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.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Kick in the Pants!

It had been a long, cold and unforgiving Maine winter, like the kind they had in the days before global warming and Gore-Tex. This calamity of unusual weather, weighed heavily on my psyche and was further compounded by my inability to pursue my passion for ice fishing, due to a back injury suffered while shoveling snow. Funk dug deep into my soul and despite my best attempts to circumvent its vile intrusion, it dominated my mood for the last several month of winter. By spring’s arrival, I half expected my disposition to improve but despite my best efforts to creep off the couch, this active outdoorsman was having a difficult time finding the mental and physical strength to motivate.

What I desperately needed was a project, or perhaps more precisely what I REALLY needed was a good solid kick in the pants!!

Enter on the scene, my good friends at Duluth Trading Company. This organization certainly understands work wear but even more importantly, they truly understand workers. They know not only how to design clothing that is comfortable, functional and durable but also understand how quality work wear and equipment can make even the toughest, dirties jobs infinitely easier.

It’s a typical hot, damp and buggy spring day in Maine. I am dressed neck to ankle in clothing from Duluth Trading Company, including their infamous Armachillo Workshirt and Duluth Flex Firehose Work Pants. Despite the adverse conditions . . . most notably the constant hum of Maine’s state bird, the notorious blackfly, I am feeling light and happy for the first time in months. With the help of Duluth Trading Company, I have been provided with a MUCH needed kick in the pants. With a small project starter grant and a merchandise gift card, I am now out planting apple trees with the help of my family and friends . . . most notably my two young children.

Apple trees require much care and tenderness, in their first several years of growth, and this notion of caring for another living thing is an extremely valuable lesson to pass on to children. What a perfect Fathers Day present to not only be able to plant apple trees with my sons but also what a treasured gift to be able to teach them how to someday grow into caring, patient and nurturing fathers.

Special thanks to Duluth Trading Company and my friends and family, who all came together to lend a hand in creating amazing memories and a future orchard to feed generations of man and beasts!

To buy that special something for Father's Day be sure to check out: Gift Ideas for Dad courtesy of Duluth Trading Company!

Lastly, anyone who comments on this article goes into a drawing to win a $100 Duluth Trading Company Gift Card! 
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