A moose greeted us at the south gate of Baxter State Park on Aug. 8, or just about. He was wading in a boggy area just past the gate, and a few park visitors had gathered to watch as he dipped his head into the water and munched on vegetation. How did we know it was a “he”? His big antlers gave it away.
Seeing moose is really a hit or miss affair in Maine. Wildlife doesn’t present itself on command. Some years, I’ll see several moose, and other years, none. Sure there are places where spotting a moose is more likely, but there are no guarantees.
The Baxter moose was the first I’d seen in a few years, despite all the time I spend in the woods, so I was pretty thrilled, to say the least.
Though I was photographing him from afar (which explains the lack of detail in the photos), I must have caught his eye because he looked right at me.
That evening at Nesowadnehunk Campground, I spotted a hare grazing on grass and clover near my tent, but it was too dark to even bother taking a photo. I was sort of bummed out. The hare seemed fairly small compared to other hares I’ve seen, and another thing I noticed was that it had a little white patch of fur on its forehead.
The next day, after hiking for hours, I returned to camp and some friends called me over to see a hare that was nibbling on grass near their tent. And believe it or not, it looked like the same hare — white patch and all. So I took a few photos. It didn’t seem to mind a bit. That’s why you have to be careful with your food in Baxter — some of the animals there get used to seeing campers and are no longer scared of them. Wild animals actually steal food on a regular basis, which can lead to some dangerous situations (more with bears and deer than hares).
Maine is home to two rabbit-like species, but only one of them – the New England cottontail — is a true rabbit, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The snowshoe hare is found throughout Maine, while the New England cottontail does not live north of the Portland area, and was recently listed as a state endangered species.
So basically, if you see a “rabbit” in Maine, it’s almost always a snowshoe hare.
Snowshoe hares are larger than New England cottontails. They have a larger body, longer ears and much longer feet, according to the MDIF&W website. Another difference is that snowshoe hares turn white during the winter while New England cottontails remain brown.
To learn more about Maine’s hares, visit http://www.maine.gov/ifw/wildlife/human/lww_information/hares_and_rabbits.html.