Thom Smith | NatureWatch: Where can I hold an armadillo?

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Q. When our children were young, we use to bring them to the [Berkshire] Museum to see the fish and other animals. Their favorite was a young armadillo. And I remember how kind you were to stop what you were doing to open Amy's cage and let our little family play with her. Once, you even let them feed her worms. Now they have children of their own, and I often wonder where they can have the same experience.

Mary, Pittsfield

A. The Roger Williams Park Zoo, in Providence, R.I., has several armadillos that spend mornings through the warm summer mornings — 10 a.m. to noon through Labor Day — in a large outdoor enclosure. (Don't get the idea that Providence is the closest city in which armadillos may be found, but it offered a hard-to-beat experience for me.) The armadillos can interact with visitors if they choose, or better put, children of all ages can interact with them. Two years ago, I brought our youngest daughter and her family to the zoo, which happened to be made up of three males. Our grandsons were close in size to two of the armadillos.

The most memorable part of the visit (it must run in the family), was petting and otherwise just enjoying being so close to these bizarre creatures. Watching as they frantically dug holes here and there was so much fun. Our grandson Gabriel's only birthday wish this year wasn't a party, but "a visit to that zoo with the armadillos." Knowing that it was yet too cold for the outdoor pen, even in Providence, we might have to somehow get "behind the scenes" if he wanted to get really close again. Jennifer Rudolph, the Manager of Animal Ambassador Programming, not only arranged the visit but showed us around. "The Ambassador" let one nine-banded armadillo mingle with us, and while it was wandering about, she brought out a six-banded for us to get a closer look at. What an excellent visit. We learned so much at the zoo, including some river otters will give visitors a "high-five," but that's another story. For directions and information, visit or phone 401-785-3510.

Q. Sunday morning (July 21), we had a mother bear and her two young cubs pass through our property. She was radio-collared and had a blue tag on each ear. This morning (Saturday, July 27), she appeared on our property again. No cubs, but she was closely followed by a male. No doubt she had run the babies to a tree somewhere for safety. (We live on South Mountain Road, Pittsfield.) My questions are: Is there any way I can find out some general information on this bear? Are her ear tags numbered or coded? What kind of information does the radio collar transmit? How long will she be wearing it?

Mary, Pittsfield

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A. This is a question for Mass Wildlife, so I went to Andrew Madden, Western District Supervisor, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife. His answer: "That bear is part of a study of black bear in the region. We use the collars to track bears to determine movement patterns, cub production and survival, habitat use, and adult survival. I'm not sure which of the study bears that you saw (there are a couple of them that could pass through your area). Your instincts about the cubs and the male bear are probably correct. The bears typically wear the collars for life. We service and change collars on them each winter. For more information [visit]."

Q. How did the cicada come to be called dog-day cicada or is it just the name my grandfather thought up?

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Donald, Williamstown

A. The name dog-day cicada is a common name used not only by your grandfather, but by people across North America. They are typically heard (and sometimes seen) during the "Dog Days of Summer" between late July and early September, or maybe longer with average warmer temperatures lasting longer. They emerge about the time when Sirius, "Dog Star" appears in the night sky, hence the name.

This sounds interesting

Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox is among the first to offer programs both in and outdoors with many field trips this summer including easy and challenging hikes, canoe trips and more. Mass Audubon protects 38,000 acres of land throughout Massachusetts, saving birds and other wildlife, and making nature accessible to all, and tucked away in Western Massachusetts is Pleasant Valley with its varied trails that wind through forests, meadows, wetlands, and along the slopes of Lenox Mountain, with a trail to the peak.

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Here are a few upcoming trips to give you an idea of how active they are.

Aug. 14, (Wednesday) 7 to 9:30 p.m.: Moonlight Canoe Trips Buckley Dunton Lake, Becket

Aug. 15, (Thursday) 6 to 8:30 p.m.: Housatonic Evening Paddle, New Lenox Road, Lenox

Aug. 16, (Friday) 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Adult Berkshire Views — Lenox Mountain: Taconic Range and Richmond Pond Views Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary

For information and to register: or phone 413-637-0320


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