AND TREES RAISE QUESTIONS
by Whit Gibbons
June 17, 2007
received the following questions about mammals and trees.
Q: We have
a baby raccoon that is about 3½ months old. What should be its
first food after formula? Will eggs upset its stomach at this early an
being weaned from milk, baby raccoons will eat the same kinds of foods
as puppies and kittens. When we had one, we fed it canned dog food when
it began to eat solid food. We banished it to being an "outdoor pet"
when we discovered it had learned how to open the refrigerator and pantry
doors. As far as eating eggs, by the time baby raccoons are able to forage
on their own under natural conditions, they would almost certainly eat
bird eggs when they could find them. So I can't imagine that chicken eggs
would be a problem for a raccoon. As with all wild pets, you should check
with state wildlife officials about any restrictions and with your veterinarian
about proper care.
Q: Once a
porcupine releases his quills do they grow back? How long does it take?
Are they like our fingernails? Also, do the quills cause serious infection
when stuck in a person’s skin or a dog's nose?
are of the same origin as the tough, outer guard hairs on dogs and other
mammals that have thick coats. The hairs grow back when they are removed
or, in the case of a quill, when they are stuck into a predator. A long
quill probably takes several days or even weeks to grow back completely.
Generally, porcupine quills do not cause infection because they have an
antibiotic coating. The sticking itself hurts plenty, and the tips of
quills can even break off under the skin. But because of their antibiotic
properties porcupine quills create fewer problems from infection than
a typical splinter.
Q: I was
in the mountains of North Carolina last week and was told that many of
the large hemlock trees were dying. I was shown a white, powdery substance
on the needles that was said to be the problem. Is it true the trees are
threatened by this bug or fungus or whatever it is?
A: Yes, eastern
hemlocks are another of our great trees, like chestnuts and oaks, that
have been or are being negatively affected by an introduced organism from
another continent. The cause of the hemlock problem is an insect from
Asia known as the hemlock woolly adelgid, a small, sap-sucking creature
in the same order as aphids. The insect was first discovered in the Canadian
Pacific Northwest more than 80 years ago and in the East, in Virginia,
in the 1950s. The problems for eastern hemlocks began at about that time.
produce a waxy protective coating that covers their body and is visible
as a white substance on the needles of infected hemlock or spruce trees.
The insect inserts a long proboscis into the plant at the base of needles
and removes nutrients. Hemlock trees, which may reach heights of 150 feet,
typically die from adelgid infestations within four years. Although single
trees can be saved with local treatments, forestwide applications are
not currently feasible. According to some reports the hemlock woolly adelgid
could eventually eliminate all the giant hemlock trees from the Smoky
forest tree of the eastern states, the American chestnut, was virtually
eliminated in the last century by a fungus from China. Of more recent
concern is another fungus discovered about a decade ago on the West Coast.
The fungus, which is of uncertain origin, is the source of a phenomenon
called sudden oak death syndrome (SODS). The fungus has killed thousands
of western oak trees as well as more than a dozen other species of trees.
So far, SODS has been confined primarily to California and Oregon, but
presumably at least some of the many species of eastern oaks will also
be susceptible. The entire cultural character of many southern towns and
cities is defined by lanes and boulevards lined by huge, centuries-old
oaks. The thought that they might someday be wiped out is a somber one.
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