Posted in animal behavior, coyote language, coyotes, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, Farmers Markets, foxes, foxes of north america, Fun Animal Facts, vulpines, Western New York Organizations, Wild Animals, wildlife education, wolf Awareness week, wolf conservation, wolf howls, wolf reintroduction, wolf species of north America, wolves

Wolf Awareness Week 2019

By Nick Hadad

Wolf Awareness Week takes place during the third full week of October. It’s a great way for folks to become acquainted with wolves and learn about their history, the different wolf species in North America, their impact on the ecosystem and how political their presence has become.

I had hoped to get this posted during Wolf Awareness Week but I never had enough time to sit and breathe with all of the events I was working. Here’s a little bit on how we here at ROC Animal School celebrate this PAWsome week!

Our Wolf Mascot

Four years ago, we acquired our first talking mascot character. It was a gray wolf that we named Howler. Immediately, I started working on an educational wolf program I could offer to schools, libraries, festivals and other events. We called the program “Lupinology,” essentially meaning the “study of wolves.” I wanted this program to be as comprehensive as possible without becoming too slow or boring. I incorporated several interactive activities, taught all of the wolf vocalizations and their meanings and had the audience take part in a faux elk hunt where they learned how to function as a wolf pack.

Howler became our most popular character. The program was a success and we at times traveled for bours to perform for audiences.

The material was constantly being updated as new scientific studies on wolves were published. I felt that it was paramount that the information be up to date but still digestible to the casual listener. I spoke with quite a few experts to clarify on different topics.

Our First Wolf Awareness Week

The first time we celebrated Wolf Awareness Week, I didn’t have any events planned. Instead, I wrote several short scripts, threw on the wolf costume and filmed a series of videos. They focused on the various North American wolf species (one of which addressed coywolves and featured our coyote mascot) and a brief introduction to wolf conservation. These were uploaded onto the ROC Animal School and Howler Wolf Facebook pages.

Our 2019 Event

The Rochester March for Science started an initiative in 2019 called Science Saturday. These were events that would be set at various public places (libraries, farmers markets, wildlife festivals, etc…) and aimed to bring science (and its numerous fields) to folks of all ages. It would feature multiple booths from different scientific organizations with hands on activities.

They were set to host a Science Saturday on October 19th, one day prior to the kickoff of Wolf Awareness Week 2019. It took place at a library on Lyell Ave in Rochester and it attracted quite a few visitors. I suited up as our mascot and set up our wolf info boards, taught howls, explained about the wolf pack dynamis, and quizzed folks on their knowledge of local animal tracks. I took as much time as I could to answer questions about wolves and their canine cousins, coyotes. Folks came prepared with a lot of inquiries and I was very happy to help them! It was a great day!

The Rest of the Week

Once the event concluded, I decided to employ the use of our social media platforms to share knowledge straight from the sources, chiefly from wolf conservation and scientific research groups and recovery agencies. With so much misinformation going around and changes to the Endangered Species Act, I felt it was important to get as many true facts out as possible.

I had to shift my energy for costumed peeformances toward some other nature events happening so I didn’t get a chance to use Howler as much as I would have liked. I found myself performing as our red fox and raccoon more often that week and over the weekend.

Next Year

It’s my goal to redo the videos I filmed a few years ago. By this point, some of the information is outdated and the overall quality of the audio could be improved. I also hope to have our wolf mascot appear at a few more events during that week to truly spread a little wolf awareness!

Until next time, stay wild!

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

ROC Animal School Spring & Summer Outlook

Swift the Red Fox mascot

The spring and summer of 2018 will be a very productive period for us here at ROC Animal School. After a successful February, we are eager to keep the momentum going! Here’s what we’re up to!

New Programs in Development

We’ve been hard at work creating new educational content. Obviously, our goal is to spread knowledge and to be as involved in the community as possible. While some programs are ready to launch (see below), we have some others in the works that will be ready to go later this year. Currently in development are initiatives to educate people on wildlife native to our area (county and statewide), a program on being a pet parent/domestic animals, an in depth program on local nocturnal animals, as well as new bird of prey programs.

New Programs Launching

We are adding to our list of available programs! Here’s what’s ready to go!

  • Curious about “Coywolves?” – The Eastern Coyote: This program will be hosted by our talking coyote mascot, Dakota, and will focus on the amazing eastern coyote, sometimes referred to as the coywolf. This animal is has a mixture of coyote, wolf and dog DNA which makes it quite an adaptable creature with the ability to call both the countryside and urban areas home. Are you curious about coywolves?
  • Coyote Class: Coyotes are often dubbed the song dog because of their dynamic range of vocalizations. This incredible canine is one of the most adaptable animals of all time, expanding its range across much of North America and making itself right at home in cities as well as the wilderness. Do you have what it takes to live as a coyote? Our mascot, Dakota Coyote will get everyone howling along!
  • Animal Jams – Nature Rocks! Animals can make a lot of noise! Some animals are more musically inclined than others. Come learn about the songs of birds, coyotes, wolves, owls, insects and other wild animals!

And as always, we can create custom programs to fit your needs. Just let us know what you’re looking for!

Animal School: Out and About!

This year, we will be appearing regularly at the Pittsford Famers Market, showcasing new themes every month. This will give us a great chance to interact with more of you while allowing us to hopefully shed some light on what creatures might be living in your backyard and some local environmental issues you might not know about. Or, you can just pop by to learn some fun animal facts while shopping! We’ll have one of our talking mascots on hand at each appearance to give folks the chance to ask them questions about wildlife and maybe get a few selfies!

We will also be appearing at area libraries over the summer, as well as some area festivals. If you haven’t heard by now, we will be attending this year’s Rochester March for Science and Expo on April 14th. We’re really excited!

New Mascot Characters

We are slowly adding to our roster of educational talking mascots. Oslo the Owl just debuted at the annual Owl Moon event at the Genesee Country Village and Museum. We hope to have our lion and Dalmatian up and running by the fall as well. Skye the Eagle, who debuted in October, has been making several appearances alongside our friends from Braddock bay Raptor Research through the month of February.

Stay tuned for more updates as they come!

Until next time, stay wild!

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

Vulpinology Retrospective

–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 Animal Kingdom, animal mascots, animals, arctic foxes, Arts, biodiversity, coyote language, coyotes, ecology, education, educational mascots, Farmers Markets, Mammals, mascots, nature, nature conservation, Nonprofit Groups, Omnivore, Uncategorized

The Coyote Upgrade

Dakota Coyote 1

By Nick Hadad, @Hound_of_Music

Back in 2008, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I designed a coyote character to be a storyteller and educator of sorts. The body suit was a refurbished wolf I bought on eBay and a friend of mine built the head.  I named the coyote Kyp, and was really proud of what I was able to put together.

As events increased in frequency, I realized the costume just wasn’t working in the way I had hoped. The mask was very much a traditional mascot-styled head. That is to say, it was made of thick foam and it was very hard for people to hear my voice through it. And, more importantly, it was hard to breathe in.

For those reasons, I shelved the character and focused my attention on other projects. Eventually, once I had come across the mouth-mover masks from Elope Inc., I realized I had finally found a solution to the issue of not being heard at programs. Once we had our red fox, gray wolf and arctic fox, we put out a request to get a second wolf mask donated so I could, in theory, switch the colors around a bit and fashion it into a coyote.

After several months, we had the extra mask. I thought I could apply the colorations with an airbrush, but sadly, it was far too costly to purchase one and I was not able to find anyone locally who had one. So, the head sat on the costume rack for another year.

I was at a standstill on the coyote project until a friend of mine, Erin, who is a professional mascot costume designer, suggested I try just using various permanent markers to apply the colors. Honestly, I was afraid to try, as I feared the ink would smear after use. So, for another few months, it sat there.

Finally, a few weeks ago, I was shopping for supplies at an art store in town when I spotted some high quality markers that would work on fabric in the colors I needed. I decided to take a risk and buy them. I quickly returned home and experimented on scraps of faux fur. I worked until I had the results I wanted before trying it out on the mask.

After two days of work, the wolf had transformed into a coyote. It was realistic enough for my liking and once we tweaked the eye color a bit, friendly as well.

We decided to change the name of the character since the new look was a far departure from the old one. Katie and I narrowed it down to four names with the help of our friends and posted an online poll for our fans to vote on.

As luck would have it, we were able to debut the coyote character at the Pittsford Community Farmers Market. We brought a tally sheet with us and invited folks to vote in person as they shopped. At the end of the day, we counted the votes from both polls and announced the winning name the next morning.

Dakota won in a landslide!

Now I’m working hard behind the scenes to rewrite the coyote program. There’s some new information out there on coyotes, yet I’m finding there is a lot of information that seems to be missing. The song dog is quite fascinating, yet mysterious! Once I get all of the pieces together, I can promise an entertaining and engaging program.

In the meantime, Dakota Coyote has been appearing at area farmers markets as we at Animal School celebrate our first anniversary. So keep your eyes and ears open for the newest howler in town!

Until next time, stay wild!

 

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, Arts, bird mascots, education, educational mascots, Entertainment, Fun Animal Facts, mascots, talking mascots, teaching, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education

Animals I Have Become: A Fun Animal Facts Recap

By Katie Gill

Sixteen years in a mascot head will give you such a crick in the neck!

Yes, I just made an Aladdin reference, but how better to introduce a person who puts on masks for a living? Nick has dressed up in many different personalities and donned countless names during the past 16 years, all for the amusement of others.

Living with a mascot is a unique experience. Trying to address Nick as his character(s) of the day ends up with my sounding like a frazzled parent, just cycling through the pile of names until I land on the right one.

He has been a lot characters, each with a distinct personality. It’s neurotic and annoying how much thought he puts into a character’s persona, minutiae that 99 percent of people would never notice or care about. Frankly, an existential crisis seems imminent with how often he switches personalities.

Hence, making a pun with the Three Days Grace song, “Animal I Have Become,” we compiled some fun animal facts based on the creatures Nick has been over the years.

Here’s what we came up with:

  • Fox cubs’ eyes and ears open two weeks
    fox-cubs
    Fox Cubs

    after birth. At four weeks, the cubs will emerge from their dens. The pups have short noses resembling puppies’.

https://onekind.org/animal/fox-red/

  • Coyotes are omnivores, eating both meat and vegetation. They will eat anything they find. Their favorite food include: rabbits, rodents such as rats, mice, and squirrels, antelopes, lizards, birds, cactus fruits, flowers. They will even eat dead animal carcasses and garbage if they cannot find anything else.

coyote1

http://www.softschools.com/facts/animals/coyote_facts/79/

Photo: http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/coyotes.html

  • Rhinoceros horns are made from a protein called keratin, the same substance that our fingernails and hair are made of!rhino4

https://www.savetherhino.org/rhin…/for_kids/everything_rhino

  • Armadillos are the only mammals whose bodies are covered with hard shell.armadillo They vary in size, ranging from 5 – 59 inches in length and 3 – 120 pounds in weight.

http://www.softschools.com/facts/animals/armadillo_facts/49/

  • There are more than 150 dog breeds, divided into 8 classes: sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting, herding, and miscellaneous.32d8fa97973d4686a7f3309029c2fc4d.jpg

https://www.mspca.org/pet_res…/interesting-facts-about-dogs/

  • The red-winged blackbird, a North American songbird, changes its diet with the seasons.
    red_winged_blackbird_7
    Red-Winged Blackbird

    During the breeding season it eats mostly insects. As the babies fledge, the bird switches to eating more and more seeds, and can become a problem for farmers. During winter, the bird eats almost entirely seeds.

https://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/spring/RedwingFacts.html

 

 

Until next time: stay wild, friends.

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, 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!