BRINGS INTERESTING QUESTIONS
environmental questions I receive include photo attachments and are
asking for the identification of a particular animal or plant. Some,
however, have a little more intrigue wrapped around them. These are
a few I have answered.
I have a brown skink exploring between my basement and the first floor
of my house. My little 2-year-old almost had a panic attack this morning
as she came running to me about a "monster" (This was before
I encountered the little skink in the basement just a moment ago.) How
can I safely remove this small critter from my house? I have been holding
my little girl on my hip all day long because she is so afraid of this
The easiest way to remove a brown skink or any lizard native to the
Southeast is to catch it by hand (the tail may break off) and put it
outside. It might try to bite, but they are so small it does not hurt
when they do. As far as the child goes, I would start showing her pictures
of lizards and snakes in a book and explaining that they are just a
natural part of the world and have no intention of hurting anyone. "Lizards
and Crocodilians of the Southeast" (University of Georgia Press)
has lots of photographs of all southeastern lizards. Go outside and
look at insects, spiders, birds and other wild things with her. Sometimes
children develop fears of certain animals because they have not been
taught that most animals mean us no harm.
I saw a video
of a cat playing with a dolphin. Both animals seemed to be enjoying
themselves. The dolphin even looked like it was smiling. Was this real
or some kind of filming trickery?
Apparently you have never had a dolphin or a cat for a pet. A dolphin
smiles perpetually, not only because it thinks everything it does is
funny but because that is the way its head and mouth are shaped. When
cats are not sleeping or eating or annoying their owner in some way,
they are looking for a plaything - their shadow, a cardboard box, a
dolphin. I found the video you're referring to online. That's as real
as it gets when dolphins and cats have nothing else to do. The dolphin
looks like it is laughing because they like being filmed.
I would like information about a giant salamander from the Trinity Alps
that my friends say gets 5 to 8 feet long.
As the Trinity Alps are in northern California, people may be referring
to the Pacific giant salamander, the largest terrestrial salamander
in the country. Some approach a foot in length. If you find any salamander
from the western states much larger than that, report it to the nearest
zoo. The largest known salamanders in America are aquatic and live in
the eastern states. The bulkiest is the hellbender of mountain streams,
with a record length of 2.5 feet. The greater siren of the Southeast
reaches lengths of over 3 feet. The longest American salamander, the
amphiuma, has a record length of almost 4 feet. The world's largest
salamander, from Japan, is related to the hellbender and gets more than
5 feet long.
We sometimes see raccoons in our neighborhood, usually at night. Recently,
our dog chased a large one across the yard during the daytime. The raccoon
got away and the dog was nosing at a very small baby raccoon the mother
had dropped. I got the dog inside the house. Later that day, the baby
was gone. Would the mother have come back for it?
The mother probably came back for the baby, which she would then have
carried to safety. Raccoons will not ordinarily protect their babies
out in the open, the way bears would, but they will move very young
babies from one place to another if they feel threatened.
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