Signs of wildlife abound in Bedford: Part 1

Brian Nolen photo A beaver-gnawed tree near Gage’s Mill/Pulpit Rock.

A few weeks ago as I worked at my home office desk, through the window just to the left of my monitor, I noticed some movement in my neighbor’s yard. At first glance, I thought it was a dog that may have gotten loose, but as I looked closer I could tell it was a beautiful, healthy coyote casually trotting through the yard. As I watched it disappear into the woods across the street, I thought “how full of life our woods and fields are here in Bedford!”

Through my work with the Bedford Land Trust (and taking my dogs out almost daily) on our town’s conservation properties, I’m fortunate to regularly see signs of all types of animals. Some signs are more obvious than others, but if you turn on your “wildlife radar”, you’ll see them all around you. You may not see the actual animal; often times, it’s something as mundane as scat (“nature’s calling card”), a track/paw print, or a gnawed tree.

Here is just a small selection of our many wild neighbors:

Birds

In addition to the more common birds we see at our feeders (which should NOT be out this time of year, to avoid attracting bears), it’s always a thrill to see a Red-Tailed Hawk soaring on the winds, looking for its next meal. There are several that frequent the fields on the Joppa Hill Conservation Land. Another of my other favorite birds is the Pileated Woodpecker, a large, striking redheaded woodpecker with a very unique call reminiscent of a monkey in a jungle. Its telltale sign is a large rectangular hole in a dead tree.

Beavers

At both Van Loan Preserve and the Pulpit Rock Conservation Area, there are plenty of signs of beaver activity. In addition to the dams and beaver lodges (a dome-shaped pile of sticks, mud, etc. that they call home), you’ll see gnawed tree stumps and branches where they’ve farmed their future meals. If you’re lucky, you might notice a V-shaped ripple on a quiet pond, and see the beaver’s head protruding from the water as he swims across the pond. If they feel threatened, they’ll slap their tail violently on the water to notify their housemates of the potential danger.

Porcupines

One of my dogs recently learned a valuable “life lesson”, by ending up on the business end of about 25 sharp porcupine quills. Porcupines often nestle under logs and other sheltering structures, where you might see piles of scat; I’ve seen one on the Joppa Hill property, (under a small bridge over a stream) and in a recess under “Indian Rock” between Pulpit Rock and Joppa Hill. They’re not the most graceful walkers; in fact, it looks more like waddling when they’re on the move.

Turkeys

Wild turkeys are a truly remarkable comeback story. Having been reintroduced to NH in 1975, they can now be seen regularly all over Bedford. They typically roost high up in trees at night, where they’re safe from predators. If there’s white snow on the ground, you might see a small field of scat (droppings) at the base of the tree where they’ve been hanging out. Without the contrast with the snow, it’s much less obvious. An area with freshly overturned leaves can indicate they’ve been scratching at the ground cover looking for insects, nuts and other edibles.

Next issue, Part 2 – Lions, Tigers and Bears (well, maybe bears…)

For more information about the Bedford Land Trust, please visit: www.BedfordLandTrust.org.

– Submitted by Brian Nolen, Bedford Land Trust Trustee

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