Last week we discussed some of the mammals that can be found in our county. This week I would like to conclude this topic with a few more of the expected and the uncommon sightings of that group that are possible. Before I continue, in last week's column I mentioned a photograph of deer crossing our street but failed to include the picture, therefore I will insert it in today's article.
Some of the additional animals I would like to discuss today are the coyote, beaver, weasel and the woodchuck. Starting with the beaver, not necessarily a common animal around our homes, yet a fascinating animal found in several of our county streams and ponds, it is still a treat to come upon one when out for a ride in the less human populated sections of our county. I would like to start with this little guy because it brings back the memory of several years ago when Rollin Fancher and I were traveling in the back roads of Chautauqua County in search of photographic possibilities, when we came upon an animal swimming in a large pond west of Mayville. Stopping the car we got out to observe the activity and immediately discovered the standard dam built by this animal and right after that, we spotted the beaver hut in the center of the pond with the beaver swimming near the hut not far from us.
The beaver is no stranger to many of us, especially to schoolchildren as they study in their nature programs the story of this little mammal and its lifestyle behavior. The beaver is usually near a waterway surrounded by Poplar trees which are used by them for food and both hut and dam building construction. The beaver is primarily a nocturnal animal, making this observation a special one since daytime sightings are considered unusual. The beaver usually feeds on the bark and twigs of such trees as aspen, birch, and maple, along with a few others.
The weasel consists of three sub-species found in North America; the Least, Short-tailed, and Long-tailed. While the Least is mostly Canadian, the Short-tailed is occasionally reported in some pars of the United States including New York and the Long-tailed is primarily found in the United States. All three of these are nocturnal and may be observed during the daytime if you are lucky. The last two members of this group are the coyote and the sometimes considered unpopular woodchuck for reasons only known to a few land owners who have them residing on their property.
Starting with the coyote, if you happen to be a property owner with coyotes nearby, you are probably familiar with their evening sounds of high-pitched yaps and yells. While primarily nocturnal, they are also observed in the daytime. Primarily a scavenger, it will eat almost anything that is animal or vegetable. Over the years the coyote was considered an enemy of man for attacking livestock; however some farmers later actually believed wild dogs did more of the damage. The coyote is not necessarily a common animal to most to us as its territory covers most of North America from Alaska through Mexico and east to New York excluding most of the southeastern states with few exceptions.
Since the woodchuck is the most familiar to most of us I will discuss it now and see how it compares to your own personal knowledge. Mostly a diurnal or day active animal, it will occasionally wander at night in early spring. It hibernates from October to February, and usually occupies a territory of about 40 to 160 acres. They usually breed at one year of age. One of the interesting characteristics of the woodchuck den has been observed by mammologists who study these animals and have determined that the den can be any where from four to five feet deep and from 25 to 30 feet long.
Remember, continue to send your nature pictures and topic suggestions to me by either U.S. Mail to 38 Elm St. Fredonia N.Y. 14063, or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.