Although the Vince
Shute Wildlife Sanctuary is noted particularly for the 80+ bears that
visit during the spring through fall, there are numerous other wildlife
species that make their homes within the various habitats found on the
Sanctuary property. Mammals include bats, rodents, lagomorphs, carnivores,
and ungulates. A listing of several different species follows, with
brief descriptions and illustrations.
Brown Myotis (Myotis
Usually called "Little Brown Bat," this is one of the
of the most common bats in the US and Canada. It is very small , measuring
less than 4 inches in length and weighing no more than ½ ounce.
As aeen in the photo on the left, it has a pointed snout and rather
large ears. The "thumb" is visible, also. This bat is found
as far north as middle Alaska, and in much of the contiguous 48 states,
except the southeast and south-central areas. Nursery colonies form
in buildings during April or May and disperse from July through August.
For the first 2-3 days
of life, the young suckle constantly; then, until they are ready to
fly on their own, they remain in the roost while the mother hunts for
small insects, particularly flies and moths. In the fall, these bats
may fly several hundred miles to a hibernating site. They can often
be seen swarming at the entrances to caves.
Big Brown Bat
This bat species is found throughout the US; it occupies all of
the contiguous 48 states, with the exception of the southerntips of
Florida and Texas. It is 4 to 5 inches in length and weighs from ½
to 1 ounce. These bats inhabit buildings, hollow trees, caves, mines,
and other protected places. They usually hang in groups of no more than
5 or 6 individuals. Their diet consists of large beetles, wasps, ants,
flies, moths, and many other kinds of insects. These bats do not feed
in winter, but depend on fat reserves for energy. Their flying speed
of 40 mph, is the fastest recorded for any bat. Photo
© P.D. Pratt, Ojibway
Also known as the
groundhog, this marmot species is about two feet long with a heavyset
build It can weigh as much as 14 pounds. The woodchuck can be found
in open woods, meadows, and old fields throughout Canada, the northeastern
and central United States, and through the Appalachian Mountains. It
is herbivorous and active during daylight hours; it sleeps in complex
burrows and hibernates during the winter. A woodchuck's burrow is often
used by other mammals, including cottontail rabbits, opossums, raccoons,
skunks, and foxes, which enlarge it for use as a nursery den. It is
perhaps most famous for the February 2 holiday on which we can expect
six more weeks of winter if the groundhog see its shadow. Though often
considered a nuisance by farmers, woodchucks loosen and aerate soil
by their digging.For example, in New York State, woodchucks turn over
1,600,000 tons of soil each year!
maniculatus) and White-tailed mouse (Peromyscus
These are two of
more than 1,100 species of mice that can be found in virtually every
corner of the globe. Both deer mice and white-tailed mice are New World
species and thus are native to North America. They nest in burrows or
in any concealed spot, such as abandoned birds' nests and buildings.
Omnivorous, they feed on nuts, seeds, fruit, insects, and caterpillars.
Mice that live in the wild are much less destructive than the house
mouse (Mus musculus), which can live entirely on human sources
of food and is a serious pest.
This member of the
squirrel family is about 5-6 inches long with a 4-5 inch tail. It can
be easily identified by the two black stripes separated by a whitish
band that can be found along each side. Chipmunks are known for transporting
enormous amounts of food in their expandable cheek pouches. Their diet
of nuts, seeds, berries, and insects parallels that of black bears and
thus these two species can be observed feeding side by side in spite
of their incredible size difference. Chipmunks sleep and hibernate in
Also known as pine
squirrels and chickarees, these rodents are known primarily for their
constant chatter. They are about a foot long, weigh about half a pound,
and can be found leaping from branch to branch in the pine forests of
Canada and the northern United States as well as the Rocky Mountains
and Appalachian Mountains. Their tail is used as a rudder when they
leap and as a parachute when they fall, and they always descend trees
head first. They make nests in trees and do not hibernate.
and the western and northeastern United States, this large rodent is
famous for the quills it leaves imbedded in the skin of its predators.
Contrary to popular belief, the porcupine does not "shoot"
its quills; they are loosely attached and are pulled out easily by anything
that comes in contact with them. They are primarily nocturnal. During
the day, they may rest in a hollow tree or log, or in a treetop. Porcupines
forage on leaves, buds, and bark. They do not hibernate and subsist
entirely on evergreen bark during the winter months, chewing through
the outer bark to get to the inner cambium layer. Porcupines
form monogamous pairs that mate every day of the year, regardless of
breeding season or the female's estrus cycle.
Beavers are the largest North American rodent. Their habitat is rivers,
streams, marshes, and ponds throughout most of the US and Canada. An
adult beaver measures 3 to 4 feet in length and can weigh over 60 pounds.
Its most unique feature is a broad, flat, scaly tail that it slaps on
the surface of the water to alert other beavers to the presence of danger.
Beavers are excellent swimmers and can stay underwater for 15 minutes.
They are also industrious architects of the natural world, building
massive lodges from sticks and mud complete with underwater passageways,
and constructing dams to modify streams into deep ponds. Beaver dams
occasionally cause nuisance flooding in suburban areas, but they are
instrumental in creating woodland ponds that support lush vegetation
and eventually become meadows. It is believed that beavers mate for
Rabbits, and Hares)
Members of this rabbit species have large ears, short legs, and
the characteristic white, short tail for which they are named. They
are from 14 to 18 inches long and weigh from 2 to 4 pounds. While the
larger hares tend to utilize their speed to flee from predators, cottontails
are more likely to hide. They inhabit brushy areas: woods, thickets,
and old fields. They make nests above the ground rather than in burrows,
but in cold weather they may take shelter in the burrow of a woodchuck.
Cottontails eat a variety of vegetation. A female cottontail can produce
three to four litters of up to nine young in a year.
The larger (15 to
20 inch long) snowshoe hare has a dark brown coat in summer and a white
coat in winter, which helps to camouflage it from predators. The habitat
of snowshoe hares is boreal forests of Alaska, most of Canada, the western
mountains and New England states of the United States, plus Minnesota
and Michigan. It often hides in bushes like a cottontail, rather than
running into the open like most hares. It can run up to 30 miles per
hour and can bound up to 12 feet. It feeds on grasses, green vegetation,
willow, and berries. In winter, it feeds on conifer buds, and the bark
of aspen, alder, and willow. When alarmed, it thumps its hind feet.
The most common of
all weasels, this species is known as ermine during the winter when
it acquires a white coat. It measures about 16 inches in length and
has a long and slender build with short legs. Weasels are ferocious
carnivores; their killing instinct is triggered by the smell of blood,
and they will kill an injured member of their own species. They prey
on small rodents and den in abandoned burrows of other small mammals
such as ground squirrels and chipmunks.
This species is similar to the short-tailed weasel, but is only
about half the size, measuring only 6 to 8 inches in length.
Like the short-tailed
weasel, it turns white in the winter. Weasels are primarily nocturnal
and have small home ranges of 2 acres or less. When disturbed, it gives
a shrill, shrieking call and a hiss. Chief predators are foxes, cats,
of the weasel family is especially prized for its lustrous, chocolate
brown to black fur. Minks measure 20 to 28 inches in length and weigh
1½ to 3½ pounds. They are found throughout the US and Canada,
along rivers, creeks, lakes, ponds, and marshes where they feed on muskrats,
fish, frogs, crustaceans, and birds. They maintain hunting territories
by marking with a fetid discharge from the anal glands, which is as
foul-smelling as a skunk's. Minks den temporarily in abandoned muskrat
burrows or beaver dens.
Often called "pine martens," these are arboreal members
of the weasel family that leap from branch to branch to catch red squirrels
and other prey; they also eat berries, nuts, eggs, seeds, and honey.
Martens are 20-25 inches in length and have a heavier build than most
weasels. Martens are active in early morning, late afternoon, and on
overcast days. They can be found in coniferous forests throughout Canada
and in the northern and mountainous regions of the United States. Similar
in size to the mink, martens are distinguished by their golden or orange
This extremely large marten can measure over 3 feet in length and can
weigh from 3 to 18 pounds. In spite of its name, the fisher prefers
to eat small mammals rather than fish. Its main prey are snowshoe hares
and porcupines. To kill the latter, they flip them on their backs to
feed on the unprotected abdomen. Valued for their beautiful coats, fishers
were exterminated in many areas. Habitat loss also has decreased its
range, as a fisher travels a home range of 50-150 square miles. Fishers
are found in the hardwood forests of Canada and the far northern United
States. Like most mustelids, they are primarily nocturnal.
Known for their playful nature, otters are aquatic members of the
weasel family. The North American river otter is 2 to 4 feet long and
weighs between 10 and 30 pounds. Its webbed hind feet and streamlined
body aid it in swimming; it swims rapidly underwater or on the surface
with grace and power. It feeds primarily on fish, but also eats frogs,
crayfish, and small mammals. It lives in burrows along the banks of
lakes and streams, and spends most of its time in the water, but is
also at ease on land and can run fairly well. Trapping, for the commercial
value of its glossy, brown fur, decimated the population in the past.
More recently, water and air pollution have taken a toll. Some river
otters have developed a tolerance to toxic substances, however, and
their numbers are increasing slowly.
Most animals have evolved protective coloration; not so the skunk!
Its bold colors inform potential enemies that it is not to be bothered.
All weasels have scent glands, but when it comes to producing odors,
none are more famous than the skunk. When
confronted, skunks stamp, snarl, hiss, and raise their tails in a warning
display; if further provoked, they squirt an oily, yellowish liquid
that temporarily chokes and blinds the assailant. The residual smell
is enough to convince most animals to avoid skunks, thus making them
quite fearless. Skunks eat rodents, insects, eggs, carrion, and some
vegetation. The striped skunk measures 20 to 30 inches long plus a large,
bushy tail. Its range includes deserts, woodlands, grassy plains and
suburbs in most of North America. They do not hibernate, but may become
dormant in extremely cold weather.
The red fox can be found in most of Canada and the US, except for
parts of the West. A number of color variations are possible, including
silver. In the mid-1700s, red foxes were imported from England to be
the prey in fox hunts. Today's red foxes are combined strains from the
interbreeding of those animals with native foxes. Red foxes weigh about
7 to 15 pounds and stand 15 inches at the shoulder. They are most active
at night and hunt a variety of small animals including mammals and invertebrates.
In summer they feed heavily on vegetation including corn, fruits, and
Gray Fox (Urocyon
The only American canid that can climb trees, gray foxes are found
in forests, swamps, and other brushy areas throughout the eastern, central,
and southern United States. Similar in size to the red fox, the gray
fox is also omnivorous, feeding on small mammals, birds, insects, and
much plant material including fruits, corn, and grass. Unlike the red
fox, the gray uses dens during winter for shelter and protection. Its
predators are domestic and wild dogs, bobcats, and man.
" Timber wolf" is the common name given to the gray wolf,
which once inhabited vast regions of North America. Today it is extinct
or threatened in most of the 48 contiguous United States. Federal protection
from the Endangered Species Act has allowed gray wolves to reclaim small
portions of their former range in Minnesota and Isle Royale NP in Lake
Superior. Small populations were reintroduced into Yellowstone National
Park in 1995 and central Idaho in 1996. The gray wolf resembles a German
shepherd, weighing between 60 and 140 pounds. Most individuals have
gray fur mixed with black and brown, but some individuals may be all
black and those in the Arctic are often white. Gray wolves hunt small
mammals, birds, and weaker members of larger species; like coyotes,
they have attracted negative attention for preying on livestock. Wolves
live and hunt in packs of 2-15 individuals, primarily family members
and relatives. Both parents bring food to the young in a den, and it
is believed that wolves mate for life.
Smaller and lighter in weight than a wolf, a coyote resembles a
medium sized dog . As most large predators have been eradicated, the
coyote has thrived, expanding into the former ranges of wolves
and mountain lions. As their numbers have increased, so have farmers'
concerns over livestock loss. Consequently, many thousand of coyotes
are killed each year; bounties are offered in some places. Coyotes are
found throughout the US. They are the best runners among the canids,
covering great distances at speeds up to 40 mph. Coyotes run with their
tails down, unlike wolves, which run with their tails horizontal. They
hunt small mammals, but also opportunistically feed on fruit, insects,
frogs, toads, snakes, and carrion. Vocalizations are given at dawn,
dusk, or during the night, and consist of barks, yips and howls. These
calls are common in the West but seldom heard in the East.
Found only in North America, this small wildcat gets its common
name from its stubby tail. It is found in scrubby country, broken forests,
swamps, and rocky, arid lands. It weighs from 15 to 60 pounds and is
30 to 50 inches long. Bobcats have a tawny, spotted coat, which is grayer
in winter. They prey on a variety of small mammals and have been targeted
by farmers for killing livestock, especially poultry. A bobcat will
not eat carrion unless prey is very scarce. The vocalizations sound
much like the domestic cat, but its scream is piercing. Bobcats can
be found in most parts of the US except the central and lower Midwest.
Native only to the Americas, raccoons are nocturnal and solitary,
except when breeding or caring for young. They are highly adaptable
and can be found foraging on garbage even in major metropolitan areas.
In the wild, they live near lakes and streams and feed on nuts, fruits,
eggs, insects, frogs, small mammals, worms, frogs, and crayfish. A raccoon
is typically about 2 to 3 feet in length and may weigh from 12 to 48
pounds. Raccoons are easily identified by the black face mask. Although
they do not hibernate, they fatten themselves for winter and may sleep
for several days during cold spells. Raccoons have agile fingers that
can easily open containers or turn handles. They often dip their food
in water to knead and tear it, removing parts that should be discarded.
Wetting the paws intensifies their sense of touch.
This species, common throughout North America, was a source of food
and clothing for Native Americans and early white settlers. Today, it
is hunted for sport and its meat (venison) is considered a delicacy.
Once nearly exterminated in much of the Northeast and Midwest, whitetail
numbers have increased due in large measure to the eradication of natural
predators. They are now the most plentiful game animal in North America.
Bucks (males) develop antlers annually and use them in combat during
mating season. Does (females) give birth to 1 or 2 fawns in spring.
Deer graze on green plants, including aquatic ones in summer; they eat
a variety of nuts and corn in the fall; and in winter they browse on
woody vegetation, including buds and twigs of viburnum, birch, maple,
and many conifers. Bucks and does herd separately for much of the year,
but gather together, or "yard up" during the winter. At the
Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary we have seen deer grazing no more than
50 feet from a bear, with no particular reaction on the part of either
at the VSWS