SCORES & OUTDOORS: Do moose and deer ever get their antlers caught in trees?

On the left, moose in full “velvet.” On the right, deer in full “velvet.”

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

Last week, I received an email from a colleague, and follower of this column, asking the question, “Why don’t deer and moose get their antlers caught in trees?” Well, it isn’t uncommon to find deer with their antlers caught in trees. But it usually occurs following adverse conditions, especially from flooding or being frightened into a desperate retreat.

Well, actually, that was a question I always wondered myself. I always thought that maybe their antlers were like whiskers on a cat, using them as feelers to determine whether they can pass through an opening.

It turns out I probably wasn’t far off with my assessment.

I turned to my contacts at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for an answer. According to the state moose biologist Lee Kantar, “As the moose antlers grow, the moose ‘develop’ a sense of their width.” I can only deduce that the same holds true for deer.

Following the fall rut, male deer and moose will shed their antlers. In spring or early summer, March or April, the new antlers begin to form, growing out from a pedicel bone, a bony stalk situated on the frontal bone of the skull. The antlers begin to grow at a rapid pace. During growth, they are covered with a skin, called the velvet, a living tissue, which contains many blood vessels for the nourishment of the growing bone tissue.

“During antler growth,” said Kantar, “the antlers are highly vascularized and the moose can feel where those antlers are, touching other surfaces during the growth phase.”

When the antlers have reached the size and shape characteristic for the particular species, the blood circulation in the velvet is stopped, the velvet dies, and the buck or bull then rubs off the dead skin against branches,

In the case of moose, “During antler growth this velvet layer of hair that covers the antlers are the ‘feelers’ for the antlers,” the biologist continued.

“At the end of August into September the antlers essentially harden into bone and the velvet is rubbed and sloughed off as the bull thrashes and rubs against vegetation. By this time, the bull has essentially ‘learned’ the dimensions of his new antlers for his travels.”

Deer and moose have played a very important role in the history of our country, especially deer. The American Indians and European settlers depended on deer for food clothing, implements, ornaments, ceremonial items, tools and weapons. The hides provided shelter and protection from the weather.

Did you know the term “bucks” when referring to money comes from the American Indians. Deerskins were considered valuable for clothing and the skins were called “bucks.” They were traded for various other articles.

The Netsilik Inuit people made bows and arrows using antlers, reinforced with strands of animal tendons braided to form a cable-backed bow. Several American Indian tribes also used antlers to make bows, gluing tendons to the bow instead of tying them as cables. An antler bow, made in the early 19th century, is on display at Brooklyn Museum. Its manufacture is attributed to the Yankton Sioux.

Throughout history large deer antlers from a suitable species, like the red deer, were often cut down to its shaft and its lowest tine and used as a one-pointed pickax.

Antler headdresses were worn by shamans and other spiritual figures in various cultures, and for dances. Antlers are still worn in traditional dances.

Gathering shed antlers or “sheds” attracts dedicated practitioners who refer to it colloquially as shed hunting, or bone picking. In the United States, the middle of December to the middle of February is considered shed hunting season, when deer, elk, and moose begin to shed.

In the United States in 2017 sheds fetched around $10 per pound, with larger specimens in good condition attracting higher prices. The most desirable antlers have been found soon after being shed. The value is reduced if they have been damaged by weathering or being gnawed by small animals. A matched pair from the same animal is a very desirable find but often antlers are shed separately and may be separated by several miles. Some enthusiasts for shed hunting use trained dogs to assist them. Most hunters will follow ‘game trails’ (trails where deer frequently run) to find these sheds or they will build a shed trap to collect the loose antlers in the late winter/early spring.

Lewis and Clark might never have been able to finish their journey from St. Louis to Oregon if the hunters they took along had not furnished them with deer meat along the way. For the four months they wintered in Oregon, they had little to eat other than deer meat.

Have you ever seen a set of deformed moose antlers on a mount, and wondered why? Well, if a bull moose is castrated, either by accident or chemical means, he will quickly shed his current set of antlers and then immediately begin to grow a new set of mishapen and deformed antlers that he will wear the rest of his life without ever shedding again.

I know I wandered off the initial subject, but I found all this information fascinating. I hope you did, too.

Roland’s trivia question of the week:

Name the last NFL team to win back-to-back Super Bowls.

Answer can be found here.

SCORES & OUTDOORS: The familiar sights and sounds of the Canada Geese

Canadian Goose

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

We’ve all heard them. The honking sounds overhead as the Canada geese move south in their familiar V formation. Let’s learn a little more about these large birds that at one time were considered extinct.

The Canada goose, Branta canadensis, is a large wild goose species. It is native to arctic and temperate regions of North America, and its migration occasionally reaches northern Europe. Like most geese, the Canada goose is primarily herbivorous and normally migratory; it tends to be found on or close to fresh water.

Extremely skilled at living in human-altered areas, Canada geese have established breeding colonies in urban and cultivated habitats, which provide food and few natural predators. The success of this common park species has led to its often being considered a pest species because of its excrement, its depredation of crops, its noise, its aggressive territorial behavior towards both humans and other animals, and its habit of begging for food (caused by human hand feeding).

The Canada goose was one of the many species described by Carl Linnaeus in his 18th-century work Systema Naturae.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first citation for the ‘Canada goose’ dates back to 1772. The Canada goose is also colloquially referred to as the “Canadian goose”. A persistent urban legend gives the name origin as after an ornithologist surnamed “Canada,” but this is false.

Canada geese range from 30 to 43 inches in length and have a 50–73 inch wingspan. The male Canada goose usually weighs 5.7–14.3 pounds. The female looks virtually identical, but is slightly lighter at 5.3–12.1 pounds, and generally 10 percent smaller in linear dimensions than the male counterparts. The honk refers to the call of the male Canada goose, while the hrink call refers to the female goose. The calls are similar, however, the hrink is shorter and more high-pitched than the honk of males.

This species is native to North America. It breeds in Canada and the northern United States in a wide range of habitats. The Great Lakes region maintains a very large population of Canada geese. Canada geese occur year-round in the southern part of their breeding range, including most of the eastern seaboard and the Pacific coast. Between California and South Carolina in the southern United States and northern Mexico, Canada geese are primarily present as migrants from further north during the winter.

By the early 20th century, overhunting and loss of habitat in the late 19th century and early 20th century had resulted in a serious decline in the numbers of this bird in its native range. The giant Canada goose subspecies was believed to be extinct in the 1950s until, in 1962, a small flock was discovered wintering in Rochester, Minnesota. Harvey K. Nelson, talked Forrest Lee into leaving Minnesota to head the center’s Canada goose production and restoration program. Forrest soon had 64 pens with 64 breeding pairs of screened, high-quality birds. The project involved private, state, and federal resources and relied on the expertise and cooperation of many individuals. By the end of 1981, more than 6,000 giant Canada geese had been released at 83 sites in 26 counties in North Dakota. With improved game laws and habitat recreation and preservation programs, their populations have recovered in most of their range, although some local populations may still be declining.

In recent years, Canada goose populations in some areas have grown substantially, so much so that many consider them pests for their droppings, bacteria in their droppings, noise, and confrontational behavior. This problem is partially due to the removal of natural predators and an abundance of safe, man-made bodies of water near food sources, such as those found on golf courses, in public parks and beaches, and in planned communities. Due in part to the interbreeding of various migratory subspecies with the introduced nonmigratory giant subspecies, Canada geese are frequently a year-around feature of such urban environments.

Contrary to its normal migration routine, large flocks of Canada geese have established permanent residence along the Pacific coast of North America from south-western British Columbia (specifically Vancouver Island and British Columbia’s Lower Mainland), south to the San Francisco Bay area of Northern California. There are also resident Atlantic coast populations, such as on Chesapeake Bay, in Virginia’s James River regions, and in the Triangle area of North Carolina (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill), and nearby Hillsborough. Some Canada geese have taken up permanent residence as far south as Florida, in places such as retention ponds in apartment complexes. In 2015, the Ohio population of Canada geese was reported as roughly 130,000, with the number likely to continue increasing. Many of the geese, previously migratory, reportedly had become native, remaining in the state even in the summer. The increase was attributed to a lack of natural predators, an abundance of water, and plentiful grass in manicured lawns in urban areas.

Canada geese are primarily herbivores, although they sometimes eat small insects and fish. Their diet includes green vegetation and grains. The Canada goose eats a variety of grasses when on land. The Canada goose also eats beans and grains such as wheat, rice, and corn when they are available. In the water, it feeds from aquatic plants.

In urban areas, it is also known to pick food out of garbage bins. They are also sometimes hand-fed a variety of grains and other foods by humans in parks. Canada geese prefer lawngrass in urban areas. They usually graze in open areas with wide clearance to avoid potential predators.

Canada geese are known for their seasonal migrations. Most Canada geese have staging or resting areas where they join up with others. Their autumn migration can be seen from September to the beginning of November. The early migrants have a tendency to spend less time at rest stops and go through the migration much faster. The later birds usually spend more time at rest stops. Some geese return to the same nesting ground year after year and lay eggs with their mate, raising them in the same way each year. This is recorded from the many tagged geese which frequent the East Coast.

Flying in the V formation has been the subject of study by researchers. The front position is rotated since flying in front consumes the most energy.

The lifespan in the wild of geese that survive to adulthood ranges from 10 to 24 years.

Canada geese instinctively nest on higher ground near water. Known predators of eggs and goslings include coyotes, Arctic foxes, northern raccoons, red foxes, large gulls, common ravens, American crows, carrion crows and both brown and American black bears.

Once they reach adulthood, due to their large size and often aggressive behavior, Canada geese are rarely preyed on, although prior injury may make them more vulnerable to natural predators. Beyond humans, adults can be taken by coyotes and grey wolves. Avian predators that are known to kill adults, as well as young geese, include snowy owls, golden eagles and bald eagles and, though rarely on large adult geese, great horned owls, and peregrine falcons. Adults are quite vigorous at displacing potential predators from the nest site, with predator prevention usually falling to the larger male of the pair. Canada geese are quite wary of humans where they are regularly hunted and killed, but can otherwise become habituated to fearlessness towards humans, especially where they are fed by them. This often leads to the geese becoming overly aggressive towards humans, and large groups of the birds may be considered a nuisance if they are causing persistent issues to humans and other animals in the surrounding area.

Canada geese are susceptible to avian bird flus.

In North America, nonmigratory Canada goose populations have been on the rise. The species is frequently found on golf courses, parking lots, and urban parks, which would have previously hosted only migratory geese on rare occasions. Owing to its adaptability to human-altered areas, it has become one of the most common waterfowl species in North America. Canada geese are protected from hunting and capture outside of designated hunting seasons in the United States by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and in Canada under the Migratory Birds Convention Act. In both countries, commercial transactions such as buying or trading are mostly prohibited and the possession, hunting, and interfering with the activity of the animals are subject to restrictions.

In Maine, the Early Canada geese may be hunted from September 1 – 25, in the north, south and coastal zones. The Regular Canada Geese, including white-fronted geese, may be hunted, in the north zone, from October 1 through December 9; in the south zone, October 1 through October, and October 30 through December 26; and coastal zone October 1 through October 12, and October 27 through January 2, 2021.

Canada geese have been implicated in a number of bird strikes by aircraft. Their large size and tendency to fly in flocks may exacerbate their impact. In the United States, the Canada goose is the second-most damaging bird strike to airplanes, with the most damaging being turkey vultures. Canada geese can cause fatal crashes when they strike an aircraft’s engine. The FAA has reported 1,772 known civil aircraft strikes within the United States between 1990–2018.

As a large, common wild bird, the Canada goose is a common target of hunters, especially in its native range. Drake Larsen, a researcher in sustainable agriculture at Iowa State University, described them to Atlantic magazine as “so yummy…good, lean, rich meat. I find they are similar to a good cut of beef.”

In 2000, the North American population for the geese was estimated to be between 4 million and 5 million birds.

Roland’s trivia question of the week:

The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have each won 17 NBA titles. Which two franchises are tied for third on the list.

Answer can be found here.

SCORES & OUTDOORS: Squirrels: my cultured, refined little thieves

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

I know I’ve written about gray squirrels in the past, but, I have to tell you about the two in particular that have made their home in my backyard. High in a tree, overlooking the garage, sits a large squirrels’ nest where these two reside. You rarely see them together, but when you do, it’s a comedy act rivaled by none.

I refer to them as my cultured squirrels. They have done such amazing things, that I have dubbed them Martha and Stewart because of some of their etiquettes.

For starters, my backyard is peppered with black chestnut pits. I learned a long time ago those nuts are a staple for these scavenging rodents. Annually, my wife and I visit a cemetery in China where there are horse chestnut trees. We gather a bagful and feed them to the squirrels, a little at a time.

Well, the black chestnuts were a mystery until about 10 years ago when I learned there is a black chestnut tree in the middle of Waterville, about 150 yards from my house – by the way the crow flies. These squirrels obviously make that journey to acquire those nuts, stash them in the nest, and discard the pits. I have to rake up the pits because the last thing I need is another tree growing in my backyard.

We watch them frolic around, chasing each other up and around the large pines in the backyard. We even hear them running across the peak of the roof to our house in the early mornings. Once recently, they actually looked like they were dancing on our porch railing. I had never seen that before, but there they were, face-to-face, with front feet wrapped around each other like they were about to dance to a Mozart waltz.

But, what had transpired before that was what really astonishes me. Next to the porch, on a bench, are my trash cans. One metal, one plastic. Now, quite a while ago, the squirrels had chewed a hole through the plastic lid. I repaired the hole and it stayed that way for about a year and a half. The other morning, I noticed the patch was removed. So, I applied another. Meanwhile, with the holidays coming up, my wife and I did some sorting of various foods in the pantry, and discovered a container of some outdated crackers – mini crackers about the size of a nickel. We bagged them with the rest of the weekly trash, and deposited the bag into the trash can outside for Friday’s pickup.

A few days later, I noticed one of the squirrels sitting upright on the railing, chomping away on what looked like one of the crackers. So, I couldn’t help but sit and watch his next move. Sure enough, from my vantage point, I could see where this squirrel didn’t bother to undo the repaired patch, he chewed a new hole through the lid. He jumped off the railing, went down the hole into the trash can, and came out with another cracker. I watched him do that about six times before he noticed me, and left the area.

I went outside, looked inside the trash can, and the bag containing the crackers was split open. So I placed a brick temporaily over the hole. Here’s my question: How did that squirrel know that crackers were present in a plastic bag, tied securely at the top, and deposited into a plastic trash receptacle, with the lid snapped on tightly?

It boggles my mind how keen a sense of smell these little critters have.

I wrote this column last Sunday, and thought I was finished. Well, Martha or Stewart, were back to their old tricks. As I was getting snacks together in the kitchen before the start of the football game, I saw one of them sitting on the railing licking a paper muffin cup. My wife and I had muffins for breakfast on Saturday, and he was cleaning up the leftovers. Then, I noticed in front of him, a K-cup from our Keurig machine, which it had opened at the top, and was literally having coffee grounds with his muffin. I couldn’t tell if it had a pinky in the air while doing this.

It had enlarged the hole where the brick was sitting on top of the trash can, and gone inside to help himself.

Now comes Monday: During the afternoon, there they were again, this time in the axel of a branch on a maple tree, where the two were giving each other a bath, the way a mother cat would do to its kittens. An attempt to photographed them failed. I needed some proof about these two squirrels, because when I tell these stories, people look at me like I was crazy.

The trash is now gone, so I guess the next step is to dispose of the plastic can, and purchase another metal one. I don’t mind feeding the squirrels, but my trash is personal.

Roland’s trivia question of the week:

When was the last time the New England Patriots used three quarterbacks in the same season?

Answer can be found here.

SCORES & OUTDOORS: The three most common owls in Maine are quite different

northern screech-owl

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

During the still of the night at camp, we can hear the sounds of barred owls communicating with each other.

One night last week, we could hear three calling out for each other from different locations. It’s not quite as soothing as listening to the loons, but it does put me back to sleep.

However, one evening, one of our neighbors said they heard a screech owl one evening. That got me to thinking. I didn’t think there were any in Maine.

Generally, it is known there aren’t that many different species of owls in Maine. Mainly, we have the Great Horned Owl, Northern Saw-Whet Owl and the very common Barred Owl. The Barred Owl and the Great Horned Owl live in a wide variety of forested habitats and occupy dense forests, open woodlands, clear-cuts, and even urban environments such as golf courses, cemeteries, and parks with adjacent woodlots.

But first, let’s look at the screech owl.

The northern screech-owls are found in eastern states, such as New Jersey and New York. The screech owls are named for their piercing calls. The normal territorial call is not a hoot as with some owls, but a trill consisting of more than four individual calls per second given in rapid succession (although the sound does not resemble screeching or screaming). They also have a kind of “song” which is used in courtship and, as a duet, between members of a pair. Calls differ widely between species in type and pitch, and in the field are often the first indication of these birds’ presence, as well as the most reliable means to distinguish between species. The distinctness of many species of screech owls was first realized when vastly differing calls of externally similar birds from adjacent regions were noted.

According to a state website, if there are any screech owls in Maine, they would be found in the extreme southern part of the state. Actually, eleven species of owls live in or visit Maine for all or a portion of the year. The great horned owl and the barred owl are the most widely distributed owls in the state.

Most owls are nocturnal predators, with hooked bills and needle-sharp talons. They have wide wings, light bodies, and feathers specially designed to allow them to silently swoop down on prey. Depending on the species, owl calls are characterized as being either a hoot, a screech, or a whistle.

northern saw-whet owl

The northern saw-whet owl, Aegolius acadicus, is a small owl native to North America. Saw-whet owls are one of the smallest owl species in North America. They can be found in dense thickets or conifers, often at eye level, although they can also be found some 20 feet up. Saw-whets are often in danger of being preyed upon by larger owls and raptors. Northern saw-whet owls are also migratory birds without any strict pattern.

Their habitat is coniferous forests, sometimes mixed or deciduous woods, across North Ameri­ca. Most birds nest in coniferous type forests of the North but winter in mixed or deciduous woods. They also love riparian areas because of the abundance of prey there. They live in tree cavities and old nests made by other small raptors. Some are permanent residents, while others may migrate south in winter or move down from higher elevations. Their range covers most of North America including southeastern and southcentral Alaska, southern Canada, most of the United States and the central mountains in Mexico.

They can weigh from 1.9 to 5.3 ounces, making them one of the smallest owls in North America. They are similar in size to the American robin.

The northern saw-whet owl makes a repeated tooting whistle sound. Some say they sound like a saw being sharpened on a whetstone. They usually make these sounds to find a mate, so they can be heard more often April through June when they are looking for mates. Despite being more common in spring, they do vocalize year round.

great horned owl

The great horned owl, Bubo virginianus, also known as the tiger owl (originally derived from early naturalists’ description as the “winged tiger” or “tiger of the air”) or the hoot owl, is a large owl native to the Americas. It is an extremely adaptable bird with a vast range and is the most widely distributed true owl in the Americas. Its primary diet is rabbits and hares, rats and mice, and voles, although it freely hunts any animal it can overtake, including rodents and other small mammals, larger mid-sized mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates.

The great horned owl is generally colored for camouflage. The underparts of the species are usually light with some brown horizontal barring; the upper parts and upper wings are generally a mottled brown usually bearing heavy, complex, darker markings. All subspecies are darkly barred to some extent along the sides, as well.

The great horned owl is the second-heaviest owl in North America, after the closely related, but very different-looking snowy owl. Although the snowy owl is not common in Maine, I have seen one on two different occasions. Once on the fence post of a pasture, and the other standing in the breakdown lane on the interstate highway.

The great horned owl is heavily built, with a barrel-shaped body, a large head, and broad wings. Its size can vary considerably across its range, with populations in interior Alaska and Ontario being largest and populations in California and Texas being smallest, though those from the Yucatán Peninsula and Baja California appear to be even smaller. Adult great horned owls range in length from 17 to 25 inches, and possess a wingspan of three to five feet). Females are somewhat larger than males.[

They are distributed throughout most of North America. I once saw a great horned owl in flight ahead of us while riding a snowmobile trail in Palermo. It was after dark and I can say they are a magnificent bird.

Typically, great horned owls are highly sedentary, often capable of utilizing a single territory throughout their mature lives. Although some species such as snowy owls, northern saw-whet owls, long-eared and short-eared owls are true migrants, most North American owls are not migratory and will generally show fidelity to a single territory year around. In great horned owls, mated pairs occupy territories year-round and long-term. Territories are established and maintained through hooting, with highest activity before egg-laying and second peak in autumn when juveniles disperse Most territorial de­fense is per­form­­ed by males, but females frequently assist their partners in hooting contests with neighbors or intruders.

barred owl

The barred owl, Strix varia, also known as the northern barred owl or, more informally, hoot owl, is a large species of owl.

Barred owls are brown to gray overall, with dark striping on the underside contrasted immediately above that with similarly-dark and tight vertical barring about their throat and nape. Barred owls are largely native to eastern North America, but have expanded their range to the west coast of North America where they are considered invasive. Mature forests are their preferred habitat, but they can also acclimate to various gradients of open woodlands. Their diet consists mainly of small mammals, but this species is an opportunistic predator and is known to prey upon other small vertebrates such as birds, reptiles, and amphibians, as well as a variety of invertebrates.

The barred owl is distributed throughout most of the eastern United States, as well as much of southern Canada. They are found as far northeast as much of Nova Scotia (western two-thirds), New Brunswick and in much of Québec, up to Lake Mistassini, and Ontario, up to Moosonee.

The barred owl ranges in every part of the eastern United States continuously from northernmost Maine down throughout New England, the Mid-Atlantic states, much of the Midwest, the Southeast United States and all of Florida. A wandering barred owl was once seen flying over Lake Michigan 30 miles from the nearest land.

The barred owl, like most owls, is largely adapted to nocturnality. Between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m., juvenile barred owls were recorded to sleep an average of 28 percent of each hour. Peak times in Minnesota were found to be right after sunset and just before dawn. Nonetheless, they are not as fully nocturnal as many owls and rank around sixth amongst 19 regular North American owl species for the regularity of their activity outside of nightfall, especially in particular circumstances such as when a rival or a human impersonator is emitting barred owls calls or whilst hunting. Often daytime activity tends to be early in the morning or around dusk but potentially at any time (overcast days being preferred).

Owls are interesting creatures. An old myth exists that owls are intelligent because they look intelligent. Well, here is the truth: The wise owl appears in everything from The Iliad to Winnie the Pooh. But, it turns out, though they’re excellent hunters, owls probably aren’t any smarter than a lot of other birds. In fact, they may be significantly worse at problem solving than other big-brained birds like crows and parrots.

Roland’s trivia question of the week:

Name the only two players to win a World Series with both the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

Answer can be found here.

SCORES & OUTDOORS: Noisy, plentiful acorns; obscure beech nuts

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

While preparing breakfast last Saturday, I glanced out the kitchen window towards my recently cleaned up garden plot. As I looked around I noticed some movement, and commented to my wife: “I think I have the title for a new country song, ‘There’s a squirrel in the compost pile.’

I’m not sure how that translates to pickup trucks, bass boats and lost loves, but I’m sure it has a place in there somewhere.

Anyway, that prompted me to ask myself what could be in the compost that would interest a squirrel. After all, it has nothing more than plant stems, vines from squashes and various roots and stalks. There were a few tiny, fledgling fruits from these items that didn’t have a chance to mature, but that would be it.

Then my mind rewound to camp, and the food sources out there. Nearby there is a large oak tree and a mature, but fairly young beech tree. Most of you have probably heard acorns when they fall from the trees, and land on something solid. They sound like gunfire, exploding bombs or branches falling. They make quite a loud noise. The presence of Beech nuts, on the other hand, are hardly even noticeable.

Wildlife that consume acorns as an important part of their diets includes birds, such as jays, pigeons, some ducks and several species of woodpeckers. Small mammals include mice, squirrels and several other rodents – ahh, squirrels. Large mammals include pigs, bears, and deer. Acorns are in high demand.

Acorns are attractive to animals because they are large and efficiently consumed or cached. They are rich in nutrients and contain large amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fats, as well as calcium, phosphorus and potassium, and the vitamin niacin.

Acorns are too heavy for wind dispersal, so the spreading of the seed is dependant on animals like the squirrels who cache the nuts for future use. Squirrels scatter-hoard the acorns in a variety of locations in which it is possible for them to germinate and thrive. On occasion, the odd acorn may be lost, or the squirrel may die before consuming all the acorns it has stored. A small number of acorns may germinate and survive, producing the next generation of oak trees.

As far as humans go, acorns have frequently been used as a coffee substitute. The Confederates in the American Civil War and the Germans during World War II, which were cut off from coffee supplies by Union and Allied blockades, respectively, are particularly notable past instances of this use of acorns.

As far as the beech nuts go, again going back to camp and the beech tree near our site, there doesn’t seem to be much activity by squirrels in the area of the tree. Of course, the beech nut seems to defy gravity. It is a small nut with soft-spined husks. Although it is high in tannin content, they are bitter. The nut can be extracted by peeling back the husk, but your fingers may hurt dealing with the spines. Maybe that is why they are not that attractive to squirrels.

Nowhere in all my research did I find any reference to wildlife that feast on the beech nut.

Beech trees are better known for other things than producing a source of food. The Beech bark is extremely thin and scars easily. Carvings, such as lovers’ initials, remain because the beech tree is unable to heal itself.

On a different note, slats of Beech wood are washed in a caustic soda to leach out any flavor and is used in the bottom of fermentation tanks for Budweiser beer. This allows a surface for the yeast to settle, so that it doesn’t pile up too deep. Thus the slogan, “Beechwood Aged.” Beech is also used to smoke Westphalian ham, various sausages and some cheeses.

The American beech tree occurs only in the eastern United States and southeastern Canada. It is believed that it was found coast to coast prior to the Ice Age. Now they can only be found east of the Great Plains. You will rarely find the beech tree in developed areas unless it is a left over of a forest that was cut for land development.

The beech tree is also temperamental. Some trees never produce nuts while others only spawn edible nuts in certain years.

So what was that squirrel – I could not discern whether it was Martha or Stewart, my two resident rodents – looking for that day? Probably just window shopping.

Roland’s trivia question of the week:

Who are the only two Red Sox managers to be named Manager of the Year?

Answer can be found here.

SCORES & OUTDOORS: Sandhill cranes becoming more abundant in central Maine

Sandhill cranes photographed in Chelsea by Gary Kennedy.

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

Several people now have shown me photos of a large bird that is seen grazing in the fields of central Maine. I’ve seen them before, but reports of sightings have become more frequent. They would be sandhill cranes.

The sandhill crane, Antigone canadensis), is a species of large crane of North America and extreme northeastern Siberia. The common name of this bird refers to habitat like that at the Platte River, on the edge of Nebraska’s Sandhills on the American Plains. This is the most important stopover area for the subspecies.

Adults are gray overall; during breeding, their plumage is usually much worn and stained, particularly in the migratory populations, and looks nearly ochre. The average weight of the larger males is 10 pounds, while the average weight of females is just under 9 pounds. Sandhill cranes have red foreheads, white cheeks, and long, dark, pointed bills. In flight, their long, dark legs trail behind, and their long necks keep straight. Immature birds have reddish-brown upperparts and gray underparts. The sexes look alike. Sizes vary among the different subspecies; the average height of these birds is around to feet, seven inches, to four feet, six inches. Their wing chords are typically 16.5 – 23.6 inches, tails are 3.9 – 10.4 inches.

These cranes frequently give a loud, trumpeting call that suggests a rolled “r” in the throat, and they can be heard from a long distance. Mated pairs of cranes engage in “unison calling”. The cranes stand close together, calling in a synchronized and complex duet. The female makes two calls for every one from the male.

Sandhill cranes’ large wingspans, typically five feet, five inches to seven feet, seven inches, make them very skilled sflyers, similar in style to hawks and eagles. Using thermals to obtain lift, they can stay aloft for many hours, requiring only occasional flapping of their wings, thus expending little energy. Migratory flocks contain hundreds of birds, and can create clear outlines of the normally invisible rising columns of air (thermals) they ride.

Sandhill cranes fly south for the winter. In their wintering areas, they form flocks over 10,000. One place this happens is at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. An annual Sandhill Crane Festival is held there in November.

Sandhill cranes have one of the longest fossil histories of any extant bird. A 10-million-year-old crane fossil from Nebraska is said to be of this species, but this may be from a prehistoric relative or the direct ancestor of sandhill cranes and not belong in the genus. The oldest unequivocal sandhill crane fossil is 2.5 million years old, older by half than the earliest remains of most living species of birds

Sandhill cranes are fairly social birds that usually live in pairs or family groups through the year. During migration and winter, unrelated cranes come together to form “survival groups” that forage and roost together. Such groups often congregate at migration and winter sites, sometimes in the thousands.

Sandhill cranes are mainly herbivorous, but eat various types of food, depending on availability. They often feed with their bills down to the ground as they root around for seeds and other foods, in shallow wetlands with vegetation or various upland habitats. Cranes readily eat cultivated foods such as corn, wheat, cottonseed, and sorghum. Waste corn is useful to cranes preparing for migration, providing them with nutrients for the long journey. Among northern races of sandhill cranes, the diet is most varied, especially among breeding birds. They variously feed on berries, small mammals, insects, snails, reptiles, and amphibians.

Sandhill cranes raise one brood per year. In nonmigratory populations, laying begins between December and August. In migratory populations, laying usually begins in April or May. Both members of a breeding pair build the nest using plant material from the surrounding area. Nest sites are usually marshes, bogs, or swales, though occasionally on dry land. Females lay one to three (usually two) oval, dull brown eggs with reddish markings. Both parents incubate the eggs for about 30 days. The chicks are precocial; they hatch covered in down, with their eyes open, and able to leave the nest within a day. The parents brood the chicks for up to three weeks after hatching, feeding them intensively for the first few weeks, then gradually less frequently until they reach independence at 9 to 10 months old.

As a conspicuous ground-dwelling species, sandhill cranes are at risk from predators, which are probably the main source of mortality. Mammals such as foxes, raccoons, coyotes, wolves, cougars, bobcats, and lynx hunt them given any opportunity, the first three mainly hunting large numbers of young cranes, the latter four types more rarely taking full-grown cranes in ambush excepting the prolific bobcat. Corvids, such as ravens and crows, gulls, and smaller raptors such as hawks (largely northern harriers or red-tailed hawks) feed on young cranes and eggs.

Cranes of all ages are hunted by both North American species of eagles. Mainly chicks and possibly a few adults may be preyed on by great horned owls and even the much smaller peregrine falcons has successfully killed a 6.8-pound adult sandhill crane in a stoop.

Sandhill cranes defend themselves and their young from aerial predators by jumping and kicking. Actively brooding adults are more likely to react aggressively to potential predators to defend their chicks than wintering birds, which most often normally try to evade attacks on foot or in flight. For land predators, they move forward, often hissing, with their wings open and bills pointed. If the predator persists, the crane stabs with its bill (which is powerful enough to pierce the skull of a small carnivore) and kicks.

In the 20th century, sandhill cranes were generally extirpated east of the Mississippi River. Although sandhill cranes are not considered threatened as a species. Resident populations, not migratory birds, cannot choose secure breeding habitat. Many subpopulations were destroyed by hunting or habitat change. Their desirability as a delicious game bird brought them the nickname of “Rib-eye of the sky” by a small group of modern hunters. The greater sandhill crane proper initially suffered most; by 1940, probably fewer than 1,000 birds remained. Populations have since increased greatly again. At nearly 100,000, they are still fewer than the lesser sandhill crane, which, at about 400,000 individuals, is the most plentiful crane alive today.

Some migratory populations of sandhill cranes face population threats due to interspecies competition with snow geese. duced offspring for annual releases into the refuge.

So, it is fair to summize that although they were generally extirpated east of the Mississippi River, they are making a comeback, as frequent sightings in the central Maine area are not uncommon.

Roland’s trivia question of the week:

Which Boston Red Sox player has won the most batting average titles.

The answer can be found here.

SCORES & OUTDOORS: They’re everywhere! But are they real spiders?

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

I think it was Dr. Demento who used to say, “They’re everywhere, they’re everywhere!”

Well, they are. You could be sitting on the deck or porch at camp, and there’s one on your leg, or walking across your shoulders. Go do some garden work, and you’ll see them there. Deadhead flowers in your beds, yup, they’re there, too. Go fetch a couple of sticks out of the wood pile, Bingo! More of them. They are actually “everywhere” and can be a nuisance.

What am I talking about? Daddy Longlegs. It was Jim Stafford who sang, “I don’t like spiders and snakes,” and it usually applies to me. I think he had me in mind when he wrote the song. However, Daddy longlegs don’t bother me too much. They are tolerable, not like those other scary looking, eight-legged creatures.

But are Daddy longlegs truly spiders? Let’s take a closer look.

According to entomologists at the University of California, Riverside, the term “daddy longlegs” is commonly used to refer to two distinct types of creatures: opilionids arachnids with pill-shaped bodies and eight long legs are actually not spiders, and pholcids, which have long legs and small bodies, and thus resemble opilionids, but which are truly spiders.

What we refer to as daddy longlegs are actually called harvestmen. You see them almost every day. They are not spiders – although closely related – but belong to a group with many different species, called opiliones. The common name daddy longlegs came about because of their small oval body and long legs, and the name harvestmen because they are most often seen in large numbers in the late summer and early fall around harvest time.

While they have eight legs and an outward appearance of a spider, daddy longlegs lack two of the most important features that make a spider, a spider: silk production and venom. Daddy longlegs do not have spinnerets that spiders have to produce silk and make webs. Spiders also produce venom they inject through fangs to quickly kill and digest prey. Daddy longlegs do not produce venom, nor do they have fangs.

So, how about the old legend, “daddy longlegs are one of the most poisonous spiders, but their fangs are too short and weak to bite humans?”

This tale has been lurking around for years. I have heard it repeatedly. This is incorrect, an urban myth. Most folks who retell this tale have no idea that they are referring to two completely separate groups of animals, daddy longlegs and daddy longlegs spiders.

Daddy longlegs spiders are venomous predators, and although they never naturally bite people, their fangs are similar in structure to those of brown recluse spiders, and therefore can theoretically penetrate skin. For these reasons, this is most probably the animal to which people refer when they tell the tale.

The daddy longlegs we see are the harvestmen – not spiders – and can actually be beneficial. They have a very broad diet that includes spiders and insects, and plant pests such as aphids. They will also feast on caterpillars, beetles, flies, mites, small slugs, snails, earthworms, other harvestmen, and decaying plant and animal matter. Daddy longlegs also scavenge for dead insects and will eat bird droppings. Control should only be performed when absolutely necessary. The clustering behavior only occurs during the fall and for only a brief period of time. If necessary, no need for pesticides, a broom or a vacuum will suffice.

Last weekend, I noticed a harvestman (daddy longleg) carrying a small moth across our deck at camp. I watched it for a while, and observed that it was struggling with the weight of the moth. Finally, the daddy longleg dropped the moth, ate its fill, and left. I kept going back from time to time to see the moth still laying on the deck. After a while, I don’t know whether it was the wind, or the harvestman returned, but the moth had disappeared.

Daddy longlegs legs easily break off. They have the ability to break off legs similar to the ability of lizards to break off a portion of their tail if being attacked by a predator. But it can have an adverse affect on them, especially if its the second set of legs.

The daddy longlegs’ second pair of legs serve as ears, nose, tongue and perhaps even as supplementary “eyes.” The legs are loaded with nerves and literally thousands of tiny sense organs that lie inside microscopic slits in the legs. They can produce a pungent odor that is distasteful to most predators.

Although they can be pests, they have a place in the ecosystem.

It’s going to be difficult, but you now should refer to those eight long-legged animals as daddy longleg harvestmen, and not spiders.

Roland’s trivia question of the week:

Which Red Sox player won the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2018?

Answer can be found here.

SCORES & OUTDOORS: It’s time for the katydids

Katydid

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

Last week, a friend of mine texted me with the photo of a cricket-like bug for identification. Before I could get back to him, he ID’d it as a katydid. A few days later, I saw one hanging on the screen door at camp. It had been a while since I had seen one.

Katydids are a family of insects related to grasshoppers and crickets. They’re also called bush crickets or long-horned grasshoppers in some regions. There are more than 6,000 types of katydids, and they’re found on every continent except for Antarctica. The vast majority of katydid species live in the tropical regions of the world. For example, the Amazon basin rain forest is home to over 2,000 species of katydids. However, katydids are found in the cool, dry temperate regions, as well, with about 255 species in North America.

Most types of katydids are green and have markings to help them blend in with leaves and other foliage. Like crickets and grasshoppers, they have long back legs to help them jump. They can rub their front wings together to make a loud ka-ty-did song that gives them their name. Some katydid songs, however, are at too high a frequency for human ears to hear.

Katydids are usually considered gentle insects that aren’t harmful to humans. Some people consider them garden pests; however, they usually don’t cause serious damage to your plants or vegetables. The Common Garden Katydid is a quite common backyard buddy and garden visitor.

Many people even keep them as pets. In rare cases, larger types of katydid may pinch or bite if they feel threatened. Their bite is unlikely to break your skin and likely won’t be any more painful than a mosquito bite. You’re very unlikely to get bitten unless you’re handling them with your bare hands. It’s extremely unlikely that the bite will need medical attention. You can wash the area with soap and water and apply a cold compress if you have pain or swelling.

Katydids primarily eat leaves and grass. Along with crickets and grasshoppers, they may be attracted to the plants in your garden or any tall grass on your property. Katydids are nocturnal and are also attracted to bright lights at night.

One type of katydid found widely across North America, the broad-winged katydid, likes to eat the leaves of citrus trees and may be a pest for people with orchards.

You may not know much about katydids, probably because they are masters of camouflage. Their green colouring and leaf-like shape helps them blend into leafy surroundings, and they are most active at night. They may be tough to spot, but may be a lot more common than you think.

Katydids don’t have ears on their heads, but instead they have an ear called a ‘tympanum’ on each front leg, just below the knee. Up close, this looks like a hole in their leg.

The lifespan of a katydid is about a year, with full adulthood usually developing very late. Females most typically lay their eggs at the end of summer beneath the soil or in plant stem holes. The eggs are typically oval and laid in rows on the host plant.

When katydids go to rest during the day, they enter a diurnal roosting posture to maximize their cryptic qualities. This position fools predators into thinking the katydid is either dead or just a leaf on the plant. By flicking their wings open when disturbed, they use the coloration to fool predators into thinking the spots are eyes. This, in combination with their coloration mimicking leaves, allows them to blend in with their surroundings, but also makes predators unsure which side is the front and which side is the back.

They have polygamous relationships. The first male to mate is guaranteed an extremely high confidence of paternity when a second male couples at the termination of female sexual refractoriness. The nutrients that the offspring ultimately receive will increase their fitness.

The polygamous relationships of the katydids lead to high levels of male-male competition. Male competition is caused by the decreased availability of males able to supply nutrients to the females. Females produce more eggs on a high-quality diet; thus, the female looks for healthier males with a more nutrition. Females use the sound created by the male to judge his fitness. The louder and more fluent the trill, the higher the fitness of the male.

When you think about it, there is a lot that goes on in the world of what we consider “just a bug.”

Roland’s trivia question of the week:

What New England Patriots running back holds the franchise record for the best single season yards per carry average: Corey Dillon, Danny Woodhead or James White?

Answer can be found here.

SCORES & OUTDOORS – Be cautious of the wild parsnip

Wild parsnip

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

A reader wrote last week how she had been trying for a couple of years to identify a tall yellow-flowered roadside weed until someone told her it was wild parsnip. Unable to find much information about it, she turned to this column.

Wild parsnip, Pastinaca sativa, is among the rapidly increasing weeds in many areas. As wild parsnip has spread, so has the realization that human exposure often leads to serious burns and blisters on the arms and legs. Being able to readily identify wild parsnip and early detection of infested areas will minimize inadvertent and excessive exposure to this plant and the often painful results that follow.

The species is native to Eurasia, and may have been introduced as a vegetable as plants have long, thick, white to yellowish taproots that are edible. True parsnip plants have larger roots than wild parsnip. The entire plant has a parsnip odor. Cattle will not eat wild parsnip but deer may feed on it, and birds and small mammals eat the seeds.

The plants are most abundant in sites dominated by perennial grasses that are mowed once or twice a year.

Why the explosion of wild parsnip? Only Mother Nature knows for sure. Birds and mammals eat the seeds and they may be spreading the problem from site to site. There is no doubt that the delay in mowing roadsides until mid summer as an official roadside management policy of the state and towns opens the door for this plant to complete its life cycle, and produce ripe seeds well before any mowing is done. Wild parsnip is tolerant of a wide range of conditions, including dry and wet areas. It is shade tolerant, but prefers sunny conditions. Depending on the habitat and growing conditions, individual flowering plants range to over four feet in height.

Also, when roadsides and pastures are mowed in July and August, parsnip seeds probably move as hitchhikers on the mowers. Mowing also creates a much more favorable environment for parsnip seeds to germinate than if the sites were left undisturbed. Relatively mild winters may enhance survival of wild parsnip plants that germinate and become established in the fall.

Wild parsnip has a long germination period, but the optimum time for germination is in the early spring, and that is when most germination occurs. Most fall germinated seedlings die during winter. Wild parsnip seedlings are among the first plants to “greenup” early in the spring.

Rosettes grow close to the ground and bear leaves averaging six inches in height. Flowering plants produce a single, thick stem that contains hundreds of yellow umbellate flowers. The lateral flowers often overtop the terminal flowers.

But, the most important thing for humans to remember is to avoid contact with the plant. Humans develop a severe skin irritation from contact with its leaves. Plants have chemicals called psoralens that cause an interaction between plant and light that induce skin inflammation.

Experts are warning people to stay away from wild parsnip after a Vermont woman was severely burned after being exposed to the sap.

The plant grows along rural roads and in meadows throughout the state. Wild parsnip is not native to Maine and has a deep vertical ridge on its stalk. The flowers come in clusters of tiny yellow flowers similar to Queen Anne’s Lace.

A woman in Vermont fell into a wild parsnip plant and suffered horrific burns after her legs were exposed to the sap and she spent time in the sun.

“It is soluble,” said Maine State Horticulturist Gary Fish. “It goes into the skin and that’s when you are going to have damage to the skin which turns into blisters when you have sun exposure.”

People walking through vegetation should wear long sleeves and pants and stay away from plants that look like wild parsnips.

Wild parsnip has sap that has psoralens in it — naturally occurring organic compounds that can kill skin cells that protect people from ultraviolet radiation. When the sap touches the body, it can cause blisters and symptoms resembling symptoms from a burn.

Once the sap is absorbed by the skin, they are energized by UV light on both sunny and cloudy days. They then bind to DNA and cell membranes, destroying cells and skin. Parsnip burns usually occur in streaks and elongated spots, reflecting where a damaged leaf or stem moved across the skin before exposure to sunlight.

Wild parsnip burns differ from the rash caused by poison ivy in several aspects. First, everyone is sensitive to wild parsnip and you do not need to be sensitized by a prior exposure to develop burns or blisters. You can brush against wild parsnip plants and not be affected. Parsnip is dangerous only when the plant sap from broken leaves or stems gets on your skin. Lastly, the parsnip “burn” is usually less irritating than poison ivy’s “itch.”

After about 3 days, the symptoms start to get better. Eventually, like after a bad sunburn, the burned skin cells die and flake off. As symptoms improve, the rash may appear lighter or darker. Discoloration and sensitivity to sunlight in the affected areas can remain for up to two years.

Wild parsnip grows abundantly on our roadsides. Some people mistake it as ragweed, and rightfully so. There is, however, many dissimilarities once you see them side by side.

If you develop a rash or blisters, go to the hospital or a clinic for treatment.

There are other plants in the family that can be harmful as well: Cow Parsnip, a native plant, with white flowers; Giant Hogweed, an invasive species, with white flowers similar to cow parsnip.

When it comes to wild parsnip, unless you are absolutely sure it is something else, don’t touch it.

Roland’s trivia question of the week:

In 1975, the Red Sox played the Cincinnati Reds in what is called the “Greatest World Series ever.” Who hit an eighth inning three-run homer in game 6 to tie the score, and set up Carlton Fisk’s 12th inning iconic home run?

Answer can be found here.

SCORES & OUTDOORS: Wildlife sightings in my travels around central Maine

Royal Palm turkey

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

Traveling through rural Maine can be beautiful, both for its landscape and, secondly, its wildlife. Recently, I had two of those encounters.

On Sunday, while on our way to visit our granddaughter, and newly-born great-granddaughter, in Belgrade, we came across a rafter of turkeys crossing the road on Rte. 27. The first couple were ordinary turkeys (looking more domestic than wild), but the last one to cross the road, and with which I nearly collided because of its last minute surge out into the road, was a white turkey, with some black stripes on the tail.

My first thought: an albino turkey.

It turned out to be a Royal Palm turkey,

The Royal Palm is a breed of domestic turkey. One of the few turkeys not primarily selected for meat production, the Royal Palm is best known as an ornamental bird with a unique appearance, largely white with bands of metallic black. Primarily kept as an exhibition bird, or on small farms, it lacks the size for large scale commercial use. Toms usually weigh 16 to 22 pounds and the hens 10 to 12 pounds.

A relative newcomer among turkey breeds, the bird first appeared in the 1920s on a farm in Lake Worth, Florida, apparently as a cross between Black, Bronze, Narragansett, and native turkeys. Years of selective breeding followed to stabilize the coloring, and the Royal Palm was finally accepted by the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection in 1971.

Along with the decline of most heritage turkey breeds after the adoption of the Broad Breasted White by the turkey industry, Royal Palms are a very endangered breed today. The breed is classified as being on “watch” status with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. It is also included in Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste, a catalog of heritage foods in danger of extinction. The Australian and United States both report the breed as Endangered to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The toms are noted for being non-aggressive, and the hens are particularly good mothers.

So, as it turns out, the bird with which I nearly collided is rare, in danger of extinction and probably should not have been allowed to roam free.

My other encounter is one that is more familiar. On my way to Palermo along Rte. 3 last Thursday, a red fox darted across the road in front of me, again, avoiding a collision with it.

The red fox is the largest of the true foxes and one of the most widely distributed members of the order Carnivora, being present across the entire Northern Hemisphere including most of North America, Europe and Asia plus parts of Northern Africa.

It is listed as least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN.)

Its range has increased alongside human expansion, having been introduced to Australia, where it is considered harmful to native mammals and bird populations. Due to its presence in Australia, it is included on the list of the “world’s 100 worst invasive species”.

Red fox

Red foxes are usually together in pairs or small groups consisting of families, such as a mated pair and their young, or a male with several females having kinship ties. The species primarily feeds on small rodents, though it may also target rabbits, game birds, reptiles, and invertebrates. Fruit and vegetable matter is also eaten sometimes. Although the red fox tends to kill smaller predators, including other fox species, it is vulnerable to attack from larger predators, such as wolves, coyotes, golden jackals and medium- and large-sized felines.

The species has a long history of association with humans, having been extensively hunted as a pest and furbearer for many centuries, as well as being represented in human folklore and mythology. Because of its widespread distribution and large population, the red fox is one of the most important furbearing animals harvested for the fur trade. Too small to pose a threat to humans, it has extensively benefited from the presence of human habitation, and has successfully colonized many suburban and urban areas.

Red foxes have binocular vision, but their sight reacts mainly to movement. Their auditory perception is acute, being able to hear black grouse changing roosts at 600 paces

The red fox is a wide-ranging species. Its range covers nearly 27 million square miles, including as far north as the Arctic Circle.

Red fox body language consists of movements of the ears, tail and postures, with their body markings emphasizing certain gestures. Postures can be divided into aggressive/dominant and fearful/submissive categories. Some postures may blend the two together.

Wolves may kill and eat red foxes in disputes over carcasses. In areas in North America where red fox and coyote populations are the same, fox ranges tend to be located outside coyote territories. The principal cause of this separation is believed to be active avoidance of coyotes by the foxes. Interactions between the two species vary in nature, ranging from active antagonism to indifference. The majority of aggressive encounters are initiated by coyotes, and there are few reports of red foxes acting aggressively toward coyotes except when attacked or when their kits were approached. Foxes and coyotes have sometimes been seen feeding together.

Red foxes dominate raccoon, sometimes killing their kits or biting adults to death. Cases are known of foxes killing raccoon entering their dens. Both species compete for mouse-like prey.

Red foxes may kill small animals like weasels, stone martens, pine martens, stoats, kolonoks, skunks and young sables.

North American predators of red foxes include cougars, Canada lynxes and bobcats. Red foxes are among the most important fur-bearing animals harvested by the fur trade. Their pelts are used for trimmings, scarfs, muffs, jackets and coats. They are principally used as trimming for both cloth coats and fur garments, including evening wraps. The pelts of silver foxes are popular as capes

Red foxes have been exceedingly successful in colonizing built-up environments, especially lower-density suburbs, although many have also been sighted in dense urban areas far from the countryside. Throughout the 20th century, they established themselves in many North American cities.

City-dwelling red foxes may have the potential to consistently grow larger than their rural counterparts as a result of abundant scraps and a relative absence of predators. In cities, red foxes may scavenge food from litter bins and bin bags, although much of their diet will be similar to rural red foxes.

Many red foxes have been sighted by myself in the Center Vassalboro area along the Nelson, Seaward Mills and Cross Hill roads, as well as around our camp.

Roland’s trivia question of the week:

Who is the only Boston Red Sox pitcher to walk over 1,000 batters?

Answer can be found here.