Signs of wildlife abound in Bedford’s backyard – Part 2
In part one of our article, we looked at a few of our fine furry and feathered friends who coexist with us here in town (namely, birds, beavers, porcupines and turkeys). With your “wildlife radar” turned on and tuned in, you’ll see evidence of those critters (and a few more we’ll briefly cover here) all around Bedford.
White-tailed deer have been an important part of our ecosystem since before Europeans arrived and since 1983 have been the official state animal. While fairly elusive and eager to avoid people (especially those toting guns and bows in hunting season), you’ll sometimes see an area in a field of tall grass where the grass is matted down, possibly indicating an area where they have bedded down. They leave their “calling cards” in the form of small oval-shaped pellets, which are often found in multiple piles near bedding areas.
If you’ve ever left your birdfeeders out past late March or so, you may well have had a black bear pay you a visit looking for a quick, delectable meal of fatty bird seed. During the warmer months, backyard bird feeders are like a drive-thru for hungry black bears. They roam for miles each night, and even if one doesn’t sleep anywhere near your house, odds are your house is within roaming distance of its den. Aside from paw prints, you might see scrape marks on a tree from a bear scraping its claws on tree bark to mark its visit.
Believe it or not, we do have moose sightings occasionally in Bedford. I’ve personally only seen tracks on one of the Bedford Land Trust’s properties, the Fortin Easement (we have a map of all the BLT’s conservation lands at www.BedfordLandTrust.org), but they have been known to wander throughout town. The tracks left by their hooves look similar to that of a deer, but are significantly larger. If you ever find a moose antler, consider yourself fortunate – over time, they are consumed by rodents and other critters looking to add some calcium to their diets.
While usually referred to as “possums,” these marsupials (i.e., the female can carry her young in a pouch on her belly) are technically known as “opossums” – “possums” reside in Australia, mate. I’ve seen opossums a few times around town, usually in the vicinity of the Educational Farm at Joppa Hill and the surrounding conservation lands. They’re slow-moving, generally hang out in trees, and can indeed “play possum” when threatened – they will involuntarily pretend to be dead, and even secrete a foul-smelling liquid which smells like a dead animal.
We’ve touched on just a few of the many animals who have been gracious enough to allow us to share their town with them, and I hope you and your family take time to get outside and look for signs of them. We have some wonderful conservation properties here in town which allow us to escape our computers and TV’s and get back to nature and the world as it existed before the iPhone. For more information about where to explore, visit www.BedfordLandTrust.org.
– Text and photos By Brian Nolen, Bedford Land Trust Trustee