Saturday, April 01, 2006

Screaming In the Woods, or Another Meso-Predator Bights the Dust.

At four thirty this morning I was wakened by a violent noise a distance away in the woods, that sounded like a small mammal - possibly racoon - in a vicious fight. This reminded me of a topic that was presented at the Ontario Woodlot Association AGM that was held in Peterborough, Ontario on Saturday March 18th last month. The talk was entitled Forest Songbirds in Southern Ontario presented by Erica Nol of Trent University. The presentation was introduced with the following text:
Forest songbirds are an integral part of our forest ecosystems. The range and abundance of songbirds is determined to a large extent by the availability of suitable breeding habitat. Come and learn about some of the common forest songbirds found in southern Ontario woodlots, their habitat requirements and some of the pressures impacting their habitat and populations.
In her talk I recall that she described the impact of meso-predators on forest songbirds. Meso-predators typically include the racoon, skunk, fox, bobcat and opossum. Opossums are not known here but are becoming common in Southern Ontario. These mammals will attack bird nests and prey on the eggs and young. The thrush family is a typical woodland bird that builds its nest low to the ground and thus is suseptible to this predator.

The speaker stated that the absence of major predators such as the wolf and mountain lion has allowed the release – or expansion – of meso-predators since they keep the meso predators in check. I am not sure where the coyote or fisher would fit into the predator ranks, but I am quite sure that what I heard was a coyote or fisher attacking or preying on a racoon. I have heard that racoon sound before when we lived in the suburbs when racoons were fighting either with themselves or another animal. In the suburbs we had many racoons and skunks in our garbage yet around here we have much fewer visits by these meso-predators. I am inclined to believe that the coyote and fisher are doing their part in playing the role of the major predator and keeping the meso-predator numbers down. Domestic cats, though unnatural probably qualify as meso-predators as well.


Anonymous said...

Now there was an interesting and eye-catching title to a post!

You might consider feedback to the presentor regarding coyotes and fishers.

Coyotes are becoming quite prevalent in WI and as I understand it across the northeastern US. A coyote was recently captured in Central Park in New York! Coyotes have also been positively identified in long-time urban areas south of the city of Milwaukee. s/Pete

Anonymous said...

great article..