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, Arts, biodiversity, ecology, education, educational mascots, Entertainment, environment, foxes, Multimedia, nature, Nonprofit Groups, red fox, Small Business, storrytelling, talking mascots, Uncategorized, vulpines, Western New York Organizations, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education

Animal School Fall Roundup

Housekeeping!

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

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

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

Fox Face_Coloring Handout

Fox Facts

Swift Gekkering

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll see you all soon!

 

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, animal mascots, animals, Arts, biodiversity, birds, Carnivore, Channel Island Fox, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, environment, fox subspecies, foxes, gray fox, Mammals, nature, nature conservation, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, storrytelling, talking mascots, Uncategorized, vuplines, wildlife, wildlife education

Vulpinology 101 Part 6 – The Island Foxes Overview

The Channel Island Fox  (Urocyon littoralis)

island fox

(Photo credit)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay wild!

 

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, biodiversity, Carnivore, children's books, coyote language, coyotes, ecology, educational mascots, Mammals, nature, nature conservation, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, storrytelling, talking mascots, Uncategorized, wildlife, wildlife education

Kyp Coyote’s Animal School Debut

Here’s a little bit about our friendly coyote and our plans for his future.

Kyp’s History:

Kyp Coyote made his debut for Animal School on July 12th, 2016.  He originally debuted as a storyteller back in 2010 at the Sap, Sugar and Syrup festival at the Genesee Country Museum, performing twice a day each weekend for three weeks.  The body suit was purchased online for less than 80$ and we added some colorations to the chest around the time the head was built.  The feet, believe it or not, originally belonged to a raccoon suit and are now shared between Kyp and Swift the Fox.

It was an exciting moment in my career as a character performer. It was a real break from the norm that had been my life as a sports mascot at the time.  It was an interesting leap from being a silent character to a full on talking character.  I felt like I was gently entering into a world governed by writing, scripts and theatrics compared to the sweaty, fast paced work as a regular mascot.  Honestly, it was something I never saw myself getting into.

From those early performances at the festival, I was eager to promote the character and see what opportunities were out there. Much to my surprise, there weren’t any, until that initial meeting with Karin from the Wildlife Educators Coalition.  And as I’ve said before in previous posts, the idea of a storytelling animal character seemed pretty unique.  Kyp was from then on, a member of the coalition while still remaining a full time character for my freelance work as Mascots United.

Over the years, Kyp Coyote appeared at numerous events for WEC around upstate and western New York. He was eventually joined by our wolf, Howler and two fox characters, Swift and Slyly.  Most recently, Inola the Arctic Fox has joined the canine ranks as well.

Kyp’s Future:

We liked how our “Lupinology” program came together with Howler the Wolf and thus, a similar concept has been in the works for some time for Kyp. Like wolves, coyotes have a unique way of communicating.  In fact, they actually have a somewhat broader range of vocalizations than wolves do and can form simple sentences, made up of “songs” of yips, yowls, barks and howls.  This is something that coyote hunters have known about for decades, but, science has only recently started to study the coyote language within the last thirty-five years or so.  And biologists have only started really digging deep into it within the last ten years.  We aim to have Kyp unravel the mysteries of the coyote language just for you for a better understanding of this crafty canine.

Of course, Kyp needs some changes before the “Song Dog” program launches. First and foremost, he needs a new head.  After years of use, his current mask is coming apart despite many repairs.  Secondly, due to its construction, it is very difficult to heard through the mask, as can be seen in the video.  Not to mention, it’s hard to see out of it, too!

My voice is muffled and no amount of projection can seemingly remove that poor sound quality. I do have a plan to create a new mask with a moving jaw, similar to Howler, Swift and Inola.  However, it may take some time to complete because I need to make the proper color adjustments to the mask and I don’t have an airbrush!

So stay tuned and keep your ears pricked for more news about our beloved coyote!

Until next time, stay wild!