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The Game Trail
Where plants and wildlife come together.
Anyone can be a scientist!!!
Test your knowledge of Maine’s fauna and flora by playing this fun and interactive game. Simply read the question on the game brochure corresponding to the signs placed along the trail. To check your hypothesis, go to the answer section below where you will also find a history of or facts on each species.
Q 1. I am the tallest of my kind in the Northeast. In colonial days I was prized for masts on tall ships. These days I represent the State of Maine. What am I?
Q 2. I fell victim to DDT (pesticide) poisoning in the early 1960s and was almost eliminated from Maine. Wildlife officials protected my habitats, banned DDT, and brought uncontaminated relatives from other states to help repopulate Maine. Today, I am no longer endangered, and am found statewide along lakes and rivers; nesting in tall white pines. I love to eat fish, ducks, and ‘carrion’. Who do you think I am?
Q 3. I am a plant that’s said to be filled with witchcraft for finding underground water. In late fall, when most trees and plants are dormant, my blossoms are in full bloom. Legends of the American Indians flourished about my healing powers. Today I can be found in all types of skin care products; from soaps to creams to lotions. Can you guess what I am?
Q 4. A long time ago I was very plentiful throughout Maine, but then I vanished. Now I am common once again. In colonial times I competed with the bald eagle to be our national symbol. These days, the only symbol I represent is for a national holiday. Guess who I am?
Q 5. My relatives and I are the only flying mammal in the world. Although we don’t see very well, we can still get around better in the dark than most mammals. If you count all the different species of my kind there are about a thousand, almost a quarter of all mammals living today. I am the most common species of my kind in New England—eating only insects. Unfortunately, because I have been the subject of many superstitions and silly stories, many people do not like me, and may even fear us. Who am I?
Q 6. I am long, slender and very fast. I slither and glide from place to place. I am all black except for a little white under my head. Many people don’t like me because of what I am. There are not many of my kind left in the very southern part of Maine. I may bite, but I am not poisonous. Who am I ?
Q 7. My favorite food is carpenter ants, although I will also seek out beechnuts, acorns and wild fruits. My loud ringing calls, large size and spectacular black, white and red coloration make me easily to identify both in flight and on large trees. Look for the large, oblong holes I dig in tree trunks looking for insects. Do you think you know who I am?
Q 8. There are many different kinds of my species living in the Northeast woodlands. When my seeds fall from my branches they look like helicopters falling from the sky. In late winter, my sap is used to make delicious syrup that you enjoy on pancakes or French toast, and my leaf is the symbol on the Canadian flag. Can you guess what I am?
Q 9. I am about the size of a large house cat, but I am long and slender. I am an opportunistic feeder, primarily living in northern pine forests. Hint: the first part of my name is the same as the habitat I live in. My population is doing very well in Maine and is legally trapped each year. I love to eat red squirrels! Can you guess who I am?
Q 10. I can grow to be very large and strong. My wood is one of the hardest woods in the forest. This makes me perfect for furniture, flooring, and support beams. I also provide many animals with food, which helps them through the long hard winters. What am I?
Q 11. I am an amphibian with yellow spots running down my back from head to tail. Sometimes I have orange spots on my head. Unlike some of my relatives that breath through their skin, I have lungs from which to breathe. Once a year I migrate from my wooded terrestrial (land) habitat to breed in ponds or low-lying wetlands. Does anyone know who I am?
Q 12. Pioneers made tea from my leafy twigs and brooms from my branches. My bark was once a commercial source of tannin for the production of leather. My dense foliage makes good shelter for many animals. Can you guess what I am?
A 1. Eastern White Pine Pinus strobus
The abundant white pine is the reason Maine is referred to as the Pine Tree State. The pine cone from the white pine is also the state flower. Eastern White Pine is the only five-needle pine tree native to eastern North America. Bald eagles often build nests in living White Pines, usually at a main branch located just below the top, or crown.
A 2. Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephlus
Bald eagles continue to make a dramatic comeback across Maine. A census of the statewide breeding population identified over 350 nesting pairs in 2006. Recently downgraded from an Endangered species to Threatened, eagles are thriving statewide— and beyond. They now nest in 48 states! You might even see eagles flying around Gray! Keep an eye to the sky!
A 3. Witch-hazel Hamamelis virginiana
A Pilgrim myth was that a forked branch of the Witch-hazel shrub could be used as a ‘dowser’ to find underground water; and that this was a form of witchcraft! Finding the plant in full bloom in late autumn did not go along with nature’s rule either! Indian “Medicine Men” took this as a sign from the “Great Spirit”, which revealed to them a bush with magic properties. The Indians used Witch-hazel to heal wounds and sores, relieve aches and pains, and soothe burns and bruises. The Indian “Medicine Men” passed the Witch-hazel remedy on to the American settlers.
A 4. Wild Turkey Meleagris gallopavo
In the early 1800s the wild turkey was totally eliminated from the Maine wilderness due to over-hunting and loss of habitat. In 1977 it was reintroduced back into Maine, and now thousands of birds can be found through Maine as far north as Aroostook County. In the late 1700s Benjamin Franklin, a strong advocate of the turkey, nominated the turkey as the national bird. In a vote, the bald eagle won the majority of the votes for our national symbol.
A 5. Little Brown Bat Myotis lucifugus
Unlike the “flying squirrel” that only glides through the air, bats can really fly on beating wings. Bats use ‘echo location’ in the same way that ships and submarines use sonar to get around. A bat’s ‘echo location’ is so accurate that it can easily maneuver to within a few millimeters of where it wants to be. There are roughly one thousand different types of bats, which is almost one quarter of all mammal species. Bats are very beneficial animals. All New England bats are insect-eaters, but there are bats around the world that eat nectar, fruit, and fish.
A 6. Northern Black Racer Coluber constrictor
The racer can be an aggressive snake that may strike if cornered, but is not poisonous! It can grow to a length of 4 to 6 feet and is an efficient climber that feeds on small rodents, frogs, birds, salamanders, and snakes. The Racer is an Endangered species in Maine because of habitat loss and because it lives here at the northern limit of its range.
A 7. Pileated Woodpecker Dryocopus pileatus
A common resident of Maine and New England, the Pileated prefers mature forests of mixed conifer and hardwood trees. This large woodpecker needs large trees for nesting and feeding. Pileateds are quite adaptable to suburban and urban environments, and are fairly common where large trees line roads and where small stands of mature woods are broken up by towns and developments.
A 8. Maple Acer rubrum
Maple trees can be easily identified the general leaf shape, but identifying a specific species is where a good field guidebook comes in handy. The seeds from maple trees have ‘wings’, causing the seed to spiral down like a helicopter. This makes it easier for the seed to be distributed away from its parent tree. The sap from all maple species can be used for syrup, but Sugar Maple, Acer saccharum, and Red Maple, Acer rubrum, are the most used because of the sweeter end product. Native American Indians were probably the first to make sugar from the sweet sap of the maple tree. There are many legends about how maple sugar was first discovered. One Iroquois legend tells how Chief Woksis had thrown his tomahawk into a maple tree one late winter evening. After he removed it the following morning, the weather turned sunny and warm. Sap began to flow from the cut in the tree, and dripped down into a container, which was at the base of the tree. Chief Woksis’s squaw used the sap to boil meat for dinner. As the water in the sap boiled away, a wonderful, sweet maple taste was left with the meat. In winter, when food is scarce the bark of many species of maple trees provide food for many animals such as rabbit, beaver, deer, and moose.
A 9. Pine Marten Martes americana
The marten is an opportunistic feeder that eats lots of small mammals, including squirrels and mice. Occasionally birds, fruit, nuts, insects, and carrion will be eaten as well. Related to stoats, mink, polecats, otters and badgers, martens are members of the weasel (Mustelidae) family. Martens are somewhat arboreal (tree dwelling) and move with great ease in trees. They often have fast-paced, tree top chases after one of their favorite prey items, the red squirrel. Reproduction in martens is very unique. After the breeding season occurs from June to August, fertilization of the eggs is delayed and does not take place until February. The young (kits) are born in March.
A 10. Northern Red Oak Quercus rubra
All oaks have extremely hard wood. The timber industry harvests oak for the production of furniture, hard wood flooring, and structures that need a strong support base. Unlike maple trees, oak trees grow from a nut called an acorn. Many animals feed on acorns because they are a great source of fat and starch. Deer, moose, and bear eat acorns to fatten up before winter.
Smaller animals like chipmunks and squirrels store acorns to get through winter. Red oak acorns are inedible for humans in the raw state, but the bitter tannins and other ‘phenolic’ compounds can be leached out by soaking in water. Native Americans used red oak acorns as a source of protein, fat and starch.
A 11. Spotted Salamander Ambystoma maculatum
Unlike members of the lungless salamander family (Plethodontidae) that breathe through their thin, moist skin; Spotted Salamanders are members of the mole salamander family (Ambystomatidae), which breath through lungs. Spotted Salamanders migrate each year from their wooded terrestrial habitats, where they burrow into soft soils to feed on invertebrates such as earthworms, insects, and mollusks, to ponds or wetlands to have their offspring. Females lay their eggs in the water, in clumps or masses, and may deposit over 300 eggs in one mass. Spotted Salamanders may live more than 30 years, returning each year to the same pond to breed.
A 12. Eastern Hemlock Tsuga canadensis
Eastern Hemlock can be easily identified from its flattened leaves (needles) with 2 white lines beneath. Many animals benefit from the dense foliage of the hemlock in seeking shelter from weather and predators. Porcupines love to eat hemlock buds and bark.