At this time, the wildlife information service hotline from the Bell has been discontinued due to lack of funding. In the meantime, here are answers to the top ten wildlife information service questions!
Have you ever been walking down the street and out of the corner of your eye you see a flash of white, you look up and there, climbing the nearest tree, is what looks like a gray squirrel only it's completely white?
You have just seen an albino animal. Albino animals are born with little or no pigment in their skin. This means that they appear white. Their eyes are either pale blue or red because you can see the blood flowing behind the iris.
For some animals, such as city squirrels, albinism is fairly common but in most cases albino animals are rare because being white makes it hard to hide from both predators and prey. Albino city squirrels get by because there are fewer predators to catch them and people tend to favor white squirrels by feeding them more.
If your yard is criss-crossed with speedbump like tunnels you probably have moles! In Minnesota we have two species of moles, the star-nosed mole and the Eastern mole. Both are small mammals, gray to black in color with large digging claws on there front feet. They are insectivores, meaning they eat invertebrates especially worms and soft-bodied insects such as beetle grubs. Moles do not eat plants but they do eat the insects attracted to plants. Moles are very important to soil health; their digging search for insects aerates the soils and allows new seeds and plants to take root. Moles are extremely difficult to get rid of and in most cases are doing more good then harm to your yard.
Things you can do to control the number of moles in your yard:
Butterflies and moths are small, colorful visitors that can easily be attracted to a neighborhood garden, the trick is knowing exactly what to plant. Start by looking at what animals need to survive; food, shelter, water, and a place to raise young. Plant a combination of flowers for the adults and plants for caterpillars. Without caterpillar food, butterflies are only temporary visitors and will move on looking for places to lay eggs or find mates. Water can be a shallow dish filled with sand and water, placed in a sunny location. Shelter can be a dense bush or a butterfly house.
Below is a list of good butterfly plants.
Butterflies prefer flowers with large places to land and yellow, orange or purple color.
Moths prefer white flowers, often trumpet shaped.
Caterpillars are picky eaters, this is a list of food plants and the caterpillars that eat them.
There is a million dollar industry related to squirrels and bird feeders and still no one has come up with a foolproof solution. Squirrels are clever, nut eating rodents. Thanks to their constantly growing incisors squirrels can chew though almost anything including wood and plastic.
Some things that you can do to discourage squirrels:
In late summer we start to get calls about a mysterious hummingbird-like creature flying from flower to flower, it's brown about 3 inches long and has a long "beak." This hummingbird mimic is actually a fat bodied insect called a sphinx or hawk moth. These moths have a very similar life-style to hummingbirds. They survive by drinking large amounts of nectar from trumpet shaped flowers, although the moths prefer white flowers and the hummingbirds prefer red and orange flowers. This is just one of the many mystery creature calls we get, so what can you do to make it easier to identify a mystery creature?
What should you remember when trying to identify a "mystery creature"?
Minnesota has 17 species of snake and by far the most common is the Common Garter Snake. The familiar black and yellow striped garter snakes is harmless to people and does a great deal of good eating insects, frogs and mice. The problem is that many people fear snakes and they just don't want them around. Snakes are found in areas were there is plenty of food and somewhere to hibernate. Garter snakes in particular hibernate in large groups underground, in woodpiles, and occasionally foundations. Whenever possible hibernation sites should be left intact.
Things that can be done to discourage snakes from a yard.
Many different birds nest close to people and are fun to watch, but how long will they be around and just what are the best ways to keep track of nesting birds. Most of the common city birds have no problem with people watching their nests but some simple rules should be followed to make sure that you don't spook the birds and you don't lead predators to the nest. Never touch a birds nest, if possible stay at least five feet away. Check the nest only once day, repeated visits can cause the parents to abandon the nest.
You can encourage many birds to nest in your yard by putting up nest boxes or by planting dense shrubbery.
Some common birds and their nesting times
|Eggs||Incubation||Nestling period||Fledgling period|
|American Robin||3-4||12-13 days||13 days||Up to 4 weeks|
|Mallard Duck||8-10||23 days||1 day||50-60 days|
|Common Grackle||5||12 days||12 days||possibly none|
|Killdeer||3-5||24-28 days||none||Up to 5 weeks|
|Barn Swallow||5||15 days||18-20 days||Up to 4 weeks|
|Cardinal||2-5||12-13 days||9-10 days||3-4 weeks|
|Blue Jay||4-5||17 days||17-19 days||Up to 2 months|
|Mourning Dove||2||14-15 days||12-13 days||1 week or more|
|Kingbird||3-4||14-16 days||14-17 days||2-3 weeks|
Bats are beneficial and gentle creatures but occasionally they get "too close for comfort." If this happens, don't panic! If it is a single bat that hasn't bitten or scratched anyone, open a window or door and it should fly out, or carefully push the bat into a can using a piece of cardboard and release it outside. If it's several bats they may be roosting somewhere in the house, such as an attic. The bats are there because attics and chimneys provide warm and safe places to roost and raise young. The only consistently successful method of getting the bats to leave is physical exclusion. The best times to exclude bats are April and August/ September so you aren't trapping flightless babies in your house.
Steps in excluding bats.
Woodpeckers go after houses as an alternative to increasingly rare dead trees. Sometimes woodpeckers are looking for a place to make a roosting or nesting hole identified by the woodpecker digging a hole several inches across and pulling out insulation. A second reason for woodpeckers to repeatedly bang on the side of the house is to declare territory, this is called drumming and woodpeckers even do it to aluminum siding. The most common reason is the woodpeckers are looking for food, identified by several small holes often near the eves. Cedar siding provides great places for solitary bees and beetles to nest and can be attractive carpenter ants making it a smorgasbord for the woodpeckers. Even if there are no insects the sound of electric current running through the walls can deceive the woodpecker into thinking baby wasps are buried beneath the surface.
So what can you do to protect your house and discourage woodpeckers?
First of all, make sure it is an orphan. Well-intentioned people take many babies away from their parents. The most common "orphans" are rabbits and baby birds. To prevent predators from finding their babies, rabbits visit their nest only a couple of times a day. You can test to see if mom is coming back by placing a few pieces of straw over the nest and if they have been moved the next morning, you know mom's been there. Gawky baby birds, such as Robins and Blue Jays, often leave their nests as much as a week before they can fly, and hop around hiding in bushes with the parents watching from a distance. Always remember a young animal's best chance for survival is being raised by its natural mother.
Once you are sure an animal is an orphan.