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

Wolf Science: Crafting Educational Programs while Sifting through Subspecies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, stay aild!

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Puppet Shows and Blue Jays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virtual Learning in a Socially Distanced World

ROC Animal School’s virtual learning initiative.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unicorns! Were They Real?

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

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

So, were unicorns ever real? Sort of.

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

Source: the Guardian

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

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

Elasmotherium

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

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

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

Summer 2019 Wrap Up

By Nick Hadad

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

New Characters:

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

Summer Camps

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

Other Events

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

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

Yoga!

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

Content

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

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

Summary and a Look Ahead

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

Until next time, stay wild!

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

Treasure All Vultures: A Trip to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

By Nick Hadad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please check them out!

http://www.hawkmountain.org/

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

2018 Wrap Up

By Nick Hadad

Hello Wild Things!

It has been a busy year here at ROC Animal School! Here’s what we’ve been up to over the last several months.

Farmers Markets:

This year, we worked closely with our friends at Impact Earth and tabled at both the Pittsford and Lakeside Farmers Markets. Each month, we would showcase a different theme regarding local wildlife, typically using a different talking mascot character to front each one.

In June, we talked about Backyard Wildlife with our mascot, Swift the Red Fox as the expert on the subject. It generated a lot of discussion about wildlife found across New York state and some of the issues they face and ways to help them.

In July, it was Ask Howler Wolf month. I suited up as our friendly wolf and would answer any questions the public had about wildlife. If anyone managed to stump me, I would then research their inquiries and answer them through a video post on our Facebook page, as part of our ongoing “Ask Howler Wolf” series. Only two people stumped the wolf!

In August, it was Curious about Coyotes month with Dakota Coyote. It proved to be a perfect time to cover that topic as our local coyote population had grown quite large with numerous sightings popping up in urban areas. There were a lot of questions from passersby and we were very happy to help folks with their concerns.

September was Lend a Wing with Skye the Bald Eagle. The focus here was to cover what species of birds of prey could be found in our area, the issues they faced and the current science behind these birds. There was a lot of buzz around this subject as numerous sightings of black vultures, a bird more commonly found in the southern United States, were being documented across the county and further east.

We rounded out our season at the market by talking about Creatures of the Night, showcasing local nocturnal animals. We debuted our owl character, Oslo, and our marble fox mascot, Thor. Both were big hits!

Programs, Expos and Festivals:

We enjoyed getting out and about this year! We made appearances at both the Mendon Ponds and Irondequoit WinterFests, the East Rochester Public Library, the Eastside Resource Center at the Penfield YMCA, the 2018 Rochester March for Science and Expo, Working Like a Dog event at the Genesee Country Village & Museum, Bird of Prey Days at Braddock Bay, the Rochester Museum and Science Center, various day cares and day schools and many other places.

A PAWSitive Impact:

In October, we started to work more with our friends at Impact Earth. We created some educational programs focused on a zero waste initiative, the impact of pollution on wildlife and society and a stronger focus on school zero waste programs. We employed the use of some of our mascots as well, bringing a “wild animal” to talk first hand about the impact of trash on their daily lives. This has been quite exciting for students and we can’t wait to do more come 2019!

Wildlife and Science:

I have been trying to keep current on scientific studies on wildlife and ecosystems. This is so our program content will remain up to date but also to spread knowledge and awareness of what’s going on in the environment. There have been some new discoveries with wolves regarding genetics, new and rediscovered species and the wolf’s impact on the spread of diseases that harm ungulate species. It has been a very fascinating year!

2019:

The new year is right around the corner! We have a lot of things to look forward to and we will keep all you posted as things develop! Of course, you can always book us for programs and events by contacting us at nickhadad12@gmail.com

Until next time, stay wild!

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

–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.

Domstic Foxes– Pet Foxes?

Pet foxes? Believe it or not, there are foxes breed for domestic pets. This practice has its roots in a scientific experiment that started in the 1960s in Russia. The goal was to see if domestication had any basis in genes and if so, they wanted to replicate the domestic of wolves into dogs using foxes

Since then, there has been some interest in adopting foxes as pets. However, whereas dogs have been around for ages and most of the wild behaviors are lost, pet foxes still retain some of their wild instincts. Therefore, they are great foxes, but terrivle pets

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. This ensures that you are capable of owning the animal and caring for it.

However, some places will only allow you to have a fox if you are an educator. There’s special licensing for this, but it means the fox isn’t so much a pet and more of an animal ambassador for teaching.

An Animal School Development!

THOR THOR

We started work on a new project here at Animal School. In early August, we began creating a marble fox program, complete with a talking marble fox mascot. The idea is that the mascot would host the program and educate folks on life as a fox with some fun interactive demonstrations and what it takes as a species to undergo domestication. And of course, we’ll talk about the difficulties of foxes as pets.

This program is set to be available for booking in September. For more information, please contact Nick Hadad at nickhadad12@gmail.com

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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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