Wild Wisdom

Moose in northern New England are dying off in startling numbers. In New Hampshire, 70 percent of moose calves died in 2014 and 2015, according to Kristine Rines, wildlife biologist and Moose Project leader at the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. The decline is associated with a trend toward shorter winters, with later starts…

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The writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau famously mourned how tame the wilderness of his day had become. On his rambles in mid-19th century Massachusetts, he saw no cougar, wolf, bear, moose, deer, beaver, or turkey. These and other animals had been displaced or killed outright, their forested habitats transformed into active farmland. Now, as…

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When hiking in the mountains, you’re often reminded to stick to the trails to protect alpine plants. But it’s not just diapensia or dwarf cinquefoil that’s eking out an existence in these high elevations. The rare northern bog lemming also calls some of our alpine environment home. This small mammal weighs just an ounce and…

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The way water striders skim across the surface of ponds has earned them the nickname “Jesus bugs.” But this seemingly miraculous ability—a signature of the mostly freshwater-dwelling Gerridae family of insects—has a perfectly natural explanation. POSITIVE TENSION Surface tension helps make the water strider’s leaps and glides possible. Water molecules are attracted to each other…

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The mushrooms you see on a woodland hike are like the tips of icebergs, heralding something much larger below. Some species of fungus boast networks beneath the soil that can extend for miles. These subterranean webs also play an outsize role in the forest ecosystem. “It’s hard for us to imagine there are such large…

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One of the earliest signs of spring is the Eastern skunk cabbage pushing up through thin ice and snow-covered ground. This remarkable plant actually produces heat as it grows. Look for it in early March while walking near swampy areas in woodlands or near creeks and ponds. Sniff Around Skunk cabbage gets its name from…

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In winter, many animals burrow below the frost line to protect themselves from the Northeast’s bitter cold. But the wood frog has adapted a different strategy: It freezes to survive. Wood frogs spend the winter under the snow, just a few inches down in the leaf litter or soil. That’s not deep enough to escape…

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Red foxes are probably native to the AMC region, but we can thank hunters for swelling their numbers. In the late 1700s, settlers brought red foxes from Europe to the Eastern seaboard in order to hunt them, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The hunters found the native gray fox less interesting…

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For those of us who live in the Northeast, it may seem obvious that many birds migrate to avoid cold winters. But that’s not the case. “It’s not because of the cold,” says Christopher W. Leahy, the Gerard A. Bertrand chair of natural history and field ornithology at Mass Audubon. “Birds are among the best-insulated…

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When you see honeybees in a patch of flowers, you might think each found her way there on her own, following the blooms’ scent. But actually worker bees (which are all female) learn about such sites from other bees and fly straight there from their hives, which could be as far as 6 miles away….

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