North Woods Animals
~ Black Bears prefer dense woodlands, swamps and mountain areas. They
may grow up to 6' in length and up to 3' at shoulder height with males
weighing up to 500 pounds or more. The average weight for a male being
approximately 300 pounds and a females around 150-175 pounds. Females
are typically smaller than the male bear. Black Bears are omnivores
eating both plants and animals.
A bears typical diet would consist of insects, small rodents,
fish, fruits, nuts and berries. Black Bears are not true hibernators
rather just sleep through the winter months. They may occasionally awake
from their winter sleep and move about their den but not stray far from
it. A bears den may be in a hollow tree, cave, brush pile or beneath a
blow down. While in their winter sleep their metabolism slows down
considerably and they neither eat, drink, or excrete waste for this
period of time. They may lose up to 25% of their body weight while in
Female bears called sows give birth in their winter dens to
one to two young in February. Weighing only 8 ounces at birth the
young bear will stay with it's mother through the following spring of
the next year. Females are bred every other year with breeding taking
place in June or July. A healthy bear in the wild may live to be
as much as 25 years old. A good place to look for bear tracks in the
fall would be near a stand of Beech trees or blackberry thicket in the
late summer months. Bears will gorge themselves on these fruits
and nuts to put on fat reserves for the long winters months.
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Beaver ~ A beavers tail may reach up to16 inches
in length and 4 to 5 inches in width. Contrary to popular belief
Beavers do not use their tails as shovels in building their
dams. Their tail is used as a brace to help support them as they
stand to gnaw a the base of trees. Known for their dam building
abilities Beavers are found almost anywhere there is water with
an abundance of Poplar or other deciduous softwoods nearby.
Beavers are herbivores and do not eat fish as some people tend
to believe. They form colonies consisting of the male, female
and their offspring.
Their lodge, which which is made from branches, sticks and
mud serves as their den. The den is cone shaped usually a short
distance from the shoreline. An underwater entrance leads above
the water line to a dry sleeping area. The den area may be lined
with leaves and grasses.
Beavers mate for life usually from January through March with
the female giving birth three and one half to four months later
to 2-8 young called kits. The young remain with their parents
until about 2 years of age at which time they will be forced out
of the family group and relocate to another body of water.
A Beaver may live up to 16 years of age in the wild, they will
relocate often to another waterway as the wood supply for food
Beavers store branches and twigs underwater in a food cache
near their lodge for food to be used during the long
winter months. Just before sunset is the best time to witness
Beavers checking their dams and patrolling their ponds. When
alarmed a Beaver will slap it's tail sharply on the water
surface to alarm others in the colony of nearby danger.
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Bobcat~ Bobcats can reach a weight of up to 40
pounds. They may have a body length of up to 38 inches long with
a tail 4-6 inches in length. Their coat is reddish/brown and
black spotted. Bobcats favor wooded and brushy areas and are
solitary animals. Usually nocturnal they are active throughout
The female may have a different mate each season. Bobcats
breed from February through March with 1-4 young born about
approximately three to four months later. The young may leave
their mothers through the fall or winter of the same year. Their
den may be located in hollow logs, caves, rock crevices or brush
piles. Rabbits are the main prey of Bobcats but they also prey
on rodents, birds, and other smaller mammals. They may
occasionally take a fawn deer or weakened adult deer. They may
live up to 12 years in the wild. A very elusive animal they are
rarely seen by man.
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Coyote~ Coyotes have many fur color variations.
Generally they are pale brown in color with mixes of gray, black
and red in their coats. Their underbelly is white in color.
Mostly they resemble a German Shepard in appearance and are of
comparative size. Coyotes breed in January through March with
3-10 pups born about 2 months later. The family will remain
together at least until the fall of the year. Young females are
capable of being bred their first winter.
Found almost everywhere from urban areas to remote forests
Coyotes have learned to co exist with mans encroachment into the
wild. With a never ending supply of domestic cats and dogs
and the recent increase in deer populations the Coyote does not
have a lack of food supplies. They also make due with
small rodents, rabbits, fruits and berries. They may hunt alone,
in pairs or packs at times. Mainly nocturnal they are
active throughout the year. A healthy Coyote in the wild may
live to reach an age of 13 years.
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Fisher~ A male Fisher may weigh up to 12 pounds
and be up to 3 feet from nose to tail. The female being smaller
in size. They resemble a short legged cat in appearance. Their
fur is dark brown to blackish in color. Fishers are found in
densely wooded areas. They mate in March/April with 1-5 young
born up to one year later. The female will will breed again
shortly after giving birth to her young. The young leave their
mother in the following fall of the same year. Their den is that
of a hollow tree, brush pile, rock crevice or ground burrow and
they may have several different dens extending over their home
range. Only one den is used for birthing and rearing the young.
The diet of a Fisher consists of mice, squirrels, porcupines,
raccoons, birds, and other smaller animals. They also may eat
berries, fruits and nuts. They are natural predators in tree
tops where squirrels make up the bulk of their food. Fishers are
also one of the few predators of the Porcupine. Like others in
the weasel family when annoyed the Fisher will give off a foul
scent in it's defense. They are solitary animals only
associating with each other for breeding purposes. They remain
active throughout the year both day and night and may live
to 10 years of age.
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Mink~ A male Mink can grow in total body length
to 20 inches with a 5-8 inch tail and weigh up to 3.5 pounds.
Females being slightly smaller in size. Mink have a rich dark
brown fur with a small amount of white fur beneath their chin.
Typically found along waterways, Mink are good swimmers but hunt
on land also. They are active throughout the year during
daylight as well as night time. Their diet consists of fish,
snakes, turtles, rodents, rabbits, birds and frogs.
Females mate in February/March with one or more males and
give birth to 3-6 young approximately two months later. Their
den is usually a dug tunnel into the side of the bank on a
waterway. They will line the living quarters of their den with
grasses. They may also inhabit abandon muskrat houses, beaver
lodges or hollow logs. The young leave their mother in late
summer to early fall of the same year and are sexually mature at
10 months old. Mink are fierce fighters and will also give a
foul odor off when annoyed. Their lifespan may be up to 10
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Moose~ One of the largest animals roaming the
forest standing at heights of up to 7 foot tall at the shoulder
and weighing more than 1000 pounds. Moose are found in
fresh water areas where they browse on their favorite water
plant the Water Lily. They also will browse on woody plants, and
grasses. A female Moose will give birth to 1-2 calves in May or
June following the fall breeding period. The calves are not
spotted as in some deer but are a dull red/brown in color. The
calf will weigh between 20 to 30 pounds at birth and will gain
up to 5 pounds per day. At 10 days old they can run with their
mother and stand at 3 foot tall.
The male Moose carry antlers on their head that can reach a
span of up to 6 feet in width. These antlers are shed each
winter and a new set begins to grow the following spring. Their
antlers are used in defense and for fighting other Moose over
the breeding rights of the females (cows). In winter months
Moose may congregate in small groups but are usually solitary
animals throughout most of the year. Excellent swimmers they can
also run up to a speed of 35 mph through open areas. The hooves
of the Moose serve as a type of paddle being so broad that it
allows them to swim for long distances. Their long legs also
make them less vulnerable to the deep snows of winter. A healthy
Moose may live up to 20 years in the wild.
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Muskrat~ A Muskrat may grow in body length to 15
inches with a 10 inch tail reaching a weight up to 4 pounds.
Their tail is scaly with little hair and acts as a rudder when
swimming. Their fur is brown on the upper portions and gray on
the underbelly side. Muskrats reside near waterways such as
swamps, marshes, rivers, ponds and streams. Generally being
nocturnal they are active throughout the year. Their den
resembles that of a Beavers but smaller in size and made of non
woody plants such as grasses. They also may burrow into a stream
or river bank.
The female Muskrat may have several litters per year with 4-5
young born per litter. They breed from late winter through late
summer. The first litter appearing roughly in late March or
April one month after being bred. Young females may breed their
first year. While the Muskrat is mainly a herbivore eating plant
material, it may also eat shellfish and other small aquatic
animals. Muskrats are solitary animals associating only during
breeding. They may live up to 10 years of age.
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Opossum~ With a body length of up to 20 inches
and a 15-20 inch tail the Opossum is not the prettiest of
animals roaming the woods today, with a long pointed nose,
pinkish white face and scaly tail. Opossums may
weigh up to 14 pounds and have a grayish color to their fur.
They are however the only Marsupial of North America, meaning
they have a pouch like a Kangaroo that it rears it's young in.
The young called kits may number up to 15 per litter and are
only 1/2 to 5/8 inches long when born. The female may have up to
two liters per year. She gives birth sitting in an upright
position licking a path in her fur from her vulva to her brood
pouch. The kits make the journey following this trail to their
mothers brood pouch where they attach themselves to one of her
13 teats. They remain in the brood pouch for several weeks and
may at times ride on their mothers back.
Mostly nocturnal Opossums eat nearly anything they find, from
insects to fruit, carrion, rodents, vegetables and garbage. They
can easily climb trees with aid of their tails but do not sleep
hanging from their tails as some believe. If cornered they may
play dead for long periods of time. Opossums leave a distinct
track identifiable by their opposing thumbprint. They may live
in the wild up to 8 years of age.
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Porcupine~ Sometimes referred to as the Woods Pig
a Porcupine may weigh up to 30 pounds. They may have a body
length of up to 23 inches with a very dangerous tail of up to 7
inches long. A common misconception is that Porcupines
shoot their quills, rather they are shed from it's body on
contact with it's aggressor. The quills have a white base and
are black tipped with a barb on the end. They are actually
modified hairs which are hollow and hardened. There are over
30,000 quills on it's body and tail. When provoked the Porcupine
will raise it's tail and strike at it's opponent with it.
Females are bred in Autumn and give birth to one young
approximately 7 months later. It's quills being soft at birth
they begin to harden with in an hour. The young at two days old
are capable of climbing trees with their mothers. Their diet
consists of inner bark of trees and foliage of Hemlock, Spruce,
White Pine, Beech, Maple and Birch. Porcupines have a craving
for salt and seek out these deposits naturally or manmade.
They are nocturnal and are active throughout the year and may
stay in there dens for periods of severe cold in the winter
months. They may den in hollow trees, rock cavities or brush
piles. The main predator of the Porcupine is the Fisher, they
are slow moving animals and are easily caught. They may have a
life span of up to 10 years.
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Raccoon~ Raccoons may weigh up to 35 pounds with
their body reaching 24 inches in length with a 10-12 inch tail.
One of the most recognized animals with it's masked face and
ringed tail. Raccoons prefer wooded areas near waterways but are
just as comfortable in suburban areas. They are nocturnal and
remain active throughout most of the year. During cold periods
of winter they will remain in their dens and stay inactive,
living off their reserve fat supplies. They may venture out to
forage during warm spells returning to their den afterwards.
Their den may be in a hollow log, brush pile, cave, rock pile or
abandoned burrow of another animal. They may have several
different dens which they may visit.
Their food consists of nuts, berries, fruit, crops, mice,
fish, frogs and crustaceans. If water is available a Raccoon
will dip it's food into it as if giving the impression of
washing it off. They are excellent swimmers and readily climbs
trees. Raccoons breed in February and give birth to 2-6 young
approximately two months later. The young will remain with their
mother for up to one year or until a new litter forces them out.
Raccoons may live in the wild up to 15 years of age
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Red Fox~ A Red Fox may reach up to 14 pounds in
weight and a total length of 42 inches from nose to tip of tail.
Females are typically smaller. Their fur is golden brown to
reddish above with white on it's underside. The Red's legs are
black as are it's ear tips with a white tip on the end of it's
bushy tail. They prefer to live in wooded to mixed covered areas
with open fields.
Females are bred in January/February with 4 to 10 young born
approximately two months later. Their den is typically dug into
the side of a hill or raised area with sufficient drainage. They
also may make use of a hollow log, brush pile or rock crevice to
serve as a den. The male takes an active role in raising and
protecting the young which grow to full size in 18 months. The
young may leave their family unit in late summer to early autumn
of the same year. The Red Fox is active throughout the year.
Their diet consists of mainly mice but also eat fruit, birds,
insects, berries, nuts and other small animals. The fox
will store it's food in it's den or may bury it for consumption
later. In the wild a fox may live to be 8 years of age.
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Gray Fox~ Gray Fox may reach weights of up to 12
pounds with a body length of up to 40 inches from tip of nose to
the tip of it's black tipped tail. The female is typically
smaller. The Gray Fox's fur is a mix of black and gray above
with reddish/brown on the sides. It's underbelly is gray and
tawny in color. They prefer deciduous to mixed forests and
brushy areas. The Gray Fox is nocturnal and remains active
throughout the year.
Gray's mate in February through March with the female giving
birth approximately 2 months later to 2-7 young. The male Gray
like the Red Fox plays an active role in rearing the young.
Female young are capable of being bred at 10 months of age. They
den in hollow logs, rocks or abandoned burrows of other animals.
Unlike the Red Fox, Gray's can and do climb trees. Their diet
consists of insects, mice, squirrels, rabbits, berries, fruits
and birds. Fox's regularly mark their territory and one can
usually see fox scat prominently displayed on top of a rock,
tree stump or log in the forest.
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Otter~ Reaching weights of up to 25 pounds this
playful animal may be up to 3 feet long with a 12 inch tail. The
female being slightly smaller. Otter fur is a rich glossy brown
color. They are found near lakes, streams, ponds, rivers and
marshes. Otters are not nocturnal, traveling both day and night.
Females are bred in March through April and give birth to 1-5
young in their den approximately 9-12 months later. The young
will remain with their mothers for up to one year or until
another liter is born. Dens are usually in the sides of banks or
hollow logs and may occasionally reside in abandon beaver
lodges. Their diet consists of mainly of fish but may catch
muskrats, ducks, birds and other small mammals. If provoked the
Otter may give off a foul odor. These are one of the most
playful animals in the wild. Frequently sliding on their bellies
down whatever banks and hills they come across. Otters are
excellent swimmers and propel themselves in the water with their
tails and hind legs. They can out swim and maneuver most fish
which enables them their fishing abilities. They will bring
their food to a rock, log or on shore to consume it. A Otter may
live to 12 years of age in the wild.
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Skunk~ Probably the most recognized animal
alive today. It's black fur with white stripes will send anyone
running for distance. Skunks may weigh up to 14 pounds with a
body length of up to 20 inches and a 7-10 inch tail. Females are
typically smaller. Skunks are nocturnal and are active
throughout much of the year. They will remain in their den
through cold winter months living off their fat reserves but are
not true hibernators.
Skunks mate from February through March, approximately 60
days later the female gives birth to 4-10 young. They regularly
den in excavated burrows in the ground but may make use of
hollow logs, brush piles or rock piles. Skunks will line their
den area with leaves and grasses. The young may stay with their
mother for up to six months time. Skunks are omnivores eating
insects, fruits, berries, birds, carrion and small rodents. They
may dig for grubs and beetles in softer soils or fallen decayed
tree trunks. Both female and male Skunks have a pair of
anal scent glands. A skunk can accurately use their scent glands
for up to a distance of 16 feet. Their spray does not cause
permanent blindness but may temporarily blind the intruder.
Tomato juice still seems to be the best remedy to removing skunk
odor on pets. Skunks may live in the wild to 10 years of age.
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Snowshoe Rabbit~ Snowshoes may reach weights up
to 4.5 pounds. Two of the most recognizable characteristics are
their fur and their feet. Snowshoes turn entirely white in the
early winter months for concealment from predators except for
their black tipped ears. Their feet which measure as much as 5.5
inches in length with dense long hair that keeps them on
top of deep snows in the winter months to avoid their enemies.
The summer coat of the Snowshoe is a reddish brown color. It
takes approximately 70 days for their color transformation to be
completed. The amount of daylight brings upon the start of
their molting process from their winter coat to summer and
summer coat to winter. Snowshoes prefer dense coniferous forests
The female may have up to three litters per season between
the months of May and August. Each litter may contain up to six
young. She gives birth to her litter approximately one month
after being bred. Young females may be bred the following
spring. Snowshoes favor Aspens and Conifers for food. They
also eat berries, flowers and other green foliage. Their numbers
are cyclical in nature with an abundance of rabbits every 10
years. Their numbers increase and decrease directly to their
number of predators in the area. Snowshoes may reach an age of 8
years in the wild.
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Cottontail Rabbit~ Weighing up to three pounds
the Cottontail gets it's name from it's short furry white tail
that resembles a patch of cotton. They maintain their brown coat
throughout the year unlike the Snowshoe. They have many
predators to watch out for such as fox, coyote, fisher, weasel,
hawks, eagles, owls and other birds of prey. With so many
predators chasing these rabbits the Cottontail can replenish
it's population easily.
The female Cottontail may have up to seven litters per season
with 4-7 young per litter 30 days after being bred. The young
will stay with their mother for a period of approximately one
month after birth. Females from the first one or two litters of
the season may themselves be bred the same year. These rabbits
unlike the Snowshoe have dens they regularly use. Cottontails do
not dig out their own dens, rather they may use an abandon den
of a woodchuck, skunk or fox. They also will den in brush
piles or rock piles and crevices. Their feet are much smaller
than the Snowshoe and is more adapt at running than it's
cousin. Their food consists of various green plants, tree bark,
vegetables and berries. They may have a life span of up to 8
years if they are lucky enough to survive that long.
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Least Weasel (ermine)~ Weighing only about 12
ounces the Least Weasel is an accomplished hunter. Their body
being long and slender it affords them to chase their prey right
into their burrows and dens. They have a body length of up to 9
inches long with a 4 inch tail. The Ermines winter coat is pure
white except for the black tip at the end of it's tail. Their
underbelly remains white in the summer months with the rest of
their coat being brown. This change in fur color is brought on
by the amount of daylight both in the winter and spring. Found
in many different habitats from fields to deep woods. The
Ermines diet consists primarily or squirrels and other rodents
but it occasionally will eat insects, snakes, frogs and take a
bird for it's prey.
They may maintain several different den sites. Often
moving into the den of their pray lining them with leaves, fur
or feathers from their kills. They also may make use of hollow
logs, brush piles and rock crevices for their den. Females are
bred in the Fall and give birth to 4-5 young the following April
or May. The female young may be bred at 6 months of age. Ermine
are active throughout the year both in daylight and night time.
They may live to 7 years of age in the wild.
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Whitetail Deer~ With a body length of up to
6 feet and a tail up to 11 inches, standing up to 4 foot tall at
the shoulder the Whitetail Deer is one of the most graceful
animals in the wild. These deer prefer to live on the edge of
two different ecosystems. They thrive in mixed woodland areas.
Their name is derived from their pure white hair on the
underside of their tail that prominently is displayed as they
flee from danger.
Whitetails breed during the Fall of the year and give birth
to 1-3 fawns in June the following year. Twins are more common
after the females reach an age of two and a half years in age.
The fawn is spotted and helpless for the first few weeks of
their lives. They remain hidden and separate from their mothers.
The mother will let the fawn wean every few hours, grooming them
and consuming their waste excrements to make sure it remains
scent free from predators. Doe fawns will follow their mothers
for up to 2 years and possibly longer. They may be bred at one
and one half years of age. Buck fawns are driven off by
their mothers after one year.
Male deer called bucks grow antlers each summer and shed them
later the next winter. The antlers serve as a means of defense
and for fighting other bucks for breeding rights to the does. It
is not possible to tell the age of a buck by his antler size as
many believe. During the winter months Whitetails will gather
together to form a deer yard. A deer yard is usually located in
dense stands of Cedars and Spruce lowlands where the snow
doesn't reach the depths that it would in open hardwood areas.
The deer can move about more freely in these areas following
trampled trials through the deep snow to reach the browse they
need to survive.
A Whitetails diet consists of fruits, nuts, berries, grasses
and the browse from twigs and buds on woody plants. They can
reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour running, jump up to 8
foot in height and over 30 feet horizontally. Whitetails may
reach an age of up to 15 years in the wild.
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Wild Turkey~ The Wild Turkey is the largest of
North Americas game birds. Reaching weights of up to 25 pounds
and standing at up to 3 feet in height he is of substantial
size. Turkeys can be found throughout North America from
farmlands to deep woods. Turkeys mate in late April to May
with the males strutting, fighting and gobbling for the breeding
right to the females. The hen can lay up to 15 eggs, she
incubates them for a period of approximately 28 days in a ground
nest made of leaves. Young stay with their mother throughout the
year. The male will maintain a harem of up to15 females that he
will court and breed with
Their diet consists of insects, nuts, berries and seeds.
Turkeys roost in trees once they are mature enough to fly up to
the branches. They will roost there through the night to avoid
predators. The Wild Turkey can fly with great speed for short
distances, and run equally as fast.
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