July 18, 2016

Be Nice to Your Ants!

By Danica Melone, Marketing Intern

I love finding a good reason why something is useful to the immediate environment, and so it was during an Insect Adventure program for a school group when a volunteer started in with a tidbit on ants that stopped me in my tracks. While children frolicked, catching field insects, Squam Lakes Natural Science Center Docent volunteer, Judy, discussed the basic importance of ants: they dig holes in the ground, which helps aerate soil and water plants. In my head I thought, “Wow, I hate those crawly things, but at least they make a great contribution to our environment!”

Little black ant
I initially saw this as a small silver lining to the presence of such insects; I absolutely abhor the feeling of an ant crawling across my foot while doing dishes in my kitchen. Regardless of those past encounters, I began searching for more ways they are important in the Science Center’s Arthur C. Unsworth Memorial Library (the staff’s repertoire of fantastic reference books and educational materials) where I was stunned to find a publication called Wonders of the Ant World, written by Hans Heinz Ewers. The book did such a great job both personifying and justifying the presence of these insects that I was unable to put the book down that night.

It’s probably safe to say a high majority of the human population dislikes the presence of house ants (this blog focuses on common black house ants and little black ants, in particular) since we often see them scurrying in and about our kitchen, getting into pantries, and scarfing away sugary goods. Beside the fact that ants are well-known thieves, they offer humans little else to be interested in; they are neither beautiful to look at like a butterfly nor is there anything humorous or novel about them. Thus, come early spring, hardware and grocery stores stock their shelves with ample ant poison so that we may eradicate them in our homes.

Well, won’t you be surprised to know ants are more like humans than we may think. An ant’s lifestyle is very similar to our own, starting with “ants are the cleanest of all creatures” (Ewers 20). Ants are so clean, in fact, that my research in our library noted that “The American woman of the cultured class is almost painfully particular as to cleanliness,” going on to reference how in Japanese customs, individuals remove their shoes before entering their houses, and that even the Dutch “pride themselves upon the absolute cleanliness of their homes” but “all the cleanliness of the Japanese, the Dutch or Americans is as nothing to that among ants” (Ewers 20). All species of ants are specially equipped with many biological functions that aid them in the cleaning process, such as comb-like features on their forelegs. These features help ants to maintain their personal hygiene and also keep a pristine nest.
See live ants at Life Underground
Nests have chambers of corresponding importance, just like humans, such as a main living space or sleeping quarters. Cleaning the nest, like we would our home, is a strong-held value for ants, or perhaps more so. When it comes to any refuse inside the nest, ants use an innovative, organized means to immediately remove and bury waste in a “special dump, sometimes in the far corner of the nest, but usually outside of it” (Ewers 21). Additionally, Ewers notes a unique trait in ants, that “even more remarkable, the ants bury their dead” as soon as they can, a rare trait in the animal kingdom (Ewers 21). Though ants may be personified through many, many more of their traits, like playing games with each other using “grains of wheat or seeds,” ants should also be thought of as integral player in agricultural practices (Ewers 21).

In many other countries, the presence of ant colonies in orchards can greatly aid in decreasing the population of fruit- or veggie-harming insects. In fact, a single colony of ants has the ability to eliminate upwards of 100,000 insects each day, a high majority of those insects being the harmful ones (Ewers 11). I was stunned to read that “Germany is the only country which has passed a law protecting the ant” (Ewers 10). This is because, in Germany, and other countries like China and Malaysia, if there is a caterpillar infestation in an orchard, farmers may hang ant colonies in each orchard tree and will then draw a thick ring of sticky tar around the trunk of the tree, ultimately preventing ants from crossing the tar. In America, our most similar practice to this has been by using ant colonies to “fight the destructive boll-weevil on the cotton plants” (Ewers 11).

The agricultural history of using ants to aid in farming practices was not the worst idea, compared to that, say, of the advent of using DDT as a pesticide. Ants are an incredible agricultural tool, able to “stir up the soil, plowing and harrowing better than any men can,” and should therefore be thoughtfully reconsidered as quite an underestimated, yet important, insect (Ewers 12). Despite mankind’s natural intuition to dislike the ant due to its tendency to turn up in places where we don’t want it, and my own nauseating reaction to feeling an ant scuttle over skin, I was inspired by Ewers interpretation of an ant’s importance and tremendous similarities to the human race. If you find yourself also questioning an ant’s abilities and similarities to humans, feel free to leave your questions, there is an awful lot of information not included here that I found just as intriguing!

July 11, 2016

Hiking Mt. Fayal

By Danica Melone, Marketing Intern

View from the summit of Mount Fayal.
Before I had actually climbed the mountain, I’d seen iconic photographs taken from the summit that inspired me to make the trek. The Mt. Fayal hiking trail is a one-mile loop that reaches a gorgeous lookout over Squam Lake, and took me past many captivating sights along the way. Knowing there wasn’t yet a full map and summary of the hiking trails for Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, I found this to be a perfect opportunity to map the trails while I climbed.

Prior to beginning the ascent, you have several options for reaching the Mt. Fayal trailhead. My choice was by following the exhibit trail towards the amphitheater. From this point, I walked to the right, away from the amphitheater and towards the marsh boardwalk. Before the marsh boardwalk, a mowed pathway cuts back through the vegetation on the right; this trail, the end of the ecotone trail, will connect you to the Mt. Fayal trailhead. However, if you get yourself on any three of the Science Center’s hiking trails, you will eventually see one, if not a few, trail signs describing where you are and where you’re going.

View from first lookout.
I eagerly bounded up the slope, recording my movements using a voice recorded on my phone as I excitedly peered around the peaceful forest. I will make it clear now that ascending the side closer to the Welcome Center is the steeper part of the trail. Taking full advantage of lunging my lunch away, I was surprised it took no more than fifteen minutes to reach the first lookout, with a view so nice I first assumed it was the summit. Plopped there on a bench, I did not hesitate to enjoy the vistas for a second while a scrawled in my notes. I continued to go up a little bit further until the path began to level out as I reached the summit. As I finished this leg, I walked towards another bench facing a clearing and was stunned as I continued to move past the vegetation blocking my view. What a sight! After twenty, twenty-five minutes of hiking, I was looking at the iconic images of the lake I had seen from photographs. You should know, seeing the view in person after a sweaty scramble to the summit, is about 100 times more breathtaking than you’d imagine by just looking at snapshots.

After breaking, I continued on the trail from behind the bench, as it plateaued and eventually descended. The descent wasn’t as steep as the trail coming up, but loose rocks might make it slightly more difficult for inexperienced hikers. The Mt. Fayal loop trail intersects with the Forest Trail on this side of the loop, near the Piper Homestead. I was thrilled to find that the trails intersected at such a perfect spot; the only remains of the Piper Homestead is the stone cellar hole, but it’s accompanied by an informational signboard with artifacts on display. Overlooking the cellar hole, while reading about the history of the homestead, I was fascinated to learn the homestead included a barn once located on the opposite side of the trail, but both had burned down in a fire. From the Piper Homestead, you can continue up on the Forest Trail or continue on the Mt. Fayal Trail back down to the Welcome Center, like I did. At the bottom, I turned left to where the trail intersects with the Ecotone Trail, as I made my way back towards the Welcome Center.

From start to finish, the hike took me through various landscapes with enthralling sights along the way, in a matter of about 45 minutes. I did, in fact, encounter some wildlife on my hike - a black bear to be exact. Though this was my first experience coming face-to-face with a black bear, I was experienced enough to know to make noise on the trail, which most likely kept him at bay. When hiking the Mt. Fayal trail, or any trail for that matter, your chances of running into wildlife aren’t zero, thanks to growing populations of humans ultimately leading to shrinking habitat for bears and other wildlife.

When it comes to black bears, know this: these curious creatures can smell you from a mile away and will almost always keep their distance from humans. This brings me to my next point: the bears I am referencing are not the man-eating, ferocious grizzly bear from The Revenant. Black bears tend to have a more docile attitude and typically have a healthy fear of other bears and humans. There is a loophole here, though, if you come across a black bear cub GET OUT OF THERE! Black bears protect their cubs at all costs, especially if they feel like a hiker is encroaching on their family picnic - you want to give the bear as much space as possible.

Tips for hiking (anywhere, really):
  1. Make noise on the trail! I keep all of my keys on a big carabiner (an almost janitor-sized collection), which I hooked to my side-strap camera bag to make a nice jingle-y, clanging noise while I walked. Other ideas? Attach a tin or aluminum cup, attach your whole mess kit even, or try putting some bells on your pack. I know everyone likes peaceful walks in the woods, but making noise will help alert a bear that something is near and will advise the bear to stay at a distance. In my case, when I heard the bear, he was already watching me walk away from about 400 feet off in the woods. 
  2. Hike in open areas so you can see into the woods (and see the bear, and it can see you) Where I was hiking, there was great visibility off the trail so that both the bear and I could see each other from about 400 feet away. If you know you’ll be hiking on a densely vegetated trail, plan ahead with steps 1 and 3. 
  3. Carry bear deterrent spray; it makes for a great backup plan if the situation gets sticky 
  4. Remember to stay calm! The second you feel the adrenaline kick in, gulp it down, and calmly take charge. Depending on the bear and the encounter, there are different steps to take to avoid further contact. Thus, I recommend doing more research about how to handle even closer bear encounters, particularly when bears become defensive
Here are some links on how to escape a bear in the wild:
  • http://www.wikihow.com/Escape-from-a-Bear 
  • http://www.bearsmart.com/play/bear-encounters/ 
A great way to see black bears safely is from the black bear exhibit at the Science Center! Both of our ambassador black bears can be visited at their exhibit, daily from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm with the last trial admission at 3:30 pm. Along with being able to watch the bears in their daily routines, the black bear exhibit features countless educational activities and displays to keep you entertained and curious!

Interested in more black bear information? You’re invited to come listen to expert Ben Kilham speak at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center at 7:00 pm on August 9 as a part of our Adult Lecture Series. Ben Kilham has studied these animals in a vast tract of Northern New Hampshire woodlands. At times, he has also taken in orphaned infant bears- feeding them, walking them through the forest for months to help them decipher their natural world, and eventually reintroducing them back into the wild. Ben Kilham has even been featured in five internationally televised documentaries, as well as making appearances on over forty radio shows. Don’t miss the opportunity to understand black bears from the perspective of a well-seasoned expert! There is no charge for attendance but reservations are required and can be made by calling 603-968-7194 x7.

June 28, 2016

Are you Cultured on Vultures?

By Danica Melone, Marketing Intern

“Wooowwww, they ARE so ugly!” a young guest bellows from below me. I have to admit I agree that the shiny red heads of turkey vultures, with their bacterial warts and wrinkles, are not the most enchanting species in the raptor family. Watching the Science Center’s ambassador turkey vultures, I quickly began considering the semiotics of this species; what is it that these birds symbolize for us? Most would probably say death or dying; some may identify with these birds as the executioner henchmen, Trigger and Nutsy, from Disney’s Robin Hood; while perhaps a select few, including myself, strive to see these birds as a massively important player in the circle of life. (Cue the Lion King music!) Mostly, the idea of a turkey vulture, a bird that eats other dead animals, conjures up images and emotions so taboo to us humans that it seems fitting to push them aside as just an ugly, bald bird. As ugly as they are, I began to consider their undoubted importance to our ecosystem, and ecosystems globally. Why is it we should care at all about turkey vultures in New Hampshire? Past research has shown that turkey vultures have such an advanced sense of smell, that they are characteristic for locating and consuming their meals when they are typically 2-3 days dead. That being said, turkey vultures use their keen smelling to decipher the degree of freshness, so that they “rarely visit [dead animals] when they are four (or more) days along and in a state of full-blown putrefaction” (Snyder & Snyder 28.) In contrast, a newly deceased animal emits a much less powerful odor and therefore turkey vultures are less likely to find them.

Powerfully intense stomach acids in the vultures work to break down the food so that bacteria and other poisons may be carefully expelled, while the fresher parts of the animal are utilized for energy. Unfortunately, their selective scope for food has been increasingly impeded since the industrial revolution.

“In a pre-technological world, the major poisons found in carcasses were of microbial origin- poisons which [vultures] could develop resistance by their highly developed immune systems. The modern industrial world has thrown an array of new poisons at these species, which at least in the case of the California condor* appear to have been a major cause of population decline” (Snyder & Snyder 28-29.)

Interestingly, despite their incredible immunities to synthetic and natural poisons, turkey vultures have a surprising vulnerability to lead poisoning; a growing concern in the state of New Hampshire for another ornithological species: the common loon. Additionally, many people think that turkey vultures are vessels for disease that can kill livestock, but in fact their insanely adept biological functions eliminate these viruses and diseases while in the stomach of the vulture. Turkey vultures are earnest scavengers, consuming carrion or other animal carcasses like roadkill, and finally returning those deceased creatures back into the circle of life. These birds are a species equipped with extraordinary biological functions that allow them to sniff out a deceased animal and utilize its remains as a food source, despite bacteria and parasites. If you want to consider how this truly is a beautiful representation of the circle of life; the circle ends with the vulture defecating which ultimately is returning that once-living animal back into the ecosystem as soil. Thus, “caring about” turkey vultures doesn’t have to be as trivial as you think; it is, rather, an opportunity to identify with an ornithological species in a positive manner. Though they are ugly, and carry out some truly ugly functions in our ecosystem, turkey vultures are a key species in reducing the growth and spread of disease, helping to eliminate roadkill, and aiding in the final and most important step of the circle of life: returning back to the Earth.

*Did you know that California condors have the largest wingspan of all vultures?

June 2, 2016

Science Center Earns 2016 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

PO Box 173, 23 Science Center Road,
Holderness, NH 03245
Press Contact: Amanda Gillen, Marketing & Visitor Services Manager
603-968-7194 x34 or 
High resolution images available at: www.nhnature.org/news/media_kit.php

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center Earns
2016 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

Holderness, NHSquam Lakes Natural Science Center today announced that it has received a TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence. Now in its sixth year, the achievement celebrates hospitality businesses that have earned great traveller reviews on TripAdvisor over the past year. Certificate of Excellence recipients include accommodations, eateries and attractions located all over the world that have continually delivered a quality customer experience. 

“We are thrilled to be honored by the TripAdvisor community for everything the Science Center has to offer,” said Amanda Gillen, Marketing and Visitor Services Manager at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. “We are very proud of the positive reviews and ratings from travellers who have visited.”

"With the Certificate of Excellence, TripAdvisor honors hospitality businesses that have consistently received strong praise and ratings from travelers,” said Heather Leisman, Vice President of Industry Marketing, TripAdvisor. “This recognition helps travelers identify and book properties that regularly deliver great service. TripAdvisor is proud to play this integral role in helping travelers feel more confident in their booking decisions.”

The Certificate of Excellence accounts for the quality, quantity and recency of reviews submitted by travelers on TripAdvisor over a 12-month period. To qualify, a business must maintain an overall TripAdvisor bubble rating of at least four out of five, have a minimum number of reviews and must have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months.
About Squam Lakes Natural Science Center
The mission of Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is to advance understanding of ecology by exploring New Hampshire’s natural world. Through spectacular live animal exhibits, natural science education programs, an informal public garden, and lake cruises, the Science Center has educated and enlightened visitors since 1966 about the importance of our natural world. Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is located on Route 113 in Holderness, an easy drive from exit 24 off I-93, and is open daily from May 1 through November 1. The Science Center is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is the only AZA-accredited institution in all of northern New England. For further information about the Science Center, call 603-968-7194 or visit www.nhnature.org.

About TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor® is the world's largest travel site**, enabling travelers to plan and book the perfect trip. TripAdvisor offers advice from millions of travelers and a wide variety of travel choices and planning features with seamless links to booking tools that check hundreds of websites to find the best hotel prices. TripAdvisor branded sites make up the largest travel community in the world, reaching 340 million unique monthly visitors***, and 350 million reviews and opinions covering 6.5 million accommodations, restaurants and attractions. The sites operate in 48 markets worldwide.

TripAdvisor, Inc. (NASDAQ:TRIP), through its subsidiaries, manages and operates websites under 24 other travel media brands:

**Source: comScore Media Metrix for TripAdvisor Sites, worldwide, February 2016
***Source: TripAdvisor log files, Q1 2016


April 22, 2016

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center Celebrates 50 Years

An early conceptual drawing for Squam Lakes Natural Science Center.
2016 is a big year for Squam Lakes Natural Science Center! It marks the fiftieth anniversary of the organization that is a favorite of many. From humble beginnings, it grew into the state’s premier natural science center and now provides outstanding nature-related experiences for more than 85,000 people each year. A milestone such as this is thanks to the vision, energy, and generosity of many people over the years.

The idea for the Science Center began in 1965 with a meeting of Holderness residents who were united by an appreciation of the area’s beauty and a desire to preserve it. These founders thought a science center would attract visitors while also protecting the area’s natural assets. By the following year, 180 acres of property and several buildings were purchased and the Science Center was incorporated as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization called Squam Lakes Science Center. In 1969, the Science Center opened its doors to the public for the first summer season, offering lectures in the Red Barn next to the Holderness Inn (on Route 3). The original attractions included two trails on Mount Fayal and several live animal exhibits with admission at $1.25 for adults and $0.75 for juniors.
Forester Larry Rathbun, Founder Frank Webster, Executive Director Gilbert “Gib” Merrill,
and Trustee John Anderson (left to right) pose by a sign recognizing the Webster family’s commitment to
environmental education. The sign now greets visitors near the Welcome Center main entrance.
During the 1970s the Science Center mission narrowed its focus to specialize in natural science education and more fully utilize the fields, forests, streams, and ponds on the property as a unique outdoor classroom. While offering many educational programs for schools on site, naturalists also began taking natural science education and wild animal ambassadors to schools across the state.

The 1980s saw collaborations with other partners such as New Hampshire Public Television which helped broaden the reach of the Science Center. The facilities of the Science Center also saw change, most visibly moving the Webster Education building across campus to be closer to teaching areas and renovating the building to add additional classroom space. Early on, volunteers were an important resource. Many people donated time and services to help support the Science Center. The volunteer program continues to be a strength today, with 396 volunteers donating over 9,500 hours of service in 2015.

Bill Webb, Executive Director from 1989 to 1992 recently said, “That’s the magic of the Science Center. Every generation is fascinated by the experiences found here, experiences that in many ways only get better as we get older. The challenge for the Science Center is finding new and innovative ways to keep future generations connected to the natural world around them.”

In the 1990s the Science Center began offering naturalist-led cruises on Squam Lake that remain popular today. The cruises changed and grew over the years and now include daily offerings from May through October focusing on the natural history, ecology, and wildlife of Squam Lake. In 1995, ground was broken for Kirkwood Gardens on property adjacent to the Holderness Inn on Route 3, featuring plants attractive to birds and butterflies. The current mission of the Science Center – to advance understanding of ecology by exploring New Hampshire’s natural world – was adopted on January 1, 2000 and still is the mission today.
The Science Center's first Executive Director,
Gib Merrill, showing a fox kit to visitors. 

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center gained accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in 2006 and 2011 (each term is five years). The accreditation process evaluates every facet of a zoo or aquarium making sure that an institution meets the highest standards for animal management and care, including living environments, social groupings, health, nutrition, and enrichment. The process also evaluates the veterinary program, involvement in conservation and research, education programs, safety policies and procedures, security, physical facilities, guest services, and the quality of staff. Successful accreditation means an institution is among the best in the world. The Science Center continues to be the only institution in northern New England currently accredited by the AZA.

Another special addition occurred in 2010 with the opening of Blue Heron School. The school is the first nature-based Montessori early learning center in New Hampshire designed for children ages 3 to 6.

Throughout the years the Science Center has seen name changes – Squam Lakes Science Center (1966), Science Center of New Hampshire (1983), and Squam Lakes Natural Science Center (2000) – but the overall goals of educating the public and conserving the land have remained constant. Squam Lakes Natural Science Center today is firmly established, supported by its community, with a proven track record of educational excellence and offering a rich diversity of adventures.

Learn more about activities related to the anniversary celebration at www.nhnature.org.

April 8, 2016

Winter's End

By Eric D'Aleo

Sometimes winter seems to last forever. The accumulation of snow, the bite of cold wind, and the short, gray days are enough to make anyone succumb to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Even with teasing sunny days and thawing ice, cold temperatures sneak back in to solidify winter’s hold once more and make us doubt spring’s eventual arrival. We search for some sign of change and the “bloom” of pussy willows provides encouragement to cope through the last throes of winter.

Pussy willows (Salix discolor) are native to the northern United States and are found from Idaho east to Maine and as far south as Maryland. There are 30 species of willows throughout North America and many have the ability to hybridize with one another, making identification difficult in some regions. Pussy willows are a large, multi-stemmed shrub that grows as high as twenty feet with a dark gray, scaly bark. They are found most often in wetlands, along river banks, or in drainage ditches beside roadsides. Although they may sometimes be found in upland areas, they prefer to grow in wet soils. The long narrow-toothed leaves are green on the surface and downy grayish-white underneath.

However, it’s the flowers, the soft silvery catkins which appear first that captures our attention. The catkins are dioecious, meaning male and female flowers form on different plants. Male catkins develop golden yellow stamens as they mature, and they open first. The soft, silvery bud of hairs, that people find so appealing, is used to insulate and protect the developing reproductive parts. The temperatures in early spring can still be quite cold but the hairs of the catkin trap the sun’s heat and raise the temperature several degrees. This aids in the development of pollen in the male catkins. The slender green pistils on female catkins develop later but also have similar hairs that raise the temperature of the ovules maturing inside. Once fully open, the male catkins have yellow pollen on their tips while female catkins are less colorful. The flowers produce large amounts of nectar high in sugar content, which attracts bees, flies, ants, and other pollinating insects that have emerged from their winter dormancy in search of food. Once pollinated, the seeds develop in small capsules on the female catkins. Each contains numerous seeds embedded in cottony down. The seeds are released to the wind in summer and are carried to a new location where, if conditions are right, they may germinate.

Many animals rely on the pussy willow shrubs besides insect pollinators. At least five species of butterflies and moths feed on the plant during their larval stage. These include the viceroy (Limenitis archippus) and mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) butterflies. Hairstreaks (Strymon spp.), sphinx moths (Sphingidae), and comma moths (Polygonia comma) also feed on willows. Leafrollers, sawflies, borers, midges, beetles, and gall gnats also feed on foliage of the pussy willow. Birds including catbirds, chickadees, goldfinches, warblers, and flycatchers are attracted to the shrubs to feed on the insect life found there. Willow thickets may provide cover and nesting opportunities for songbirds, northern harrier hawks, waterfowl, and marsh birds. Pussy willow buds provide an important winter food source for ruffed grouse and they may also be eaten by squirrels. Porcupines eat the bark and the end of twigs in the winter and also feed on catkins during spring. Snowshoe hare and cottontail rabbit gnaw off bark or feed on twigs in winter, while both moose and white tailed deer browse on the twigs of pussy willow and other willow species during winter.

Pussy willow has been important to people, not only as a harbinger of spring, but also as a natural resource. Its pliable branches are used to construct wicker mats, baskets, and cradles. It contains the compound ‘salicin’ in its bark, like all willows, and was historically used by Native North Americans as a natural pain reliever and fever reducer. An important use today is for use in stabilizing banks and shorelines along water bodies, binding soil with its extensive root system. This, along with the ability of willow cuttings to root quickly, allows pussy willow to thrive in seasonally flooded areas. As a result willow filter strips are planted in agricultural areas to reduce sediment and nutrient runoff into nearby wetlands or water bodies.

Who knew an early sigh of spring also was so beneficial to people and the natural world?

Bonus: Check out this video of a porcupine eating pussy willow catkins: https://vimeo.com/23759207

February 29, 2016

Night at the Science Center

By Eric D'Aleo, Naturalist

Have you ever wondered what happens at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in the off season or at night? Well, we have too, especially after we’ve all gone home for the day. So this winter we were able to start discovering answers when a local supporter offered to set up a number of wildlife trail cameras on our property. To date we have captured images of 6 species: including red fox, white tailed deer, eastern coyote, wild turkey, raccoon and grey fox. What seems to be by far the most photographed is the flock of about a dozen turkeys. They have shown up on all of the trail cameras both in the field and in the woods multiple times a day past some of them. We hope to be able to continue this project throughout the year and on different locations on our property. Take a look below at some of our “off season visitors”.
 Red Fox – Walking through
Gray Fox – This image was taken several days later in same location as the red fox photo.Can you tell the difference between both foxes? 
An Eastern coyote stopping to investigate a smell – This is not either of Squam Lakes Natural Science Center coyotes taking an evening stroll.
Raccoon – Walking through
A somewhat nervous White tailed deer
 A flock of wild turkeys foraging for food

February 22, 2016

What's Been Here?

Gray Squirrel visited its acorn cache.
By Margaret Gillespie, Naturalist

My dog Mica is especially curious about holes in the snow like this one. Maybe there is a lingering smell of the digger. Do you see any hints of what has been here? It’s definitely a creature that relishes acorns – it left only scraps behind.

Gray squirrels cache acorns in the fall in various locations and return to retrieve them during the winter. Most of the acorns will be those from red oaks which don’t germinate until spring. White oak acorns germinate in the fall soon after they hit the ground. If gray squirrels cache those acorns, they nip the tip off first, destroying the tree embryo. Do they remember where they cache their food supply? If their memory fails them and it often does, they can always use their sense of smell to find theirs or another squirrel’s bounty. What’s the fate of those acorns never found? You guessed it. They sprout and proceed with life as oak trees.