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.

Posted in animal mascots, animals, Arts, education, educational mascots, End of Year Review, Entertainment, environment, Farmers Markets, mascots, nature, Nonprofit Groups, Small Business, talking mascots, teaching, vlogs, Western New York Organizations, wildlife, wildlife education

Animal School: Our Year In Review

By Katie Gill

Happy New Year, everyone!

With 2017 officially here, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on what Animal School has accomplished since its inception this summer and what we have to look forward to.

keleFirst off, on Sunday, January 15,we will be at the Mendon Ponds Winterfest from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Inola the arctic fox will be there representing us as well as Braddock Bay Raptor Research. If you recall, we did a video series called “Bird Eye’s View” this summer with BBRR, which you can find here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfVO60UBicM&t=2s&list=PLI0kQykroXfLe8_JT_YK8VEwcllHwZY-_&index=15. Mendon Ponds Winterfest is a family-friendly event open to the public, so we hope to see you there!

Now, regarding our past year: Animal School, in its current form, took place after Nick asked me to design a brochure to help him promote his educational wildlife mascot program. I ended up coming with him to the 2016 Brighton Eco Fest, since we had done a fair amount of sales and marketing work together already and, having been in a relationship for the better part of a decade, already had a shorthand with one another.

inolaAt Eco Fest, we caught the eye of Robert, from Impact Earth, Inc., who invited us to tour with his group at the Pittsford, Churchville, Lakeside (Charlotte) and Macedon Farmers Markets. We even crashed the Brighton Farmers Market a few times. During this period, we received useful insight from the public about roc-pridebuilding our program to include more interactive elements and appealing to people of all ages. Hence, we began our fun animal facts and grew our social media presence to include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, this blog and YouTube.

In the summer we were invited to the Rochester Pride Fest with the Wildlife Educators Coalition. Nick and I both got to be part of the gen-sum-festparade, which was the biggest, most fun parade either of us has ever experienced. Everyone was so nice and supportive of one another, I genuinely can’t think of a better festival I’ve been to in Rochester.We also went with WEC to the Geneseo Summer Festival and did an event with Cool Kids! in Brockport, NY, our old college town.

We transitioned into the fall with the Walworth walworthHarvest Moon Festival, where we had a coloring station set up for kids so they could draw while learning about the various types of foxes that exist in North America. And yes, I did draw and color those foxes on the display board. I hope to do a display of kestrels at some point in the future.

foxesThose are all the big and successful events I can think of. We tried to do a Turtles Around Town feature, which was like an interactive Where’s Waldo? and conveniently coincided with the release of Pokémon Go! Unfortunately, it did not receive enough engagement to warrant its continuation, especially considering the amount of work it took to find new locations each week and the cost of driving around to scout out locations.

Moreover, we did a series of videos entitled Vulpinology, in which our fox characters, Swift and Inola, talked about different species of foxes, as well as the latest news surrounding them. Again, costs and time spent for these videos deterred us from producing more, especially since the audio quality was not up to our standards — a result of our lack of equipment — and it was too difficult for me to film for hours with my back injury. We were going to start a Fairy Tale Fallacies feature as well, the first video of which I accidentally deleted, in which we discussed popular fairy tales and the misinformation, misconceptions and myths they spread about wildlife. However, that has also been put on the back burner. Most recently, Nick started an Ask Howler vlog, where people can ask our resident talking wolf questions about wolves and wildlife. So far, it has had a decent reception.rudolph

At the end of November, Nick received a Rudolph costume from an old friend, and we got to take the red-nosed reindeer to the East Rochester Christmas Festival, Uno Chicago Grill in Victor, Lift Bridge Book Shop in Brockport and, perhaps most importantly, the CURE Childhood Cancer Association‘s Holiday Party, where he was a surprise hit.

Furthermore, our Fun Animal Facts are now organized by a weekly theme. I would like to do a series of drawing videos based off of the parody story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears I wrote back in 6th grade, and perhaps one of the nonfiction deer story I co-wrote in 1st grade. Likewise, we are planning to get a new coyote mascot, since the one Nick has is cheap and doesn’t work or fit well. We are also crafting a vulture, horse and probably something else that escapes me.

Nick has also been interviewed by Elope, Inc., the designers of several of our mascots’ heads, and The Mascot Diaries, so those are two things we are eager to share with our audience!

Additionally, we still desire a Patreon account to get paid for our work, but need to find a way to reward the patrons for their ongoing support other than just thanking them in videos and blog posts and continuing our Fun Animal Facts. I have ideas, but they still need to be refined. For example, we want to have patrons come up with ideas for videos and Fun Animal Facts themes, but there are some unsavory characters on the Internet who we want to keep from poisoning our family-friendly program, so I need to keep our guidelines for suggestions strict and precise.

We are continually toying with Animal School’s voice, too. We want what we write and say to appeal to people of all ages, though each project we work on feels inherently geared towards a certain age group. Then again, kids are so smart with their insights and breadth of knowledge, they often make us feel like the children! So we are constantly tinkering with our writings and videos so they are accessible to everyone.

Finally, thank you to everyone who has supported us on this journey. Your help and encouragement has been instrumental to our success.

Until next time: stay wild, friends.

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

Animal School Fall Roundup

Housekeeping!

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

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

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

Fox Face_Coloring Handout

Fox Facts

Swift Gekkering

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll see you all soon!

 

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, 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!

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, biodiversity, bird mascots, birds, birds of prey, children's books, ecology, educational mascots, environment, nature, nature conservation, talking mascots, Uncategorized, wildlife, wildlife education, wolves

Fairytale Fallacies Part 1 – Little Red Riding Hood

howler is not a big bad wolf

Fairytale Fallacies is an ongoing series in which we here at Animal School will separate fact from fiction in our favorite childhood stories, especially those that feature animals as main characters in some form. Our first installment is of course, Howler’s least favorite story: Little Red Riding Hood.

A Little Background on the Story:

This story was made famous by the Grimm Brothers around the 1850s, but several versions of the story existed prior to this, including some that date back to the first century, originating from the Middle East. Later versions emerged from all across Europe and even China, with the earliest published version coming out in 1697 in France.  It was written by Charles Perrault.

Since then, the story has been retold, rewritten and changed quite a bit. The original versions of the story were very dark in tone, violent and graphic.  Over the years, that’s been changed considerably into the more kid-friendly incarnations that we’re more familiar with.

The Story Itself:

While the beginning and the end of the story seems to differ greatly depending on who is telling it, the true meat of the story remains fairly similar. Little Red takes a trip toward her Grandmother’s house and meets a stranger through the woods, who turns out to be the wolf.  She tells him about what she’s doing and unintentionally gives him information about the location of her Grandmother’s house.  So, he steers her off the main path to give himself some time and dashes over to the house, and eats up poor Granny.   Oddly enough, he’s still hungry and thus, disguises himself as Granny and waits for Little Red to arrive.  And upon her entering the house, he eats her up as well.  Usually at the last second, the woodsmen/huntsmen rushes in and saves them, pulling them out of the belly of the wolf.

The morals of the story are:

  1. Don’t wander off the path if you’re not sure where you’re going
  2. Don’t talk to strangers and certainly don’t let them into your home.
  3. Even charming strangers can be dangerous, especially to young girls

The Point of the Story:

As I pointed out in the morals of the story, this tale serves as a “stranger danger” type of story, originally intended to warn young girls of the dangers of prowling older men. The Perrault version of the story even says:

From this story one learns that children, especially young lasses, pretty, courteous and well-bred, do very wrong to listen to strangers, And it is not an unheard thing if the Wolf is thereby provided with his dinner. I say Wolf, for all wolves are not of the same sort; there is one kind with an amenable disposition – neither noisy, nor hateful, nor angry, but tame, obliging and gentle, following the young maids in the streets, even into their homes. Alas! Who does not know that these gentle wolves are of all such creatures the most dangerous!”

Essentially, this means that it’s not so much real wolves you should be afraid of, but rather, people (or men in this case) who are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

The Unintended Consequences:

Despite this being a cautionary tale, folks took it literally and their fear of wolves reached an unprecedented apex. A lot of people thought that the story was about the dangers of real wolves and that they could actually eat you.  While in reality, worldwide, wolves don’t normally attack humans.  They’re often so afraid of people that they’ll do anything they can to avoid them.  But obviously, if you ever ran into one in the wild, it is best to give them space and respect.

Sadly, this fear of wolves spread across the world and it had its most devastating affects here in North America, where the US Government for a while actually paid people to exterminate wolves for fear of loss of livestock, and loss to human life.

Truth be told, wolves do look intimidating. Their sharp teeth, large body size, their loud and haunting vocalizations and the fact they travel and live in packs that can number between three to fifteen but can reach up to near 60 members, is rather sobering.  The reality is, however, wolves rather keep to themselves than bother people.  I won’t deny, however, that livestock could make a meal for a hungry and desperate pack but that aside, you haven’t much to worry about from wolves.

Truths from Fiction:

  1. Again, wolves don’t normally like interacting with people. The wolf in this story is a metaphor or even an allegory for predatory people and predatory behavior.
  2. The Grimm Brothers’ version, along with other earlier versions, featured a lot of violent, gory and morbid scenes that at first glance, might not have much to do with the story as a whole. It’s possible these scenes were intended to serve as metaphors or symbolism for puberty, night and day, or even death and rebirth.
  3. There is a sequel to this story in which Grandmother and Little Red intentionally lure a wolf into their home and kill it in a pot of boiling water. This can be found in various collections of Grimm’s works.
  4. It’s interesting to note that the wolf character is alone in each version of the story. Wolves tend to live and hunt in packs. A wolf alone is either looking to start a pack on its own or is sick and is distancing itself from their pack. If I wanted to be more critical, the “solo-hunting” this character exhibits is more akin to a coyote or any type of large wild cat than a wolf.

In Closing:

It’s important to know that all fairytales and fables are fiction but are intended to teach a lesson. The characters, including the villains, are symbols, metaphors, or even allegories to real life situations, problems and behaviors.  The wolf, in this case, is just that and does not reflect real wolves in the wild.  So while it might be fun to dress up as the Big Bad Wolf for Halloween, you can at least have some peace of mind that no one will actually be eaten up!

Stay tuned for our next episode of Fairytale fallacies!

Stay wild, my friends!

Posted in animal mascots, animals, biodiversity, children's books, ecology, educational mascots, environment, nature, nature conservation, talking mascots, Uncategorized, wildlife, wildlife education

Animal School at Area Farmers Markets!

howler FM

A few weeks ago, the Wildlife Educators Coalition made an appearance at the annual ColorBrightonGreen Eco-Fair.  We set up a booth, Hiawatha the Umbrella Cockatoo entertained and I gave howling demonstrations as Howler the Wolf.  Despite some rainy and windy weather, we had a good time.  This event was happening in conjunction with the Brighton Farmers Market, who seemed to enjoy seeing Howler mingling and howling with market patrons.

The market is run by the good people at Impact Earth, whom invited us to attend four of the other markets they manage. We visited the Pittsford and Charlotte markets thus far, and we’ll be visiting the Churchville Market on Tuesday, June 28th from 330 to 7 and the Macedon Market on Wednesday, June 29th from 2 until 6. We will also make some appearances at all five of these markets over the summer and fall, so stay tuned for dates and times!

So come out and say hello to Howler as he gives some howling demonstrations and get the scoop about our paws-on programs as well as the Wildlife Educators Coalition/Publishing as a whole.

Stay tuned and stay wild!

Posted in animal mascots, animals, biodiversity, children's books, ecology, educational mascots, environment, nature, nature conservation, talking mascots, Uncategorized, wildlife, wildlife education

Our Characters

inola 1

As I wrote in our previous post, we came up with the idea of talking mascots several years ago, which resulted in Kyp Coyote’s debut for the Genesee Country Village and Museum’s maple festival. After meeting up with Karin Fires and getting involved with the Wildlife Educators Coalition, the concept of doing educational programs with a talking mascot began to take shape.

I developed some small programs that tied in with the publishing of our first book. Around the same time, I developed our kestrel, Kele, for use both at Braddock Bay Raptor Research and for WEC.  Not long after, a friend in California donated a red fox costume for us to use at programs.

The only problem was that people were having a hard time hearing me through the masks. Kyp had an open mouth but the thick mesh and foam muffled my voice terribly.  The fox, while an awesome looking costume, had the same issue.  This was especially a problem in front of larger crowds.  One can only shout so long before their voice starts to go out.  I scrambled for ideas on how to fix this problem but with limited funds, there wasn’t much I could do.

In late August of 2015, I came across elope Costumes and some of their merchandise at one of the local costume shops in my area. Up on the wall of the shop were both a fairly realistic wolf and a red fox mask.  Much to my surprise, the mouths moved.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  This was something I had been hoping to make a reality, but until this point, I would have had to build it from scratch.

I splurged and purchased the wolf mask first. I tried it out at home and took some video of it to show Karin.  Much to my surprise, it was easy to be heard out of it.  Karin and I returned to the shop the next day and purchased the fox.  I began working on sets of arms, legs, tails and paws to complete the costumes.

The wolf was named Howler and the fox was named Swift (we renamed the other red fox suit Slyly, and made him a nonspeaking character for other events). And since then, we’ve included, through donations, Talon the Hawk and Inola the Arctic Fox (who still needs the majority of the bodysuit finished).

We have lots of plans for more interactive characters like Howler and company. We’ve drawn up plans for creating a raven/crow, a cockatoo, a Dalmatian, a skunk, some sort of lizard/reptile, a turkey, reindeer and rabbit.  We’ve also thought about the possibility of adding a black bear, an owl, a bald eagle, a tiger and a vulture.  Obviously, we don’t have a lot of funds to use, especially since WEC is nonprofit.  We’d have to rely on donations for most of the material costs and/or costume donations as a whole to achieve our goals.  Crowdfunding may be something we’ll be looking into quite soon.  We’ll have updates on this as we go along!

Most of these will be tied in with various books via the Wildlife Educators Publishing and have multiple programs structured around them.  Every character will have a specific use and purpose, along with their own wild personality. It’s exciting and challenging.

So, friends, stay tuned and stay wild!