Posts Tagged 'mammals'

Strange Cries in the Night

The other day, I woke up at 4:44 a.m. to a weird sound in the backyard. It was just about time for the local Northern Cardinal to start up with his “what-cheers,” the regular crack-of-dawn soundtrack around here since way back in late winter, but this was nothing I’ve ever heard before and if it was a bird it was in very bad shape. It wasn’t at all human, but it sure sounded like distress. Like a screechy toy being tortured by a cat sick to death of the damned dog’s stuff. Or perhaps like a Republican who had built a career on fulminating against sex and was suddenly caught in the act of doing it.

I turned on the outside light: in the corner were two Raccoons: parent and cub. I suppose the youngster had gotten into the cul-de-sac of a yard and couldn’t figure a way to get out and so set off wailing. The parent mouthed the cub by the scruff of the neck and took it to the stairs leading to the upstair’s neighbor’s balcony. They continued upstairs, caterwauling all the while.

This was the first time I’ve seen a Raccoon here, although I’ve seen plenty elsewhere in the borough — clambering down the Union St. Bridge towards the Gowanus for instance. I wonder if the empty building next door is where they hang?

Squirrel in the Garbage

Sciurus carolinensisSome may find this a textbook case of cute, not to mention the adaptability of some animals to live off of our garbage, but all this processed fat and sugar can’t be very good for the animal. After all, just because you like to eat something doesn’t mean it’s good for you, as many of us can attest and supermarkets full of fake foods prove. Sciurus carolinensisThe signs around Prospect Park urging people not to feed bread to ducks and geese are a case in point; such a diet is actually harmful to waterfowl, resulting in malformed wings. Yet a stupid tradition persists, as parents continue to make their children complicit in poisoning animals they believe they are helping.

Nutella, laughably, was claiming that this stuff was perfect for a healthy breakfast until a class action suit ordered them to cease and desist such blathering nonsense. But it sure does know the not-so-secret key to mammalian taste buds: fat, sugar, salt!


IMG_2163There’s a debate around here about which of our rodent friends this young’un is. There were at least ten of them strung out along about thirty feet of paved path in Prospect Park recently, most of them with their eyes still closed, some not moving, others scurrying regardless of their eyelids. I don’t know what the heck happened to result in them being there, when they should have been still tucked away in some nest or nook.IMG_2175Even with eyes closed, this one found something to eat. It turns out that mice and baby rats are similar looking. They are, after all, related. I got 10/12 on a first pass at this mouse/rat test. But were these rats or mice?IMG_2143Luckily, the three dogs that came through while I was there were all leashed, as they are always supposed to be in the Ravine. I moved several of these little rodents off the path, depositing them together.

Some Brooklyn Mammals

Sciurus carolinensisSquirrel sunning. Procyon lotorRaccoon snoozing.
Tamias striatusChipmunk being very still.Marmota monaxWoodchuck being elusive. Check out the ground-hogging here on this slope: a duplex! The animal was peeking out of the nearer, top, hole, but vanished into the burrow before I could turn on my cameraSciurus carolinensisSquirrel eating a… wait a minute, that’s a green-dyed Easter egg, more than a week after Easter!


Sciurus carolinensis


Sciurus carolinensisSquirrels (Sciurus carolinensis).Sciurus carolinensis

Feral Brooklyn

c6I spend a fair amount of time exploring Brooklyn’s edges. These border zones are absolutely agog with feral cats. Here a few recent sightings.c1The standard wild city feline is a black and white job. Tiger-striped numbers probably come second. But there are all types, including the long-hair below, who looked like a slumming debutant.c7A street-side feeding station on 39th St; there’s always some well-meaning, but highly selective “animal lover” who encourages this plague. One or more of these people at Floyd Bennett Field’s Ecology Village has/have left the trash of dozens of empty cat food cans stretched along the edges of woods.c2Some of these cats are pretty cute and adorable looking. But the issue is that Brooklyn’s only part of one of the worst examples of invasive species running amuck.c4c5The damage feral cats do to wildlife is mind-boggling: 20 billion individual birds and mammals killed.c3What a mess! An irresponsible pet industry; idiots who don’t spay/neuter their pets; fools who release their animals when they never should have gotten one in the first place; the rat-feeders (because they are also obviously feeding rats); and, of course, those vocal defenders of such feral cats, unaware and/or unconcerned about their avian and mammalian toll. This is human-made problem. How shall we solve it?

I wrote about the science behind the problem for JSTOR Daily.


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