The adult alewife is a sea-run fish about 12 inches long. Each spring, alewives leave the ocean, enter Maine’s coastal rivers, and make their way upstream to spawning habitat in lakes and ponds. Alewives are river herring, a term that also includes their close relatives the blueback herring and American shad.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine works to protect important wildlife habitat for our vast array of animals that live in our state. Our Creature Feature is a way to highlight those animals and share "cool facts" and other important information about them.
NRCM's Creature Feature highlights birds, fish, mammals, and other wildlife that play an important role in the nature of Maine. We have featured "creatures" that are directly affected by our work to protect our clean waters (sea lamprey, Atlantic salmon, lobsters, etc.) and protect wildlife habitat in Maine's North Woods, including in our new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (moose, Canada lynx, black bear, etc.)
The Bald Eagle, also known as the American eagle since it occurs only here, is especially noticeable in winter, when eagles from the North and West move to the coast, where the climate is milder and the coastal waters are free of ice. In the winter they roost and hunt in groups, feeding in open water along large tidal rivers of the Maine coast, or perched on frozen ice in search of discards from the fishing shacks.
The Atlantic salmon is an anadromous fish, which means it spends the majority of its lifetime in the ocean, but returns to spawn in the same freshwater river or stream where it was born. In Maine, salmon begin returning to their home rivers between March and November, with a peak migration during June and July. Unlike their Pacific cousins, Atlantic salmon do not die after spawning, and can return year after year to reproduce.
The empty shells scattered along the shallow edges of the Kennebec, Sebasticook, and Penobscot rivers are not clams, but the remains of freshwater mussels like the yellow lampmussel. The shells may have been left behind by an otter, muskrat, or raccoon after a meal. By serving as food for river mammals, filtering the water for their own food, and linking to fish populations, freshwater mussels play a unique role in river ecosystems.
The peregrine, once known as the “duck hawk,” is a large falcon, the male more than 16 inches tall and the larger female measuring up to about 20 inches, with a wingspan of up to 44 inches. One of the most widespread birds in the world, the peregrine is found on all continents, with the exception of Antarctica.
In the snowbound dawn of the Northern Forest prowls a feline shadow with shining eyes and thick, silvery fur. Her big paws and long legs allow her to move silently through the deep snow as she hunts for hare and other prey. Long tufts of black fur grace the tops of her ears, and her short tail is tipped in black. She is the Canada lynx, a federally threatened species of the boreal forest.
Few things thrill Mainers and visitors more than spotting a moose! Their massive size and dramatic antlers (males only!) peering through the woods leave a lasting impression.The moos e is the largest of the deer family, with adult males reaching up to 10 feet (about 7 feet at the shoulder) and 1,400 pounds.
Each year in Maine, thousands of people take whale watch cruises off the coast in hopes seeing humpback whales! Sometimes playful, and the most active of all the whales, the humpback whale is the only species to breach—or leap in the air—completely leaving the water, before rolling over and crashing back down into the water, where it may slap its tail.