Page 35 - WCM Summer 2022
P. 35

  Where Are The Little Guys?
Besides our large game species, there are numerous other critters that are abundant throughout Western Maine. Coyotes, and red and gray foxes, make up our canines, and bobcats and Canada lynx our felines. Lynx continue to grow in numbers and range, and are now more commonly seen in the Rangeley area and all points north. They prefer boreal forests thick with fir and spruce, and they are very distinguishable by their black tufts on their ears, and giant, fully-furred feet. This adaptation keeps them on top of the deep snows of winter, while bobcats don’t tend to be as prevalent the further north you go. For this reason, you are much more likely to see a bobcat here unless you’re on the northern fringe of Western Maine.
Foxes are widespread, and you’ll more likely see a greater number of red foxes than grey. The former are more likely to reside along old farm fields and edge habitats, whereas grey foxes are more at home
in upland forests. There are few animals more photogenic than the red fox, especially when they have their pups in the spring! If you are lucky enough to spot one hunting in a field, watch their behavior closely. They’ll stalk and listen for prey such as mice and voles. They hunch up their shoulders and jump straight up, landing on their front feet in an attempt to hold their catch down to the ground. This is usu- ally repeated over and over.
Our weasel family includes some interesting creatures, and we have both long-tailed and short-tailed weasels here. Both are known as an ermine in the winter,
yet it’s the short-tailed weasel that has officially been named the American ermine. They are one of only two animals in Maine that change their coat color. The other is the snowshoe hare. Mink would be the next in the discovery animal line-up, by size, followed by pine marten, also referred to as sable.
Marten and fishers look a lot alike, but fishers are notorious predators and fear little. Pound for pound, fishers are likely the most powerful and fearless of our predators. They are just about the only mammal that kills and eats porcupines. They circle them repeatedly to confuse them, then go in for the kill by grabbing the porcupine by the nose and flipping it over to expose its vulnerable quill-free belly. Fishers are also one of the animals you are very likely to
hear at night. Their sounds carry, and run the gamut from cries and barks, to screeching that sounds eerily human-like. They are not a threat to people, but if you raise chickens, turkeys or other small livestock, you need to be vigilant about pest proofing. It’s our responsibility as animal owners to keep domestic animals safe, and unfair to view our wild neighbors as “the problem,” when we can usually do a better job of minimizing conflicts.
 Ron Fournier

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