficult for me to film for hours with my back injury. We were going to start a Fairy Tale Fallacies feature as well, the first video of which I accidentally deleted, in which we discussed popular fairy tales and the misinformation, misconceptions and myths they spread about wildlife. However, that has also been put on the back burner. Most recently, Nick started an Ask Howler vlog, where people can ask our resident talking wolf questions about wolves and wildlife. So far, it has had a decent reception.rudolph

At the end of November, Nick received a Rudolph costume from an old friend, and we got to take the red-nosed reindeer to the East Rochester Christmas Festival, Uno Chicago Grill in Victor, Lift Bridge Book Shop in Brockport and, perhaps most importantly, the CURE Childhood Cancer Association‘s Holiday Party, where he was a surprise hit.

Furthermore, our Fun Animal Facts are now organized by a weekly theme. I would like to do a series of drawing videos based off of the parody story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears I wrote back in 6th grade, and perhaps one of the nonfiction deer story I co-wrote in 1st grade. Likewise, we are planning to get a new coyote mascot, since the one Nick has is cheap and doesn’t work or fit well. We are also crafting a vulture, horse and probably something else that escapes me.

Nick has also been interviewed by Elope, Inc., the designers of several of our mascots’ heads, and The Mascot Diaries, so those are two things we are eager to share with our audience!

Additionally, we still desire a Patreon account to get paid for our work, but need to find a way to reward the patrons for their ongoing support other than just thanking them in videos and blog posts and continuing our Fun Animal Facts. I have ideas, but they still need to be refined. For example, we want to have patrons come up with ideas for videos and Fun Animal Facts themes, but there are some unsavory characters on the Internet who we want to keep from poisoning our family-friendly program, so I need to keep our guidelines for suggestions strict and precise.

We are continually toying with Animal School’s voice, too. We want what we write and say to appeal to people of all ages, though each project we work on feels inherently geared towards a certain age group. Then again, kids are so smart with their insights and breadth of knowledge, they often make us feel like the children! So we are constantly tinkering with our writings and videos so they are accessible to everyone.

Finally, thank you to everyone who has supported us on this journey. Your help and encouragement has been instrumental to our success.

Until next time: stay wild, friends.

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Ask Howler Ep. 1

Not long after we posted our promo video for the Ask Howler segment, we were pleased to see quite a few responses.  So this is our first official episode! There will be more to come!


Do you have a question that you would like Howler to answer?  Give him a howl by commenting here or through our Facebook pages (WEC, WEP, WECAS) or on Twitter @WECAnimalSchool

 

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The Animal School VLOG!

Hey folks! Nick, here! The man behind the mascots!

We’ve started a series of vlogs for Animal School featuring our talking characters. Posts will cover a variety of topics and will be posted on all of our Facebook pages and other social media platforms.  For starters, we had Howler Wolf take on the role of host, launching a segment for the vlog called “Wolf News,” which showcases current topics on wolves, wolf conservation, reintroduction and any new breakthroughs in the science behind these amazing creatures.

Granted, the videos aren’t of the highest production quality. We don’t have a lot of equipment in any respect, whether it’s sound or lighting, not to mention the cameras themselves.  For these initial vlog posts, we’re using the webcam on my ten year old laptop!  Not great, but it will do for now!

We have already filmed multiple videos which will be uploaded throughout the upcoming weeks. We’ll also start a segment called “Ask Howler.” In which, the audience can pitch questions to our wolf via Facebook/Twitter on any topic involving wildlife.  Eventually, we will have our other characters host videos for the vlog, so that will be something to watch out for.

Here’s Wolf News Ep. 1 – The Wolf Genus Study

And, Wolf News Ep. 2 – The Isle Royale Wolf Reintroduction

 

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The 12 Animal Facts of Christmas

By Katie Gill

img_20161217_120730427_hdr
A remarkably sturdy snowman chills on a bench in Brockport, NY

Have you ever wondered exactly what the animals mentioned in “The 12 Days of Christmas” are? Some are obvious, but others, like the five golden rings, are not what we all assume. Check out these seven facts about the birds of lore:

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Reindeer Games: Red-Nosed Animal Facts

By Katie Gillimg_20161210_125830865

With the holiday season now in full swing, we thought it would be fun to play some reindeer games and share a few facts about Santa’s favorite form of transportation.

Happy holidays, friends. We love you.

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They’re Not So Bad: An Animal Facts Recap

By Katie Gill

When does an animal become a pest? We must each, individually, decide where to draw that line. For me, that line is crossed when creatures start clanging around behind my bedroom wall at dawn.

We changed apartments last month, and our old building had a squirrel problem. Every fall, the little guys would start stashing food for the winter in our attic and the vent over our kitchen stove. Fortunately, maintenance would take care of the issue before we had a full-fledged infestation. Unfortunately, the problem followed us to our new building in an eerie way.

One dawn, I awoke to frantic clawing and banging in the bedroom wall and ceiling. Inches from my resting head was what sounded like a full-grown man trying to break through our drywall and attack us. The squirrels were back! There was a vent right outside our apartment that they were sneaking into. Again, we had maintenance sort out the problem (I don’t know if they sealed off the entrances, relocated the squirrels or what), because that kind of invasive behavior is downright disturbing.

Even on this list, you will see that some creatures are beneficial to us by keeping other animals on the list in check. When an animal becomes invasive — humans included, unfortunately — then it becomes a pest to the environment and its ecosystem.

Nevertheless, this collection of fun animal facts is meant to prove that, despite our preconceptions and misconceptions, many of the creatures that people consider dirty, disease-ridden, or creepy are simply misunderstood. Misinformation spreads like wildfire, and an “us versus them” mentality is easy to adopt when our survival instincts are involved. The truth is, all animals have positive and negative traits, and even bunnies and guinea pigs are rodents.

  • Though they get a bad rap for gnawing on everything (hey, bunnies do that, too!), infesting places because of their prolific breeding and, you know, the Plague, rats are actually affectionate, intelligent animals. They are social creatures that can learn tricks and have made countless contributions to science and medicine through their use in laboratory experiments.

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080124202633.htm

  • Misunderstood creatures, snakes are not generally aggressive, poison-spewing, slithering creeps. There are more than 2,200 species of snakes in the world, and fewer than 20 percent of them are venomous. Moreover, snakes only tend to bite if you smell like their food (when you’ve handled a rodent recently, for instance), or they feel threatened or afraid. Most of the time, snakes are gentle reptiles and can make great pets, though they can be escape artists.

    http://www.petsource.org/pet-reptile-behavior/5422-cat-reptile-behavior.html

  • Don’t believe the toxic misinformation about pit bulls! The breed is actually one of the sweetest, most family-friendly dogs. In actuality, Chihuahuas and Dachshunds are the bitiest canines. At the end of the day, humans are to blame for any dog’s hostile or violent behavior. There are people who abuse dogs or train them to be aggressive, so pit bulls, being much bigger than Chihuahuas and Weiner Dogs, can do so much more damage than the former if they are mistreated.
  • Though all spiders use venom to kill their food, few arachnids have venom that is harmful to humans. In fact, most spiders around your home help keep it clean by eating insects, so think of these guys as free mini maids!
  • Falling coconuts, champagne corks, hot tap water, cows, vending machines and being left-handed are among the things more likely to kill you than a shark attack. On average, less than one shark-attack death occurs every two years in the U.S. According to National Geographic, there are 19 non-fatal shark attacks in the U.S. annually. http://kafe.com/news/25-shocking-things-more-likely-to-kill-you-than-a-shark http://m.natgeotv.com/ca/human-shark-bait/facts
  • Pepé Le Pew is a lie! Skunks do not stink, unless they spray, which only happens when they are startled or defending their young, and even then they tend to give plenty of warning signals beforehand. Additionally, they help us by eating pests, such as mice, rats, gophers, moles, aphids, grubs, beetles, yellow jackets, grasshoppers, cutworms, rattlesnakes, black widow spiders, cockroaches, and snails. Hence, skunks help keep our homes and farms clean and safe! http://www.stinkybusiness.org/myths.htm
  • Forget everything you thought you knew about bats! These winged wild things are not rodents, are not pests, are not dirty, rarely have rabies (1% do, to be exact), and generally try to avoid humans (unless you invade their home, Bruce Wayne). In truth, bats eat insects we consider pests, and provide vital services for our ecosystem. They also CAN see with their little eyes, but do use echolocation to navigate.

    https://batconservation.org/learn/myths-and-facts-about-bats/

The bottom line is: don’t let an animal’s bad rap keep you from experiencing the rich, complex life and contributions it has to offer.

Until next time: stay wild, my friends.

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Posted in Animal Ancestors, Animal Descendants, animal facts, Animal Kingdom, animals, biodiversity, education, Entertainment, environment, Farm Animals, nature, teaching, Uncategorized, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education

Pigs In Space! Animal Facts Recap

Farm animals in their native environments is the theme for this collection of trivia.

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Fun Animal Fact Recap: Close, But No Babar

  • Though they all look similar, cheetahs, leopards and jaguars have a few distinct features.

    Cheetahs are found mostly in Africa and have solid, evenly distributed spots.

    Leopards, found in Africa and Asia, have a large number of flower-shaped spots, or rosettes, that are a slightly different color than cheetahs’. Some of their spots have brownish centers and thick, black outlines.

    Jaguars, which reside in the Americas, have larger rosettes than leopards. Their spots have lighter centers and thick, dark outlines.

  • Buffalo don’t actually live in America. Our buffaloes are American Bison. There are also European Bison, which live in isolated parts of Poland. The two main species of buffalo that exist are the African cape buffalo and Asian water buffalo.

    http://www.livescience.com/32115-bison-vs-buffalo-whats-the-difference.html

  • A snake is one type of legless lizard. Based on observable physical characteristics, though, legless lizards tend to have eyelids, external ear openings, long tails, and lack broad belly scales. Legless lizards’ tongues are also generally thicker and less forked than snakes’.

    https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-a-legless-lizard-and-a-snake

  • The biggest distinction between monkeys and apes is that, in general, monkeys have tails and apes do not. Apes also have a longer lifespan, larger body size, larger brain-to-body size ratio and higher intelligence than monkeys.

    http://www.centerforgreatapes.org/treatment-apes/about-apes/

  • There are a decent number of differences between frogs and toads, but did you know that all toads belong to the order Anura, and are actually a subset of frogs?

    http://m.mentalfloss.com/article.php?id=61808

  • Viceroy butterflies, unlike their monarch counterparts, can be identified by the black lines across their hindwings. They are also smaller than monarchs. Moreover, monarchs are toxic, due to their diet of milkweed, while viceroys are nontoxic.

    http://blog.nwf.org/2015/03/quiz-will-these-monarch-look-alikes-fool-you/

  • Ravens and crows can be told apart by their size, social structure, tail patterns and calls. Ravens are larger and travel in pairs, compared to crows’ larger groups. A crow’s tail opens like a fan, whereas a raven’s opened tail is wedge-shaped. Additionally, crows caw and ravens croak.

    http://www.audubon.org/news/how-tell-raven-crow

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Animal Facts Recap: Girls Versus Boys

By Katie Gill

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Animal School Fall Roundup

Housekeeping!

Hey, everyone, and welcome back to the Animal School blog. We have been busy behind the scenes, getting ready to transfer apartments, so Animal School has taken the back burner for a few weeks. Fortunately, we’re almost moved, so our creature features are back in action, and my pun game is back on point.

First off, we had a marvelous time at the 7th Annual Harvest Moon Festival in Walworth yesterday. Swift the Fox was out, teaching skulks of kits — or groups of kids — about gekkering and other lupine and canine noises. We also crafted a display of fox faces that shows people the different species of foxes around North America, as well as an info sheet that highlights details about those species. We had so many enthusiastic art students at our coloring station! It was truly a great time, and we look forward to returning next year.

In case you missed the event and would like share our handouts with your kids or students, we have:

Fox Face_Coloring Handout

Fox Facts

Swift Gekkering

And don’t forget our Vulpinology series on YouTube! Down the line, we do want to get better recording equipment and mics, but we are working with what we have for now.

Other good news: Fun Animal Facts return today! This week’s theme will be Girls Versus Boys, in which we explore the similarities and differences among species in the Animal Kingdom. Next week will be Close, But No Babar (a pun of “close, but no cigar,” with an homage to the cartoon elephant). In there, we will look at animals that have several overlapping features but are not the same. Think cheetahs and leopards, buffaloes and bison, snakes and legless lizards, etc.

Now, on the flip side, we’re going to have to take a hiatus from Turtles Around Town. Scouting out areas and driving around for a new picture every week has taken too much time and money. We considered Photoshopping the turtles into pictures, but we wanted to keep the shots authentic. We may continue with the feature sporadically, but, for now, the upkeep is too great for us to handle.

However, that doesn’t mean we’re calling our operation quits! Quite the opposite. We have a vulture character, Stinky, in the works, and Nick recently acquired a buffalo mask, so our family of furballs is growing! A horse costume and skunk costume are also on deck. Stay connected with us to see the work we’re doing. We’re on WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

In the meantime, remember that both the Wildlife Educators Coalition and our Animal School program are available for events and programs around Western New York throughout the year. School visits, library programs, community center activities, bookstore readings, scout meetings, birthday parties, senior center enrichment activities — you name it, and we can craft a customized program for your group! WEC has the live animals for demonstrations, and Animal School has the talking animal characters (mascots and puppets). You can also have both the live animals and mascots show up to your event. We offer a sliding price scale, so no one gets denied our unique, hands-on educational experience because of his or his income or location. We are always eager to work with other groups, so join in on our animal antics, already!

For more information about booking us, contact Nick Hadad at nhadad12@yahoo.com for Animal School and Karin Fires at karinfires@gmail.com for the Wildlife Educators Coalition (our parent group with the live animals).

We’ll see you all soon!

 

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Astrological Animals: A Fun Animal Facts Recap

By Katie Gill

This week we look to the stars. Our theme is Astrological Animals, the creatures featured in the Zodiac. Fortunately for us, there are seven signs that correspond with animals.

We will be taking a week or two off from Fun Animal Facts, since we have a move coming up and things are HECTIC. I do have the next theme picked out, though: Boys Versus Girls. We’ll see you then.

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Nature’s Cleaning Crew: Fun Animal Facts

By Katie Gill

 

Today we focus on creatures who keep the world clean and healthy.

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Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, Arts, biodiversity, bird mascots, birds, birds of prey, ecology, education, educational mascots, Entertainment, environment, talking mascots, Uncategorized, vultures

Stinky the Vulture

stinky-vulture-4

Through a generous donation, we now have a vulture character to add to our cast of talking critters. Vultures are interesting animals in that they are scavengers, eating dead animals.  Biologists widely consider the vulture a member of “nature’s sanitation crew” along with many other “garbage eaters” like raccoons, skunks, opossums, termites, maggots and a wide variety of other creatures.

So why is a garbage eater a good thing? Well, in the case of the vulture, they essentially help get rid of the carcasses of dead animals.  Without them, it would take a terribly long time for a dead animal to rot away.  They would pile up and thusly spread diseases and fill the air with terrible odors.  Vultures speed up the process, eating the tissues and reducing the carcass to bones.

It was fitting, I felt, that we name our vulture character Stinky. As per his backstory, he will help run the Nature’s Sanitation Crew and spread the message about the good these birds and other animals in the ‘crew’ do for the environment.

Of course, the costume (just the mask and the feet in this case) were designed to be scary, something more for Halloween than nature programs. It was created by Zagone Studios, a very spooky and wild Halloween accessory company specializing in adult sized costumes and masks.  Their vulture, along with a wide variety of monsters, werewolves/big bad wolves, spooky styled birds and even a crazed chicken, is sure to send a chill up the spine of passersby on Halloween night.  So how does one take a scary costume and turn it friendly?

Well, it’s not going to be easy. Vultures, to start with, aren’t pretty birds.  This is especially true of turkey vultures with their big red featherless heads.  And while Zagone didn’t make the mask monstrous, the realism and large eyes are a real sight.  I worked on refurbishing an old black-furred body suit that was donated to us a year ago and made a set of black and gray tail feathers and winged gloves.  Once I had all of that completed, I had to figure out his outfit and get a preliminary photo/video. I thought at first he would look good in an old leather jacket with a red t-shit with a hawk’s face on it underneath but it made him look too much like a punk.

We picked up a plain white shirt and a tan outdoorsy vest today which we’ll try on soon. We’re hoping he’ll look a bit more approachable this way.  Of course, that still leaves his mask.  We might give him a hat or bandana to wear and repaint parts of the eyes—carefully of course so I can still see out of it while in the mask.  And, we might change the voice.  I initially pictured Stinky having a rough, gravelly voice with a hint of a Brooklyn accent but that might still come off as scary from this sort of character.  I might have to really think this over.

Any suggestions?

Stinky the Vulture will debut sometime in late October.

Stay wild!

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The Wildlife Educators Coalition at Rochester’s Fringe Fest 2016

Several months ago, we were asked to be a part of this year’s Fringe Fest. I was quite excited at the prospect of being a part of one of Rochester’s biggest art and performance festivals. We were going to hold two shows, both taking place at the MuCCC on Atlantic Ave. The first was our Animal Expo, an interactive forum, of sorts, in which our animal wranglers explain everything about the various species they were displaying.  I originally was to cover the intermission with a howling demo as our wolf, Howler while set up started for the animal improve comedy, “Cletus’s Critter Corner.”

Plans shifted slightly by the time I arrived this morning. They scrapped the intermission and put me into the Expo, right between the segment on the various birds and before Bu, the serval cat. It was also decided that the Expo would be done in sort of an interview format, with Matt, our emcee, bringing us out on stage and asking us questions and engaging the audience.

With that in mind, I wandered into the front of the house and into the lobby, mingling with guests as they waited for gates to open. Howler was a hit; the prospect of a talking wolf posing with people for photos was too good to pass up.  I did a quick stop out front of the building to wave in folks who were making their way over.  And, just before 11am, I darted back to the green room and warmed up my vocal chords as the reptiles took the stage.

The crowd was thrilled, especially when the talkative exotic birds showed off their stuff during their segment. Once they were finished squawking, Matt announced, “Right, so our next animal is one that used to roam most of the United Sates but not so much now, and he’s one of the biggest carnivores around.  So let’s bring out the wolf!”  And out I dashed, sliding a bit on the smooth stage surface.  The crowd was alive with gasps of surprise, cheers and shrieks of excitement from the kids.

Matt and I hit it off well. He rattled off questions and I gave in depth yet digestible answers, trying to keep myself peppy and making use of the stage.  It felt good to use my improv skills again, something I haven’t done on stage since college.  This was especially good because none of this was rehearsed.

Finally, matt asked the question he had been asking all of the other animal presenters. “Would you make a good pet?”

I glanced about my audience, wondering if anyone was actually going to say ‘yes.’ I responded with a solid, “No. First of all, we STINK.  Secondly, it’s illegal.  Thirdly, we make terrible guard dogs because we’re terrified of people.”

“What about getting a hybrid wolf-dog from breeders?”

“That’s not a good idea,” I replied. “You have two instincts in a hybrid’s head.  The wild side and the domestic side, and they don’t mix well.  So sometimes, that can make them terribly aggressive.”

The crowd took some time to digest that in. so Matt took the opportunity to ask, “What does the wolf say?”

I demonstrated the Lonesome Howl, one of the easiest ones for me to do. Katie managed to get this on video, so I’ll let that speak for itself.

We will be returning to the MuCCC in December for another show and next year, we will be returning to the Fringe Fest. I really cannot wait.

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Animals in Video Games: A Fun Animal Facts Recap

By Katie Gill (as are all the other Fun Animal Facts recaps)

Since I was 3 or 4, I was enamored with video games. They were the chosen group activity for me, my dad and my sister. Funny that my mom never got too into them, but I can see why, when you have a 4 year old yelling at you for not being able to play as well as her, you wouldn’t be interested in spending your valuable time undertaking that task. (And, yes, this is anecdotal evidence that I had a Type A personality early on.) I’ve often joked that the Wii motion controls came about because there were a bunch of people like my dad who would kick the air and twist their bodies while playing games because they were so immersed in them. Now that I’m pushing 30, I don’t have the time or money to commit to gaming that I used to, but I’m still a fan, especially of the Nintendo classics I grew up with like Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong.

It’s funny, a lot of people have been praising Animal School since we launched its most recent iteration in May, saying they’re glad we’re trying to get kids engaged with nature and the outdoors, keeping them from staying inside all day playing videogames. Now, I understand not wanting kids to be sickly pale from staying indoors all the time, ending up with poor social skills, limited interests or anger issues from not having a proper variety of outlets, but that composite is a stereotype of gamers; the exception, not the rule.

Sadly, there are a lot of never-really-going-to-be adults who fit that mold, but in reality, we all play games. This is probably the first or second generation, to my delight, that grew up with video games and will be teaching its kids how to play them. Family time has become digital, and that’s not a bad thing. Yes, you can spend too much time gaming (I remember, as a preteen, playing Spyro the Dragon for so long one day that stationary objects on screen started to move, and marathoning Tomba 2 with my sister for 8 or 9 hours one weekend, with Dr. Pepper being our beverage of choice), but an hour or two a day of playing video games, as long as you move around regularly and take care of everything in your life that needs to be tended to, can be a great outlet and even, as counterintuitive as it sounds, a means of socializing.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned on my blog, Scumbling Up Art, the benefits of casual gaming, including increased problem solving skills, concentration, spacial reasoning, dexterity, creativity and hand-eye coordination, but we’re not here to discuss the merits of video games, we’re here for the animals!

Therefore, without further ado, here is this week’s Fun Animal Facts recap: 

  • Crash Bandicoot actually shares little resemblance to the Eastern Barred Bandicoot of Australia that he is based on. ebbtpgif.pngImage from http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=965
  • Starfish don’t attack prey by shuridkc2spinning at them like they do in the Donkey Kong Country franchise. Rather, since their mouths are at the center of their underbellies, starfish tend to wrap themselves around prey and envelop meals.
  • Like Super Mario, flying squirrels can glide between trees using the cape-like membranes between their front and back legs. Image fromnsmbu-mario-flying-squirrel-suit281290-004-19cd3ba7https://t.co/XHzZ6RqSzO https://t.co/gE6H53NSlq
  • Several Pokemon are based on real animals. Caterpie and Poliwag, for example, are an Eastern tiger swallowtail caterpillar and translucent Costa Rican tadpole in real life.tumblr_o11c10qweg1u38l26o6_1280poliwag_complete
  • Like in Minecraft, wild horses gather in groups, usually in packs of 3 to 20.horse-breeding_thbImage from https://t.co/YxjJ22DTSo
  • The Loftwings in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword are modeled after Shoebills, which we have mentioned in FAF before. Moreover, all members of the Knights Academy, besides Zelda and Link, have names related to birds.15Karane = Crane
    Groose = Goose
    Gaepora is clearly based off of the owl in Ocarina of Time
    Owlan = Owl
    Horwell = Hornbill or Horned Owl
    Cawlin = Macaw
    Fledge = Fledgling
    Pipit = Pipit
    Stritch = Ostrich
    Henya = Hen (like a mother hen to the students)
    and Phoeni (the arm coming out of the toilet) = Phoenix, a fictional bird

Apparently, I only did six days instead of seven this time, but hopefully there’s enough meat in those facts to hold you over until next week.

Stay wild, my friends!

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Fun Animal Facts Recap: Odd Animal Out

This recap focuses on animals that don’t fit the molds of their respective families. Each marches to the beat of its own drum, and we love it for that!

  • There are more than 60 species of flightless birds still in existence, including ratites (emus, ostriches, kiwis, rheas, cassowaries) and penguins!
  • platThere are only two mammals that lay eggs, duck-billed platypuses and echidnas.echidImages from https://t.co/enKGlZ8zw3 and https://t.co/eeCDOoy0y6
  • The yeti crab, Kiwa hirsuta, is a hairy, eyeless crab that was discovered in 2005 near yeti crabEaster Island.Image from https://t.co/bZlLqgvaWc
  • Maned wolves are South America’s largest canids. They look like foxes or wolves, but maned wolfare their own species, belonging to the Chrysocyon genus!Image from https://t.co/9FuCodKdPq
  • The gerenuk, also known as the giraffe gazelle, is a long-necked antelope found in the gerenukHorn of Africa and the African Great Lakes region.Image from http://www.awf.org/wildlife-conservation/gerenuk
  • Glasswing Butterflies live in South America and have glass butterflytransparent wings that help them evade predators.Image from the California Academy of Sciences
  • The Japanese Spider Crab is the world’s largest arthropod. It can grow to over 12 feet and up to 42 pounds!spider crabImage from https://theethogram.com/…/featured-creature-japanese-spide…/

 

 

BONUS: Here are two pictures of the Wildlife Educators Coalition’s three-toed Texas box turtle. It is older than Katie.

box1box 2

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Animal Facts Recap By Theme

Welcome back to your weekly recap of fun animal facts. We have started doing weekly themes, and have covered Animals of New York, Obscure Creatures and Schools of Fish so far. This week, we are exploring Odd Animals Out, creatures that do not fit their families’ molds.

You know what’s not fun, though? Being critically endangered. When we were composing our list of obscure animals, we kept coming back to the same issue: they are not widely known because they are rare, due to loss of habitat and prevalence of hunters.

Now, don’t get me wrong, hunting, though everyone may not be a fan, proves to be a vital part of keeping species’ populations in check. Animals like deer can become invasive species if their populations get out of control. When that happens, their food sources and shelter are depleted, causing many of them, along with other animals that share their environment, to die of starvation and lack of resources. However, issues like deforestation and trophy killing are the kinds of things animal activists who know what they are doing are trying to prevent. So many species are on the edge of extinction because people are murdering them with no regard to their effect on the ecosystem. Remember, everyone, we are animals, too, and we all have much more of an impact on the world around us than we realize. We all need each other to continue surviving on this earth.

And with that chipper message, let’s get to the Fun Animal Facts:

School of Fish

  • Fish school & shoal. Shoaling is when they swim independently, but in a way that they stay connected, forming a social group. Schooling is when they swim, coordinated and in the same direction. Think of Shoaling as recess and Schooling as class time.FB_IMG_1472572407901.jpg
  • Fish use a variety of low-pitched sounds to convey messages to each other. They do not, however, have vocal chords, so they use various parts of their bodies to make noises.maxresdefault (1)
  • There are more than 165 species of freshwater fish in New York State.
  • Not every school of fish wants a photo finish! Plankton, for example, can easily be consumed by a Tripod Fish — a stationary, suspension-feeding fish that just stands in place, waiting for a meal to swim by.hqdefault (1).jpg
  • Salmon, arguably, are the fish that travel farthest in their lives — up to 3,800 km during migration!salmon
  • Some fish can swim backwards! Two examples of such talented sea life are the Triggerfish and Electric Eel.triggerfish
  • Flying fish propel themselves out of the water and into the air, where their wing-like fins enable them to glide.
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Crowdfunding On the Horizon and Again With the Brochures!

Hey, everybody and welcome back to Animal School’s blog.

Well, human schools are getting back in session, and we’re celebrating that fact with another tour of farmers markets around the Rochester, NY area. We hope to be at the Pittsford, Brighton, Churchville and Charlotte/Lakeside markets in the next week or two, so keep an eye out for our fuzzy faces.

Katie has updated our brochure (again) to include the various online and multimedia features Animal School produces. We will have printed copies Monday, but if you would like to look at them now, we do have the PDF available. Share it with anyone who might be interested! We work with all sorts of groups and schools, and people of all ages. Also, because we never want to deprive anyone of our unique educational program, we offer a sliding scale for prices, so we can work out something affordable for everyone. Remember: we are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and, obviously, WordPress.

Speaking of our online presence, we are working on a CNN parody, so keep an eye out for that. Nick was also interviewed with Elope costumes recently, the group from which we got Howler’s, Inola’s and Swift’s heads, so we hope to share that article with you when it becomes available. Additionally, Katie has been fastidiously working on a logo specifically for Animal School, so we have that to look forward to, as well. Moreover, we’re working on our own banner, as opposed to the WEC one, for markets, and are in the process of putting a horse suit together for some collaborative projects with other local farm and wildlife groups. We also just started our Animals In Art History feature, in which we explore art throughout history that portrays and incorporates animals into its themes and compositions. These are exciting times!

Now, being part of a nonprofit group, how are we paying for this? Not easily, to be frank. That’s why we’re looking to Patreon to help us fund our program. We are entertainers and artists at heart, so it makes sense to have patrons. What has been delaying us, though, is a means of rewarding potential supporters. Again, we have no money, so we really do have to be creative here. We’re thinking of having newsletters, printable coloring pages of our characters, online origami guides, thank-you mentions in our videos, and a variety of family-friendly parodies or animal topic videos for patrons to choose from. We need to make sure we have something that people want (other than our content constantly improving in a way that entertains and informs our community) and is accessible to patrons online and ONLY the patrons, at least for early access. So, we are really perusing the site before we officially start a page. We were thinking of offering people who, 1) live in Monroe County and 2) donate x amount of dollars, a visit to their group or business, but frankly, that seems too sketchy. We were also discussing possible merchandise to give away down the line, like t-shirts and toys but, again, we are a new group in a poor city, so that is something that could take many, many years to come to fruition.

IOU Donate Jar
To be fair, EVERY educator deserves one of these

 

What do you think? What would you like to get back from Animal School if you were to support us online? What kinds of topics or themes would you like us to add to our in-person performances?

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Fun Animal Facts Recap: Aug 11-17

Another week, another torrent of creature tidbits. Here you go:

Continue reading “Fun Animal Facts Recap: Aug 11-17”

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A Bird’s Eye View

We recently filmed a series of videos with Braddock bay’s Barb French with our character Kele Kestrel. Our goal was to shoot between five and six short videos, focusing on what birds of prey live in our area, why they are important, why birds migrate, how and why bands are used to research bird migration, and some simple bird facts.  We shot on location at Braddock Bay’s public Hawk Blind in the Owl Woods in North Greece, NY.  It was a hot morning but the blind was sheltered; I was grateful to not be terribly hot in the kestrel suit.

Kele Kestrel originally was built years ago by two people: my friend Dan built the body suit and Erin from Keystone Mascots built the head.  She built the beak to be wide open so I could both see and speak clearly through it.  Our friend Casey made Kele’s scarf and leg band.  At some point, we will upgrade the body suit as the arms are a bit tight.

This series is the first in which we interviewed someone but it will not be the last.  We have plans on doing many more in the future.  But for now, here are all of the Bird’s Eye View! Enjoy!

 

 

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Fun Animal Facts Recap: August 4 -10

Here are this week’s Animal Facts:

  • Nudibranchs (NEW-di-bronk) are brilliantly colored, jelly-bodied sea slugs. There are at least 3,000 species of these guys!
  • Sitatungas, or marshbucks, Sitatungasare a species of antelope from Central Africa that dwell in swamps.
  • Lobsters shed their shells in order to continue growing throughout their lives, which can be upwards of 50 years!(Info from oceana.org)
  • Raccoons, despite sometimes digging through garbage, are fairly hygienic creatures. OpossumThey wash food in streams & dig latrines in areas they frequent.
  • Opossums are the only marsupials (pouched mammals) in North America. Opossums live here, Possums are from Australia.Photo by Steve Greer, featured on http://www.boredpanda.com/cute-possums-opossums/
  • There are at least 600,000 black bears in Black bearsNorth America, with more than 300,000 in the United States.Image from http://www.hvmag.com/…/Septembe…/10-Facts-About-Black-Bears/

Those are our fun animal facts from this past week. Make sure you also check out our Bird’s Eye View series with Kele the Kestrel and BBRR’s Barb French if you haven’t had a chance to yet. We also made a special video for International Cat Day!

We’ll see you again soon. Keep your wild side thriving.

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Fun Animal Facts: July 28 – August 3 Recap

Another week, another set of odd and intriguing animal facts. Here is the collection we have for you this time:

  • Babirusas are Indonesian pigs, or “pig-deer” in Malay, with slender, deer-like legs & multi-chambered stomachs.(Info from Wired, https://t.co/WHJ6bCqN6y)
  • The noises we associate with eagles from TV and nature documentaries actually come from Red Tailed Hawks. Eagles don’t sound ferocious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Roni4GG56Ew
  • peeperSpring Peepers are tiny chorus frogs that appear at the beginning of spring & chirp in large groups at night
  • The American Alligator specigatores is more than 150 million years old, meaning it was around back when dinosaurs existed! Talk about survival of the fittest! Photo from animalspot.net
  • Coyotes have their own unique language coyotewith simple sentences consisting of yips, barks and howls. Photo from stevedalepetworld.com
  • Pallas’ Cats, or Manuls, have the longest, most dense fur of any cat. These wild felines live in Central Asia. https://t.co/2PHXtC6p3s
  • Blue birds do not actually have blue pigment. Rather, microscopic structures in their feathers reflect and refract blue light.Information from the National Audubon Society, http://www.audubon.org/

That’s all we have for animal facts at the moment. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube for more videos, photos, facts and updates!

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Vulpinology 101 Part 8 – The Channel Island Foxes In Depth

As Swift mentioned, we did have plans on doing six videos for the Channel Island Fox species but after a lot of research, we decided to just do one and focus on two very important details.

As we posted back in Part 6, these six species are the descendants of the gray fox, getting a unique chance to evolve perfectly to fit in their island habitats. Each island fox is notably smaller than nearly all of the other mainland foxes, perhaps coming closest to the swift fox by comparison, but weighing between two and six pounds.

For centuries, the various island foxes shared their home with bald eagles and the ecosystem was perfectly balanced. However, as bald eagle populations dwindled due to DDT poisoning, these birds soon vanished from the islands, eventually being replaced by golden eagles.  Being a non-native predator to these islands, the golden eagles preyed upon these small foxes, which caused their populations to crash.

The largest decline took place in the mid-1990s, causing each species to end up on the critically endangered species list. In fact, things became so bad that at one point, San Miguel Island only had fifteen individual foxes left.  Drastic measure had to be taken.

A massive recovery project was launched. Captive breeding and release initiatives for these foxes were seeing major success along with the humane removal and relocating of the invasive golden eagles (and some reintroduction of the once native bald eagles).  Today, these six fox species have made an amazing come back and are now only listed as “of mild concern” on the species list.  It’s incredible how quickly these programs worked in saving these foxes.

And it’s a good thing too, for as Swift pointed out in the video, each of these fox species are keystone species. A keystone species is an animal that is so important to its ecosystem and food web that if it were ever removed, the local environment and even the physical landscape itself can be devastated.  In this case, deer mice populations had begun to rise and plant life was being lost at an alarming rate.  If things had continued along that way, the mice would have destroyed the local vegetation, which in turn would have led to massive erosion problems and a loss of food for other local herbivores.

This type of keystone species loss has already been seen in Yellowstone with the loss of the wolves. Everything in the park was negatively impacted but it took scientists and biologists a long time to put the puzzle pieces together.  Between an explosion in elk populations (which lead to a loss in tree and other plant life) and in the coyote population (which lead to a loss in smaller animals as prey items), the park’s ecosystem was falling apart.  Even the riverbanks and mountains were suffering terrible erosion problems as a result.  And it all changed with the reintroduction of the wolves.  Everything balanced out properly: populations of the animals returned to normal, the plant life returned and even the riverbanks began to take their old shape again.

It really is amazing how these animals, especially these tiny foxes, can be so hugely important.

Stay wild!

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Fun Animal Facts: July 21-27 Recap

Boy, it’s been a busy week! It’s amazing how fast seven days can fly by.

Speaking of flight, Kele the Kestrel interviewed Barb French of Braddock Bay’s Raptor Research. Photos of our video shoot are up on Instagram, and a series of videos will be appearing on YouTube as we get them edited.

Now, for the facts:

  • Giraffes’ tongues are black to prevent giraffesunburn! Eighteen inches long, these tongues are exposed to tropical and subtropical UV rays for extended periods when giraffes eat.

    (Photo Credit: Quora.com)

  • There’s debate about zebras’ stripes serving as camouflage against colorblind lions in tall grass! https://t.co/vQ7Sge04hJcapybara
  • Capybaras‬ are the world’s largest ‪‎rodents‬. Native to South America, they’re closely relates to ‪‎guinea pigs‬ & rock cavies.

    (Photo Credit: Rainforest-alliance.org)

  • Fireflies use bioluminescence during

    fireflies

    twilight to attract mates or prey, and produce a “cold light” with no infrared or ultraviolet frequencies.

    (Photo from: http://www.audubon.org/…/may-june…/catching-fireflies-camera)turkeys

  • Wild turkeys roost in trees at night, particularly oaks and pines. For extra protection from predators, they seek out areas over water.

    Photo Credit: lakecountynature.com

  • Fun Animal Fact from Barb French at https://t.co/YiefMs6aGG today: genetically, falcons, such as kestrels, are closely related to parrots.otters
  • Like humans, female sea otters tend to live longer than males. In the wild, females live between 15 – 20 years, whereas males live 10 – 15 years. Photo by seaotters.org

 

That’s everything we have for this week. Come back next Wednesday for another recap. Until then: unleash your wild side.

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Vulpinology 101 Part 7 – Red Fox Fur Mutations

Red Fox Fur Mutations:

pinky

(Photo Credit)

As we mentioned in Episode 4, red foxes can come in a large variety of colors.  These changes in color happen when the genes responsible for fur colorations get mixed.

At times, these fur colorations can be switched up in nature, so you can spot red foxes in shades of black, silver, brown, gold and other odd colors. Of course, true red foxes will always have a white tip at the end of their tail.

So, what about that pink fox that Swift mentioned in the video? Yes, she is a red fox, too.  Technically, she is a “pink champagne” fox, and the result of humans intentionally cross breeding foxes with different colored fur until they get a desired fur color. Originally, this started over three centuries ago for the fur trade.  People desired exotic colored fur from familiar animals, and this seemed to be a simple, yet time consuming way to do this.  A general knowledge of genetics helped this industry as well.

Over the last three centuries, several dozen fur mutations were created, some of which are still around today and some that have since gone extinct (or rather, breeding that particular fur mutation has been discontinued). So the pink champagne fox, while somewhat rare, can still be found whereas the Radium Fox has been extinct since the 1940s after its inception in the mid-1930s.

In more recent years, now that the fur industry isn’t as popular as it used to be, breeders have turned to domestication. That’s right, some game farms and breeders offer foxes as pets.  I should point out that in several states, this isn’t legal and those that do allow it, you might be required to have a permit or license to own one and you could be subject to state inspections to ensure the animal is being well cared for, so make sure you read up on your state’s legal guidelines before google searching for pet foxes!  I should also point out that foxes aren’t the best pets in the world, but that’s a subject for a later post.

Anyway, for more information about fox fur phases and mutations, check out Living With Foxes’ page on the subject.  They have a ton of info and awesome photos.

Stay wild!

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Vulpinology 101 Part 6 – The Island Foxes Overview

The Channel Island Fox  (Urocyon littoralis)

island fox

(Photo credit)

There are six types of fox that make their home on six of the eight channels islands. Each species has its own island and has adapted and evolved specifically to fit in its ecosystem.  They are similar to the gray fox and it’s believed that the gray fox is this species’ ancestor.  However, these foxes are much smaller than any mainland fox.

Older sources cite that the Channel Island Fox has six species and they are:

  1. Short tailed fox
  2. Island gray fox
  3. Channel islands fox
  4. Channel island gray fox
  5. California channel island fox
  6. Insular fox

Newer sources, including one belonging to the Channel Islands National Park, refer to these foxes by which island they inhabit.  This makes it much easier to identify them.  They are also identified as ONE species, the Channel Islands fox and therefor, each of the six is a subspecies:

  1. Santa Cruz fox (Urocyon littoralis santacruzae)
  2. San Miguel fox (Urocyon littoralis littoralis)
  3. Santa Rosa fox (Urocyon littoralis santarosae)
  4. Santa Catalina fox (Urocyon littoralis catalinae)
  5. San Nicolas Fox (Urocyon littoralis dickey)
  6. San Clemente fox (Urocyon littoralis clementae)

Four of these species underwent catastrophic population declines in the 1990s, with some reaching as low as 15 individual animals (which was specifically the case for the San Miguel fox). The species as a whole was listed as critically endangered and drastic recovery programs were formulated.

Don’t worry, the news gets better for these foxes. We’ll explore this further on Vulpinology 101 Part 8.  There, we’ll cover how the population decline occurred, what was being done to save them, what you can do.

Stay wild!

 

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Fun Animal Facts: Weekly Recap

We’ve had a busy week! Video shoots, Turtles Around Town, the 2016 Rochester Pride Parade and, of course, a series of fun animal facts. Also, our fox puppet, Jingo, sang a “Tom’s Diner” parody because she is a saucy little fox.

If you are hoping to see us out and about, Howler Wolf will be with the Wildlife Educators Coalition at Cool Kids! in Brockport this Friday from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. We will also be at both the Pittsford Village Community Farmers Market and the Brighton Farmers Market this Saturday and Sunday with one of our talking animal characters. So come on by, support our local businesses, get some amazing food (seriously, I cannot praise the quality and variety of food and drinks vendors have at these markets enough) and enjoy the sun!

Without further ado, here is our assemblage of animal facts from the past week:

  • Domesticated goats can quickly revert back to their feral state out in the wild. The same goes for domesticated cats!
  • Common Garters are New York State’s mostGarter Snake common snake species. Between 16 and 30 inches long, they eat insects, slugs, worms, and even the occasional frog or mouse! (Photo from Wikipedia)
  • Fun Animal Fact: All the Kongs in “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze” are designed after real monkeys.
    DKC TF
    Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

    Donkey Kong = Mountain Gorilla
    Diddy = Spider Monkey
    Cranky & Funky = Gorilla
    Dixie = Chimpanzee
    Poison Dart Frog

  • Poison Dart Frogs’ bodies have elaborate designs & brilliant colors to ward off potential predators, a natural defense tactic called aposematic coloration. (Photo from National Geographic Kids)tegu
  • Tegus are a group of large omnivorous lizards native to Central and South America. The amount of meat tegus consume decreases as they mature. Pictured below is an Argentine Black and White Tegu, the largest of all tegus. (Photo Credit: Branson’s Wild World)Peafowl
  • Peacocks are actually male peafowl. Females are referred to as peahens, babies are peachicks, and a group of peafowl are an Ostentation or Muster. (Photo Credit: Coqui de Vicente on Pinterest)Koala
  • Koalas are anatomically designed to hang out in tree branches for extended periods. They have thick rump fur, a cartilaginous pad at their spine’s base, a curved backbone, and two fewer pairs of ribs than most mammals (11 instead of 13), which creates a curled skeletal structure that allows koalas to lounge in tree forks. (Photo and information from: http://www.animalfactguide.com/animal-facts/koala/)
  • Monarch Butterflies are the only butterflies Monarchsthat make two-way, multi-generational migrations. In the fall, our North Eastern Monarchs travel 1,000s of miles from here to Mexico! (Photo from Amusing Planet)

Those are all of our facts for this week. Remember, Animal School is also on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, so check in with us regularly to keep up with our entertaining animals, arts and insights into wildlife. We’re all over the place!

 

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Vulpinology 101 Part 5 – The Gray Fox

gray fox

The Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)

(Photo credit )

Gray foxes live mainly between the north eastern and the southern half of the United States, Mexico, Central America and the northernmost areas of South America. That said, there have been sightings as far north as Connecticut.  These foxes come in between seven and fourteen pounds, close to that of red foxes.

A unique feature of these foxes is their ability to climb trees. While red foxes have been known to hop about on low lying branches of trees, gray foxes can reach the higher limbs of the tree and even make their dens in hollow spaces, sometimes up to thirty feet off the ground.

Like many fox species, these foxes will mate between January and March, giving birth to a litter roughly 52 to 54 days later. The breeding pair are typically monogamous and both parents are heavily involved in raising their young.  As aforementioned, dens can be made in hollow trees but they can also be made in dense brush, under buildings, between rock crevices, or beneath tree stumps.

There are sixteen known subspecies of the gray fox, which can be found across the United States, Mexico, Central America and South America. Many of these have very small ranges, at times only in smaller sections of states/regions.

Again, like all fox species, the gray fox is an omnivore and eats anything from rodents, squirrels, rabbits, insects to various fruits and nuts. This fox can be preyed upon by larger animals, like bears, coyotes and wild cats.

Stay tuned for our next episode of Vulpinology 101!

Stay wild!

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Turtlemon Go!

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Animal School. We are pleased to announce our new interactive feature, Turtles Around Town. This will be an ongoing community project that gets people exploring their natural surroundings and finding areas around home they have never noticed, effectively making us all look around our familiar environments with new eyes.

Here’s how it will work: Animal School will post a photo of our two toy turtles about once a week, with them either indoors or outside, and we will give clues as to where they are located. We’ll put the photos up on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Then, it’s up to you guys to figure out where Philbert and Bentlee ended up! They will pop up all around Monroe County. Think of this as a continuous, family-friendly scavenger hunt online.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. We want you to join the reptilian rendezvous! Show us pictures of your turtles, real or decorative. You can even get the community to guess where they are with the hashtag #TurtlesAroundTown. Let’s see how far around the world we can connect our slow-moving shell buddies.

It’s time to let the animal in you run wild and have these crawlers cover as much ground as possible!

TurtlesAroundTown
Our two intrepid reptiles, Philbert (left) and Bentlee (right), named in homage of Filburt from Rocko’s Modern Life and Bentley from the Sly Cooper video game series
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Vulpinology 101 Part 4 – The Red Fox

red fox

Vulpinology 101 Part 4 – The Red Fox

(Photo credit !!!)

The Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

The Red Fox is the most common type of fox in the world and that’s a credit to its amazing ability to adapt to its environment. They can make their home just about anywhere, including in urban areas.  It is native to North America, northern Africa, part of the Middle East, most of Europe and Asia and it was introduced by European settlers to Australia.

This fox varies in size, ranging from the size of a large house cat to the size of a small dog. Red foxes can come in a variety of colors, such as silver, black, tawny, orange, platinum and a countless others.  Regardless of their fur color, red foxes will always have a white tip on their tail, called a flag.  Fur variations are often the result of genetic mutations and sometimes purposeful cross breeding, and we’ll explore this further in Vulpinology Part 7.

Red foxes are monogamous and both parents will raise their litter of kits. They teach them a variety of skills before the young are old enough to go out on their own.  Litter sizes range from two to twelve kits.  Red foxes are typically nocturnal animals, hunting from dusk to dawn but, like many other species of fox, they will become active during the day when they have a litter of kits to feed.

These foxes have a variety of vocalizations and sounds, as I’m sure many of you have guessed since the emergence of the song, “What Does the Fox Say?” These range from trill barks, screams, chirps, whines and gekkering.  They all have specific meanings, ranging from greetings, danger alarms, mating calls, to aggressive “back offs” during courting season and territory protection.

Like all foxes, the red fox is an omnivore, eating a variety of plants and animals. Mice, rabbits, voles, snakes, shrews, fish, insects, birds, squirrels, waterfowl, berries, small larvae-filled beehives, roots and nuts make up its diet.  The fox is a keen hunter, making excellent use of its senses, especially when its prey is lurking under thick snow in the winter.  Its signature hunting move is a leaping pounce, sometimes referred to as a mousing pounce, landing head first into the snow.  Recent studies suggest that, especially in the winter, the red fox taps into the Earth’s magnetic field, using it as a targeting system, by which the fox waits for the sounds of its prey to reach the same point where it feels the tilt in the axis of the magnetic field, and then leaps in a northeasterly direction.  While this is still being studied, it’s currently the strongest theory as to why foes pounce in this one particular direction with nearly a 73% success rate in catching prey versus their success rate when pouncing from any other direction (read more on this exciting theory here!)  The more studying that’s being done on this theory, the sooner we hope to have an easier way to explain how this might work.

Needless to say, red foxes are fascinating. Stay tuned for more fox facts on our next episode of Vulpinology 101.

Stay wild!

 

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Vulpinology 101 Part 3 – The Kit Fox

kit fox 1

The Kit Fox (Vulpes macrotis)

(Photo from FoxesWorlds )

The Kit Fox lives in the drier regions of the southwestern United States and Mexico. It has a slender shaped body, a larger head and larger ears.  Believe it or not, its big ears help keep this fox cool in the hot sun by allowing blood vessels to vent heat through the thin skin.  The fennec fox of Africa has this exact same attribute for the exact same reason.

With a sleek coat of tawny, brown/gray fur and a black tipped tail, this little fox feats on a wide variety of rodents, ranging from kangaroo rats, snakes, rabbits/jack rabbits, birds, mice, voles, and various insects. And, keeping true to the omnivorous nature of all foxes they will also eat a variety of fruits and plants, even going after tomatoes.

The kit fox breeding pairs will often consist of the same two foxes for many years but it’s not uncommon for them to choose a new mate before the start of a new breeding season. Their young are born in the spring and their litter size can range between four and fourteen kits!

An interesting subspecies of this fox is the San Joaquin Kit Fox, living only within the valley area of the same name. They were added to the endangered species list in 1967 and their population is still in trouble despite recovery efforts.  The two big factors are a loss of habitat and competing for said habitat and food with invasive red foxes.  Thirdly, due to the extermination of gray wolves that once lived in the area, coyote populations have exploded and sadly, this little fox is on the coyote’s menu.

Stay tuned to the blog for our next episode of Vulpinology 101!

And stay wild!

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Fun Animal Facts: Weekly Recap Two

Here are the animal facts we have collected this week. Enjoy!NECat

  • Housecats are most closely related to the African wildcat, also called the Near Eastern wildcat.
  • Quokkas are nocturnal herbivores that live in
    quokka
    Quokka, photo by Katy Clemmans, featured in People Magazine

    Australia. They are marsupial macropods (“macropod” = “big-footed”), related to wallabies & kangaroos.

  • Mallard ducks are dabbling ducks, meaning they mainly feed at water’s surface rather than by diving.DucksRobin Eggs
  • The brighter a robin’s (blue) eggs are, the healthier mama bird is & the more diligently dad will be caring for his kids.

    Gecko
    Gecko, photo from Ark In Space
  • Geckos don’t have eyelids, but a transparent membrane over their eyes they lick to keep clean!Bat
  • Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, or the bumblebee bat, may be the world’s smallest mammal at 2g in weight & slightly more than one inch in length

    TazDev
    Tasmanian Devil, photo by @phactualdotcom
  • Tasmanian Devils are voracious marsupial carnivores & will eat their prey’s hair, organs, & bones.

    seadragon
    Leafy Sea Dragon, photo from Birch Aquarium in San Diego
  • Leafy Sea Dragons are camouflaged to blend in with seaweed & kelp formations. They are also closely related to pipefish and seahorses!

Remember to follow us on Twitter and Facebook to get your daily fun animal fact!