A piebald deer (like the deer on the left in the photo) has brown and white markings on its body.The unpigmented areas are usually white, the pigmented areas are brown. The deer’s skin, underneath its coat, is also pigmented under the dark patches and unpigmented under the white patches. The spotting on the deer is very uneven and irregular with no set pattern.

Hedgehogs are carnivorous animals that are native to Europe, Asia, and Africa, and now New Zealand. There are about 15 different species of these unique and appealing little critters.

The common name for this insect is “praying mantis” because we often see it with its two grasping, spiked forelegs folded in a prayer-like position. A more appropriate name for this member of the family, Mantidae, should be “preying mantis,” because this ambush predator will camouflage itself and spend long periods standing perfectly still. When its unfortunate prey ambles by, the mantis strikes with incredible speed and slices  into its meal with sharp mandibles (jaws), killing it immediately, or consuming its prey alive.

Unlike mice, bats are among the slowst reproducing animals on earth. And bats are actually more closely related to humans than they are to mice. Female bats start having pups when they are 2 to 3 years old.  Mice can start reproducing when they are 3 to 4 weeks old.  Bats usually give birth to only one pup a year. Mice have litters of from 10 to 20 pups at a time. Newborn bat pups weigh one third of their adult weight. Like mice and other mammals though, a bat pup drinks milk until it can find food on its own.

Some bat species live in colonies and roost together, but others, like this hoary bat, prefer to live solitary lives--that is by themselves. Solitary bats are rarely seen by humans during the day-- they stay well hidden in trees or under leaves or even in the crevices of rocks.

Other bats, like the Mexican free-tailed bat roost in huge colonies in caves, buildings, even under bridges. The largest known colony of free-tailed bats is found at Bracken Cave, north of San Antonio, Texas. This colony has nearly 20 million bats!

Bats, unlike birds, belong to the animal kingdom order, Chiroptera, which is the Greek word for hand-wing. Their wings are actually their hands covered by a double layer of so strong it can stretch to 4 times its length without tearing!

Birds do not have long finger-like bones in their wings like bats. A bird's wings have lots of feathers, while a bat's wings are mostly a stretchy, thin skin called a patagium. This thin skin stretches between each finger bone, connects to the bat's ankle, and to the bat's tail (if it has one). 

According to botanists (scientists who study plants), a fruit is the part of the plant that develops from a flower. A fruit is also the section of the plant that contains the seeds. All the other parts of plants are considered vegetables. This includes the stems, leaves and roots — and even the flower bud. That means that beans, avocados,  tomatoes, corn kernels, cucumbers, even nuts are all fruits!

The abnormally long neck and legs, as well as the odd patterns on a giraffe’s body, make it one of the most bizarre-looking and unique animals on earth. A giraffe’s neck can be as long as 7 feet! That’s taller than a human! Believe it or not, a giraffe’s neck works and is structured the same as a human neck.  Both humans and giraffes have seven neck or cervical vertebrae, but each vertebrae in a giraffe can be over 10 inches long. A human vertebrae is about a tenth of that size.

River otters basically eat anything they can get their agile paws on. Physical adaptations like their thick water-repellent fur, sharp claws and teeth, and keen sense of smell and hearing, make river otters highly successful hunters.  The diet of a river otter is extremely versatile;  whatever is available in its habitat it eats!  The North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) feasts on fish, crayfish, frogs, turtles and even smaller mammals.

Polar bears are indeed very strong swimmers. Their scientific name, Ursus maritimus, means just that, “sea bear.”  Polar bears can swim for several hours at a time; they have been tracked swimming continuously for 62 miles, and can swim up to 10 miles per hour.  A polar bear does the dog paddle, using its huge front paws to propel it through the icy water, and its hind legs and feet for steering.

“You’re as blind as a bat!”  Not true!  All 1,100 plus bat species can see, and often their vision is pretty good. Many bats though, are nocturnal (night) hunters and rely on their rather oversized ears and a special behavior called echolocation to quickly locate food.

If you've ever seen a slithering snake stick out its tongue, perhaps you wondered if the snake was mocking you or... getting ready to strike.