Elms Environmental Education Center

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Critter of the Month

Every month we highlight a different local animal.

April 2016: Wild Turkey


Eastern Wild Turkey
Meleagris gallopavo silvestris

Who am I?

 I am turkey, hear me gobble. I am not a very good father. In March and April I will strut around and try to mate with as many females as I can. The females will make a nest in the dirt and lay about 10-15 eggs. In about a month the eggs will hatch and the females will teach the young how to find food. I cannot fend myself well but I may kick you or stab you with my spurs. I can fly, yes I can fly. Not far, mind you, but fast, like a rocket. Often I will run away from those who are trying to catch me.

Where can you find me?

 The wild turkey is native to North America and can be found in mature forested areas throughout the continental US, though mostly in the East.

What do I eat?

 I am an omnivore, meaning I will eat both vegetables and meat. I will scour the ground with my friends looking for berries, nuts, snails, insects and other edible bits.

What might eat me?

 Ooh, the list is long. everybody loves turkey, especially humans, especially in November. Bobcats, cougars, wolves, coyotes, eagles and other non-human animals will try to eat me as an adult. Because my nests are on the ground the eggs are particularly vulnerable to snakes, raccoons, skunks and opossums.

Cool reasons why I am the critter of the month!

  • Thanksgiving! Okay, cool for you but not for me.
  • I am mating now and you may well see me strutting about in your woods.
  • My species was almost wiped out by humans but now we have recovered and there are many of us around. Thank you humans for killing most of my predators. No thanks for killing me yourselves.
  • I can change the color of my head from blue to pink to white depending on my mood.
  • I can run about 25 mph, about as fast as the fastest human.
  • When I am hanging out with my friends in a group we are sometimes called  a crop”, “dole”, “gang”, “posse”, or “raffle ... among other things.

March 2016: Spring Peeper

 Photo: USGS

Northern Spring Peeper

Pseudacris crucifer

Who am I?

 I am a small frog, a tree frog, though I really don't like to climb trees. You will usually find me near the ground. I am usually about an inch long, about the size of a paper clip, with a distinctive "x" marking on my back. Like most amphibians, my color will depend on where I live -- I like to blend in. My mom will lay individual eggs in quiet water sometime in late March and I will hatch out about 10 days later. After 2-3 months as a tadpole I will change, metamorphose, into a frog. In winter I will hibernate in the ground or under logs. i am a nocturnal animal which means i am out and about at night, hunting mostly During the day I will sleep under leaves and logs.

Where can you find me?

 We are native to the easy coast of North America, south to Georgia. Our cousins, the southern spring peeper, live in Georgia and Florida. We are hard to find but we live in just about any type of standing water, from vernal pools, to ditches to ponds. You will hear us in early spring while driving at night with the window open.

What do I eat?

 All kinds of small insects including beetles, ants, bugs and spiders.

What might eat me?

 Because I am so small (it is never a good thing to be the size of some predator's mouth) I must watch out for all kinds of predators. These include skunks, raccoon, birds, turtles, other frogs, snakes, fish, predacious water beetles and spiders.

Cool reasons why I am the critter of the month!

  • Most of my body can be frozen solid in the winter and I will thaw out happily in the spring.
  • Some people call me "Pinkletinks"
  • Only males call at night and the female chooses her mate by how fast the male can peep.
  • When lots of us are calling at the same time it sounds like "jingle bells". With so many of us calling it is hard for predators to isolate any one of us.

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