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Spring Critters




RWC tutor Jannette Rodriguez explains how to appreciate wildlife.


Among the vast oceans and mountainous planes, there lies one thing in common: wildlife. From the smallest of ants to the largest of whales. From trees to algae. Mother nature has brought forth these amazing organisms but over the years human’s action has continued to disrupt these ecosystems. National Wildlife Week, celebrated April 4 through April 9, is a week to bring awareness to the globalization and industrialization that has negatively impacted wildlife through climate change, extinctions, and new diseases. It aims to bring awareness through campaigns, donations, and discussions.


To celebrate you can educate yourself on the cause by attending wildlife events. Be wary if a zoo near you will be holding an event during this week. However, just appreciating nature can be a way to celebrate, either with a hike, a swim in a lake or ocean, or even with a picnic at a local park. I know it is not always possible to do this but lucky for you, you can also celebrate by reading about the following spring critters.


Skunk-

Predominantly in the Western Hemisphere, this black and white striped carnivorous mammal consist of 12 species. Primarily nocturnal, skunks are found in habitats such as forests, deserts, and mountains. Most of them, are as small as a domestic cat, with adults weighing at 13 pounds. Their scent comes from their anal glands which are well-developed than most animals. Each gland has a nipple associated to it which allows it to spray a sulfur compound directly to a predator. Before spraying, each species has a different way of warning the predator. For example, the striped and hooded skunks will charge with their front paws, whereas hog-nosed skunks stand-up on their hind legs while hissing. Skunks play an important role for humans as skunk pelts were once valuable in the fur trade. They also play a role in agriculture since they eat insects and rodents that destroy crops. Aside from their odor, they could make a great pet.


Owls-


Found in nearly every environment in the world, from deserts to forests and ranging in the Arctic tundra, all 250 species live aboveground except one: the burrowing owl. Owls have a stocky body and round face, except barn owls which have a heart-shaped face. However, an owl species varies by size, pattern, and coloration; but all owls have two distinct features: sharp talons and hooked beaks. These adaptions aid in hunting. Most owls eat small rodents but their diets can include fish, insects and larger mammals such as foxes and deer. Although some hunt during the day or at dusk, majority of owls hunt at night. Their ultra-sensitive hearing and great night vision makes them excellent hunters. Although they are unable to move their eyes, their necks twist up to 270 degrees to track the movement of their prey. These incredible animals are victim to human activities as their habitats have been destroyed for agriculture. Other threats include hunting, climate change which affects prey populations, and the ingestion of poisoned animals.


Foxes-

Found all over the world, in forests, mountains, grasslands, and deserts, foxes make burrows called dens, where they call them a safe place. It has many tunnels for exits in case a predator makes its way into their home. Being social creatures, foxes travel in packs, consisting of older siblings, breeding foxes, mates, and mothers. Since they are nocturnal, they hunt primarily at night. These fast sly animals have vertically slit pupils that allow for great eyesight. They are omnivores so their diet consists of small animals and fruits. They can distinguish each others’ voices, with 28 different sounds used for communicating. They are also monogamous meaning they only have one mate for life and have nannies to help out with pups.


Elephants-

Found in Africa and Asia, these animals are the largest land mammals on Earth, with large bodies and ears, along with long trunks. Their trunks are used for various things such as picking objects up, sucking water up to drink or bathe, trumpet warnings, and even to greet other elephants. They also have tusks which serve to protect their trunks, lift and move objects, and gather food. These tusks can also be used during droughts to dig water from underground. Led by a matriarch, elephants are organized in groups of females and their calves. A single calf is born every 4 to 5 years, with the gestation period being 22 months. Each calf is cared for by the entire heard. However, a male elephant is usually isolated or in a small bachelor group. They leave the heard once they hit puberty age. Elephants need extensive land areas to survive. Currently, considered endangered with only 40,000-50,000 elephants in the wild. The greatest threat to African elephants is poaching, where their tusks are used for illegal ivory trade; and Asian elephants are at risk for habitat loss due to human actions.


Bats-

Found everywhere, except in polar regions, extreme deserts, and isolated areas. These winged mammals, spend their day in roosts around the tropics, dense forests, and wetlands. Roosts are cracks and crevices where bats go to rest, typically they are caves, tree hollows, and old buildings. Depending on the season, bats choose where their roost will be. They hibernate during the winter so they spend their hibernation in caves, and during the summer, they spend it in an attic. However, since roosts are hard to find, many live in colonies with millions of bats. There are over 1,300 species, with some weighing less than a penny and others with a wing-span of 6 feet. There are 2 main types: microbats and megabats. Mircobats eat insects and rely on echolocation to hunt or to navigate in the dark. Megabats eat primarily fruit but since they have bigger eyes and a keen sense of smell, they do not rely on echolocation. Despite the misconceptions of bats, they play an important role to humans. They act as a natural pest control for farmers that may spend thousands on toxic pesticides. Drinking-nectar bats help pollinate fruit producing plants, which more than 500 plant species, such as mangoes, bananas, and avocados, rely on. Fruit-eating bats also help disperse seeds in forests,aiding to migiate the effects of deforestation.


Kangaroos-

Found mostly in Australia, and parts of Cape York and Tasmania, kangaroos are the largest marsupials. They are famously known for their front pouches, where the joey develops and suckles. They live in social groups called mobs, consisting of male kangaroos called boomers or bucks and females called flyers or does. Although females have one joey annually, they can carry multiple embryos in a dormant stage until the first joey leaves the pouch. They can hiss and growl if in danger; females make clucking sounds to communicate with their joeys,

and males chuckle during courtship. The introduction of foxes and wild dogs has increased competition for food; where the Black Wallaroo is now near threatened to extinction.


Sea Turtles-

Found in the most oceans in the world, these marine reptiles have adapted for life under water. However, female sea turtles lay their eggs on land even though most of them spend their lives in the ocean. These eggs incubate for 50 to 60 days, and hatch almost synchronously. As adults, these sea turtles return to lay their eggs on the same beach. In a nesting season, females will have 2 to 4 laying events. They dig a hole on the beach at night and will fill the hole once they have laid all their eggs, which is typically up to 100 eggs. These beautiful sea creatures have also fallen victim of human activities that has led to loss and degradation of nesting and foraging habitats due to pollution, climate change, and coastal

development. With pollution, many sea turtles face debris entanglement. In some areas, humans have also killed and captured eggs for consumption. In the U.S., NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have shared jurisdiction for conservation and recovery for endangered and threatened sea turtles. Sksksk and I oop-, save the turles.


Otters-

Found along the coasts of the Pacific Ocean in North America and Asia, these aquatic mammals spend most of time in the water, however, some will come up to the shore to sleep or relax. They have webbed-feet, and water repellant coats to keep them dry and warm while swimming. Their ears and nostrils also close while in the water. They typically lay on their backs in the water in a serene repose, and sleep this way in groups. Sea otters’ diet consist of shellfish, where

they hunt on the seafloor but return to the shore line to eat. They have a “pocket” (loose skin) under their forearm, where they stash prey in the loose skin to free their paws while hunting. Sea otters are the only otters to give birth in the water. Mothers nuture their young while floating on their backs; quickly showing them how to hunt and swim on their own. Sea otters were once hunted for their fur which has led population numbers to drastically decrease, leaving these adorable creatures endangered. There are about 3,000 remaining in Southern California.


Penguins-

Primarily in the Southern Hemisphere, and one species of penguins located in Galápagos, these flightless birds are a family of 17 to 19 species of birds. Although they are considered birds, they do not have wings, instead they have flippers. They range from 15 inches to 3.5 feet and 2 pounds to 80 pounds depending on species. On land, they waddle and while traveling long distances, they slide on their bellies. During extreme cold weathers, they huddle together in large colonies of thousands to millions of penguins for protection and warmth. Female penguins will come on shore to lay their eggs and raise their chicks. They lay 1 to 2 eggs at a time with parents taking turns keeping their eggs warm. For a few weeks out of the year, parent penguins will leave their chicks to forage for food. Once they return, their chicks will listen to the unique frequency of their parents’ call and reunite with them within the large crowd. Soon after, the parents will begin molting, which is where all the baby feathers will be shed to reveal their waterproof feathers, which is necessary for hunting in the water. These oversized seabirds are threatened. Human actions has threatened two-thirds of penguin species with climate change melting the polar ice, which is their homes. Commercial fishing is a threat as well since penguins have to compete for food, putting them in danger of getting caught in the fishing nets.


Frogs-

These tailless , smooth-skinned amphibians are found all over the world except Antarctica. They have protruding eyes and webbed feet meant for swimming and jumping, Most are predominately aquatic, but others live on land, in burrows or trees. Their snouts can vary from 0.4 inches to 12 inches depending on the species. Many frogs’ skin is poisonous, which does not usually protect it from predators such as mammals, snakes, and birds. Edible frogs rely on camouflage, in which some frog species can change color to blend in to 

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