In writing about the migration of animals in last week's article, I was quickly reminded by a few of you that, while the Black Bear was mentioned, I failed to include a photograph, so I decided today to correct my oversight and start with the bear, which was mentioned last week. The bear is getting a lot of press in our county, particularly in and around the county's central section due to recent reports of a sighting of one in one of our nearby county parks. In addition to the bear, other mammals to be discussed today are the Raccoon, Opossum and Fox Squirrel. Starting with the bear, under normal conditions, a black bear usually has a well defined home range in which it will travel. However, in this part of the country, it tends to stay in higher elevations such as the Appalachian Mountains due to the higher human population abundance.
In North America, we have observed four species of bears in proper locations. These are: the Black, Grizzly, Brown, and Polar Bear. The already mentioned Black Bear, which has a normally higher range of elevations, has been observed at such higher latitudes as the Rocky Mountains, the Appalachian Mountains, and along the eastern coast of the United States including New York State, and, as far south as the Carolinas. The Black Bear can also be found abundantly from parts of Alaska throughout most of western Canada, and again it is also found in most of eastern Canada north of the great lakes.
The next animal to discuss has a love-hate relationship with humans. The pesky little raccoon, adored by many children, is a well known small mammal throughout most of North America, with the exception of the higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains. Primarily a nocturnal animal, it has been known to be observed in the daytime during unusual weather conditions. There are records from zoos and game farms reporting a raccoon living as long as 20 years in captivity. Young raccoons have been recorded as dispersing as much as 165 miles from the birth place, while the majority usually remain about 30 miles from the original nest area.
The next animal to discuss is the unusual Opossum, another well known animal to most of us, although not seen as frequently as the others in this group, as it is also primarily a nocturnal animal. This animal has an unusual home range estimated at 15 to 40 acres normally near farming areas. Ages of this animal have been recorded in captivity of about seven or more years of age. The last member of this group to discuss today is the Fox Squirrel. Properly listed as the Eastern Fox Squirrel, it has been recorded in the Point Gratiot area of Dunkirk as well as other regions in northern Chautauqua County. This large member of the group is also found with a melanistic phase or black member of this group, which can be confusing to the observer. When finding and observing these animals, particularly in the Dunkirk area, pay special attention to size and behavior in order to distinguish them from other species of squirrels found in that region.
As usual, I encourage you to keep me posted with any reports or photos you have of any nature topics or of requests for topics, by sending them to me at 38 Elm Street, Fredonia, NY 14063, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.