Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Wildlife Quiz - Gray Squirrel

The Eastern Gray Squirrel’s (Sciurus carolinensis) native range stretches from northern Canada, all the way into sections of Texas and Florida. A species well adapted to survive in a wide variety of rural as well as urban environments, the gray squirrel has rapidly spread across the country, largely displacing native red squirrel populations.

Highly prolific, gray squirrels breed twice a year, once in the spring and again in late summer. Gray squirrels construct nests comprised of dry leaves and twigs called a drey, usually constructed in the crotch of a tree. Litters range in size from 1-8 young, with only one in four managing to evade predators, avoid sickness and starvation to survive to one year of age. Of those individuals fortunate enough to survive the first year, about half perish in the follow year.

In preparation for winter, gray squirrels hoard tremendous amounts of tree buds, berries, seeds, acorns and even some types of fungi in small caches for later consumption. Scientists studying the behaviors of gray squirrels have estimated a single squirrel make thousands of caches each season. To prevent other animals from retrieving cached food, squirrels will sometimes pretend to bury a food item, if they feel they are being watched. Those who have spent time watching the antics of the gray squirrel in woodlands and parks across the country will surely note this species amazing ability to descend a tree head-first.

Gray squirrels rank as one of few mammalian species that can accomplish this amazing acrobatic feat. The squirrel does so by turning its hind paws so that the claws point backwards, allowing the squirrel to easily grip the tree bark.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Ice Fishing Trout on Sheepscot Pond

Authors Son "Wildman" with a nice Sheepscot Brookie
Sheepscot Pond in Palermo (Map 13, B-4) is an expansive (1,193 acre) pond situated among the rolling, wooded hills of southeastern Waldo County. A moderately developed lake (unusual for Central Maine!) it remains an attractive setting for ice anglers. A state-owned boat ramp, located off Rt. 3 on the lake's north shore, provides access for anglers and other recreational users. While individuals can fish just off the landing, this area is typically hammered hard throughout the season. Better ice fishing is found further away, from this highly pressured area, on the western shore of Leeman Arm or eastern shore of Bald Head.  

Ice Fishing Variety
For the ice Angler who believes that variety is the spice of life, they will find no better thrill than a day spent ice fishing Sheepscot Pond. On an expedition to the lake in 2018, family, friends and I managed to pull up 7 different species of fish including, salmon, largemouth bass, pickerel, white perch, yellow perch, lake trout and brook trout. According to the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the lake additionally contains, brown trout, smallmouth bass and even splake, which were originally introduced to the lake in 1993. While we were unsuccessful in catching any of these additional species, the possibility of going to a lake and catching 10 different species of fish is exciting! As an angler who typically targets big northern pike, Sheepscot Pond is a refreshing change and a great place to take kids. It was a lot of fun showing the kids (and some adults) how to identify the different fish species pulled out of the ice holes. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Coyote Night Hunt

Author's son with his first coyote
December 17th, the coyote night hunting season begins and it remains open until August 31st. For those who have access to heated hunting shacks, the cold nights can be spent in relative comfort, peacefully reading, listening through ear buds to a ball game or playing video games on your cell phone. Whatever the choice, hunting from a heated shack isn’t nearly as physically challenging as pursuing coyotes at night, without the protection of some form of enclosure. 

I rather enjoy the extreme nature of setting up on the evening of a full moon, on the edge of a desolate and deserted frozen pond and attempting to call a coyote in close enough for a shot opportunity. Don’t expect however to see one of our crafty Maine coyotes recklessly charging into a call across the empty white expanse of ice. Instead, coyotes will creep in, 15-20 feet inside of the timber, exposing themselves to the barren lake surface only after closing to within easy striking distance of the perceived “prey”. Hunters who set-up back from the lake surface 20-30 yards in the woods will frequently enjoy more success than hunters who sit right on the lake edging. Coyotes are crafty and unwilling to give away their position unless it is absolutely necessary. 

This is where a motion decoy and remote controlled calls work wonders as they can be set out on the lake surface to draw coyotes into the open for a shot opportunity. For those using handheld calls, once a coyote is spotted working the tree edging, the hunter stops calling and allow the motion decoy to do the rest of the work. A motion decoy can be something as simple as a piece of fur or feathers tied to a stick with a short length of cordage and allowed to blow in the breeze.   

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Wildlife Quiz - Opossum

The Common Opossum or Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana), also known as simply Possum in North America, exists as the only marsupial (pouched mammal) found in the United States and Canada. Possessing a pale face, rounded ears, a pink, pointed nose and a coarse, grizzled gray overcoat the possum closely resembles a rodent. Through seemingly rat like in appearance, possums actually are closely related to the kangaroo and koala. Their adaptive nature, flexible diet, and prolific reproductive habits, make possum’s successful survivors in diverse locations and conditions. Though originally only found in South America, Possums have been steadily moving northward over the last several decades, a trend likely contributed to climate change.

The range of the Possum currently stretches across North, Central, and South America. Adapted to survive in a wide variety of rural as well as urban environments, Possum’s gather together in family groups in underground burrows or even under houses. Being nocturnal (night loving) creatures, Possum’s seek dark, secure areas to sleep during the day where they are protected from predators. The possum has a large number of natural predators including owls, eagles, dogs, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, house cats and humans who consistently kill a sizable number each year through automobile strikes. When threatened, the Possum will mimic the appearance and smell of a dead animal. This involuntary response (like fainting), causes the animal's teeth to become bared, saliva to foams around the mouth, its eyes close and a foul-smelling fluid leaks from the anal glands. The animal typically regains consciousness after a few minutes once the threat disappears. Highly prolific breeders, female possums often give birth to very large numbers of young, with as many as thirteen being birthed in a single litter. The possum lifespan is unusually short, with most living only one to two years in the wild and about four or 5 years in captivity.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Ice Fishing Preparations

Ice anglers will do well this month to spend a couple hours preparing their ice fishing equipment for when the hard waters return to their favorite fishing spots. I suggest these must do items to ensure your ice fishing traps and equipment are in prime condition before the start of the ice fishing season.

1. Grease all moving parts with Frabill Sub-Zero or Blue Lube.
2. Replace any leader and backer lines that appear worn.
3. Make sure spools are tightly and evenly wound.
4. Adjust spools so they spin freely with little tension.
5. Replace hooks.
6. Startup ice auger, check for proper operation, replace spark plug if necessary.
7. Put a small first aid kit in pack basket.
8. Replace lead sinkers with a non-toxic substitute.
9. Sharpen ice chisels or hand crank augers.
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