We did not know what kind of local wildlife to expect in Maine. We were spoiled, animal-wise, having lived in Alaska for many years. Our home in Anchorage was in an area called “Hillside,” a gradual rise to the mountains of Chugach State Park, a vast and wild protected area just a ten-minute drive from our house.
Every spring, moose mothers-to-be migrated down the hills into populated areas to have their babies, in an attempt to avoid predation during birth and the newborns’ most helpless first weeks. One scarred cow moose chose our neighborhood for her maternity ward several years running, giving us a succession of knobble-kneed moose calves to admire each spring. In the fall, the adolescents returned to stock up for the winter on whatever was left in our garden and to strip our delectable lilac bush down to two bare nubs.
Bears also came down from the mountains, looking for moose babies, garbage, and bird and dog food. Bird feeders, especially, seemed to be bear magnets. As a result, we could only feed birds when the bears were in hibernation–a period that became shorter in recent years with Anchorage’s increasingly warm winters. One year, our next-door neighbor ignored the bird feeder ban and this black bear knocked the food out of the feeder, pressed its paws into the seeds on the ground and then rolled on its back and licked the seed off its paws. He appeared to be relishing the easy feast.
We had an occasional lynx in the neighborhood and wolves nearby. Bald eagles were so common that we called them flying rats.
Alaska was a hard act to follow. But Maine is doing a pretty good job. On our first evening in our new house, we were treated to a fox family, running along the edge of the lawn to eat a pile of sunflower seeds left under the big white pine where the previous owners had hung their bird feeder (they emptied out the feeder and took it with them). Apparently foxes like bird food as much as bears do. The three kits wrestled and tore around the lawn while the adults looked on. We continued to see the foxes in the early morning and evening for a few weeks and then they disappeared.
A wild turkey flock comes and goes, we have heard (but not seen) coyotes, and we once saw a deer running across the driveway. We were curious as to what we weren’t seeing and mounted a game camera on a driveway tree a few weeks ago.
We were thrilled to see that the foxes are still around.
And not so thrilled to see that we have several deer hanging about.
We didn’t have any deer in the garden last year and are hoping that these won’t be tempted this year.
A recent snowfall showed that they have been bedding down in our woods and we have had tracks across our lawn.
So, it looks like a garden fence may be in our future.
Of all of our Maine wildlife, the birds have given me the most pleasure. Because we could only feed birds in the dead of winter in Alaska, our feeder birds were mostly chickadees and redpolls. We have a much wider variety at our Maine feeder–chickadees, juncos, goldfinches, purple finches, blue jays, cardinals, woodpeckers, sparrows, nuthatches, and mourning doves. Unfortunately, aside from the chickadees–nothing fazes them–the birds here are the most camera-shy of any I’ve ever encountered. I have had a terrible time getting any decent photos this winter. I could do a whole post of bird bum photos.
I did manage to capture, however, bluebirds that swooped in last week to eat sumac berries and some suet from our feeder. They took me by surprise. I had no idea that bluebirds overwintered in Maine. Nor had I ever seen so many together. There were at least eight or ten of them, maybe more. They hung around for a few days and were gone. Perhaps we’ll put up some houses for them before spring.
Finally, Zoe is our perpetual wild life. The game camera caught her racing down the driveway with all four paws in the air.
She adores the snow-blower and follows it everywhere, occasionally stopping to attack the spumes of blowing snow, trying to capture it in her mouth.
We moved the game camera to deeper woods and will report back on what we find.