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 Adaptation, Animal Adaptations, animal facts, Animal Kingdom, animal mascots, animals, Arts, biodiversity, birds, birds of prey, Community Events, conservation, coyote language, coyotes, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, Entertainment, foxes, Fun Animal Facts, learning, Mammals, owls, Raptor Research, raptors, talking mascots, Uncategorized

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!

Posted in Adaptation, Animal Adaptations, Animal Ancestors, Animal Descendants, animal facts, Animal Kingdom, animal mascots, animals, arctic foxes, arctic wildlife, Arts, biodiversity, conservation, domestic foxes, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, fox fur mutations, fox fur phases, fox subspecies, foxes, foxes of north america, Fun Animal Facts, gray fox, kit fox, learning, Mammals, Marble Fox, mascots, nature, nature conservation, Nonprofit Groups, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, red fox, San Joaquin Kit Fox, talking mascots, teaching, Uncategorized, vulpines, Western New York Organizations, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education

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!

 

 

Posted in Adaptation, Animal Adaptations, animal facts, Animal Kingdom, animals, biodiversity, ecology, education, Entertainment, environment, foxes, foxes of north america, Fun Animal Facts, learning, Mammals, nature, Nonprofit Groups, teaching, Uncategorized, vulpines, Western New York Organizations, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education

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.

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Twitter: @WECAnimalSchool

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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