Whether you are looking for emerging spring ephemerals, migratory birds, or wonderfully wild creatures, spring is the perfect time to hit the trails and look for new life! The forest preserves are teeming with young flora and fauna and provide opportunities to view wildlife in their natural habitat. Check out this guide to learn more about some spring offspring you may observe in the preserves!
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
Resourceful Red Fox often create their dens in abandoned woodchuck or badger dens, occasionally they will even occupy drainage culverts. Red Fox begin mating in January and February, with a gestation period of 49-56 days, kits are born in March and April.
Baby fox are also known as “kits”
The average litter size is five kits. Male, female, and young Red Fox will live together as a family group during the summer months. Red Fox will sometimes leave bones and other small objects in their den as toys for the kits to play with.
Eastern Cottontail Rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus)
Eastern Cottontail Rabbits are great at building camouflaged nests. The female makes a small, shallow nest made of grass and fur. She hides the nest with grass and leaves on top.
Although young rabbits are commonly referred to as “bunnies”, they are scientifically known at “kits” or “kittens”
Peek breeding season for Eastern Cottontail Rabbits is from March to May, with a gestation period of 28-30 days. Females typically have a litter of four to six kits, however, Eastern Cottontail Rabbits are polyamorous, and a female may have up to 20-25 young per year. Kits are born blind and their eyes typically open within one week. Eastern Cottontail Rabbit kits will leave their nest when they are approximately three weeks old.
American Badger (Taxidae taxus)
The elusive American Badger dig very large, horizontal, oval-shaped dens.
Young American Badgers are known as “cubs” or “kits”
Cubs are typically born in March or April with approximately one to five cubs in a litter. American Badger cubs can leave the den at about six weeks old, however, they will typically stay with their mother throughout the summer and then leave to find their own territory.
White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
The peak mating season for White-tailed Deer is in mid-November. With a gestation period of seven months, fawn are born in May and June.
A newborn White-tailed Deer or “fawn” usually weigh four to seven pounds
Female White-tailed Deer often use the same fawning areas every year. The doe and fawn will make sounds and use their individual smells to locate each other. Fawn will typically wean from the doe at four to five months old.
Beaver (Castor canadensis)
The largest rodent in North America, the Beaver, starts breeding in late winter. After a gestation period of 105 to 107 days, kits are born from April to June, with three to five kits per litter.
Young beavers are known as “kits”.
Young kits are able to swim, but prefer to hitch a ride on their mother’s back. Kits typically stay with the adult beavers from about a year before venturing off on their own.
Next time you are exploring your forest preserves, keep an eye out for spring offspring! Keep in mind, although most wildlife looks cute and cuddly, they are wild animals, and should be admired from a distance.