"Bugs" in the woods, a Beaver on the loose, and a Turtle's demise....

My week started with a hike through the trails of the nearby Center Pond Preserve. The mosquitoes were out in full force, but we managed to get our minds off their distracting buzzing by finding a few choice specimens. Recently, it has become a common sight to see the Tiger Swallowtails flying overhead without a moment's rest. But on this walk, we came upon two of these beautiful butterflies on the ground! We were able to get quite close, but puzzled over their relative inactivity. Their only movement was a slight vibrating of their bodies as if one was exciting the other! We decided they may be ready to make mating advances, but in the meantime it gave us a chance to view their vibrant colors. In the background there is a mass of scat that was determined to be from an Otter. Fish scales in scat are indicative of that animal's presence. Maybe the scat scent was making the butterflies a-twitter? The mud trail where this picture was taken was animal made. The beavers who live in an adjacent pond may pass over to a lower water inlet from Center Pond itself, as well as otter. The beavers here manage to get around without causing a disturbance. Muskrats, Otters and Beavers all share the same habitat in relative peace. However, when humans are involved, it may be another story, and that leads into my next wildlife encounter.

I had a call from my brother attesting to the fact that a culvert under his dirt road was being clogged on a nightly basis by some kind of creature. The road is bordered by a swampy area that periodically fills, especially with our recent rainy weather. It seemed one of nature's engineers was interfering with man's desires to access his property without using a boat. A trapper was called to evaluate the situation and quickly confirmed the activity of a beaver. These nocturnal rodents move into areas where there is ample water, and work to control the water flow. In this case, the trapper determined that trapping and removal were the best course of action. He chose not to harm the animal and proceeded to set a spring-loaded trap, carefully baited with choice edibles and an attractant the trapper concocts in his home laboratory.

Once baited, the trapper then placed the trap in the water, hoping to catch the offending animal by the next morning. In this case, the beaver proved to be too crafty. The trap was sprung, but somehow the rodent was able to chew his way free and escape! So it was back to the drawing board, for another trap. Our trapper has considerable experience in dealing with beaver, and has traps set currently in surrounding towns. Sometimes, as in this case, it takes persistence to outwit the beaver. To those concerned about these proceedings, our trapper called these amazing creatures a "redeemable resource". There is a market for beaver fur, and here in Maine trapping can be done for that purpose in January and February. The fur is sold in some countries where it is not frowned upon to wear natural fur. At this springtime of the year, we are hoping that safe removal without injury are the intended goal. Stay tuned.

And here is another animal story. I headed down Route 216 toward Small Point when I noticed a dead turtle in the road. This is the time of year that turtles leave their aquatic habitat to lay eggs. Unfortunately, this turtle never achieved its mission. I stopped to examine the turtle and was quite surprised to identify it as a Spotted Turtle. I have never seen this turtle in Maine, and haven't seen them for a good many years in Connecticut. That fact made it doubly sad to lose this turtle. I picked it up to examine further (and not block traffic!). Once home, I photographed it, and a closer look revealed it was a female on an egg laying mission. She never got to lay the eggs and unfortunately I could not do it for her since the eggs were broken. I was amazed at the size of the egg..almost as big as her head! She could not have been carrying too many considering that size, but maybe she had already laid some. Hard to tell. I read where these are uncommon in Maine, and considered a threatened specie. Its limited distribution and relatively low numbers make these turtles a rare find. How sad to find it dead. I also read that the females must be 7-10 yrs. old to mate and lay eggs. At that time, they lay 2-8 eggs. So it may not be so surprising to find just one egg and perhaps another squashed in the car encounter. Here is a picture of the front end of the turtle and her egg for size comparison. So there, you have it...another week out in the world of nature. Some interesting encounters, not all without a pang of loss and concern. We humans weigh heavily on the survival of our fellow living creatures - I'm sad to report. 6/19/04 Saddened Ronnie