Mammal Tracks: Striped Skunk

Photo of Striped Skunk tracks

In New England, a wide range of habitats host Striped Skunks (Mephitis mephitis), from old fields and wetland edges, to marshes, beaches, and urban areas.* Skunks go mostly unseen by humans, since they're primarily active under cover of darkness, but the presence of their tracks in sand or snow reveals their passing.

In the coldest part of the year, Striped Skunks limit their outside time, preferring to hole up and conserve their energy, often in communal dens, but unlike Woodchucks and Black Bears, Striped Skunks are not true hibernators.

To learn more about Striped Skunks, visit Animal Diversity Web. For book suggestions, check out the Mammal Identification & Tracking section of my Book, DVD, & Audio Picks page.

Photo of Striped Skunk tracks

*I photographed these Striped Skunk tracks at Hills Beach in Biddeford on November 30, 2017.

17.50 | Nature Notes (Dec 10-16)

Photo of Winterberry
Winterberry (Ilex sp.) | Kennebunkport, ME | 15 Dec 2017

Highlights of the Week

I twitched a Lark Sparrow who has been visiting a feeder in Biddeford for at least a couple of weeks.

In less than an hour, I saw two roadside adult Cooper's Hawks: one on an antenna frame in South Portland, and one in a deciduous tree in Biddeford.

A Western Conifer Seed Bug spent some time in my bedroom midweek.

Wild Edible of the Week

I made tea and seasoned a pot roast with dried leaves of Small Bayberry that I gathered during the green season.

Nature Challenge of the Week (for you, the reader)

Locate and observe a Dark-eyed Junco.

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Lichens: Pixie Cup

Photo of Pixie Cup Lichen

Part fungus and part alga, lichens defy simple classification, and are perhaps best thought of as dual citizens of two kingdoms of life. The fungal portion of a lichen transports water and soil nutrients, while the algal portion produces energy through photosynthesis.* Standing a mere inch tall, the common blue-gray Pixie Cup Lichen (Cladonia sp.) grows among mosses on the forest floor, on dry, exposed soil in sunny spots, on bricks or bare rock, or between planks of weathered wooden decking.

Photo of Pixie Cup Lichen

*This is certainly an oversimplification, but as an amateur lichenologist, I dare not get more specific. If you know more about the fascinating lives of lichens, I encourage you to leave a comment below.