Staghorns!

Photo: Bill Hecht

You Can Paddle to the Staghorn Cliffs on the Eastern Shore of Skaneateles Lake

Towering over the eastern shoreline of Skaneateles Lake are the Staghorn Cliffs, named for the ancient coral fossils found along the waterline.  The Finger Lakes Land Trust protects over 1,350 feet of the shoreline at its Cora Kampfe Dickinson Conservation Area, accessible only by boat.

To find other outdoor adventures near the Staghorn Cliffs, see the interactive map.

Do you have great videos or photos of nature in the Finger Lakes?  Want to share with the Land Trust?  If so, please email us at gofingerlakes@fllt.org.

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Thrush

Photo: Lang Elliott

Animals and Plants of the Finger Lakes

The Thrush in My Woods

It’s hard not to love a Wood Thrush — ­­Thoreau called it “a Shakespeare among birds.”  We know the Wood Thrush mostly by its strong, clear woodland song.

Frequently described as “flute-like,” the song of the Wood Thrush sounds more like bursts of sweet electronic music to my ears, especially in the buzzing trill at the end of each phrase.  The haunting spring and summer music of these birds resonates through the trees from early morning until they seem to take a midday break.  Later, in the evening, the Wood Thrush often sings until nightfall.

In my neck of the woods, on forested slopes above Owasco Lake, several breeding pairs around my house have stirred me for years.  They return each May from winter grounds in Central America to nest and raise their young under the protection of the rich forest canopy and understory shrubs found throughout the Finger Lakes.

Photo: Lang Elliott
Photo: Lang Elliott

Although they are reputedly not secretive, I rarely glimpse the cinnamon-colored birds as they go about their daily routine, foraging for food in the moist leaf litter or building their nests of grass and fine strips of grapevine.  Typically, Wood Thrushes in this area raise two broods each season, and gathering food is a full time job.

‘My’ Wood Thrushes, as I can’t help thinking of them, seem vigorous and prolific, yet I am aware of an accelerating decline in the overall population since the mid-1960s.

Radical deforestation of wintering grounds in Central America has taken a toll on their numbers.  Also, forest fragmentation caused by human development has disrupted the Wood Thrushes’ traditional breeding ground here in North America.  New roads, houses and commercial development have opened up previously undisturbed forest habitat to forest fringe predators such as raccoons, crows, jays, cowbirds, and house cats.  Many songbird nest sites are at a greater risk as a result.

A 2002 Cornell study of Wood Thrush population decline, by Ralph Hames and others, pointed to an unexpected additional threat to the breeding success of these birds: acid rain.

Photo: Lang Elliott
Photo: Lang Elliott

According to the study, Wood Thrush numbers in the eastern U.S. have declined by more than 40 percent since 1980.  The steepest declines have occurred in areas with the heaviest acid rainfall, especially in elevated forests of the Appalachians, as well as in the Adirondacks.

Acid rain and snow deplete the soil of calcium, putting a great strain on all organisms depending on calcium to survive and reproduce.  Low on this food chain are snails and slugs, the preferred diet for breeding Wood Thrushes.

A steady supply of calcium-rich snails and slugs helps the female thrush produce strong egg shells.  But where soil acidity is greatest, snail and slug populations do poorly, leading in turn to weakened egg shells and smaller clutches of eggs for the Wood Thrush.  As the snail goes, so goes the thrush.  Could the breeding success of other favorite song birds be in question as well?

Thoreau once wrote that, with its song, “The thrush alone declares the immortal wealth and vigor that is in the forest.”  This is what I hear in my little piece of forest, too, but I catch a wistful note now and again.

This story by Eben McLane first appeared in our newsletter, The Land Steward, as part of the Closer Look series about plants and animals of the Finger Lakes region.

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Natural History 1

Photo: Chris Ray

See also Part 2 and Part 3

Natural History of the Finger Lakes, Part 1: Seabed

Ancient in genesis and long evolving, the landscape is a primeval seabed, uplifted, slowly eroded, then dramatically carved and scoured by miles of thick ice sheets.

That in a nutshell is the geologic history of the Finger Lakes region.  But it is a sentence that covers eons and glosses over the complex interplay of geologic processes in a globally changing landscape.  The timescale is hard to fathom relative to our modern era.

Consider that in geologic time, mountains — the massive and impenetrable barrier between regions and people — are fleeting.  They rise up and are literally washed away when perceived over the course of time. In the same way, continents can be visualized as floating across the globe, shifting from tropical to more temperate climes.

Long before the dinosaurs

Of course, it is the shifting of plates that leads to the formation of mountains, and the uplift and erosion of these behemoths is one of the main plot lines in New York’s natural history.  The chapter pertinent to the Finger Lakes region dates back hundreds of millions of years to the Devonian Age when the region was part of vast, warm inland sea.  This was an age millions of years before the emergence of dinosaurs, when the precursors of life we recognize today were evolving into their first forms: the first insects, the first trees, the first seed-bearing plants, the first ferns, and the first amphibians.

To the east of the Finger Lakes region, mountains as high as the Himalayas were, in their fashion, being created/uplifted.  The remnants of these towering behemoths are the modern day Appalachian Mountains which average three thousand feet in elevation — the highest peak today is Mount Mitchell, at 6,684 feet. As a point of comparison, Everest is 29,029 feet and 30 peaks within the Himalayas are over 24,000 feet.

…east of the Finger Lakes region, mountains as high as the Himalayas were being created…

The mountains inevitably eroded and their sediments were deposited in segregated layers.  Light silt would deposit further into the seas while heavier particles, such as sand, would deposit closer to shore.  Over millions of years, sea levels would fluctuate and shift the heavier deposits of sand atop softer layers.  This interweaving of layers is one of the reasons the Finger Lakes has such dazzling waterfalls and gorges, features that took hundreds of millions of years to form.

Watkins Glen State Park. Photo: Nigel Kent
Watkins Glen State Park. Photo: Nigel Kent

Any walk in the region within a gorge or beside an exposed rock wall allows you to see and touch these layers.  The gorge state parks along the southern tips of the Finger Lakes, such as Watkins Glen, are often cited as the best places to view these layers, but places like Cascadilla Gorge, Grimes Glen, Conklin Gully at High Tor, and Sweedler Preserve at Lick Brook Gorge are equally illustrative.

Often the remains of sea-life would get mixed in with the deposits, mostly calcium-rich shells.  These too can be seen in the abundant fossils found along lakeshores, stream beds, or by breaking apart crumbly shale just about anywhere its found along the trails.  It is also why Central New Yorkers have “hard” water and see the deleterious effects of acid rain in the lakes and ponds of the Adirondacks.  (The basic pH of calcium carbonate in CNY rocks neutralizes the acid, while in the Adirondacks, where the geology is made of igneous rocks, there are no mitigating effects for acidic rain).

Erosion and resistance

The layers of sand or mud would, under incredible pressure from above, be compressed into solid rock. Mud or silt would produce crumbly shale while layers with a high sand content would result in erosion-resistant sandstone.  This interplay of erosion resistance and readily erodible layers is dramatically illustrated by the regions’ gorges, but even more so by the gravity-defying “hanging” waterfalls like Tinkers Falls at Labrador Hollow and Carpenter Falls.

Photo: Bill Hecht
Carpenter Falls.  Photo: Bill Hecht

As plate tectonics shifted again, the world underwent a further reshuffling of the continents.  The great inland sea eventually filled in, evaporated, and the seabed was uplifted.  Millions of years passed as the uniform landscape underwent the inevitable process of erosion where streams and rivers cut through the landscape producing the typical v-shaped valleys.

If the landscape continued along this course, the Finger Lakes would be a beautiful landscape of forests and valleys much like it is in other parts of the Eastern United States.  But a dramatic and land-altering force would soon sweep over the region and transform the landscape into one of steep-sided U-shaped valleys, staggering waterfalls, deep sinuous lakes, potholes, kettles, hummocky topography, and beguiling water features.  The next part is, of course, the scourge of glaciers.

See Natural History, Part 2

Author Tim Starmer provided this natural history series for Go Finger Lakes in addition to writing 50 of the location descriptions.  You can read more in his book 5-Star Trails: Finger Lakes and Central New York (Menasha Ridge Press).

From natural history to a natural future… help us save land forever.

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Farms & Wineries

Photo: Chuck Feil

PART OF OUR REGIONAL CONSERVATION AGENDA

Save Farms, Wineries & Rural Character

Theme 2 from our report on strategies for permanently protecting the priceless lands and waters of the Finger Lakes region

Here we share the second set of strategies from Lakes, Farms, and Forests Forever, our fully illustrated report which you can find on our web site at fllt.org/top10.

The Finger Lakes region is famous for sweeping expanses of farmland and picturesque lake views.  Millions of tourists flock to the region to explore over 50 farmers markets, 3 wine trails, u-pick apple orchards, and emerging beer and cheese trails.  Drawn by the lakes and agricultural tourism opportunities, visitors and residents alike are charmed by the rural character of our region.

Yet our agricultural land and iconic views are increasingly under threat.  Farmers are challenged by the conversion of land for residential and commercial development — a particular concern for farms that rely on significant amounts of leased land.  We are calling for sustained investment to save the farmland and scenic vistas that are most imperiled by development.  By increasing funding from public and private sources — and providing technical assistance to municipal planning boards — we can preserve our farms, vineyards, and rural character forever.

spreadwine

The conservation strategies in this theme:

Save Threatened Farms & Wineries

Preserve agricultural lands that are most threatened by development through increased funding for New York State’s farmland protection program.  Investment in this program will also spur economic development by aiding agricultural enterprises.

Protect Scenic Vistas & Designated Byways on Cayuga and Seneca Lakes

Inventory publicly accessible vista points across the region and lands bordering the Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake Scenic Byways.  Secure the highest quality vistas and lands through the acquisition of conservation easements.

Maintain Rural Character Through Stronger Land Use Planning

Strengthen locally-based land use planning by providing increased technical assistance to town planning boards and producing a region-specific guide to best practices for rural land use.

What you can do

If you love the Finger Lakes region, please take a moment to read Lakes, Farms, and Forests Forever.  You can download a digital copy at fllt.org/top10 and request free print copies.  Please share with friends who love our lands and waters, and consider supporting the Finger Lakes Land Trust by becoming a member and getting involved with our events and volunteer opportunities.

Get your copy of our top 10 conservation strategies for the Finger Lakes!

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Lick Brook Snow

Photo: FLLT

A Quiet Winter Morning on Lick Brook at Thayer Preserve

Beautiful Lick Brook, at the southern side of Ithaca, runs through two Finger Lakes Land Trust conservation areas.  Sweedler Preserve contains the dramatic gorge and high falls that many people have discovered off of Route 13 across from Robert Treman State Park.  Thayer Preserve, portrayed in this short winter vignette, connects to Buttermilk Falls State Park.

To find other outdoor adventures near Lick Brook, see the interactive map.

Do you have great videos or photos of nature in the Finger Lakes?  Want to share with the Land Trust?  If so, please email us at gofingerlakes@fllt.org.

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Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Photo: Lang Elliott

Animals and Plants of the Finger Lakes

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

As spring finally arrives in the Finger Lakes, the first Jacks-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) begin to emerge from the forest floor.  The foliage of this plant is minimalistic, consisting of only one or two trifoliate leaves that might easily be confused with sprigs of poison ivy.

It is the floral structure that is truly rich and strange: a fleshy, cylindrical spike, known as a spadix, is surrounded by the graceful curl of a single large bract known as a spathe, which is often decorated with natty white, brown, or purple pinstripes.  The flowers are invisible, hidden deep in the base of the inflorescence.

Photo: Lang Elliot
Photo: Lang Elliott

As its name suggests, the plant bears a remarkable and improbable resemblance to a tiny man standing in a tiny old-fashioned canopied pulpit, looking something like a cross between a skunk cabbage (to which it is closely related) and a pitcher plant (to which it isn’t).  Nevertheless, its lifecycle recalls Greek mythology more than it does Church history: it’s a dead ringer for Tiresias, the blind, long-lived prophet of Thebes, who spent time as both a woman and a man.

The Jack-in-the-Pulpit grows very, very slowly in the damp gloom of the forest floor.  For the first few years of its life, it produces a single leaf that captures whatever dim light manages to filter through the leaves of the trees, squirreling away every extra bit of energy in its underground corm.  The plant would be vulnerable to herbivores if every part of it were not saturated with large crystals of highly poisonous calcium oxalate.  Most animals wisely leave it alone, though black bears dig up and eat the corms with relish, apparently taking advantage of their laxative effects.

After two or three good years, a plant may put out an inflorescence containing only male flowers: the plant’s existence is still marginal, and it takes much less energy to make pollen than to make fruit.  If conditions remain favorable for several more years and the corm has grown large enough, it may cautiously begin to produce both male and female flowers in its “pulpit”; eventually, if all goes well, it may be so bold as to put out two leaves and mostly, or only, female flowers.  Whenever conditions deteriorate, it will revert back to producing male flowers and only a single leaf.  It switches sex in this way, year after year, for several decades and reportedly up to a hundred years.

Although some of its physiological adaptations are remarkably sophisticated, its pollination strategy is fairly crude.  It cannot self-fertilize because the male flowers die before the female flowers are mature, so it needs the help of insect pollinators.  The spathe emits a mushroom-like scent in order to attract tiny gnats that lay their eggs on fungus.  Once the insects crawl inside, they become disoriented: the hood of the spathe blocks light shining from above, the bottom of the pulpit is often pale and translucent, and the dark and light stripes make it impossible for them to tell which way is up.  Floral structures with male flowers have small escape hatches at the bottoms of their spathes, but those with female flowers are dead ends.  Gnats foolish enough to fall into a female plant after falling into a male one may accidentally pollinate a few flowers before they die inside.  In late summer, the spathe withers to reveal a cluster of bright red fruits that are just as poisonous as the rest of the plant.

By turns both beautiful and deadly, male and female, the Jack-in-the-Pulpit is a jack-of-all-trades.  It has been used as both a food and a poison, a medicine and a contraceptive.  Native Americans used the berries to make a red dye, and European settlers used starch from the corm to stiffen their clothes.  Like Tiresias himself, the plant is believed to have the power of prophesy: a seed swirled in a cup of water will reveal whether a sick person will live or die.  Perhaps Jack-in-the-Pulpit is the Tiresias of our damp forest floor.

This story by Jacqueline Stuhmiller first appeared in our newsletter, The Land Steward, as part of the Closer Look series about plants and animals of the Finger Lakes region.

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Red-Bellied Snake

Photo: Dick Bartlett

Animals and Plants of the Finger Lakes

The Red-Bellied Snake

All winter, the red-bellied snake (Storeria occipitomaculata) has hunkered down in various hidey-holes – anthills, abandoned burrows, rock crevices – in the company of other small snakes.

Come spring, it will shake off the torpor of hibernation and strike out on its own.

It will be looking for a moist, shady location, which may be a forest, a wet meadow, or, very often, your flowerbed or garden.  If you have a touch of ophidiophobia, don’t worry: at only seven to ten inches long and with a head no thicker than the rest of its body, this tiny reptile might well be mistaken for a healthy-sized night crawler.

Photo: Dick Bartlett
Photo: Dick Bartlett

The red-bellied snake often hangs around gardens because they are full of soft, delectable invertebrates like slugs, snails, and earthworms.  Its long, slender, recurved teeth are shaped like escargot forks, perfect for getting a purchase on slimy creatures.  It is a particularly determined hunter of snails.  In order to extract a juicy morsel from its unpalatable casing, the snake gets a grip on the soft parts, digs in, and pulls until the snail tires and can be removed from its shell.

Although a formidable foe of slugs, this little creature is a milquetoast.  It’s an easy mark for crows, raptors, raccoons, cats, other snakes, and people who do not recognize it for the helpful garden warden that it is.  Its best defense is to avoid detection altogether, so it spends most of its time hiding in dark, moist places under rocks, boards, and other debris.  If it must emerge, its nondescript brown or gray back provides perfect camouflage against the earth.

When it cannot avoid conflict, it will try to bluff its way out of danger.  It may first try flattening its head and body in a vain attempt to appear larger.  If the attacker is persistent, it will thrash around, releasing a slimy mixture of feces and foul-smelling musk from its anal glands and flashing its red or orange belly. Bright colors often signal noxiousness in the animal world, and you would do well not to chew on a monarch butterfly or a red eft, but the red-bellied snake is nonvenomous.  In fact, since it is regularly eaten by everything from shrews to chickens to bass, it appears to be quite tasty.  If you pick it up, it may startle you by curling its upper jaw bones outwards and turning its lip scales back in a tiny snarl, rubbing the side of its mouth against your hand.  It’s not known what this behavior is intended to achieve, as its teeth are far too tiny to do damage to any but the smallest adversaries.  It will not bite, as if it already knows that biting anything harder than a slug would be futile.  If nothing else works, it may go into theatrical convulsions and play dead.  This otherwise convincing performance is somewhat marred by the fact that it insists that a dead snake must remain upside down; if placed on its belly, it will roll on its back again.

Like 20 percent of snake species, the red-bellied snake is viviparous, giving birth to live young in late summer or early autumn.  Viviparity is a common trait in the reptile world because it confers distinct advantages, especially in uncertain environments.  While inside the mother, the young are protected from predators, disease, dehydration, and temperature fluctuations.  The female can regulate her own body temperature by basking in the sun when it is cold and seeking shelter when it is hot, so the young can be kept at the optimal temperature for development; this is gives snakes a critical edge in northern climates and high elevations where the soil tends to be cool and winter comes early.  As is always true, however, what is good for the babies is bad for the mother.  The female is seriously weighed down by her litter; the neonates are typically a third or even half the length of the mother, and the average litter size is eight. Once the litter is born, mother and babies go their separate ways.  They will only encounter others of their kind when they den up for next winter.

This story by Jacqueline Stuhmiller first appeared in our newsletter, The Land Steward, as part of the Closer Look series about plants and animals of the Finger Lakes region.

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Steege on Chemung

Photo: Bill Hecht

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Turkey

Photo: Marie Read

Animals and Plants of the Finger Lakes

The Wild Turkey

Thanksgiving Dinner or Courageous American Icon? The Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is surely the most American of birds. Both a totem animal and a major source of protein for many native North Americans, it gave the Europeans a foothold in the New World and has become synonymous with Thanksgiving.

No less a luminary than Benjamin Franklin praised its courage – much greater, he thought, than that of the Bald Eagle.  The natural history of the turkey is intimately intertwined with human history.  The subspecies found in the eastern United States (M. g. silvestris) was hunted by native tribes, who used fire to create the patchwork of mature forest, young forest, and meadows that turkeys prefer.  Another subspecies, now assumed extinct, was domesticated in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica; a third was domesticated in the Southwest.

Photo: Marie Read
Photo: Marie Read

When this newfangled bird was brought back to England, it was called a “turkie,” perhaps in reference to its supposed “Eastern” origins. (In many European languages – including, ironically, Turkish – the word for “turkey” is related to the word for “India.”)  About a century after this domesticated fowl was brought to Spain by the conquistadors, it was brought back to America by the Pilgrims.

The Wild Turkey has certain biological quirks that allow it to live closely with humans but which sometimes bring it into conflict with people.  It does not defend a home territory against others of its own kind; rather, it lives in relatively large flocks organized by a strict pecking order.  Furthermore, it seems to readily accept people into this order, assigning each human a “gender” and a place in the hierarchy.  A turkey may therefore behave submissively, aggressively, or even seductively toward people, depending on how they are perceived.

Turkey aggression can be rather frightening: a male, known as a “tom” or “gobbler,” can be up to 25 pounds and four feet long and, as Ben Franklin noted, seems to have no fear.  Gobblers acclimated to people may behave quite differently than those in the wild.  Although birds in the rural Finger Lakes seem to be a pretty docile bunch, it is prudent to minimize human-turkey conflicts by never giving the birds access to food (including spilled birdseed) and making sure that you and your neighbors always assert your dominance.

Turkeys have contributed greatly to human welfare, though the reverse has not always been true.  The five subspecies of Wild Turkey originally ranged over most of what is now the continental United States, but their populations were devastated by overhunting and the wholesale conversion of forest into farmland; they disappeared from New York by the 1840s.  However, the tide began to turn in the early 20th century, when many farms in the Northeast were abandoned and reverted to forest.

Around 1948, a population crossed into western New York.  In 1959, some of those birds were trapped and released in other parts of the state.  Today, there are estimated to be ten times as many Wild Turkeys in New York as there once were in the entire country.

Paradoxically, the same changes that brought the Wild Turkey back are also contributing to a recent decline in its numbers.  Turkeys spend most of the year in hardwood forests, where they feed on acorns, seeds, fruits, roots, grasses, and invertebrates.  However, since the turkey nest is little more than a hole scratched in the ground and the poults have no defenses against predators, hens prefer to lay their eggs and raise their young in areas with dense ground cover; adults often use the same areas to hide from predators, including hunters.  As the forests of the Northeast mature, they contain ever fewer hiding places.  The recent cold, rainy springs have also been hard on turkeys.  Poults sometimes succumb to the weather; additionally, when they are wet, they emit an odor that makes it easier for predators to find them.

The turkey gets an undeservedly bad rap.  In common parlance, “turkey” means “a fool” or “a failure.” It’s true that the barnyard turkey is rather awkward and self-important, but its indigenous cousin is a very different bird.  It is well-known to hunters as a worthy adversary, swift, elusive, and crafty.  It is also surprisingly beautiful, with iridescent feathers and a head covered with fantastic crenellations of bright-colored flesh.  We should give thanks for Ben Franklin’s “true original Native of America,” without which we would not be where we are today.

This story by Jacqueline Stuhmiller first appeared in our newsletter, The Land Steward, as part of the Closer Look series about plants and animals of the Finger Lakes region.

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Mink

Photo: Melissa Groo

Animals and Plants of the Finger Lakes

Our American Mink

Several members of the family Mustelidae are native to New York State:  fisher, marten, two kinds of weasels, river otter, and American mink (Neovison vison).

These animals differ in size but otherwise look quite similar to each other, with long, narrow bodies; tiny, rounded ears; dense fur; and well-developed anal glands.  All of our native mustelids are cute, but the mink, with its curious, alert face and shiny, button-like brown eyes, looks especially like a toy.  Don’t be fooled, though: it punches far above its weight of a mere one to three pounds.

Photo: Melissa Groo
Photo: Melissa Groo

The long, narrow body of the mink allows it to hunt successfully in many different environments.  It prefers to be in or near water, and slips as easily as an eel after fish, frogs, crustaceans, and muskrats.  It can wiggle into burrows to catch rodents — it has occasionally been tamed and used to hunt rats — or shimmy down holes to grab snakes.  Its bounding, rolling gait is comical, but it is fast enough to catch rabbits and birds.  Amazingly, it does not seem to be handicapped by its tiny head and jaws and doesn’t hesitate to attack animals several times its own size.

Because mink sometimes wreak havoc in henhouses, destroying entire flocks at once, people assume that they kill for pleasure.  This behavior is not completely understood, but probably has more to do with physics than hedonism.  The same body shape that makes the mink such an agile, adaptable predator also has a high surface-area-to-volume ratio that leaves the animal extremely vulnerable to heat loss.  In order to stay alive, it must eat a third of its own body weight every day, and since it is a solitary animal, it must find food on its own.  The problem is compounded when the temperature drops, because the mink does not migrate, hibernate, enter torpor, or stockpile a significant amount of food in winter.  Perhaps because it must remain light and sleek in order to hunt effectively, it doesn’t store much body fat, either.  In order to gain a little more food security, it may kill more than it can eat at one time and cache the rest under the ice and snow.  The mink that kills all of the chickens in a coop and leaves the carcasses lying around is probably only following its instinct to kill whatever, and whenever, it can – after all, in the wild, animals do not live in large densities inside small spaces that have no escape routes.

The mink is of course synonymous with its thick, glossy, dark brown fur (domesticated mink, which are larger and less hardy than wild mink, have been bred for many different coat colors).  Hundreds of thousands of mink pelts were exported to Europe between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries; when the price was not high enough to justify the transport costs, the pelts were simply burned at the trading posts.  Its cousin, the sea mink, was driven to extinction by this merciless overexploitation, but the tough little American mink somehow managed to ride out the era of the fur trade.  In fact, the animal still apparently occupies the same range that it did before Europeans arrived in North America, endemic to most of the U. S. (with the exception of the arid southwest corner of the country) and almost all of Canada.  Today, the most serious threats to the mink come from the destruction of wetlands and water pollution.  Because of its position at the top of the food chain and its extreme sensitivity to toxins, the mink is a bioindicator for aquatic environments.  A study is currently underway to measure how PCBs in the Hudson River are affecting the species.

The story of the mink has taken an ironic twist.  When mink fur became extremely fashionable in the early and mid-twentieth century, fur farms stocked with American mink were established in many areas of Europe.  Over time, animals escaped (or were deliberately released by animal activists) and established themselves in the wild.  The American mink is now a serious pest in Europe, where it is contributing to the precipitous decline of native species.  One of the hardest hit is the European mink, which is now critically endangered.

This story by Jacqueline Stuhmiller first appeared in our newsletter, The Land Steward, as part of the Closer Look series about plants and animals of the Finger Lakes region.

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