“The hidden beauty on this planet”
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Simonswald is home for many endangered species.
Racoon (Waschbären), pine marten (Baummarder), beech marten (Steinmarder), chamois (Gemsen), mountain cock (Hasel Auerhahn), and the Golden Eagle (Steinadler) which has not been spotted for over 20 years now. Besides endangered species, many others have their habitat in Simonswald such as buzzards (Bussard), falcons (Falke), crows (Aaskrähe), common ravens (Rabe) and all sorts of deer (Rotwild), in some cases even too many. Simonswald is home to 409 species of butterflies (Schmetterling), sadly enough, during last century it reportedly housed 589 species, a sharp decline due to deforestation and environmental damage.
The common raccoon is a mammal and derives from the word aroughcoune, "he who scratches with hands". Raccoons are intelligent with a reputation for mischief; adults average weight is between 5 to 10 kg, the heaviest recorded being over a stunning 28 kilograms. They have a black facial coloring around their eyes, and a bushy tail with light and dark rings. The coat is a mix between grey, brown, and black fur. The eye make it look like it is wearing a bandit's mask.
Raccoons eat berries, insects, eggs and all sorts of small animals. Raccoons wash their food before eating it, that's why the locals in Simonswald and Germans in general call it "washing bear" (Waschbär).
Mating usually occurs in January or early February with 4 to 5 young born in April or May. Raccoons live in hollow trees or caves or under roofs in old barns in Simonswald. In winter, raccoons may become dormant but do not hibernate. Raccoons have been known live upto 12 years. At one time, Simonswald raccoons were hunted for their fur. The Species suffered greatly but have recovered since.
The Pine Marten is an animal in the weasel family, native to Simonswald. The marten is around the size of a cat. Males are slightly larger than females; on average a marten weighs around 1 ½ kilograms. Their fur is dark brown, grows longer and less coarse during the winter months, and has cream colored spot on their throat.
Martens are the only mustelid animal with semi-retractable claws; this helps them to lead more arboreal lifestyles, although they are also quick runners. They prey on small mammals, birds, insects, and frogs. Martens have also been known to eat berries and honey. Although they are preyed upon occasionally by golden eagles and by red foxes, humans are their real enemies. Years ago, martens' fur was highly prized. Pine martens can live up to 18 years in captivity, but in the forest 3 to 4 years are typical. The young are usually born in March and April; young pine martens weigh less than 30 grams at birth.
The chamois is a large, goat-like animal that lives Simonswald. Once extinct it got successfully re-introduced. As a mountain dweller, the chamois is excellently adapted to living in Simonswald's rocky terrain. An adult chamois reaches a height of about 75 cm and weighs about 50 kg. Both males and females have short horns which are slightly bend backwards. In summer, the chamois' fur has a brownish color which turns grey in winter time; characteristics are a white face with black stripes below the eyes, a white backside and a black dorsal strip. Chamois can get 20 years old.
Female chamois and their kids live in herds; males tend to live solitary, only late November males seek out female herds and engage in fierce fights with each other. After a gestation period of 20 weeks, a single kid is born. It is rumored in Simonswald that male chamois will occasionally mate with goats and produce sterile hybrids, but no such event has ever been scientifically recorded.
Due to their tasty meat, chamois are popular amongst restaurant owners in Simonswald. The tuft of hair from the back of the neck is used as a so-called Gamsbart, a decoration commonly worn on hats throughout the alpine countries. Chamois leather was originally used to create leather pads used for car cleaning; but today, shammy pads are made from a wide variety of different animal skins. Similarly, chamois leather was also used to make padding for cycling shorts, to minimise chaffing and for easier cleaning; today. most cycling shorts are made from synthetic material. Chamois leather is popular today on professional film and video camera viewfinders, as they absorb sweat for camera operators who spend long times with their eye on it.
The German name for the Chamois is Gemse; in English usage, the term gemsbock is often misapplied to a species of sub-Saharan antelope.
The Golden Eagle is one of the best known birds of prey in the world. In most areas it is a mountain-dweller.
There was a great decline throughout Europe, where the Golden Eagle now is mainly restricted to the Alps. Efforts are being made to re-introduce the species in Simonswald, where they had been extinct since the early 20th Century, the last spotted Golden Eagle in Simonswald was end of the 80s, so there is some hope this bird species might return one day.
A pair of Golden Eagles build several eyries within their territory. The female lays two eggs between January and May, and after 45 days the youngs hatch. They are entirely white and are fed for 50 days before they are able to make their first flight attempts, and eat on their own. In most cases only the older chick survives, while the younger one dies before leaving the nest. Golden Eagle couples remain together for life. They often have a division of labour: one partner drives the prey to the already waiting partner. Preys are marmots, hares, mice, birds, martens, foxes, and young deer. Chamois or adult deer can only be taken if they are wounded or sick.
Adult Golden Eagles have an average length of 75-85 cm, a wingspan of 175 cm upto 2 meters, a weight between 3 to 5 kg. As with all hunting birds, the females are slightly larger than the males.
The Common Buzzard is between 51-57 cm in length with a 110 to 130 cm wingspan, making it a medium-sized raptor bird. It breeds in Simonswald's woodland, but usually hunts over open meadows and eats mainly small mammals.
Falcons have thin, pointed wings, which allow them to dive at extremely high speeds. Peregrine Falcons, the fastest animals on Earth, are said to have reached speeds of up to 300 km / hour. Other falcons include the Gyrfalcon, Lanner Falcon, and the Merlin. The technique of hunting with captive birds of prey is known as falconry.
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