Mammals are the class of animals that have fur or hair and produce milk for their young. In all, Maine has 58 species of wild mammals that currently live within its borders. This does not include mammals, such as seals and whales, that must live in ocean environments or domestic mammals like cattle, dogs, and people. Maine has a wide variety of mammals because of its geographic location. We are far enough north to have habitat conditions that support species commonly found in Canada (e.g., the Canada lynx and American marten) and far enough south to support species found in southern deciduous forests (e.g., gray fox and opossum). Technically, our state occupies three ecological regions: Warm Continental Mountains, Warm Continental Division, and the Hot Continental Division, and is near the Subarctic Division in Canada. Each of these ecological regions differs a little bit from each other in the composition of their plant and animal communities, and hence, contributes to the diversity of Maine’s wildlife.
Maine is well known for its wildlife. Our state has one of the biggest moose and black bear populations in the “Lower 48”. Bear and moose, along with white-tailed deer are arguably the most sought after mammals for viewing and hunting. However, smaller mammals such as beaver are also very popular with tourists. Other small mammals, known as furbearers, because they were traditionally caught for their valuable fur, may occasionally be seen by watchful hikers and are still trapped in Maine. Trapping in Maine is a closely regulated activity, and like hunting, is regulated to allow wildlife populations to thrive for future generations to enjoy.
While Maine has an abundance of wildlife, several species of mammals have either gone extinct or have been extirpated from the state. These include the sea mink, caribou, eastern cougar, and wolf. Currently, there are several species of mammals that are in danger of extinction. The New England cottontail is listed as state endangered and now numbers less than 300 animals in Maine. The northern bog lemming only occurs in a few sites in Maine and is state listed as threatened. Although not currently listed as endangered, the little brown bat has lost most of its population due to white-nosed syndrome, a fungal disease that mainly affects bats that hibernate together. It is expected that the little brown bat, once Maine’s most common bat, may become extirpated fromthe Northeast in less than 15 years.