Posts Tagged ‘styrofoam animal’

Seldom seen and thus aptly named, the River Ghost is an unusual small mammal living at the Falls of the Ohio.  Over the course of several days I was able to photograph a young adult as it was surveying potential territory.

Don’t let the cute face fool you.  The River Ghost is a relentless pursuer of anything it can catch and eat.  It’s diet includes birds, fish, other mammals no larger than twice its size, eggs, reptiles, and if necessary, insects and carrion.

The River Ghost has a long and flexible body that allows it to pursue its prey through underground burrows.  It also utilizes abandoned burrows to raise its own young.  Two kits are usually born, but only the strongest will see the light of day.

I photographed this specimen walking along the mud line that was deposited by the recent flood.  The mud is a five-inch thick layer of “fudge” and very soft and moist.  That’s my boot print in the picture.

This mud is also perfect for recording the foot prints of other animals that cross over its surface.  Scientists are uncertain which senses are most important to the River Ghost, but it seems to have a keen sense of sight and hearing.  This odd animal has kinship to both rodents and weasels and may be a throw back to an older evolutionary line.

Despite having formidable survival skills…the River Ghost is not thriving for a variety of reasons and primary among them is habitat loss.  More and more the riverine bottomlands it prefers are being divided and developed.  It’s prey species are also experiencing a decline in populations.  Many species are dependent on large areas of intact ecosystems in order to remain viable.

It would be a shame to allow this curiosity among the local fauna to disappear before its time.  Humans have coexisted with this intrepid predator for thousands of years.  The native people have legends and myths about the River Ghost’s ferocity and toughness and its way of getting out of trouble that it starts.

The last time I saw our River Ghost it had moved onto higher ground around the Interpretive Center and Woodland Trail.  It seemingly followed every lead and poked its head into every hole looking for food to satisfy its insatiable hunger.  It occurred to me, that it was heading for the picnic tables where people have been spreading dry cat food on the ground.  I wondered if the River Ghost “knew” that other animals would be attracted to the feeding station…or was it here for a bite of cat food too?  Perhaps I will see it again?

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