Grab your popcorn and kick back as we explore The Spring Creek Nature Trail together. The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department is offering one of our most popular programs, the Walk in the Woods Nature Lecture Series, online. Gather the family and join us this Thursday for an experience virtually as good as being on the trail.
Be a part of the fun on Thursday, October 8 at 6:30 p.m. when Bill Bass presents on The Spring Creek Nature Trail and the Importance of Conservation.
Over the course of an hour, Bill will share the importance of preserving our natural spaces and provide an overview of the Spring Creek Nature Trail located in the heart of The Woodlands. This 14-mile multi-use path offers stunning views and a chance to see nature up close. From migratory birds to native wildflowers, the trail provides an escape back to nature in one of the fastest growing urban areas in the United States.
Keeping wild places free of pollution and development is challenging. As a conservation photographer, Bill has dedicated himself to a multi-year effort to capture the flora and fauna of this system. His stunning images communicate the importance of preserving Spring Creek and our other natural jewels.
Registration is required for this free presentation.
Widespread and widely liked, squirrels are not only adorable and intelligent, but also one of the most visible wildlife in our community. Home more than ever these days, many of us have had delighted in their backyard entertainment and mischievous antics. Though familiar, there’s still plenty to uncover about these wildly acrobatic and entertaining creatures.
Squirrels will occasionally engage in “deceptive caching” – digging and re-filling a hole without actually depositing a nut. This throws off would-be thieves.
Eyes positioned on the side of the skull allow squirrels to see behind them.
With a large area/mass ratio and a tail for a parachute, squirrels can survive a fall from ANY HEIGHT.
Why do we need them?
It’s no secret that squirrels bury seeds and nuts. But they only recover a portion of what they bury. Sometimes their cache is raided before they return, but in many cases they’ve simply forgotten where they buried their food. When this happens, the squirrel has unwittingly helped to re-forest our community.
Even though they dine mostly on nuts, seeds and fruit, squirrels are omnivores. Occasionally eating insects, small birds, mammals and carrion, squirrels play a role in a balanced food chain.
They’re also an important source of food for many predators, including snakes, coyotes, hawks, and owls.
If you’re a gardener or have a bird feeder, chances are you’ve had a run-in with squirrels. These clever creatures love to take advantage of an easy meal. But before you attempt to trap or remove them consider the following:
Be sure it’s a squirrel. Squirrels are diurnal creatures, so you should be able to catch them in the act in broad daylight. If your plants are dug up during the night, chances are another critter was to blame.
Remove a squirrel and another will likely take its place. Even if you remove several squirrels at once, the lag in activity will be short-lived.
Humanely trapping and relocating results in low survival rates. A relocated squirrel lands in unfamiliar territory where it must quickly find food and shelter and fight off predators. It has none of the security it depends on.
The easier option is to live in harmony with squirrels.
Reduce or eliminate food sources. Bird feeders are a common attractant. And while it may take a few tries, keeping squirrels at bay can be done. Try some of these suggestions from Birds and Blooms.
Make your garden uninviting. Consider adding plants that don’t appeal to squirrels such as mint, marigolds or nasturtiums.
If you’re still having trouble in the garden, consider enclosing with chicken wire or mesh cloth.
Keep squirrels out of the attic by trimming tree branches at least 10’ away from the roof. Seal any holes or gaps to prevent access. Just be certain no squirrels are inside before you do.
The best way to appreciate wild animals, squirrels included, is to watch them from a distance and not feed them. Feeding squirrels discourages natural foraging and can result in a serious bite. Like other rodents, squirrels may be a carrier of rabies, lyme disease, hantavirus and several other diseases according to the Center for Disease Control. Keep your distance and you won’t have any problems.
So, when you step outside and see a squirrel raiding your bird seed, remember their more likeable attributes. These acrobatic, charismatic creatures are an everyday reminder of the wildlife that share our forested home. Maybe we should be thanking them for helping plant the trees we enjoy everyday.
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Kick off the Fall Walk in the Woods Nature Lecture Series from the comfort of your couch. The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department now presents one of our most popular programs online. The entire family is invited the second Thursday of the month, September through November, as local experts explore the wonders of the natural world.
Be a part of the fun on Thursday, September 10 at 6:30 p.m. when Bob Honig presents on Damselflies and Dragonflies. Over the course of an hour, Bob provides an up-close look at their predatory behavior, explains the “killer lip,” takes a deep dive into their unique mating rituals, and more.
Registration is required for this free presentation.
“Do you smell that?” One whiff and your alarm bells start ringing – skunk! Like all skunks, our two local species, Striped and Spotted, are equipped with an unforgettable sulphuric spray. While we may not appreciate their smell, skunks have plenty of likeable qualities. Keep reading to learn more about our odiferous neighbors.
Skunks are omnivorous. Theirdiet varies with the season – insects and bugs during the spring and summer, small animals in the fall and winter – and the occasional berry or leaf. Like most urban wildlife, they’re opportunistic and will take a quick snack from the garbage can, pet food bowl or garden.
Their spray isn’t a weapon, it’s a warning. Spraying is about defense, not offense. The organic sulphur compound ejected from two small glands (known as a musk) tells potential predators that they taste bad, don’t waste your time.
It takes 10 to 12 days to replenish their stinky supply. Their spray supply isn’t endless. It can take nearly two weeks to produce enough for a few more shots.
Why do we need them?
Valuable garden allies, these natural pest control heroes feast on crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, grubs, small rodents and moles. Should the insects feasting in your garden seemingly disappear overnight, you might have a skunk to thank.
Skunks are passive, shy animals, who would rather flee than fight. Their bold white stripes or spots are all the warning most animals need. When their markings don’t get the message across, skunks give additional warnings with agitated foot stamping, hissing and growling. If the aggressor continues, the skunk will form his body into a “U” shape with both head and tail aimed at the attacker.
Skunks spray their musk only as a last resort and are impressively accurate up to about 10 feet. Spray that enters the eyes causes temporary blindness. Combined with the lingering malodor, it’s likely their attacker learned a lesson it won’t soon forget.
A nosy family dog is a common spray victim. If yours takes a hit, mix up the following remedy. Wear rubber gloves and do NOT get the solution in the dog’s eyes. Also, do NOT store this mixture or make it ahead of time, as it is not stable. If your dog has been sprayed in the eyes, call your veterinarian for appropriate care.
Mix together: 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide (available at a pharmacy) ¼ cup baking soda 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid soap
Rub the mixture all over and scrub deep to neutralize the odor. Leave it on until the smell abates – but no longer, peroxide can bleach fur. Rinse thoroughly.
Avoid A Conflict
It’s more likely that you’ll smell a skunk rather than see one. A persistent, faint musky smell under a structure or woodpile may suggest a skunk has taken up residence. During breeding season, males can spray frequently when fighting over females.
Deter skunks from your yard:
Keep a tight lid on garbage cans or pull them inside.
Remove pet food before nightfall.
Remove boards or debris where skunks may hide.
Close off openings under decks, patios, or sheds. Use ¼-inch mesh hardware cloth, burying the wire at least 6 inches to prevent skunks from digging underneath.
If you think a skunk has already taken up residence, it’s essential to be sure the animal (and any young) have left the den before blocking the entrance.
If you come upon a skunk, simply move away slowly and quietly.
Threat of Rabies
Skunks are one of four animals (including the fox, raccoon, and bat) considered primary carriers of the rabies virus and is classified as a rabies vector species.
Though mostly active at night, skunks sometimes look for food during the day, particularly in the spring when they have young to feed. Don’t be concerned if you see a skunk in the daytime unless they also show abnormal behaviors, such as:
Disorientation or staggering
If you witness any of these signs, don’t approach the skunk. For assistance, call the Montgomery County Animal Control Authority at 936-442-7738, or Harris County Veterinary Public Health at 281-999-3191.
Under state law, a person may trap a fur-bearing animal at any time if it is causing damage or creating a nuisance. If you live trap a skunk, you must notify the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department before relocating the animal. A permit must be obtained and permission granted from the property owner where you plan to release the live animal. Always contact a professional wildlife specialist if unable to safely remove wildlife on your own.
Yes, skunks are a bit smelly. But, these impressive animals are important members of our ecosystem. Most of the time, skunks simply pass through your yard at night and you’ll never encounter them. Make the compassionate choice to live in harmony with nature. After all, they’ve learned to live with us.
Moths are everywhere, including your own backyard. In fact, more than 11,000 species of moths have been identified in North America. An astonishing number, considering there are a “mere” 575 species of butterflies. Despite their diversity and abundance, moths have attracted less study than their more glamorous cousin, the butterfly. That leaves a lot yet to be discovered about moths – perhaps by you!
National Moth Week, July 18-26, is a great time to try “Mothing”. This easy, inexpensive hobby can be pursued right at home. With a few simple pieces of equipment, you can take an up-close look at our fascinating neighbors and share observations that build our understanding of the magnificent, mysterious moth.
Outside the polar regions, moths are found across the Earth (their abundance makes them an important pollinator of flowering plants) and in all sizes and colors. They range from the 6” long Cecropia moth to the tiny (1.2 mm) Stigmella maya. Some vibrate with color. Others are drab to better blend with their environment.
Moths are distinguished from butterflies by a stout body covered in dusty scales, and feathery, thick antennae. Look but do not touch. Touching can easily damage a moth’s wings. A resting moth extends its wings to the side or holds them tent-like over the body, unlike butterflies which hold their wings vertically.
Like butterflies, moths develop through the process of metamorphosis. An egg hatches into a tiny caterpillar (the larval stage). Eating voraciously, the caterpillar develops through several growth stages called instars. At the end of the final instar, the caterpillar either spins a cocoon or splits its outer skin to expose the chrysalis beneath. The cocoon or chrysalis protects the insect while the transformation from pupae to adult occurs. When metamorphosis is complete, the adult moth emerges and completes the life cycle by laying the next generation of eggs.
Moths can be highly destructive in their larval stage. Vegetable gardeners dread the appearance of the tomato hornworm. These large green horned caterpillars can quickly consume tomato plants. In the adult stage, the tomato hornworm transforms into the beautiful sphynx moth. Also known as “hummingbird moths” due to their size and flight pattern, sphynx moths are important pollinators of summer flowering plants.
Mothing can be done any time of day, though nighttime provides the easiest viewing. Start by simply turning on your porch light; a number of moth species are attracted by white light (LED or CFL work best). Use a black light and a sheet to attract additional species. Hang a white sheet (cotton works best to reflect the UV rays) between two trees or attach it to your fence. Be sure all four corners are secured as moths prefer a stable surface for landing. Place a black light or a plant grow light next to it and wait a few minutes for these beautiful insects to arrive. Your mothing endeavors will be off to a flying start.
You may also want to experiment with sugar bait in order to attract nectar feeding moths. Homemade sugar bait can be fashioned from ingredients on hand in your kitchen. Try blending together a ripe banana, one cup of brown sugar, two tablespoons of molasses and a half cup of flat beer or apple cider. For best results, allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for a day prior to your planned observation. Paint the mixture onto the trunk of a tree or two and wait for nectar feeding moths to land. Check with mothscount.org for more ideas on attracting moths.
For identification help, choose a good quality moth guide such as the Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Southeastern America, by Seabrooke Leckie and David Beadle (cost about $30). Small laminated moth guides are easy for children to use. Try Texas Butterflies and Moths: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species, by James Kavanaugh. This guide is often available in local groceries or may be purchased online.
Share your backyard moth observations with other citizen scientists by joining National Moth Week July 18-26. The information you submit will be used to help map moth distribution and collect other data. Join today and have fun mothing!