Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge

Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1937 as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. It is the first in a chain of migratory bird refuges that extends from Maine to Florida. The Refuge consists of two units. The Baring Unit covers 16,080 acres and is located off U.S. Route 1 southwest of Calais. The 6,665-acre Edmunds Unit borders the tidal waters of Cobscook Bay near Dennysville.

The Refuge is a highly glaciated expanse of rolling hills, large ledge outcrops, streams, lakes, bogs, and marshes. A diverse forest of aspen, maple, birch, spruce, and fir dominates the landscape and scattered stands of majestic white pine are common. The Edmunds Unit boasts several miles of rocky shoreline where 24-foot tidal fluctuations are a daily occurrence.

The area is rich with the history of the logging boom days. In the 1800's horses hauled millions of cords of wood to the shores of the St. Croix River where spring floods carried the logs to Calais mills. From Calais these products were shipped to world markets by schooner and steamship. However, as the current century dawned the forest industry began to mechanize and the world market for timber declined. The numerous farms that once were necessary to feed man and beast were abandoned and, almost unnoticed, the forest gradually reclaimed what was hers. A walk through Refuge woodlands will reveal old cellar holes and rock fences.

Approximately 2,780 acres of the Edmunds Unit and 4,680 acres of the Baring Unit were set aside as Wilderness Areas by Congress. As part of the National Wilderness Preservation System these areas are granted special protection that will ensure the preservation of their wilderness characteristics.

Moosehorn Refuge is unique among the country's approximately 500 National Wildlife Refuges. Here the American woodcock is intensely studied and managed. This reclusive shorebird dwells in the alder covers by day and Refuge clearings at night. However, the woodcock is best known for its spectacular spring courtship flights. At dusk and dawn an observer hidden on the edge of a clearing can watch this performance. At twilight the male flies to a clearing and utters a series of nasal "peents." He then takes wing in a spiral flight that carries him several hundred feet into the air while he warbles a plaintive song to waiting females. He returns to the same location after each flight and repeats his performance several times over the next half hour. Unfortunately, this spring ritual is in danger; the Eastern Flyway woodcock population has declined steadily over the past two decades. Research and management programs at Moosehorn have provided valuable information that is being used to stem this decline.

The endangered bald eagle frequents both units of the Refuge. In recent years as many as three pairs of eagles have nested at Moosehorn. Eagles are frequently sighted in the area around the Magurrewock Marshes near Route 1 on the Baring Unit and around the tidal waters of Denny's Bay on the Edmunds Unit.

The woodlands of Moosehorn also abound with many other species. Black bears are abundant and can often be seen along Refuge roads in the spring, in the blueberry fields in August, and foraging for apples in the fall. White-tailed deer and an occasional moose feed in the many clearings scattered throughout the Refuge. In mid-May a flush of migrating warblers fills the woodlands with song. In winter, a tracking snow may reveal the signs of snowshoe hares, porcupines, mink and otters.

The Refuge also serves as an important breeding area and migration stop for a variety of waterfowl and other waterbirds. Black ducks, wood ducks, ring-necked ducks, Canada geese and loons can be seen on the over 50 lakes, marshes, and flowages scattered throughout the Refuge. In mid-May the Magurrewock Marsh, which borders U.S. Route 1 on the Baring Unit, abounds with goose and duck broods and bald eagle sightings are a common occurrence. Ospreys nest in several of the Refuge marshes and the ardent observer can often find river otters frolicking among the cattails. Moosehorn plays an important role in protecting the fragile and diminishing wetland resources of the Atlantic Flyway.

Woodcock, ruffed grouse, moose, deer, and a variety of song birds will only thrive in a young forest. In the past, wildfires periodically rejuvenated the forest. However, wildfire is a rare event today. Forest management programs on the Refuge serve to take the place of fire. Small clearcuts scattered throughout the forest provide openings and young brushy growth that serve as food and cover for many wildlife species. This management has resulted in dramatic increases in many species, including woodcock, grouse, bear, and moose. Timber harvesting also provides local employment and a percentage of receipts from sales is returned to local communities.

Wetlands management on the Refuge has greatly increased waterfowl numbers. Water control structures on the Refuge's marshes and ponds allow managers to maintain stable water levels during the breeding season. Water level control also improves the growth of plants that provide food and cover and allows the marshes to be emptied periodically for rejuvenation. The creation of channels, potholes, and islands, as well as shoreline improvement, have also increased waterfowl production and encouraged nesting.

Visitor Opportunities
Moosehorn offers its visitors over 50 miles of roads and trails that are closed to vehicle traffic but open for hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. Many Refuge streams and lakes are open to fishing, and boat access is provided at Bearce Lake (no motors) and Vose Pond. The Refuge is also open to deer hunting in November. Refuge visitors are invited to accompany wildlife biologists on waterfowl and woodcock banding operations (check ahead for schedules).

Additional information is available by visiting the Refuge headquarters (Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.) located north of Calais, off U.S. Route 1, on the Charlotte Road. Phone and written requests are also welcomed.

Annotated List of Mammals of Moosehorn NWR

Masked Shrew (Sorex cinereus)
Fairly abundant along stream bottoms and in moist, heavily vegetated areas, under woodpiles and in hollow stumps.

Shorttail Shrew (Blarina brevicauda)
Occurs in nearly all habitats, except dry, warm sites. Common along banks of streams and in meadows with tall grass, brush, and stone walls.

Hairytail Mole (Parascalops brewer)
Fairly abundant in open woods and meadows but difficult to observe due to nocturnal and burrowing habits.

Starnose Mole (Condylura cristata)
This peculiarly marked insect eater makes its home in wet meadows and marshes. Common in refuge water areas.

Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus)
This small bat is commonly found in old buildings and attics, hollow trees, caves and rock ledges. Most often seen flying over or near water on summer evenings in search of insect food.

Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americanus)
Found in almost any type of wooded habitat, but prefers dense brushy cover. Color varies from brown in summer to white during the winter months.

Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus)
Most often seen away from deep forested areas while actively engaged in gathering and storing food.

Woodchuck (Marmota monax)
Member of the squirrel family. Occasionally seen in old fields and pastures and along stone walls.

Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
These squirrels are found in red oak forests. Slightly larger than red squirrels.

Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)
Occurs in all spruce-fir type forest where it is more often heard than seen. Abundant.

Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus)
Fairly abundant, but not often seen due to nocturnal habits.

Beaver (Castor canadensis)
Dams and houses may be observed from refuge trails, and evidence of their feeding on aspen and other trees can be seen on most watercourses.

Deer Mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus)
Occurs in coniferous or mixed forests along field borders, stone walls, and outbuildings.

White-footed Mouse (Peromyscus leucopus)
An abundant species, difficult to distinguish from the deer mouse either in appearance or habits.

Southern Redback Vole (Clethrionomys gapperi)
A common refuge inhabitant, this mammal is mostly nocturnal. It commonly uses the tunnels of other small mammals.

Meadow Vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus)
Very adaptable, occurring in most any type of habitat, where it lives in an elaborate system of underground runways.

Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus)
Fairly abundant in most flowages and impoundments. Houses constructed of mud and aquatic vegetation may be observed from refuge trails.

House Mouse (Mus musculus)
Sometimes found in refuge buildings.

Meadow Jumping Mouse (Zapus hudsonius)
Frequents marshlands and meadows, where it may be seen traveling in tremendous leaps.

Woodland Jumping Mouse (Napaeozopus insignia)
Similar to the meadow jumping mouse in appearance, this common rodent prefers a heavily wooded habitat.

Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)
Fairly abundant in most types of habitat. Feeds on the inner bark of trees, especially in winter, and various green plants.

Coyote (Cants Latrans)
Common in all refuge upland habitat.

Red Fox (Vulpes fulva)
Common in all refuge upland habitats but prefers old farmlands, meadows and other clearings.

Black Bear (Euarctos americanus)
May be seen foraging in fields and on refuge dikes in the spring and in abandoned apple orchards in the fall.

Raccoon (Procyon rotor)
May be seen along roadways and around bodies of water. Nocturnal.

Fisher (Martes pennant)
Rarely seen on the refuge.

Ermine (Mustela erminea)
Occurs in fair numbers in most refuge habitats, but prefers dense brushy cover. Molts to white in winter.

Longtail Weasel (Mustela frenata)
Occurs in open woods and woodland edges and prefers to be near water.

Mink (Mustela vison)
Frequents streambanks, lakeshores, and marshes. Favors forested wetlands with abundant cover.

River Otter (Lutra canadensis)
Occurs in main waterways, traveling from watershed to watershed in search of its fish staple.

Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis)
Occurs in fair numbers in semi-open areas, woods and meadows. Fairly common around areas of human habitation.

Bobcat (Lynx rufus)
Found in limited numbers, mostly in remote and rocky areas.

Whitetail Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
May be observed along refuge roads and trails, and occasionally in orchards.

Moose (Alces alces)
Occasionally seen throughout the year around refuge wetlands and near recently forested areas.

Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina)
May sometimes be observed in the saltwater areas of the Edmunds Unit.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 23 May 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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