Middlebury has creatures great and small

#Middlebury #WildAnimals

The red squirrel is one of the smaller critters found in Middlebury. (Curtiss Clark photo)


Middlebury’s wildlife is interesting, varied and abundant and includes many types of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. You are more likely to see them here than in a highly rural area where they have an easier time avoiding humans.

Our smaller denizens include a wide variety of reptiles and amphibians. Of note are our turtles. This time of year they are snugly hibernating, but in summer small ones can be seen sunning in Fenn Pond and Lake Elise, and you might spot our sometimes enormous snapping turtles swimming beneath a canoe or kayak in Lake Quassapaug, crossing a road or entering a backyard near a pond. Be careful if you decide to help them across a road; they are called snapping turtles for a reason. Their sharp-beaked mouths can be formidable, and their necks are longer than you might imagine.

In the realm of mammals are opossums, whose odd ramble I find amusing. We also have mice and voles (you could easily think a vole was a mouse) and moles (the bane of some gardeners). Dashing across the road, tail held high, might be a chipmunk. I find them the cutest of all rodents with their tiny tails and back stripes. One runner who saw a white chipmunk along the Larkin Bridle trail, said it impudently looked back at him when he stopped.

We have three types of squirrels: flying squirrels (very shy, nocturnal and rarely seen), gray squirrels and red squirrels. The last is smaller than and not as common as the gray and are most often seen around evergreen trees. One is pictured for this article.

Raccoons are most likely to be seen at night, when they will eat just about anything, including bird seed. We had some that learned how to take the feeder off the shepherd’s hook and drop it from the deck where it would break open and spill all the seed. Lacing the seed with cayenne pepper worked for a while, but then they – and the squirrels – seemed to develop a taste for spicy food.

Connecticut is home to two kinds of bunnies: the eastern cottontail and more rare native New England cottontail. They are a prey species for our many predators, including owls, hawks, foxes, bobcats, coyotes and weasels.

The last category includes the short-tailed weasel, also called ermine, and the long-tailed. Both are fierce predators, as are most members of the weasel family. Their relatives include the mink, most likely to be found near streams or rivers (I have seen one here in Middlebury), skunks and fishers. The latter, native to Connecticut, were extirpated but now returned. They are much larger than the others, with beautiful dark fur. Because they are mostly nocturnal, you would be incredibly lucky to see one. No weasel is a threat to humans, but people who keep chickens will need to take appropriate precautions.

Next month’s article will be about the larger animals found here. It would be fun to hear from the Bee readers about what they have seen and heard in their yards and while out and about in Middlebury! Send emails about your experiences to mbisubmit@gmail.com. Photos also are welcome.


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