Category Archives: Mammals

White-Tailed Deer – Information, Identification

White-Tailed Deer


The white-tailed deer also known as the Virginia deer or simply as the whitetail, is a medium-sized deer native to the United States.

Many times when deer and humans meet it can be expensive: Annual estimates of deer damage are reported to exceed $2 billion nationwide, including $1 billion in car damages, more than $100 million in agricultural crop damage, $750 million in damage to the timber industry, and more than $250 million in damage to metropolitan households (e.g., landscape plantings). These estimates are conservative, and it is often difficult to obtain reliable statistics for wildlife-related losses.3

Whenever you see a deer with antlers, you are looking at a male, called a buck. It has been observed that about 1 in 10,000 females, called does, also have antlers but with those numbers you will probably

never see a doe with antlers. Antlers are fast growing tissue. Antlers can grow at 1” – 2” per week. Growth starts in the spring. “Velvet” covers the growing antler. The velvet provides blood supply making the antler bones grow. When the antler has finished growing the velvet dies and buck uses trees and shrubs to rub off the velvet and “polish” their antlers. When scrapping off the velvet on small trees the buck also shreds the bark right off the tree. Looking for these “buck rubs” is one thing to look for when scouting land before hunting season. Genetics, age and diet contribute to the antler’s development.

Deer shed antlers after mating season when all does have been bred. If by chance there are does that have not been bred the bucks may retain their antlers. 1

Female deer give birth to one to three young at a time, usually in May or June and after a gestation period of seven months.

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The white-tail’s coat is a reddish-brown in the spring and summer and turns to a grey-brown throughout the fall and winter. The deer can be recognized by the characteristic white underside to its tail, which it shows as a signal of alarm by raising the tail during escape.

Male white-tailed deer weigh in at approximately 130 lbs. to 290 lbs. while some can grow to in excess of 350 lbs. The female weigh in at approximately 88 lbs. to 200 lbs. White-tailed deer from the tropics as well as from the Florida Keys tend to be smaller averaging 75 lbs to 110 lbs From nose to tail, white-tailed deer average about 3’ – 7’ and are approximately 2’ – 4’ at the shoulder.


The white-tailed deer is a ruminant, which means it has a four-chambered stomach. Each chamber has a different and specific function that allows the deer to quickly eat a variety of different food, digesting it at a later time in a safe area of cover.

Whitetail deer are primarily herbivores. They eat a wide variety of plant foods including:  legumes, leaves, hay, grass, clover, acorns/forest nuts, pine needles, tree bark, tree buds, fungi, fruits (apples, etc), farm produce (corn, etc) and grasses. When researching about the foods Whitetail deer eat I discovered that they have been known to opportunistically feed on nesting songbirds and field mice.2






1. Deer and Deer Hunting TV 12/17/11
2. The American Midland Naturalist; University of Notre Dame; Oct 2000

Eastern Chipmunk – Tamias striatus

General: The eastern chipmunk almost seems obsessed with gathering food. It will spend much of its day gathering and storing food in storage caches that will be used in winter. It borrows into the ground usually no deeper than 3 feet. The tunnel will be roughly 2″ in diameter and can be 10 feet long with chambers for sleeping and food. A chipmunk in the wild has a life span of 1 – 2 years, captive raised chipmunks have lived substantially longer.

They are not true hibernators. They will go into a deep sleep around mid-November through March. They wake every so often to eat and can be seen out on nice winter days(1)

The eastern chipmunk mates in spring. The gestation period is approximately 31 days, The typical litter is born in May of 3 – 5 babies. Young chipmunks begin to emerge from the burrow at 40 days. The female weans and abandons her litter once they come above ground, by either moving them to a nearby burrow, or by leaving her young in the natal burrow while she moves to a new one.(2)

Eastern chipmunks have no value as food or for their fur and as such should be enjoyed as wild animals. Only if they become nuisance animals around the house or farm should there be any attempt to remove or kill them.

Identification: Eastern chipmunks are approximately 8″ – 12″ long (the tail being almost 4″). They have reddish-brown fur on their upper parts. They have a white stripe on each side bordered on both sides by dark stripes. They have one dark stripe running down their back. The stripes stop at the tail. Their belly is white. They have pale facial stripes above and below the eyes.

Habitat: Eastern chipmunks can be found in open deciduous forest, open agricultural areas, mature suburban neighborhoods with appropriate foods. Often times they will be found by stone walls and houses with old foundations.

Territory: The eastern chipmunk can be found in southeastern Canada and most of the northeastern United States from Maine in the North – south to Mississippi and Virginia and west to North Dakota and Oklahoma

Diet: Most of the eastern chipmunk’s diet is made up of nuts, acorns, seeds, mushrooms, fruits, berries and corn. It also eats insects, bird eggs, snails and small mammals like young mice.

(1) National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mammals
(2) Adirondack Ecological Center

Eastern Gray Squirrel – Information and Facts

Eastern Gray Squirrel


The eastern gray squirrel, also known as the “bushy tail”, is one of the larger American squirrels. Not as large as the fox squirrel. They Gray squirrel in a classic pose. Nut in had and hind legsare also one of the most widely recognized by people due to the fact they have readily adapted to suburban and even urban life. My father lives on the east side of Manhattan, New York. The neighborhood he lives in is inhabited by a black phase. I have counted as many as 6 gray squirrels at my upstate New York backyard birdfeeder in the winter.

gray squirrel tracks - notice the smaller front feet and how close they are.These squirrels do not hibernate. They are active all year round. They do build leaf nests in trees that can be easily spotted in winter after deciduous trees have dropped their leaves. They will also nest in abandoned woodpecker dens and natural tree cavities.

I consider the gray squirrel the biggest nuisance suburban wild animal. They will raid gardens and fruit trees. I have lost all the apples from 2 trees I have on my property to these squirrels. I have watched as they have climbed the trees and chewed a piece of apple and then just leave. They also climb up houses and have nested in house attics and garages causing much damage. I know people who have live trapped gray squirrels and relocated them only to have the same squirrel show up a week or so later.

The eastern gray squirrel can breed twice a year, mid-winter and late spring/early summer. Gestation is approximately 44 days. There are usually two to six young in each litter. The young are weaned in about 50 – 55 days. They leave the nest after about 70 days. According to Audubon, the second litter will usually stay with the female their first winter(1).

It can live to be 20 years old in captivity, but in the wild it usually only lives to a maximum of 12.5 years old.(2)

The eastern gray squirrel has been introduced into certain areas of Europe and England where they have taken habitat from native species.(2) A prime example why species introduction should be studied and debated before a decision is made.

Gray squirrels are a commonly hunted animal. They are fun to hunt and actually taste fine if handled properly. My favorite squirrel scat - just for grinsgun is a .22 single shot. The best way to hunt is to look for stands of forest that carry their food sources – oaks, beech trees, pine and old apple orchards are all great places to look. Learn more about squirrel hunting by clicking this link here.


The eastern gray squirrel is approximately 14″ – 19″ long (tail being up to 9″) and from 1/2 to 1 lb. They are gray above, on their back and head, Their belly is lighter gray/buff white. The tail is bushy gray. There are black phases of this animal that I particularly like as well as albino.

Look high in trees for squirrel nests

The gray squirrel is similar in appearance to the fox squirrel but is slightly smaller and lacks the reddish-orange coloratio

n. The head, back, and sides are gray with a brownish tint. The tail is bushy with hairs being buffy at the base, black in the middle, and white at the ends. The fur on gray squirrels can fade during winter months and therefore may appear more reddish in color during these times.


Hardwood forests with stands of the trees that provide food. Oak-hickory forests are prime. Mixed hardwood forests with pine. Also forest bordering agricultural lands. These animals will travel for their food.


The eastern gray squirrel is found in the eastern United States and south Eastern Canada, (Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick to Manitoba), south to eastern Texas and Florida north to Maine.

Dietgray squirrels are not always gray. There is variability to their coats:

Eastern gray squirrels eat a range of foods, but are primarily herbivores. Foods such as tree bark, seeds and acorns, walnuts, and other nuts, tree buds, such as maple and tulip tree buds, and some types of fungi. They will also eat insects as well young birds and the young of other squirrels.

The Scat of the eastern gray squirrel is small, black and oblong. It is usually inconspicuous.













Check out USGS website for more gray squirrel information

Groundhog – Marmota monax

Groundhog – General Information:

The groundhog also known as a woodchuck, or in some areas as a land-beaver, is a rodent belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots. Groundhogs are well adapted for digging, with short but powerful limbs and curved, thick claws they use to borrow into the ground where they sleep, raise their young and hibernate during the winter months. Groundh

Groundhog in the flower garden
Woodchucks, (groundhogs) are able to slip through chain-link fences

og burrows, which can be 5 feet deep and 30 feet long, usually have two to five entrances, providing groundhogs their primary means of escape from predators. Groundhogs are one of the few species that enter into true hibernation, and often build a separate “winter burrow” for this purpose. This burrow is usually in a wooded or brushy area and is dug below the frost line and remains at a stable temperature well above freezing during the winter months. Woodchucks have the ability to climb trees and swim to avoid predators.

The name woodchuck is said to come from the Cree Indian word wuchak, which was used to describe theses animals.

Woodchucks can be beneficial animals and also problems. Their digging turns over soil helping to aerate and compost. Their den holes can be a hazard and  they can do damage to crops.

This is a commonly hunted animal. Hunters take groundhogs with everything from rimfire to high powered rifles. You can eat the meat, although I have never tried woodchuck.

Groundhog Identification:

The woodchuck is typically grizzled brown but can range from a reddish to black color variants. Their ears are small as is the tail which is totally covered in fur and feet are short.
They typically measure 16″ to 32″ long and weigh 4 to 14 lbs.

Groundhog Habitat:

The groundhog prefers open country and the edges of woodland, and it is rarely far from a burrow entrance. In upstate New York, groundhogs are found mostly in agricultural lands and open fields bordered by woods. They are also common in suburban areas that arewoodchuck near open fields and forest. I live in such an area. A small town bordered on all sides by either farms or light forest. I have had resident groundhogs living under my garage in two of the last five. They are not animals of the deep forest.

Groundhog Territory:

The woodchuck has a wide range. They can be found as far north as Alaska down to British Columbia east across S. Canada. They can be found in the USA from Kansas and Alabama into the Mid-Atlantic states north to Maine.

Groundhog Diet:

Mostly herbivorous, groundhogs primarily eat wild grasses and other vegetation, and berries and agricultural crops when available. I have had groundhogs eat seed at the base of my birdfeeder and find their way into my garden eating leaf vegetables.