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We're seeing bobcats and fishers and swans, oh my

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This past week brought warmer temperatures, melting snow and some fabulous nature sightings.

The morning of Saturday, March 8, Nona Hansen saw some crows circling above a road between Huntersville and Nevis. She slowed her car, thinking there was some kind of owl in the area, but she caught sight of a much different animal up in a tree: a fisher.

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"When I stopped to get a better look, he came down and ran," Nona wrote. "He looked fox-like but with shorter legs and a long bushy tail, and black."

When Nona was returning a couple hours later, the fisher "was back in the tree again."

I'd venture to say that many of us who live up here have never seen a fisher, described in Stan Tekiela's "Mammals of Minnesota Field Guide" as a "solitary animal, strong swimmer and tree climber." Here are some more fisher facts from Tekiela:

n Fishers like forests where trees are tall and meet overhead.

n Fishers can kill and eat porcupines without getting hurt.

n Breeding takes place in March and April, and females mate "just days after giving birth." However, because implantation can be delayed as long as 11 months, a mother fisher will not give birth to another litter for about a year.

n Mothers give birth in tree cavities "high above the ground."

n Male fishers have territories of anywhere from 50 to 150 square miles. This territory will overlap that of other males and "at least one female."

n Including tails, fishers measure anywhere from about 31 to 41 inches long.

n When fishers are "content," they chuckle and purr.

Spotty-face

Speaking of contented animals, a bobcat visited the yard of Delores and Milton Knutson for several days this past week.

The bobcat fed on a deer carcass the Knutson's "put out for the birds to eat over the winter." The bobcat stayed for about four hours the morning of Tuesday, March 11, and judging from photo the Knutson's took, the cat was definitely at peace.

I didn't realize how many spots bobcats had on their coats until I saw this picture. Stan Tekiela says that the cats get "dark streaks and spots" in the winter.

It is also breeding season for bobcats, but unlike fishers, bobcat mothers will give birth to their kittens after 52 to 70 days of gestation. They can have anywhere from one to seven kits, but three seems to be the most common number for young.

Lest anyone get concerned about bobcats, both Stan Tekiela and Evan B. Hazard ("Mammals of Minnesota") say that the most common food for these cats is snowshoe hares and rabbits, though the cats will also eat squirrels, voles, mice, gophers, muskrats, young deer, birds, and sometimes foxes and weasels. As evidenced at the Knutson's house up by Itasca, bobcats also eat carrion.

Here are some other bobcat facts from Tekiela's "Mammals of Minnesota":

n Bobcat kittens stay with their mother from birth through their first winter. After that, they "disperse" so mom can breed again.

n Bobcats make sounds "similar to those of a housecat."

Swans

John Boland of Park Rapids saw a regatta of about 40 swans the afternoon of Wednesday, March 5. The swans were "feeding and resting" and didn't seem to mind when John stopped and took a picture from his truck.

Anniversary

Do you know that in one month (or less), we should be hearing the first frogs of the season? In 2007, wood and chorus frogs started calling April 15. In 2006, chorus frogs started calling April 6.

Can't wait.

Here's the other "anniversary" I have on my mind: I've been writing the Phenology Report for five years now. I started the column back on March 22 of 2003.

However, there's no way I could write a weekly column without information from readers. Thank you to everyone who has ever reported nature news, and thank you for all your kind words about the column.

When sending your reports, be sure to give your name and a little information on where you made your sighting. Send to mau

reeng@unitelc.com.

This column is brought to you by Park Ace Hardware.

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Open seven days a week, Ace is located on Highway 71 south, Park Rapids, 732-4513. Ace is the place with the helpful hardware folks.

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