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Monday, March 14, 2011

Signs of Spring:"Pair o' possums" and the "Skunk stalker"

It was a good week for the camera traps! I tallied four species of birds and nine species of mammal. Here are a few highlights that tell me spring is on the way:

Striped skunk (Seneca Falls, NY 3/11)
Skunk Stalker: My last post showed what I believe are these same two skunks as well, but they were about an hour and a half apart in their travels. Last night, they were photographed within one minute of each other. Since skunks are solitary, my assumption is that this is a male trailing a female.

Striped skunk (Seneca Falls, NY 3/11)
These photos got me thinking about whether skunks are "symmetrical" or not. In other words, would the pattern hold true on each side? Can I identify an individual regardless of which side is photographed? Has someone already studied this? Could I get enough skunk photos to test my theory or should I go to fur auctions and take some measurements? Am I THAT desperate for a publication?

Virginia opossum pair (Seneca Falls, NY 3/11)
Pair of Opossums:  The opossum is also a solitary species. I believe this is the first photo I have of two adults together. Opossums have an incredibly short gestation period of 12 and a half days. Baby opossums are born the size of a honey bee. There can be over 20 young in a litter, but mom only has 13 nipples. Each baby needs its own dedicated milk supply since they are born so small and underdeveloped. So if opossums are mating in the middle of March, babies are being born as early as the beginning of April. They spend weeks in the pouch, so you shouldn't see your first young of the year until the last part of May at the earliest!

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