What Lives in the Forest?

Maine is home to 60 species of mammals, 226 species of birds, 17 species of reptiles, 18 species of amphibians, 69 species of fish, more than 500 species of spiders, 110 species of mollusks and more than 15,000 species of insects.

Suitable habitat for Maine’s wildlife requires food, shelter, water and space appropriate for each species. Forest practices influence wildlife primarily through their effects on food and cover. Our wildlife species require a wide variety of habitats, indicating the need for diversity in our forests, including brush and seedlings, mature trees, hardwoods, spruce and fir, young stands and dead and dying trees.

Forest Habitats
Here are examples of where some of Maine’s forest dwellers can be found:

Moose, Maine’s state animal, need dense, soggy wooded areas with swamps or lakes. Preferred habitat is mature balsam fir and white birch, regenerating stands and young aspen. Moose spend summers near water foraging on aquatic plants and winters browsing in mixed hardwood-conifer forests.

White-tailed Deer prefer forest and swamp edges and areas broken up by fields and woodland openings. In winter they require the dense cover of conifers to protect them from cold and wind. Deer will “yard” in a central area with trails packed through the snow to reach browse.

Black Bears inhabit deciduous,  coniferous and mixed forest types 
interspersed by open
areas, wetlands and regenerating stands. Bears need secure
den sites in winter. These can be located under fallen trees, in hollow standing trees, slash piles or other protected places.

Note: Maine has the largest moose and black bear populations in the continental U.S.)
Ruffed Grouse thrive in young forests, old fields and moist woodlands in early stages of succession near fields and clearings. Scattered evergreens in the understory provide the best cover.

Snowshoe Hares require the dense cover of thickets in deciduous, coniferous and mixed forests. They need dense shrubby cover for browse and even denser regenerating evergreen cover for protection from predators.

Lynx are uncommon in northern and western Maine. (Maine, Washington, Montana and Alaska are the only states with lynx populations.) In Maine they can be found in mixed northern forests significantly composed primarily of early successional habitat caused by logging, fire or insect damage. Lynx populations rise and fall with snowshoe hare abundance, their main source of food.

Northern Redback Salamanders live in well-drained forest habitats. They prefer moist areas under logs, stumps, rocks, piles of woody debris and leaf litter and bark. They hibernate in soil, deep leaf litter or rock crevices.

American Marten need large hollow trees or logs and subterranean dens in a variety of forested habitats. They do well in spruce, fir and hemlock forests, cedar swamps, dense mixed hardwood-conifer forests and forests with a lot of standing trees damaged by a native insect, the spruce budworm.

Barred Owls require moist, mature forests or forested wetlands with large, cavity trees. They prefer forest with an open understory for nesting and foraging.

Beavers are the largest rodents in North America and the only species that creates its own habitat. They prefer slow flowing brooks, rivers and lakes bordered by woodland. Beavers use young hardwoods such as aspen and alder for dam building and eat the bark of deciduous trees such as birches. A family of beavers might eat a ton (2000 pounds) of bark during the winter.

Trees As Food

Mast is any nut, seed or fruit produced  by woody plants and eaten by wildlife. Mast is nutritious, containing more fat and protein than other plant foods. Hard seeds such as acorns from oak trees and beechnuts from beech trees are known as hard mast. Mice, voles, chipmunks, deer, bears, turkeys and even wood ducks and blue jays consume acorns in great quantity.
               Hard Mast                                          
                                                                                                                                     Soft Mast

Soft, fleshy fruit such as blueberries, black cherries and applesare known as soft mast. They are eaten by many of the sameanimals that eat hard mast but at different times of the year.


Draw a picture of a forest.
What does it look like? Are there tall, straight trees lined up in neat rows? Or are some trees tall and others short? Are some trees standing and others fallen logs? Do living things other than trees live in your forest, such as birds, bears, insects and salamanders? Is there a stream or lake or bog in your forest? What is the season of the year?
Draw a picture of the forest again. Does it look different? How?

Forest Fact
Rare habitats are often homes for rare species. A pitch pine-scrub oak barren is an example of a unique forest ecosystem where a variety of rare Maine species can be found. Some examples of rare forest wildlife species that live there include the Edward’s hairstreak butterfly, the Pine Barrens Zanclognatha moth and the Twilight moth. Many other butterflies and moths are also found only in these barrens where their larvae feed on the foliage of pitch pine or scrub oak trees.

PLT Activity #22: Trees As Habitat
From their leafy branches to their tangled roots, trees provide habitat for many plants and animals. In this activity, students discover how plants and animals depend on trees in many ways.

PLT Activity #87: Earth Manners
Children are naturally curious about their environment. They should be encouraged to explore the out-of-doors, while having respect for life in all habitats. In this activity students will develop a set of guidelines for exploring and enjoying nature.

Resources/Web Sites:
Maine Forests Forever
Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
a leading source for information about rare and endangered species and threatened ecosystems.