Residents share surprising animal encounters

A mink crouches under the railroad bridge at Salt Point in Lansing.
A mink crouches under the railroad bridge at Salt Point in Lansing.
Photo by Teresa Mogil

A fisher is a carnivorous animal that can grow up to four feet from head to tail and weigh as much as 13 pounds. The largest members of the weasel family, fishers, are forest dwellers that eat small animals like rabbits, as well as fruits and mushrooms. It is one of the few animals that can and will eat a porcupine.

They have a mouthful of impressive teeth, and there are documented cases of them taking on and defeating Canadian Lynxes in Maine.

And they live in Lansing.

About a week ago, I saw a large glossy black fisher race across the field to the east of Conlon Road, cross the ditch in a single bound, take two strides across the road, leap across the other ditch and race into the woods. The next day, I saw it again on Wilson Road.

This being the modern era, I shared the news on Facebook.

“I’ve seen him a couple of times and got a fuzzy picture of him last spring plowing,” Matt Dedrick wrote. “Glenn Fenner has seen him down your way a number of times.”

Teresa Mogil noted that she saw one at Salt Point, and Chris Hass said he’d seen them on his farm in Lake Ridge.

“Our dogs treed one a year or so ago,” Ellen Palladino wrote from the Storm Road area. “Our partner John Fleming saw it and got our dogs in the house quickly. Fishers are mean!”

Dan Banfield shared that he managed to take a photo of one at Myers point on a game camera.

“We also have lots of minks, but this guy was easily three times the size of the minks. ... Otherwise, very similar,” he said.

Eileen Stout said that she saw them on their beach on Lansing Station Road, Beth Hogan saw one dead on the Farrell Road berm, and Isabelle Schweitzer wrote that fishers have been seen on Oakcrest Road.

Fishers nearly went extinct in the 1800s as forests were cleared for farmland and the animals were trapped for their fur. The remainder retreated to the Adirondacks.

In the time since, marginal farmland has been re-forested and the animals began being reported back in Tompkins County in 2007.

“There are quite a few fishers in Lansing now,” confirmed local Conservation Officer Osman “Ozzie” Eisenberg.

This led me to ask him what other surprising animals live among us these days.

“There are bobcats in Tompkins County,” he said. “Probably some in Lansing.”

The iNaturalist website, a joint operation of National Geographic and the California Academy of Sciences, allows users to record wildlife sightings.

The site has a 2018 photo of a bobcat taken on Hile School Road in Freeville (in the Dryden School District) and a series of sightings, tracks and trail camera photos from Etna as recently as Jan. 30 (but not in the Lansing School District, nominally “home of the bobcats”).

Eisenburg saw a bald eagle at the Game Farm by Cornell University last week and noted that he saw more of the birds when patrolling on Cayuga Lake.
Red and gray foxes and coyotes are more common, and the whitetail deer are familiar to any alert local driver.

The iNaturalist website reports beavers at Salt Point and Meyers Park. Minks have also been spotted there and “in the ditches,” Eisenburg said. The site has also had otter sightings in Newfield.

The range of black bears seems to be slowly creeping north – they’ve been seen in Ellis Hollow and are fairly common south of Route 79, according to Eisenburg – but no one’s seen one in Lansing as yet.

The timber rattlesnake is also – thankfully – staying to our south. Eisenburg said that they are quite common in Corning. The northern watersnake, with its similar coloring and size, is often mistaken for its deadlier cousin.

The hellbender is perhaps the most curious of our local amphibians. Growing up to 30 inches in length, they are the third-largest aquatic salamander in the world.

The name comes from the animal’s odd appearance – the animal is also known as a snot otter, lasagna lizard, devil dog, mud-devil, grampus, Allegheny alligator, mud dog, water dog and leverian water newt.

The mudpuppy is a similar but smaller (18 inches nose to tail) relative. Both have been spotted in Lansing.

Finally, feral pigs. Sightings of wild pigs in Lansing are probably the result of a mass escape of the animals several years ago from a game farm in the town of Scott, about 20 miles to the east of Lansing.

“Quite a good population escaped, and they made it quite a ways,” Eisenburg said, noting that the Department of Conservation worked with the USDA to round up and eradicate the fugitives. “A group of wild pigs can ruin a cornfield in an afternoon.”

In Brief:

Events Committee hosts barbecue

The Lansing Events Committee will host a “Barbecue Day” Feb. 29 from 10:30 a.m. until gone to benefit the Lansing Carnival. Dinners can be picked up at the Lansing Community Center, and tables will be available for dine-in customers.

Chicken dinners, including dinner roll, salt potatoes and macaroni salad, will be $10, chicken only $8, pulled pork dinners with salt potatoes and coleslaw will be $10, and pork only $8.

Gaelic and Garlic Festival

All Saints Church will host an Irish- and Italian-themed festival, “Gaelic and Garlic,” at All Saints Church Sunday, March 15, from noon to 4 p.m.
Dinner options will include $15 Italian plates and $5 kids’ meals (with a $45 family-rate option - 2 adults and kids, 12 and under) and will be served until 3 p.m.

Come see local Irish step dancers, hear Italian music, join in face painting, and enjoy great beverages. Bakers are invited to compete in a contest for the best Italian or Irish dessert.



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