It’s almost hard to imagine after a record-breaking winter and cold early spring, but spring has finally arrived in New England. With the recent mild spell, there have been many signs of the changing seasons: wildflowers and gardens are blooming, trees and shrubs are leafing out, new migratory birds are arriving daily, and wildlife are active. Animals give birth during this time, a natural adaptation that allows their offspring several months to grow and fatten up for the cold winter months.
Foxes, which often establish dens near field or backyard edges and in buildings such as barns and garages, are one of the most visible species during this time. The kits venture out of their dens when their mothers are out on hunting rounds to cautiously explore their new world. Siblings often engage in playful behavior such as wrestling or pouncing on rocks or other objects. Though red foxes, which are well-adapted to mixed habitats, are most often associated with human dwellings and suburban settings, shier gray foxes will also use them.
White-tailed deer fawns are distinguished by their reddish-brown coats with white spots, which help them blend into the forest and avoid potential predators. Mothers hide newborn fawns in cover such as fallen logs, rocks, thickets, and tall grass, where they lie motionless to avoid detection. Within a matter of weeks, they are strong enough to use speed and agility to evade potential threats.
Long associated with the north woods, breeding moose have also become an increasingly familiar sight in southern New England over the past quarter-century. Newborn calves have red-rust coats that transition to brown as they mature in summer. During this time, they grow at a prolific rate, gaining one to four pounds a day and ultimately reaching 300-400 pounds by the onset of cold weather in autumn. Most moose give birth to one or two calves, or in rare instances, triplets or quadruplets.
In addition to newborns, many sightings of juvenile moose, deer, black bears, and other species occur during spring. These are often yearlings that have been displaced by their mothers so they can attend to the current year’s crop. It’s a confusing and potentially dangerous time for the young animals, as they disperse to new and unfamiliar territories (which sometimes involves stumbling into places such as backyards, roadsides, or pastures) and face life on their own.
While observing young wildlife is a treat, it’s important to be respectful and minimize disruption. Even if a newborn appears to be abandoned, its mother is likely close by and watching. Moose and black bear mothers can be especially dangerous if they feel their young are being threatened.
~ John Burk
John Burk is a photographer and author of books and guides related to New England. See his Amazon page for more information.
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