Monthly Archives: October 2016
One of my favorite Central Oregon animals is the porcupine, which happens to be the second largest rodent in North America (third in the world, after capybara and beaver); but it is not the animal that first comes to mind when I think of Halloween. North American porcupines eat plants and favor any number of herbaceous delicacies. Porcupines rely entirely on their nose for food search. Considered a nocturnal, generalist herbivore, porcupines consume tree bark, leaves, conifer needles, buds from conifers and deciduous trees, wildflowers, fruit, nuts, rose hips, and ground vegetation. They’ve been known to chew on axe handles and tires for salt. So I guess squash shouldn’t be a surprise.
This summer I was preparing for a porcupine program and found a YouTube video you have to see! Meet “Teddy Bear” the porcupine – Teddy Bear was orphaned and taken to animal shelter called Zooniversity in Dallas. He now travels to schools teaching people about porcupines – and winning their hearts with his cuteness! As zookeeper Allison Blankenship asks questions, Teddy’s little squeaks seem to answer her back.
- Porcupines live up to 20 years old. They are the second oldest living rodent in the world. (following Naked Mole Rats)
- They do not hibernate, they are active all year.
- Like monkeys they are divided into old world and new world species. Old World porcupines are much larger than New World porcupines with quills up to a foot long. In Africa, they are thought to bring good luck and are worn as ornaments by many tribes.
- North American porcupines have approximately 30,000 quills on their bodies.
- They are very peaceful yet territorial rodents and may become offensive when threatened.
- Porcupines cannot throw their quills at predators; rather the quills get detached from their body when in proximity to other animal’s skin.
- North American porcupines do not eat and sleep in the same tree.
- Porcupines can accidentally stick themselves to a branch, or any other thing while falling from a tree. They are the only mammal that can produce their own antibiotic.
- If you want to see one up close, visit the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon.
It’s more than just “don’t feed the wild carnivores.” But, uh, don’t feed wild carnivores.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram always seem to be full of photos of people’s outdoor adventures. But not everyone who likes spending time in the wild really knows what they’re doing out there — and according to a study published this week in Scientific Reports, that’s why humans are increasingly being attacked by wild animals.
A group of researchers from Europe and Canada analyzed data on 697 documented attacks on humans by large carnivores, including bears, cougars and coyotes, in North America, Russia and two countries in Europe.
They found that nearly half of all the observed attacks, which occurred between 1955 and 2014, involved risky behaviors on the part of the human victim.
The most common of those risky behaviors? Leaving a child unattended in the wilderness.
The researchers also found that as populations of large carnivores recover in developed countries (a result of successful conservation efforts), the number of “bold individuals” engaging in outdoor activities has also increased.
The data suggests that most people who explore the outdoors have no idea just how dangerous these habitats really are, according to the researchers.
For evidence, look no further than Lake Tahoe, California, or Water Canyon Park in Colorado, where officials have had to issue official warnings because too many people were trying to take selfies with wild bears.
“A lot of what people do is based on a total lack of knowledge about what is dangerous and what isn’t,” Stephen Herrero, a researcher from the University of Calgary who was involved in the study, told the Canadian Broadcasting Company this week.
“Half of the attacks could have probably been avoided if people had done some pretty simple things,” he went on.
But what exactly constitutes “risk-enhancing behavior”? The definition is more broad than you might think, and includes things you’ve probably done at least once in your life.
These were the five most common behaviors people were engaged in at the time of an animal attack, according to the study:
- Parents (or adults) leaving children unattended
- Walking a dog without a leash
- Hunting or searching for a wounded animal
- Engaging in outdoor activities at night or before dawn
- Approaching a female carnivore with its young
Other risky actions include feeding a wild carnivore and encountering a carnivore that has been fed by humans in the past and therefore approaches humans in search of an easy meal.
The researchers note that while these types of attacks on humans are extremely rare, they tend to have dire consequences for both the human and the animal — especially when media reports sensationalize individual attacks and make them seem more common than they really are.
In 2014, for example, Australia began a controversial cull on sharks — including great white sharks, considered a threatened species — in response to seven fatal shark attacks in three years, despite a number of experts arguing that such a response would not reduce the already low risk of attack.
The study’s authors echo this sentiment, adding that this type of reaction hurts conservation efforts for these carnivores.
“When attacks occur,” the researchers wrote, “large carnivores are frequently killed and negative attitudes toward large carnivores harden.”
If we’re all going to be the great adventurers we portray on social media, then we have to learn how to live safely alongside these wild animals, the researchers urge.
Before going on a hike or a camping trip, or entering a national park or any area that carnivores call home, make sure to follow all safety rules posted by federal wildlife agencies.
And please, leave wild animals — especially carnivores — alone.
At The Cove Palisades State Park, we do not have bears or wolves in the park; however we do have other carnivores like cougar, various omnivores and even some bolder herbivores, such as mule deer that think they should eat Doritos. Cougars dislike a lot of noise and activity. They will not walk into camp and beg for food but the others will not hesitate to search out and greedily inhale human handouts. If you feel the need to hand feed a wild animal remember that they can bite or carry disease. That cute little forest creature that you were dying to have a selfie with only moments before, can become a despised varmint instantaneously. Feeding wildlife can have devastating, even if unintentional, consequences to either animal and/or human.
While wildlife encounters are typically very safe at The Cove; practice not feeding any wildlife. There is plenty of natural food for them in the park already.
Thanks for doing your part to keep The Cove’s animals wild!
That wonderful smell of rain on wet asphalt, is actually a chemical reaction. The air smells good after a rain, and much of the reason is a thing called “petrichor.”
“Petrichor,” is constructed from Greek petra, meaning “stone”, and ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology (Blood of the Stone). The smell itself comes about when increased humidity – a pre-cursor to rain – fills the pores of stones (rocks, soil, etc.) with tiny amounts of water. While it’s only a minuscule amount, it is enough to flush the oil from the stone and release petrichor into the air.
Some plants secrete oils during dry periods that accumulate in dirt and rocks, and when it rains, these oils are released into the air. As the water activates the oils it invariably hits you: the sweet, fresh, powerfully evocative smell of fresh rain. The second reaction that creates petrichor occurs when chemicals produced by soil-dwelling bacteria known as actinomycetes are released. These aromatic compounds combine to create the pleasant petrichor scent when rain hits the ground. Studies have revealed that the human nose is extremely sensitive to geosmin in particular—some people can detect it at concentrations as low as 5 parts per trillion. You may also smell this if you are turning soil over in your garden.
Another scent associated with rain is ozone (O3). Some people say they can smell a storm coming. This can occur if wind pushes the ozone ahead of the storm. During a thunderstorm, lightning can split oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the atmosphere, and they in turn can recombine into nitric oxide (NO). This substance interacts with other chemicals in the atmosphere to form ozone, which has a sharp smell faintly reminiscent of chlorine and it can carry over far distances from high altitudues.