Mammals are a very diverse class of animals, ranging in size from the pygmy shrew, which weighs about 1/8 of an ounce, to the great blue whale, which can weigh up to 160 tons (that’s 320,000 pounds).
Most of us learned, at some time in our school days, that mammals have four features that distinguish them from other types of animals:
There are a few minor exceptions to these rules. For example, the platypus and the echidna are classified as mammals, but they lay eggs rather than give birth to live babies.
And some mammals, notably several species of whales, are hairless. However, all mammals have hair or fur at some point in their development, though they may lose it, or most of it, by the time they become adults.
There are nearly 5,000 known species of mammals. Some of them are found only in small geographical areas, but many species cover a very broad range.
And, although quite a few mammals are small, such as the pygmy shrew mentioned above, the largest animals on earth are all mammals. Elephants, hippopotami, rhinoceroses, moose, bison, and several species of whales are all larger than any animals in any of the other classes.
Aside from the Asian elephants and the bison, all of the mammals in the Buttonwood Park Zoo fit into the zoo’s theme, “From the Berkshires to the Sea.”
And the bison are not much of a stretch. Although few, if any, bison ever roamed in Eastern New England, their original range did extend eastward to the Alleghenies, and they were once common in areas of New York, Pennsylvania, and even Western Connecticut.
To find out more about some of the zoo’s mammals, select a species in the navigation bar at the left of this page.
The gestation period is about 6 1/2 months, and the doe usually gives birth to two fawns in early summer. Fawns have white spots that camouflage while they’re lying on the sun-spotted floor of the forest as the mother goes out foraging. The spots disappear in the fourth or fifth month.
The mother returns periodically to suckle her young until they’re able to trail her around, learning what to feed on by following her example. The animal’s name comes from the fact that, at any sign of danger, the doe will raise her tail, showing the white underside as a flag that tells her fawns to freeze in place until the danger passes.
The young deer begin to drift away from their mothers by early spring of their first year, and within a short time they go off on their own.