October 20, 2014

Animal Facts: Coyote

Canis latrans

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Genus: Canis
Species: C. latrans

Fast Facts
Lifespan: 10-15 years in captivity, 4-5 years in the wild
Size:4 feet long; 24 inches shoulder height; weight 25-35 pounds
Offspring: 5-7 young
Status: common

What do coyotes look like?
A cousin to dogs, wolves, and foxes, the coyote measures about 4 feet from head to tail, with a shoulder height of about 2 feet and a weight from 25-35 pounds. Eastern coyotes tend to be slightly larger than coyotes found in the west. They have a long and pointed muzzle with a small, rounded nose, and a keen sense of smell. They have sharp eyes, large sensitive ears that are directed forward, slender legs, and small feet with non-retractable claws. The fur is long, coarse, and dense that shows a slight seasonal variation, but varies greatly among individuals. There is not a difference in fur quality between males and females. Usually their colors is gray to cinnamon gray with the underside being buff gray and black.

Where do coyotes live?
The coyote's habitat in the east consists of brushy country bordering the edge of coniferous and second growth hardwood forests, also fields interspersed with thickets and marshlands. Coyotes do not do well in dense forests. Coyotes sleep on the ground in some cover all year but will make a den for their pups under a stump, hollow log, log pile, rocky ledge, vacant building, or dry culvert. They may even dig their own den or enlarge an abandoned burrow. A coyote den may be 2 to 4 feet underground and up to 30 feet long. It may have one or several concealed entrances in high vegetation. The home range of a coyote may be 2.5 to 26 square miles depending on the availability of prey.

What do coyotes eat and what eats them?
Coyotes are opportunists and eat a variety of animals including carrion, rabbits, white-tailed deer, rodents, insects, birds, snakes, frogs, lizards, turtles, fish, crayfish, and vegetation like grapes, apples, cherries, berries, and grasses. The main prey of coyotes tends to be rabbits, carrion, and rodents. Coyotes will often bury a meal if they are unable to finish it and return to it at a later time. There are few predators of the adult coyote aside from humans; young pups have more including the wolf, great horned owl, cougar, bear, golden eagle, and humans.

How do coyotes adapt?
Coyotes are active year round and are chiefly active at dawn and dusk and it is not uncommon to see one out during the day. They often lead a solitary existence or travel in a small "pack" consisting of a mated pair, the pups of the year, and possibly an older offspring. Coyotes are curious animals with a willingness to experiment with new food items and adapt quickly to new situations using it to their advantage. They may sometimes follow large animals using them to flush rodents and insects from a field or will scavenge along a highway. Coyotes may work in pairs to catch prey, splitting off from each other with 30 to 200 feet between them and walking parallel for some distance. They then come together for a short while and split again. A coyote may stalk and creep up on its prey, freeze momentarily, and then pounce like a fox or may hunt by chasing an animal in relays with other coyotes. A coyote usually attacks its prey from the front biting the victim at the throat and cutting the jugular vein, although they often attack the rear end of a deer. The keen sense of hearing, sight, and smell are very important to the coyote when hunting. They usually trot when hunting but may run as fast as 25 to 30 miles per hour. Coyotes are also strong swimmers and with their thick fur are well equipped to survive in temperatures as low as 20 to 30 degrees below zero. Coyotes communicate by howling, barking, and yipping. They also communicate by using their scent glands, and urine and scat posts to mark their territories.

How do young coyotes develop?
Coyotes may pair together for several years but do not mate for life. Breeding begins in February and gestation lasts for 60 to 65 days with the pups born in April or May. The litter size is normally 5 to 7 blind and helpless pups covered with dark, tawny hair. They are able to crawl after about 3 days and walk at 8 to 10 days. The eyes open at 10 to 14 days and they can run at one month old. The female may move the pups from one den to another during their first few weeks of life. The pups are nursed for two weeks and then begin to eat partially digested food as well as continue to nurse. The male provides the food for the pups and the femals until they are old enough to venture out of the den at 3 to 6 weeks old when they are weaned. The pups are taught to hunt by both the male and female at 9 weeks of age. The family will stay together until early fall. If a coyote survives its first year of life it may live to be 4 to 5 years old or if it is lucky 10 to 15 years.

Fun Facts!
  • Coyotes may work in pairs to catch prey, splitting off and running parallel to each other before coming back together.
  • Eastern coyotes tend to be larger than western coyotes.
  • Coyote pups are born blind and helpless but can run after just a month.

October 6, 2014

Hoots and Howls

For 23 seasons, Squam Lakes Natural Science Center has brought Halloween and nature together at the annual Halloween Hoot ‘N Howl. This fun event showcases live nature related skits with an eerie and often humorous twist.

The 2014 Halloween Hoot ‘N Howl will be Saturday, October 18 from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. 40-minute guided tours along a newly designed trail depart every ten minutes from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. After each tour guests are invited to warm up with Halloween games and tasty treats. Guests are encouraged to come in costume and dress suitably for outdoor weather.

Reservations can be made by calling the Science Center at 603-968-7194. Cost is $8 for members and $11 for non-members. All registrations received prior to Friday, October 10 will receive a $1 per person discount. The Halloween Hoot ‘N Howl is held rain or shine.

September 29, 2014

Science Center Voted Family Favorite by Parenting NH Magazine

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center has been selected by the readers of Parenting New Hampshire magazine as a “Family Favorite” award recipient for Favorite Environmental and Educational Center. Parenting New Hampshire magazine is the state’s premier parenting magazine and a resource for families who live in or visit New Hampshire throughout the year.

The Family Favorite awards, now in its fourth year, is an awards program that recognizes family-friendly businesses, services, and places in almost 60 categories – as chosen by the readers of Parenting New Hampshire magazine. Categories included Out and About, Baby Stuff, Birthday Fun, Shopping, Activities & Learning, Family Services, and Restaurants.

“The Family Favorite’s award program recognizes those places, people, and things that make New Hampshire a great place to raise a family,” said Melanie Hitchcock, editor of Parenting New Hampshire. “Whether it is a child care center, the library, or the playground, parents give each other advice on what and who is the best. The Family Favorites contest gives them the opportunity to share that information with the wider public.”

“We are honored to be chosen by the readers of Parenting New Hampshire magazine as a family favorite,” said Amanda Gillen, Marketing and Visitor Services Manager at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. “For nearly 50 years we have been bringing families nearer to nature and the award helps to spread our educational message.”

The Family Favorite Awards voting took place online from June 1 through July 31, 2014. Parenting New Hampshire received almost 1,100 votes over the two month time period. The results of the reader’s poll will appear in the October 2014 issue of Parenting New Hampshire.

September 16, 2014

Fall Foliage Cruises on Squam Lake

The fiery red orange of sugar maples; the deep russet of oak leaves; the shimmering yellow of aspen leaves; the bright red sumac leaves. Fall foliage season in New Hampshire must be experienced in person to appreciate the beauty of the changing seasons. A great way to get outside and see the landscape is with a cruise on Squam Lake offered by Squam Lakes Natural Science Center.

Squam Lake is the second-largest lake located entirely in New Hampshire at 6,791 acres. It served as the location for the filming of On Golden Pond in 1981. It is known for its wildlife including Common loons, bald eagles, great blue herons, and more. It is also famous for its amazingly clear water, rocky shores, celebrated islands, historic homes, and scenic mountain views.

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center offers Squam Lake Cruises daily through Columbus Day weekend. Cruises run at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. These 90-minute guided tours on one of the Science Center’s canopied pontoon boats hold approximately 23 people and are a nice, intimate way to see and learn about this beautiful landscape. Binoculars are available on cruises for wildlife viewing at no additional cost.

Reservations are recommended for Squam Lake Cruises by calling 603-968-7194, option 7.
Photo by Ellen Edersheim

September 8, 2014

Got Heat? Get Wood

At this time of year, the days begin to feel cooler even with the deceptive summer weather that seems to linger. Fall is just around the corner and that often brings up the thought of winter, which many people try to avoid thinking about. For me, fall makes me think about heating, specifically wood heat. Most people who heat with wood have already cut, stacked and stored it for the upcoming heating season prompting me to think we are not much different from the squirrels that gather nuts and seeds for their winter needs.

Last fall Squam Lakes Natural Science Center started planning for its future energy use that’s a bit different. We converted our heating units for four buildings from fossil fuel to wood. Why? There were many reasons that helped us to make this decision but two stood out. First the cost of natural gas and heating oil has fluctuated over the years making it difficult to project a budget for our yearly heating needs. The second reason was that we wanted to find a source of fuel that was “local” and renewable. These reasons led us to the solution to heat with wood, not a wood stove, not a wood furnace, but a dual stage wood gasification boiler. These units are sometimes confused with outdoor wood furnaces but there are significant differences between them.

One concern people have with a wood furnace is the smoke particulates released into the air that affect air quality in the area. This happens because the fire is regulated by a draft fan that controls the burn rate of the wood depending on the heat demand from the building, which causes the fire to vary between a full burn and smoldering. Outdoor wood furnaces operate at relatively low temperatures resulting in inefficient combustion causing energy to go up the chimney as smoke.

Dual stage wood gasification boilers are constructed and operate differently. There are two burn chambers. In the first chamber the fire burns at a relatively low temperature and low oxygen level. This forces organic gases from the wood into the secondary combustion chamber where super-heated oxygen-rich air is introduced. This allows burning of gasses at very high temperatures, resulting in low particulate emissions because of an almost complete combustion of fuel. During the first 20 minutes of operation of our dual stage wood gasification boilers the only visible emission is steam. After the units reach their optimum burn temperature the steam dissipates and there are no visible emissions.

The heat generated from our wood gasification units is transferred and stored in two water “jackets” that surround the boilers and hold 5400 gallons of water. These act like batteries, storing heat until it is needed by one of the five buildings. Then the heat is transferred across a heat exchanger to insulated pipes that run underground to deliver the heat to each building. Cooler water returns from the building through other insulated underground pipes where it is “recharged” by the boilers.

This process is exciting for us because the wood gasification units will replace five oil or propane furnaces and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Our wood travels a distance of less than ten miles from standing tree to log at the boiler. The ash produced during the gasification process will be used as an amendment for composting. We also expect to lower our heating fuel bill, but the amount saved will depend on how effectively we manage the heating process. Conservatively we expect to reduce heating costs by 50%. This process also provides us a direct link to our fuel, through cutting, stacking, and burning, making us more aware of how much is used and where it comes from. Finally, this project allows us to broaden our scope of opening a window to the natural world to include physical examples of how our actions impact the world around us.

August 19, 2014

Marketing Internship

By Madeline Warren, Marketing Intern

When something life changing happens to you, that moment and how you felt sticks with you for a very long time. Engrained in your memory is every little detail about the short period of time that managed to have such a big impact on your life. That moment for me is when I got the email from Squam Lakes Natural Science Center offering me the position as Marketing Intern for the summer. I remember reading that email in the middle of my college campus’ bustling cafeteria and without a second thought accepting the position. The feeling of utter excitement that I was about to embark on a new journey by myself to a place I had never been before and live there for three months is still fresh in my mind. Now it is half a year later from that day in my college cafeteria. I have spent the past three months in the beautiful town of Holderness, New Hampshire interning at the Science Center and I am not ready to say good bye.

Over the past three months I have met more interesting people, taken more pictures, and learned more about marketing than I ever thought I would. Each day there was something new to be fascinated about in the field of marketing. One thing I became particularly fascinated with is how marketing creates an identity for a business by using a specific logo with specific colors and fonts. I knew companies used the same color and logos to advertise but I had no idea how specific a brand actually gets. It was my job at the Science Center to create posters for the different programs we were having like Natural Adventures, Up Close to Animal, lake cruises, lectures and more. Each poster was like a mini work of art for me. I would have to go out and take a picture that would be fitting for the event we were advertising for, and then follow the brand identity standards the Science Center uses for all advertisements. I doubt I will ever forget how a Lithos and Rockwell font looks, or the color of that Pantone light green and dark green we use in text.

Another ongoing project that struck my interest was the marketing research and demographic survey project that was the main focus of the internship. It was a little tedious going out on the trail and asking people the same four questions (how did you hear about the Science Center, How often do you visit, Are you a member, what is your zip code). However, after I had all the information and was able to sit down at my desk and analyze the data that was very interesting for me. I liked this project because I was able to bring new information to the marketing department and I felt like I was contributing to something much larger.

When I look at my life ahead of me I want to bring new ideas and information into this world. Marketing research tests the traditional strategies of advertising and creates new ones that help businesses advertise to the public better. I think I would like to pursue this field more and the Science Center has helped me get my foot in the door of marketing research through the demographic survey project. This internship experience has really helped me define my future goals. Before this internship I was confused at what specific field I would like to go into but marketing research is definitely something I would like to continue studying.

Half a year ago in my college campuses cafeteria when I accepted this internship my life changed. I would have never thought about a career in marketing research, or met such wonderful people, or learned so much about wildlife had I not taken this internship.

August 11, 2014

Program Internship Wrap-Up

By Sarah Kelly, Program Intern

With just a couple weeks of summer left, I’ve found myself stopping to take a moment and think about how grateful I am for what I’ve been able to do these last few months at the Science Center. It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over but I guess time flies when you’re having fun and I’ve been having a blast. Being from New Hampshire, I’ve been coming to the Science Center since I was little and have always loved it. When I discovered that they offered an internship I was so excited and sent in my application immediately. Looking back to that time is a bit surreal when I consider that I’m here now. This experience has been everything I hoped it would be.

I started this summer shadowing one of the naturalists through his classes. Sitting through these programs taught me very quickly the basics of the natural history of the area and of the animals we have at the Science Center. From there I started to go off campus and assist with outreach programs at various camps, libraries, and community centers. From these programs I continued to learn about the native wildlife of New Hampshire from the naturalists and had the opportunity to talk to people about them myself. I’ve done a lot of this since in the Up Close to Animals presentations held daily for visitors. These presentations are a great opportunity for me to inform people of the special characteristics of New Hampshire wildlife, and for visitors to see and gain appreciation of the animals up close, and bring up topics that concern them. I’ve been able to discuss these ideas with people of all ages, especially kids, which was helpful for the next part of my internship.

This part involved helping out with summer Guided Discoveries, which are day programs focused on environmental themes. This gave me a much better look at how younger children learn and become engaged to new ideas about the world around them.

I’m finishing my internship working in animal care. Here I see and work behind the scenes taking care of the animals by cleaning, feeding, and enriching. Getting to work up close with some of the animals is an invaluable experience that I’ve always hoped for and now will never forget.

It’s amazing to me the amount that I’ve learned this summer. While I am studying pre-veterinary medicine in college, I haven’t learned too much about wildlife or environmental studies there, so I’ve picked up a great deal of knowledge in just a couple months. After college, I hope to find a career working with wildlife. This internship has been an amazing experience but also has put me in the direction that I would like to pursue. I am beyond grateful for the time I’ve had at the Science Center and the people who have taught me so much this summer. The Science Center has always been one of my favorite places and I’m so lucky to have been given this experience of a lifetime.

August 6, 2014

The Life and Times of the Exhibit Coyote

By Marianne O’Loughlin, Program Intern

On May 1, the male coyote made his exhibit debut and has been one of the Science Center’s most popular exhibit animals ever since. He started as a program animal when he arrived in 2008, but since another coyote arrived in 2013, he’s become a full-time exhibit animal. While the coyote is still a wild animal, he’s gotten used to a human presence from his time as a program animal. He can often be seen running to the exhibit window to investigate visitors, as curious as any wild coyote might be. Coyotes in the wild use this natural curiosity to adapt quickly to new situations. He’s quite the howler, too. If you hear any long, shrill calls anywhere around the Science Center, it’s probably the coyote. His voice carries almost everywhere. Listen in the mornings for the younger female’s response. Since the coyote is so curious, it’s important to give him new experiences every day. Animals at the Science Center, just as in the wild, need to exercise their brains as well as their bodies. We do this by engaging them to practice the same skills they might use in the wild: these new experiences are formally called “enrichment.” Enrichment might involve new objects to see, such as toys or a mirror. Coyotes in the wild are adaptable and are constantly exposed to new things in a variety of habitats.

Most of the time, enrichment involves a new kind of smell. Coyotes in the wild use their supercharged noses to sniff out prey or the trail of another coyote. At the Science Center, the exhibit coyote might smell oregano, nutmeg, vanilla, coffee, or even the scents of other Science Center animals hidden throughout his exhibit. Keep an eye out for the coyote sniffing logs, rocks, or the edges of the exhibit where the scents might be hidden.

Of course, it’s important to have enrichment that the coyote can touch and interact with, too. Since wild coyotes eat a huge variety of animals (and garbage humans leave behind), the exhibit coyote gets some extra treats in addition to his fortified diet. Fish blood, grape juice, jam, “mouse-sicles,” and peanut butter are all on the menu on occasion. We hide food in logs and behind rocks throughout his exhibit so he has to use his sense of smell to find his treats. We also cycle in different logs and rocks in his exhibit so hiding places won’t be predictable.

Coyote FAQ

Do coyotes hunt in packs?
Yes, and no. Coyotes in the east and west are slightly different from one another. Western coyotes are more solitary than their eastern counterparts.

What’s the coyote’s name?
Squam Lakes Natural Science Center's live animals serve as valuable teaching tools to educate our audiences about each species’ role in its environment. To reduce focus on the individual animal and the inherent risk of making wild animals appear as "pets," the Science Center does not use "pet" names for exhibit or program animals. While coyotes are related to dogs, they can never be truly domesticated or “tame.” Animal care staffers work with the coyote under “protected contact,” meaning that when cleaning out holding areas or the exhibit, the coyote is always in a separate area.

How many coyotes are at the science center?
Currently, we have two coyotes. The older male is on exhibit and the younger female is strictly a program animal.

Are coyotes vicious?
Coyotes have powerful teeth and jaws for capturing prey, but unless they lose their fear of humans, they will not actively harm humans unless frightened or threatened. They would rather hunt mice and other small animals and stay out of harm’s way.

The coyote’s looking skinny today. Why is that?
Just like a long-haired dog, coyotes shed their winter coats when the weather gets warm. Often, wildlife photographers capture photos of animals in winter when their coats are thick and vibrant. While animal winter coats look beautiful in pictures, they’re not useful in the hot summer months. The fur gradually sheds off, leaving coyotes looking thinner and sometimes patchy. This is also why the red foxes tend to look scruffier in the summertime. Drop by as the weather gets cooler and you’ll start to see the animals with thicker coats.