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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!

Posted in animal facts, Animal Kingdom, animal mascots, animals, Arts, biodiversity, Carnivore, coyote language, coyotes, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, Mammals, Misinformation, Misunderstood Creatures, Multimedia, Multimedia, nature, nature conservation, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, talking mascots, teaching, Uncategorized, vlogs, wildlife, wildlife education, wolf conservation, wolf reintroduction, wolves

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

 

Posted in animal facts, Animal Kingdom, animal mascots, animals, Arts, bird mascots, education, educational mascots, Entertainment, environment, foxes tapping the earth's magnetic field, Multimedia, nature conservation, storrytelling, talking mascots, teaching, Uncategorized, Wild Animals, wildlife

My Life as an Animal – Reflections of a Mascot

swift-teaching

Hey, folks! It’s Nick from Animal School. I’m the guy who typically brings our talking characters to life.  I know I’ve said this before in earlier posts but I’m constantly amazed by things I learn or experience in this line of costume work.  While my work as a sports mascot over the last fifteen years certainly has its amusing stories, I’m actually finding that being a talking educational animal ambassador is a lot more interesting.

I realized early on that if I am suited up as a certain species, I need to be well versed in all aspects of that animal’s life. I’m often approached by folks who have a variety in depth questions about current topics on that species, or questions about its behavior, diet and even how certain illness can affect it.  Sometimes, someone comes up with a question and I find that I don’t have an answer.  Experts get stumped more often than one would think!  Thus, I head home after the event and I spend some time researching until I can deliver an accurate answer.

For example, I was performing as Swift the Fox at one of the farmers markets and a couple had a question on alternative treatments for foxes dealing with mange. At the time, I only knew of one type of medicine that could be administered but they had heard that at times, under certain circumstances, it may not be enough to help a sick fox and they were eager to know about new treatments,.  I just had to look into this and I’m pleased to say that after some digging, I did find out there is in fact, a different treatment… and perhaps this will be on a future blog post.

Something else I discovered came to me while I was performing as Howler Wolf at a village fair event. I realized people will freely share their opinions about certain species with me.  Specifically on that afternoon as Howler, I was giving howling demonstrations and I was approached by a local wildlife rehabilitator.  I love the work rehabilitators do and I had spent a few years growing up working for some.  Much to my surprise, he informed me that he hated wolves.

I was a bit surprised but I didn’t get offended and I didn’t bite his head off for how he felt. It did, however, make me think that the public’s perception of wolves wasn’t limited into two categories (i.e., those who like wolves and those who don’t). And, after doing some research, I found there were multiple view points and perceptions, like those who love wolves, those who know what life as a wolf is like, what living with wolves is like, those who see the wolf as a spiritual symbol, those who believe wolves are hurting game animal populations, those who see wolves as a threat to livestock, or in the extreme cases I’ve read about, those who see wolves as a symbol of government overreach…  It was fascinating to learn all of this.

I’m sure as I continue to perform as these characters, I am certain I’ll never find a dull moment. I’ll continue to learn, discover and get some insight on how people think and feel about certain animals.  This is the start of some sort of wild adventure, to say the least!

Stay wild, everyone!

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, Aquatic Life, Arts, biodiversity, birds, Carnivore, children's books, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, Herbivore, Mammals, Marsupials, Multimedia, Multimedia, nature, nature conservation, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, Reptiles, storrytelling, talking mascots, Uncategorized, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education, wolves

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.

Posted in animal facts, animals, Arts, biodiversity, ecology, education, Entertainment, environment, Multimedia, nature, nature conservation, Video Games, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education

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!