The Double Bridge Farm property has been found to be abundant with a variety of animal life. The purpose of this experiment is to measure whether the support of regenerative farming encourages a greater variety of wildlife which aids in better product output. Certain animals have a low tolerance to soil pollution and when found, reflect nature the way it was intended. I use a trail camera to automatically record the larger local critters with one-minute videos triggered by their motion. A cell phone is also used as a handy camera to grab those opportunities when they presents themselves, sometimes missing the fast moving animals when we surprise one another. The following are few that have been recorded and/or seen. Be sure to click on each photograph for a larger and more detailed view.
Armadillo – Dasypus novemcinctus
The nine-banded armadillo is the most widespread of the armadillos. Its ancestors originated in South America, and remained there until the formation of the Isthmus of Panama allowed them to enter North America. It is an insectivore, feeding chiefly on ants, termites, and other small invertebrates. The armadillo can jump 3–4 ft straight in the air if sufficiently frightened, making it a particular danger on roads. It is capable of floating across rivers by inflating its intestines, or by sinking and running across riverbeds. The second is possible due to its ability to hold its breath for up to six minutes, an adaptation originally developed for allowing the animal to keep its snout submerged in soil for extended periods while foraging. Nine-banded armadillos are solitary, largely nocturnal animals that come out to forage around dusk. They are extensive burrowers, with a single animal sometimes maintaining up to 12 burrows on its range. Their known natural predators include coyotes, black bears, bobcats, and large raptors.
Bobcat – Lynx rufus
The bobcat is able to survive for long periods without food, but eats heavily when prey is abundant. During lean periods, it often preys on larger animals, which it can kill and return to feed on later. The bobcat hunts by stalking its prey and then ambushing with a short chase or pounce. Its preference is for mammals weighing about 0.7–6 kg (1+1⁄2–12+1⁄2 lb). Its main prey varies by region: in the eastern United States, it is the eastern cottontail.
Cattle – Bos taurus
(neighbors rouge) Cattle are large, domesticated, cloven-hooved, herbivores. Adult females are referred to as cows and adult males are referred to as bulls. Cattle are commonly raised as livestock for meat (beef or veal), for milk (dairy cattle), and for hides, which are used to make leather. Around 10,500 years ago, taurine cattle were domesticated from as few as 80 wild aurochs progenitors in central Anatolia, the Levant and Western Iran. These cattle found a low place in the barbed wire fence and decided the grass was indeed greener on the other side. Now, I have to watch where I step (or slide).
Chipmunk – Tamias striatus
Chipmunks have an omnivorous diet primarily consisting of seeds, nuts and other fruits, and buds. They also commonly eat grass, shoots, and many other forms of plant matter, as well as fungi, insects and other arthropods, small frogs, worms, and bird eggs. Chipmunks play an important role as prey for various predatory mammals and birds but are also opportunistic predators themselves, particularly with regard to bird eggs and nestlings. They construct extensive burrows which can be more than 11 feet in length with several well-concealed entrances. The sleeping quarters are kept clear of shells, and feces are stored in refuse tunnels.
Coyote – Canis latrans
The coyote is able to adapt to and expand into environments modified by humans. The color and texture of the coyote’s fur vary somewhat geographically. The hair’s predominant color is light gray and red or fulvous, interspersed around the body with black and white. As of 2005, 19 subspecies are recognized. The basic social unit of a coyote pack is a family containing a reproductive female. However, unrelated coyotes may join forces for companionship, or to bring down prey too large to attack singly. Such “nonfamily” packs are only temporary, and may consist of bachelor males, nonreproductive females and subadult young. The coyote is strictly monogamous establishing a territory and either constructs their own den or cleans out abandoned holes from other animals. The coyote serves as a great detriment to the local rat and rabbit population as well as being the primary predator of the armadillo in this area.
Dog – Canis lupus familiaris
(neighbors) The dog is a domesticated descendant of the wolf. The dog has been selectively bred over millennia for various behaviors, sensory capabilities, and physical attributes. Dog intelligence is the dog’s ability to perceive information and retain it as knowledge for applying to solve problems. The dog is probably the most widely abundant large carnivoran living in the human environment. In 2013, the estimated global dog population was between 700 million and 987 million.
Fox – Vulpes vulpes
The red fox is the largest of the true foxes and one of the most widely distributed. The species primarily feeds on small rodents, though it may also target rabbits, squirrels, game birds, reptiles, invertebrates and young ungulates. Fruit and vegetable matter is also eaten sometimes. The red fox has an elongated body and relatively short limbs. The tail, which is longer than half the body length (70 percent of head and body length), is fluffy and reaches the ground when in a standing position. Red foxes have binocular vision, but their sight reacts mainly to movement. Their auditory perception is acute, being able to hear black grouse changing roosts at 600 paces, the flight of crows at 0.16–0.31 miles and the squeaking of mice at about 330 feet.
Grey squirrel – Sciurus carolinensis
It is native to eastern North America, where it is the most prodigious and ecologically essential natural forest regenerator. The eastern gray squirrel is a scatter-hoarder; it hoards food in numerous small caches for later recovery. Each squirrel is estimated to make several thousand caches each season. The squirrels have very accurate spatial memory for the locations of these caches, and use distant and nearby landmarks to retrieve them. Smell is used partly to uncover food caches, and also to find food in other squirrels’ caches. As in most other mammals, communication among eastern gray squirrel individuals involves both vocalizations and posturing. The species has a quite varied repertoire of vocalizations, including a squeak similar to that of a mouse, a low-pitched noise, a chatter, and a raspy “mehr mehr mehr”. Other methods of communication include tail-flicking and other gestures, including facial expressions. Tail flicking and the “kuk” or “quaa” call are used to ward off and warn other squirrels about predators, as well as to announce when a predator is leaving the area. eat a range of foods, such as tree bark, tree buds, flowers, berries, many types of seeds and acorns, walnuts, and other nuts, like hazelnuts and some types of fungi found in the forests, including fly agaric mushrooms .
Meadow Mouse – Zapus hudsonius
The meadow mouse is the most widely distributed mouse. Meadow jumping mice prefer a habitat which is high in humidity. Although they may live in many different areas usually with high herbaceous cover, they prefer moist grasslands, and avoid heavily wooded areas. High numbers are usually found in grassy fields, and thick vegetated areas with streams, ponds, or marshes nearby. They prefer large open areas to thickly wooded areas. Under certain lab-controlled conditions, the jumping mouse has been measured to jump a few inches longer than three feet. What is clear is that the meadow jumping mouse is capable of leaping a good sized distance compared to its body size. The food preference of the meadow jumping mouse consists of seeds, but they also eat berries, fruit and insects. Hibernation begins around late September and early October. At the moment of entering hibernation there is a decrease in metabolism. Hibernation lasts until about mid April to May.
Opossum – Didelphis virginiana
The only opossum living north of Mexico, the Virginia opossum range extends south into Central America. It is the northernmost marsupial in the world. In the United States and Canada, it is typically called a possum, ‘possum or opossum. It is a solitary nocturnal animal about the size of a domestic cat, and a successful opportunist. Opossums are familiar to many North Americans as they frequently inhabit settled areas near food sources like trash cans, pet food, compost piles, or gardens. Their slow and nocturnal nature, and their attraction to roadside carrion, makes many roadkill. Opossums have long, hairless, prehensile tails, which can be used to grab branches and carry small objects. They also have hairless ears and a long, flat nose. Opossums have 50 teeth, more than any other North American land mammal, and opposable, clawless thumbs on their rear limbs. If threatened, an opossum will either flee or take a stand. To appear threatening, an opossum will first bare its 50 teeth, snap its jaw, hiss, drool, and stand its fur on end to look bigger. If this does not work, the Virginia opossum is noted for feigning death in response to extreme fear. Insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles make up the bulk of animal foods. It has been stated that opossums eat up to 95% of the ticks they encounter, and may eat up to 5,000 ticks per season, helping to prevent the spread of tick-born illnesses. The Virginia opossum has a maximal lifespan in the wild of only about two years.
Racoon – Procyon lotor
The raccoon is noted for its intelligence, as studies show that it is able to remember the solution to tasks for at least three years. It is usually nocturnal and omnivorous, eating about 40% invertebrates, 33% plants, and 27% vertebrates. While its diet in spring and early summer consists mostly of insects, worms, and other animals already available early in the year, it prefers fruits and nuts, such as acorns and walnuts, which emerge in late summer and autumn, and represent a rich calorie source for building up fat needed for winter. The most important sense for the raccoon is its sense of touch. The “hyper sensitive” front paws are protected by a thin horny layer that becomes pliable when wet. Captive raccoons have been known to live for more than 20 years. However, the species’ life expectancy in the wild is only 1.8 to 3.1 years.
White-tailed Deer – Odocoileus virginianus
The deer’s coat is a reddish-brown in the spring and summer and turns to a grey-brown throughout the fall and winter. The deer can be recognized by the characteristic white underside to its tail. It raises its tail when it is alarmed to warn the predator that it has been detected. An indication of a deer age is the length of the snout and the color of the coat, with older deer tending to have longer snouts and grayer coats. White-tailed deer’s horizontally slit pupils allow for good night vision and color vision during the day. Whitetails process visual images at a much more rapid rate than humans and are better at detecting motion in low-light conditions. Deer have dichromatic (two-color) vision with blue and yellow primaries; humans normally have trichromatic vision. Thus, deer poorly distinguish the oranges and reds that stand out so well to humans. Males regrow their antlers every year. Length and branching of antlers are determined by nutrition, age, and genetics. White-tailed deer eat large amounts of food, commonly eating legumes and foraging on other plants, including shoots, leaves, and grasses. They also eat acorns, fruit, and corn. Their multi-chambered stomachs allow them to eat some foods humans cannot, such as mushrooms (even those that are toxic to humans), and poison ivy. White-tailed deer typically respond to the presence of potential predators by breathing very heavily (also called blowing) and fleeing. When they blow, the sound alerts other deer in the area. As they run, the flash of their white tails warns other deer. Deer activity has also been shown to increase herbaceous plant diversity, particularly in disturbed areas, by reducing competitively dominant plants; and to increase the growth rates of important canopy trees, perhaps by increased nutrient inputs into the soil.
American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos
As a daily visitor, the American crow is a large, distinctive bird with iridescent black feathers all over. Its legs, feet and bill are also black. They are very intelligent, and adaptable to human environments. The most usual call is a loud, short, and rapid caaw-caaw-caaw. Usually, the birds thrust their heads up and down as they utter this call. American crows can also produce a wide variety of sounds and sometimes mimic noises made by other animals, including other birds such as barred owls. Crows have been noted to be intelligent. They have the same brain-weight-to-body ratio as humans. This has led to some studies that have identified that crows are self-aware and that young crows take time to learn from tolerant parents. While a human has a neocortex, the crow has a different area in their brain that is equally complex. The average lifespan of the American crow in the wild is 7–8 years. Captive birds are known to have lived up to 30 years. The American crow is omnivorous. It will feed on invertebrates of all types, carrion, scraps of human food, fruits, nuts such as walnuts and almonds, seeds, eggs and nestlings, stranded fish on the shore and various grains. American crows are active hunters and will prey on mice, young rabbits, frogs, and other small animals. American crows are socially monogamous cooperative breeding birds. Mated pairs form large families of up to 15 individuals from several breeding seasons that remain together for many years.
Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata
The blue jay feeds mainly on seeds and nuts, such as acorns, which it may hide to eat later; soft fruits; arthropods; and occasionally small vertebrates. It typically gleans food from trees, shrubs, and the ground, and sometimes hawks insects from the air. Blue jays can be very aggressive to other birds; they sometimes raid nests and have even been found to have decapitated other birds. The blue jay is a noisy, bold, and aggressive passerine. It is a moderately slow flier (20–25 mph) when unprovoked. It flies with body and tail held level, with slow wing beats. Its slow flying speeds make this species easy prey for hawks and owls when it flies in open areas. The blue jay can be beneficial to other bird species, as it may chase predatory birds, such as hawks and owls, and will scream if it sees a predator within its territory. It has also been known to sound an alarm call when hawks or other dangers are near, and smaller birds often recognize this call and hide themselves away accordingly.
Mallard duck – Anas platyrhynchos
It is a very adaptable species, being able to live and even thrive in urban areas which may have supported more localized, sensitive species of waterfowl before development. The breeding male mallard is unmistakable, with a glossy bottle-green head and a white collar that demarcates the head from the purple-tinged brown breast, grey-brown wings, and a pale grey belly. The female mallard is predominantly mottled, with each individual feather showing sharp contrast from buff to very dark brown, a coloration shared by most female dabbling ducks, and has buff cheeks, eyebrow, throat, and neck, with a darker crown and eye-stripe. The mallard is omnivorous and very flexible in its choice of food. The mallard usually feeds by dabbling for plant food or grazing; there are reports of it eating frogs. The most prolific natural predators of adult mallards are red foxes. Mallards are one of the most common varieties of ducks hunted as a sport due to the large population size. The ideal location for hunting mallards is considered to be where the water level is somewhat shallow where the birds can be found foraging for food.
Purple Martin – Progne subis
It is the largest swallow in North America. Despite its name, the purple martin is not truly purple. The dark blackish-blue feathers have an iridescent sheen caused by the refraction of incident light giving them a bright blue to navy blue or deep purple appearance. In some light they may even appear green in color. Purple martins are sexually dimorphic. Adult males are entirely black with glossy steel blue sheen, the only swallow in North America with such coloration. Adult females are dark on top with some steel blue sheen, and lighter underparts. Adults have a slightly forked tail. Purple martins are insectivores, primarily feed by hawking, a strategy of catching insects in the air during flight. The birds are agile hunters and eat a variety of winged insects. Rarely, they will come to the ground to eat insects. They usually fly relatively high, so, contrary to popular opinion, mosquitoes do not form a large part of their diet. Research published in 2015, however, does indicate that the purple martin feeds on invasive fire ants and that they may make up a significant portion of their diet. Cherokee were known to have hollowed out gourds and hung them on wooden snags and posts in the pre-colonial era. They erected them so that the adult birds would build nests and then feed thousands of insects to their young each day that would otherwise be eating their crops. In 1808, Chickasaws and Choctaws were observed hanging gourds for martins on stripped saplings near their cabins, as African Americans were doing likewise on long canes on the banks of the Mississippi.
Red Tailed Hawk – Buteo jamaicensis
Another of our daily visitors and loudly opinionated, the red-tailed hawk is one of three species colloquially known in the United States as the “chickenhawk”, though it rarely preys on standard-sized chickens. The diet of red-tailed hawks is highly variable and reflects their status as opportunistic generalists, but in North America, they are most often predators of small mammals such as rodents of an immense diversity of families and species. Prey that is terrestrial and at least partially diurnal is preferred, so types such as ground squirrels are preferred where they naturally occur. Over much of the range, smallish rodents such as voles alternated with larger rabbits and hares often collectively form the bulk of the diet. The tail of most adults, which gives this species its name, is rufous brick-red above with a variably sized, black subterminal band and generally appears light buff-orange from below. As is the case with many raptors, the red-tailed hawk displays sexual dimorphism in size, as females are on average 25% larger than males. The cry of the red-tailed hawk is a 2- to 3-second, hoarse, rasping scream, variously transcribed as kree-eee-ar, tsee-eeee-arrr or sheeeeee, that begins at a high pitch and slurs downward. This cry is often described as sounding similar to a steam whistle. The red-tailed hawk frequently vocalizes while hunting or soaring, but vocalizes loudest and most persistently in defiance or anger, in response to a predator or a rival hawk’s intrusion into its territory. When soaring or flapping its wings, it typically travels from 20 to 40 mph, but when diving may exceed 120 mph.
Ruby-throated hummingbird – Archilochus colubris
The ruby-throated hummingbird is a species of hummingbird that generally spends the winter in Central America, Mexico, and Florida, and migrates to Canada and other parts of Eastern North America for the summer to breed. It is by far the most common hummingbird seen east of the Mississippi River in North America. This hummingbird is from 2.8 to 3.5 inches long and has a 3.1 to 4.3 inch wingspan. Weight can range from 0.071 to 0.212 ounces with males averaging 0.12 ounces against the slightly larger female which averages 0.13 ounces. Adults are metallic green above and grayish white below, with near-black wings. The adult male has a gorget (throat patch) of iridescent ruby red bordered narrowly with velvety black on the upper margin and a forked black tail with a faint violet sheen. The red iridescence is highly directional and appears dull black from many angles. The female has a notched tail with outer feathers banded in green, black, and white and a white throat that may be plain or lightly marked with dusky streaks or stipples. During migration, some birds embark on a nonstop 900-mile journey across the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean from Panama or Mexico to the eastern United States.
Turkey – Meleagris gallopavo
Adult wild turkeys have long reddish-yellow to grayish-green legs. The body feathers are generally blackish and dark, sometimes grey brown overall with a coppery sheen that becomes more complex in adult males. Adult males, called toms or gobblers, have a large, featherless, reddish head, red throat, and red wattles on the throat and neck. Turkeys exhibit strong sexual dimorphism. The male is substantially larger than the female, and his feathers have areas of red, purple, green, copper, bronze, and gold iridescence. Wild turkeys prefer hardwood and mixed conifer-hardwood forests with scattered openings such as pastures, fields, orchards and seasonal marshes. Wild turkeys have very good eyesight, but their vision is very poor at night. They will generally not see a predator until it is too late. At twilight most turkeys will head for the trees and roost well off the ground: it is safer to sleep there in numbers than to risk being victim to predators who hunt by night. Wild Turkeys have many call’s: gobbles, plain yelp, Cluck & purr, clucks, cutting, excited hen, fly down, tree Yelp, old hen, kee kee, putts. In early spring, males older than a year old (called gobblers or toms) and, occasionally to a lesser extent, males younger than a year old (called jakes) gobble to announce their presence to females and competing males. Wild turkeys are omnivorous, foraging on the ground or climbing shrubs and small trees to feed. They prefer eating acorns, nuts and other hard mast of various trees, including hazel, chestnut, hickory, and pinyon pine as well as various seeds, berries such as juniper and bearberry, buds, leaves, fern fronds, roots and insects. Humans are now the leading predator of adult turkeys. When approached by potential predators, turkeys and their poults usually run away rather than fly away from potential predators, though they may also fly short distances if pressed. Notice the photograph to the right which shows seven turkeys slowing grazing the field off in the distance.
Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura
Also known in some North American regions as the turkey buzzard or just buzzard, is the most widespread of the New World vultures. The turkey vulture is a scavenger and feeds almost exclusively on carrion. It finds its food using its keen eyes and sense of smell, flying low enough to pick up the scent of ethyl mercaptan, a gas produced by the beginnings of decay in dead animals by the beginnings of the process of decay in dead animals, an ability that is uncommon in the avian world. In flight, it uses thermals to move through the air, flapping its wings infrequently. It roosts in large community groups. The turkey vulture is gregarious and roosts in large community groups, breaking away to forage independently during the day. Several hundred vultures may roost communally in groups, which sometimes even include black vultures. Its primary form of defense is regurgitating semi-digested meat, a foul-smelling substance, which deters most creatures intent on raiding a vulture nest. It will also sting if the predator is close enough to get the vomit in its face or eyes. Its life expectancy in the wild ranges upward of 16 years, with a captive life span of over 45 years being possible. The turkey vulture does not kill live animals but will mix with flocks of black vultures and will scavenge what they leave behind.
Common Toad – Bufo bufo
The common toad can reach about 6 inches in length. Females are normally stouter than males and southern specimens tend to be larger than northern ones. The head is broad with a wide mouth below the terminal snout which has two small nostrils. There are no teeth. The bulbous, protruding eyes have yellow or copper colored irises and horizontal slit-shaped pupils. Just behind the eyes are two bulging regions, the paratoid glands, which are positioned obliquely. They contain a noxious substance, bufotoxin, which is used to deter potential predators. The common toad tends to be sexually dimorphic with the females being browner and the males greyer. Common toads can live for many years and have survived for fifty years in captivity. In the wild, common toads are thought to live for about ten to twelve years.
Tree Frog – Polypedates leucomystax
In the damp areas of the propagation, these frogs are present all year round. In drier environments, the period usually restricts to the beginning of the rainy season. This species of tree frog is commonly kept in captivity in vivariums and terrariums by both hobbyists and professionals.
Anole – Anolis carolinensis
(False Chameleon) A small to medium-sized lizard, the green anole is a trunk-crown ecomorph and can change its color to several shades from brown to green. It is sometimes referred to as the American chameleon (typically in the pet trade) due to its color-changing ability; however, it is not a true chameleon. The male dewlap (throat fan) is three times the size of the female’s and bright orange to pink, whereas that of the female is lighter in color. The dewlap is usually pink for Anolis carolinensis (more orange-red in A. sagrei) and is very rarely present in females. Color varies from brown to green and can be changed like many other kinds of lizards, but anoles are closely related to iguanas and are not true chameleons. The anole changes its color depending on mood, level of stress, activity level and as a social signal. An anole’s diet consists primarily of small insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, flies, butterflies, moths, cockroaches, small beetles, and other arthropods, including spiders, as well as occasionally feeding on various mollusks, grains, and seeds. Like many lizards, anoles display autotomic tails, which wiggle when broken off. This distracts the predator and helps the anole to escape. A new tail then starts to develop.
Black Racer Snake – Elaphe obsoleta
Rat snakes are diurnally-active and live in a variety of habitats; some overlap each other. They have adapted to a variety of habitats, including bayou, prairie, and rock outcrops, but they seem to have a particular preference for wooded areas, especially oak trees. Rat snakes are excellent climbers and spend a significant amount of their time in trees. The black rat snake is also a competent swimmer. During winter it hibernates in shared dens, often with copperheads and timber rattlesnakes. Adults of the black racer can become quite large, with a reported typical total length (including tail) of 3 ft 6 in to 6 ft. This species is a constrictor, meaning it squeezes its prey to the point of cardiovascular collapse due to obstructive shock, coiling around small animals and tightening its grip until they can no longer circulate blood and die of profound hypotension, before eating them. Though they will often consume mice, voles, and rats, western rat snakes are far from specialists at this kind of prey and will readily consume any small vertebrate they can catch. Other prey opportunistically eaten by this species can include other snakes (including both those of their own and other species), frogs, lizards, moles, chipmunks, squirrels, juvenile rabbits, juvenile opossums, songbirds, and bird eggs.
Blue Tailed Skink – Plestiodon fasciatus
It is one of the most common lizards in the eastern U.S. The American five-lined skink is a ground-dwelling animal. It prefers moist, hardwood areas with a permanent water source such as rivers or streams, as well as sites to bask in the sun. Adult male American five-lined skinks exhibit complex courtship and aggressive behavior. Although males tolerate juveniles and females in their territories, they actively defend these areas against other males. It has been proposed that one of the functions of their blue tails is intraspecific communication with the purpose of preventing attacks by more aggressive males because the blue tail signifies that they are juveniles or females. The common five-lined skink’s diet consists primarily of a variety of arthropods, particularly spiders, crickets, beetles and other insects. However, they have been reported to also eat newborn mice, frogs, and other lizards. American five-lined skinks can be maintained in captivity with minimal care. A pair of skinks may live in a 25-30 US gallon terrarium, and may live for 5–10 years with adequate care.
Box Turtle – Terrapene carolina
The common box turtle is a species of box turtle with six existing subspecies. It is found throughout the Eastern United States and Mexico. The box turtle has a distinctive hinged lowered shell (the box) that allows it to completely enclose itself. Its upper jaw is long and curved. The turtle is primarily terrestrial and eats a wide variety of plants and animals. The females lay their eggs in the summer. Turtles in the northern part of their range hibernate over the winter. Common box turtle numbers are declining because of habitat loss, roadkill, and capture for the pet trade. The species is classified as vulnerable to threats to its survival by the IUCN Red List. The majority of adult male common box turtles have red irises, while those of the female are yellowish-brown. Males also differ from females by possessing shorter, stockier and more curved claws on their hind feet, and longer and thicker tails. Common box turtles are predominantly terrestrial reptiles that are often seen early in the day, or after rain, when they emerge from the shelter of rotting leaves, logs, or a mammal burrow to forage. These turtles have an incredibly varied diet of animal and plant matter, including earthworms, snails, slugs, insects, wild berries, roots, flowers, fungi, fish, frogs, salamanders, snakes, birds, eggs, and sometimes even animal carrion (in the form of dead ducks, amphibians, assorted small mammals, and even a dead cow). Although the common box turtle has a wide range and was once considered common, many populations are in decline as a result of a number of diverse threats. Agricultural and urban development is destroying habitat, while human fire management is degrading it. Development brings with it an additional threat in the form of increased infrastructure, as common box turtles are frequently killed on roads and highways.
Rat Snake – Pantherophis obsoletus
They have adapted to a variety of habitats, including bayou, prairie, and rock outcrops, but they seem to have a particular preference for wooded areas, especially oak trees. Rat snakes are excellent climbers and spend a significant amount of their time in trees. The black rat snake is also a competent swimmer. The rat snake has been noted as perhaps the top predator at purple martin colonies as a single large snake will readily consume a number of eggs, hatchlings, and adults each summer. Several rat snake repelling methods have been offered to those putting up martin houses, but most are mixed in success. This species is a constrictor, meaning it squeezes its prey to the point of cardiovascular collapse due to obstructive shock, coiling around small animals and tightening its grip until they can no longer circulate blood and die of profound hypotension, before eating them.
Antlion – Distoleon tetragrammicus
Antlions are known for the predatory habits of their larvae, which mostly dig pits to trap passing ants or other prey. When the pit is completed, the larva settles down at the bottom, buried in the soil with only the jaws projecting above the surface, often in a wide-opened position on either side of the very tip of the cone. The steep-sloped trap that guides prey into the larva’s mouth while avoiding crater avalanches is one of the simplest and most efficient traps in the animal kingdom. In North America, the larvae are sometimes referred to as doodlebugs because of the marks they leave in the sand. The adult insects are less well known due to their relatively short lifespans compared to the larvae. Adults, sometimes known as antlion lacewings, mostly fly at dusk or after dark and may be mistakenly identified as dragonflies or damselflies. There are about 2,000 species of antlion found in most parts of the world, with the greatest diversity being in warmer areas.
Atlantis Fritillary Butterfly – Agraulis vanillae
Gulf fritillaries have a chemical defense mechanism in which they release odorous chemicals in response to predator sightings. As a result, common predators learn to avoid this species. Pheromones play a critical role in male-female courtship behaviors, with male gulf fritillaries emitting sex pheromones that contribute to mate choice in females. Gulf fritillaries are found in open habitats, like in moderately sunny areas near open grasslands, parks, and woodlands and are also commonly seen in local butterfly gardens across the U.S. The caterpillar food plants–also called the host plants are members of the genus Passiflora. The adult butterflies use nectar from many flowers, including Lantana plants. The Passiflora host plants are frequently called passion vines. These passion vine plants are suitable host plants as they provide a good structure for larval host habitats which enables young populations of gulf fritillaries to be sufficiently nurtured and protected. The role of host plants is also integral to the oviposition of gulf fritillaries, as the female butterflies lay their eggs on or near the host plant. Both male and female gulf fritillaries possess certain defensive glands located on their abdomens that serve as a defense mechanism against predators, especially avian predators such as birds. When the butterflies sense danger in the area or are suddenly disturbed, these glands emit a distinct and obvious odor which is composed of several different types of chemicals, such as 6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one and hexadecyl acetate. The summation of these chemical compounds released from the glands leads to birds preferentially avoiding the gulf fritillaries in favor of other prey.
Black Field Cricket – Teleogryllus commodus
T. commodus belongs to the order Orthoptera, the family Gryllidae which are characterized by wings that are folded on the side of the body, chewing mouthparts and long, thin antennae. It has the ability to learn via the recognition of rewards. In addition, they are also capable of odor recognition and thus can be taught via odor pairing. They are omnivores so their diet is rather broad but they mostly feed on plants, so far no preference for any particular plants has been established. Reproductive differences between male and females result in differing dietary requirements. Male black field crickets produce mating calls using their forewings. Rubbing of wings produces pure tones, while rapid oscillations produce acoustic radiation.
Carolina Mantis – Stagmomantis carolina
The Carolina mantis has a dusty brown, gray or green color useful as camouflage in certain environments. They can adjust their color over each molt, if necessary, until they reach their final molt to adulthood. An unusual trait is that its wings only extend three-quarters of the way down the abdomen in mature females.
Dragonfly – Libellulidae
Dragonflies are predatory insects, both in their aquatic nymphs stage (also known as naiads) and as adults. In some species, the nymphal stage lasts for up to five years, and the adult stage may be as long as ten weeks, but most species have an adult lifespan in the order of five weeks or less, and some survive for only a few days. They are fast, agile fliers capable of highly accurate aerial ambush, sometimes migrating across oceans, and often live near water. The skimmers or perchers and their relatives form the Libellulidae, the largest dragonfly family in the world. Loss of wetland habitat threatens dragonfly populations around the world. Adult dragonflies are characterized by a pair of large, multifaceted compound eyes, two pairs of strong, transparent wings, sometimes with colored patches, and an elongated body. Many dragonflies have brilliant iridescent or metallic colors produced by structural coloration, making them conspicuous in flight. An adult dragonfly’s compound eyes have nearly 24,000 ommatidia each.
Fire Ants – Solenopsis invicta
The red imported fire ant (RIFA) is a species of ant native to South America. The ant is polymorphic, as workers appear in different shapes and sizes. The colors are red and somewhat yellowish with a brown or black gaster, but males are completely black. Colonies form large mounds constructed from soil with no visible entrances because foraging tunnels are built and workers emerge far away from the nest. These ants exhibit a wide variety of behaviors, such as building rafts when they sense that water levels are rising. They also show necrophoric behavior, where nestmates discard scraps or dead ants on refuse piles outside the nest. Foraging takes place on warm or hot days, although they may remain outside at night. Workers communicate by a series of semi chemicals and pheromones, which are used for recruitment, foraging, and defense. They are omnivores and eat dead mammals, arthropods, insects, seeds, and sweet substances such as honeydew from hemipteran insects with which they have developed relationships. Predators include arachnids, birds, and many insects including other ants, dragonflies, earwigs, and beetles. Workers can live for several months, while queens can live for years; colony numbers can vary from 100,000 to 250,000 individuals. Venom plays an important role in the ant’s life, as it is used to capture prey or for defense. About 95% of the venom consists of water-insoluble piperidine alkaloids known as solenopsins, with the rest comprising a mixture of toxic proteins that can be particularly potent in sensitive humans. More than 14 million people are stung by them in the United States annually. The ant is viewed as a notorious pest, causing billions of dollars in damage annually and impacting wildlife. They pose a threat to animals and livestock, capable of inflicting serious injury or killing them, especially young, weak, or sick animals.
Hummingbird moth – Hemaris diffinis
Hemaris diffinis, the snowberry clearwing, is a moth of the order Lepidoptera, family Sphingidae. This moth is sometimes called “hummingbird moth” or “flying lobster”. It is about 1.25–2 inches. The moth’s abdomen has yellow and black segments much like those of the bumblebee, for whom it might be mistaken due to its color and flight pattern similarities. The moth’s wings lack the large amount of scales found in most other lepidopterans, particularly in the centralized regions, making them appear clear. It loses the scales on its wings early after the pupa stage by its highly active flight tendencies. It flies during the daylight much like the other hummingbird moths, but it may also continue flight into the evening, particularly if it has found a good source of nectar. The larvae feed on plants including dogbane, honeysuckle, viburnum, hawthorn, snowberry, cherry, mint, and plum.
Lady Bug – Harmonia axyridis
This is one of the most variable species in the world, with an exceptionally wide range of color forms. It is native to eastern Asia, but has been artificially introduced to North America and Europe to control aphids and scale insects. As a voracious predator, it was identified as a biocontrol agent for aphids and scale insects. These insects will “reflex bleed” when agitated, releasing hemolymph from their legs. The liquid has a foul odor (similar to that of dead leaves), a bitter taste, and can stain porous materials. Some people have allergic reactions, including allergic rhino conjunctivitis when exposed to these beetles. Their natural predators include birds, spined soldier bugs, and ants.
Leaf Hopper – Cicadellidae
A leafhopper is the common name for any species from the family Cicadellidae. These minute insects, colloquially known as hoppers, are plant feeders that suck plant sap from grass, shrubs, or trees. Their hind legs are modified for jumping, and are covered with hairs that facilitate the spreading of a secretion over their bodies that acts as a water repellent and carrier of pheromones. Their hind legs are modified for jumping. Leafhoppers have piercing-sucking mouthparts, enabling them to feed on plant sap. A leafhoppers’ diet commonly consists of sap from a wide and diverse range of plants.
Squash Bug – Anasa tristis
It is a major pest of squash and pumpkins, found throughout North America, and is a vector of the cucurbit yellow vine disease bacterium. These bugs can emit an unpleasant odor when disturbed. It is commonly known as the squash bug but shares this name with certain other species. The adult Anasa tristis is a greyish-brown, somewhat flattened insect reaching a length of about 0.6 in and a width of 0.3 in. There is often a row of alternate brown and gold spots along the margin of the abdomen. Adults survive for three or four months. Anasa tristis is a true bug that feeds by sucking sap, mainly from the leaves, but sometimes also the fruit.
Two-stripped Grasshopper – Melanoplus bivittatus
A relatively large species with sizes ranging from 30 to 55 mm. A pair of pale yellow stripes running along the top of its body from above its eyes to the hind tip of its wings help to easily identify this species. This characteristic also gives this species its other common name the yellow-striped grasshopper. They are capable of eating a wide variety of food. The main source of food they rely on are plants such as forbs and lentil crops. Orthoptera are known pests to agricultural environments. Some species can completely ruin crops and have detrimental economic effects on farmers. Not only do they damage crops, but they tend to eat the reproductive parts of the plants (sepals, flowers, immature and mature pods), so the likelihood of regeneration or reproduction is slim.
Velvet Ant – Dasymutilla occidentalis
(female wingless wasp) The Mutillidae are a family of more than 7,000 species of wasps whose wingless females resemble large, hairy ants. Their common name velvet ant refers to their dense pile of hair, which most often is bright scarlet or orange, but may also be black, white, silver, or gold. They are known for their extremely painful stings, (the sting of the species Dasymutilla klugii rated a 3 on the Schmidt pain index and lasts up to 30 minutes), and has resulted in the common name “cow killer” or “cow ant” being applied to the species Dasymutilla occidentalis. The eastern velvet ant is the largest of the velvet ant species in the eastern United States, attaining an approximate length of 0.75 inch. Instead of creating nests, the females seek out the brood cells of Eastern cicada killers and horse guard wasps as well as other large ground-nesting members of Crabronidae, where they deposit an egg onto a host larva. The egg quickly hatches into a white, legless grub, which consumes the host and goes through several larval stages prior to pupation. Its defenses include a thickened exoskeleton, the ability to run fast and evasively, warning coloration, stridulatory warning sounds, a chemical secretion, and venom.
Walkingstick – Diapheromera femorata
The insect is found in deciduous forest throughout North America, where it eats many types of plant foliage. Even though the common walkingstick is a generalist it does tend to prefer foliage from oak and hazelnut trees. The common walkingstick is a slender, elongated insect that camouflages itself by resembling a twig. The sexes differ, with the male usually being brown and about 3 inches in length while the female is greenish-brown, and rather larger at 3.7 inches. There are three pairs of legs, but at rest, the front pair is extended forward beside the antennae, forming an extension of the twig-like effect. They are leaf skeletonizers, eating the tissues between the leaf veins, pausing for a while and then walking on to new leaves. They can feed at any time of day but the greatest feeding activity has been noted between 9:00PM and 3:00AM.
Wooly Caterpillar – Pyrrharctia isabella
Pyrrharctia isabella, the isabella tiger moth, whose larval form is called the banded woolly bear, woolly bear, or woolly worm, occurs in the United States and southern Canada. The thirteen-segment larvae are usually covered with brown hair in their mid-regions and black hair in their anterior and posterior areas. In direct sunlight, the brown hair looks bright reddish brown. Larval setae do not inject venom and are not urticant; they do not typically cause irritation, injury, inflammation, or swelling. Handling larvae is discouraged, however, because their sharp, spiny hairs may cause dermatitis in some people. This species is a generalist feeder, consuming many plant species, including herbs and trees. Folklore holds that the relative amounts of brown and black hair on a larva indicate the severity of the coming winter.
Garden Spider – Argiope aurantia
These spiders may bite if disturbed or harassed, but the venom is harmless to non-allergic humans, roughly equivalent to a bumblebee sting in intensity. The female spiders tend to be somewhat local, often staying in one place throughout much of their lifetime. The web of the yellow garden spider is distinctive: a circular shape up to 2 feet in diameter, with a dense zigzag of silk, known as a stabilimentum, in the center. The female builds a substantially larger web than the male’s small zigzag web, often found nearby. The spider occupies the center of the web, usually facing straight down, waiting for prey to become ensnared in it. If disturbed by a possible predator, she may drop from the web and hide on the ground nearby. The web normally remains in one location for the entire summer, but spiders can change locations usually early in the season, perhaps to find better protection or better hunting. In a nightly ritual, the spider consumes the circular interior part of the web and then rebuilds it each morning with fresh new silk. The radial framework and anchoring lines are not usually replaced when the spider rebuilds the web. The spider may be recycling the chemicals used in web building. Additionally, the fine threads that she consumes appear to have tiny particles of what may be minuscule insects and organic matter that may contain nutrition. Yellow garden spiders breed twice a year. The males roam in search of a female, building a small web near or actually in the female’s web, then court the females by plucking strands on her web.
Grass spider – Agelenopsis aperta
American grass spiders, is a genus of funnel weavers. They weave sheet webs that have a funnel shelter on one edge. The web is not sticky, but these spiders make up for that shortcoming by running very rapidly. They may be recognized by the arrangement of their eight eyes into three rows. The top row has two eyes, the middle row has four eyes, and the bottom row has two eyes (spaced wider than the ones on the top row). They have two prominent hind spinnerets, somewhat indistinct bands on their legs, and two dark bands running down either side of the cephalothorax. The larger specimens can grow to about 19 mm in body length.
Wolf spider – Lycosidae
They are robust and agile hunters with excellent eyesight. They have eight eyes arranged in three rows. The bottom row consists of four small eyes, the middle row has two very large eyes, and the top row has two medium-sized eyes. Unlike most other arachnids, which are generally blind or have poor vision, wolf spiders have excellent eyesight. They live mostly in solitude, hunt alone, and do not spin webs. Some are opportunistic hunters, pouncing upon prey as they find it or chasing it over short distances; others wait for passing prey in or near the mouth of a burrow. Wolf spiders carry their egg sacs by attaching them to their spinnerets. Two of the wolf spider’s eight eyes are large and prominent; this distinguishes them from nursery web spiders, whose eyes are all of roughly equal size. This can also help distinguish them from the similar-looking grass spiders. Wolf spiders are unique in the way that they carry their eggs. The egg sac, a round, silken globe, is attached to the spinnerets at the end of the abdomen, allowing the spider to carry her unhatched young with her. The abdomen must be held in a raised position to keep the egg case from dragging on the ground. Despite this handicap, they are still capable of hunting. Another aspect unique to wolf spiders is their method of care of young. Immediately after the spiderlings emerge from their protective silken case, they clamber up their mother’s legs and crowd onto the dorsal side of her abdomen. The mother carries the spiderlings for several weeks before they are large enough to disperse and fend for themselves. No other spiders are currently known to carry their young on their backs for any period of time. Wolf spiders inject venom if continually provoked. Symptoms of their bites include swelling, mild pain, and itching.
Land Snail – mollusks
Most species of land snail are annual, others are known to live 2 or 3 years, but some of the larger species may live over 10 years in the wild. Some snails hibernate during the winter (typically October through April). They may also estivate in the summer in drought conditions. To stay moist during hibernation, a snail seals its shell opening with a dry layer of mucus called an epiphragm.
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Updated 10 November 2022