Beaver Deceivers to Protect Deering Pond

By Kevin McKeon

On a recent warm November day, as part of its directives of preserving special places and maintaining critical habitats, Mousam Way Land Trust worked with the Sanford Trails Committee and a generous donor to complete a project along Sanford’s Rail Trail.

Spring time typically brings snow melt and spring rains, causing water runoff; with that, beaver get busy repairing and building up their dams to hold back, or impound, water for summer storage. This creates the habitat that the beaver need to survive. This activity has often resulted in the water at Deering Pond to rise to a level where overflow has caused erosion to wash out a section of Sanford’s Rail Trail.

In an effort to mitigate this costly issue, Skip Lisle was contracted this past summer to install a flow device of his own design, called a “Beaver Deceiver,” at the pond’s outlet, where culverts were installed years ago and where beaver have since been active in damming the culverts, greatly slowing the outlet flow and causing the erosion. This particular Beaver Deceiver installation will act to protect the culverts from becoming dammed, while also allowing the beaver to impound enough water for the pond to maintain its traditional healthy habitat. Concurrent with this install, the Rail Trail was re-engineered to a higher level at the area subject to erosion, and a secondary overflow culvert installed.

Realizing this new culvert would attract beaver damming activity, Skip returned months later and donated his time, his materials, and most importantly, his expertise in beaver knowledge, and installed another Beaver Deceiver to protect this new culvert. Working with volunteers from the Trust and Committee, Skip has helped to ensure that the Rail Trail remains intact for the community’s use, that the resident beaver population will continue their instinctive water-based activities, and that Deering Pond will be maintained at a biologically healthy level in support of the myriad of flora and fauna within the pond’s surrounding landscape.

Skip has solved beaver damming issues world-wide with his devices, which are site-specific and custom made for each site’s particular issues. He’s been doing this for decades, applying the knowledge gained over the years to allow beaver, a “keystone species” to build and maintain their valuable habitat while mitigating the damage that can be caused by uncontrolled water-level rises affecting human properties. Mousam Way Land Trust thanks Skip for sharing his expertise, hard work, and leadership in safeguarding the hundreds of beaver habitats his flow devices have enhanced.

Related video, courtesy Sarah Schnell, Studio Manager, WSSR-TV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6GctYiuTWY

The Turkey

First domesticated in Mexico about 3000 years ago by the pre-Aztecs, Turkey’s were used not so much for meat, but for their feathers…which were used during their rituals and ceremonies, and for making blankets and robes. They were again domesticated about 2300 years ago by a different people…the Native American Ancestral Pueblos, also known as the Anasazi, living near the Colorado Plateau. They also first used them for their feathers, then began eating ‘em about 900 years ago. When the Spanish arrived in the New World, they transported the Aztec turkey from Mexico to Europe. (The English thought it was there own “Turkey”…a bird from Africa brought to England via Turkey, a major shipping hub at the time. The name stuck, so we have the “Turkey”). Demand in Europe increased, and several varieties were developed. In the 1700’s, these European breeds were brought back to the United States, where recent DNA testing suggests that the Southeastern Anasazi breed has gone extinct, and the birds that we now know and love are descendants of the Aztec breed!
Different than the birds raised for meat, (which weigh twice that of wild turkeys and are usually too heavy to fly), they can be spotted in THE AREA scratching the ground for food, like acorns, seeds, berries, small insects and even small amphibians; in Winter, they’ll gobble down Hemlock buds, ferns, and mosses. At night they’ll roost on tree branches. When they need to, Turkeys can swim by tucking their wings in close, spreading their tails, and kicking!! When startled, they can fly quite gracefully at 55 MPH for short distances!
About 90% of all turkeys live in the U.S.; the rest are in Mexico and Canada. Since the mid-1960’s, restoration efforts were so successful that hunting is allowed wherever they roam. They are the second-most sought after game species…Deer being #1.
In Spring, the hen will lay up to 18 eggs on a nest she makes on the ground under a bush and a month later the “poults” hatch. For two weeks, unable to fly, the hen will care for them…roosting on the ground, trying to keep up with her as they forage in fields for grasshoppers and other insects. How the hen turkey reacts to a human (or other) threat depends on the age of her poults. If they are very young (under a week old), she huddles stock still with her brood in a frozen position. With wings and tail spread, she provides them with shelter. If they are detected, she gives a vocal command to her young to remain “frozen,” and feigns an attack on the intruder, simultaneously making a “putting” sound to quiet her chicks. By the time they are a week old, poults tend to evade possible predators by running away. At nine days old and later, most poults fly into low vegetation when threatened. By the time her brood is three weeks old, the hen commands them to fly into trees at the sign of danger.They’ll spend about a year with Mom.
The un-feathered skin on the throat and head of a turkey can change color from flat gray to striking shades of red, white, and blue when the bird becomes distressed or excited. Their “snood” (the flap of skin that hangs over the turkey’s beak) and their “wattle” (the flap of skin under their beak) will be bright red when the turkey is upset or during courtship.

Morrow Environmental Reserve

Our only lot in Shapleigh, this 12,62 acre forested property is located at the northeast corner of the intersection of Back and Walnut Hill Roads.  The back boundaries are marked by intermittent stonewalls. There are three entries along Walnut Hill Road, with off-road parking at the upper access.  The latest 2011 timber harvest along with almost yearly firewood cutting has resulted in a rich, young forest covered with a number of large red oaks and white pines that could be harvested.  The forest is mostly a dominant mix of red oak, white pine, red maple and hemlock.  A number of the larger pines have thinning or declining tops, a condition that probably has resulted from the drought-prone shallow soil on this property.  Balsam fir and red spruce are found in the wetter areas.  Beech, white oak and white birch occur in smaller numbers on higher ground.  Single specimens of yellow birch, black ash, shagbark hickory and hop hornbeam were seen.  About an acre and a half of the northwest corner of the lot along Back Road is occupied by a fairly dense hemlock grove.  Various pockets of shrubbery, ferns, and herbs form the understory, with little if any invasives.

The middle of the lot is mostly elevated above either end so water moves into wetlands on both sides.  Most of the land is covered with a shallow soil of fine sandy loam over a bedrock of mica schist.  There are two major outcrops of schist along with some smaller ones along Back Road.  Most of the stones in the walls are mica schist; some are sulfidic schist.  There are very few granitic boulders.  Water that collects in shallow depressions in the bedrock creates ephemeral wetlands that are scattered across the land; some are vernal pools of as yet undetermined significance.  The lot drains to a culvert that passes under Walnut Hill Road.  An enclosed, open topped spring is located halfway up the Walnut Hill Road boundary and was reserved for the use of the former Ross school house, now a residence at the intersection.  Underground flow apparently also occurs at the western end of the Morrow property where it emerges in a wetland.  

This Reserve is part of much larger block of undeveloped forest land that provides habitat for wildlife. This property is near the Walnut Hill Focus Area of the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Beginning With Habitat Project.  The wetlands and pools within this Focus Area are inhabited by populations of Blanding’s turtles (endangered), spotted turtles (threatened), ringed boghaunter dragonfly (endangered), and ebony boghaunter dragonfly (special concern).  The northern black racer snake (endangered) is found in the dry lands.  Since the Morrow land has many features of the focus area, it is quite likely that some of these species could be found there.  It should be noted that the Three Rivers Land Trust has a preserve in Shapleigh within the focus area at the Sanford end of Walnut Hill Road.

Logging trails have been mapped and are being considered for trail improvement.  The varied habitats and regenerating forest offer a number of opportunities for management research and study.  A self-guided “Nature Discovery Trail” could take advantage of the logging trails and natural features of the site to provide recreation and education.

Lower Mousam Wetland Easement

In December of 2020, the City of Sanford connected a 390 acre solar project to the grid. This 50 MegaWatt system offsets an estimated ½ million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, was the largest solar project in Maine, and the largest solar project at an airport in the world. To satisfy the negatively affected natural communities and habitats, mitigation was required. This mitigation resulted in the purchasing of various parcels of land somewhat equivalent to those disturbed, transferred to the City, and a Conservation Easement attached. This Easement, The Lower Mousam Wetland Easement, was deeded to the Trust for perpetual oversight along with another 107.62 acre parcel, located between the Harry Howes Road and Route 11A in Springvale called The Murray Easement.

The use on the property has many restrictions, but limited recreational activities are allowed within the scope of the Easement. Access is via CMP power line corridor at Jagger Mill Road, and canoe via Mousam River at Emery Street. Footpath designing and building is not currently being planned in this relatively remote area.

This 43.62 acre parcel abuts the Mousam River, and is 300′ west and across the CMP Power Line from the Trust’s IDC Reserve in Cyro Industrial Park in South Sanford. A small tributary passes through both lots, entering the river near the parcel’s center along the northern boundary.

( More information to come. ).

Murray Easement

In December of 2020, the City of Sanford connected a 390 acre solar project to the grid. This 50 MegaWatt system offsets an estimated ½ million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, was the largest solar project in Maine, and the largest solar project at an airport in the world. To satisfy the negatively affected natural communities and habitats, mitigation was required. This mitigation resulted in the purchasing of various parcels of land somewhat equivalent to those disturbed, transferred to the City, and a Conservation Easement attached. This Easement, The Murray Easement, was deeded to the Trust for perpetual oversight along with another 43.62 acre parcel, located in the Jagger Mill area in South Sanford, called The Lower Mousam Wetland Easement.

The use on the property has many restrictions, but limited recreational activities are allowed within the scope of the Easement. Footpaths are being designed with those rules in mind, and there is an existing path as noted on the map. It is currently unmarked, but begins as easy to follow, getting increasingly difficult towards the end. There is a footpath on the Native Plant Trust’s Rhododendron Sanctuary, but access is currently inaccessible through a private lot. 

This 107.62 acre parcel contains an old barn facing Harry Howes Road; an ancient, stone-walled, raised cemetery a short distance inland from the barn holding the Hobbs family; and a large beaver dam at the old Hobbs Mill impounding a 40+ woodland pond, forming the headwaters of Great Works watershed. The beaver dam can be seen from the trail crossing at the stream outlet. 

After completion of trail grooming and signage, we hope to connect with trail systems to the northwest at the Native Plant Trust’s Rhododendron Sanctuary, 3 River Land Trust’s Community Forest, the Sanford Rail Trail, and the McKeon Environmental Reserve, as shown in the map below.

( More information to follow )  

Picture Pond Reserve

Picture Pond Reserve is a 30.6 acre parcel located in Sanford’s southern, 7-Ponds area, northwest from the Sanford Regional Airport, near the North Berwick boundary. The area drains to the Great Works River in the Salmon Falls Watershed. Obtained as mitigation for unavoidable impacts to other wetlands, a registered Conservation Declaration dictates that the property will be maintained in its natural condition forever. One of the few exceptions to the Declaration is the allowance, with Department of Environmental Protection and Army Corps of Engineer approval, is the creation of trails, boardwalks, and signage for the express purpose of promoting conservation, scientific, and educational values.

( More geologic, botanical, and zoological information to come. )

Harvest Circle

Located in Alfred and obtained as part of the Harvest Circle cluster housing development requirement for a common green space, Harvest Circle abuts the Sanford boundary at Hay Brook along its southern boundary.

( Further description under development )

Lowd Environmental Reserve

In 2020, The Lowd Environmental Reserve was added to the Trust’s holdings, the result of a generous donation of 14 acres of land off Oak Street, just ½ mile from Springvale Square. Rebecca and Donald Legro were honored at the Summer dedication well attended by family members and trust directors. 

A popular walking area for neighborhood locals and horse riders, the topography of the tract is hummocky ground moraine with large erratic boulders scattered across its surface. The land rises 120 feet from Oak Street to the back boundary of the land about ¼ mile away. Wetlands are scattered around the site in hollows, and a single stream flows across the middle of the lot, draining the northern slope of Hansons Ridge; a footbridge was built to ease crossing at both the entrance Trail, and also on the return loop trail. A boardwalk at the foot of the hill also helps to keep feet dry.

Scattered stands of hemlock are interspersed with a mixture of red oak, a few white oak, many red maple, a few black birch, beech and pines of varying diameters forming the canopy. Forest regeneration from a 2016 cut consists of seedlings and saplings of red maple and oak, many beech sprouts and saplings along with innumerable shrubs of hazelnut. Several very large trees were spared and are healthy.

Deer, turkey, and squirrel leave evidence of their use, not surprising with the acorns, hazelnuts, and beechnuts available in the habitat.  The stream and wet areas undoubtably support a thriving amphibian population. 

The donation offers a preservation of open space for recreation, scenic, and wildlife habitat values, unusual for an area so close to a heavily populated space. A trailhead and parking area has been established with a small, decorative, elevated pollinator garden framing the Lowd Environmental Reserve sign. Trails are being identified and marked, but are currently fairly easy to follow.

Fawcett-Goodwin Reserve

On April 2, 2014, Carol and Gary Goodwin donated this 18 acre parcel, after 30 years of ownership, to ensure family-time memories of the land could be memorialized, and to allow others to experience the same joys. Searching for mayflowers and various berries with Carol’s father, Raymond Fawcett, were special days, as was cutting firewood, hiking, and exploring the land. “So Dad, this is for you,” Carol said.

The Fawcett-Goodwin Reserve abuts the Browning Family Reserve, and together support species that are not very common in the area. The Reserve contains four very different habitats — a hardwood forest, a hemlock forest and a cleared area of grass and shrubs under the power lines, and several wetland types — that provide a habitat for small mammals; A future restoration program featuring the endangered Eastern cottontail rabbit is a possibility. The Reserve is be available to everyone for hikes, nature and wildlife study, and bird watching. Trail building is ongoing, and self-guided nature walks will be enhanced by the placement of educational placards describing the various botanical, geological, and forest items. Home and public schoolers will find this an exciting classroom for environmental study and projects. 

Trail access and parking is available at the trailhead at Central Maine Power Company’s power line corridor on High Street, ½ mile west from the High Street/Route 4 intersection.

Central Maine Power at Deering Heights Reserve

Around 2012, Central Maine Company (CMP) built a power line, disturbing delicate wetlands. To mitigate for this impact, CMP was required to provide the area with similar wetland habitat, and to protect it in perpetuity. Land was purchased from Mark Brown, established as a Conservation Area, and given to Mousam Way Land Trust for this perpetual conservation on December 12, 2013. 

The entrance to this 73 acre area, consisting of three separate parcels all abutting the power line corridor, is located at the cul-de-sac on Rolling Woods Drive housing development off Deering Neighborhood Road in Springvale. A trail is being planned along the CMP-reserved Right of Way, a rolling, curvy footpath that will link to the very rocky corridor ending at Hanson Ridge Road to the West and the Reserve’s boundary on the East. Other than possible wildlife and botanical restoration efforts, this area is a designated “Forever Wild”, so management consists of periodic monitoring to ensure lack of encroachments and vernal pool health.