Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Rabid Outdoorsman "BEARS" it all on Question ONE!

This November, Maine voters will be faced with a referendum asking residents to end the three primary methods (baiting, hounding and trapping) of hunting black bears in this state. Both sides are of course passionate about ultimately being victorious and to win are embroiled in a battle using a combination of biological statistics and raw emotion to push their agendas.

I wish we could spend all the time, energy and money that will be spent on “Question One” instead working toward curing childhood diseases, improving our states educational system or combating domestic violence but unfortunately, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has decided that for the second time in a decade, Mainers need to raise and spend MILLIONS of dollars defending our wildlife management practices and prove that the black bears in Maine are being treated fairly. Now don’t get me wrong, being a Registered Maine Guide and passionate outdoors person, I certainly have a love and appreciation for wildlife but when I visit the states rural areas and see the level of abject poverty that exists, I wonder how an out-of-state special interest group has managed to push our state priorities this far out of whack. It’s plain to see that HSUS cares for wildlife but how much do they really care for their fellow man?

I realize that the folks running HSUS ”ain’t from around heah”, meaning they do not live and work in this state and as such have a real disconnect with the people and politics of Maine. If they were more “localized” maybe they would realize that Mainers are donating millions of their hard earned dollars trying to save Maine’s bear hunt from going the way of the woolly mammoth, money that could have instead been invested in our struggling state economy. Most of the people donating are comprised of Registered Maine Guides, sporting camp owners and non-profit organizations that operate barely above the poverty line and often struggle to put food on the table for their families. The people unable to give the least are once again being asked to give the most.

Now of course the state of Maine has been managing the black bear population for almost 50 years, our bear biologists are the best in the nation and with an estimated 30,000 bears in Maine; we have one of the largest and healthiest populations of black bears in the entire United States. Current management practices of baiting, hounding, trapping all serve as effective means of keeping the bear population under control, so that bears aren’t raiding garbage cans, tearing bird feeders off houses or carrying off our house pets. So given that everything is working great and has been for decades, why is it that HSUS is so adamant about wanting to end bear hunting in Maine? Well, in part, it is tied to the fact that HSUS feels that hunting is an unfair, primitive and cruel practice. Their perceived agenda is to slowly and methodically erode the tradition of hunting until it is no longer seen by society as a viable part of our heritage. It is my personal opinion that they would also probably love to end the consumption of red meat, animals in zoos, owning house pets and fishing if it was in their direct power to do so . . . but I digress.

People, myself included, certainly have a disconnect with the meat they eat and when buying a cellophane wrapped supermarket steak we often don’t take a moment to think about the animal that gave up its life, so that we can consume its flesh. Animals die so that we may eat and the way that commercial animals die is sometimes a brutal and unsettling process. I don’t like to see animals suffer and I wish that every animal killed in a slaughterhouse or shot by a hunter passed peacefully into the light . . . but that is an unrealistic and infantile view of the world. Killing things for meat is a messy business and NOBODY respects that more than a hunter, who must kill, butcher and eat the bear, deer or wild turkey they take from the Maine wilds.

No matter the rhetoric and finger pointing that comes out of HSUS, hunting over bait is not disrespectful to bear. Many other Maine animals including deer, turkey and even coyotes are also “baited” by hunters using scents, calls, decoys and even bait piles of meat to lure the animals into effective shooting range, so that a humane kill shot can be attained. HSUS states that only “lazy” sportsmen hunt bear over bait and that hunting bear over bait is against the hunters code of ethics know as “fair chase” With that line of thinking, I assume an argument could be raised that compound bows, rifle scopes, range finders and high caliber rifles are also considered “lazy” and against the hunters sacred creed of “fair chase” or the ethical pursuit of game. Maybe to be completely fair, we should all hunt naked and with pointy sticks?

I have hunted bear for over 5 years and during that time invested over 30 days in pursuit of black bears over bait. During those many evenings spent sitting in my tree stand staring through the dense woodlands at a small pile of oats and molasses, I was fortunate enough to see 5 black bears. The first bear I saw, I estimated to weigh 125 pounds. Bears are notoriously hard to estimate weight but because I was hunting over bait, I was able to study the bear for almost 15 minutes before ultimately deciding it was a small bear and not in the size class I was looking to harvest. The second, third and fourth bear I saw was a large sow with two cubs. While the sow was well over 200 pounds it was easy for me to identify it was with cubs because of my high perch in a nearby tree and their distraction caused by the pile of bait. Had I been still hunting and needed to make a quick identification and shot, I wonder if I would have been able to determine the sow had cubs before shooting. The last bear I saw was well over 300 pounds. As the monsterous bruin ambled out of the woods, I raised my rifle and upon looking through the scope noted that the available light did not allow me to place the cross hairs precisely on the bear’s vitals, ensuring a humane shot and quick death. I let that bear pass as well as the others, because as hunters we all have a code of ethics that we use to judge and control our actions. This code of ethics operates on an even stricter limit than what is allowed by the law and is driven by our love of the Maine wilderness and the animals that inhabit it. Bait sites are not the tool of lazy hunters they are the tool of law abiding, highly ethical hunters who know that in order to properly identify and harvest adult bears humanely, hunters need time to study and examine the animal they plan to shoot. In Maine’s dense woodlands, this level of study and examination is not just difficult when still hunting bears, it is practically impossible.

I wish HSUS would leave us Mainers alone, we aren’t a bunch of dumb rednecks that need to have the management of our state run by outsiders with no understanding of our state priorities. It would be my hope that in another decade I am not AGAIN watching my fellow Mainers spend millions of dollars funding yet another campaign to defend our bear hunting practices, instead I hope that money goes to supporting much more important state matters.

Monday, August 18, 2014

WIldlife Quiz - European Red (Fire) Ant

The European Red (Fire) Ant (Myrmica rubra), an invasive species in the state of Maine, can commonly be found throughout the northeastern United States. The first confirmed reports of fire ants in Maine occurred in the late 1980s. Since that time, complaints have increased steadily as fire ants have developed a stronger foothold within the state.

A majority of the initial infestations occurred in Maine’s more temperate southern coastal areas, however, humans have increased the fire ant’s dispersal inland through the transportation of infested soil, mulch, and potted plants. Fire ant’s posses shiny reddish-brown body coloration and relatively diminutive size (less than a ¼ inch), allowing them to be easily distinguished from other ants native to the state of Maine.

Fire ant nests tend to be difficult to locate and identify, as they do not construct “mounded” nests like many ant species common to Maine. Fire ants usually inhabit areas that stay relatively moist, such as the shade of shrubs, rocks, or decaying logs. When unsuspecting humans and animals disrupt nests, the fire ants deliver a painful sting capable of triggering severe allergic reactions, which in some cases has lead to death. Not only a danger to man and beast, fire ants have been know to cause a drastic decrease in the biodiversity of other insects in infected areas.

While long-term studies have not been conducted as to the exact impact this will have on an ecosystem, natural science dictates that anytime one species overwhelms all others, trouble will ensue. Thoroughly inspecting soils and destroying colonies if fire ants are detected can help control the spread of fire ants. Reduction of humid or moist areas around yards will also discourage fire ants from building colonies in close proximity to dwellings.

Fire ants have become yet another new invasive species that Maine’s people need to learn how to combat and control.

Wildlife Quiz Questions: 
1. Are fire ants a native or invasive species?
 2. When did the first confirmed infestations of fire ants occur in Maine?
3. How have humans aided the distribution of fire ants?
4. What color are fire ants?
5. How big are fire ants?
6. Do fire ants construct mounded nests like other ants?
7. Do fire ants “sting” when they feel threatened?
8. Can fire ants be controlled?

Wildlife Quiz Answers: 
1. Fire ants are an invasive species.
2. The first confirmed infestation of fire ants occurred in Maine in the 1980s.
3. Humans have aided the distribution of fire ants through transportation of infested soil.
4. Fire ants have a reddish-brow coloration.
5. Fire ants are relatively small compared to other ant species with a body length less than a ¼ inch.
6. No, fire ants do not construct mounded nests like other ants?
7. Yes, fire ants are capable of delivering a powerful sting.
8. Yes, fire ants can be controlled by stopping the transport of infected soils and decreasing humid or moist locations around yards and buildings.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Camping at Sabao Lake & ATV Riding on the Sunrise Trail System

Easily described as one of the most serene campgrounds in the state, Lower Sabao Lake campground (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 35, E-1) provides visitors with the perfect rugged wilderness experience while also providing access to basic amenities.

While the campsite does not have water for drinking, flush toilets or showers it does however have two outhouses and fire rings and picnic tables at each of its well-maintained tent and RV sites.

All sites are shaded by towering red pines that sing when the wind blows through them. A spacious white sand beach beckons sun worshipers and a gentle grade from the beach and into the water, makes it perfect swimming for young children.

Lower Sabao Lake campground is accessible over the Sabao Road, which leaves Rt.9 (the "Airline") in Township 30 (Map 25, A-2). A 10-mile drive along some fairly rough dirt roads, filled with potholes, washouts, curious moose and speeding ATV riders, add hazards so drivers should exercise caution and drive slowly to prevent accidents.

Lower Sabao Lake campground has tent/RV sites but no hook ups for electricity or water. Costs are $20 for the first night stay and $10 per night after that. A primetime Friday/Saturday night stay is $45. For reservations, please contact Lois Keenan (546-3828) or for additional information Arthur Keenan (664-3198). Lois and Arthur also maintain the Deer Lake (Map 34, E-5) and Cranberry Lake (Map 35, E-2) campgrounds. All three campgrounds are open Memorial Day and close when the snow flies.

Lower Sabao Lake At 755 acres, the waters of Lower Sabao Lake provide anglers with a multitude of opportunities to fish for white perch and chain pickerel. Though the lake is listed on the IF&W website as containing brook trout, the chances of catching one in the lake is slim. Anglers looking to catch trout would be better served to exit the lake via the west branch of the Machias River and paddle the short distance to some excellent locations to catch finicky summer trout. White perch anglers prefer fishing at the end of August and into the beginning of September when the mosquitoes are on the way out and the catch rate creeps to a level slightly above average. Anglers who bring along a small fry pan and oil will be richly rewarded with a meal of succulent white perch, caught with minimal effort. Two small islands with exquisite sand beaches make opportunities for a picnic or stretch ones legs on a “private” beach an easy proposition.

Nature watchers will enjoy plenty of opportunities for moose spotting in the early morning or evening by quietly paddling and maintaining a watchful eye on the shoreline. Moose feeding in the lakes shallow waters regularly provide campers with brilliant photographic opportunities. Additional moose watching opportunities exist by following the west branch of the Machias River out of the lake. Intrepid adventures will pass by nesting bald eagles and loons and to a small meadow perfect for observing evening moose.

Access to the lake is possible via a very good boat launch for tailored boats or canoes and kayaks right from the campgrounds beach.

ATV riders can access the largest ATV trail system East of the Mississippi. Comprised of the Sunrise Trail system (North of Route 9) and the Downeast Sunrise trail system (South of Route 9) it contains over 800 miles of approved trails. Day trips from Sabao Lake campground to Grand Lake Stream, Nicataous Lake, or the blueberry barrens near Cherryfield all present fun possibilities.

During the weekend of July 26-27, 2014 ATV riders staying at Sabao should take the short ATV ride to Grand Lake Stream and attend the Grand Lake Stream Folk Art Festival (10:00 am - 5:00 pm). This very fun and well-attended event boasting over 60 folk art vendors and playing host to music performances and many different cultural exhibits. With so much to do, there is sure to be something to interest all ages!

By late summer, the ATV trails have gotten very dry and ATV riders will find that goggles and a dust mask are mandatory to ensure everyone has a fun experience. Also make sure to bring along plenty of water and dry weather gear for all group members so that a fun day ATV riding continues to be bearable if the weather turns wet or an ATV becomes disabled.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Get into the Swing of Summer with Byer of Maine

 Byer of Maine certainly is doing their part in making sure summer is an adventure in relaxation, comfort and enjoyment and to prove this point, one need only take a look at the dizzying array of hammocks and hanging chairs available on their website!

My personal pick is the Amazonas (Paradiso) Hammock. Made in Brazil from 85% recycled cotton/15% polyester, this hammock stretches and conforms to your bodies unique curves for offer exquisite comfort. At over 8 feet long and 5 and a half feet wide, the Paradiso has room for the whole family, and maybe the dog as well!

The rich, warm, hand-crafted colors will provide you and your family with endless days of fun, and relaxation! While designed for outdoor use, we recommend indoor storage between uses.

Care should also be taken to ensure that hammock strings are not tangled or chafed. When hanging, hammocks should be hung from a flexible point…a rope, a chain or carabineer to avoid chafing at the hanging point. Be extremely careful to ensure hammocks and hanging chairs are hung from a point or points suitably strong for the anticipated use. Seek professional assistance if you have any doubts as to your ability to properly judge the strength of any hanging point.

Hammocks can be hosed-off for cleaning with clear, cold water. No detergent or other chemical cleaners should be used. No machine washing. Air dry thoroughly before storage.

Currently, several hammock models, including the Barbados and Ceara are currently 20% off! 

Make sure to follow Byer of Maine on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pintrest!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Camp Comfortably and Conveniently with Byer of Maine

For over 125 years, Byer of Maine has been a leader in camping, emergency preparedness and a long list of other outdoor products designed to make your time in the wilds comfortable and convenient. This passion for creating innovative products is highlighted in the new, award winning TriLite Line.

Washing dishes, the dreaded chore that most of us try to avoid at all costs becomes even more difficult when attempted in the wilds. When camping, one attempts to awkwardly crouch by the lake or streamside frantically scraping beanie weenies off plates and hoping that in the process they do not get their feet wet. Leave it up to the innovative folks at Byer of Maine to come up with a solution that makes washing dishes in the wilds a much easier endeavor and one that can actually be enjoyed.

The convertible TriLite seat/wash basin is a lightweight, highly portable piece of equipment that should be part of every camper’s kitchen. In seconds, one can remove the small seat from the webfoot stand and install the TriLite washbasin. Boasting 4 separate compartments, the washbasin has plenty of room to wash, rinse, and dry dishes, as well as a small pocket to hold biodegradable soap and a scrub brush. This set-up allows you to sit down comfortably and leisurely wash dishes, avoiding the typical discomforts associated with this chore.

The Tri-lite stool and wash station is currently 35% off so go and get yours today and prepare to spend the rest of the Maine summer camping season impressing friends and washing dishes in style!

Sleep Comfortably Under the Stars
Summer in Maine means camping and as I get older, comfort becomes more and more critical to my enjoyment of this outdoor activity. After years of struggling with half a dozen different models of inflatable rubber mattresses, I finally gave up patching holes and battling against the exhaustive effort of inflating and transporting these unreliable beds.

For the camper looking for a much improved sleep solution they need to look no further then the cot. Cots of today come in a wide variety of styles. Byer of Maine has an impressive line of folding cots sure to fit the needs of every type of camper and outdoor enthusiast. From lightweight and compact to full size, luxurious models, all cots are built rugged, with some models capable of supporting up to 375 pounds!

Byer even have created a handy cot comparison tool to assist shoppers in choosing the cot that best fits their specific needs and budgets! 

For me the choice of cot was as easy as ordering the lightweight and easily packable TriLite model. This ultra-light weight cot (a little over 7 lbs) is designed to be packed and brought anywhere, ensuring a great sleep wherever you need it. Perfect for hiking, car camping, motorcycle touring or even a day relaxing on the beach, the TriLite cot offers a full sleep surface of 74" long by 25" wide, that folds down to a mere 27" x 3" x 8" and fits into its rip-stop polyester travel bag that has a convenient travel strap so that the entire cot can be slung over your shoulder for easy transport.

Make sure to follow Byer of Maine on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pintrest!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Functional Elegance by Byer of Maine

The Byer Manufacturing Company has been creating what I like to call "The Goud Stuff” since 1880. This Maine based company has reinvented itself numerous times over the decades in order to keep pace with the American market place and a rapidly evolving global economy. Currently, Byer of Maine produces a wide assortment of products, most interesting perhaps its furniture and equipment specifically designed to make summah days wick’d comfortable and relaxing.

To me, a trip to the beach, hanging out on the deck, or an evening relaxing around a campfire would be incomplete without my posterior resting comfortably in the Pangean Glider. More than simply a "chair", this is an essential relaxation tool, the perfect blend of elegance, class, function and practicality these gliders are as pleasing to look at as they are comfortable to sit in. The glider literally wraps you in comfort, allowing you to lean back and rest your head and neck after a long day.

Upgrade a single glider purchase a double and reap the benefits of years of happy memories with your closest someone, watching sunsets, roasting marshmallow and dipping toes in the oceans soft sand.

The trend by most outdoor companies these days seems to be moving toward creating cheap outdoor furniture and equipment made of plastic and other inferior items that end up in the trash can after one season of hard use. Though typically inexpensive, consumers quickly realize that they truly get what they pay for and landfills are filled with these worthless pieces of garbage. With a small investment, buy the best, something that will be a joy to sit in for years to come.

Though it lacks a drink holder, it more than makes up for this deficit with the Pangean Folding Table. Purchased separately, this small functional table allows "chillaxers" a firm place to set a bottle and a couple glasses of wine, lunch or if needed, ones feet after a long and tiring day.

Remember that like all works of art, furniture made of fabric and wood must be properly cared for if it is to be enjoyed for years to come. Both the table and chair come from the factory with a basic protective stain but if one plans to keep the furniture outside for an extended length of time, the chair and table would benefit from a yearly application of a flat varnish containing UV protection. This application will seal the wood to protect it from splintering and keep the stain  from fading and losing its beauty. A fabric UV protectant like Ray Block that helps fabrics resist sun fading and dry rot can also be employed to protect the chair’s cloth seat. Embers can burn holes in the fabric, so when placing chairs close to a fire pit make sure to not leave unattended.

Make sure to follow Byer of Maine on Facebook, TwitterInstagram and Pintrest!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Wildlife Quiz - The North American Porcupine

The North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum), ranges from Alaska into sections of northern Mexico, where it favors woodland habitats with high densities of evergreens.

A wild porcupine can live 5 years, where it spends a majority of that time in the tops of evergreen trees in pursuit of its favorite foods. An herbivore, porcupines eat a wide variety of conifers as well as green plants, berries, seeds and nuts.

Also know simply as the porcupine, it exists as a member of the “rodent” order of animals. The porcupine is the second largest rodent in North America, losing by only a narrow margin to the beaver. Mature porcupines grow to a snout to tail length of 2 to 3 feet and weigh around 12 pounds, with some impressive specimens tipping the scale at a whopping 35-40 pounds.

Porcupines come in various shades of brown, gray, and even white. Porcupines are nocturnal and are usually found during the day lounging peacefully high up in the branches of a tree or caring for young deep underground in simple burrows.

Porcupines are perhaps most well known for their impressive coat of sharp quills that defend them from predators. Adult’s backs and tails are covered with almost 40,000 quills. When attacked, the porcupine defends itself by swinging its tail like a club and pounding quills into its hapless enemies. In the past it was believed that porcupines were capable of launching or throwing its quills, this is of course a fallacy. Each quill comes equipped with tiny barbs that slowly push the quill in even deeper, making removal necessary and extremely painful.

Despite its impressive defenses, porcupines still occasionally become meals for bobcats, coyotes and fishers who have learned to attach the porcupine’s unprotected nose and belly.

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. What is the range of the porcupine?
2. What is the average lifespan of a wild porcupine?
3. What is the average weight of an adult porcupine?
4. What impressive maximum weights have some adult porcupines reached?
5. How long do porcupines grow?
6. What do porcupines eat?
7. How many quills do adult porcupines have?
8. What predators eat porcupines?

Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. The range of the porcupine stretches from Alaska and into sections of Northern Mexico.
2. The average porcupine lives 5 years in the wild.
3. The average weight of an adult porcupine is 12 pounds.
4. Some adult porcupines have grown to reach 40 pounds.
5. Porcupines grow to a snout to tail length of 2 to 3 feet.
6. An herbivore, porcupines eat a wide variety of conifers as well as green plants, berries, seeds and nuts.
7. Adult porcupines have almost 40,000 quills.
8. Despite its impressive defenses porcupines are still fed upon by bobcats, coyotes and fishers who have learned to attach the porcupine’s unprotected nose and belly.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer Car Camping and Fishing

Car Camping at Cranberry Lake 
I recently read a report, generated by the national forest service, stating 85% of the camping that takes place in the United States occurs within one mile or less of a paved roadway. While there is a certainly sense of serenity, peace and tranquility that one experiences when they hike miles into the backcountry, the simple truth is that many of us simply do not have the time, physical strength or know how necessary to accomplish these off the grid excursions safely and enjoyably.

Car camping affords busy families and those with physical limitations, an effective means of escaping into nature with much smaller time commitments and fewer toils wrought upon the body. With car camping, a vehicle is parked in close proximity to a camping spot, thus greatly facilitating the unloading of gear and affording the ability to bring luxurious camping items (large tents, cots, air mattresses, coolers, etc.), fun games and lots of food. While all of these items surly do not ensure that everyone will have a good time, they certainly go a long way making sure everyone stays happy, comfortable and well fed.

An army marches on its stomach and so does a family. Camping success can often be dictated by the quality and quantity of the food, so be sure to bring plenty of favorites. With my family pizza is king and this meal can easily be cooked in a Dutch oven. A Boboli pizza crust, spaghetti sauce and each camper’s choice of topping are put together and placed inside a 12 inch Dutch oven. The lid is shut and 4-5 charcoal briquettes are placed under and on top of the Dutch oven. In approximately 15-20 minutes, out comes hot pizza! Desert often consists of brownies or cookies, cooked next to a roaring evening campfire in a Sproul Baker reflector oven (

While car camping may be considered by some camping purists as a blasphemous way to enjoy nature, be assured it is not. Vehicles provide an effective means of transporting at home comforts into some very unique and interesting sections of Maine, far removed from the hustle and bustle of the real world.

The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer lists 3 campground types. Those facilities listed simply as “campgrounds”, are members of the Maine Campground Owners Association (MCOA) and typically have posh amenities such as RV sites, showers, flush toilets, camp stores and wireless internet. “Maintained forest campsites”, usually have pit toilets, tent sites only and firewood available for purchase. The last classification “primitive campsites”, have tent sites available on a first come first served basis, firewood usually has to be scavenged and cat holes must be dug to safely dispose of human waste. Of the 3 available campground configurations, my favorites are the maintained forest campsites, as they provide a nice balance of easy vehicle access and basic facilities, while still offering a serene wilderness experience.

Cranberry Lake Campground (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 35, E-2) sits just a few miles off Rt. 9 yet affords campers quiet isolation. (*A warning, that popular weekends like Memorial day, 4th of July and Labor day most campgrounds in the state can be quite boisterous, so if you wish for a quiet campground experience, avoid those weekends.) The campsite’s amenities do not include water for drinking or flush toilets and showers but it does have two outhouses, fire rings, picnic tables and well-maintained tent and RV sites. A small beach is available for swimming and a hand carry launch is accessible for those wanting to cruise the lake or go fishing. Cranberry lake campground has 11 tent/RV sites. Costs are $20 for the first night stay and $10 per night after that. A primetime Friday/Saturday night stay is $45. For reservations, please contact Lois Keenan (546-3828) or for additional information Arthur Keenan (664-3198). Lois and Arthur also maintain the Deer Lake (Map 34, E-5) and Lower Sabo Lake (Map 35, E-1) campgrounds.

Campers can ride the largest ATV trail system East of the Mississippi, fish local streams and ponds, boat, hike and moose watch. All three campgrounds are open Memorial Day and close when snow flies. A 20-minute drive from the campground is a small restaurant/general store located at the northern terminus of Rt. 193, perfect for restocking camping supplies or eating out should weather make cooking outside difficult.

Fishing the Cranberry Lakes
Cranberry Lake campground is situated on the eastern shore of Upper Cranberry Lake. Upper Cranberry flows into Lower Cranberry Lake which in-turn flows into the West Branch of the Machias River. Canoes and kayaks are perfect for exploring and fishing these lakes, as long as a watchful eye is kept on the horizon to watch for late afternoon thunderstorms. When fishing Cranberry lakes, Master Maine Guide Matt Whitegiver of Eagle Mountain Lodge suggests going somewhere else! The Cranberry Lakes are not know to be epic producers of trophy fish but they do provide entertainment for someone wanting to get out in the early morning or evening and wet a line. Upper Cranberry Lake contains mostly small pickerel, while Lower Cranberry is a decent white perch fishery. Matt suggests that anyone camping at the campground paddle north to the outlet and put into Lower Cranberry to fish for a few of the delectable white perch to put in the fry pan. Boat launches for both Upper and Lower Cranberry also exist about a ¼ mile from the Cranberry Lake campground for those with larger watercraft.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Wildlife Quiz - Garter Snake

The common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) gets its name from their resemblance to the garters men once wore to hold up their socks. Of the nine species of snakes found in Maine, the garter snake happens to be the most abundant. Garter snakes populate a wide variety of habitats, including islands, mountains, gardens and even suburbia.

Their prolific nature stems from their ability to feed upon a highly wide array of creatures including; earthworms, slugs, frogs, mice, birds and fish. In addition, garter snakes possess the ability to birth live young, meaning they do not have to lay and incubate eggs that could potentially be eaten by predators. Garter snakes use rodent burrows, wood piles and rock walls as dens for shelter and protection from predators.

During winter, snakes hibernate to prevent death by freezing. These places of winter refuge or “hibernaculum” may be singular shelters or areas shared with several other snakes. In spring, garter snakes emerge from hibernation and shortly after begin looking for mates. Young hatch throughout a majority of the summer season and can fend for themselves almost immediately after hatching, reaching maturity in approximately three years.

Most garter snakes grow to two or three feet and maintain extremely variable appearances, ranging in color from bright yellow, green and blue to more muted earth toned animals with limited coloration. In captivity, garter snakes have lived as long as 18 years. Though incapable of inflicting a venomous bite, like all wild animals, snakes should be observed from a distance and allowed to live out their existence unmolested by humans. If disturbed, garter snakes will excrete a foul smelling anal secretion on their presumed attacker.

1. Where did the garter snake get its name?
2. How many species of snakes are their in Maine?
3. Do garter snakes lay eggs or live birth their young?
4. Do snakes hibernate in the winter?
5. What is the name for a snake’s winter refuge?
6. How long can a garter snake grow?
7. How long after hatching does a garter snake reach maturity?
8. How long can a garter snake live?
9. Are garter snakes venomous?

1. The garter snake got its name for its resemblance to the garters men once wore to hold up their socks. 2. There are nine species of snakes found in Maine.
3. Garter snakes live birth their young.
4. Yes, snakes hibernate in the winter to prevent death by freezing.
5. A snake’s winter refuge is known as a hibernaculum.
6. Garter snakes can grow up to two to three feet in length.
7. A garter snake reaches maturity in approximately three years.
8. In captivity garter snakes have been know to live as long as 18 years.
9. No, garter snakes are not venomous but will secrete a foul smelling secretion on their attachers.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Hiking Lead Mountain, Exploring Beddington Lake and Camping at McClellan Park

Hiking Lead Mountain 
A few miles off Rt. 9, stands the relatively diminutive 1,479 ft. Lead Mountain (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 24, A-5). An enjoyable hike, Lead Mountain provides fantastic introductory hiking possibilities for young children and adults looking to get a little exercise. My family and I have made hiking Lead Mountain an annual tradition and ever summer a group consisting of young and old alike climb the mountain together.

This past summer, my brother, our 3 children, ranging in age from 4 to 6 years old, and my 63-year-old Dad climbed it. Only the 4 year old had to be carried a couple times on the ascent and descent . . . thankfully, we didn't have to carry Dad even once!

Those interested in exploring Lead Mountain, the directions are relatively simple. Driving from Bangor toward Calais you will pass the Airline snack bar on the left and Rt. 193 shortly after on the right. Drive approximately 1 mile and turn left onto the 3000 road at the Ranger Station. If you happen to cross the bridge over the Narraguagus River, turn around. Travel up the 3000 road about 150 yards, turn left and continue to follow this dirt road till it ends at a gate and small parking area. Upon exiting the parking area, walk around the gate with the large sign that reads “No Hunting” and continue following this dirt road until it splits. Take the path to the right, which leads all the way to the summit. This trail was heavily improved, in the last few years, and provides easy walking a majority of the way to the summit.

After about 1 hour of hiking at a steady pace, hikers will reach several small shacks and some old weather monitoring equipment. From this point forward, the path to the top quickly increases in difficulty, so plan another 30 minutes of slow hiking before reaching the summit. There is no mistaking the summit, marked by an enormous cell tower. Unfortunately, there are no sweeping views from this location and hikers will miss out if they do not walk along the left hand side of the gated area. Follow the somewhat hidden trail by squeezing thorough tightly growing spruce trees, entering an open area with a small metal tower. Climbing the tower, allows visibility over the surrounding trees and the impressive views below.

Directly behind the tower, hanging on the backside of one of the thick spruce trees is an ammo can size geocache (N 44° 51.839 W 068° 06.596). When we looked, the cache had only been checked a handful of times since it was originally created, so this is definitely a very cool cache to check off your list!

Beddington Lake
After exploring Lead Mountain, tired hikers can take a refreshing dip in nearby Beddington Lake (Map 25, B-1). This 404-acre body of water has a boat launch and sandy swimming area on its western shore accessible via Rt. 193 and a ¼ mile drive down a well-maintained dirt road. Intrepid anglers can fish from shore or explore the lake by boat for epic pickerel fishing opportunities. Pickerel up to 24 inches are not uncommon and provide plenty of action for young anglers or those wanting to hone their fly-fishing skills in a high yield environment. While pickerel will bite on almost anything, I prefer to use the classic red and white daredevil or blue fox vibrax. Yellow perch, small mouth and brook trout are also possibilities but less likely given the voracious appetites of the tremendous number of pickerel.

McClellan Park
Individuals looking for a base of operations from which to conduct the adventure mentioned above would be well served to check out McClellan Park. One of the best-kept secrets in all of Downeast, McClellan Park (Map 17, A-3) provides a peaceful, quiet atmosphere and boasts impressive views of the ocean and offshore islands. Bring along a bag of charcoal and cook hamburgers and hotdogs while the kids enjoy exploring the dozens of tide pools that form at low tide. If wishing to try and fish for your lunch, Mackerel and Pollock can be fished right from shore, using lures, raw clams or bloodworms (bait may be purchased at the intersection of Wyman and Factory road). Picnic tables, grills, showers and flush toilets ensure that a day spent in the park is comfortable. Those looking at a longer stay, twelve tent sites are available at the bargain price of $10 per night and limited space is available for small campers (no electrical hookup available). The town of Millbridge assists with the operation of the park and keeps it open Memorial Day through Columbus Day. For more information specifically about the park, call the town office at (207) 546-2422. Reservations may be made through Bob Walker (207) 546-7027.
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