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From the February 2013 Conservationist

Letters

By Eileen Stegemann and Jenna Kerwin

Extraordinary Grouping

A bear and three cubs plus two deer standing in a field

This photo was taken in our backyard last September. It's not often you get a shot like this. During one week we had six or seven bears, two bucks, and two does eating acorns. The most fun was watching the bear cubs climb trees to shake the acorns out. Sometimes they walked out on the branches as far as they could and then snapped the branch off to get the acorns. After they left, it looked like a wind storm went through.
Helene Goodman
North Creek, Warren County

What an amazing photo! We agree: you've captured a rare sight, indeed. It is interesting to note that while the interaction between the deer and bears seems relaxed at first blush, the posture of both the buck and sow indicate they are on alert.
-Conservationist staff

Weasel Meets Snowman

A weasel in the snow next to an inflatable snowman

My husband and I are wondering what type of weasel this is and why it isn't white.
Laura Snell
Malta, Saratoga County

This is an adult long-tailed weasel, and you are right in stating it is not in typical winter pelage. As with most furbearers, their coats vary from animal to animal. Generally speaking, weasel populations in the south do not exhibit the white coloration in the winter, whereas in the north, they usually do. Your encounter could be an example of localized natural selection. For example, during winters where snow accumulation is minimal, animals that change to white may have a harder time avoiding mortality, such as predation, where the ones that maintain the brown pelage may have the advantage of increased survivorship based on the lack of snow, and thereby avoid predation.
-William Hoffman, DEC Fish and Wildlife Technician

Deer Tree

A deer hoof stuck in the crotch of a tree

My sons and I were walking along our property last spring when I noticed something unusual high in a tree. I took a closer look, and it turned out to be a deer hoof. I think the only way it could have gotten there is if an animal dragged it up to gnaw on, but I would like to hear other theories as well.
Tom Smith
Duanesburg, Schenectady County

Interesting sight! The deer was most likely scavenged by an animal and the hoof taken away. For instance, a raccoon may have brought it up the tree for safe keeping. That, or someone
is "pulling your leg"!
-Michael Matthews, retired DEC Sportsman Education Coordinator


Posing Owl

A snowy owl standing on the rail of a wooden fence

I took this photo on a farm in Yates of what I believe is a juvenile, male snowy owl.
Aaron Luczak
Alden, Erie County

Great photo! We checked with DEC biologists, and based on the photo, we believe the owl is either a mature female or immature male snowy owl.
-Conservationist staff

Back to Life

Two hands with mittens hold a garter snake with snow on it

I was at Bear Creek Harbor on Lake Ontario photographing some trout anglers when one of the gents said a garter snake was floating in the creek. He tossed it to shore and I immediately put the snake in a plastic container and set it on my vehicle's dashboard. I put on the defroster and within five minutes, I could see life coming back into the snake! I then brought it back to my mare's hay storage barn where I know other garters overwinter in the organic heat of the hay. I sure hope it fared well!
Laurie Dirkx
Ontario, Wayne County

Cold-blooded animals, most garter snakes spend the winter with other garters tucked away under large rocks or inside mammal burrows. We wondered how the snake ended up in the river, so we asked our biologists who told us that there could be a number of explanations. For instance: the snake's hibernation site may have been flooded; a brief spell of warmer weather may have prompted it to emerge; or it may even have been stressed by a disease. Biologists also mentioned that it's probably best not to interfere with the natural course of events, and that a license is required to possess or move wildlife.
-Conservationist staff


What "Grand Canyon?"

The canyon and river at the bottom at Letchworth State Park
Photo: Ray Minnick

After reading "Grand Canyon of the East" about Letchworth State Park in the October 2012 issue, I felt it would have been appropriate to include a photo that more accurately illustrated that title. Anyone not familiar with Mr. Letchworth's gift would have no indication as to why the name was used.
Jack Wannenwetsch
Holley, Orleans County

We agree. That's why we're including this photo by New York-based photographer, Ray Minnick.
-Conservationist staff