This is probably one of the toughest weeks I have had to determine the topic for this article. With the sighting of the water spouts over the lake and other reports of interesting nature sightings, I have to admit that selecting a topic was a real challenge.
I decided not to report on the water spouts, as the articles already reported in the papers have done an excellent job on that issue. I chose, therefore, to report on the submission of a few photos of albino animals that I have recently received.
Albinism is an interesting topic. This biological feature appears to affect almost all living things. Years ago as a genetics student in college, I remember studying about this rare occurrence in living things, including humans. Albinism is defined as an inherited condition present at birth, regardless of the organism.
The red-tailed hawk.
Many types of albinism exist, all of which involve the lack of pigment in varying degrees. It is still considered a rare disorder, being identified in less than five people for every 100,000 in the United States. Albinism is more prevalent in African countries, such as southern Nigeria, where the ratio is about 20 out of 100,000 persons.
Historically, albinism has been viewed as a fascinating and recommended topic for young biology students to study. In most types of albinism, the offspring inherits flawed genes for making melanin from both parents. As you can see from the photos received, albinism is common in a varying number of animals. The animals I chose for this report are the albino woodchuck, submitted by Mr. and Mrs. Milt Steger of Forestville; the red-tailed hawk and the porcupine, both file pictures of mine; and the partial albino fawn, sometimes referred to as piebald, which I photographed in my backyard. These are a few of the many animals that I have in my files exhibiting this characteristic.
The woodchuck is no stranger to any of you, as it is one of our more common mammals in this area. It is one of our mid-sized mammals that prefers dry soil in open woodlands and fields. They are well known for their burrowing habits, sometimes to the annoyance of the property owner.
The porcupine is not too common to most of us. It is a large quilled member of the rodent family, with short legs and a stout tail, that prefers woodlands containing conifers and aspens.
This slow-moving member of the mammal family has an interesting defense system. It usually clicks its teeth. Unlike assumed behavior beliefs that the porcupine throws its quills, it may actually shake some of its quills loose. Being a nocturnal animal, it is often recognized by a sound similar to a groan. The porcupine is often observed traveling along a well-trodden trail and, while several have been observed denning together in winter, they are normally a solitary animal that is active all year. It is also an efficient climber and swimmer that seems to prefer feeding in pines, hemlocks and aspens. Its few predators, such as the fisher, mountain lion and bobcat, usually attack it by way of its unprotected belly. The porcupine is well known for its unfavorable behavior among hunting and logging camps of gnawing at ax handles and canoe paddles.
The red-tailed hawk is one of the more common and recognized aerial predators in our county. As I write this article, I have one perched not far from my house on a telephone pole with a juvenile. Both are squealing and behaving very aggressively toward one another. I once reported that I often referred to the red-tail as the thruway hawk, as I often encountered this bird on that highway during my many trips to Albany during my superintendent days. There were many perched on poles along the route, searching for a free meal of road kill, often to the detriment of the hawk, which often attempted to obtain a meal while semi-trucks were passing by.
The pie-balled fawn is a member of the deer family, often referred to as the even-toed hoofed mammals. The elk, mule deer, moose and bison are some of the more recognizable representatives of this group, along with our white-tailed deer that many of us have near our homes. Such is the case of the juvenile pie-balled fawn.
This little guy is a member of the white-tailed family, found in almost every state except a few extreme western areas of our country. The white-tail usually prefers mixed or deciduous woodlands not far from water. Many hunters are familiar with this animal's behavior, as it is one of the more popular game animals throughout our county. Found in just about every kind of habitat, it has a keen sense of hearing and smell. It can be described as an omnivore, which means it has a wide dietary selection.
The aesthetic value of the white-tailed deer is hard to evaluate. Having had a love-hate relationship with man, it will always be one of my favorite members of the mammal family of which we are blessed with in our county.
I am always interested in receiving photos, article ideas and anecdotes from you. Send pictures, topic ideas or comments to me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by U.S. mail to 38 Elm St., Fredonia, NY 14063. Thank you.