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Oct 16, 2017 1:58 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Naturalist Quiz: Mammals Of Long Island

Oct 17, 2017 12:53 PM

At various times over the last three decades that I’ve lived and worked on Long Island, natural resource managers, wildlife biologists and naturalists have joined forces to survey the island’s wildlife resources. Among the fauna that reside here, at least seasonally, the most well-surveyed group are the birds. Christmas bird counts, wintering waterfowl counts, and shorebird surveys are done on an annual basis, while the New York State Breeding Bird Atlas is updated every two decades.Over the decade spanning 1990-1999, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation spearheaded the NYS Herp Atlas Project, collected and tabulated sighting reports of herps (reptiles and amphibians) from around the state. There have even been several coordinated efforts to survey some of Long Island’s insects, mainly the butterflies, moths, and odonates (damselflies and dragonflies). The latter survey, a statewide effort that took place over five field seasons between 2005 and 2009, involved over 300 people, the majority of whom were trained volunteers.

In contrast, most of Long Island’s terrestrial mammals (excluding the seals, whales and other marine mammals, the river otter, and possibly the white-tailed deer) haven’t been surveyed since the 1960s. The status and distribution of many of these, including the gray fox, mink, long-tailed weasel and striped skunk, for which there is a trapping season here, are unknown.

This week’s column is a quiz on our terrestrial mammals based largely on Paul Connor’s 1971 publication, “The Mammals of Long Island, New York,” to be continued next week as well. I hope you find it informative and fun.

#1: What is our smallest mammal?

#2: In 1903, naturalist Arthur Helme described this mammal’s population as having declined to a point that it was only found on Gardiners Island and on privately-owned game preserves and estates over an area of five square miles in Islip and Brookhaven. Around this time some were imported from New England to bolster Long Island’s population.

#3: What mammal has the lowest annual reproductive rate, giving birth to just one young per year?

#4: Who has poison in its saliva that is used to immobilize—but not kill—prey, and keeps their prey alive for consumption up to five days later?

#5: What mammal species comprises up to 85 percent of the diet of some predators?

#6: What mammal was once widespread across Long Island, but began to decline in the 1890s, possibly a side effect of spraying Paris green poison to control the Colorado potato beetle?

#7: What species is considered to be the most primitive mammal in North America? (hint: its common name is Algonquian and translates, “white animal”).

#8: What very common mammal became scarce in parts of Long Island in the late 1800s and early 1900s due to their popularity in the fashion industry?

Questions #9 and #10 are based on the accompanied photos.

ANSWERS: 1) common or masked shrew; 2) white-tailed deer; 3) bats (we have seven species here); 4) short-tailed shrew; 5) meadow vole; 6) striped skunk; 7) opossum; 8) raccoons (coonskin coats); 9) muskrat lodge; 10) vole.

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