Nature: Consider it a good day when you see a coyote


Red fox.

A red fox ran nimbly across the road and into the woods. I hadn’t seen one for quite a while and it brought back great memories of other sightings. There are only two wild representatives of the dog family on Mount Desert Island – the red fox and the coyote. The red fox does resemble a small collie dog, except in color. It is its lovely color and its beautiful bushy tail that always interested me about this handsome mammal. When we lived in New York state, a pair had a den on our property. After a while, they got in the habit of checking out our outdoor fireplace for any tasty tidbit that might have fallen on the ground. It was very exciting one year when the parents brought their pups one evening. It’s best not to encourage these mammals that are so doglike, for you may befriend them, but your next-door neighbors may want to kill them. Encouraging any wild mammal is not a good idea and it endangers their lives.

Look for foxes along any park or island road, especially after dark, but they are also seen in the daylight. My best sighting in the daylight was in Northeast Harbor on the path alongside the road often used by local residents. Apparently, that particular fox had a human friend (I suspect a nearby butcher or chef) somewhere and had just been given a fully-plucked chicken, so it was strutting back to its den and pups with a nice meal.

If you want to see foxes, watch for them alongside the island roads after dark or go out looking for them in the early morning in meadows and fields. Golfers see them every morning on local courses. Watch for them anytime along the carriage roads. The salt marsh near the Trenton Bridge is also a good place to see them as well as the area around Thunder Hole on the Park Loop Road. DON’T offer them FOOD!

It’s usually much harder to see a coyote but they are out and about at all hours. You just might see one as you walk along a carriage road, or you may see one running in a field. The presence of coyotes on our island is welcomed by most, and feared and misunderstood by others. The coyotes are no threat to the deer and they actually help in culling the multitude of deer living on this island. Since there are no other big predators to kill deer, coyotes help with severe deer overpopulation. Coyotes play a key role in keeping the deer herd in balance. Consider it a good day when you get to see one.

Be sure to explore any tide pool you come upon as you walk the seashores of MDI. Tide pools are so full of life! Get your feet wet if you need to and see what you can find. Since almost everyone nowadays has a camera in their cell phones, take pictures of what you find and look it up later when you get home. My latest book, “Living On The Edge,” is in local libraries and everything you might find in the pool is there to learn about.

Some local eating places have great seaweed salads on the menu. You can find seaweeds sold in local stores to make your own salads. Or you can see it growing in a big tide pool. Don’t collect anything in the national park and make sure the area stays clean.

A tide pool is a small body of ocean water that gets stranded when the tide goes out. A tide pool can be many feet in diameter or just several inches. The lowest tide pools disappear at high tide. The highest tide pools receive an infusion of water only during the highest tides and during storms. They are always full of interesting creatures and plants.

Irish moss is a reddish-brown seaweed found in the lower edge of the tidal zone. Sheltered tide pool are good places to look for it. Irish moss, when fresh, is purple to green or reddish and it dries to a yellowish brown. It becomes tough and hard when it dries. It is one of many sea vegetables you can buy where such things are sold. I have a recipe for seaweed pudding in my latest book. You may have had it (carrageen) in ice cream, puddings and toothpaste and have never noticed. There’s much more information about this in my book for which Thomas Vining, botanist, was my co-author.

This lion’s mane jellyfish was seen in Frenchman Bay by kayakers in 2020. According to oceanographer Nick Record, reports of large lion’s mane jellyfish have been on the increase for the last few years. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOY O’SHAUGHNESSY

I saw in the news recently about a lion’s mane jellyfish that washed up on a Maine beach. This is NOT a usual happening but if, in your beach wanderings, you find a jellyfish of any kind or size, do not touch it! They are not all poisonous, but some are VERY poisonous. Be on the safe side. TAKE ONLY PHOTOS.

This is a special time of the year when flowers and wild creatures abound and there is so much to see and enjoy out of doors.

Let me know what you are seeing, or ask me questions, by emailing me at  [email protected].

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

Send any questions or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742.
Ruth Grierson

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