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The Canada goose

Giant Canada geese were once thought to be extinct, but today are very plentiful around Michigan.

Giant Canada geese were once thought to be extinct, but today are very plentiful around Michigan.

Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial featured bird

Perhaps one of the most recognizable birds in Michigan is the large, regal-looking Canada goose. Once a rare sight in Michigan, Canada geese are now very plentiful in the state.

With black heads, beaks and necks, grey-brown bodies and a white chin strap, these birds can weigh between 5 and 14 pounds. The female Canada goose is slightly smaller than the male and weighs as much as 12 pounds.

The subspecies of goose that is most plentiful in Michigan is the giant Canada Goose or Branta canadensis maxima. Other subspecies of Canada goose pass through the state during spring and fall migration, but the giant subspecies is the only one that breeds in Michigan.

Geese are herbivores and prefer grass shoots, aquatic vegetation, seed heads and various grains. They will also feed in shallow water by tipping up and reaching into the water for aquatic roots and tubers.

Canada geese usually nest in March and April. The female lays three to eight eggs and incubates them for 25-28 days. Downy goslings can walk and follow their parents shortly after hatching. The youngsters grow quickly and acquire their adult plumage at about four months of age. The young birds stay with the adults for almost a year after hatching.

Adult Canada geese have very few predators, though raccoons, skunks, fox and crows sometimes prey on their eggs.

Because Canada geese are so plentiful, many would never suspect that the giant Canada goose subspecies was believed to be extinct in the 1950s. This subspecies was nearly extinct due to the effects of unregulated overhunting and wetland habitat loss.

By 1920, however, waterfowl enthusiasts had located a small population of giant Canada geese in Rochester, Minnesota. The Michigan Department of Conservation—now the Department of Natural Resources—raised geese at the Mason State Game Farm. Between 1928 and 1964, the DNR released 2,500 geese on 30 sites. That resulted in 14 breeding areas by 1969, with an estimated population of 9,400 birds.

In recent years, the giant Canada goose has experienced population explosions in areas throughout North America. This trend is due in part to the success of wildlife management programs and the adaptability of these magnificent birds.

In Michigan, the number of giant Canada geese counted each spring numbers over 300,000 today. They nest in every Michigan county but are most common (78 percent of population) in the southern third of the state.

In general, geese have benefited from the way humans have altered the landscape. Canada geese are attracted to areas that provide food, water and protection. Urban areas with lakes and ponds offer all the resources that geese need to survive. During the summer months, Canada geese can be a problem for some property owners.

Goose hunting in Michigan helps to keep goose populations in check. Michigan regularly ranks in the top three states in the nation for Canada goose hunters and harvest. The plentiful geese provide excellent opportunities for goose hunters.

Many of Michigan’s Canada geese migrate south in the winter in large V-shaped flocks. In the southern third of the state, some Canada geese remain all winter, feeding on waste grain in agricultural fields and aquatic vegetation on open waterways.

The Canada goose is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The year 2016 marks the centennial of the Convention between the United States and Great Britain (for Canada) for the Protection of Migratory Birds (also called the Migratory Bird Treaty), signed on Aug. 16, 1916. Three other treaties were signed shortly thereafter with Japan, Russia and Mexico. The Migratory Bird Treaty, the three other treaties signed later, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act form the cornerstones of efforts to conserve birds that migrate across international borders.

The 2016 Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial celebration has included monthly featured bird stories to our DNR Wildlife Viewing email subscribers, celebration events including a weekend of bird-based programming at state parks and visitor centers in June of 2016, and an education program for schools and conservation groups, and more.

To learn more about the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial, visit www.fws.gov/birds/MBTreaty100.  To sign up for DNR Wildlife Viewing emails, visit www.michigan.gov/dnr and click on the red envelope.

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Teen gets first buck

out-first-buck-lewis

Gavin Lewis, 13, the son of Jake and Amy Lewis, got his first buck recently in Solon Township. This big guy is an 8-point with a 17-1/2-inch spread. Gavin is a 7th grader at Cedar Springs Middle School.

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GISSS

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

When seeing a family member or friend in a crowd from behind, we can often recognize them based on the general impression perceived. Their size, overall shape, and where they are or what they are doing helps us zero in on who we see. We do not need extensive detail to identify them.

Wildlife can be identified in a similar manner. Under our bird feeder a sleek smooth gray furred mammal popped out of a hole, grabbed a seed and ducked into its tunnel. It was in view for seconds but it was adequate to identify it as a short-tailed shrew. It was about as large as a mouse with solid gray color, short tail, and pointed nose. The masked shrew is smaller with a long tail. Deer mice have tan coats with a white belly and long tail. The meadow vole looks similar to the shrew but has a heavier body without a pointed nose.

Characteristics to take notice of quickly when trying to identify something when we only get a quick look is referred as GISSS (General Impression, Size, Shape, Seasonality).

When we see a deer, we usually do this naturally. I know a person that saw several deer in winter along a road and thought it was a large group of coyotes. He needed to develop his senses to key into important features. First capture a general impression and associate with what you know. When seeing a deer like animal, determine if it horse size like a moose or smaller. Does the shape appear deer-like with long thin legs and no obvious long tail or is it more dog-like with shorter legs and longer tail like a coyote?

Winter is a great time to practice GISSS with birds. Red-breasted Nuthatches recently arrived at our bird feeders. White-breasted Nuthatches are present all year. The general impression helped identify it as a nuthatch by its overall size, long thin bill, and straight alignment of head, body, and tail. Tufted Titmice or Black-capped chickadees have more contour between the three body parts. Generally associate size as sparrow, robin, and crow size. That helps narrow the choices.

Blue Jays, crows, and doves can be quickly dismissed because their size is much too large for consideration when looking at a nuthatch. The Red-breasted Nuthatch is smaller than chickadees, titmice, and the White-breasted Nuthatch. Look at the shape for how the head, body, and tail align and the tail length. Tail length will eliminate many choices. Nuthatches have a short tail. Seasonality is important. Generally, Red-breasted Nuthatches are only seen in our area from fall to spring. They move north in spring similar to how robins generally move south in winter.

It does not matter whether you are trying to identify mammals, birds, butterflies or even plants, the GISSS will help. Plants have a characteristic size, shape, and seasonality. The Fall Frost Aster blooms late into October with small white ray flowers that look like petals on plants about knee high. The New England Aster is about three to five feet tall with long purple ray flowers. Some plants like trilliums seasonally bloom in May.

Butterflies might be large like a monarch or swallowtail, medium sized like a cabbage white butterfly, or small like the little blue flyers that are only about the size of a dime. Use those for size comparisons. Once you have the general impression with size and shape ideas, you can consider unique details. The tiny Spring Azure butterflies fly from April into June. The nearly look-a-like Summer Azure begins flight in June and continues throughout the summer. The more iridescent Eastern Tailed Blue flies summer to fall with increased numbers in fall. As the name indicates it has tiny tails on its hind wings but the tails often break off.

Associate species with their nature niche habitat. Both azures are found near dogwood shrubs while the tailed blue is common in open fields. The small number of bird species at the feeders in winter will help you practice GISSS before spring when over one hundred bird species move through the neighborhood. About 150 species of butterflies make Michigan home. Simply enjoy the vast number of plants and animals and have fun trying to identify them. Visit various plant habitats and notice associated animals found in each. GISSS! Isn’t that fun?

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Michigan’s muzzleloader deer hunting season opens 

 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds hunters that the 2016 muzzleloader deer season opened across the state last Friday, Dec. 2.

Zones 1 and 2 will remain open to muzzleloading until Dec. 11. Zone 3 is open to muzzleloader deer hunting until Dec. 18.

Hunters are reminded that archery deer season also is open statewide during this time. Archery season started again on Dec. 1 and runs through Jan. 1, 2017.

Hunters should be aware of any applicable antler point restrictions in the areas where they are hunting. Check the antler point restriction map and chart on pages 32 and 33 of the 2016 Hunting and Trapping Digest for details.

In the Upper Peninsula, only deer hunters with a certified disability may use a crossbow or a modified bow during the late archery and muzzleloader seasons. This restriction applies to the Upper Peninsula only.

All deer hunters are required to wear hunter orange when participating in the muzzleloader season. The hunter orange requirement does not apply to those participating in the archery season.

For more information about deer hunting in Michigan, visit mi.gov/deer.

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Porcupine and Cougar

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

Two North American porcupines in a tree in Quebec, Canada. Photo by Wikipedia user Mattnad.

Two North American porcupines in a tree in Quebec, Canada. Photo by Wikipedia user Mattnad.

By Ranger Steve Mueller

When working as a ranger at Bryce Canyon National Parks, I conducted field research on the mountain lions (cougars) in the park. During the summer months, the highest plateaus in North America were home to the lions, porcupines, and me. At 9000 feet elevation, I found tracks in one of the few areas with a surface water pond on limestone bedrock. It was a rare drinking hole for deer, lions, and other wildlife.

During the seven years I worked there, I never heard of unattended cows being taken by a lion in the national forest where ranchers grazed cows in summer. Come fall the ranchers drove cows to 6000 feet elevation. Deep snow, lack of food, and excessive cold would leave cows high, dry, and dead in winter on plateau tops.

South from the park’s Yovimpa Point one can see 80 air miles across a near wilderness to the north rim of Grand Canyon National Park. One paved road crosses the south expanse and unpaved trails zigzag the terrain. It is precarious and unknown whether a vehicle other than those with four-wheel drive and high clearance will safely succeed.

Lions follow deer south into the wilderness, or they move east off the Paunsegunt Plateau or neighboring Aquarius Plateau (10,000 feet) into Tropic Valley. Lions have legal protection but poaching occurs by ranchers who think laws do not apply to them. Lions heading east have a better chance of being poached but those heading south have better poaching avoidance. Energy companies desired to strip mine coal to the south of the park for more than 50 years instead of developing alternative energy sources. Coal proposals have been blocked but renewed pressure to strip mine is expected. Coal strip mines could eliminate lions from Bryce Canyon.

Life is difficult for predators in nature niches where they need adequate food, accessible water in an arid landscape, and places to hide. People have fears that have some justification but dangers from predators are unlikely compared to other health threats. Driving, falling from a ladder, and other threats are more likely.

Lions have few threats from animals except people but starvation and dehydration are dangerous. Ranch water impoundments can be valuable but bring lions close to people. They tend to seek water in night stillness.

While tracking a lion, I found scat and broke it apart to discover what it had been eating. Porcupine quills were present. Literature reports lions prey on porcupines and I had found physical evidence. They avoid quills by eating from the belly where no quills are present. First the lion must kill the porcupine while trying to avoid being struck by a tail swing or quills raised high on the back. Quills cannot be thrown but they dislodge easily.

Porcupines move slowly but their armor helps protects them. When quills enter skin, mouth, or tongue, the quills puff up like a balloon because air sealed inside cannot escape. Pressure from the quill’s squeezed end in the skin causes quill swelling. The sharp end that entered the skin is covered with scales like shingles on a roof that face away from the quill point. Those scales prevent easy removal because the shingles hold it fast.

To remove quills, clip them to release air pressure and pull with pliers. Do not try this with a lion because you might not survive. Pets do not seem to learn to avoid porcupines. Every dog in our family has gotten quills at least once. Ody Brook, who the sanctuary is named after, bit one in our yard one night in Bemidji, Minnesota. I did not notice until he came into the house. It is important to remove them soon. The delay allowed quills to work deep and were difficult to remove. One in his gum worked too deep to remove. One year later, I noticed something sticking out of his eyelid. A close look revealed it was the gum quill emerging. I pulled it despite Ody’s objection. That story ended well without it entering his eyeball.

I read some quills migrated into a lion’s heart and were deemed a likely cause for its death. Porcupines are moving south as forests reclaim this region. One has been seen at Ody Brook and some are resident at the Howard Christensen Nature Center. More than one has been killed on Red Pine Drive. Walk the forests at HCNC with attention to the conifers or aspens where you might see the dark lump of a porcupine.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Fishing Tip: Where to find northern pike in Michigan

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

From the Michigan DNR

As the temperatures continue to drop, fishing for northern pike will really pick up. Pike are extremely popular during the ice fishing season but are readily available throughout much of the year.

There are many notable northern pike fisheries located throughout Michigan, including on Muskegon, Portage and Manistee lakes and also Michigamme and Houghton lakes. But this species can be found in many lakes and virtually all larger rivers in the state.

Please check the regulations for northern pike regarding minimum size and possession limit. Be sure to read up on this species in the 2016-2017 Michigan Fishing Guide. It can be downloaded by going to www.michigan.gov/dnr. Once there, click on “Fishing” on the left side, then on “Fishing licenses, seasons, and regulations.” You will see the guide on the right side of the screen.

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Suspect CWD deer harvested in Eagle Township, Clinton County

 

It’s critical that hunters have deer near this area checked 

A 1.5-year-old buck taken Wednesday, Nov. 16, in Clinton County’s Eagle Township is likely the ninth free-ranging deer in Michigan to test positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD).

A hunter took the animal within an area where deer check is mandatory and brought the deer to a Department of Natural Resources check station. Preliminary tests conducted by the DNR came back positive for CWD. The animal currently is being tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, to finalize confirmation of the disease. Confirmation will take a couple weeks.

The DNR reminds hunters that bringing harvested deer to a DNR check station is critical to helping the state understand the extent of CWD in Michigan.

“This latest suspect deer reinforces how critical hunters are in battling this disease,” said Chad Fedewa, DNR wildlife biologist. “We are counting on hunters to bring their deer in for testing so we have a better understanding about disease distribution. If this hunter had not followed the law, we would have no idea that the disease has traveled farther west.”

The DNR has tested nearly 9,000 deer since the first free-ranging CWD-positive deer was found in May 2015; thus far, eight cases of CWD have been confirmed. This new suspect, if the disease is confirmed, would bring the total to nine.

The DNR reminds individuals that they must check all deer they harvest in the Core CWD Area, which includes 17 townships. This area, which is referred to as Deer Management Unit (DMU) 333, consists of Lansing, Meridian, Williamstown, Delhi, Alaiedon and Wheatfield townships in Ingham County; DeWitt, Bath, Watertown, Eagle, Westphalia, Riley, Olive and Victor townships in Clinton County; Woodhull Township in Shiawassee County; and Oneida and Delta townships in Eaton County. Hunters harvesting deer in these townships are required to submit deer heads for testing within 72 hours of harvest.

With the discovery of this new suspect positive, hunters harvesting deer in three additional townships are strongly encouraged to have their deer checked. These townships are: Portland and Danby townships in Ionia County and Roxand Township in Eaton County.

“Although we won’t make any regulations changes this late in the year,” said Fedewa, “we can’t emphasize enough how much we need hunters in the new townships to have their deer tested so we can determine if there are more deer in the area with the disease.”

There are five check stations accepting deer for CWD testing within DMU 333. These check stations will be operating seven days a week (excluding major holidays). A complete map of check stations, including locations and hours of operation, is available at www.michigan.gov/cwd.

Deer feeding and baiting is prohibited throughout the Core CWD Area and CWD Management Zone, which includes Clinton, Eaton, Ingham, Ionia and Shiawassee counties.

A fatal neurological disease, CWD affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It is caused by the transmission of infectious, self-multiplying proteins (prions) contained in saliva and other body fluids of infected animals. Susceptible animals can acquire CWD by direct exposure to these fluids, from environments contaminated with these fluids or the carcass of a diseased animal.

Some chronically CWD-infected animals will display abnormal behaviors, progressive weight loss and physical debilitation; however, deer can be infected for many years without showing internal or external symptoms. There is no cure; once a deer is infected with CWD, it will die.

To date, there is no evidence that CWD presents any risk to non-cervids, including humans, either through contact with an infected animal or from handling venison. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend that infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals.

Anyone interested in learning more about how Michigan is managing CWD can view the biweekly CWD updates the DNR provides online at mi.gov/cwd. Announcements of additional CWD-positive deer will be posted online as well.

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Thanksgiving and wild game go together

Gourmet Gone Wild executive chef Dan Nelson begins to pluck feathers from a wild turkey. Photo from Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Gourmet Gone Wild executive chef Dan Nelson begins to pluck feathers from a wild turkey. Photo from Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

A wild turkey is shown in fall in Michigan. Photo from Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

A wild turkey is shown in fall in Michigan. Photo from Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Reports of the first Thanksgiving dinner indicate that the Pilgrims and indigenous peoples certainly feasted on venison and wild fowl, but whether that fowl was wild turkey is a matter of conjecture.

Though wild turkeys were known to exist in the area and have been mentioned as hunters’ quarry in other accounts of early American life, it is just as likely the fowl at that celebratory feast were ducks, geese, swans and/or the now extinct passenger pigeons.

In any case, wild game was certainly at the center of the first Thanksgiving.

Though domesticated turkey has assumed the role of main course in the intervening years, wild game – often venison – is on the menu at many homes during Thanksgiving – and why not? Thanksgiving occurs during deer hunting season.

Wild game offers challenges for cooks. For the most part, it has less fat than domesticated meat and the fat is located differently in the body. Cooks must refine their techniques to get the most out of wild game.

That’s the view of Dan Nelson, a restaurant chef, who also serves as the main man in the kitchen at Gourmet Gone Wild events in Michigan.

Gourmet Gone Wild is an outreach program sponsored by several entities, including the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The program highlights to young professionals and families, in urban to suburban environments, the health benefits of eating wild game, while also emphasizing its connection to environmental stewardship, sustainability and conservation.

Nelson, a 35-year-old lifelong sportsman/cook, says overcooking is the biggest mistake most beginners make when tackling game.

“Wild game is not as fatty as domesticated meat and most of the fat that’s stored in wild game is in quick-access areas,” said Nelson, who puts on a dozen Gourmet Gone Wild events each year. “The intermuscular fat we see in beef and pork is fat that is long-term storage. Quick-access fat is just below the skin and the centerline—close to the backbone and within the gut. Those are all fats that game animals can turn to on a daily basis as a constant energy source.

“In processing, you remove most of that fat from the game itself. That means you either have to put fat back into it or cook it in ways that accommodate that lack of fat.”

Nelson said he prefers to accommodate and that means serving most wild game rare.

“Every degree of temperature you add to the muscle causes muscle fibers to constrict,” Nelson said. “When a steak hits the grill you see the steak constrict – the muscle fibers pull in reaction to the heat. That’s why a hamburger gets smaller when you cook it.

“All that constriction drives fluid out of the meat. That’s why I have a very accurate meat thermometer. I don’t like to go a degree past where I need to go. If I’m looking to cook something rare or mid-rare, I know the exact temperature I want to go to.”

Although rare is the option for dark meats, wild turkey – which has both white and dark meat – offers a different complexity.

“Wild turkey is something that should be cooked more well-done because of the possible pathogens that are found in poultry,” Nelson said. “That only changes the temperature, but it doesn’t change the fact that you don’t want to go over the temperature you’re aiming for.”

What is that temperature?

For white meat, shoot for 165 degrees, for dark meat, 180 degrees, Nelson said. You want to cook the dark meat (i.e., the drumsticks) longer because the meat is tougher.

“Wild turkey is extremely difficult to roast,” Nelson said. “To make use of the skin, you have to pluck it very thoroughly and clean it very thoroughly. And with toms, that readily accessible fat is in the sponge and it’s not delicious at all.

“Wild turkey lends itself to being cooked in pieces. You can cook the legs and the wings/breast separately. And I would cook the breast separate from everything else – it’s helpful to have them in the same pan so you have the juices to make gravy, but have them cut up in such a way as you can remove pieces as they reach ideal temperature. You want to bake it in a way in which you’re starting the dark meat first. Don’t overcook it.”

Another key to wild turkey is to slice it thin, across the grain, Nelson said.

“Wild turkey breast is extremely low in fat and has extremely long grain to it. There’s just no fat to keep your mouth moist while chewing,” Nelson said. “Eliminating the length of chew is the most crucial part of having delicious wild turkey breast.”

Cooks preparing waterfowl should either cook in a manner that preserves moisture or add fat.

“There’s no better fat than goose or dabbling ducks,” Nelson said. “That’s liquid gold. Way too many hunters are breasting their birds and not taking advantage of the rest of it.

“Besides a lot of valuable meat on the carcass, there’s a lot of extremely valuable fat on the carcass. Either marinate with it or add it to stock. And if you’re sauteing, that would be the fat you would use in the pan.”

Any game should “rest” after it’s out of the oven before it’s served, Nelson said.

“Every piece of meat you cook you should rest for about as long as it took you to cook it,” Nelson said. “If there is still built up heat and you didn’t let it rest, that tension that is in there is going to squeeze all the moisture out. Make a little tin foil hut and let it sit there – the top of the oven is going to be warm because you’ve had your oven on.”

That’s especially true for venison, Nelson said.

“If you’re eating something that has venison fat in it, it coagulates as soon as you put it in your mouth,” he said. “It’s not that it tastes terrible, it’s just that it coats your mouth. After it’s sliced, hit it with some heat to raise the temperature of the fat. Take a platter of meat, pop it in a high-temperature oven for a couple of minutes to warm the fat up, and warm the serving platter up to hold the heat.

“And serve a good red wine with it,” he said. “That’ll cut the fat out of your mouth right away, too. The bolder, the more tannic your red wines, the better they are at cutting the fat.”

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Teen gets buck first time hunting

out-first-buck-garrett-floria
A Courtland Township teen is all smiles after getting a buck the very first time he went hunting.

Garrett Floria, 15, the son of Chadd and Wendy Floria, was hunting with his dad on his grandparents’ property near Remus, in Mecosta County, on the first day of rifle season, November 15, when he got this nice five-point buck.

Congratulations, Garrett!

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Smells of Thanksgiving

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Thanksgiving turkey smells stimulate stomach growls. Smell has a major impact for organism nature niche living and survival. Flowering plants release odors that attract pollinators that ensure plant species survive. An unintended byproduct is survival of people depending on plants. If insects did not smell the plant and pollination did not occur, the plant would not produce seeds or fruit people require.

We should offer thanksgiving for the insects that pollinate and provide for the continued production of plants. Insects taste a plant with feet (tarsi) to make sure it is the appropriate species to lay eggs on so offspring have a suitable plant to feed on when eggs hatch.

Mammals depend on senses for survival also, but few have the exacting smell and taste of insects because they are generalist feeders, unlike many insects that require very specific feeding requirements. It is to the benefit for mammals that smells do not need to be in a direct unimpeded line to catch attention. Odor molecules drift around obstacles like trees walls or other barriers to make it to animal noses. We can smell a turkey roasting from a neighboring room because molecules work their way around corners. Our sense of sight and that of wild animals depends on a direct line of light. If there was no odor working their way around corners to the living room, we would not know a turkey was baking in the kitchen based on sight. Light traveling in straight lines does not bend around corners.

Most mammals have a much keener sense of smell than people. Moles smell their way to worms in the darkness underground and do not depend on sight for their next meal. A great many mammals are nocturnal and depend on smell more than sight. Coyotes have a sense of smell tremendously more sensitive than anything we experience. Moisture is important to help with odor reception. Dogs lick their nose and it helps. Licking our nose does not help but having moisture inside our nostrils is important. Smells are more easily noticed in humid weather than in dry air.

When looking for wild raspberries or a dead animal to eat, bears and coyotes have a great advantage over us. Once drawn close by smell, they can use sight to zero in on the food. Molecules from the berries or the smell of a dead animal drift and make it possible for a mammal to work its way toward the greater concentration of molecules until the object is in sight.

People depend on sight to a greater degree than smell. That probably is not the case for many mammals. The use of the two senses together provide increased survival value. Add the sense of sound and it offers another aid to survival success and challenges. I was walking in an aspen forest with thigh high bracken ferns where I could not see or smell a deer bedded ahead of me. It stayed hidden until I was about ten feet from it. It was listening to my approach and rose in front of me like a giant scaring me half to death. It bounded into a thick conifer forest before I recovered from heart stopping startle.

Had I walked to its side, it might have remained quiet, still, hidden, and unnoticed to my sense of smell or sight.

Like insects, our sense of taste requires physical contact. Touching with our hands does not work for our sense of taste. Touching cannot be used to decide we do not want that taste in our mouth. Insects can touch with feet and decide not to place that taste in their mouth. Feeling objects has its own advantages we can use to evaluate food in the grocery or woods based on it how feels.

Smell gives us pleasure and/or disgust. It is important in reproduction for most species. It drives success and failure for many species. For now, simply enjoy the pleasure of Thanksgiving dinner and a full stomach.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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