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bunny dance, wolverine watch, hardy fatheads, walkingstick wonders, encroaching crows, hummers

I saw two rabbits doing some sort of a mating dance or game. One would stand in front of the other. Then the first bunny would run up to the second bunny, and then the second rabbit would jump straight up. Then the first bunny would run under the second one. They did it over and over again. What were they doing?

Julia Brogle, age 9
Pine River

Your bunny couple probably was preparing to mate, says DNR wildlife specialist Bob Welsh. Before eastern cottontails breed, the male chases the female, then both take turns hopping straight up into the air. Eastern cottontails commonly produce three to four litters per year. Learn more about Minnesota's rabbits and hares.

Midday last summer I was pulling up to Highway 71 just south of Bemidji when a large, dark animal darted across the road. My first thought was, that's one big skunk! Then I realized, whoa, that's not a skunk, that's a wolverine! It had the classic chocolate brown coat with the tawny side markings and big feet, broad head. What is the wolverine range in Minnesota and how often are they seen?

Al McDaniel

If what you spotted was indeed a wolverine, you are one lucky guy. According to DNR furbearer/wolf biologist John Erb, there are no resident populations of wolverines in Minnesota. However, it is possible that a wandering wolverine shows up once in awhile. The nearest established wolverine community is several hundred miles north of the U.S.-Canada border.

When I put shiner minnows and fathead minnows in the same minnow bucket, the shiners die. Why does this happen? Do the fatheads exude a substance in the water toxic to the shiner minnows?

Thomas Evans

DNR aquatic biologist Nick Proulx thinks the issue is oxygen. Fatheads can tolerate lower oxygen levels than golden shiners can, so if they're all in a bucket using oxygen, the shiners will become stressed and die first. Proulx says shiners also seem to fare worse than other bait species when they are handled, so stress from being touched might be a factor too.

Sometimes in late summer we find walkingsticks clinging to the warm side of our cabin. What brings them out? What do they eat? Does anything eat them?

Darlene Gustafson

Walkingsticks (Diapheromera femorata) hatch from tiny eggs in the spring. The nymphs, which look like tiny green adults, eat the leaves of plants such as roses, beaked hazel, and strawberries. In August they become adults, which feed on deciduous trees. Robins and other birds will eat walkingsticks -- if they can find them. When a walkingstick feels threatened, it freezes with its front legs stretched out in front of it, making it look almost exactly like a twig.

In the past couple of years, I have noticed a scarcity of robins in my neighborhood. At the same time, the population of crows has increased. Are the crows eating the robins' eggs and young?

Bruce Baker

Could be. Crows eat all kinds of things, including other birds' babies. The reality is that most robins die one way or another before they reach adulthood. But if you'd like to discourage the crows from hanging out in your part of town, DNR nongame wildlife program supervisor Carrol Henderson suggests you avoid using bird feeders that provide them easy access to food, and keep nearby parking lots free of edible trash and fast-food dumpsters that make a neighborhood choice habitat for cruising corvids.

I have been told to stop filling my hummingbird feeder in the fall so I don't interrupt the natural migration of hummingbirds. Is this true? When is the right time to take it down?

Brandon Kuehn
St. Louis Park

The notion that a feeder will keep hummingbirds from migrating has been around for a long time, but it's just not true, says DNR wildlife educator Jan Welsh. The birds will appreciate the extra energy for their long journey. Welsh suggests you keep the feeder up until about a week has gone by without visitors.

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