John Clark sharing another great Maine resource with MCW readers. When my daughter Lisa who teaches in the Bronx and often comes to Maine when there’s a school vacation, put my granddaughter on the phone, Here’s what I heard. “Grandpa, will you come to see the beahs with me?”
Who can say no to that kind of request? Not I for sure. We headed to the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray. It’s located at 56 Game Farm Road, not far from the Maine Turnpike.
Beth and daughter Sara had brought Piper there once before and the beahs (her pronunciation), made a big impression. At a little over two (her birthday is March 3rd) Piper has Grandpa’s eye for spotting wildlife and loves new adventures. While we visited the day following the late April snowstorm, the accumulation was receding quickly, making it easy to propel her stroller.
Hours are as follows. Open daily 9:30 am – 4:30 p.m. Visitors may stay until 6:00 p.m. Admission varies. Children under age 3 are free, ages 4 -12 are $5.50, ages 13 – 59 are $7.50, ages 60+ are $5.50 and groups of 15 or more are $3.50 per person. Season passes are available.
We had full sunshine and almost no breeze during our three hour stroll around the park. In addition to the resident creatures, we were serenaded by at least two cardinals. We started with the bird enclosure where a very belligerent tom turkey gave us the hairy eyeball right under a sign warning visitors that ‘I bite.’ When I looked at the pen behind him which was separated by a wire fence, I could understand part of his frustration. Here he is with all this natural face paint and puffery, but not a hen in sight. What does he have as a neighbor? A cock pheasant with six hens to keep him happy. That kind of injustice would frustrate any guy. In addition to these, there are a bald and a golden eagle, a couple turkey vultures, a raven, several owls, peregrine falcons and a peacock.
Despite the chill (there was a skim of ice on the bog near the bears), as you can see from the accompanying picture, there are several types of turtles already active.
Next up was the fish hatchery that not only has a circular pool where at least a thousand 6-8” brook trout await freedom (however brief) in some nearby lake or stream, but a pretty fair number of mature brookies that live in a separate area and must give plenty of anglers pipe dreams as they swim slowly past the viewing area.
Then it was on to the beahs and, while the darker of the two snoozed in a warm bed of mud, the lighter one was happy to milk the crowd for as much food as they were willing to buy with quarters. Not far from them resides a solitary coyote who never stopped pacing long enough for me to get a decent photo. The four moose nearby, had the opposite reaction. They remained lying down at the back of their fenced in area, content to snooze in the sun.
While not exactly native (it depends on who you ask), there is a mountain lion in residence with golden brown hair. Right next to him are a pair of Canada Lynx who are gray in color All three gave us a dismissive look and went back to sleep. Finding the two bobcats in their natural habitat across from them was a bit of a challenge, as they were cuddled together in a small depression. It wasn’t until their ears wiggled that we were able so spot them.
After a picnic lunch (there are plenty of benches and picnic tables available), we went to the last part of the trail where smaller animals and the resident deer herd reside. In addition to a porcupine, a fisher, an opossum and a skunk, there are two raccoons, one of which is albino, and a woodchuck who was still in hibernation. We counted six deer, one of which was also albino. There may have been more as they’re adept at blending in with the terrain.
In addition to all the animals, there is a visitor center where you can press feet, hooves and cl;aws into sand to see what fresh tracks look like, as well as read up on interesting facts about Maine wildlife and touch various hides and pelts. It’s a fine place for you to take friends and relatives from away as well as introduce the next generation to the part of Maine so many are getting away from. Here’s the website where you can find out more. http://www.maine.gov/ifw/education/wildlifepark/