Many of Maine’s wild critters kill and eat each other. But some prefer wrestling.

For several hours recently, my wife Linda and I enjoyed watching two red squirrels wrestling beneath our bird feeder, hoping to have all the dropped food for themselves. They’d face each other, standing on two legs and stamping one leg up and down, then rush each other, tumbling to the ground and rolling over. Then they’d get up and continue eating.

Birds are very aggressive too. We’ve got a big dove that chases all other doves away from the food. And it isn’t just the big birds that are aggressive — chickadees constantly chase each other away from the feeders.

You probably know that eagles eat everything from loons to ducks. I was once fishing on a remote pond when an osprey circled around the pond high up in the sky, then dove all the way down right into the pond, coming up with a brook trout — a bigger one than I had caught that day.

I was surprised when I learned that snapping turtles eat my brook trout, so now I’m pleased when I see that a fox has dug up the turtles’ eggs and eaten them.

Coyotes eat pretty much anything that moves in the woods, from deer to rabbits. Actually, rabbits get eaten by lots of other animals. I’ve received several reports from experienced outdoors people that they’ve seen coyotes that were so large they must have been wolves. But the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife denies that we have wolves in Maine.

Have you ever seen a bobcat chase down a grouse for lunch? Someone recently posted a video of this on Facebook. It was not pretty.

And I haven’t mentioned yet our black bears, which even eat our moose.

Unfortunately, none of these critters eat enough wild turkeys — I’m pretty sure you will agree with me on that.

It is true, that many of these animals also eat plants and trees. Yes, they try for a balanced diet, just like you and me. This frustrates Linda, as many of these critters enjoy dining in her gardens.

Woodchucks are especially damaging. One year we had three — I managed to shoot two, but couldn’t get the third one. We were about to leave on a trip, so our friend Donna came down and actually trapped the third one and relocated it.

When we got home, though, our neighbor came over to tell us he’d seen an eagle flying up our road carrying a woodchuck, and the eagle dropped the woodchuck right on our front lawn and it ran off. Great, now eagles are delivering them to us!

Now don’t let me scare you. There is nothing in the Maine woods that you need to fear.

OK, once I was charged by a cow moose, when I got between it and its calf. But I was able to dive to the side as the moose plowed by me.

And there was that time the ermine ran up my leg and stopped on my chest. But I lived to tell the story.

We see lots of bears at our camp in the north woods, and they are not at all aggressive. I’ve had many close encounters with bears, none of them alarming.

One time when the kids were little, we were walking up our driveway towards camp when we spotted a bear coming the other way in the driveway right towards us. The bear looked up and spotted us, slowly moved into the woods, and we heard him walk through the woods right past us. When he got about 50 yards behind us, he moved back into the road and continued on.

One time I was walking on Baxter Park’s perimeter road, when I looked down into the woods and saw a bear coming my way. I stopped, figuring out that it would cross the road about 30 yards in front of me. As it approached the road, it turned and headed my way. I quickly figured out that it was going to cross the road right where I was standing. And it was coming fast.

It was only about 10 yards away when I hollered at it. It looked up, jumped around, and headed right back into the woods.

Several times I’ve been walking the perimeter road and had bears emerge into the road, spot me, and run off. Yes, bears are timid. I had many very close encounters with bears in Alaska. Nothing to worry about.

So get out in the woods today. I recommend snowshoeing, because you can move along quietly and spot all kinds wild critters.

And you can stand there, without fear, and enjoy them.

You can even be thankful that they’re sharing the woods with you. This is something that makes Maine very special.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at

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