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Natural History Information

Black Bear

Shaggy black fur and large size distinguish this animal from all other Adirondack mammals. The black bear has a short, inconspicuous tail. The body and legs are short. The head is broad with erect, rounded ears. The muzzle, grizzled with brown, is long and narrow. The eyes are small and dark. Both front and hind feet have five toes, each with a large claw. A white blaze is often present on the throat or chest. Color phases occur but are uncommon in eastern populations. Adults are approximately 50 -78 inches in length. Average-sized adult males weigh 300 lbs. and females 150 lbs.


Salmon

Atlantic Salmon in New York Atlantic salmon were once very abundant in Lake Ontario and its tributaries. Early records and journals indicate that the largest producers of salmon included the Salmon River, the Oswego River system, and the Genesee River. Smaller tributaries in New York also supported salmon runs, including Little Sandy Creek, Deer Creek, Grindstone Creek, Little Salmon River, and Oak Orchard Creek. Some of these salmon runs are reported to have been quite large. For example, one fisherman caught 400 salmon in one night in the Salmon River; these fish averaged about 15 pounds.


Coyote

The coyote has been present in New York state at least since 1920. As with its western cousin, the eastern coyote has been the object of much controversy as well as curiosity. Those who hunt deer view the coyote as a competitor and a threat, while others believe coyotes rely mainly on smaller mammals and carrion for their diet. Some individuals are concerned that the livestock industry, particularly sheepherders, will suffer from the coyotes’ presence. These concerns have resulted in recent efforts, to date unsuccessful, to remove all protection from the coyote, and in some cases to pay bounties to reduce their numbers or eliminate them.


Frogs and Toads

Most everyone recognizes frogs. Frogs, like salamanders and newts, are amphibians. Unlike salamanders, they have made a major evolutionary detour from the body plan of their ancient ancestors. The hind legs of frogs are much larger than the forelegs and the tail has disappeared. This allows a new mode of locomotion, namely jumping, an effective method to elude their many predators. Because they leave the ground to get around, using scent to communicate with each other is not a viable option, as it is for salamanders. Consequently, frogs are among the most vocal of vertebrate animals (birds fly, so they vocalize a lot as well!). Frogs in New York fall into four major groups (families) linked by anatomy and other features of their biology.


Salamanders

Salamanders, like frogs and toads, are amphibians. This means they lead “double lives” spending their early existence as aquatic larvae which undergo metamorphosis, transforming into land-based animals. These adults typically return to the water to breed. A hallmark of amphibians is a smooth skin thatmust be kept moist because it is permeable to water. Unlike frogs, salamanders keep their larval tail and slender bodies and move about by crawling rather than jumping. There are two species of large salamanders in New York, and both spend their entire lives in water.


Snakes

New York state is home to 17 species of snakes. These animals, whose tubular, limbless bodies are instantly and universally recognized, produce mixed reactions among people, from fear to fascination. Serpents figure prominently in the mythologies of nearly all human cultures; however, only in Christian religions are they a symbol of evil and temptation. It is perhaps for this reason that snakes often are persecuted and killed without any understanding of their true nature. Snakes play critical roles in the environments where they occur, primarily by the position they hold in food webs in natural communities.


Turtles

Many cultures tell fascinating tales about turtles. Several North American Native tribes speak of a great turtle floating in a primal sea, before there was any land. Here lived all the other animals piled upon its massive shell, drifting and waiting. As the story suggests, turtles have been around for millions of years, coming into being, like many other modern reptiles, during the age of the dinosaurs. Only the snapping turtle and the painted turtle are really common across New York. Snappers are the largest New York freshwater turtle, reaching shell lengths of 19 inches and weights of 70 pounds. They can be found in a variety of water systems, from pristine Adirondack lakes, large rivers, and marshes to farm ponds, salt marshes, and the Erie Canal.


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