The Species Living on Our Campus

April 2024

Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos)

Prepared by Jessica Schwarz, an animal studies major.

Close-up of Mallard DuckPhoto by Donna Kennedy. (2018, June 20). Eight Is Enough [Photography]. Fine Art America. https://fineartamerica.com/featured/eight-is-enough-donna-kennedy.html 

Spring is on campus, and with it comes the mallard ducks returning from their winter migration! These ducks return north to build nests and have ducklings, often stopping by the same places along their migration route. This species is one of the most abundant and familiar ducks and can be found throughout the northern hemisphere. Mallard ducks are characterized by their distinct coloring; the males, also known as drakes, have green heads, a white neck ring, and a brown chest. Meanwhile, the females, or hens, have a brown pattern with a purple wing patch on each side. These ducks are commonly found around bodies of water, like ponds, streams, or lakes, and are often seen dipping or upending in the water. This behavior is them feeding underwater on plants, invertebrates, fish, or insects. In the wild, mallard ducks can live for 5-10 years and weigh up to 3 pounds.


National Geographic. “Mallard.” National Geographic. Accessed 2024.

National Geographic Kids. “Mallard Duck.” National Geographic Kids. Accessed 2024.

February 2024

Groundhog (Marmota monax)

Prepared by Jessica Schwarz, an animal studies major.

Fine Art America's Close-up Of Red-Tailed Hawk swooping in flightPhoto by Elaine Manley. (2021, July 10). Ground Hog [Photography]. Fine Art America

It's about this time of year when groundhogs emerge from hibernation, and you may see them roaming the Madonna Campus! After about three months of hibernation, male groundhogs emerge early to prepare for mating season and find out where females are hibernating. This hibernation rose to fame with the U.S. custom of Groundhog Day, which takes place on February 2nd every year. Tradition goes that if a groundhog sees a shadow when it comes out of its burrow, there will be six more weeks of winter. Otherwise, spring will come early. Unfortunately, this practice raises some welfare concerns for the groundhogs involved. These groundhogs are kept in captivity, and it’s a very stressful event for them with crowds of people and lots of commotion. In the past, groundhogs have bitten people and tried to run away, showing they do not want to participate. Groundhogs are more than entertainment; these incredible creatures build complex burrows ranging from 8-66 feet long, with multiple entrances and rooms! When not in their burrow, they are usually on the ground foraging for grasses and plants to eat and prefer a solitary lifestyle aside from mating season. 


National Geographic. “Groundhog, facts and photos.” National Geographic (Accessed February 2024)

National Geographic Kids. “Groundhog Photos and Facts.” National Geographic Kids (Accessed February 2024)

Wholesome Culture. “Here's why you should boycott Groundhog Day.” Wholesome Culture - Blog, 2 February 2019 (Accessed February 2024)

January 2024

Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

Prepared by Jessica Schwarz, an animal studies major.

Fine Art America's Close-up Of Red-Tailed Hawk swooping in flightPhoto by Mallardg500. (2019, January 15). Red-tailed Hawk [Photography]. Fine Art America.

Watching the sky above campus, you may see a red-tailed hawk hunting in the air! Known as one of the most prominent hawks in North America, red-tailed hawks are identifiable by their reddish-brown tails, which the species was named after. These large carnivores weigh about 24 to 52 ounces and have a wingspan of 38-43 inches. Interestingly, female hawks are often larger than males. This species has a life span of around 21 years in the wild. Typically, red-tailed hawks hunt in the air or from perches, using their incredible eyesight to spot a variety of prey, such as small mammals, birds, reptiles, rodents, or other creatures. Additionally, these hawks are known to mate for life, and together, a pair will create a nesting site that they will reuse for many years. Come spring, the female hawk will lay 1-5 eggs, and the pair will take turns incubating them for 28-35 days. By mid to late summer, around 6-7 weeks after hatching, the fledglings will begin to leave the nest. 


National Audubon Society. “Red-tailed Hawk | Audubon Field Guide.” National Audubon Society.
Sartore, Joel. “Red-Tailed Hawk.” National Geographic Kids.

December 2023

Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)

Prepared by Jessica Schwarz, an animal studies majorClose-up Of Dark-eyed Junco Perching On Ice

Photo by Cavan Images. (2021, November 19). Close-up Of Dark-eyed Junco Perching On Ice [Photography]. Fine Art America.

The dark-eyed Junco is an abundant species that can be found around the Madonna campus! These tiny birds can be identified by the striking contrast of their white outer tail feathers to gray or dark brown bodies. The dark-eyed Junco is one of North America's most common forest birds, with about 630 million individuals! In the winter months, this species migrates from the western mountains and Canada further down to the rest of North America to avoid harsh weather. This seasonal migration gives the birds the nickname “snowbirds”! Juncos can often be spotted around woodland edges and suburban yards. These birds hop and run along the ground, foraging for food. Their diet primarily consists of seeds and insects, but they also eat berries. 


All About Birds. “Dark-eyed Junco Overview.” All About Birds, Cornell University (Accessed 30 November 2023)

Audubon. “Dark-eyed Junco | Audubon Field Guide.” National Audubon Society (Accessed November 2023)

November 2023

Common Raccoon (Procyon lotor)

Prepared by Jessica Schwarz, an animal studies majorclose-up of Raccoon grappling a tree

Photo by Kevin Oke. (2016, July 26). Canada, British Columbia, Gulf Islands [Photography]. Fine Art America.

Raccoons are known for their distinct markings around their eyes, often called masked bandits, and can be found around the Madonna campus! In addition to their mask, raccoons also have a tail characterized by 4-6 black rings. These nocturnal mammals can be seen prowling the campus at night, searching for food. Raccoons are omnivores and will eat both meat and vegetables, including things like nuts, berries, bugs, mice, squirrels, and bird eggs. Raccoons are known to get into garbage cans and other food sources that many other animals cannot; this is due to their unique hand-like paws that allow them to grasp objects. In the wild, raccoons can get up to 46 pounds but average a weight of about 25 pounds and can live up to 10 or more years. These animals have a primarily solitary life except for the mating season, which occurs from January to June. Female raccoons typically have one litter a year, with three to seven offspring, which will stay with their mother until after the first winter! 


AAA Wildlife Control. “Raccoon Facts & Raccoon Information.” AAA Wildlife Control

National Wildlife Federation. “Raccoon.” National Wildlife Federation

October 2023

Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias Sciuridae)

Prepared by Jessica Schwarz, an animal studies major

close-up of Eastern Chipmunk nibbling on an acornPhoto by Mircea Costina Photography. (2020, November 14). Autumn Chipmunk [Photography]. Fine Art America. https://fineartamerica.com/featured/autumn-chipmunk-mircea-costina-photography.html 

If you have ever seen small piles of cracked seeds or nuts around the Madonna Campus, there’s probably an Eastern Chipmunk nearby! The Eastern Chipmunk is one of the smaller members of the squirrel (Sciuridae) family, only getting up to 3-4 inches tall and weighing around 3-5 ounces. These little creatures can be characterized by their distinctive white stripe bordered by two darker stripes on each side of the body. This species is native to and can be found throughout Michigan and is known to inhabit deciduous and coniferous forests, forest edges, rock piles, and human dwellings. As fall begins, the Eastern chipmunk will no doubt begin to stockpile large amounts of food in preparation for the upcoming winter. These chipmunks are not picky eaters but primarily gather seeds, nuts, and dried berries for storage. Typically, this species comes out of hibernation around March, just in time for the mating season. 


Tekiela, Stan. Mammals of Michigan Field Guide. Adventure Publications, 2005.

September 2023

Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris rapae)

Prepared by Jessica Schwarz, an animal studies major

White Cabbage Butterfly close-upPhoto by Donna Kennedy (2016, December 18). Tight Grip [Photography]. Fine Art America. https://fineartamerica.com/featured/tight-grip-donna-kennedy.html 

In the late spring, summer, and early fall months, the White Cabbage Butterfly can be found fluttering around the Madonna Campus! This species gets its name from its diet of cabbage and other garden vegetables. This butterfly can be identified by its white/yellowish coloration, characterized by a single black spot on the primary wings in the male and two black spots around the center in the female. These creatures start as yellow elongated eggs, then progress into green caterpillars. The green coloring helps them camouflage from predators while they grow. The favorite snack of these caterpillars is anything from the mustard (Brassicaceae) family, and they are sometimes considered a pest in gardens. Once the caterpillars mature, they form a chrysalis and transform into a butterfly during a process called metamorphosis. Eventually, a beautiful White Cabbage Butterfly will emerge! The average wingspan of these butterflies is around 1.3-1.9 inches, and the lifespan of an adult butterfly is up to 3 weeks. 


Bright, Sara. “Cabbage White - Alabama Butterfly Atlas.” Alabama Butterfly Atlas. Accessed September 2023.

Butterfly Identification. “Cabbage White Butterfly: Identification, Facts, & Pictures.” Butterfly Identification. Accessed September 2023.


May 2023

Madonna Wildlife: The Koi (Cyprinus rubrofuscus)

close-up of Koi fish found in St. Francis Pond

Photo by Dean Ian Bell, the College of Arts and Sciences

St. Francis pond on Madonna campus is teeming with koi, which display beautiful and unusual patterns of white, yellow, orange, red, black, and every color in between. Although not a native Michigan species, the koi have made St Francis pond its home, successfully surviving winters and possibly even breeding. Most likely introduced to their new environment by students leaving their pet fish behind while vacating dorms for summer, the fish have become part of the local ecosystem. It has been documented that the resident blue herons prey on even very large koi. Smaller individuals are likely eaten by snapping turtles, but the impact of the koi on the native fish population is unknown.  

The direct ancestor of the koi, the Amur carp, was domesticated in China in the fifth century B.C. as a food species, but selective breeding for color that gave us the modern koi started in the nineteenth century in Japan.

Source: Wikipedia

April 2023

Madonna Wildlife: Eastern Cottontail Rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus)

Prepared by Jessica Schwarz, an animal studies major

close-up of eastern cottontail rabbit facing leafy patch

Photo by Parker Cunningham (2014, June 11). Smelling the Flowers [Photography]. Fine Art America.

Out of the several species of Cottontail rabbits, the Eastern Cottontail is the most common and can no doubt be found around the Madonna Campus! This species has distinctive tails resembling cotton balls, which is where they get their name from. Their lifespan is up to 3 years in the wild, and they grow to be 15-19 inches long, weighing 28-54 ounces. These rabbits are herbivores and will most likely munch on any garden they come across. Some of their favorite greens include peas and lettuce! In addition, they have an exceptional sense of smell, with about 100 million scent receptors per nose. The nose-twitching behavior of these rabbits exposes them to more scents, helping them to sniff out danger. If they do encounter trouble, these rabbits can hop up to 18 miles per hour, and they often run in a zig-zag pattern to make it harder for predators to catch them!


“Eastern Cottontail Rabbit.” National Geographic, National Geographic

Hurt, Avery Elizabeth. “Eastern Cottontail Rabbit.” National Geographic Kids, National Geographic Kids.

March 2023

Madonna Wildlife: March – Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Prepared by Jessica Schwarz, an animal studies major

closeup of 2 Northern Cardinals situated on a perch in snowy winter scenePhoto by Ann Bridges. (2015, February 12). Male and Female Cardinal [Photography]. Fine Art America.  

Northern Cardinals are hard-to-miss songbirds that inhabit the Madonna Campus. These birds are known for their vibrant red coloring and distinctive whistles. Their red color comes from pigment molecules known as carotenoids, found in the seeds and fruits the birds eat. The male of this species is bright red, while the females are brown. Interestingly, both males and females of this species will sing, contrary to many other northern songbird species. The female cardinal will sing while sitting on her nest, often giving information to her mate. In addition, Northern Cardinals do not migrate, so they can be spotted around campus year-round!


All About Birds. “Northern Cardinal Overview.” All About Birds.

Stein, Michael. “For Male Cardinals, the Redder the Better | Audubon.” National Audubon Society, 22 June 2020.

February 2023

Madonna Wildlife: February – Coyote (Canis latrans)

Prepared by Jessica Schwarz, an animal studies major

Photo by -Kelly’s Nature Photography. (2019, May 23). Coyote on a Rock [Photography]. Fine Art America. https://fineartamerica.com/featured/coyote-on-a-rock-kellys-nature-photography.html close-up of Coyote

Coyotes are a resilient species that live around the Madonna Campus. Coyotes are very adaptable and opportunistic hunters. In the wild, they can live up to 14 years and weigh around 20-50 pounds. They form packs in the fall and winter to optimize hunting and have strong family groups. Coyotes are well known for their distinctive calls and howls, which they use to communicate with each other. However, these incredible animals have been persecuted by humans going centuries back. Coyotes are hunted and killed to reduce livestock predation, eliminate possible conflicts with humans, and alleviate human fear. These targeted killings are cruel and ineffective. Instead, we must find ways to coexist with coyotes. Programs that use education and proper behavior techniques are the best methods for preventing human-coyote conflicts. These programs are already successful in many communities and help keep both humans and coyotes safe!


Draheim, Megan M. “Why Killing Coyotes Doesn't Make Livestock Safer.” Scientific American, 31 May 2017, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-killing-coyotes-doesn-rsquo-t-make-livestock-safer/ 

The Humane Society of the United States. “Why killing coyotes doesn't work.” The Humane Society of the United States, https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/why-killing-coyotes-doesnt-work.

National Geographic. “Coyote.” National Geographic, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/facts/coyote

January 2023

Opossum (Didelphis virginiana)

Prepared by Jessica Schwarz, an Animal Studies major

Photo by - Cody, Pope. (2007, February 21). Opossum 3 [Photography]. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Opossum_3.jpg 

close-up of Opossum

Opossums are nocturnal marsupials that inhabit the Madonna Campus. Opossums are the only marsupial found in the United States! The term marsupial describes a mammal that uses a pouch to carry its young. Adult opossums can weigh 4-11 pounds and can be 2-3 feet in length. Opossums are nomadic, typically moving where they stay each night. They will inhabit many places, including abandoned burrows, tree cavities, hollow logs, brush piles, etc. The opossum’s diet varies and consists of dead animals, roadkill, birds, frogs, grains, nuts, and eggs. However, they will get into human food sources and eat garbage, pet food, or birdseed. Opossums are best known for playing dead when scared, and they will remain ‘dead’ (fallen over and still) until they no longer feel threatened, lasting from minutes to hours.


Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. “Learn about opossums.” Mass.gov, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, https://www.mass.gov/service-details/learn-about-opossums

December 2022

Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)

Prepared by Jessica Schwarz, an Animal Studies major

Photo by - Giurco, Diane. (2019, May 19). Eastern grey Squirrel [Photography]. Pixels. https://pixels.com/featured/1-eastern-grey-squirrel-diane-giurco.html 

close-up of Squirrel eating acornThe Eastern Grey Squirrel can be spotted year-round on the Madonna campus. These squirrels can grow to 9-12 inches in length and weigh around two pounds in maturity. Their bushy tails can also grow to be as big as their body! These critters come in a variety of colors and often are a mix of grey, brown, black, and cinnamon fur. Eastern Grey Squirrels prefer woodland areas as they live in trees. They will either inhabit a den in a tree cavity or create a drey, which is a nest high on the tree branches constructed of twigs and leaves. In severe cold, these squirrels can stay in their nests for several days and only come out to get food when necessary. Some facts about these creatures: Their average life expectancy is six years. Squirrels bury and hide food to prepare for winter, and the nuts and seeds that are not eaten can help plant new trees! Additionally, they can run up to 15 mph on the ground and leap upwards of 8 feet. 


WildlifeNYC. “Eastern Grey Squirrel - WildlifeNYC.” NYC.gov. 

November 2022

Great Blue Heron (Ardea Herodias)

Prepared by Jessica Schwarz, an Animal Studies major

Turkey Vulture soaring in the skyThis fall, Saint Francis Pond has attracted a new resident, a Great Blue Heron! This species has thrived and adapted despite facing many challenges over time. Currently, habitat loss is the greatest threat to these herons. Standing around 5 feet tall and with a wingspan of up to 6.5 feet, Great Blue Herons are considered the largest Herons in North America. These herons are not picky eaters and will eat just about anything they can catch from fish to small mammals. Northern Great blue herons tend to migrate to warmer climates during the colder winter months, so we might see our local Great Blue Heron leaving soon, however, they will likely return once it’s warmer. Some interesting facts about these herons: They nest in colonies called rookeries. Also, they form new breeding pairs each season. This species has excellent night vision, so they can hunt during the day and night (American Bird Conservancy, n.d.).


American Bird Conservancy. (n.d.). Great Blue Heron. American Bird Conservancy.

Photo by - Grossi, D. (2019, April 9). Great Blue Heron [Photography]. Macaulay Library. 

October 2022

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

Turkey Vulture soaring in the skyFrom spring to fall, we can enjoy in the skies above campus majestic silhouettes of turkey vultures with their wing span of up to 6’. They are a very useful species, which feeds on carrion, thus cleaning the ground from carcasses that can breed diseases and infections.  It owns its name to its resemblance to a turkey’s featherless head and neck. This feature prevents soiling feathers, as birds dive head and neck into their meals. Here are some other interesting facts about this fascinating species: Michigan birds migrate for winter to the southern parts of the U.S., Mexico and even further south. Turkey vultures do not build nests, but lay their eggs in natural cavities or on roofs of tall buildings where they are protected from predators. They love to roost in groups. Always enjoy them from afar because when disturbed, they can project their vomit for up to 10 feet to discourage an intruder.


  • Tekiela, S. (2010). Birds of Prey of the Midwest. Adventure Publications, Inc: Cambridge, MN
  • Animals.net 

Photo source: Charles J. Sharp - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, 

September 2022

White-tailed Deer (Odocileus virginianus)

White-tailed Deer spotted in the wildernessAlthough by far the largest animal calling Madonna campus home, the white-tailed deer is the smallest deer species in North America. While its population in the U.S. has declined since 2000, at the same time the deer have become ubiquitous in the suburbs and even cities. The urban sprawl, lack of large predators, and dietary flexibility, to which many gardeners and our own ground-keeping crew members can attest, contribute to the success of the species thriving in close proximity to humans. Lethal deer management methods continue to be controversial, while non-lethal ones, such as spaying does, deem to be too costly. At the same time, many of us enjoy deer viewing as they grace with their beauty our campus or our own backyards, even if it means that our tulips or hostas are no more.

Photo source: David Mark from Pixabay

Protected Species of Michigan

The Center for Humane Studies and the B. A. in Animal Studies program previously featured protected species of Michigan. Every month a different species was presented to raise awareness of the need for continued conservation efforts in our State. To learn more about our related academic programs, see below.  

May 2022

Hine's Emerald Dragonfly

close-up of a Hine's Emerald DragonflyHine's Emerald Dragonfly (Somatochlora hineana) is the only dragonfly listed as an endangered species. Michigan is one of the few states that have some isolated populations. 


Hine's emerald dragonflies have slender, metallic bodies with green, brown, or black coloring. Two distinct yellow lateral strips mark their thorax and fade into white as the dragonflies age. A brilliant, emerald-green color covers their enormous eyes, which possess almost 360-degree peripheral vision.


The most significant threats to the Hine's emerald dragonfly include habitat destruction, urban sprawl, off-road vehicles, agricultural development, road and pipeline construction, logging, and groundwater contamination from pesticides and other contaminants.    

Source: Center for Biological Diversity

April 2022

Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)

Blanding’s Turtle

The Blanding’s turtle is a species of special concern in Michigan. The Detroit Zoological Society participates in a head-starting program for Blanding’s turtles, a native Michigan species. Female turtles are brought to the Zoo, where they lay eggs, then returned to their natural habitat. The eggs are cared for until they hatch and the young turtles are about a year old, then they are returned to the wild. There are many predators of young turtles, so this helps the species’ population increase and stabilize.

You can help:
If you see a turtle trying to cross the road, consider stopping to help him or her cross, but only if it’s safe to do so. Always move a turtle in the direction they are already heading, even if it’s away from the water. If you see turtles crossing at the same place every year, advocate to have signage put up to warn drivers to be on the lookout!

Source: Detroit Zoological Society 
Photo source: Andrew C - Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii), CC BY 2.0

March 2022

Kirtland’s Warbler

Kirtland's Warbler

The Kirtland’s warbler is Michigan’s most unique bird because it breeds nowhere else in the world and is listed as a federally endangered species.  Breeding is restricted to jack pine forests between about 6 and 20 years of age in the north central Lower Peninsula, largely within the Huron-Manistee National Forest. 

If this post has piqued your interest, contact Dr. Andrew Domzalski at adomzalski@madonna.edu to learn more about Madonna’s B.A. in Animal Studies program.

Source: Bird Watcher Digest

February 2022

Lake Sturgeon

Lake Sturgeon

Lake sturgeon are a unique fish species in Michigan. They are an important biological component of the Great Lakes fish community. Lake sturgeon can grow to weights of up to 200 pounds and lengths of seven feet, with females being longer and heavier than males. Their typical lifespan is 55 years for males and 70 to 100 years for females.

Lake sturgeon are listed as a threatened species in Michigan. Commercial fishing of lake sturgeon is currently prohibited in Michigan and sport fishing is closely regulated. There are many specific regulations for recreational fishing for lake sturgeon in Michigan.

Source: Michigan DNR

January 2022

Northern and Southern Flying Squirrels

Southern Flying SquirrelSince they are nocturnal species, few of us get to see fascinating flying squirrels as they glide distances up to 50 feet between trees in our neighborhoods. Michigan has two species of flying squirrels, Northern and Southern, the latter can be seen in south-east Michigan. While neither is endangered, the former is considered a species of concern, as its numbers have recently decreased due to climate change. They are very important environmentally, as their diet and habits support the relationship between fungi and trees, which is crucial for forests to thrive. If you hang a nesting box on a tree or watch your birdfeeder at night with infrared light, you may be rewarded with a very cool view of a flying squirrel.

Source: Peter D. Weigl, The Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus): a Conservation Challenge, in Journal of Mammalogy, Volume 88, Issue 4, 20 August 2007, Pages 897–907

As climate warms, northern flying squirrels are moving out of the Northland [Yahoo! News]

Photo source: Outdoor Nebraska 

January Protected Species Feature: Flying Squirrel


2 people petting a dog

Center forHumane Studies

Two Students Feeding a Giraffe

Animal StudiesMajor

Woman holding pet dog while using a laptop

Humane LeadershipMS Program