Warm Weather Action? - UPDATE February 27, 2021

SpankySpanky the Black Bear

Is it the warm weather that stirred action from Spanky and a woodchuck today? A problem in interpreting wildlife behaviors is that there are too many factors to choose as causes. For example, Spanky also had a particularly good sleep last night, hardly stirring for over 10 ½ hours, followed by the unusually vigorous 2 ½ hours of action he showed today. Spanky heading outSpanky heading out for snowOr was it that he was extra thirsty and didn’t want to have to ingest his urine as he did a few days ago? At 10:44 AM, he arose and made his way 20 feet to the end of the porch to eat snow. He did three sessions of that in 2 ½ hours. First for 4 minutes, then an 8-minute session at 11:01 AM and a 13-minute session at 11:53 AM. When he returned from the last session, he re-arranged his bed, creating a cloud of dry dust, and settled in for most of the afternoon and beyond.

While Spanky was busy eating snow, the first woodchuck of the year appeared here 2 weeks earlier than last year (March 12). It might have been that there was finally a good crust for travel on the snow. The warm daytime temperatures of the last week melted enough snow to freeze enough overnight to hold his weight. This is the time of year when males begin visiting the burrows of females to start litters. Woodchuck maleWoodchuck maleThe woodchuck today, a male, entered the garage headed toward a burrow where a female had raised a litter a few years back. I don’t know if a female is there now, though, because I haven’t seen a woodchuck here since early last summer. When a male finds a mate, he shares her burrow through most of the month of gestation and then leaves. Keeping my eyes open for more sightings.

Of course, a mink showed up today as usual. It was Spot, one of the two that visit the bologna window. She comes up the front stairs to the second floor deck from the direction of the garage and boiler shed, while Guitar comes down the back steps from the third floor deck where he has access to his abode in the hollow roof.

At the sunflower seed hearts, the day shift was birds and red squirrels and the night shift included Guitar, followed by the usual flying squirrels. The dominant squirrel shown here has the power to welcome a compadre or mix it up with an unwelcome competitor as he did several times as I watched. Seeing the personalities of all the visitors creates welcome excitement while distracting me a bit from the book that is my main focus.

Mink spotMink spot Red-breasted nuthatch maleRed-breasted nuthatch male Flying squirrelFlying squirrel


We’re all enjoying the unusually warm weather that has followed the record-setting cold of the previous three weeks, and more of the unusual warmth is forecast for March.

Thank you for all you do.
Lynn Rogers, Biologist, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center