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 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 Kingdom, animal mascots, animals, Arts, bird mascots, education, educational mascots, Entertainment, environment, foxes tapping the earth's magnetic field, Multimedia, nature conservation, storrytelling, talking mascots, teaching, Uncategorized, Wild Animals, wildlife

My Life as an Animal – Reflections of a Mascot

swift-teaching

Hey, folks! It’s Nick from Animal School. I’m the guy who typically brings our talking characters to life.  I know I’ve said this before in earlier posts but I’m constantly amazed by things I learn or experience in this line of costume work.  While my work as a sports mascot over the last fifteen years certainly has its amusing stories, I’m actually finding that being a talking educational animal ambassador is a lot more interesting.

I realized early on that if I am suited up as a certain species, I need to be well versed in all aspects of that animal’s life. I’m often approached by folks who have a variety in depth questions about current topics on that species, or questions about its behavior, diet and even how certain illness can affect it.  Sometimes, someone comes up with a question and I find that I don’t have an answer.  Experts get stumped more often than one would think!  Thus, I head home after the event and I spend some time researching until I can deliver an accurate answer.

For example, I was performing as Swift the Fox at one of the farmers markets and a couple had a question on alternative treatments for foxes dealing with mange. At the time, I only knew of one type of medicine that could be administered but they had heard that at times, under certain circumstances, it may not be enough to help a sick fox and they were eager to know about new treatments,.  I just had to look into this and I’m pleased to say that after some digging, I did find out there is in fact, a different treatment… and perhaps this will be on a future blog post.

Something else I discovered came to me while I was performing as Howler Wolf at a village fair event. I realized people will freely share their opinions about certain species with me.  Specifically on that afternoon as Howler, I was giving howling demonstrations and I was approached by a local wildlife rehabilitator.  I love the work rehabilitators do and I had spent a few years growing up working for some.  Much to my surprise, he informed me that he hated wolves.

I was a bit surprised but I didn’t get offended and I didn’t bite his head off for how he felt. It did, however, make me think that the public’s perception of wolves wasn’t limited into two categories (i.e., those who like wolves and those who don’t). And, after doing some research, I found there were multiple view points and perceptions, like those who love wolves, those who know what life as a wolf is like, what living with wolves is like, those who see the wolf as a spiritual symbol, those who believe wolves are hurting game animal populations, those who see wolves as a threat to livestock, or in the extreme cases I’ve read about, those who see wolves as a symbol of government overreach…  It was fascinating to learn all of this.

I’m sure as I continue to perform as these characters, I am certain I’ll never find a dull moment. I’ll continue to learn, discover and get some insight on how people think and feel about certain animals.  This is the start of some sort of wild adventure, to say the least!

Stay wild, everyone!

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, Arts, biodiversity, bird mascots, birds, birds of prey, ecology, education, educational mascots, Entertainment, environment, talking mascots, Uncategorized, vultures

Stinky the Vulture

stinky-vulture-4

Through a generous donation, we now have a vulture character to add to our cast of talking critters. Vultures are interesting animals in that they are scavengers, eating dead animals.  Biologists widely consider the vulture a member of “nature’s sanitation crew” along with many other “garbage eaters” like raccoons, skunks, opossums, termites, maggots and a wide variety of other creatures.

So why is a garbage eater a good thing? Well, in the case of the vulture, they essentially help get rid of the carcasses of dead animals.  Without them, it would take a terribly long time for a dead animal to rot away.  They would pile up and thusly spread diseases and fill the air with terrible odors.  Vultures speed up the process, eating the tissues and reducing the carcass to bones.

It was fitting, I felt, that we name our vulture character Stinky. As per his backstory, he will help run the Nature’s Sanitation Crew and spread the message about the good these birds and other animals in the ‘crew’ do for the environment.

Of course, the costume (just the mask and the feet in this case) were designed to be scary, something more for Halloween than nature programs. It was created by Zagone Studios, a very spooky and wild Halloween accessory company specializing in adult sized costumes and masks.  Their vulture, along with a wide variety of monsters, werewolves/big bad wolves, spooky styled birds and even a crazed chicken, is sure to send a chill up the spine of passersby on Halloween night.  So how does one take a scary costume and turn it friendly?

Well, it’s not going to be easy. Vultures, to start with, aren’t pretty birds.  This is especially true of turkey vultures with their big red featherless heads.  And while Zagone didn’t make the mask monstrous, the realism and large eyes are a real sight.  I worked on refurbishing an old black-furred body suit that was donated to us a year ago and made a set of black and gray tail feathers and winged gloves.  Once I had all of that completed, I had to figure out his outfit and get a preliminary photo/video. I thought at first he would look good in an old leather jacket with a red t-shit with a hawk’s face on it underneath but it made him look too much like a punk.

We picked up a plain white shirt and a tan outdoorsy vest today which we’ll try on soon. We’re hoping he’ll look a bit more approachable this way.  Of course, that still leaves his mask.  We might give him a hat or bandana to wear and repaint parts of the eyes—carefully of course so I can still see out of it while in the mask.  And, we might change the voice.  I initially pictured Stinky having a rough, gravelly voice with a hint of a Brooklyn accent but that might still come off as scary from this sort of character.  I might have to really think this over.

Any suggestions?

Stinky the Vulture will debut sometime in late October.

Stay wild!

Posted in animal facts, animals, Arts, biodiversity, ecology, education, Entertainment, Farmers Markets, nature, nature conservation, Small Business, wildlife, wildlife education

Fun Animal Facts: Weekly Recap

We’ve had a busy week! Video shoots, Turtles Around Town, the 2016 Rochester Pride Parade and, of course, a series of fun animal facts. Also, our fox puppet, Jingo, sang a “Tom’s Diner” parody because she is a saucy little fox.

If you are hoping to see us out and about, Howler Wolf will be with the Wildlife Educators Coalition at Cool Kids! in Brockport this Friday from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. We will also be at both the Pittsford Village Community Farmers Market and the Brighton Farmers Market this Saturday and Sunday with one of our talking animal characters. So come on by, support our local businesses, get some amazing food (seriously, I cannot praise the quality and variety of food and drinks vendors have at these markets enough) and enjoy the sun!

Without further ado, here is our assemblage of animal facts from the past week:

  • Domesticated goats can quickly revert back to their feral state out in the wild. The same goes for domesticated cats!
  • Common Garters are New York State’s mostGarter Snake common snake species. Between 16 and 30 inches long, they eat insects, slugs, worms, and even the occasional frog or mouse! (Photo from Wikipedia)
  • Fun Animal Fact: All the Kongs in “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze” are designed after real monkeys.
    DKC TF
    Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

    Donkey Kong = Mountain Gorilla
    Diddy = Spider Monkey
    Cranky & Funky = Gorilla
    Dixie = Chimpanzee
    Poison Dart Frog

  • Poison Dart Frogs’ bodies have elaborate designs & brilliant colors to ward off potential predators, a natural defense tactic called aposematic coloration. (Photo from National Geographic Kids)tegu
  • Tegus are a group of large omnivorous lizards native to Central and South America. The amount of meat tegus consume decreases as they mature. Pictured below is an Argentine Black and White Tegu, the largest of all tegus. (Photo Credit: Branson’s Wild World)Peafowl
  • Peacocks are actually male peafowl. Females are referred to as peahens, babies are peachicks, and a group of peafowl are an Ostentation or Muster. (Photo Credit: Coqui de Vicente on Pinterest)Koala
  • Koalas are anatomically designed to hang out in tree branches for extended periods. They have thick rump fur, a cartilaginous pad at their spine’s base, a curved backbone, and two fewer pairs of ribs than most mammals (11 instead of 13), which creates a curled skeletal structure that allows koalas to lounge in tree forks. (Photo and information from: http://www.animalfactguide.com/animal-facts/koala/)
  • Monarch Butterflies are the only butterflies Monarchsthat make two-way, multi-generational migrations. In the fall, our North Eastern Monarchs travel 1,000s of miles from here to Mexico! (Photo from Amusing Planet)

Those are all of our facts for this week. Remember, Animal School is also on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, so check in with us regularly to keep up with our entertaining animals, arts and insights into wildlife. We’re all over the place!