Photographers rejoice! Wildlife watching in Maine offers you the chance to click that shutter on land and sea. Point your lens towards the heavens and catch a bald eagle skimming the tree line, its distinctive white head an eye-popping contrast to the bold summer sky. Sit on the shore of a tranquil lake and frame the perfect shot of a moose as he munches his rather soggy dinner. Take to the water on a whale watching cruise in search of some of the largest living creatures on Earth. Discover the many faces of Maine and its wild creatures on your own or as part of a group. It’s your creative choice.
You may remember the cartoon character “Bullwinkle” from the late 1950s and early 1960s. This rather skinny, amiable but dim-witted moose won the hearts of children glued to the TV set every week, waiting to see how he and his buddy “Rocky” the squirrel would outwit the bad guys.
The state animal of Maine is the moose. Aside from the wide, thick antlers this largest member of the deer family looks nothing like its TV persona. An adult moose can weigh up to 1,000 pounds and the antlers can measure five-feet across. As far as personality, the animal is usually docile, but can be temperamental, even dangerous when surprised or threatened. Females will charge to protect their calves and the males, particularly in the breeding season, called the rut, will charge anything it views as a rival.
It is possible to see a moose anywhere in Maine, but most live in the more remote parts of the interior. Catching one of these animals feeding on a mountain lake half-hidden by an early morning mist is a photographer’s dream. Black bear, white-tailed dear, red fox, bobcats and raccoons are often found in moose territory. Join a moose watching tour headed by a Registered Maine Guide if you aren’t comfortable heading out on your own. Read More >
Hundreds of bird species call Maine home. The poster-bird for Maine is the colorful puffin. Thick red beaks and equally red webbed feet along with their clown makeup faces make puffins a charismatic photo choice. Found on Maine’s ocean islands, this is the only place in the United States where the Atlantic Puffin breeds. Many whale watching tours include visits to nesting sites.
The Black-capped Chickadee, Maine’s state bird, along with juncos, nuthatches and cedar waxwings winter in Maine’s forested areas. Owls patrol the forest floor at night, looking for dinner, while raptors rule the daylight hours. Common Loons populate quiet lakes in the interior and Maine’s southern coast. Bald eagles are found throughout the state, but are most prevalent along the coast where they have an abundance of fish and water birds to hunt. Read More >
The Gulf of Maine supports a number of whale species. Humpback and finback whales migrate to the area each spring to dine on shoals of fish, crustaceans, squid and anything else they scoop up in their coordinated hunting forays. Both species hunt in groups, corralling the prey in a curtain of bubbles. They then breach the surface with their giant mouths wide open, scooping up seawater along with the fish. The seawater is expelled, the prey is held back by the whale’s baleen, sort of a sieve. One giant swallow and it’s over.
Another flashy visitor to Maine is the killer whale, also called the orca. These small toothed whales travel in pods and have a distinctive black and white color pattern. Their large black dorsal fins bob up and down in harmony as they swim. Other cetaceans found in the area include pilot and minke whales, various species of dolphins and the harbor porpoise.
A number of whale watching tours are offered. Some are half-day and day cruises that take you out into the Gulf of Maine; others are overnight adventures that go farther afield. It’s possible to see eagles, ospreys, puffins and other shorebirds while out searching for whales. Read More >
It is possible to do a bit of wildlife watching without heading into the wilderness. The Maine Wildlife Park, in the town of Gray, Maine is an animal rescue center and educational park. Hands on exhibits encourage adults and children to learn about Maine’s wild creatures. Several species of birds including bald eagles and owls are on display. Mammals include the iconic moose, raccoons, deer and the Canada lynx. Some animals are permanent residents, unable to be returned to the wild.
The Rachael Carson National Wildlife Refuge is along Maine’s south coast. Comprised of several small pieces of protected land, the refuge offers trails that lead through various animal habitats. Birders have found over 120 different species of land birds and countless more sea and shore birds. Moose, fox, coyote and other mammals roam this wilderness area. The refuge allows seasonal fishing and hunting.
A number of Maine Audubon Bird Sanctuaries are found within the state. One of the most remote is in the 100-Mile Wilderness Region. Borestone Mountain is home to peregrine falcons and a number of songbirds and offers overnight accommodations. Read More >
Maine State Aquarium
It is possible to see the creatures that live in the Gulf of Maine without even getting your feet wet. The Maine State Aquarium, located in Boothbay Harbor, is run by the Maine Department of Marine Resources. One of the hits is the lobster tank, which houses a 17-pound specimen that because of its size earned a place in the limelight rather than on a dinner plate. Kids especially like the tide-pool touch tank, filled with horseshoe crabs, sea urchins, starfish and other creatures that can be safely handled with staff supervision. Visit the shark touch tank and feel the sandpapery skin of the dogfish shark. You’ll even live to tell the tale.