Happy Fall everyone! The leaves are turning colors, the weather is “starting” to get cooler, and animals are beginning to prepare for winter. Last week we got to see some jays storing their seeds and nuts. Jays are not the only animal to display this “collecting” or “hoarding” behavior, many other birds and even rodents will store food. Scientists also call this type of behavior “caching” because these animals will store a cache of food. Sometimes they will do this in times of surplus for a time in the future when food will be less plentiful–other times animals will store food because it needs to ripen.
Rodents (squirrels, hamsters, and mice) will hoard their food using different strategies. Hamsters will use a single location or a “larder” to store their food. Usually, their larder is in their nest where they live and have easy access to their stores of food. The downside of this technique is that other animals can easily raid or steal from the single food source. Usually, this means that the animals which use the larder hoarding must be very defensive of their territory and hoard. Continue Reading →
Did you know you could go on a safari in the United States? In fact we have recently done it: at Out of Africa located in Camp Verde, Arizona. It is incredibly similar to a true safari experience. You get to ride in an actual safari vehicle as you drive through double gates to see the free-roaming exotic wild animals, birds, and reptiles. It is as you would expect to see when going on safari in Africa. Most of the animals living on this preserve have been rescued but all have different stories, and they are all wild animals and not tame pets. My husband, Sandor Havasi, and I decided to get some photos of these animals to share our experience better. We have had the privilege of visiting and have seen this facility a few times before, and each time it is a new adventure. Scott Williams was our safari guide, who pointed out different animals at each stop and helped us to learn more about these incredible creatures including:
“Chalet”–a Siberian white tiger, “Kobo” Reticulated giraffe, “Diligence” Grant’s zebra, sable antelope, ostrich, “Sedona” – a ring-tailed lemur, “Jericho”- Southern white rhinoceros, “Enoch”-Black Leopard, Patagonian cavy, and “Chobi”-Gemsbok, “Wilbur”- prehensile-tailed porcupine, “Cypress”-Grizzly Bear, “Chipa” and “Chitabe” -spotted Hyenas, “Humphrey” – Dromedary Camel, “Nairobi”- sable Antelope, “Kanab”- Gray Wolf, “Tambua” – Gaboon Viper, “Jag and Bently” – Marmoset Monkeys, and “Fisher” – Spectacled Caiman.
On an early morning in Cottonwood, Arizona, I decided to take a short walk outside of the town. As I walked along a steep slope, I was startled by a high pitch sound which cleaved the quiet morning air. It only took a matter of moments for me to discover the source of this strange sound. It was simply a ground squirrel mother. She was letting out a warning shriek. Warning her family about the approaching danger—me.
I was lost in thought as I admired these active and family oriented animals.
We –the “city people”- often over look these small but loud squirrels. And we rarely make the effort to learn about them because we assume that they are a nuisance. They make loud disruptive noises, they destroy our beautiful flower gardens, steal our peaches, figs, apples and other fruits. We also know they can be hosts to smaller pests or diseases, fleas, scabies, and so on.
But most of us don’t pay any attention to the good they do. They make incredibly complex homes. They are inventive and excellent engineers because they build long tunnels with high quality ventilation in each small section. They also look out for one another. They are all about family life where the older family members always supervise the younger generations and babies. They post watch-squirrels (like the mother I ran into) to supervise their youngsters.; and if their babies try to move too far away from the tunnel openings hole, the adults or older siblings immediately push them back to a safety distance from the tunnel entrance.
They are the creatures, who warn other animals, birds, when danger is present, which can come from the sky (i.e., Eagles or Hawks) or the ground (i.e., Coyotes or Wildcats) and are incredibly important to other “prey” animals being safe!
After that morning walk, I can’t help but wonder about our future. . . what if “we the people” learned more about the wilderness and tried to live in symbiosis with other creatures, plants and nature around us! We have a lot to learn and many incredible animals to learn from.
It’s hard to imagine how something like coffee coming from Argentina could have any other effects on California, other than on the delicious flavors of coffee at places like Starbucks. But our love of coffee (as well as trade) can impact our wildlife on the local level! In fact we have quite a few hitchhikers that have altered local ecosystems. True it’s rare for you to see some large exotic animal. . . and more often it is those smaller animals (the animals we almost don’t notice) that make an incredible impact on our environment!
Insects are the largest and most biodiverse group of animals/species in our world today! But don’t freak out, having lots of insects doesn’t mean they will all be swarming into your house or biting you. . . In fact insects play a key role in pollination (we probably wouldn’t have fruit), decomposition, and being a food source (among many other things).
Ants are really interesting insects because they can carry incredibly heavy loads for long distances and are very “team” or “family” oriented. In California, we are losing the native ants! These less aggressive harvester ants have been completely displaced by larger more aggressive ants (invasive species which were brought in on coffee beans) aka hitchhiking ants. Continue Reading →