Posted in Alaskan wolves, animal behavior, animal facts, animal mascots, animals, arctic wildlife, arctic wolf types, arctic wolves, Arts, Canadian wolves, conservation, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, environment, extint wolves, geay wolf subspecies, Greenland wolf, learning, nature, wildlife, wildlife education, wolf Awareness week, wolf conservation, wolf genetic studies, wolf howls, wolf migration, wolf reintroduction, wolf science, wolf species of north America, wolf subspecies, wolves

Wolf Science: Crafting Educational Programs while Sifting through Subspecies

Our mascot, Howler Wolf, hosts our Lupinology program which is all about North America’s wolves.

Wolves are one of the most researched animals in the world. Scientists and researchers are discovering new things about the wolf all the time. Here at ROC Animal School, that means we are constantly updating our Lupinology program to reflect new information.

The word, “Lupinology,” isn’t a real word (not yet, anyway) but it roughly means, “the study of wolves.” Our program covers the basics of wolf behavior, ecological impact, the wolf language, wolf pack dynamics (and the current science thereof), how wolves hunt and which species and subspecies call North America home. All of this is broken down into sensible pieces, linked together with activities and games to enhance the learning experience.

In the last few weeks, we revised the program once again. While it didn’t need any major additions, we felt it needed some tweaks in pacing and some updated information about some of the subspecies.

Discussing gray wolf subspecies is difficult. It was once thought that there were 32 subspeciess living in North America alone, but then came the debate of whether some of those were not distinct enough to be considered a true subspecies and which ones were so unique that they might be a different species altogether. Some have argued that the gray wolf is the only true wolf species in North America and that there are only four or five subspecies.

Regarding subspecies research, there seems to be a stronger focus on the red wolf, eastern wolf, Mexican gray wolf, the arctic wolf and the Vancouver Island wolf. These are definitely quite distinct from each other, having unique traits and characteristics that have helped them adapt to their environment. Also, in the case of the Vancouver Island wolves, they have been fairly biologically isolated from the mainland wolves, allowing them to be wildly different. They’re one of the most interesting wolves to study.

As I rewrote our Lupinology program in preparation for an upcoming event, I had it in mind to craft a new program that focused on the arctic wolf. As I began work on the project, the issue of subspecies arose again, but this time, it was a lot harder to sift through the many types that were documented. Let me try to break apart the issues:

1. Alaska, Greenland and Canada are home to very harsh terrain and some areas are extremely remote and isolated. Wildlife that live there have to adapt to these extreme environments. The question is whether wolves living in one region are genetically different from those living in another.

2. Some of these wolves were first discovered in the late 1880s and not sought after until almost a century later. In some instances, researchers were unable to find them again, and/or wolves living in these regions currently were different from those first observed or from specimens collected at the time.

3. Some subspecies became extinct. Any information about them were gathered from historical accounts and remains stored in museums or cultural sites.

4. There is a large difference in the historical ranges and present day ranges of many of these wolves. Human expansion fueled a lot of this and as a result, scientists have had to look at historical accounts and gene studies to determine which subspecies they were looking at and where they may have lived prior to 1900.

5. Some of these subspecies, especially in the case of arctic types, migrate. They tend to follow herds of caribou and muskoxen seasonally as said herds moved to follow food soirces. A lot of their movements haven’t been studied. This can also make mapping ranges difficult.

6. Many wolves go by multiple names. This can be difficult for researchers especially when one name might be shared by more than one subspecies (for example, the name, “island wolf,” seems to be shared by the Vancouver Island wolf and the Alexander’s Archipelago wolf). Furthermore, some subspecies are broken down into smaller classification groups, called types. Correct identification between one type and another can be tricky.

7. Some arctic types live in extremely remote areas. Studying them and trying to obtain accurate population counts, migration habits and diet can be nearly impossible. This is further made difficult by the fact that the arctic experiences perpetual darkness during the winter.

Thus, due to the aforementioned reasons, researching Aslaskan, Greenlandic and northern Canadian wolves has proven to be a challenge. Arctic wolves, from the bits of info I could piece together, can be broken down into seven types (two of these are most likely extinct with an 8th type awaiting genetic testing to prove it’s identity).

As I continue to gather facts, I will have to go over data with a fine toothed comb to ensure I have everything as accurate as possible. I hope to have the program ready to launch by mid autumn along with the finished arctic wolf mascot who will host it.

Until next time, stay aild!

Posted in acting, animal behavior, animal facts, animal games, animal mascots, animals, Arts, biodiversity, bird mascots, birds, Carnivore, children's books, Community Events, coyote language, coyotes, ecology, education, educational mascots, Entertainment, environment, Farmers Markets, foxes, learning, Marsupials, mascots, Multimedia, nature, nature conservation, playwriting, Predator, Prey, puppet shows, puppets, red fox, Rochester, NY Events, songbirds, storytelling, talking mascots, Uncategorized, Western New York Organizations, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education

Puppet Shows and Blue Jays

Some of the puppets we used for the show, “The Local Wildlife”

After a few months off thanks to COVID, among other things, we resumed planning for the Pittsford Village Community Farmers Market. We revisited the idea of putting on a weekly educational puppet show that would feature some of the puppets we were selling at our booth. The effort would be another collaboration between us and Impact Earth.

We planned on running six episodes at the market. Each would feature its own theme, moral and contain educational bits, like ecology, animal behavior,  science and so on. I drew up outlines for four episodes and began writing full episodes soon after.

In my college days, I took courses on script/playwriting, stage design and puppet theater. It had been years since I had written a script that would actually be performed by a cast as opposed to just being purely for a class. It was exciting! I wanted to pack enough educational content into these as I could while balancing humor, fourth wall breaks and crowd interaction.  Each show would last between eight and twenty minutes.

The title of the show took some time to hammer down. I settled on, “the Local Wildlife,” as it took place locally and featured animals that lived in our area.

The role of the narrator was the hardest to craft. My initial thought was to have our red fox mascot, Swift, take on that role. But, I scrapped that idea literally minutes before our first show opened, opting for a raven puppet instead.  I didn’t feel like Swift was the best fit and by the end of the first show, my voice was a mess from performing as the raven.  I needed an entirely new character made just for this role.

Coincidentally, I had been developing a blue jay character around this time. When I purchased it, it was a simple boodie with a few bird features on the hood, most likely intended for cosplay. This was the perfect base to build on. I redid its tail feathers and reworked the face, adding felt feathers one at a time.

A work in progress– adding individual felt feathers to the hood/head piece of the blue jay.

The blue jay was intended to be the star of a songbird program I had been working on, but, I felt that this character might work as the narrator for the show. The bird became known as Azure, named thusly for his blue coloration.  He would hold the script and make sure all went well during the show. And through scripted fourth wall breaks, Azure would often have dialogue between the other puppet characters.

I found this format worked wonderfully for the show as a whole. Mixing mascots into the puppet cast gave the show a dynamic in which I could interact with both cast and audience freely.

Azure the Blue Jay taking on the role of the narrator.

The actors for the show were my friends from Impact Earth. Each brought their unique flare to their characters and helped build sets and props. The four actors and actresses, Paige, Elias, Becket and Colin, were absolutely amazing!

For the puppet characters, I wanted something different from what I remember seeing on TV growing up. I decided I wanted a predatory animal and a prey animal as main characters. Also, I wanted them to form a strong friendship. I picked a coyote (Caroline) and a deer (Dawson). Both would be young and still learning about the world around them, which would allow them to understand their differences but also appreciate them and grow together.

I picked an opossum to act as sort of the wise sage of the woods. He would pop in and offer advice to the characters near the third act. I personally felt this was an amusing choice as sage characters are usually depicted as being old, whereas opossums have a life expectancy of only two years in the wild. The opossum would eventually take the role as narrator in the final two episodes of the season.

The season finale took place this past weekend. We decided to have an episode follow the coyote character, Caroline and feature her older brother, Dakota, for which we used our coyote mascot. The episode circled around the premise of Caroline celebrating her birthday and Dakota showing her what it takes to survive as an adult coyote. In the end, Dakota needs rescuing after stumbling into a trap and Caroline soars into action, showing her older brother that she has already grown up quite a bit and can handle any situation.

The next phase of the show is still in the works. We hope to have episodes available on YouTube via Impact Earth within the next few months. Season two is guaranteed to follow.

This has been an amazing project. I am very happy with how everything came together, how gifted our cast was and how successful this was with our audience. I am very much looking forward to continuing with this!

Posted in animal mascots, animals, Arts, bird mascots, conservation, ecology, education, educational mascots, Entertainment, Exercise, learning, livestreams, Mammals, Multimedia, nature, nature conservation, Nonprofit Groups, Raptor Research, Rochester, NY Events, talking mascots, teaching, virtual learning, wildlife, wildlife education

Virtual Learning in a Socially Distanced World

ROC Animal School’s virtual learning initiative.

Obviously, we took the spread of Covid-19 very seriously. As schools, businesses and events closed or cancelled, we knew this would be a new and stressful experience for everyone all over the country. We anticipated that the programs we had scheduled would be postponed or cancelled, and to top it off, my two day jobs shut down.

In an effort to make use of being stuck at home and to continue our efforts to educate, we took to launching livestreams on our Facebook page. It was my hope that these would entertain folks at home with their kids and ultimately make the situation a little more bearable.

I put together a simple set made up of various display boards and set up my camera on a chair. My goal at the beginning was to do at least four videos a week but as my fiance was diagnosed with cancer and started undergoing treatment, the videos became less frequent.

The format did prove to be successful, however. The streams were reaching a lot more people than I had imagined. Our local audience was growing larger.

Many other organizations had also turned to livestreams to reach out to their audiences. I tuned in to dozens of these, including some from wolf sanctuaries, bird of prey research groups and some stream focusing on science and literature.

ROC Animal School will be returning to the Pittsford Village Community Farmers Market on July 11th. The market will be held once again behind the Community Center. We will be practicing social distancing, but, we will be running activities and selling wildlife oriented products alongside our partners, Impact Earth. We do plan on continuing our virtual learning programs, so please stay tuned to our Facebook page for more information.

Posted in Animal Ancestors, Animal Descendants, animal games, Animal Kingdom, animal mascots, animals, Arts, biodiversity, children's books, Community Events, ecology, education, educational mascots, Herbivore, learning, Mammals, mascots, mythical creatures, National Unicorn Day, nature, Rochester, NY Events, storytelling, summer camps, talking mascots, unicorns, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education

Unicorns! Were They Real?

Dazzle the Unicorn from a ROC Animal School livestream: April, 2020

National Unicorn Day was on April 9th, 2020 (although some sources say it also falls on July 16th). Here at ROC Animal School, we did a livestream all about it on our Facebook page. This blog post is long overdue.

So, were unicorns ever real? Sort of.

Many mythical creatures have some basis in fact. Oftentimes, it can be because of an otherwise normal animal having a genetic abnormality or defect. For example, let’s look at the “uni-deer,” or sometimes called the unicorn deer. This is a white tailed deer that has its antlers grow twisted around each other into a single horn. This can be caused from an injury in the area where the antlers grow.

Source: the Guardian

Unicorns appear in myths and legends in numerous cultures from around the world. Interestingly enough, they weren’t always depicted as magical or friendly creatures. In some stories, they were huge, ferocious and scary. Only the bravest of warriors could kill them.

What might have been the inspiration for a scary unicorn? Well, in ancient Siberia, there was a creature that had one horn. Now extinct, this was known as the Elasmotherium. It is a distant cousin to the present day rhino.

Elasmotherium

And while that creature doesn’t look too much like the unicorns we see in cartoons, movies or as toys today, we can kind of see where the idea came from.

So, regarding National Unicorn Day… how does one celebrate it? There are several ways you, your friends and family can get in on the fun. You can bake unicorn themed cakes or cookies. Watch a favorite or new unicorn film or show. Play some unicorn games. Make some artwork or write a unicorn story. Do you have any favorite unicorn books? Give yourself a unicorn themed name. The possibilities are endless! But of course, have mythical amounts of fun!

Posted in Adaptation, Animal Adaptations, animal behavior, animal facts, animal games, Animal Kingdom, animal mascots, animals, biodiversity, children's books, Community Events, conservation, ecology, education, educational mascots, Entertainment, environment, Mammals, mascots, National Skunk Day, nature, nature camp, nature conservation, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, skunks, summer camps, talking mascots, teaching

Skunks! ROC Animal School’s New Skunk Program!

Stripes the Skunk teaches a family about life as a skunk.

On June 15th, 2019, we debuted our skunk character, Stripes, at the Pittsford Village Community Farmers Market. We celebrated National Skunk Day by hosting a variety of skunk themed activities aimed at educating patrons about this mysterious but smelly creature. Our friends from the Rochester March for Science were on hand as well with scent sensory activities. The day was a roaring success!

After the day was done, I shelved the skunk costume, planning on making some modifications to the suit and refining a draft of the skunk program as a whole. But, the summer season had other plans. I found myself busier than ever with summer camp programs and writing educational animal themed children’s books.

As February of 2020 rolled in, I began work on the skunk suit. I was able to finish the majority of the modifications in a few weeks and shortly thereafter, I focused on revising the program material. I was able to test run everything at the Genesee Country Village and Museum on Sunday, Marth 8th as part of their Nature Sundays series.

The skunk display as set up by our friends at the Genesee Country Village and Museum.

Skunks are actually quite fascinating creatures. Once you realize that spraying is usually a last resort in self defense against would-be predators, they become a lot less maligned. Skunks help keep pesky grubs and wasps at bay. Sure, you may have a few holes here and there in your yard from their quest for food, but, they are efficient and highly effective.

I think what surprised me the most was their poor eyesight. Skunks really can only see things extremely close by. If it’s any further than ten feet away, chances are they won’t see it very well at all. To demonstrate this, I built a set of “skunk vision goggles,” complete with a little skunk nose. Folks can try these on and experience how skunks really can’t see. It changes their perspective on them!

This program is listed on our official roster. It is best suited for smaller audiences as this mask isn’t perfect for dicrion and projecting my voice. The age group is generally for families with kids aged 5 to 10.

Posted in animal behavior, coyote language, coyotes, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, Farmers Markets, foxes, foxes of north america, Fun Animal Facts, vulpines, Western New York Organizations, Wild Animals, wildlife education, wolf Awareness week, wolf conservation, wolf howls, wolf reintroduction, wolf species of north America, wolves

Wolf Awareness Week 2019

By Nick Hadad

Wolf Awareness Week takes place during the third full week of October. It’s a great way for folks to become acquainted with wolves and learn about their history, the different wolf species in North America, their impact on the ecosystem and how political their presence has become.

I had hoped to get this posted during Wolf Awareness Week but I never had enough time to sit and breathe with all of the events I was working. Here’s a little bit on how we here at ROC Animal School celebrate this PAWsome week!

Our Wolf Mascot

Four years ago, we acquired our first talking mascot character. It was a gray wolf that we named Howler. Immediately, I started working on an educational wolf program I could offer to schools, libraries, festivals and other events. We called the program “Lupinology,” essentially meaning the “study of wolves.” I wanted this program to be as comprehensive as possible without becoming too slow or boring. I incorporated several interactive activities, taught all of the wolf vocalizations and their meanings and had the audience take part in a faux elk hunt where they learned how to function as a wolf pack.

Howler became our most popular character. The program was a success and we at times traveled for bours to perform for audiences.

The material was constantly being updated as new scientific studies on wolves were published. I felt that it was paramount that the information be up to date but still digestible to the casual listener. I spoke with quite a few experts to clarify on different topics.

Our First Wolf Awareness Week

The first time we celebrated Wolf Awareness Week, I didn’t have any events planned. Instead, I wrote several short scripts, threw on the wolf costume and filmed a series of videos. They focused on the various North American wolf species (one of which addressed coywolves and featured our coyote mascot) and a brief introduction to wolf conservation. These were uploaded onto the ROC Animal School and Howler Wolf Facebook pages.

Our 2019 Event

The Rochester March for Science started an initiative in 2019 called Science Saturday. These were events that would be set at various public places (libraries, farmers markets, wildlife festivals, etc…) and aimed to bring science (and its numerous fields) to folks of all ages. It would feature multiple booths from different scientific organizations with hands on activities.

They were set to host a Science Saturday on October 19th, one day prior to the kickoff of Wolf Awareness Week 2019. It took place at a library on Lyell Ave in Rochester and it attracted quite a few visitors. I suited up as our mascot and set up our wolf info boards, taught howls, explained about the wolf pack dynamis, and quizzed folks on their knowledge of local animal tracks. I took as much time as I could to answer questions about wolves and their canine cousins, coyotes. Folks came prepared with a lot of inquiries and I was very happy to help them! It was a great day!

The Rest of the Week

Once the event concluded, I decided to employ the use of our social media platforms to share knowledge straight from the sources, chiefly from wolf conservation and scientific research groups and recovery agencies. With so much misinformation going around and changes to the Endangered Species Act, I felt it was important to get as many true facts out as possible.

I had to shift my energy for costumed peeformances toward some other nature events happening so I didn’t get a chance to use Howler as much as I would have liked. I found myself performing as our red fox and raccoon more often that week and over the weekend.

Next Year

It’s my goal to redo the videos I filmed a few years ago. By this point, some of the information is outdated and the overall quality of the audio could be improved. I also hope to have our wolf mascot appear at a few more events during that week to truly spread a little wolf awareness!

Until next time, stay wild!

Posted in Amphibians, animal facts, animal games, animal mascots, animals, Aquatic Life, arctic foxes, Arts, biodiversity, bird mascots, birds, birds of prey, Carnivore, Community Events, conservation, coyotes, ecology, educational mascots, End of Year Review, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, Exercise, Farmers Markets, foxes, foxes of north america, Fun Animal Facts, Holiday Events, kestrels, learning, Mammals, mascots, Misunderstood Creatures, nature camp, nature conservation, Omnivore, Raptor Research, raptors, Rochester, NY Events, Small Business, storytelling, summer camps, talking mascots, teaching, Western New York Organizations, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education, wolf conservation, wolves, Yoga

Summer 2019 Wrap Up

By Nick Hadad

It’s been an amazing summer here at ROC Animal School! Here’s a brief breakdown of all the fun we’ve had!

New Characters:

We appeared almost every Saturday from mid June until the end of September at the Pittsford Village Community Farmers Market at their new location behind the Community Center. We covered a new theme each weekend, which required a few new mascots. We debuted a frog, a woodpecker, a skunk (for National Skunk Day), and a raccoon!

Summer Camps

We visited numerous summer camps over the season, including several visits to Nature Camp at the Genesee Country Village and Museum. We were able to bring out multiple characters and perform various programs each day at the camps, delighting and educating campers of all ages.

Other Events

We were able to take part in a plethora of other special events between late spring and early fall. As always, we loved being able to perform at Bird of Prey Days for Braddock Bay Raptor Research. This year’s event was red tail hawk themed which gave us a chance to use our red tail hawk character, Talon, for the first time in years. We created the program, “A Red Tail Hawk Survival Guide” and got folks up and soaring with us on stage, locking talons in a mock-courtship demonstration and hunting toy snakes by using their wings and feet.

We also entertained at A Frog’s House in Pittsford, the Wildlife Expo at the Dome, various 4H events, the Rochester Museum and Science Center, Science Saturdays with the Rochester March for Science, several events in the community with Braddock Bay Raptor Research, the Genesee County Village and Museum (Owl Moon and Trick or Treating in the Village) and even some craft shows!

Yoga!

While at the farmers market, we teamed up with our friend Erin from Flower City Yoga. We would typically do one family friendly yoga session at noon in the grassy field but there were some Saturdays where we did up to seven! Where else could folks do pigeon pose with an owl, tree pose with a raccoon or unicorn pose with a unicorn? We certainly hope to continue this next year!

Content

With so many events, we had a need to expand upon our program roster and our educational content. This involved a lot of animal behaviour observations, gathering updates on different animal population statistics and learning new vocalizations for various species.

The hard work paid off. Folks enjoyed learning how to dance like a skunk, chitter like raccoons, bark like gray foxes, and play new animal themed games.

Summary and a Look Ahead

As we enter November, it’s fun to look back on such a busy and fun summer. It certainly makes us excited about the possibilities for next year! We do have plans to hopefully create a few new characters, if funds allow, and focus on some species that tend to slip under the radar of the public even if these animals are common in their areas. We will also continue to improve and expand on our programs. Once everything is complete to our satisfaction, we will post an updated list of those.

Until next time, stay wild!

Posted in animal mascots, biodiversity, Community Events, conservation, ecology, education, educational mascots, Entertainment, environment, Farmers Markets, mascots, nature, Small Business, Uncategorized, Western New York Organizations, wildlife education

To Market We Go!

By Katie Gill

Hey, Wild Things. We are excited to say that we are less than one month away from returning to the Pittsford Village Community Farmers Market. ROC Animal School is partnering with our friends at Impact Earth to bring you a whole cast of characters throughout the summer, human and mascot alike. We’ll be exploring various topics with several local groups in the area, so each week will be a unique experience.

AS Plus IE FINAL

Moreover, we will be debuting a new mascot at the first market, Stripes the Skunk, for National Skunk Day. There’s going to be food, music, and family fun at the market. Several vendors are returning with their products and produce. If you want to see what events will be happening each week, visit https://www.pittsfordvillagefarmersmarket.org/events-calendar.

Rochester has a ton of great markets around the area worth exploring, and I suggest going to as many as possible to support our small businesses and see just how varied all the items available to purchase are. Some of my favorite buys have included maple cream (oh my god, it’s the best) and other maple products, honey, pastries, pickles, pasta, catnip and coffee. Of course, there is a ton of fresh, delicious produce to peruse as well.

Opening day of the Pittsford Village Farmers Market is Saturday, June 15, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Spiegel Community Center. The market runs until September 28, 2019.

Until next time, keep your wild side roarin’.

Posted in Animal Adaptations, animal facts, Animal Kingdom, animal mascots, animals, biodiversity, bird mascots, birds, birds of prey, conservation, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, Farm Animals, learning, mascots, Misunderstood Creatures, nature, nature conservation, Nonprofit Groups, Prey, Raptor Research, raptors, talking mascots, teaching, vultures, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education

Treasure All Vultures: A Trip to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

By Nick Hadad

Near the end of September, 2018, we received an email from the folks at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, PA. They had seen some pictures of the kestrel costume that we had been using at ROC Animal School and Braddock Bay Raptor Research and had some questions about the best way to create a vulture coatume for an upcoming program.

I decided I would build their vulture, and thus, in November, construction began. But, trying to build a full costume in a few weeks from scratch while juggling holiday hours at my day job proved to be a difficult task; I profoundly misjudged my timing. Katie managed to build the entire bodysuit while I focused on constructing the mask. This was my first time putting together a head and it ended up taking all of my time.

We finished it around Thanksgiving. I then packed up the suit and began my long drive to the Mountain to deliver it. Under normal weather conditions, the drive would merely take 4.5 hours. However, it rained heavily for most of the drive with thick patches of fog. On the mountaintops, the rain was freezing into ice, making for a tricky drive.

Luckily, by sundown, the temperature climbed high enough to convert any ice to rain. Of course, it was still heavy and foggy, which made for a very slow go along the narrow and winding mountain roads.

After seven hours of driving, I arrived at the Mountain. It was pitch black in the rain and fog. The only light I could see was coming my car, which didn’t travel far. And yet, being alone in the darkness on the side of the mountain was oddly humbling. I had grown up in areas like this where it was just you and not much else for miles (the woods of North Carolina and the prairie of southern Minnesota) but this felt different… somewhat peaceful. It may sound funny, but it was as if I realized how small I was compared to the world around me and I found a deep comfort in that.

The good folks at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary had arranged lodging for me and I slept well. The next morning, they were able to try out the costume and get ready for their program, “Treasure All Vultures.”

Barnaby the Turkey Vulture debuted in front of a crowd of children and their families. He gave them a telescope and a map with instructions on where to locate some of his vulture friends around the Mountain.

At each location, folks would find a display, symbolizing a different location on the globe, with a species of vulture from that region. An activity would start that would demonstrate a hardship faced by that particular bird that’s dramatically affecting their numbers. We made stops in Egypt, India, Portugal and other spots.

These issues ranged from chronic habitat loss (Egypt), poisoned food supply (antibiotics in cattle that had died in India), and a nearly complete disappearance of food sources in Portugal and other areas of Europe. I was mentally taking notes most of the time.

Once the activities were completed, patrons returned to the auditorium to get some prizes from Barnaby and a summary of why vultures are essential to their ecosystems.

I sadly had to head home right after the program, facing a 4am opening shift the next day at my regular job. But, I felt reenergized. Getting a chance to visit a group of educators and scientists and seeing how they reach out, educate, and empower audiences made me very eager to try out new ideas with the groups we work with.

I hope to return to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary before too long. It was a beautiful place under clear skies and sunshine and I have trail passes I am eager to use. Maybe I can bring down some of our Animal School characters and team up with them for a program. A working vacation, perhaps?

Please check them out!

http://www.hawkmountain.org/

Posted in Adapatation, Animal Adaptations, Animal Ancestors, Animal Descendants, animal facts, Animal Kingdom, animal mascots, animals, Arts, biodiversity, bird mascots, birds, birds of prey, Carnivore, Community Events, conservation, coyote language, coyotes, domestic foxes, ecology, education, educational mascots, End of Year Review, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, Farmers Markets, fox subspecies, foxes, foxes of north america, Fun Animal Facts, gray fox, Herbivore, kestrels, kit fox, Mammals, Marble Fox, mascots, Misunderstood Creatures, Multimedia, Multimedia, nature, nature conservation, Nonprofit Groups, Omnivore, owls, Predator, Prey, Raptor Research, raptors, red fox, Reptiles, Rochester, NY Events, storytelling, talking mascots, teaching, vlogs, Western New York Organizations, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education, Winter Festivals, wolf conservation, wolf reintroduction, wolves, Year-End Review

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!