Wildlife In Our Own Backyard

By Ken Bailey
WHEN WAS the last time you had a special day in the great outdoors?

Although every day that we can get outside and enjoy nature is special, I had an extra unique day last week when I encountered a wide variety of wildlife—all in our own Midcoast Maine backyard.

In the period of a couple of hours, I walked to within 50 ft. of a young Moose, snuck up on a sunning Snapping Turtle, watched three ducks nap on a sunny rock and paddled a boat close to a snake swimming across the lake.

If you spend any time in nature you will soon discover how fortunate we are to be living in this amazing period of abundant wildlife. As far as wildlife goes—today is much better than the so-called “good old days.”

I received a call from a local resident who was concerned about a young Moose that had camped on her property for a week. She said the Moose would paddle around in her small farm pond, lay down for hours on end near the edge of the woods, and appeared lethargic. Was the Moose sick?

Arriving at the Moose’s location, I met with the homeowner, who pointed me in the right direction. Once I knew where to look, it was easy to see the youngster as it lay in the tall grass where the field met the thick woods.

With camera and binoculars in hand, I headed across the freshly mowed field toward the resting moose. As I approached within 100 ft. she casually lifted her head and looked my way. Ears up and alert, the youngster looked me over but did not seem alarmed.

When I closed to within 50 ft., she slowly stood up, shook her head and again looked my way. She almost seemed perturbed that I had interrupted her nap. Slowly moving her gangly legs, the yearling Moose ambled along the edge of the woods, stopping briefly to strip some tender, green leaves from a young maple tree for a mid-afternoon snack.

I looked closely with the binoculars and could see no obvious injuries. She seemed in good shape, alert and her weight seemed average. She cast one more look over her shoulder as she quietly slipped into the thick underbrush, disappearing into the woods.

A biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said this was most likely a lonely yearling Moose that had be forced to leave her mother because a new calf was on the way. He also stated that Moose often prefer—especially if not harassed —to stay out in the open fields to avoid the ever-present, and often nasty, biting insects in the thick woods in the summer. The Moose appears to like her summer vacation spot and seems in no hurry to leave.

Later that day, while cruising the shores of Megunticook Lake, I was fortunate to observe other native wildlife. The young eagles that hatched just a few short weeks ago are now flying around the lake and will soon be abandoned by their parents, forcing the youngsters to survive on their own. This crucial time in a young eagle’s life is when it quickly finds out if it has learned the important lessons of life in the wild. Studies show that only 50 percent of the young eaglets survive those first challenging months on their own.

I came upon three Black Ducks taking a nap on rocks located in a shallow cove. Their necks were twisted around and their beaks were tucked into feathers on their back. I passed by without disturbing them.

I turned the boat into the sheltered cove where it is moored and came upon a large Snapping Turtle soaking up the late August sun. It followed me with its menacing head and slid into the water with a loud splash when I came too close for comfort. When I turned away from the now submerged turtle, I saw movement in the water.

As I came closer, I could see it was a Garter Snake slithering across the dark surface of the lake. The closer I managed to get, the faster the snake undulated over the water. Once it was on dry land, it quickly disappeared into the thick shoreline brush.

This was another memorable day in beautiful Midcoast, Maine. The next time you’re out for a hike, or go for a quiet cruise on one of our many beautiful waters, take time to look around. Don’t just look at the scenery. Look deep into the woods. Investigate every movement; every sound. You’ll be amazed at what you will find. –VillageSoup