The Natural Environment of New Lisbon, New York

Part of the Young Naturalist Awards Curriculum Collection.

1998 Winners Hero Slide 1
by Andrea, Grade: 9, New Jersey - YNA Winner

A natural environment that I'm usually around is the environment of a small town in the back-hilled farm country of New York State. It's a small town called New Lisbon on Blue Jay Hollow Road. It is near Cooperstown and Oneonta. As I mentioned, it is mostly farm country, so there are a lot of fields and wooded areas. There are ponds, lakes, and streams as well. All of these places produce an interesting natural environment with an array of wildlife.

New Lisbon Food Web

As I walk down the road, I see a cluster of does and fawns. They're across the dirt road where my uncle grows pine trees. They're at the back of the field, near the forest. I think that the deer live in this area because it is protected. It's easily accessible to the undercover of the forest and the food that the fields provide. The thick brush probably provides them a place to hide during the hunting season and predators such as wolves, coyotes, and coy dogs. The ponds, lakes, and streams give them plenty of water to drink. These are some of the reasons that they live where they do. Research showed that the white-tailed deer are about 3.5 feet tall and weigh anywhere from 50 to 300 pounds. Their famous tails can grow as long as one foot (Young Students Learning Library, Vol. 6).

The deer depend on their environment for food. They are herbivores and heterotrophs. Therefore to survive, they need the plant life and grasses that the area provides. They also eat twigs, bark, and small trees. I know that they depend on each other for protection and reproduction. Some deer live with a group, but some live alone.

I turn off the road when I come to our beaver dam. As I see a flash of blue, I stop where I am. Overhead, a great blue heron swoops down to the water and comes back up with a small fish. It flies up to the branches of a fir tree on the opposite side of the beaver pond. The heron is a skinny, graceful bird. It has a long beak and a long neck. I'm tempted to say the word tall. It rests on the branch and scans the area. I must have moved or made a noise, because the bird flies away to another tree at the far end of the pond.

The heron I saw lives in and depends on this area because the water here is shallow, making it easy for it to see and grab the fish that live in the water. Also, the trees give the heron an area where it is protected and can hide. The fish the area provides give the bird the protein and nutrients that it needs in order to survive.

I found that herons usually live in a group but hunt for food alone. The heron feeds on small frogs, small reptiles, and fish such as smelt. The great blue heron lives in the northern U.S. and Canada. It is one of the largest herons (World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 9, 200).


I wish that I could see the beavers that built the great dams all through the surrounding countryside, but they're hard to catch at work, since they're nocturnal. I have seen a couple of them before. I do know that they depend on the trees in their environment to build the dams and to keep their teeth filed down. They prefer the birch trees to all the other trees in the forest, probably because of the way they are flavored. They also depend on the trees as a source of food. They eat the leaves, roots, and bark. When they fell a tree, they take the branches off and use them to build their dams. I haven't seen many full-sized tree trunks used in their building. They have webbed feet. They depend on their thick fur for warmth and protection against the water temperature. They use their heavy and large tails for swimming, patting things into place, and knocking down the trees that they've almost completely gnawed through. They also need the streams, because without a source of water, they wouldn't be able to build the dams that block up the water to create ponds. One pond on my uncle's property is three tiers long because of the beavers. It only used to be one tier long. It's amazing to see how strong and well-built the walls are.

The beavers depend on each other as a work force. They all have different jobs. Getting food, building huts, and building dams are only a few of the jobs that they perform.

The beaver is about two to four feet in length and weigh from 40 to 60 pounds. Thousands of years ago, North American beavers were about 7.5 feet long. The beaver can stay under water without surfacing for up to fifteen minutes. The U.S. and Canada have more beavers than any other country in the world. Beavers are used as food by animals such as the lynx, otter, bear, wolf and wolverine. (World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, 146 & 147). Beavers were wildly hunted in the past. They now enjoy protected status. Their population is increasing and they can only be hunted within limits.


In the muddy area near the dam, I spot some tracks from a dog. I know that they're not from any of our pets because the prints are too small. Most likely they're from the coy dogs or the wolves. At night, if you listen, you can sometimes hear them down by the ravine or up in the hills. The state reintroduced some wolves into the area a few years ago. There are packs of wild dogs (coy dogs) and coyotes, as well. A group of coy dogs is made up of dogs that have been let loose to run in the wild. Sometimes these dogs are even inbred with wolves or other naturally wild dogs. Both groups eat meat. That means they eat other animals. The dogs and wolves hunt in packs. They eat rabbit and other small game, as well as deer. They kill the weakest deer in the herd. That's how nature balances out. The strongest deer aren't usually taken, just the weakest. In early December, my father and I found a dead baby deer on an island in the middle of the stream. There were dog tracks around the deer's body, indicating that wolves or coy dogs had killed it. The deer was ripped wide open, so we knew that whatever had killed it would be back. They wouldn't leave fresh meat if they were hungry enough to kill it.

When I'm at my grandparents house in the Adirondacks in the winter, I can hear the wolves out on the lake. Since the snow on the lake is usually packed down by the snowmobiles, the deer walk on it instead of walking through the deep snow. You can hear the noise the wolves make when they are chasing a deer and the silence when they've killed it.

Over Christmas break, on December 28, 1997, we had an interesting experience. Dad and I were taking a walk. It was around dusk and we took our dog, Samantha, with us. We walked up over the ravine and into the woods. Then we walked back to one of the beaver dams. We noticed that the dog was running through the woods. We weren't worried because she came back to us when we reached the beaver dam. Then she ran off again. We figured she was following a scent, so we started on our way home thinking she was behind us. When we got to our trail, we realized that she wasn't behind us. She sometimes takes shortcuts home, so we didn't worry. When we were on the hill on top of the road we called to her, and she didn't come. We still weren't worried; we figured that Mom had let her in the house. We had just gotten in the door, I had one boot off and Dad was just taking his off. All of a sudden, he spun around and flung the door open and whispered, "Listen."

In the distance, above the ravine, I guessed, was the sound of howling dogs. They were either wolves or coy dogs. Whatever they had yelped twice before it died. Then everything went silent. It scared the life out of me. It sounded like a dog had died. My dad got his gun and a flashlight, jumped on a snowmobile, and raced up our trail into the hills. I could hear my cousin's beagles howling down the road. Something had definitely been killed. Fortunately, it wasn't our dog. She found Dad at a full-tilt run. She had definitely been chased. She was tired and thirsty. She drank a bowl and a half full of water at the house. If she was that thirsty, she would've stopped at the stream if she could have. She also had a scratch on her nose and a sore under her right leg. I'm not sure it was the dogs. I don't know. Maybe she was chasing the same thing they were. We never found what they killed. That experience scared me a little. I almost lost my own dog, and I was really close to those coy dogs. People say that they don't attack humans, but one time when my dad was deer hunting, he was surrounded by them. He heard them up in a field and went to see what they were. He saw one in from of him. He never heard them coming, but within seconds he was surrounded. He shot his gun and they dispersed.

The dogs depend on their environment to produce animals that they can eat for food. They also depend on water for drinking and the brush for hiding to sneak up on prey. Another important thing is for the ground to be soft and quiet so their prey doesn't hear them sneaking up on them.

The dogs depend on the group for survival because without the pack they wouldn't be able to kill the food they need. Also, some dogs need to be led by a leader, and the females need the males to get food for them when they are not able.

Wolves look like German shepherds, except that their ears are shorter, the heads are wider, their jaws are more muscled, and they have longer legs and feet. Males weigh roughly 100 pounds and the females weigh a little bit less than that. They have great endurance and can run about 20 miles per hour. Wolves usually mate for life. Most packs are formed of only the wolves' family (mother, father, children, etc.). Wolves are an endangered species (World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 27, 312 &313).

Coyotes have a distinct and eerie howl that they usually send off in the early evening. They are about a foot and a half in height. They eat rabbits, rats, and gophers. Farmers don't like this animal because they sometimes kill stray sheep and calves (World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, 894).

Over the summer, my cousin and I were going down a ravine to float these wooden boats we'd made, when we came upon a snake. At the time, we didn't know it was poisonous or I would have run out of there faster. Anyway, when we found it, we were lucky enough to witness it swallow a frog's head. Yuck! We backed out of there without needing any encouragement.

We brought my dad, uncle, and cousin down to see it. We determined by the shape of its head and its coloring that it was a copperhead. They have reddish and yellow or tan bands of color.

That snake depends upon its environment to supply it with food and water. Without water, the snake would dry up and die. The snake also depends on the tall grasses and flat surfaces that it moves across. Rocks and dirt provide a cool hiding place for them to live. I don't know how much snakes depend on other snakes, but I do know that some larger snakes eat smaller ones.

The copperhead is one of the pit viper snakes. They can grow to be about 2.5 feet to 4 feet long. The copperhead snake actually is known to bite more people than the diamondback rattlesnake. Adults don't usually die from its bite, but young children can die when they are bitten. It eats rodents, small animals, insects and frogs (World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, 826).

In conclusion, I found that there are many animals in the area that depend on each other and other living organisms to survive. It's interesting to see how different species live and interact with their environment.



Braunius, Andrea, Photographs. January 1998.

Grolier's Electronic Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. U.S.A.: Grolier Incorporated, 1995.

Street Atlas USA, CD-ROM. Freeport: DeLorme, 1996.

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Young Students Learning Library. Connecticut, U.S.A.: Weekly Reader Books, 1991.