Animals in the Park
The eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) is a small striped rodent found in North American woodlands and in suburbia. It is an omnivore, and its diet includes nuts, seeds, and fruits as well as insects. In the north, eastern chipmunks retreat to their burrows in October to enter a state of torpor (temporary hibernation) for a period of time. They reappear in mid-March. In the south, they retire in December and reappear in late -January. They wake often during the torpid period to move about underground and eat from their stores.
White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), the smallest members of the North American deer family, are found from southern Canada to South America. White-tailed deer are herbivores, leisurely grazing on most available plant foods. Their stomachs allow them to digest a varied diet, including leaves, twigs, fruits and nuts, grass, corn, alfalfa, and even lichens and other fungi. Occasionally venturing out in the daylight hours, white-tailed deer are primarily nocturnal or crepuscular, browsing mainly at dawn and dusk.
Eastern Gray Squirrel
Sciurus carolinensis is native to the eastern and midwestern United States, and to the southerly portions of eastern Canada. The eastern gray squirrel is a scatter-hoarder; it hoards food in numerous small caches for later recovery. They eat a range of foods, such as tree bark, tree buds, berries, seeds and acorns, walnuts, and other nuts, and some fungi found in forests. Eastern gray squirrels generally prefer constructing their dens on large tree branches and in the hollow trunks of trees. They also have been known to take shelter in abandoned bird nests. The dens are usually lined with moss plants, thistledown, dried grass, and feathers.
Eastern Painted Turtle
The painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) is the most widespread native turtle of North America. It lives in slow-moving fresh waters, from southern Canada to northern Mexico, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The turtle eats aquatic vegetation, algae, and small water creatures including insects, crustaceans, and fish. Although they are frequently consumed as eggs or hatchlings by rodents, canines, and snakes, the adult turtles' hard shells protect them from most predators. Reliant on warmth from its surroundings, the painted turtle is active only during the day when it basks for hours on logs or rocks. During the winter, the turtle hibernates, usually in the mud at the bottom of water bodies.
The muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) is a medium sized semi-aquatic rodent native to North America. Muskrats spend much of their time in the water and are well suited for their semi-aquatic life. They can swim under water for 12 to 17 minutes. Their bodies, like those of seals and whales, are less sensitive to the buildup of carbon dioxide than those of most other mammals. Muskrats are most active at night or near dawn and dusk. They feed on cattails and other aquatic vegetation. They do not store food for the winter, but sometimes eat the insides of their push-ups (nests).
Northern Water Snake
Northern Water Snakes are one of our most common snakes. Because their color patterns aren't always the same, and also because they are often covered with mud, water snakes are confused with other species.
Northern Water Snakes grow over four feet long. They can be brown, gray, reddish, or brownish-black. They have dark crossbands on their necks and dark blotches on the rest of their bodies. Also, the older the snake gets, the darker it gets. An older snake will become black.
Northern Water Snakes live near lakes, ponds, marshes, streams, rivers, and canals; just about anywhere there is water. They are active during the day and at night. They are most often seen basking on rocks, stumps, or brush.
During the day, water snakes hunt among plants at the water's edge, looking for small fish, frogs, worms, leeches, crayfish, salamanders, young turtles, and small birds and mammals. At night, they concentrate on minnows and other small fish sleeping in shallow water.