Wildlife

Turtle Rescue

On our last camping trip in Algonquin Park we rescued a turtle. The turtle was found while Dad, Uncle Dave, and I were canoeing close to shore filming Josh soloing his canoe. Josh spotted the turtle and noticed that there was something stuck on the turtle’s right forefoot. It was a clam!

"Zoom" the turtle trying to swim with a clam stuck to his right forefoot..

"Zoom" the turtle trying to swim with a clam stuck to his right forefoot..

Luckily Josh had his fishing net with him, so we scooped the turtle up and I grabbed it out of the net. The turtle wasn’t too happy to be picked up and held in the air, but Dad quickly pried the clam open with his Griptilian knife. Once the clam was off, the turtle (who we named Zoom) calmed down and we were able to take some pictures of him (we could tell he was a male by his long front claws).  

We also removed a couple of leeches that were attached to his shell.  Zoom was then released and swam off to hunt and be a happy turtle. 

In hindsight we think that Zoom had actually asked for help.  Normally turtles swim away from people, but Zoom actually swam towards Josh's canoe and circled around the canoe until we scooped him up in the net. Also, after the clam was pried off he didn’t freak out and struggle to be put down. Instead he was calm and allowed us to take pictures of him. Afterwards, he didn’t swim frantically away like a frightened turtle would, but stayed around the canoes for a little while before swimming off. Overall this was a very exciting adventure!

Zoom waves goodbye as he is released back into the water.

Zoom waves goodbye as he is released back into the water.

Anna's Animal Facts: Owls

By Cousin Anna (Age 12)

Cousin Anna

Did You Know? Contrary to what many people think, owls cannot turn their heads a full 360 degrees. They can only turn their heads a little bit more than 180 degrees.

On the last day of our recent overnight trip I made an interesting discovery - an owl pellet!

The owl pellet at the base of the tree.

What is an owl pellet? An owl pellet is the fur (or feathers) and bones of the animal an owl ate. An owl does not eat its prey in pieces; it swallows its prey whole! Owls don’t have a gag reflex. This means that an owl can’t choke when swallowing its prey. When an owl swallows its prey, it digests the meat and the ‘good stuff’, and spits up a ball of the fur, bones, and everything it can’t digest. This ball is called an owl pellet.

The bones in the owl pellet.

Owl pellets can be found at the base of an owl’s frequent perch, and are usually grey in colour. I found one at the base of a pine tree near my tent. It looked like a grey lump with a few bones sticking out of it. I recognized the pellet because I had dissected one before.  I got some tweezers from the first aid kit (we threw them out after) and pulled it apart. In the pellet I found the eye sockets and the top of the skull of a small rodent. I also found the jawbone and some vertebrae. There were foreleg and rear leg bones (I couldn’t tell which was which) and a few other fragments of the skull. It was an interesting find. We emailed the Algonquin Park Wildlife Research Station with pictures of the bones we found in the pellet, and asked what kind of rodent they might be from. The researchers haven’t gotten back to us yet, but we are hoping they will answer soon.

You can get your own owl pellets to dissect from Boreal Northwest.

The Painted Turtle (by Cousin Eva: Age 7)

Caleb and I caught a turtle when we were guarding the fish that Uncle Dave caught.  It was a North American Painted Turtle.

Anna holding the painted turtle.

The turtle had a smooth oval shaped shell that was a dark greenish brown colour with little orange spots on the edge. 

The top of the painted turtle.

Underneath it had orange marks on it.  The bottom shell was light yellow with a grey splotch in the middle.  Its head was dark green with yellow and orange stripes.  Painted turtles have webbed feet with little claws.  Their tails are short and pointy.  A turtle will tuck its feet and head into its shell when it’s scared.  Then it looks like a rock.

The bottom of the painted turtle.

Painted turtles like to eat algae, bugs and fish.  That’s probably why we found it checking out uncle Dave’s fish.  You can usually find painted turtles sunning themselves on rocks or logs on sunny days.  They do this to warm themselves up because they are cold blooded.  So the next time you’re canoeing on a sunny day remember to keep an eye out for turtles.

The Bunny (by Cousin Eva: Age 7)

At the end of our most recent trip we paddled back to the dock where our van was parked. Caleb, Chloe, Anna, and I were in our green canoe.  We got to the dock first.  We pulled our boat on to shore and we started to unpack our gear.  We carried our gear up to our cars so that it would be ready to pack up when our parents arrived.  
 
Once our work was done I decided to go and sit on a rock by the water while I waited for the others.  Something strange caught my attention.  I saw a fuzzy rock with ears and eyes.  Then I thought to myself, “That’s not a rock.  It’s a bunny!!“  I called to my sister Anna and she came over and confirmed that the “rock” was in fact a bunny.

Anna ran and got her camera.  We made sure that we were very quiet and that we moved slowly when we were around the bunny so that it wouldn’t get scared and hop away.  Chloe and Caleb crept over so that they could see the bunny too.  We all sat quietly and watched the bunny for several minutes.  When grandma and grandpa arrived in their canoe they got to see the bunny too.

This is the bunny.  Photo by Anna Smilek

This is the bunny.  Photo by Anna Smilek

Unfortunately, the wind picked up and some waves started to splash the bunny so it decided to hop back into the forest.  We were sad to see it go, but happy that Anna managed to get some great pictures of it.  
 
If you want to see a bunny, the best time to go looking for one is at dawn or dusk.  Usually they will be at the edge of a field or forest.  Bunnies scare easily so be sure to walk slowly and quietly.  Wild rabbits don’t make good pets, so if you want a bunny of your own you will have to buy one at a pet store.

Anna's Animal Facts: Frogs (by Cousin Anna, Age 12)

Did You Know? You can tell if a frog is male or female by the size of its eardrums.

If a frog’s eardrums are bigger than its eyes, then it’s a male. If the eardrums are the same size or smaller than the frog’s eyes, then it’s a female.  A frog’s eardrums are the round discs just behind its eyes.

Here I'm holding a frog that I caught and named Goliath. You can tell this frog is male because its ear drums are bigger than its eyes.

Here I'm holding a frog that I caught and named Goliath. You can tell this frog is male because its ear drums are bigger than its eyes.

Did you ever wonder what frogs eat? I was surprised to find out that they aren’t vegetarians. Frogs eat insects, snails, spiders, small fish, worms, tadpoles, and believe it or not, other frogs as well. Despite being little carnivorous cannibals, frogs don’t have teeth! They swallow their food whole. Although these little creatures sound fierce, they are pretty low down on the food chain, and are regularly consumed by birds, including Blue Herons, hawks, and egrets, as well as aquatic turtles, snakes, racoons, bears, foxes, fish, and otters. Even some people enjoy them as a delicacy (yuck!).

How do I catch a frog?  I don’t use a net because if you miss the frog you can hurt it with the edge of the net.  Frogs can get tangled up easily in nets, and it probably hurts the frogs when they are rubbing up against the netting.   I prefer to use my hands.  One technique is to come up from behind and grab the frog with my hand.  But when I use this technique the frog often slips away. So, instead, I usually use two hands and cup them on top of the frog, then scoop it up. Be careful not to squeeze or drop the frog. It is not a toy.

After you catch a frog, don’t throw it back into the water. This could hurt the frog or even kill it.  When you want to let your frog go, gently set it down by the water, or submerge your hand and let the frog swim out of your hand.  After touching a frog you should wash your hands.  Frogs can have salmonella on their skin and salmonella can make humans sick.

Becoming an excellent frog catcher takes practice.  They are slippery little guys, so don’t give up if you miss them on your first few tries.  Remember, practice makes perfect.