Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Springtime Bears! A message from Maine Inland Fisheries & Wildlife

Hi everyone! In the process of my Strange Maine research, I have long been interested in the life and history of large Maine mammals, including our resident black bear population. With that interest in mind, and in the interest of helping Mainers avoid creating sources of nuisance bear activity, I'd like to share the following information with you, as issued last week by the Maine Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

These are all proven measures to eliminate human/bear conflict, so please help out yourselves and your bear neighbors by following these guidelines!

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Please Remove Potential Meals So Bears Don’t Become A Nuisance!


It's that time of the year again! Spring, mud season, call it what you will, this is also the time when Maine's black bears are emerging from their winter dens.

With natural foods in short supply this time of year, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is already receiving calls concerning bears looking for easy meals in backyards around birdfeeders, trash cans, chicken coops and grills.

The department reminds Mainers to remove potential bear attractants from their yard. This is an easy and effective way to avoid problems at your home.

You can learn more at maine.gov/ifw/fish-wildlife/wildlife/wildlife-human-issues/living-with-wildlife/bears.html -- the rangers have assembled a large amount of very useful information, including helpful PDF printouts of the basic steps to take at home.

“Due to the late spring, we anticipate that bear complaints could reach higher than normal levels this year. Spring is the time of year when natural foods for bears are scarcest, and as a result bears will often seek accessible food in people’s back yards,” says Jen Vashon, IFW’s bear biologist.

As of the end of April, the department had already received almost 30 nuisance bear complaints in 2018, with the majority coming from the Kennebunk/Arundel area as well as the greater Bangor area.

Every year, the Department handles approximately 500 nuisance bear complaints, with May, June, and July being the busiest months for these.

“Maine has a growing bear population and bears are becoming more common in central and southern Maine, increasing the potential for conflicts,” said Vashon. “We want to remind people to remove attractants so they don’t create a potentially dangerous interaction with a bear.”

Black bears emerge hungry from their dens after losing between 15-40% of their weight during winter. They immediately start looking for food. Wouldn't you, after such a long nap?

Bears will often turn to suburban attractants such as bird feeders, pet food, and unsecured garbage bins when natural foods are not available.

“It is important for people to be proactive so they don’t attract bears to their homes. Don’t wait until a bear gets to your birdfeeder or grill. They become accustomed to the location where they find food and they will return,” said Vashon.

Much of a bear’s diet is vegetation, and many natural foods such as leaves and grasses are not yet available due to the slow retreat of snow and ice, and the delay in warming temperatures this year. Normally, the spring thaw triggers local plant life to start budding early, creating spring food sources for black bears.

Each spring, bears will feed on grasses and sedges near wetlands, as well as the roots, tubes and bulbs of plants, including skunk cabbage. Bears are also opportunistic carnivores, and will also feed on moose calves, deer fawns, and small livestock.

In recent years, complaints associated with small livestock such as chickens have increased as backyard farming becomes more popular. To protect your livestock, please keep them behind a fence. At night, keep your animals in a secure building.

Bears that live near people often rely on foods inadvertently provided by people, such as highly nutritional sunflower seeds being fed to birds. Birdseed and other attractants should be removed to prevent attracting or creating nuisance bears.

In order to keep your home less attractive to bears, please:

• Take down bird feeders, rake up and dispose of bird seed on the ground, and store remaining bird seed indoors.

• Keep garbage cans inside until the morning of trash pickup

• Keep your barbecue grill clean by burning off any food residue, disposing of wrappers and cleaning the grilling area after use. If possible, store grills inside when not in use.

• Store pet and livestock food inside, and cleanup any uneaten food.

• Keep small livestock behind a fence or in a secure building, especially at night.

• Keep dumpster lids closed and locked.

• Keep outbuilding and garage doors closed.


By taking these precautions, you are more likely to prevent conflicts that could create a dangerous situation, or which might require corrective action such as moving or killing a bear. Removing these food sources will also limit other backyard visitor (raccoons, skunks, etc.).

If you encounter a bear, do not approach the bear -- instead, slowly back away.

If the bear approaches you, try to intimidate the bear by waving your arms and making loud noises, such as clapping your hands or banging pots together. Do not corner a bear -- when cornered, a bear may charge.

Always back away, while giving the bear an escape route. Although bear attacks are extremely rare, if a bear charges you, stand your ground and if necessary fight back.

For more information, visit mefishwildlife.com.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Bigfoot in Maine update - Mud Season edition!

Hello all! I know it's been several weeks since I've updated, but never fear, whether the weather has been fair or foul, I have been diligently working away on the book. Exciting things have been happening!

I sent real letters out (WHAT?!) and heard back from 2 out of 3 of the people I was trying to reach (still hoping for that perfect third...).

-- I interviewed 7 people over the phone, and more via email.

-- I transcribed 6 eyewitness interviews (phew!), which took foreeeeeeeverrrrrrr...

-- I wrote substantial first drafts of 10 eyewitness chapters, which for the most part will only need fine-tuning now.

-- I finally tracked down old newspaper articles for two different major stories after years of not having them and it driving me crazy. Now I am completely sane. Hahaha!

-- I wrote a blog post over on the Green Hand page about my writing process:
http://greenhandbooks.blogspot.com/2018/03/behind-scenes-what-goes-on-in-winter.html

I took my first fieldtrip, to a couple of undisclosed locations (shh!), in the wind and rain, 7+ miles of tromping over the course of the afternoon with plenty of mud -- just yesterday, in fact! It was a great opportunity to see all the skeletons of Maine autumn before they are usurped finally (one of these days, I swear it's coming) by a real Maine SPRING!

I saw lots of tracks, little mole (and vole?) tunnels and holes everywhere, deer tracks by the dozen, I think even a young moose track (see photo), plenty of deer scat, what I think was a turkey vulture overhead (so huge!), a great blue heron, an early woolybear caterpillar, chickadees, and a gazillion trees (of course).

In between all that I did tons of research on loose ends -- locations, verification of when/where/how and other miscellaneous facts, more reading about Maine black bears, and so on and so forth.

This is one of 3 file boxes I've been filling, and an example of the array of printouts and books that happens when I am working on nitty-gritty bits. Plus I have all sorts of Maine topographic maps that I've been trying to get organized so I know what I have when I need it. Maine is a biiiiiig state. I don't know if you've noticed.

In the weeks to come will be more field trips, hopefully (fingers crossed) more interviews, and further illumination on some pesky mysteries tied into a particularly gnarly chapter.

Truth is stranger than fiction! Take my word for it.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

EVENT: Sea Serpents AHOY!!!

Do you love SEA MONSTERS? Then head over to the Masonic Civil War Library at 415 Congress Street here in Portland for a talk by local historian Herb Adams about the "Summer of Sea Serpents"! It's the 100-year anniversary of this epic rash of Maine and New England sea serpent sightings -- time to CELEBRATE!!!

This event is hosted by the folks at the Maine Masonic Civil War Library and Museum.

WHEN? Saturday April 12, 2018 at 12:00 noon
WHERE? 415 Congress Street, Portland, Maine
FMI: call (207)294-1152 or email mmcwlm@gmail.com
portlandmasonic.com/library.html

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Bigfoot in Maine update!

Over the last couple of months I have continued talking to all sorts of folks about sightings and odd experiences that relate to the possible presence of Bigfoot in Maine.

Bit by bit I'm getting closer to my goal, which is to fill in the recent blanks in Maine's historic record when it comes to sightings within this state of large mystery mammals, specifically hominids. Eyewitnesses have come forward with accounts dating back into the late 1960s, with other encounters moving right up into the 2000s.

Perhaps optimistically, I continue to theorize that there are many unexplained encounters in Maine that are not on record.

If you or someone you know has had such a sighting or experience, please feel free to call me on my cellphone at (207)450-6695 -- please leave a message, so I can call you back, as I am working and unable to answer calls a fair amount of the time -- or simply email me at michelle.souliere@gmail.com -- or if you prefer pen and ink, you can write me at P.O. Box 5302, Portland, Maine 04101.

For those of you who are interested in what has been gleaned so far, I can tell you that I have a growing number of very interesting reports from up in Aroostook County (and honestly I hope for more from this quarter of the state, along with the Allagash and Golden Road). I can also tell you that I continue to be surprised by multiple reports from the midcoast area. Very little has emerged from the far southern part of the state, with one exception, and from the western part of the state (again, with one exception).

I'm planning on taking a few fieldtrips this year to look at spots of interest in person, which should be fun. Meanwhile, as snow and ice abound, this being Maine, I continue my indoor tasks -- mostly the tedious but necessary work of transcribing interviews, both from my own work and others in the field (especially SnowWalkerPrime), and trying to track down folks who have left fleeting comments here and there online, but who have yet to go on record with their accounts. I'm also following up with folks I have talked to in the past, trying to ask questions I forgot during interviews, afterthoughts, etc etc, so if we've previously conversed, you're likely to hear from me again as I tie up loose ends.

I am still very interested in speaking to more people who have had inexplicable experiences with large mammals in the Maine woods. The more interviews I can complete, the clearer the patterns and trends will become, I hope.

I am working to pull all these stories together, no matter how far apart in time and distance, in a single volume, along with Maine's historic sightings. Because if one thing is completely clear from the conversations I've been having, it is that Mainers sometimes encounter things in the woods that are not run-of-the-mill. And even if we can't figure out what exactly those things are, we are definitely interested in hearing more about them from people who have run into them.