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Squirrels in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan (July 31st, 2017), photo by Corey Seeman

Apologies for the spotty posting over the last week. I’ve been pretty busy on a project.

Corey took this photo yesterday on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor when he was testing out his new Tamron 18mm-400mm lens, which he totally loves. View the photo background bigtacular and see more in Corey’s Project 365: Year 10 slideshow. (spoiler alert – there’s a lot of squirrels in it!)

More summer wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures.

Fat Cats & Big Dogs: Michigan’s Pet Obesity Problem

Walk this way, photo by Alissa Hankinson

Here’s an article from a couple of weeks ago about Michigan’s fat cats & dogs:

When it comes to paunchy pooches, Michigan ranks No. 3 nationwide behind only Minnesota and Nebraska, according to a newly released study.

Michigan felines fared better — but only slightly, with the state ranking No. 6 for overweight cats, behind Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Idaho, and Delaware.

…The Vancouver, Washington-based Banfield Pet Hospital, a nationwide chain, on Tuesday released its 2017 State of Pet Health report. It found that one in three pets that visited a Banfield hospital in 2016 was diagnosed as overweight or obese. In the past 10 years, Banfield, which operates many clinics inside of PetSmart stores, witnessed a 169% increase in overweight cats and a 158% increase in overweight dogs, the news release stated.

Michigan pets tipped the scale in comparison to their counterparts nationwide. Dr. Kirk Breuninger, the lead researcher on the study, said 38% of dogs in Michigan were overweight, compared to 30% nationally. Thirty-nine percent of Michigan cats were overweight, compared to a 33% national average.

View Alissa’s photo bigger and see more in her Dogs slideshow.

Egg Season for Michigan Turtles

Snapping Turtle, photo by Kevin Povenz

I came across a cool video of a snapping turtle laying her eggs – check it out below! The Michigan Turtles page from the DNR says in part:

Turtles reproduce by internal fertilization and produce shelled eggs deposited on land. Most mating takes place in spring after a brief courtship, which begins shortly after turtles emerge from their hibernation sites. Courtship displays vary greatly. Male Eastern Box turtles chase their intended mates and nip at their shell edges, or chin. Female painted turtles receive soft toenail strokes from potential mates. Male snapping turtles may fight fierce battles to drive rivals away from a choice breeding territory.

Between late May and early July, a female turtle will leave the water and seek a sunny spot with little or no vegetation and moist, but not saturated, sand or soil. She digs a shallow nest cavity with her hind feet and deposits her clutch of eggs. Depending on species, the eggs may be round or oval and have either hard or flexible shells. The nest is then refilled by the female with excavated materials, without ever having seen the eggs and is abandoned to its fate. Many (probably most) turtle eggs are eaten by raccoons or other predators within a few days of being laid. Those that survive will hatch in two to three months. In most cases, the young head immediately for cover in shallow water (aquatic species) or leaf litter (box turtles). Young painted turtles have the ability to withstand partial freezing and often remain in the nest over winter, emerging in spring.

In most turtle species, gender is determined by the temperature of the egg during a critical part of incubation. In general, male turtles tend to hatch from cooler eggs, and females hatch from warmer eggs. Once hatched, baby turtles can grow quickly for the first few years, with growth slowing as they near adulthood.

Turtles are among the longest living animals on earth. Several species of turtles can live for several decades. With this longevity also comes a negative side. It takes several years for turtles to sexually mature (4 to 10 years for a Painted turtle, 14 to 20 years for a Blanding’s or Wood turtle, and 15 years for a Snapping turtle). Non breeding turtles are often the targets of predators, automobiles, and pet seekers. In addition, the longer life span allows turtles to build up environmental toxins in their tissues. These toxins can have serious affects on a turtle’s health and breeding ability.

About this photo from 2014 Kevin writes: While out on our hunt for Bald Eagles on Sunday we came across 5 different female snapping turtles laying their eggs. This one was on the bank of the Grand River that was probably 10 feet above the river.

View it bigger and see more in his Animals slideshow.

Know Your Michigan Turtles: Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)

Common Musk Turtle, photo by Nick Scobel

Happy World Turtle Day everyone!

World Turtle Day (May 23rd) was started in 2000 by American Tortoise Rescue to bring awareness about dangers to turtles worldwide. It’s also the perfect day to add the 10th and final turtle to one of the most popular posts on Michigan in Pictures, Know Your Michigan Turtles!

The UM Animal Diversity Web entry for the common musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus), a relatively small turtle with an average length of about 3 to 5 inches, says in part:

The habitat of the common musk turtle includes any kind of permanent body of water, like shallow streams, ponds, rivers, or clear water lakes, and it is rare to find the turtle elsewhere. While in the water, this musk turtle stays mainly in shallow areas. Sometimes it can be found basking on nearby fallen tree trunks or in the branches of trees overhanging the water

…The most prominent behavior of the common musk turtle is its defensive tactic. When disturbed, this turtle will quickly release a foul-smelling liquid from its musk glands. This kind of defense earned the musk turtle the nickname of “stinkpot”. Also, the male is particularly aggressive and will not think twice about biting. Another unique behavior the nocturnal common musk turtle exhibits while foraging is that they walk on the bottom of the stream or pond instead of swimming like other turtles.

Sternotherus oderatus is somewhat of a food generalist, as it is known to eat small amounts of plants, mollusks, small fish, insects, and even carrion. Foraging on the muddy bottom of streams or ponds is the chief way of collecting food.

Nick runs the very useful Herping Michigan Blog where you can find lots more of his excellent photos of Michigan’s reptiles and amphibians along with informative writeups.  View the photo bigger and see more of Nick’s awesome turtle photos on Flickr.

Get the complete list of all 10 turtles native to Michigan right here!

Fox Kit Friday

Fox Kit, photo by David Marvin

Spring is also baby animal season in Michigan, so here’s a little about baby foxes and what to do if you encounter one from Friends of Wildlife in Ann Arbor:

There are two species of fox in Michigan, the Red and the Gray. The Red prefer meadow areas and the Gray favor woods.

As with most wildlife, the kits are born in early spring. The vixen (female fox) chooses a hollow log, an empty woodchuck hole or a roadside culvert for the nursery. This nest site provides her young protection from predators, especially coyotes. The male fox helps with the rearing by bringing the vixen food while she nurses their young and keeps the kits warm. Then later in the kits development both parents teach them how to forage for food.

The foxes diet consists mainly of small rodents, moles and bugs. The benefits that foxes afford farmland, orchards and the general public is their consumption of these invasive pests. It is an absolute miss conception that fox eat cats, dogs or small children.They are very curious creatures but avoid contact with domestic animals and humans.

When fox kits are first born, their eyes and ears are closed, they remain secluded in their den with their mother. As they develop, at about one month, they start venturing out to play, attacking twigs, leaves and their siblings, but never far from the protection of the den.

If you do find an infant fox, please contact them for further instructions and see their website for information about other species!

View the photo background bigtacular and see more including some shots of these kiddos walking around in David’s slideshow.

PS: David has a video too. He writes: “Please note that the video was taken from quiet a distance away with a high power lens so as to avoid as much human contact with the kits.”

Turtles don’t care about personal space

Apparently turtles have no concept of “my personal space”, photo by Dale Devries

Regular readers are aware that World Turtle Day is a big favorite of mine. It takes place a week from today on Tuesday, May 23rd, and I’m extra excited for this year as I will post the 10th and final turtle on my list of the ten turtles native to Michigan! Be sure to tune in and definitely consider supporting American Tortoise Rescue and their World Turtle Day!

I tried to find a definitive answer as to why turtles “stack” like this. It appears to be a way for littler turtles to get more sun, but I’m curious if anyone has a definitive answer.

About the photo Dale writes:

I took an old section of dock and made a ramp up to it just above the waterline, and the turtles have voiced their approval! I have no idea why we have so many turtles here, but it must mean the lake is healthy!

View the photo background big and see more in Dale’s The Best of West Lake slideshow.

Shopping with Kevin

Kevin reading the sign, photo by Penny Thompson

OK. I know I’m REALLY heavy on birds lately, but come how can you resist??!!

A reader (Bill S) tipped me off that there was a story out there on Kevin so I have an addition:

A Michigan gas station where a rooster showed up a few months ago and refused to leave built a coop for the bird and named him Kevin. Michelle Brink, a 15-year employee of Magoo’s gas station in Paw Paw, Michigan, said the rooster first turned up on October of last year, and started making regular visits to eat the deer feed outside the store.

“After the deer feed left we thought maybe he would go home [but] he never left,” Brink told WXMI-TV. “So we’re like OK, winter’s coming, we better build him a box.”

Read on for more including a great video report featuring Kevin from UPI.

View the photo bigger and see more in Penny’s slideshow.

More funny business on Michigan in Pictures.