My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

Goofy Weather Goofy Animals

wooden deer and fog

This year the El Niño weather in New York State has made this the most unusual winter than I can ever remember. It almost feels like a roller coaster with temperatures last week above average, this week average and then soon to be above average again next week. I have never experienced anything like this before and have started to wonder what effects this could have on our local animals?

Striped Hairstreak American Copper

You wouldn’t think that warm temperatures in January could affect our local butterfly communities this summer. Take a caterpillar that hatches from an egg in the early spring and takes advantage of the spring wildflowers, tree buds or even early leaf development. After constant warm temperatures in January the caterpillars could emerge extra early and now starve from not finding enough food. Numbers for that population could drop drastically overnight and take it numerous years before the population returns back to normal. Looking one step further, this could affect the migrant birds searching for food on their journey north, etc….

Little Brown Bat The release of the Little Brown Bat

The Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) will winter in underground caves, sometimes hundreds of miles away from their nursery colonies. These nursery colonies are typically in buildings, hollow trees or even in bat boxes (which we have placed here in Allegany). While hibernating they will wake up every few weeks and fly around when warm near their wintering cave. So, how is this weather affecting Little Brown Bats?? Last Thursday I was asked to move this Little Brown who found itself in an unwanted location. We rarely find them in this area of the park until March at the earliest and I never expected to find this species here in January. They should be further south in Pennsylvania, but with warmer temperatures this year; they are able to survive closer to their nursery locations than they could in previous years. This could benefit the bats if temperatures stay good but if we get a cold spell it might make it harder for them to survive?? At this point it is hard to tell!

Long Tailed Weasel Photo by flickr friend annkelliott so please be sure to visit her photostream! Thanks for permission to use this picture!

In the northern latitudes the Long-tailed Weasel will go through a color change from its basic brown with (whitish – yellow) on its belly to its alternate color phase of all white except a little black tip on its tail. Annkelliott told me this interesting fact when I emailed her for permission to use her picture. She said “I found it interesting to read that the reason the Long-tailed Weasel has a black tip on its tail is so that for example, a hawk, would see the dark tip and grab that instead of the body, allowing the Weasel to escape”. With that in mind, you have these bright white weasels running around with no snow on the ground!! Predators like hawks, owls or even the fox can now easily see this prey from a good distance and reduce its chances for survival.

Good or bad the El Niño year is part of the life cycle and animals have survived years like this before! While some species are benefiting from the warmer temperatures; some could have their cycle disrupted and lose their life. Currently we are under a snow advisory with 6 inches of snow expected tonight. I can’t believe that just last week the average low temperature was 33°F and the average high was 49.6°F.

8 responses

  1. I have been having this same conversation with Karen. We both can’t believe this weather. I just keep hoping that it doesn’t affect the wildflowers or the bugs this spring. I’ll have nothing to photograph! (that may be a bit of exaggeration, but still…) Right now though it’s looking like we might get back to normal tonight.

    8 January 2007 at 7:32 pm

  2. Jim Brekke

    So that’s how you moved him cool.

    8 January 2007 at 7:40 pm

  3. Didi

    A little bit scary what a detrimental chain reaction this weather will cause.

    8 January 2007 at 8:16 pm

  4. @ Jeremy – I have been wondering when the snow would arrive! But, do remember that weather done this before, it is mother natures way of putting everything back in check!
    @ Jim – I have special nets, containers, ect.. that I use just for these scary mammals!
    @ Didi – I could have kept on going with the chain but I think everyone gets the point I was trying to show!
    Thanks everyone for visiting!

    8 January 2007 at 8:28 pm

  5. I’ve heard the same thing is happening with the Snow Shoe Hare.

    8 January 2007 at 8:54 pm

  6. Randy

    Great post (as always), very interesting!

    While it’s not quite as warm here, this is the warmest December 1st through January 7th that we’ve ever had here in MN. How the animals react will be very interesting to see, while we hope they adapt well.

    There will be cold air to come, it just can’t stay this mild for that long. When winter comes back hopefully it comes in steps instead of all at once…for everyone’s sake. We get acclimated to this warm stuff along with the other animals.


    8 January 2007 at 9:18 pm

  7. mon@rch, I am sorry for my lack of commentary on these wonderful roundup reports. It’s just too painful right now. I love all animals so much it hurts… but one sweetie was my Heart. I’ll be back on in a bit… but I am reading and enjoying.

    Marshmallow’s story makes me cry. (earlier post)

    Two summers ago a bunch of us went out on a spotting ride at night. We came upon a troubled adolescent raccoon and soon noticed his (most likely) sibling next to him newly deceased. The animal would not leave his partner. It was heartbreaking!

    Upon further inspection we were absolutely terrified to see a pile of popcorn placed deliberately in the road by other spotters to attract wildlife!!!!!! We spent the rest of the night stopping at these piles all over ASP (on all 3 main roads!!!!) and sweeping them to the road shoulder with our hands, with one of us on watch for oncoming traffic.

    Back at our campfire I would learn my brother (who served as a forest ranger in Alaska and lived in Africa for 2 1/2 years) encountered the culprits on a separate ride and gently explained… well, pretty much the possible outcomes of this behavior. Brother had not seen our deceased friend. I would not have been so gentle, but maybe that’s because I had blisters on my hands from sweeping the gravelly road. As it would turn out, they were nice (if a bit stupid) people who just wanted to see and photograph the animals. They thought they were being nice feeding them.

    Cars. People. Animals. (and don’t get me started on feeding them!!!). When we set up parks our friends are trusting us to do right by them. They teach us endless lessons and put on the most spectacular shows. In return, well, we need to go gently into their spaces. Just my thoughts.

    9 January 2007 at 8:12 am

  8. @ naturewoman – They do change white also! Wish we had more of them around here!
    @ Randy – I 100% agree and thanks for such kind words!
    @ Jen – thanks for visiting and no worries about the comments! Marshmallow was a cute little guy! Regarding people and the popcorn, happens more than you think! Additional problem is that they come out to eat the popcorn and I have almost hit them because the other vehicles lights are blinding me (and I can’t see the animal in the road)! Knock on computer screen, I have not hit anything yet!

    9 January 2007 at 9:32 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s