Tom Seymour knows more about Maine wildlife than anyone in our state, and his new book, “Wild Critters of Maine: Everyday Encounters,” published by Just Write Books in Topsham, is a real treasure of both information about our wild critters and very entertaining stories about Tom’s encounters with them.

Even if you know a lot about Maine’s wildlife, as I do, you will learn a lot from Tom’s book. I sure did. And I really appreciated Tom’s thanking me in the front of the book for encouraging him to write this book. I just knew that the book would be very special.

Tom starts with our mammals, from moose to rabbits and gray squirrels. The next section is about fowl, including turkeys, ducks, and lots of other birds. Then he moves on to fish, from brook trout and bass to crayfish. And then Tom surprised me with a section on crawly things from June bugs to dragonflies. I had no idea he knew so much about bugs! And he actually has a section on his favorite insects.

Tom finishes up with amphibians, including salamanders. You will especially enjoy his last chapter of unexpected encounters including a sparrow that landed on an ice fisherman’s head and the only flying squirrel he ever saw. His encounter with a blue snake is a good story too.

And here’s Tom’s final paragraph: “Chance encounters with our different Maine wildlife species are for the most part, something to treasure. And as illustrated here, these meetings can sometimes leave us with an appreciation for the wonders of nature, a sense of the ridiculous at the oddities of wildlife or a grin that just won’t quit.”

Boy, he got that right.

Tom does talks around the state, and can be reached at [email protected] for information about those. He also writes columns for various publications and he has written a number of books.

One that my wife Linda and I both enjoyed, and continue to use, is “Wild Plants of Maine.” Subtitled “A Useful Guide,” it certainly is. We’ve been amazed at how many edible plants can be found in the Maine woods and elsewhere, from goose tongue greens, which we harvested along the ocean in Lubec and Campobello, to chanterelle mushrooms. One day in August, up to camp, we picked nine large bags full of chanterelles. Yummy!

Tom’s stories brought back many of my great memories of encounters with wildlife, and I’d like to share some of those with you today. His stories about muskrats and rabbits, which he calls hares, reminded me of outdoor adventures with my dad. Before school, Dad and I would go to a stream where I trapped muskrats. And as a kid, I loved hunting rabbits with our beagles. I can tell you, rabbits are very tasty.

Tom’s story about gray squirrels reminded me that as a kid I hunted gray squirrels in our backyard and the woods and shot gray squirrels, which my mom would cook for supper. And they were delicious.

Tom’s stories about woodchucks reminded me of the time we had three woodchucks eating in Linda’s garden. I managed to shoot two of them and while Linda and I were on a trip, a neighbor live trapped the third woodchuck and released it 10 miles away. But when we got home a neighbor said he’d seen an eagle flying up our road with a woodchuck and it dropped it right in our yard. Great, eagles were now delivering them!

And then there’s his chapter on skunks. One night, I was late to a selectman’s meeting so I didn’t turn on the lights as I went down the steps and through my workshop to the door to the garage. I felt the cat go across my feet so I reached down to pet it, and a skunk blasted me right in the face and chest. I raced upstairs, threw off my clothes which Linda threw away, and jumped in the shower. I eventually got to the selectman’s meeting, but no one sat near me.

Tom’s stories about white perch reminded me of when Dad would take us to a small stream in Readfield that flows into Maranacook Lake, and we would fill buckets with white perch. Many years later, my kids caught bucket loads of white perch in the very same place. And his stories about bass reminded me of the times I took my grandsons to a remote pond not far from our house, where they could catch a bass on almost every cast.

Yes, Tom’s stories brought back my own wonderful outdoor memories. I’m sure they’ll bring back yours, too.

 

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


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