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108 Chapter 10 Some Mammals and Birds of the Forest Food and Shelter All warm-blooded animals need food and shelter, and some find what they need, in whole or in part, in coniferous forests. What have the forests to offer? The most dependable food supplies are seeds and browse for the herbivores . For the carnivores, there are worms, sowbugs, insects, spiders, any vertebrate animals that they can catch and kill, and accessible birds’ eggs. Shelter is needed for four purposes: for breeding, for sleeping and resting , for shelter from bad weather, and for concealment. Evergreen trees, both live and dead, provide for these needs. The variety of small animals that can use suitable “wildlife trees” is remarkable. Efforts to conserve such trees are well worthwhile.1 The animals we consider in this chapter are not in a conifer forest by chance but because it supplies their needs. We have space to consider only a few of the species that make their homes in the forest. Some are secretive, others are unconcerned by human presence, but all are worth watching for and observing closely. Seldom Seen Mammals Let’s start with the smallest land mammals, shrews and mice. Figure 10.1 shows two species found everywhere in our area. They are animals with some mammals and birds of the forest 109 very small individual territories, about 400 m2 (about 4300 sq ft) for shrews and a hectare (2.5 acres) for a deer mouse. This means that individual members of these species that start life in a forest will very probably spend their whole lives there. Shrews are tiny, furtive, and seldom seen. They belong, with moles, to the order Insectivora and are voracious carnivores. Their chief food is insects , but they also eat slugs, centipedes, sowbugs, and bigger items such as salamanders and baby mice. They must have moist habitats. They are active in all seasons, scurrying through tunnels in the duff (decaying or dried-out vegetation) in summer and under the snow in winter. They are too small to hibernate: they race through life to meet their immediate food needs and have no time to collect lasting reserves. They are believed to use tunnels made by mice for their food forays and as resting spots. The most common shrew is the masked shrew. It’s mask is imperceptible. The most common mouse is the deer mouse, a typical mouse with big ears, long tail, and white feet and underparts. Like shrews, mice are active all year. They often gather in close-packed groups to conserve heat in very cold weather. At other times, a deer mouse makes a warm, grass-lined nest in which to rest and bear young. The nest is often hidden under a pile Figure 10.1. (a) Masked shrew (Sorex cinereus). (b) Deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus). 110 the world of northern evergreens of woody debris; it may also be up a tree rather than on the forest floor. Somewhere near its nest, the mouse has a seed cache in which to store food for winter. Undoubtedly, there are vastly more homeless humans in the world than there are homeless mice. Perhaps the most interesting of the seldom seen mammals are bats. Our area is home to many species, and a large proportion of them roost in coniferous forests at least part of the time. Bats don’t nest in the sense that birds nest, but they do need a variety of roosts for different purposes and often use cavities in coniferous trees. They need hibernation roosts (hibernacula) for winter. These roosts must be cool but above the freezing point all through the winter, and the humidity must be high, otherwise the bats’ wings would dry and the membranes would lose their suppleness. Because they hunt at night, they need daytime resting roosts where they can keep warm or cool according to the weather, and be sheltered from storms and concealed from predators. To meet these requirements, bats move from one roost to another to suit the circumstances. Lastly, they need maternity roosts (or nurseries) where they can bear their young (“pups”) and care for them for the first day or two. Bats spend their active hours in flight, hunting. They spend their resting hours hanging upside down, sleeping. They spend their hibernating hours hanging upside down, torpid. And the females spend the final hours of their pregnancies hanging by their thumbs to give birth, in a warm, well-protected maternity roost. Pups are born...


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