Squirrels are one of the most common (and adorable) rodent species in the United States. But, how much do you really know about these fluffy-tailed tree crawlers? Probably not as much as you think. Keep reading as Phillip Elden answers a few questions.
Q: What is a squirrel?
Phillip Elden: A squirrel is really just a climbing rodent. They are closely related to groundhogs, prairie dogs, and chipmunks. On average, squirrels grow to about 20-inches long and weigh about a pound, with some larger species going up to 1.5 pounds.
Q: Where do squirrels live?
Phillip Elden: Squirrels are one of the most widely-spread animals in the world. You can find them in every continent, with Antarctica being the only exception. They are extremely adaptable and can tolerate heat, cold, drought, and flood conditions quite well.
Bees are abundant throughout the United States, says conservation specialist Phillip Elden. Here, the Native Oregon founder answers a few common questions about this buzzing wonder.
Q: Where can you find bees?
Phillip Elden: Bees live throughout the United States. You can usually find them in gardens, meadows, and anywhere flowering plants are abundant. In nature, bees tend to make their home inside of open tree cavities or under ledges, each of which serves to protect them from predators. Although bees can easily adapt to a domesticated environment, they thrive in the wild and can live up to half a year.
Caves are one of the most interesting features of our natural world, says Phillip Elden. They are also the most overlooked. Because caves are underground, many people simply walk right over them without a second thought.
But what, exactly, are caves? According to Phillip Elden caves are simply a hole in the ground. These holes, however, are formed over millions of years, usually as water disturbs the soil. Aboveground water will seep into the dirt, and, after years – millions of years – this erosion carves out an air pocket underground.
Hunters have long used consumer-grade trail cameras to scout potential game. However, according to Phillip Elden, these night-vision wonders have perhaps a greater use in the world of science and conservation.
Phillip Elden explains that trail cameras are a useful tool in helping to identify wildlife habits and habitats. He points out a 2019 discovery by conservation hobbyist in Seattle. Jeff Layton was the first in the area to record images of a fisher. This large weasel was thought to have left the Central Cascades area nearly 70 years ago. Layton claims to be a backyard naturalist, and he knew exactly what he caught on film the moment he transferred data from his camera to his computer.
Bats are likely the source of the novel virus that has the world on pause. However, Phillip Elden says that people are to blame for the spread, not the bats.
According to Phillip Elden, bats tend to stay to themselves. They congregate in caves and dark spaces, usually only coming out as the sun sinks into the horizon. But human interference via habitat destruction along with a population that can’t seem to sit still has altered the way these animals behave.
Although temperatures remain frigid, spring really is around the corner, says Phillip Elden. And there are many sites to see as the lower elevations prepare to kick winter to the curb. But don’t worry, there’s usually plenty of skiing available for those with a slope addiction.
According to Phillip Elden, early March is when the buds start to bloom. You might find cherry blossoms in pinks and purples and tulips in hues of red and yellow. Flowers are one of the most beautiful aspects of the landscape during the mild months.
If you are more interested in cultural and arts and crafts festivals, there are plenty of those throughout Oregon as well. The Northwest Cherry Festival happens in April while a few weeks earlier you’ll find something unique at the Yachats arts and crafts fair. Those who enjoy birding can join Phillip Elden during many of the spring bird festivals.
As a conservation professional, Phillip Elden is always looking for fun ways to teach the next generation about the natural world. Keep reading for more information on one of the most informational activities that you can do with your own children.
What are owl pellets?
According to Phillip Elden, an owl pellet is a mass of undigested food that owls coughed up once they have extracted all of the nutrition possible from a kill. Owl pellets can be found in the wild or bought online, and many schools use them as a learning tool to help students understand predator behavior. Owl pellets can be dissected rather easily.
Oregon is a state with vast open areas and a diverse range of wildlife. According to Phillip Elden, this makes it the perfect location for a variety of creepy, crawly, insects.
One of the most unusual critters in Oregon is the assassin bug. While not particularly large, the assassin bug features a long beak that’s not visible at first glance. It is best to approach the assassin bug with extreme caution since its bite, while not deadly, is extremely painful, something that Phillip Elden has experienced first-hand.
A bit larger but less scary is the large milkweed bug. They typically swarm in large groups and are feared by farmers who mistakenly believe they will harm vegetable crops and flower gardens. Thankfully, Phillip Elden explains that this is not true and these colorful orange and black, flat-back creatures typically feed on nectar of the milkweed plant, hence their name.
Have you ever swatted at a bee hoping to strike it from the sky? Chances are, you have. But next time, stop and think first. According to conservationist Phillip Elden, the amount of good that bees do far surpasses the threat of being stung.
Bees, says Phillip Elden, are powerful pollinators, and they are directly responsible for more than $19 billion in agricultural cultivation in the United States every year. Without bees, much of the food you eat would be either exorbitantly expensive or, worse, would not exist at all.
The average person is only familiar with a few of the more than 25,000 bee species. However, in the US alone, there are more than 4000 different types of bee buzzing around on any given day. The most well-known are the carpenter bee, honey bee, and bumblebee. These, along with a handful of other pollinators, are largely responsible for everything from flowers to produce. Continue reading
From the air to the ground, trees play a part in our environment. Keep reading as conservation expert Phillip Elden extols the benefits of the plant you likely see every day but don’t think about.
Q: Why are trees so important?
Phillip Elden: Trees play dozens of roles. They help animals, people, and the land in some surprising ways. First, and perhaps most well-known, is that trees help reduce climate change. They absorb CO2 and then release oxygen into the air. It’s estimated that a single acre of mature trees can offset the effects of driving 26,000 miles. CO2 is not the only airborne contaminant that trees combat. Their leaves are also effective at reducing sulfur dioxide, nitrogen, and ammonia from the air.