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/

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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 Ancestors, Animal Descendants, animal facts, Animal Kingdom, animal mascots, Arts, coyotes, education, educational mascots, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, Farm Animals, Mammals, mascots, Misinformation, Misunderstood Creatures, Multimedia, nature, nature conservation, Predator, Prey, talking mascots, teaching, Uncategorized, vlogs, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education, wolf conservation, wolf reintroduction, wolves

Wolf News Episodes 3 and 4

Wolf News Episodes 3 and 4

Episode 3 talks about wolf hunting. Sweden, as of the time this video was recorded, legalized limited wolf hunting in three regions of its territory.  Although the bag limits for wolves during this hunt are very low and restricted, critics say this is a terrible breach of ethics, saying that the Swedish wolf population is too low to withstand a hunt and current populations are suffering from inbreeding as it is thanks to a lack of a stable population.

Meanwhile, Michgan, at the time we filmed this, passed a bill listing wolves as a game animal. However, a wolf hunt does not appear to be on the horizon anytime soon.  The push for this bill to pass came after concerns were raised by farmers about protection for their livestock and dogs as well as hunters worrying about a decline in other game animals.  There has been a lot of backlash over the passing of this bill as wolf populations aren’t high enough to warrant hunting.

Episode 4 focuses on the complications facing the reintroduction of red wolves in North Carolina. Despite the program starting off on a strong note with the success of cross-fostering and the cooperation of area landowners, the attitude in general has changed.  Thanks to misinformation from former program managers and regarding compensation for damages or losses to livestock due to wolves.  And again, here, it seems there is a concern about how much of an affect wolves have on game animal populations.  What complicates this further is that coyote populations are on the rise without wolves to keep things balances, which is creating similar problems.  As far as the extremely low wolf populations go, they are interbreeding with coyotes  and as a result, a hybrid species is now taking root in the area, known as coywolves.

 

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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

 

Posted in animal facts, animals, biodiversity, education, environment, Misinformation, Misunderstood Creatures, nature, teaching, Western New York Organizations, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education

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.