Stories by Scott Shalaway

About Scott

Scott Shalaway, who holds a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology from Michigan State University, writes from his home in rural West Virginia. A former faculty member at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma Biological Station, he has been writing a weekly nature column for newspapers and freelancing for magazines since 1986. Send questions and comments to scottshalaway@gmail.com. You can also visit his Web site, http://scottshalaway.googlepages.com.

Scott Shalaway: Take the steps to make boating safe

Thursday, May 23, 2013

It goes by many different names — life jacket, life vest, life preserver, personal flotation device, or PFD. Regardless the name, its purpose is to keep you alive until help arrives when you’re involved in a boating accident. But it cannot work if it’s not worn. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 651 people died […]

Scott Shalaway: Meet the vireo, a singing bird of its own kind

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

During spring migration, warblers get lots of attention. Most are brightly colored and sing loud distinctive songs. Yellow warblers, for example, are common, beautiful, and easy to find. But other, less spectacular groups are equally interesting. Vireos, for example, are less brightly colored and usually more difficult to see. Often they are heard before they […]

A day in the life of an incubating hen turkey

Thursday, May 2, 2013

At about 7:15 Monday morning I settled into a comfy spot about 20 yards from the edge of the woods. My intent was to experience the migration, by sight and sound, from a single spot. It was chilly, about 42 degrees, but I was dressed for it — polar fleece jacket and wool cap. With […]

Listen: Spring migration is finally underway

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Finally, spring has arrived. Forsythias, hyacinths and daffodils are blooming, lilacs are budding, and the grass soon needs mowing. And of course, spring migration is under way. And my email box is filled with notes from readers who love warmer days, blue skies, and sunshine. Let’s compare notes, and see how our observations compare. Typically […]

Cabela’s: A retail store and a destination

Thursday, April 18, 2013

When the Cabela’s store in Wheeling, W.Va. opened in 2004, it was billed as a “destination.” Give it a few months, I thought, and it will be just another outdoors store. I could not have been more wrong. Four million shoppers. According to Cabela’s retail marketing manager, Bud Forte, four million shoppers visited the Wheeling […]

Ruby-throated hummingbirds will soon be back

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Their tiny size, acrobatic flying ability, and eagerness to use nectar feeders make hummingbirds one of America’s favorite backyard birds. This fascination always triggers a flurry of mail, so let me anticipate the most common hummer questions I will get over the next month. Q: How many species of hummingbirds live in the east? A: […]

Red-backed salamanders rule Appalachian forests

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Vertebrate animals are those with backbones — fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. As a group, they are much less abundant than invertebrates such as insects, spiders, and mollusks. But there is one vertebrate that occurs in stunning numbers, often quite close to home. Among common vertebrate species, chipmunk population densities can range from 10 […]

Rabbits or rodents? Meet the lagomorphs

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thanks to cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny, the rabbits we see in our backyards, eastern cottontails are familiar to almost everyone. And yet I suspect most people think they are rodents. They are not. Rabbits and hares are lagomorphs, members of the mammalian order Lagomorpha. The confusion is understandable. Both groups are herbivores, and […]

How can we get more interested in fishing?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

According to statistics from the National Surveys of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, which are published every five years, the number of anglers in the U.S. is in a steady decline. Over the last 20 years the number of anglers has dropped from 35.6 million in 1991 to 33.1 million in 2011. Fishing trends Though […]

Don’t count on robins to herald spring; they tend to winter by food sources

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Darleen Flaherty of Taylor, Mich., writes, “Several Michigan friends and I spotted robins in various locations in the lower half of Michigan’s lower peninsula in February. “We saw them when the temperature was in the 40s, but then our weather turned colder and snow returned. How do robin’s survive winter conditions? I’ve never seen a […]

Sky dance: The woodcock’s courtship routine

Thursday, March 7, 2013

In his classic, A Sand County Almanac (1949), wildlife biologist Aldo Leopold described the male American woodcock’s courtship display as a “sky dance.” I call it my favorite harbinger of spring. A few nights ago, as I watched the February full moon rise in the east, a familiar sound caught my ear. “Peent!” A few […]

It’s time to hang spring nest boxes, and here’s how

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Last week, a day after the morning low temperature plunged to nine degrees, the sky cleared and the thermometer rebounded to 45 degrees. That balmy afternoon, bluebirds, chickadees, titmice and Carolina wrens sang with spring-like enthusiasm. It reminded me to get my nest boxes ready because all four species use boxes within 100 yards of […]

It’s mating season for mammals in North America

Thursday, February 21, 2013

It’s common knowledge that wildlife breeds in the spring. When it comes to medium and large mammals, however, common knowledge is often wrong. Mating season peaks in mid winter for many mammals, and some species actually mate a year in advance of giving birth. Baby fisher The fisher, for example, is a large member of […]

The fox is definitely an intriguing predator

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Last week I described the wary nature of the wily coyote. I hear coyotes often, but very seldom see them. The same can be said of red and gray foxes, though they are even more elusive. I never hear them, and only occasionally do I see a red fox trotting along the edge of the […]

It truly is ‘survival of the fittest’ when it comes to coyotes

Thursday, February 7, 2013

It truly is ‘survival of the fittest’ when it comes to coyote populations. A few nights ago at 9 p.m., the thermometer on the back porch read a spring-like 60 degrees as I stepped out to listen for a few minutes.No owls on this night, but soon I heard a “yip.” And then another The […]

How chimney swifts’ diet affects population size

Thursday, January 24, 2013

In April, chimney swifts will return, but every year there seems to be fewer. One reason chimney swift numbers are down is we cap chimneys to keep them out. No one wants a chimney full of birds, nests and droppings. And no one wants live birds flying around the living room. A recent study in […]

January has produced a winter wonderland

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Over the last two weeks, we have had 13 inches of snow, and winter has just begun. I consider this good news. I love snow. A fresh snowfall makes the world pristine and quiet. It brings serenity to my busy life. Favorite spot A few days ago, with 5 inches of snow already on the […]

Grand Vue Park’s white deer attract attention

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Earlier this year two white fawns stole the show at Grand Vue Park (www.grandvuepark.com) near Moundsville, W.Va. They were hard to miss, and soon became favorites of park visitors. Park general manager Craig White told me people began driving through the park just to see the white deer. Photographers hoped for that special shot. Rock […]

Memories of a Christmas Eve walk in the woods

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Everyone has special Christmas memories. This is one of mine. It first appeared in 2008. It was the night before Christmas about 20 years ago. Nora was barely 10 years old, and Emma was still dreaming of kindergarten. We had just arrived home from a Christmas Eve church service. About two inches of snow had […]

Hummingbirds in December? It’s no joke

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A week ago, Vonda Poole of New Wilmington, Pa. emailed me and worried about “a female hummingbird that has not gone south for the winter. It’s now December 9th,” she wrote, “and it’s still here. Was I wrong to leave a feeder up? What will happen when freezing weather hits?” I explained that keeping the […]

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