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We’re lucky. Two of the four species of fox that live in North America call Northern Kentucky home. Both are seldom seen but they’re here, living amongst us like so many other creatures that move in and out of the shadows.

The most commonly seen fox in our area is the Red Fox. It is the most widespread of all the fox species, inhabiting the entire Northern Hemisphere. Humans have served the Red Fox well, as it has expanded its range alongside that of our own. It’s reddish coat, white-tipped tail and black legs or “stockings” make it easily recognizable.

To be called “sly as a fox” or “foxy” is as much a compliment to us as it is to this flashy looking and wily canine.

Red Fox kitsRed Fox kits

Because of their thick fur, Red Foxes look deceptively larger than they actually are. Most well-fed house cats weigh more than the average nine to twelve pounds of a full-grown Red Fox. They are however, efficient hunters and will readily eat a variety of small prey, berries and insects. With their large, upright ears they can locate moving prey within one-degree of its true location and hear a mouse squeal from 150-feet away. They hunt from just before dusk to just after sunrise and can travel up to nine miles a night.

Our other fox is the Gray Fox, which is considered to be among the most primitive of the living canids. The Gray Fox is not world renown, as is the Red Fox, inhabiting only North and Central America.

At one time it was the most dominant fox in the eastern U.S., however human advancement allowed the Red Fox to become the more dominant species.

Somewhat similar in size and appearance to its red cousin, the Gray Fox is a salt and pepper gray color, has a strong, thick neck and a long, bushy tail with a black stripe on top. It does not have the black stockings of the Red Fox.

Whereas the Red Fox does well in a variety of habitats, the Gray Fox is a creature of the forest where it stays hidden and is seldom seen. It is one of the few canines with the ability to climb trees. With its strong, hooked cat-like claws, it can scramble up trees to escape predators and search for food. It will also frequently lounge and rest in the trees.

Both species breed in the dead of winter and have five to six pups, or kits, in early spring.

The young are hunting with their parents when they’re three months old and are on their own when they reach sexual maturity at about seven or eight months old. They have similar diets; however the Gray Fox eats considerable more vegetable matter. Like so many other predators, both have a special fondness for Peter Cottontail.

Both fox species can be found locally.

To see one though you’ll have to be “quick as a fox,” since your opportunity will be nothing more than a fleeting glimpse.

Gayle Pille Gayle Pille Gayle Pille is a local naturalist and nature writer who many know through her work to establish the five-mile network of nature trails at Highland Cemetery in Ft. Mitchell. She created the cemetery’s popular 25-year-old Wildlife Enhancement Program and works with a small team of volunteers to maintain the cemetery’s wooded walking paths. An avid birdwatcher, Gayle also builds custom wildlife nest boxes for businesses, parks and residences through her business, www.woodlandhabitat.com

Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 rusty  beerusty bee

 

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 11, 2017 -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has named the rusty patched bumble bee an endangered species. Much of the natural habitat of the bees, grasslands and tallgrass prairies in the Upper Midwest and Northeast, "have been lost, degraded, or fragmented by conversion to other uses," states the agency. Increased use of pesticides, parasites and disease also suggest why the species has lost 87 percent of its population in the past 20 years and is now found in 13 states and Ontario, Canada, after having been found in 28 states.


Agri-Pulse reports, "FWS said that while it is 'difficult to pinpoint exactly when the species’ decline began, data show that the bee’s 'precipitous declines' became apparent around 1995 and continued into the early 2000s, a period that 'coincides with increased neonicotinoid use.'"

Bayer CropScience and CropLife America said "the decline began before neonics began to be widely used and that bees are, in fact, able to coexist with corn and soybeans," reports Agri-Pulse. "Bayer, for example, said that FWS did not consider field studies that 'have found no adverse effects when bees are placed near treated crops and allowed to forage naturally.' FWS acknowledged 'that there are studies that did not find adverse effects, but that 'the totality of data … suggests some insecticides kill bumble bees and others cause sublethal effects.'" Agri-Pulse is subscription only, but can be viewed by clicking here.

Written by Tim Mandell Posted at 1/11/2017 09:02:00 AM

 

Date: 12-20-2016

Lucky Lucky

This holiday season, a calf called Lucky will be celebrating with her Taylor County family the gift of being alive.

Lucky is a two-faced calf born on Sept. 16. Most animals like Lucky do not live long, and the McCubbins think the calf may have already set a record.

Lucky was named by the McCubbin’s daughter Kenley, who heard her mom Brandy say the animal was lucky to be alive. Brandy’s husband Stan had initially thought the new calf was twins.

The calf has four eyes, two noses and two mouths. Her middle two eyes share a socket.

The McCubbins see Lucky as a miracle and blessing. They are determined to give her the best life possible for as long as she can live.

The McCubbins, who have four daughters, even had a holiday photo made with the little calf.

Even though they are cattle farmers, they treat Lucky as a pet. Lucky lives in the basement and gets fed by bottle, until the McCubbins can determine if her cleft palate can be fixed. They are trying to raise $500 for a scan to see if that can be fixed so that Lucky can eat hay.

When Lucky tried to eat hay before, it became stuck in her palates and nostrils.

“Now that we’ve got her in the basement, (the couple’s daughters) go check on her,” Brandy McCubbin said. “Of course, Kenley, she takes her blankets down there and wants to sleep with her.”

When Lucky recently had a setback that took her off her feet for a few days, Brandy McCubbin took off early from Taylor County Elementary School, where she teaches, and spent extra time nursing the little calf. Lucky has balance issues because her double head is so heavy.

Two-faced births don’t happen only to cattle. Frank and Louie (also known as FrankenLouie) was what is called a diprosopus or craniofacial duplication, also known as being a “Janus cat” — a two-faced cat. Janus was a Greek god with two faces, because he was considered to look both to the future and the past.

Most Janus cats don’t survive for long. But Frank and Louie lived for 15 years. The Massachusetts cat behaved more like a dog than a cat, according to its owner, and walked on a leash and loved car rides.

Darrh Bullock, an extension professor in the department of animal and food sciences at the University of Kentucky, said that calves like Lucky are “extremely rare. It’s the first one I’ve witnessed.”

He said that Lucky’s two heads are not necessarily a genetic effect, but could have been caused by environmental influences such as hormonal imbalances or some sort of chemical that happened to get into the mother during the developmental stage of the fetus.

“It’s a splitting of the embryo that just doesn’t go very far,” Bullock said.

Fully splitting the embryo would wind up as identical twins.

Jonathan Beever, a professor of genetics, genomics and bioinformatics at the University of Illinois, recently worked on a project, primarily with Angus cattle, on “developmental duplications.” Such duplications appear to be an inherited recessive genetic condition.

Beever said a calf in Iowa was born with two heads and lived 16-18 months until it was sent to market.

“Even with that condition he was viable,” Beever said.

“There are 25,000 different genes that control how an animal develops,” Beever said. “When one of them gets disrupted, that allows things to happen that aren’t normally supposed to happen.”

Beever said that Lucky is probably not one of those mutations, “but it gives us insight that something happened during that developmental time period, probably day 18 to 25, during pregnancy. And the body decided to develop like that.”

Darrh said he sympathizes with the McCubbin family, which has dedicated itself to Lucky.

Because of the calf’s head weight and balance issues, “It’s going to be a hard life for the calf,” he said. “But once attachments are made … well, I have an animal-loving family, too.”

By Cheryl Truman
Lexington Herald-Leader

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