Wildlife is always deemed to be of great significance economically, ecologically, environmentally as well as culturally. It includes a wide range of species from amphibians, insects, birds to mammals. Thus, there is no doubt that there are some organisms that are native while others were introduced or re-introduced to their current habitant (Day, Klingler & Bloomberg 283). The essay is an in-depth examination of five wild animals that exist in the United States of America. These animals are Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus), Black and Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia), Northern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen) and American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana).
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To be able to cover these species adequately, the following will be established:
- Are the species, being studied, native or introduced in that environment?
- Describe their physical characteristics in terms of color as well as specific differences between the sexes.
Additionally, the issues regarding the species’ habitats are adequately tackled. This is attained by establishing their local habitat as well as their habitat range, their ecological role, the types of food they eat and other relevant relationships such as parasitism, mutualism are brought to light. The species’ category under IUCN is also brought to light. At the same time, discover life cycle of these species and life span as well as how they coexist with people.
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
According to Rue (72), Red fox is the largest of animals that is considered as true foxes. This species is in the family of Canidae which is comprised of wolves, dogs and coyotes. These animals are characterized by an orange or red fur. Red foxes have white fur on their chest as well as beneath their neck. The tail is usually fluffy and white at the tip. The ears are black and pointed. Their legs are colored black. The animal is about three feet long and weighs 10 pounds.
As suggested by Clapham (122), Red fox inhabits a greater part of the United States as well as Canada, but there is no record to show that they ever existed in Alaska and Texas. According to IUCN, it is categorized as Least Concern for extinction and named as world’s worst alien invasive species. They have a wide range covering approximately 70 million square kms including wood lands, farmland as well as prairies.
Historically, red foxes were being preyed by lynx, wolves, and bobcats but due to the reduced number of these predators, people became the major predator hunting these animals for various reasons, such as sport hunting, as well as for their fur or by farmers in protecting their crops and livestock (Rue 121). It is thus no doubt that red fox has a long association with mankind. This can be depicted in human folklore as well as in myths. Red foxes are opportunistic feeders whose feeding pattern varies with season as they eat everything available during some period. Generally speaking, this species is omnivorous eating fruits, grasses and berries. They also feed on birds, insects, small mammals. They can investigate over five miles looking for food despite the fact that they are not hungry. Surplus food stuffs are hidden to be consumed later (Clapham 54).
With regards to reproduction, red foxes reproduce only once a year during spring. Female estrus lasts for 21 days during which the male mates with her for a number of days in burrows during which there is at least an hour of copulation tie. The gestation period is approximately two months. Prior to littering, the female/vixen will get two den ready. The litter size ranges between 4 and 8. As the female is nursing the litter, males look for food. Within a period of about 2 weeks, the kits open their eyes, and 4 days after, lower teeth start emerging. The juvenile takes a period of six to seven months, and then, the adulthood comes. It has been established that in their natural habitat, the red foxes attain a maximum of five years and fourteen while under captivity (Rue 65).
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These mammals are nocturnal and can hear voices in lower frequencies. They stalk their prey just like the cat does, then pounce and chase. Dens are utilized for reproduction reasons. Red foxes sleep in open environment using their tail to save warmth (Clapham 23).
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)
Also known as marsh hawk, the bird is between 17 and 24 inches with a wing span ranging from 3.5 to 4.5 feet weighing between 12 and 18 ounces. Males are typically smaller than females. This bird inhabits North America apart of Asia as well as Europe. They are commonly found in open areas, wetlands, cultivated regions, meadows, grasslands and tundra. New Jersey’s costal marshes provide northern harrier with the desire habitat. They are typically found in New Jersey, Texas, and Alaska and known to wander over 100 miles in a day in search of food (Ferguson-Lees & Christie 97). The species has facial characteristic that resembles an owl. Males are grey and white above and below respectively and have a wingtip that is black as well as the trailing edge towards the wings. Male’s white breast has a rusty spotting. Females are brown and buff colored above and below in that order. Contrary to their males counter parts, females’ under-wings are dark and the black wingtip is obscured. The juvenile looks like the females.
They feed on a variety of food including insects as well as small mammals. It is worth mentioning that the bird itself is a prey to skunks and raccoons, which steal its eggs, as well as some birds of prey, feral cats, and red foxes. The acute eye sight makes them a perfect hunter that can ambush and grab their victim suddenly. Due to their sharp eye, they are able to spot their prey. As they circle the area once satisfied with their ambush, they swoop downwards and grab their prey using their sharp claws. Circus cyaneus has coexisted with mankind for a long time. For instance, in Europe, it was believed that when northern harrier perched on once house, 3 people will lose their lives (Ehrlich, Paul Dobkin & Wheye 162). Some Native Americans considered this bird to be a good luck. When it appears during marriage day, it is a sign of a long and happy marriage relationship. Majority of farmers like these birds because they help control pests, for instance, eating eggs of quail, and insects that could have destroyed their crops.
According to Ehrlich, Dobkin & Wheye (231), the birds are migratory and native to the region. Due to decline in population as a result of predation and habitat destruction, the species has been categorized as being endangered. They attain reproduction maturation at the age of 1 year. Females lay 3 to 6 eggs depending on the availability and abundance of small rodents. Incubation takes approximately one month. While females sit on the eggs, it is the responsibility of males to hunt for food and take some to the females. The species can live up to approximately twelve years.
Black and Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia)
According to Gertsch (147,) other common names associated with the species, Black and Yellow Garden Spider, include writing spider or corn spider. Black and yellow garden spiders are mostly found in forty eight states of the United States of America. Additionally, they can be found in regions such as Mexico, Canada and Hawaii. The species is uncommon in the Rocky Mountains as well as the Great Basin but can be found in Costa Rico. The abdomen and the caphalothorax of the insect are colored black and yellow, respectively. It is worth noting that females are larger in size than males ranging from 19 to 28 mm and 5 to 9 mm, respectively.
Through its association with mankind, it has been established that Argiope aurantia is harmless to human beings, and for that reason, it coexists with people in peace. The spider also helps man in predating on disturbing insects. The representatives of this species are typically carnivores and employ a strategy of waiting for their prey in the web which is zigzag shaped. Once the prey appears in the web, it is deemed to be captured by the spider and injected a venom in which makes the prey immobile. Then the spider wraps it and store somewhere to be eaten later. The prey can be flies, moths, beetles, wasps and mosquitoes (Gertsch 203). The species is native in most part of the country, but the most widely introduced in California. These spiders inhabit gardens as well as old fields. Their success in California is attributed to their ability of avoiding predators. They are eaten by birds, species of wasp such as mud daubers, lizards and shrews.
With regards to reproduction, they breed only once per year. For reproduction purposes, males are the ones searching for females. As a sign of interest to reproduce, the male idividuals go plucking strands on the web constructed by a female. It is worth noting that after mating, the male dies often not consumed by the female. Eggs are laid at night on silky material and covered. The sacs produced range between 1 and 4 each having close to 1,000 eggs. The female protects the sac until the spring because it is during the spring that the juveniles come out. During the period of growth and development, they shade the exoskeleton. At time, they may lose their legs but are able of regenerating them. Moreover, concerning the status of the species, Herbert, Levi & Strekalovsky reveal that the representatives of this species are listed as endangered/threatened (72).
Northern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen)
The venomous snake called Northern Copperhead is found statewide apart from barrier islands living in wetlands, edge areas, and forests. Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen is found in regions such as Illinois, Alabama, Georgia as well as Massachusetts. For that reason, its habitat is wide. The species can be also found in open areas made up of rocks which they use for cover. According to Herrmann (par. 1), the snake has not yet been categorized by the federal government, nonetheless, in the state of Massachusetts, the snake has been listed as endangered.
The snake grows to approximately 76 cm in length, the head is characterized by unmarked copper color head and reddish-brown body. They are thick in body having keeled scales. An organ which is sensitive to temperature is located on sides of its head. The juveniles are 7-10 inches being greyer that the adults which fade when they reach the age of 3-4 years. They are sexually dimorphic, males being smaller than females. Sexual maturation is attained at age of 4 years (“Northern copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen).”). They have breeding seasons that last from August to October and from February to May. Using the tongue, males seek for sexually active females. Once this is done, he starts to rub his head on the ground after courting. When sufficiently stimulated, the female avails the cloaca. They mate for a period of between 31/2 and 81/2 hours. During mating, the male releases a special pheromone which makes the female unattractive to other males. It takes between three and nine months for young ones to pass the larval stages. The life span of this reptile is about 18 years (Herrmann par. 4).
It is worth noting that adult Copperhead feeds on a range of small mammals, for instance, mice, rodents. Occasionally, they eat lizards, small birds, insects as well as amphibians. They have coexisted with man due to their ability to escape predation by remaining motionless. The snake is native to America (Herrmann par. 3).
American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)
According to Stebbins (32), Bullfrog is the largest true frog being 9 to 20.3 cm in length. Its color ranges from yellow to green with some dark grey mottles. The frog has a large external eardrum having the hind legs webbed apart from the last joint made up of loner toe. The amphibian has no dorsolateral ridges. The belly’s color ranges from cream to white, and sometimes, it has grey mottles. The species is not native to all the parts of the USA with the exception of central and eastern parts of the country. The range of its habitat is typically eastern and central U.S, New Brunswick as well as Nova Scotia. They inhabit aquatic environment which includes ponds, low moving streams and lakes.
In terms of diet, it is interesting that they are capable of eating any food that they will be able to swallow. Their diet is made up of fish, mammals, frogs, insects as well as birds. Their hatchlings eat algae, invertebrates as well as plants. The introduced species is responsible for the decline of a number of native fauna (Day, Klingler & Bloomberg 83). The individuals of this species have gained a competitive advantage over the natives because the first grow and develop in an environment where competition is fierce, thus their prey is deemed to be captured.
Reproduction takes place between May and August and March and October. Fertilization is external. Bull frogs attain sexual maturation between one and three years of age. After tagging a territory, a male makes a call at night to attract a female. The choice is made when a female enters the territory. Eggs, about 20,000, are laid initially floating the sink under aquatic vegetation (Stebbins 34). The tadpoles are between 10 and 17 cm in length taking 2 years to transform. It has been established that when in their natural habitats, these amphibia can live a maximum age, from eight to ten years. However, when in captivity, they live longer usually reaching sixteen years (Alexander, Zim & Arnold 163).
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