Both Mainers and tourists love to see – and sometimes even interact – with wildlife. I’ve probably had more encounters with wildlife than many folks, given the time I spend outdoors, in the woods, and on the waters of our state. Here is the third in a series relating some of my more memorable encounters.
The Dairy of Daniel E. Heywood: A Parmachenee Guide At Camp Caribou, Parmachenee Lake (1891) (a Legacy Reprint from Kessinger Publishing) is a fascinating account of hunting and trapping above Rangeley in 1891. It includes this story about porcupines (hedgehogs):
I once saw a hedgehog swimming in the lake and killed it. It had crossed from an island one-fourth mile distant, and was near the shore when I saw it. I never knew any good to come from a hedgehog, and there is no end to the trouble which comes from them in localities where they are plenty. Besides their quills and their gnawing of articles left around camps, one hedgehog will reduce a shade tree to ruin, be it poplar, elm, birch, maple, beech or any other hard-wood tree, in one night; therefore I always expend the contents of my revolver on one, wherever I meet it, and think I take no charms from these woods by doing.
I do the same thing! I once had a dog that just never learned. Several times I had to pull quills out of him, until one day he got a big load of them in his mouth and I had to take him to the vet to get them extracted. Because they are so destructive to trees, I usually shoot them if I see them in the yard or on my woodlot. There’s a group of big boulders there where porcupines live in the crevices underneath the boulders, and I often find them in the trees nearby.
This fall I saw a porcupine on the front lawn, hunkered down next to one of our apple trees, so I loaded a shell into my .22 rifle and walked right up to it, aimed for the back of its head, and shot it. Imagine my amazement when it sauntered away, crossed the road, and continued on into the woods. Yes, they are some old tough!
Snapping turtles kill and eat a lot of young ducklings and loons. And they can be nasty when encountered in the water. A huge one chased me right out of the brook behind my house one day when I was fishing there. We seem to have a lot of snappers around my house. They lay their eggs along the road, or often in Linda’s flower and vegetable gardens. For years, when I saw them laying eggs along the road, I would run over them.
Then I smartened up, redeeming myself somewhat one time when Linda and I were returning home during an evening rain storm, and found about a bunch of baby snappers on the bridge in front of our house. Many had been run over. I got out and carefully sought out all those that were still alive, and carried them across the road to the shore of the stream.
But Linda still doesn’t care for them when they get into her garden. A few years ago she saw one out back in the vegetable garden, so she scooted it into a shovel and carried it far back into the woods. An hour later, she looked up to see it emerging from the woods, headed back to the garden!
My avid gardener wife Linda hates woodchucks, for good reason. So I get to shoot all of those that wander onto our property to dine in her gardens. One year we had three chucks stopping by her garden on a regular basis. I managed to shoot two of them, but didn’t get a chance at the third one. So when we headed upta camp one week, our neighbor, Dona Seegers, set a trap near Linda’s hoop house and caught that third chuck, a lucky fella because Dona released him alive well way from our house, where, I’m sure, he became someone else’s problem.
However, when we got back from camp, the neighbor’s boy stopped by to tell us that he’d seen a Bald Eagle flying up our road carrying a woodchuck, and he’d dropped the chuck right on our lawn, where it skirted into the bushes. He searched for it but it had escaped. Great, I said, now the Eagles are delivering woodchucks to us!
Fishers love cats. Well, they love to eat cats. If a cat disappears in your neighborhood, the prime suspect should be a fisher. One year a distraught neighbor called. A fisher had cornered her cat in the basement of their home. She discovered this in the nick of time and was able to scare the fisher away, but she wanted to know what could be done.
I called a local trapper who set some traps in the area, and caught several fisher – all females. Two were caught on my woodlot right across the road from the lady’s house. But there are still fisher out there, and I often see their tracks, particularly in the winter.
One November day when I was deer hunting, a pair of fisher came bounding along through the woods. It was the first time I’d see a male fisher. Boy, they are huge! When they got to me, both fishers climbed a tree and sat there looking at me. Eventually, they climbed down and took off.
In the next chapter of Wildlife Watching, posted next Monday, we’ll talk about birds, including a couple that turned up inside our house!