Deer begin to “yard” forming social groups as most of the breeding is complete. These groups paw through the snow looking for acorns allowing other seeds and nuts to be available for other animals. This month bucks may begin to shed their antlers, with others keeping them until March. Fox and coyotes spend a great deal of time hunting small mammals in the meadows where their characteristic straight line tracks are a giveaway that they have passed by. Around open waters of streams, ponds and marshes, mink continue to be active searching for fish, frogs and tadpoles. Their classic energetic hoping and jumping produce distinctive tracks revealing their nightly presences and can easily be overlooked.
February is the traditional end of hibernation for mammals. The groundhog is expected to emerge from its’ winter burrow and proclaim the end of winter….or not. Male are first to arouse to wander in search of a welcoming female. For those mammals that remained active throughout winter such as skunks, raccoons, fox, and coyotes, this is a month for romance too. A fresh snow reveals their tracks as they travel widely in search of a mate.
Many mammals already have babies in their nest, lodges and burrows. They grow quickly and soon the first young of the year are seen exploring their new surroundings. While deer fawns are still months away, most bucks have shed their antlers and soon will begin the process of growing new ones. These sheds are quickly recycled by small rodents by gnawing on them utilizing the nourishing calcium for milk production to feed their young.
Male white-tailed deer antlers finish their rapid growth this month, but remain covered in soft velvet, while the fawn’s spots begin to fade as summer passes.
October is a busy month for mammals as they are utilizing autumn’s bounty to prepare for the winter ahead. Squirrels and chipmunks scamper through dry leaves locating and cashing seeds and nuts. Ground hogs waddle, as they are fat with a summer worth of feasting to feed and put the finishing touch on their internal food supply. Beaver activity increases around wetlands throughout Cleveland Metroparks as they are busy cutting trees and shrubs to store sticks in an underwater cash for winter food supply.
November belongs to the white-tailed deer. Bucks are in prime shape for the rut where they continuously search for females in which to pass on their genes for another generation. Often they may go days without eating as only females are on their mind, oblivious to their surroundings. It is a time to be aware of deer crossing roads and highways as deer-car collisions peak this month.
Mammals still fat from the autumns’ bounty spend a great deal of time sleeping December away. Skunks and raccoons find quiet place, often underground, while squirrels prefer a tree cavity for their protection. Bats are now in caves and mines hibernating in the cool constant temperatures. Groundhogs hibernate in their elaborate excavated burrows. Fresh December’s snow reveals activity of nocturnal mammals such as deer, fox and coyote that remain active in their ever quest for food.