Monday, November 16, 2015

Preservation, greenways and wild animals among us

By Beth Sullivan
By now we have all read about the beautiful Coyote or hybrid Coyote/Wolf/Dog that wandered through Mystic and Stonington within the last week. The number of articles, posts, photos and exclamations about this sighting is an example of how interested and concerned we are with the wildlife that we may encounter. It also underscores the need to help these creatures find a balance was we have moved into their space.
Raccoons are quite comfortable in edge habitats. 

Night visitors

This animal was healthy in appearance, calm in its demeanor, and not obviously diseased. Yet it was not where it belonged. More and more wild animals that have been pushed out of their area by our encroachment and development are becoming adapted to living on “the edge”. The edge where the woods meet the field, where the field meets a yard or a street, where the yard meets a neighborhood and that neighborhood turns into a town. The species that are most successful are those that have learned how to adapt. Think of our night-visiting Raccoons and Opossums. Think of wild Turkeys and Crows. Think of White-tailed Deer. They have become part of our suburban existence, not just rural residents. Now think of the others that seem to threaten us or our pets more: Fishers, Bobcats, Coyotes and Bears. They are also learning how to adapt, to survive, but it is also threatening their very own existence that they are becoming too adapted, too comfortable in close proximity to our homes and roadways.
Bobcats are secretive but sightings are becoming more common. Photo by Rick Newton.

Foxes prefer shrubby fields and hedgerows. Sometimes they will den near human dwellings. Photo by Rick Newton.

This underscores the increasing need to preserve land-land to be homes, habitats and safe zones for these species. If you look at an aerial map of the area covered by Avalonia Land Conservancy’s preservation efforts, you are at first struck by the general forested nature of where we live. But zoom in closer and it is obvious that all the new developments, homes, roads, business centers, are encroaching and breaking up the forest, creating more edges.
Larger areas of deep woodlands and varied habitats give animals room to travel safely.

Creating greenways for habitat

One of our main conservation strategies is to create greenways. Link parcels of land together to form corridors that wild life can travel more safely. Sometimes a greenway will follow a watercourse, a wetland corridor that protects a watershed as well as providing safe haven for wildlife. If you look at that map in a bit more detail, you will see that Avalonia has played a part in preserving lands and creating a number of greenways. In Groton, The Moore Woodlands and Town’s End connect with other protected lands to form a large cross town trail system that is accessible to people and wildlife as well. In Mystic/Stonington a large block of Aquarion Water Company land, Denison Society land, which is for now, open space, connects to Nature Center land, and several adjoining Avalonia Properties : Mistuxet Hill, Pequotsepos Brook Preserve, Perkins Wildlife Corridor, White Cedar Swamp and Deans Mill Preserve. This greenway protects our watersheds, brook sources which flow to Long Island Sound, and provides homes and habitats for numerous species of wildlife.
In Groton several organizations have partnered to create a long greenway of trails and open space.

In Stonington, a large amount of Avalonia protected open space protects the Stony Brook watershed, from our Stony Brook Preserve, through Fennerswood, to Paffard Woods and then to the Admiral Fife Naval recreation Area .
Avalonia has connected several parcels in North Stonington to provide a large corridor of diverse habitat.

In North Stonington a lovely large complex is comprised of Erisman Woodlands, Babcock Ridge and the Henne Preserve .
Each of these connected parcels took a great deal of effort to put together. The beneficiaries, of course, are all of us and future generations who will enjoy the vast open spaces. But the greatest beneficiaries will be the species of wildlife that would really prefer their large block of woodlands and wetlands, to the concrete world of down town Mystic.
See and read about the Coyote sighting in the Stonington-Mystic Patch.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan unless otherwise indicated.

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