Seventy-five percent of Maine’s native plants and animals are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. As temperatures warm, threatened species will have to move to survive, but too often development makes this impossible. “The most iconic one that comes to mind is moose,” says Jeremy Gabrielson, senior conservation and community planner for Maine Coast Heritage Trust. “When I was in high school, I regularly saw moose in Cape Elizabeth, but that’s far less common now.” Local housing development alone doesn’t explain their absence; rather, widespread habitat fragmentation has stopped the animals from traveling long distances. “A moose thinks twice before it crosses a roadway,” Gabrielson says. “If you put enough obstacles in its way that make it think twice, it just won’t continue.”
While species like moose and bobcats have a large home range, smaller species also need to move around. A breeding population of pine martens, nocturnal mammals that live in conifer-dominated forests, can exist on a single piece of land, but in order to maintain that population, the offspring must go elsewhere. “With a lot of the mammals we have in Maine, the young will travel to a new area to find a mate,” Gabrielson says. Amphibians, also common in Maine, breed in vernal pools and then spend time in the nearby upland. “They don’t necessarily go far,” Gabrielson says, “but a road between the place where they breed and the landscape where they will live as adults can have a serious, detrimental impact.”
Maine Coast Heritage Trust is working to strategically preserve and connect large blocks of land to ensure enough habitat for animal populations to live out their lives. The resulting expansive corridors not only support Maine’s flora and fauna, but also benefit humans who enjoy the solace of open and undeveloped space.
Visit these MCHT preserves to look for signs of resident wildlife this winter!