Sunday, January 15, 2012

Staying Warm As A Fur Bearing Animal At The Vermilon River.

We've had about 15 cm ( 5-6 inches) of snow, followed by dropping temperatures to -20C, with high north winds of 40 km/h. That translates to the low 30's(-23 or 24F) taking the windchill into effect. The blowing snow is not too great either. This temperature shift reminded me that I had talked about cold and the birds, but not about cold and the four legged critters.
The critters included here are ones that I have photographed. They are not all of the critters here; in fact, I'm short of the coyotes, the wolves, deer, moose,chipmunks, which I have lots of photos of but forgot to include; and many others, which I either flubbed the photo because I got excited, or didn't have the camera. In the four legged world nature has done many different things to ward off the cold, but two layers of fur an outer guard layer and an inner layer to trap air are common. Both layers thicken in the winter. Food, again is essential. Some burrow with caches of food, others hibernate, and others den but forage all winter long. 

The wild mink shots were taken on the east track beaver pond. The mink is a member of the wolverine family, a very vicous family. They eat frogs, rodents, muskrat and fish. He's insulated like many other mammals by his outer fur which is oily and his warm undercoat which traps air. The oiliness waterproofs him

Their fur thickens, in winter and in the case of his cousin the marten he not only thickens his coat, but changes his colour to white. Their dens are normally along the banks of wetlands, and they are not adverse to taking over the burrows of  other animals such as muskrats or beaver. Beaver will burrow in banks in a fast moving river where lodges are impossible to build.

The real key for these guys is food to maintain their metabolism to keep their core temperature up.Their winter source of food narrows to mice or voles who burrow and tunnel in the snow and rabbits.

You would think River Otter would hibernate, but they don't. They move to open unfrozen water where food is available.

Similar to the mink their fur is thick and oily. In fact the oil and the thickness of their fur captures air next to the skin which warms and insulates them. Again food is important to build their internal fat layer.

 The beaver of course builds lodges, which  contain a room for stored food. The beaver also stores branches near the lodge, and they will feed on the bark of those branches. They have a thick undercoat and a thick layer of fat which insulates them. Their fur is oily to waterproof them.
Beaver move under the ice, but the lodge is the hub of their existence. Thus, they're a burrowing animal, that moves around in winter.

The Red Fox, a canine, thickens his coat. The exterior guard hairs hold the moisture away from his body while the undercoat traps air and keeps him warm.

Food is critical in all cases. And in fact the Fox even adapts his diet to winter. In the milder months they will eat berries or even insects as well as smaller mammals. In winter he feeds on mice or voles, who live in the snow banks and build tunnels and burrow in it.The fox who visits my bird feeders,which I showed in an earlier post, eats the seeds, but is mainly hunting mice and voles who are attracted by the seed. 

Then, of course there is Boomer lying outside in the snow waiting for me to  finish doing something or other.  He thickens his fur. The guard hair holds the moisture away from his undercoat, which traps air and keeps him warm. Boomer's coat has no oil in it so he's not waterproofed because he is an Arctic dog and not made for swimming. When I first got Boomer he used to burrowing in the snow for mice and voles also. Now he just waits for me to serve up the food. I increase his food in the winter because he is more active. If he were a northern sled dog hunting seals on the ice with the Inuit, he would have been fed seal meat blubber to build up his fat layer and provide required energy.

The Red Squirrel thickens his fur like some of the other animals. He doesn't hibernate like Chipmunks, but he does store food in middens, so that he can tap them to maintain his bulk. They may not be visible in a cold winter because they will stay in their nests, moving about on warm days. Chipmunks hibernate in their burrows. Their heart and temperature rate falls; they are true hibernators.

Apparently, these squirrels who feed on seeds quite often forget where their middens are. So they aid in regenerating the forest. Ground squirrels hibernate, my reds, which are tree squirrels don't. So nature has different options for members of the same species. Squirrels in warm climates may hibernate ro avoid warm weather.

Everybody knows Bears hibernate. They add about 20 percent of their own body weight in the fall. One of the reasons they invade garbage areas is because of the enormous internal pressure to add that weight. I'm trying to give you the most current information on bear hibernation as it's currently being re-looked at, as it's apparently unlike the hibernation of the others.

Unlike racoons or skunks these guys go into a deep sleep. They don't eat stored food, or even defecate.  They maintain their normal temperature, although their hear rate may slow allowing a fast wake up. They may even wake from time to time, but do not leave their dens like skunks. Skunks leave to empty their scent glands, and forage.

All hibernators are driven to hibernate by something called their Hibernate Inducement Trigger. Science doesn't quite understand how this works. This is not a good photo, but I had just got the camera and was trying to no avail to photograph some redstarts. When I turned around there she was, not far from me, with a cub. When I moved, she silently melted into the woods, not an easy feat when you're her size. But that's how fast things happen in a wilderness. All the animals shown here are photographed in the wild, not a nature preserve with fixed trails or habituated animals. I got no bear photos last year because the berry crop in the woods was so good. And boy did Boom and I try to get photos of bears. They're actually, besides the wolf, one of my favourites.
I added to the post these two bird shots for WBW. These are Pine Grosbeaks, the largest of the finches. Like the Redpolls which I left in the shot for size comparison, they're from the Boreal forest also, but overwinter here. This is the female, a beauty in her own right.

This is the male. All those grey skies and low temperatures are worth while when you have these guys. I'll do overwintering fiches next week.
A post to MWT @ http://ourworldtuesdaymeme.blogspot.com/ and WBW @ http://pineriverreview.blogspot.com/  Most of the information is taken from ehow.com and Boreal Forest Library.

51 comments:

  1. Great post, Gary! I love all the critters, especially the bear.

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  2. Wonderful post, Gary, and great info! Love your photos! My dog is not an Arctic dog but for some reason loves to sleep on the sofa in our freezing porch, comes indside only reluctantly. He doesn't swim either. Maybe there is something in his genes..

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  3. GREAT post! you know i'm in love with your red squirrels, but the rest of the fur-bearing critters are fantastic to see, too! boomer is a handsome fellow!

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  4. Wonderful, wonderful images and text. Love this post.

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  5. Holy smoke, i get excited if i was to manage a good shot of a deer or stag in the wild. These animals are awesome in their own right, i can imagine what it must feel like to photograph them.
    Excellent set of photos Gary.

    www.valleysshutterbug.blogspot.com

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  6. Very interesting post and so different from life down here in the sub-tropics. We never get very cold in the winter but in early summer when it really starts to heat up my dog looses hair so her coat is not so thick in the summer.

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  7. Supper pictures, love the beaver and would be scared from the bear.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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  8. A wonderful posr to read Gary...fantastic images to see.
    I had a bit of frost this morning -5c overnight then wonderful sunshine all day..

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  9. Gary, This has to be one of the most interesting and informative posts I have read in a long time. I could not stop reading I was so into it. Your photos are awesome.YOu are a lot braver than around the big guys. I would be going inn the other direction. Thanks so much for the effort you put into this...I feel like a learned much. genie

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  10. I find this post so very interesting with information and photos that captivate and intrigue. Mink are considered a pest here as any who live wild have escaped or been released by animal rights groups from fur farms and are not welcome visitors by anyone who has poultry.

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  11. Interesting reading and great shots of these furry animals!

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  12. This is just such a wonderful post; so much good information and your perfect photos as illustrations. It's such a fun way to learn new things as well as things I probably was supposed to learn once but didn't. Thank you.

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  13. Great shots, the bears are superb, and the picture of Boomer.

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  14. I do love all your animals this week, Gary! A very interesting and informative post about your world of critters! Boom is a beauty! Always love the squirrels! Have a great week!

    Sylvia

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  15. Spectacular shots as always. I'm lucky to get a some birds and squirrels. You sure know how to make this New Jersey girl jealous!

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  16. You have some fantastic wildlife shots!

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  17. Wonderful post, as usual, Gary. Love the bear!

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  18. Fabulous captures Gary, and enjoy the relevant information you've included about each critter. Boomer is a charmer! Thanks for sharing and for visiting my blog. Happy snapping.

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  19. great shots! thanks for stopping by ☺

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  20. Fascinating look at the wildlife. Great information and shots.

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  21. beautiful wildlife photos. i love the boomer.

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  22. your part of the world looks colder then mine. We have beavers here, but I never see them. But I see their work.

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  23. O what a powerful post! Especially enjoyed learning about the wild mink! What a handsome character! But, of course, not so handsome as the gorgeous Boomer!

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  24. Fabulous look at your wildlife with interesting facts. We have many of the same here in the mountains of CO. Boomer is quite cute!

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  25. SO happy to see a photo of Boomer, Gary. And your information about the other animals in winter was fascinating, especially the fact that bear hibernation is being re-studied.
    I particularly love the otter and the beaver.
    We have snow here again and the temperatures are dropping (-24 right now but with very little wind) and expected to rise again within a couple of weeks. The forecast is for the temp to go up to +5 or thereabouts.
    Alberta is a very funny place. Meanwhile, my family in BC has snow, too, on the coast.
    K

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  26. Wonderful shots and interesting info. This time no birds.

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  27. Great post, Gary -- very informative and fantastic photos.

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  28. Excellent shot in the snowy river, mink, fox, bear and squirrel magnificent.

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  29. Wow - amazing shots. Just incredible!

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  30. - 20 ! wow ! that's cold, the max we ever had in Belgium was - 15°C ! but years ago ! I love all your animal pictures ! The squirrel is not so red as the once we have here, their fur is all reddish and they are much smaller too.
    I wished I was a bear and could hibernate too !

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  31. Some wonderful wildlife you have there, Gary. Nicely photographed.

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  32. You have a great collection of animals there. I've never seen a mink in the wild, the European species is getting very rare (in part because their hardier American cousins have been introduced here as well).

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  33. WOW! What amazing photos, thank you for sharing!

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  34. This is a wonderful blog Gary.....compliments for your work.

    Greetings from Holland, Joop

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  35. such a fabulous array of photographs from your neck of the woods! I especially love the last, red bird and look forward to your finches post next week.

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  36. Great shots of the mink, bear and fox! Very lucky of you to see them. Do you seriously have pictures you took of wolves? If so, please do share . . . otherwise, not a funny joke for this wolf lover!

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  37. You always impress me with your extensive info in your post.
    I love the face on that little mink - looks so cute!
    The bear and fox images are awesome.
    Who wouldn't want to spend a day in your world with you and Boomer! Exciting times you two must have.

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  38. Thank you for visiting my blog Tailfeather Chronicles, just starting out and decided WBW was the best place to find all the bird lovers!

    Boy was I right!

    What a great post, looking forward to seeing more. Be careful around those bears!

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  39. You always provide such good info. Love your pics of the bears and foxes. Such a wonderful winter land you have there!

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  40. It's awesome how great variety of animals you have there! Lovely post!

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  41. Oh I love the Mink, the Squirrel, the Bear, the birds...oh I know that I am missing something...Gary these are great and it oh so does look very cold there!

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  42. I enjoyed all your critters!

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  43. Those are amazing, Gary!
    Not so sure I would want to see the bear, but bring on the rest of them.
    wow!

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  44. Wow that bear is very impressive!!! At least you posted the pictures so looks like the encounter was safe... I love your mink pictures and well as the beaver! We do have mink here but they are not so easy to see... I met a wild one for the first time last year!

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  45. Great variety of creatures! Our daughter's Tibetan Mastiffs develop a deep undercoat and love the snow, but all must get out of the way when they blow it all at once in the spring (the birds love it for lining their nests).

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  46. So cool, Gary! really awesome finds, especially the marten!

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  48. Hi Gary

    I have fallen behind I did not comment on this wonderful post. You have so many beautiful animals shots to complement the bird photos. The mink and the fox are wonderful.

    Regards
    Guy

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