Dog Feeding

The elusive southern lavatory lemming — Waterbury Roundabout

Should you’ve by no means seen – or heard of – the southern lavatory lemming, you’re not alone.

Though this small mammal scurries by our panorama year-round, it’s elusive by nature. So elusive, in actual fact, that the southern lavatory lemming (Synaptomys cooperi) is listed as a species of best conservation want in each New Hampshire and Vermont, in addition to in different northeastern states primarily as a result of scientists battle to seek out and monitor these rodents. 

Regardless of their title, southern lavatory lemmings aren’t purely southern, nor do they dwell solely in bogs. They inhabit a big geographic vary, from Manitoba, Canada, east to the Atlantic Ocean and as far south as North Carolina. Regional populations dwell in several types of habitats, from prairie grasslands to areas that includes extra sedges. Within the Northeast, they’ve been documented dwelling in tamarack-black spruce forests and dwarf shrub bogs. 

The southern lavatory lemming carefully resembles each the meadow vole and the northern lavatory lemming. Two key attributes that distinguish it from the meadow vole are the lemming’s orange, grooved higher incisors and a brief tail that’s sometimes now not than the lemming’s hind foot.

Southern lavatory lemmings even have longer fur than voles, and their heads are greater relative to physique dimension. The northern fringe of the southern lavatory lemmings’ geographic vary overlaps with that of the northern lavatory lemming. The 2 species are so comparable that they’ll solely be distinguished by the variety of mammae and tooth construction.

In some areas, southern lavatory lemmings create floor runways in grassy situations. They use their sharp incisors to chop grasses, permitting adjoining stalks to fall over and type hid corridors of security. In northeastern forests, southern lavatory lemmings additionally make the most of subterranean tunnels, in addition to tunnels by sphagnum moss in boggy areas. 

Inside this community, southern lavatory lemmings assemble chambers for elevating younger. They construct nests of dry leaves and grasses and line these with smooth materials equivalent to fur. Breeding can happen any time of 12 months, though it’s much less frequent in excessive warmth or very chilly temperatures. Females produce two to 3 litters yearly with a median of three younger per litter. Born hairless and pink, neonates stay with their moms for 21 days. Subsequent litters will likely be raised in the identical nests. 

The lemmings’ eating regimen is usually vegetarian, consisting of seeds, stems, and leaves of herbaceous crops and sedges, together with mosses, fungi, bark, or roots. Their grooved higher incisors and powerful jaws permit southern lavatory lemmings to eat woodier tissues than different species, together with voles. They reduce stems to realize entry to the nutritious higher elements of the crops, then discard the stems in small, neat piles. 

One tell-tale signal of southern lavatory lemming presence is their vibrant inexperienced, oval droppings, which the animals deposit in clusters. In distinction, the droppings of different small mammals are typically black or brown.  

Many predators eat southern lavatory lemmings. These embody snowy owls, whose Arctic eating regimen consists largely of true lemmings. Throughout inhabitants booms, nonetheless, when extra snowy owls push south, they add southern lavatory lemmings to the menu. Purple and grey foxes, hawks, home canines and cats, weasels, badgers, snakes, raccoons, and bobcats additionally prey on southern lavatory lemmings. Lemmings are adept swimmers and should take to the water to each escape hazard and journey to new feeding territories. 

I used to be delighted to study this charming little mammal, and I’m retaining my eyes peeled for a uncommon glimpse of the southern lavatory lemming, 

Tiffany Soukup is a author, photographer, traveler, and park supervisor with Vermont State Parks. The Outdoors Story is assigned and edited by Northern Woodlands journal and sponsored by the Wellborn Ecology Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Basis.

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