Possum Power!

Caught In The Headlights, photo by James Marvin Phelps

Tick season is upon us, and with the added threat of Lyme disease, it’s serious business here in Michigan. My friend Tara with the Leelanau Conservation District shared some information about opossums from Opossum Awareness & Advocacy (opossum facts image below that you can share):

Did you know that opossums eat up to 5000 ticks per season thereby reducing our risk of contracting Lyme Disease and other tick-born diseases? They kill vermin, including mice, and garden pests. They are not dirty; they are very clean animals and groom and clean as much as cats. Better still, most opossums cannot contract or spread rabies. Opossums are the United States and Canada’s only marsupials.

They may look a little scary to the uninitiated, but they are actually timid and do so much good for humans compared to most other creatures. If you see an opossum consider yourself lucky, leave it alone and please do not harm it. They have a hard time surviving in cold climates because they don’t have very thick coats. Sometimes opossums play dead because they are afraid. Please don’t hit them with your car. Spread the word and please help protect opossums!

View the photo background big and see more in James’ massive Michigan slideshow, and follow James Marvin Phelps Photography on Facebook.

Lynx rufus, Bobcat in Michigan

It’s feeling like Wild Kingdom week at Michigan in Pictures. An update on the eagle nest from yesterday is that one of the eggs is now an eaglet – click to view!!

Bobcat on the Dock

Close Encounter…, photo by Dale DeVries

Dale writes that this close encounter was…

Of the Kitty Cat kind! Around dusk last night I saw the flash from my trail cam go off, so I grabbed binoculars to see what was on the dock. It was so dark I really could not make out what was there, I assumed it to be a raccoon or two. I was quite surprised to see this beautiful Bobcat patrolling the water’s edge!

The UM Animal Diversity Web’s entry for Lynx rufus, the bobcat says (in part):

Bobcats can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, semi-deserts, mountains, and brushland. They sleep in hidden dens, often in hollow trees, thickets, or rocky crevices.

…Bobcat fur can be various shades of buff and brown, with dark brown or black stripes and spots on some parts of the body. The tip of the tail and the backs of the ears are black. They have short ear tufts, and ruffs of hair on the side of the head, giving the appearance of sideburns.

Like many felids, bobcats are solitary animals. The male and female interact almost exclusively during the mating season. These cats rarely vocalize, although they often yowl and hiss during the mating season. Bobcats are basically terrestrial and nocturnal, although they are good climbers and are often active at dusk as well as during the night.

Bobcats are strictly meat eaters. Stealthy hunters, they stalk their prey, then pounce and (if successful) kill with a bite to the vertebrae of the neck. They hunt rodents, rabbits, small ungulates, large ground birds, and sometimes reptiles. They occasionally eat small domesticated animals and poultry.

Bobcats live up to 12 years in the wild. In captivity, they may live up to 32 years.

Read on for more including photos and bobcat calls and in case you’re trying to figure out what you’re looking at, here’s page on distinguishing Michigan cougars & bobcats and another on the difference between bobcat & lynx (Lynx canadensis) that includes their distinct profiles.

View Dale’s photo background big and see more in his Fern Ridge Pictures slideshow.

More Michigan animals on Michigan in Pictures.

Happy Groundhog Day, Michigan!

Michigan Groundhog
Young Groundhog, photo by John E Heintz Jr

Happy Groundhog Day everyone! We’re hoping that folks in the southern part of the state are digging out all right!

Michigan has native groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, whistle-pigs, or land-beavers. You can learn all about them from the University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web under Marmota monax (woodchuck) which says (in part):

Woodchucks have numerous common names, including ground hog, and whistle pig. The word “woodchuck” is a misinterpretation of their Native American name “wuchak”, which roughly translates as “the digger”. Groundhog Day occurs when Punxsutawney Phil, a captive woodchuck held in rural Pennsylvania, is awakened from hibernation in order to determine if he will see his shadow. According to the legend, if he sees his shadow there will be 6 additional weeks of winter. If he does not see his shadow, legend predicts an early spring.

The legend of Groundhog Day is likely due to the fact that woodchucks often re-enter hibernation after emerging from their dens prematurely.

We all know about Punxsutawney Phil, but have you heard of Michigan’s Official Groundhog? Her name is Woody, and she lives at the Howell Conference & Nature Center and unfortunately is battling a severe respiratory infection so her alternate Murray will stand in if she’s unable to perform her official duties at 8:15 today.

Woody correctly forecast six more weeks of winter weather on February 2, 2014, much to the chagrin of close to two hundred shivering attendees of that Sunday morning’s Groundhog Day festivities.

Last year’s prognostication, her sixteenth, was made crystal clear by her outright refusal to even leave her home. With temperatures at the Nature Center hovering in the low 20′s and several inches of snow on the ground, the clairvoyant chuck’s behavior was interpreted as just another sign of her wisdom.

Read on for more.

View John’s photo bigger and see lots more backyard wildlife in his ANIMAL PHOTOGRAPHY slideshow.

Black Bear in Michigan


Bear, photo by Majestic View Photography

Here’s a few of the many Michigan Black Bear Facts available from the DNR:

What is the status of black bear in Michigan?

Approximately 15,000 – 19,000 black bears (including cubs) roam the hardwood and conifer forests of northern Michigan. About 90 percent of the bear live in the Upper Peninsula, while the remaining ten percent are mainly found in the northern Lower Peninsula. However, it is becoming increasingly common to see bear in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula. During the past twenty-five years, the status of the Michigan black bear has been elevated from pest to prized game species. Today, Michigan’s only bear species is protected by law and managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

What are the physical characteristics of the black bear?

Most black bear in Michigan have dark black fur. Brown color variations are more common in western states. The size of a bear depends on its age, sex, diet, and season of the year. Adult female bear are generally smaller than adult males. In Michigan, female bear range from 100-250 pounds, while adult males weigh between 150-400 pounds. Adult black bear measure about three feet high when on all four feet and about five feet when standing upright. A bear is considered an “adult” when it is capable of reproducing, which generally occurs at three to four years of age in Michigan. In the wild, bear can live 20 to 30 years.

What is the home range of a black bear?

A bear’s home range is the area that provides sufficient food and cover for the animal to survive. Black bear are solitary animals, but family groups such as a sow and her cubs may be observed. Male black bear live in an area about 100 square miles in size, while females live in smaller areas of 10-20 square miles. Home range size is affected by food availability, the number of other bear in an area, and human development. As more people move to northern Michigan, the amount of undeveloped bear habitat declines.

What is the diet of the black bear?

In one word – everything. Black bear are considered opportunistic feeders, taking advantage of many seasonally available foods. Bear eat succulent, new green vegetation in the spring after they leave their dens. Colonial insects, such as ants and bees, may make up over half of their diet in late spring and early summer. Black bear experience rapid weight gain in years when wild berries, which are high in sugars and other carbohydrates, are available beginning in mid summer. Nuts and acorns, because they are high in fats and protein, are the best fall foods for bear when preparing for their winter’s sleep. If given the chance, black bear will supplement their natural diet with human garbage, pet foods, birdseed, or any foods placed to feed or attract other wildlife.

Read on for more, see the State of Michigan’s Black Bear section and also check Ursus americanus American black bear from the UM Animal Diversity Web for comprehensive information & photos.

View Dan’s photo out on black  and see more in his Animals slideshow.

More animals on Michigan in Pictures.

The Michigan Moose Lift

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Michigan Moose Reflections

Moose Reflections, photo by yooper1949

NOTE: I’ve edited this post because the State of Michigan removed it from the internet. Thank you archive.org for saving it via The Wayback Machine so I could share it in its entirely!

Remembering Michigan’s Historic Moose Lift from the Michigan DNR says:

On Jan. 20, 1985, separate convoys carrying men and equipment set out from Michigan on a mission to reach the 3,000-square-mile Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada.

Over the next two weeks, this team of wildlife biologists and veterinarians from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, working with a team of Canadian specialists from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, would locate, capture, transport and release a number of wild moose to form the nucleus of a new population in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

It was an unprecedented, historic operation. The wind chill at times approached 100 degrees below zero. Utilizing helicopters, tranquilizing dart guns and slings, some moose were air-lifted as far as 14 miles from the capture area to base camp.

At base camp, each animal was subjected to thorough medical testing and was fitted with a sophisticated radio collar, before being lifted into a shipping crate and placed onto a transport truck for the non-stop 600-mile overnight journey back to Michigan.

The remarkable effort was called “moose lift.” A total of 29 moose (10 bulls, 19 cows), ranging in size from 750 to 1,250 pounds, survived the arduous journey.

Crowds assembled each day at the release site north of Lake Michigamme in Marquette County. Despite temperatures well below zero, a welcoming committee of U.P. residents always showed up to greet the new “American” citizens.

As we mark the 20th anniversary of the first moose lift, the most common question that arises is, “How are the moose doing now?”.

“The department’s goal was to produce a self-sustaining population of free-ranging moose, and we have that,” said Dean Beyer, wildlife research biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Since the first moose lift in 1985, and a similar effort two years later when another 30 moose were released in the same area, the DNR has closely monitored the reintroduced moose population.

“At first, the size and growth of the herd was determined through a simple process–similar to balancing a checkbook,” Beyer said. “Because all moose were radio-collared, biologists could monitor each animal and tell when it died, and they could follow cows to record any births. The population could be tracked simply by adding the number of calves born and subtracting the number of animals that died.”

As the population grew, the new animals in the herd did not have radio collars.

“Over time, maintaining an adequate sample of radio-collared animals for the population would not be feasible,” Beyer said.

So in 1996 and 1997, the DNR conducted aerial surveys, which are the most common method of estimating moose numbers. Unfortunately, the population estimates from the aerial surveys were lower than estimates from the population model.

“At that point we knew we needed to conduct a more intensive study of the reintroduced population,” Beyer said. “And we also wanted to determine a more accurate picture of what’s reasonable growth for this population.”

With the help of the Michigan Involvement Committee of Safari Club International, which also provided the single largest financial contribution to the first moose lift, the DNR began a more intensive study of the reintroduced population in 1999, in cooperation with Michigan State University.

“Our research team is developing a technique to estimate the size of the population by estimating the probability of seeing moose from an airplane given the group size; behavior, whether the animal is standing or bedded; and the amount of canopy cover,” Beyer said.

When the moose were reintroduced into the western Upper Peninsula, biologists hoped the population would grow to 1,000 animals by the year 2000. Although that objective was not reached, results of the current study indicate the population is growing, on average, between five and ten percent each year. The research also has shown that poaching, moose/car accidents, brainworm and wolves are not major factors influencing the moose population at this time.

According to Beyer, the herd ranges over approximately 1,800 square miles in Marquette, Baraga and Iron counties. Moose also are found in several parts of the eastern U.P., most notably around the Tahquamenon River.

“Moose in this region have not been studied in detail,” he said.

Although records from the early explorers show that moose were common throughout Michigan, by the late 1800s moose numbers were very low. Moose soon disappeared from the Lower Peninsula and only a small number survived in the U.P., perhaps supplemented by animals coming in from Minnesota and Canada.

Thanks to the vision and hard work of many DNR biologists a generation ago, moose are once again establishing themselves as a premiere Michigan mammal.

Several U.P. communities, in fact, now vie over the self-proclaimed title, “Moose Capital of Michigan.” Mascots, motels, restaurants, candy and even ice cream are named after the mighty moose. Its image is common on billboards, television, artwork and printed materials. But most importantly, moose are alive and well, and rambling about in the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula once more.

Here’s a great video about the Moose Lift – highly recommended!

The last DNR moose survey pegs the UP’s moose population at about 500 with another 750 on Isle Royale.

Carl took this shot on Isle Royale in September. Check it out big as a moose and see much more (including some more moose shots) from one of Michigan’s coolest parks in his Isle Royale slideshow.

More moose on Michigan in Pictures!