Page 36 - WCM Summer 2022
P. 36

Who Hangs Out Near The Water?
Water features are hot spots for wildlife, and our aquatic mammal species are probably some of our most fascinating and often seen. Beavers, muskrats, otters and mink all share the same habitats, and can be found in every corner of the region. Muskrats make small grassy dens or “huts” that are typically visible
in marshy areas, especially in the cattails. You’ll see them scoot across the surface with their nose up and their bladed tail propelling them quietly through the water. River otters, pictured below are probably the most playful of our mammal friends. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of them sliding down a river bank, or floating on their backs as they socialize, or when feeding on crayfish, fresh-water mussels, and small fish. They’re very seal-like in appearance, and a favorite photo subject. The Androscoggin River valley is prime habitat, and it’s not uncommon to see several together. In fact, a canoe paddle down the Andro from the Maine border through Gilead, Bethel, and down to Hanover, either early in the morning or late afternoon, will provide plenty of opportunities to see any number of animals, bald eagles, waterfowl, great blue heron, and more. I’ve seen many of the animals mentioned, all in one trip. Plan it around their busy times, when the river is quiet, and you’ll be amazed!
The one animal that Maine owes a great deal of gratitude to is the beaver. This large rodent has done
more for Maine than any other species. Beavers can read a stream and identify where water will pool once it’s blocked. Soon a small dam is made with bits of wood and debris. As the water deepens, more wood can be floated to the dam. This process could take days, weeks, or even months. Before you know it, a new pond lies where, earlier, there was a small brook running through thick woods. This new water feature attracts all sorts of wildlife, and as the days go on, the pond becomes much more established and diverse. This cycle continues for generations, and although there are plenty of chances for conflicts where beavers and humans coexist, you can’t help but be amazed at how intelligent and hard working they are. Beavers typically work the night shift, and spend the day snug in their lodge. If you own property that is impacted
by beavers, remember that it is illegal to destroy a dam or lodge, regardless of the reason. It’s advised that you seek a licensed trapper during the open trapping season to reduce the number of beavers to minimize flooded fields or roads, blocked culverts, or damage to trees.
While you’re out looking for that perfect photo, take into consideration that all of these animals are also looking straight back at you. Remember that we’re all here just trying to survive on this planet, and we need to learn to coexist. And besides, Maine’s abundant wildlife is likely one of the major reasons you live here! ❧
 Nick Leadley Nature Photography

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