Posted in animal mascots, Community Events, education, educational mascots, Exercise, mascots, Rochester, NY Events, Small Business, Uncategorized, Western New York Organizations, Yoga

Thaw out with Some YogAnimals

By Katie Gill, @CaffeinatedKid

howler_erin warrior shared pose

Hey, Wild Things!

Well, it’s now winter. The ground is white, the air is crisp, and we’re in the middle of a snowstorm that has everyone in Monroe County running to buy groceries at the last minute.howler_erin_shared tree pose

Despite the chilly weather, Animal School is still active around the community. Our mascots don’t hibernate. They do, however, look for ways to stay in shape and mentally engaged when it’s too cold to play outdoors.

Enter ROC YogAnimals, a family-centered yoga program we will be running with Flower City Yoga. Kids and parents — or grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. — get to practice yoga alongside one of our talking animal characters, all while learning about various wildlife topics. The class will be run by Erin Wafer of Flower City Yoga, who does other child- and family-focused classes. We are even encouraging people to dress up as their favorite animals, if they like. Our goal with this class is for everyone to have fun, relax, and re-energize.

howler_single poseFittingly, our first class is being offered on Groundhog’s Day, February 2 at 2:15 p.m. Spots are limited, so register to make sure you get in! Go to flowercityyoga.com, to complete your registration.

This class is a great way to get more balance in your life, as well as throughout your body, during these cold months. It will be a fun socialization opportunity, so I highly recommend having your little ones attend.

We hope to see you there. Until next time, keep your wild side roarin’!

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!

Posted in animal mascots, Arts, Christmas, Christmas Songs, Community Events, Entertainment, Holiday Events, mascots, Reindeer, Rochester, NY Events, Rudolph, Small Business, Uncategorized, Western New York Organizations, Winter Festivals

Rudolph Arrives in Rochester

Welcome back, Wild Things!

The holidays are now in full swing, and a special friend of ours has flown into Western New York to help our community celebrate. Listen to the jingle we made about it:

That’s right, Rudolph has arrived! He is available for all sorts of holiday-related gigs across the Greater Rochester Area. Time slots we have available are listed in the video description. Book us now to ensure Rudolph can come to your event!

For more information, or to book Rudolph, contact Nick Hadad at nickhadad12@gmail.com. We offer flexible pricing so that our reindeer pal’s presence is affordable to as many people in the region as possible. From being in parades to handing out candy canes or taking pictures with kids and families, Rudolph is game for all sorts of festive, family-friendly activities.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Posted in Adapatation, Animal Adaptations, Animal Ancestors, Animal Descendants, animal facts, Animal Kingdom, animal mascots, Arts, coyotes, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, Fun Animal Facts, Mammals, mascots, nature, nature conservation, Uncategorized, Western New York Organizations, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education, wolf conservation, wolf reintroduction, wolves

National Wolf Awareness Week

Happy National Wolf Awareness Week!

PAW

By Nick Hadad

It’s National Wolf Awareness Week! We here at Animal School have been hard at work! We’ve filmed multiple videos this week featuring our talking wolf mascot, Howler Wolf, showcasing wolf facts and profiling some of the different wolves found in North America. Each short video will lead into a blog post regarding each wolf.

These will include the gray wolf, red wolf, eastern wolf, the Mexican gray wolf, arctic wolf, island wolf, and the coywolf (aka, the eastern coyote). We’ll wrap up the series with some information about wolf conservation. So keep your eyes open, Wild Things!

We wanted to make everyone aware of wolves! With such a varied reputation, it’s sometimes hard to separate fact from fiction regarding these lupines. Wolves aren’t as big and bad as they’re often made out to be. They’re actually extremely important creatures in their ecosystems.

As many of the wolf sanctuaries, biologists and wolf fans share their knowledge as we celebrate National Wolf Awareness Week, we wanted to do our part. We hope you enjoy the videos and the posts!

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.

Follow Animal School online!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WECAnimalSchool/

Twitter: @WECAnimalSchool

Instagram: Animal School @animal_school

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

Posted in animal facts, Animal Kingdom, animal mascots, animals, Arts, biodiversity, Community Events, conservation, ecology, education, Entertainment, environment, Fun Animal Facts, nature, nature conservation, Nonprofit Groups, Small Business, storytelling, talking mascots, teaching, Uncategorized, Western New York Organizations, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education, wolf reintroduction, wolves

Attack of the 50-Foot Snail Ants!

By Katie Gill, @CaffeinatedKid

 

You never know what information a person is going to divulge when you start a conversation with him or her.

Origami Box
The shoebox of 50 origami animals we brought to the Eco-Fair. People who gave us a howl or a fun animal fact got to bring home one of these creatures.

On Sunday, June 18, we attended the Brighton Eco-Fair. Fun fact: this was the first official event Animal School participated in after we began working as a mom-and-pop operation last year. To celebrate our paper anniversary, I crafted up 50 origami animals, packed them in a shoebox and gave one to each person at the event who told us a fun animal fact. We later extended our offer to those who performed one of the wolf calls Howler was teaching.

One of my favorite things about working with Animal School has been meeting so many interesting people. You all have such an amazing breadth of knowledge, experience and creativity. The cute kids and dogs who run up to our mascots, greet them with great big smiles and start playing are high on the list, too. Having fun while learning is what Animal School is all about. We are constantly learning new things from the people we meet, and we strive to share our knowledge with you.

Origami 1
The origami animals we gave away (from left to right): a flapping butterfly, angel fish, rabbit, pelican and wolf/fox/coyote

This year’s Eco-Fair focused on the theme of conservation, so we had Howler Wolf talking about why conserving wolf populations is vital. As anyone who has seen our Lupinology presentation knows, wolves are a keystone species, crucial to an ecosystem. Pluck them out of their environment, and all other living things are drastically affected. Everyone’s favorite example of this is the gray wolf’s reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, which allowed several animal species to thrive. It also kept coyote populations in check – ’yotes tend to become invasive species that throw off the balance of an ecosystem when their numbers get too high. Even some tree species that had long been absent started to grow again once the wolves were brought back into the ecosystem.

Eco Fair Howler
Howler Wolf at the Brighton Eco-Fair, teaching folks all about wolves and why they are so important to their ecosystems

The results of this reintroduction teach us two things. One: wolves are imperative to their ecosystems. Two: we can never be entirely certain how a plant or animal affects its surroundings. Therefore, we should never assume that adding infrastructure, plants or animals to an ecosystem will be perfectly safe. Even when scientists and environmentalists perform studies to project what will happen when we build architecture in an ecosystem, there can still be unanticipated consequences. Nature exists in a delicate balance, and we must be mindful of that so that we can conserve it and flourish for generations to come.

Wolves used to live all around North America. However, when hunters started becoming overzealous, particularly as myths about wolves attacking livestock and people without provocation rose, the lupines’ numbers plummeted. Today, there are only a handful of areas in the U.S. where wolves live. Here in upstate New York, there are no known wolves roaming around, though there have been some unconfirmed sightings in the Adirondacks and extreme upstate region. The good news is that wolves are slowly being reintroduced to various states across the U.S., so there is still hope of reviving their grand ecosystems of centuries past.

Now, moving on to fun animal facts, we got a good number of responses from people at the event. Some of our favorites are:

  • Owls’ wings are structured in a way that prevents other animals from hearing the birds coming. There are a couple of mechanisms at work here. First, the broadness of owls’ wings keeps them from flapping too much, which reduces noise. Furthermore, as How Stuff Works states, “When most birds fly, turbulence – created when air gushes over the surface of their wings – causes noise. Owls’ wings, however, are unique because they reduce noise caused by turbulence. An owl’s primary feathers are serrated like a comb. This design breaks down turbulence into smaller currents called micro-turbulences.”
  • We learned from Braddock Bay Raptor Research that you can tell the age of a broad-winged hawk by its tail feathers. Juveniles’ tails have narrow bands of color, whereas adults have broad black and white bands on their tails. At about one year of age, a hawk reaches adulthood and will molt its feathers, allowing its new plumage to come in. This is similar to how humans lose their baby teeth and have adult ones grow in their places!
  • As we mentioned above, in 1995, humans reintroduced gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park, which changed the park’s entire ecosystem. Someone informed us about a documentary she saw regarding Yellowstone, which showed how even the bends and path of a river changed as a result of the wolves’ presence. Remember: wolves are important to an ecosystem because they bring vitality. Ask Howler Wolf if you would like to learn more.
  • There is widespread misconception about how two species crossbreeding is a symptom of climate change, global warming and habitat loss. However, as one woman mentioned to us, creatures have been mating with other species for centuries, so these hybrids are not necessarily a result of negative effects on our environment. I will have to do additional research before I say anything conclusively, but it is probable that the convergence of certain traits between species could produce evolutionary advantages and be examples of adaptation. On the other hand, there are animals that breed with other species due to loss of habitat and human interference. Pugs, for example, which humans have and continue to selectively breed, have severe respiratory distress throughout their lives due to the shapes of their skulls. (Yet another reason it’s always better to #AdoptDontShop, because some animal breeders inbreed cats and dogs for their purebred status, which can cause severe and lifelong health problems for the animals.) Other possible concerns for interspecies offspring are health problems, infertility and shorter lifespans. A few common examples of hybrids species are wolfdogs, coywolves, coydogs and grizzly-polar bear hybrids.

The best response of the day, however, came from a young man with a vivid imagination and knack for storytelling. He said that snails and ants are two of the strongest creatures in existence, and that a snail-ant hybrid could take over the planet by invading power plants. These snail ant assailants would be the ultimate destroyers and overtake the earth!

Immature Radioactive Samurai Slugs
This young man’s tale about snail-ant hybrids reminds me of the Tiny Toon’s Immature Radioactive Samurai Slugs, a parody of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

This kid captivated me. I just stood there, eager to hear more, engrossed in the yarn he spun. So many questions came to mind, including: where would these hybrids come from? Why is this not already an amazing splatstick B-Movie horror flick? Where did this elementary-school-aged kid come up with this dystopian future filled with Godzilla-like super bugs? (Thinking back, I don’t know if he ever said they were giant monsters, but I was definitely getting a Mothra vibe from what he described.) Which parts of the snails and ants would be the strongest? How do the two fuse into one species? Genetic engineering? Would they be able to naturally reproduce, or be infertile like mules, the horse-donkey hybrids? Would these creatures stay their original sizes, or adapt to support their larger and smaller sections? Which sections of each animal would make the evolutionary cut? Would they be giga-snail ants, or under-the-radar mini assailants? Would it be a gradual takeover or a snowballing situation? Where would the takeover start? Would the world end up like the “true” ending of Little Shop of Horrors, with these devious creatures we unknowingly nurtured taking over humanity? How intelligent would they be? Are these snails intentionally seeking out power plants, or just looking for shelter and sustenance? What draws them in? How do they get in? Does their slime make machines and electricity malfunction, or does this massive wave of them get into nuclear reactors, which turn them into Hulk-like beasts? Where do the ants fit into this equation? Do they become snail ants before or after taking over the power plants? Can this be avoided if we switch to greener energy? Do the snails feel malice towards humanity? Do they have an agenda? This scenario prompts a lot of thought-provoking questions, and I want to know more about the world this little guy created with his words. Most importantly, where did he come up with this idea?

I am going to have to do some research into snails and ants to see if they are like cockroaches and can allegedly survive a nuclear blast. I also want to see if I can find media that may have inspired this kid, because I am now invested in finding answers to this hypothetical scenario, and maybe making some concept art.

The funny thing was, after this kid told us all about the snail ant takeover, he didn’t even want an origami animal! So we ended up giving one to his brother instead.

It is amazing what you can uncover when you have an inquisitive mind, a thirst for knowledge, natural curiosity and the ability to problem solve creatively.

Speaking of …

Stay tuned, Wild Things.