We wear masks, wash our hands and practice social distancing to protect ourselves these days. How do animals in the wild protect themselves every day?
They use speed, keen senses, camouflage, and specialized defenses to protect themselves.
Coyotes can run as fast as 40mph, allowing them to get away from most other predators. Bobcats can hit 30mph. Mountain lions can reach speeds up to 50mph, allowing them to catch prey – including bobcats and coyotes!
Foxes have incredibly sharp hearing. Bobcats ears are shaped to enhance their ability to detect sounds of predators and prey. Mountain lions have enhanced night vision. And bears can claim the best sense of smell among all terrestrial mammals.
Coyotes and bobcats have what’s called “concealing coloration”- enabling animal to hide itself against a background of the same color. Southwestern coyotes are tan and brown to blend in with the desert. Bobcats and some breeds of foxes can be very difficult to detect among desert brush.
Some animals – like skunks – have “disruptive coloration.” This is when animals have spots, stripes, or patterns. Instead of blending into their surroundings, their coloring is meant to stand out. Studies suggest the distinctive black and white pattern of skunks serves as a warning to other animals to back off.
Skunks also defend themselves by spraying a strong-smelling liquid. Skunks can accurately spray up to 15 feet, and that noxious aroma can be detected for miles.
Like skunks, porcupines protect themselves in a variety of ways. The coloring of a porcupine warns its enemies to stay away.
Do porcupines really “throw” their quills?
As old wives’ tales go, porcupines throwing their quills is right up there with repeatedly crossing your eyes will make them stay that way. Rather, porcupines dash backwards trying to plunge their quills into the paws or face of their attacker. The quills enter smoothly but are designed by nature with backward barbs - making removal impossible (except by a veterinarian). To make matters worse those quills are usually dirty and can lead to infections.
Animals are resourceful (they need to be!). Thankfully, nature has given them adaptations for protection. Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center protects those who can no longer protect themselves until they can be released or offers them sanctuary when they cannot.
Southwest Wildlife is a non-profit protector of our wildlife. We receive no government support. Our operations rely on donations and tours of our sanctuary. Donate or plan your visit today. You can help us continue to save our wildlife, one life at a time.