Sunday, May 30, 2010


 Bullfrogs (Rana catebeiana) are the largest frogs native to Missouri as well as in the rest of their range. They originally ranged from the Great Plains states, south to Texas, east to Central Florida. They were intentionally released in many Western States including California. This purposeful release was as a food source. The Red Leg frog in California was suffering a deep decline in numbers due to over harvesting. The bullfrog was released to compensate the reduction of numbers. Like what happens when most well meaning people release non-native species into new territories it poses a huge problem for native species, which is exactly what happened in California. Spadefoot toads, red-legged and yellow-legged frogs, young western pond turtles as well as native fish and even waterfowl chicks fall prey to this carnivorous frog.

The color of these frog can range from green, olive to brown. The hind legs are marked with distinct dark brown lines. The belly is white and the throat will have mottled gray appearance. Breeding males will have a yellow throat. The eardrums are visible on the side of their heads. The males have eardrums that are much larger than their eyes, the females have eardrums that are smaller or the same size as their eyes. These frogs range in size from 3 inches to 6 inches. The largest recorded bullfrog was over 8 inches in length (that's a lot of frog legs!). This frog is almost exclusively aquatic. They will be found in or near ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, and sloughs. In years of drought their numbers may be greatly reduced. During years of heavy rains they will be seen crossing roads in large numbers.

 Bullfrogs are easily disturbed and will hop away if approached. Young bullfrogs will let out a "yelp" when jumping away. Breeding takes place in Missouri between Mid-May and Early July. Males will aggressively defend their territories during the mating season and will fend off other males by biting, mounting, kicking, bumping, or pushing other males. Large males can be heard on warm, balmy evenings singing loudly with a distinct  jug o' rum call. Several of these bullfrogs all singing at once can be a deafening chorus.....especially when planning a camping trip and they decide to sing loud and proud for the ladies. I've been awoken in the wee hours of the morning by their loud voices, crawled sleepily out of my tent and and flung whatever was handy at them. It effectively scares them away, only to have them return persistently to the same area over and over again! I can't help but feel that this is carrying "territorial" a bit far...can't they find ANOTHER side of the pond to sing from? One side is as good as the other right?

After mating, females are capable of laying up to 20,000 eggs. These eggs hatch and the young tadpoles will live in the water for 1 1/2 years before completing their life cycle. It will take another 2 to 3 years for them to reach adult size.

There was a study conducted in North Carolina that proved bullfrogs are resistant to the venom of the copperhead. To a lesser extent they were also immune to the venom of the cottonmouth.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Raccoon Eyes

 My eyes are finally open and I can see the world around me for the first time. I'm not sure who this crazy lady is who keep putting a bottle in my mouth and wiping my bottom? She talks sweet "baby-talk" to me.

 I like climbing on her and and scratching her with my sharp claws (and she never complains). Sometimes she tries to hug me, cause she says I'm SOOOOO cute, but I do NOT like to be hugged. I will forgive her though, cause she feeds me.

 This new home isn't like my old home, but it is pretty good, even if the crazy lady wears Popeye socks, she isn't too bad.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Raccoon Rescue

This precious little bundle is a two week old Raccoon. It was given to me by one of the Conservation agents in NW Missouri. Apparently a lady living in NW Missouri came into her kitchen to discover that her dog had brought her a present, in the form of this little baby. Fortunately the dog did not hurt the raccoon, but it sure freaked his owner out. She called the agent in her county and he in turn called me and asked if I could care for it. After caring for several raccoons many years ago I had made a promise to myself (and my husband) that I would NOT care for raccoons again. Once I laid eyes on this sad, orphaned baby I could not say no. She came home with me two weeks ago and was approximately a week old. In the picture above she is two weeks. At three weeks they open their eyes, although she has not done so yet. I really think she is a runt, and therefore a little behind what is considered average or normal. It took two days to get her to suck a bottle. It just did not feel like mommy, so she rejected it, but patience paid off and I finally coerced her into sucking.

  Raccoons are one of the cutest mammals in North America. They are also one of the most destructive forces known to the animal kingdom. There is nothing a raccoon can't get into or out of. Life is going to get real interesting here on the "Cox Farm" this summer. This little girl will be with us until September when she will then be old enough to survive on her own. I will keep you all updated on her progress.

 In this picture she is sucking on my finger, much like human babies they have a strong need to suck, even after getting their belly full, I am considering a pacifier for her.
Is this not the cutest little baby ever? I'm such a softy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Blue-Winged Teal

 Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Northwest Missouri is a great place to see all forms of water fowl. A recent visit to the refuge proved fruitful as the blue-winged teal had returned and were pairing up in various areas of the wetland. The males will reach lengths up to 15 inches with the females being smaller. Their breeding plumage is unmistakable, the males possess a beautiful white "crescent" in front of their eyes. When in flight they have light blue patches on their forewings. After mating, the female will lay her eggs in a nest made of grasses lined with downy feathers, this nest will be located very close to the shoreline. She may lay up to 15 eggs. They will hatch in about 25 days and be ready to fledge in about 45 days. They are found throughout most of the United States during the summer months. They will overwinter in warmer areas such as the southern United States and Central America and South America.

While feeding they typically do not dive, instead they will skim the surface of the water for vegetation such as duckweed. They will also feed on insects and other aquatic plants. Their numbers have been steadily increasing over the past several years, especially in Eastern North America. This increase in numbers seems to be in large part in an increase in favorable habitat, like wetlands, ponds, and other shallow marshy areas.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Red Fox

  This year on the farm has proven to be quite interesting where wildlife is concerned. My husband and I have been seeing an adult Red Fox roaming around our farm for many weeks now. Because of the frequency in which we've been seeing her we figured the fox was a female and probably had babies somewhere on our farm. One day about 2 weeks ago Joey rounded the corner of one of our sheds and she was sitting beside a hole that leads under the shed. She began yipping and barking at him. I figured by the description of her behavior those babies were under the shed. Exactly one week later Joey and I were on the four-wheeler and drove around the same shed and one of the babies was outside. It was trying with great effort to drag a rather large rabbit, that it's mother killed for it back under the shed. After much tugging and pulling he finally managed to get it back inside.

  I tried for the last two weeks to get pictures of the babies all to no avail. Then today my husband was spraying weeds in one of our lots when he spotted three fox kits running around and playing. He called me and told me to come down to the lot if I wanted pictures. I quietly approached this drainage tube and sat patiently waiting. After about an hour two kits ran out, spotted me and took off under the shed.. I knew there was at least one more so I continued to wait. 15 minutes more went by when a little face peeked out. Within a few more minutes another little face peeked out. There are a total of four kits.

  The one of the left in this picture seems to be the dominant sibling. He was larger than the other three and more confident. The little one on the right was very submissive to him, and seemed to look up to him for security. It was very cute to watch them interact.

  Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)  are apex predators. They are the most widely spread of all fox species. As their name suggests they are predominantly reddish is color. There are some variations in color occurring in some specimens. They may be gray or even silver. These lighter colored foxes are often called "Silver Fox". Closely related to dogs, they have learned to adapt quite well to human encroachment. This ability to co-exist with humans has led to them being a highly successful predator that is very plentiful in almost all of its range. They are even able to co-inhabit areas where other more specific species of fix live such as the Arctic Fox.

  Red Foxes can be found throughout almost all of North America, and are considered native to forested areas, but are introduced in more temperate regions. Many Red Fox were imported into the United States to create a fox hunting population, many of these imported species most likely crossbred with the native red fox to create a hybrid. This hybrid red fox could be the red fox many of us see.

Red Fox are the largest of the "true foxes" and can weigh up to 17 pounds. The fox which live in northern regions tend to be much larger than the ones found in more temperate time zones. Probably the most recognized feature of the Red Fox is their bushy tail. It is typically tipped with white and almost half as long as its body length. They will use this large fuzzy tail to wrap around themselves in the winter to help keep them warm. They have very large ears, which gives them excellent hearing. When I do trail hikes with small children we use our "fox ears" to hear things better. I have the kids hold their hands in front of them so that all their fingers are touching, then we place them behind our ears and push our ears forward. This funnels sounds into our ears and makes sounds appear louder. This is similar to the way foxes hear, they funnel sounds into those really large ears.

Although they are predators, they will feed on a variety of foods. This includes berries, fruit and even sunflower seeds. So while they are classified as carnivores, they are more accurately omnivores. When hunting their favorites are mice, voles, rabbits, birds and eggs. They have even been known to take down deer fawns. Watching them hunt is very humorous, it looks as if they are playing with their upcoming meal. They will stalk their prey, then leap high into the air and pounce the unsuspecting victim. They are capable of hearing mice scurrying around in the tall grass from a great distance. Fox have small stomachs for their overall size and cannot consume large portions at a single feeding. They will store leftover food in caches to consume later.

  Many people have long held the belief that Red Fox and Coyotes will not co-exist in the same territory. Red Fox do tend to live outside the perimeters of the coyotes home range. In reality most coyotes will ignore the red fox. In fact there are documentations of the red fox and the coyotes feeding together. There are definitely cases where the fox and coyote are aggressive to each other, these aggressions are usually initiated by the coyote. The only time the fox would be the aggressor would be if the coyotes approached her young. Here on our farm we have a family of coyotes living in a ditch on our property and we also have this family of fox. They seem to co-exist peacefully.

Typically fox are loners and only pair up in the winter. Their territories may be as large as 19 square miles. Several dens will be located within their ranges, and they will utilize these dens as hideouts. A larger den will be used during the winters, and for a birthing chamber. They will mark their territory using scent glands located underneath their tail. The scent given off by this gland is very much like the scent from a skunk. They are not capable of spraying their scent like a skunk though. We humans can smell the scent if we are within a few feet of where the fox sprays. Mated pairs will raise 4 to 6 young each year. When the young reach 8 months of age they are capable of being on their own, and usually leave the den to begin life as a full fledged adult fox.

I feel very fortunate to have this family of fox living on our farm and I hope to see them much more in the future. I'm sure they will help control and overpopulation of rabbits that tend to eat our garden veggies.