Sunday, April 16, 2017

Maine DIFW Regional Wildlife Biologist Intern Week 8

March 6 - March 12 "Wildlife Crime and Playful Mustelids"

So yes, once again it was time to do boxes for our beautiful Wood Ducks, but this time we had an interesting twist; we received calls from locals that somebody had gone around and vandalized some boxes in Whitefield. We armored up with a fleet of duck boxes to replace those that were vandalized, grabbed the sleds, and got out there. 

Now, this certainly isn't the Maine wildlife crime of the century, but someone did do quite a number on those boxes. Thankfully, there are no inhabitants at this time of year, and anybody who broke into them would have found just empty nests of sawdust or rotting eggs that didn't hatch.

This is just one example of several duck boxes that were destroyed. It appears someone used a hammer or hatchet to break them open.

Four of five boxes on that body of water needed replacing. Oddly enough, the only one not broken into was unused. On the bright side, all of those that were used and destroyed have nice, brand new duck boxes to move into for the spring.
*sparkle sparkle*

After replacing all of the destroyed boxes, we rallied the sleds back onto the trailer, and in doing so noticed a small cord attached to something before a culvert ran under the road. It was a minnow trap which has been there for god-knows how long, baited with an old hot dog. It was unmarked and un-tagged. Within it was what I was hoping not to see; a plethora of animals who were trapped and didn't survive.

Within were all sorts of fish, several shrews, and some amphibians. Luckily, one was a newt, which is capable of surviving underwater, and was alive but sluggish from the cold. I released him back into the marsh, dismantled the trap, and left a business card with IFW's info on it so that whoever left the trap would know who to call. It's very easy to harm a diverse array of wildlife and turn a harmless trap into a death trap just by forgetting about it. While this is the only one I've found on the job, I have found many over the years, and would highly encourage everyone to monitor their traps and be sure to remove them before rain storms or winter; they can oftentimes float away and become an undetectable killing machine.

On the bright side, we did have a few fun encounters while out tending to the area's problems. When we arrived, we observed a mink slinking about on the other side of the marsh, weaving in and out of reeds and small holes, hunting for any rodents he could find. Mustelids (weasels) always humor me; they just seem to do whatever they please, tear up everywhere they go like a wild teenager on a dirt-bike, run up a mountain for fun, and hunt prey many times their size.

This was only emphasized by the coolest tracks I've ever seen going across the ice.

Run and jump!

These are the tracks of an otter, which are among the most playful of the mustelids. Originally thinking this was a beaver due to the drag marks, a closer look revealed much smaller tracks, and there were odd spaces between the drags and then suddenly, no drag (really, it turned into somewhat of a gallop). It took a moment for me to put together the fact that these are otter tracks, and he was having a blast running, jumping, and sliding across the ice early that morning. Tracks along the slide marks are where he pushed himself along to keep his rocket-like body propelling forward. Between their sleek designs, fine fur, and oily coat, they really are nature's best toboggans.

That is all for this week, thank you for reading! 

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