40 ways to help conserve Maine’s reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates

Thu, 03/19/2020 - 8:00am

Our beautiful state is turning 200 this year! But Maine wouldn’t be “Maine” without our fish, wildlife, and recreation opportunities. Celebrate with us by learning 200 ways YOU can help conserve Maine for generations to come.

Here are 40 ways you can help conserve Maine’s reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife: 

1. If you see a “turtle crossing” road sign, slow down! June is turtle nesting season in Maine and turtles often cross roads to find habitat to lay their eggs.

2. Help a turtle cross the road by moving it off the road in the same direction it was heading.  

3. If you are helping a snapping turtle cross the road, do NOT pick them up by their tail, it can paralyze them! Use the lip of the shell above its back legs as a handle and slowly push, drag, or lift them.

4. Leave leaves in the fall (at least around the edges of your lawn).  Leaves provide natural ground cover for beneficial insects and other smaller wildlife to find shelter. Raking is best done in the spring.

5. Mow your lawn no more than once every two to three weeks to allow wildflowers such as dandelions, hawkweeds, and clover to grow and provide food for pollinators. 

6. Leave a small section of your yard to grow wild by only mowing once per year (in the fall) to promote habitat for beneficial butterflies and bees.

7. Plant or allow existing milkweed to grow on your land to promote Monarch Butterflies. Milkweed is the essential host plant for Monarch caterpillars.

8. Attract pollinators like bees, butterflies, flowerflies, and hummingbirds to your yard by planting native, locally grown and pesticide-free plants in your yard. Learn more about attracting pollinators here and here.

9. Protect vernal pools (seasonal forested pools of water)! These small wetlands provide a unique habitat for specialized amphibians, invertebrates, and other wildlife.

10. Become a citizen scientist in the Maine Amphibian and Reptile Atlas Project and help document populations of reptiles (turtles and snakes) and amphibians (frogs and salamanders) across the state.

11. Attend a training session to participate in the final year of the Maine Turtle Roadkill Survey. Contact shaggerty@maineaudubon.org for more information.

12. Give snakes a break! All of Maine’s native snakes are harmless and provide beneficial ecological services by feeding on pests such as rodents, slugs, snails, and insects. You can help native snakes by letting grass grow long, keeping cats inside, planting native shrubs, and leaving stick and rock piles for cover. Don’t kill snakes!

13. Look, but don’t touch! Amphibians breath through their skin, called subcutaneous respiration, and easily absorb toxins. Your oils, salts, and lotions can cause death.

14. Leave turtles like the spotted turtle (threatened), Blanding’s turtle (endangered), and the wood turtle (special concern) in the wild! Though tempting to take home as a pet, they are often difficult to care for and their numbers are dwindling.

15. Think about other species when trying to reduce mosquitoes in your yard! Harmful chemicals don’t just keep mosquitoes away, they negatively impact reptiles, amphibians, and other insects. Instead, take steps to attract dragonflies and bats which eat thousands of mosquitoes. 

16. Allow forested areas to grow as a buffer between freshwater ecosystems and development or cleared land. Runoff and erosion can degrade water quality in streams, lakes and ponds.

17. Leave native vegetation growing in and around your pond. It provides food, breeding habitat, and shelter for amphibians, birds, aquatic invertebrates, and other wildlife.

18. Prevent frogs and nocturnal insects from becoming trapped or drowned in your swimming pool. At night when you are not using your pool, turn off outside lights and put on the cover.

19. Avoid using pesticides and other chemicals on your land. The use of certain chemicals can cause developmental abnormalities or fatalities in amphibians and pollinators. If you must treat your garden, opt for organic pesticide options and spray at night when pollinators are least active.

20. Buy organic vegetables and fruits as much as possible to promote safe growing practices and a healthy environment for humans and wildlife.

21. Do not purchase dragonflies, damselflies, beetles, or bees off the internet and release them in Maine. Non-native invertebrates will compete with our native invertebrates for resources and can cause significant harm.

22. Send a letter to a member of congress to show your support for Recovering America’s Wildlife Act to secure Maine’s nongame species of the future. Click here.

23. Watch out for frogs and salamanders crossing roads on warm, rainy spring nights as they make their way to breeding ponds.  Slow down and if you can do so safely, pull over and move them off the road in the direction they were traveling.

24. Plant a variety of native flowering plants. Some species of bumblebees are declining, and you can help by providing a full season of nectar with gardens that bloom from early spring until frost.

25. Maine is key to the survival of some rare northeastern endemic species that live nowhere else in the world, including the Katahdin Arctic and Crowberry Blue butterflies, Roaring Brook Mayfly, Bigmouth Pondsnail, and the New England Bluet damselfly. Learn more about these unique wildlife species and support conservation efforts for all of Maine’s rare and endangered species

26. Support conservation of wetlands. They are hotspots for many wildlife and an effective deterrent to flash floods that may become more frequent as a result of climate change.

27. Don’t stock home ponds with fish. This introduces predators that may prey on tadpoles and frogs and aquatic insects that prefer fishless habitats.

28. Join or support a local or regional land trust. They are stewards of some of Maine’s most special places.

29. Freshwater mussels like the brook floater and yellow lampmussel, both threatened species in Maine, filter large volumes of water to remove algae, bacteria and detritus. Help maintain clean water for these rare species by going chemical-free for your yard and garden.

30. Conservation lands are not as prevalent in Maine as in many states. Support funding and bonds for land conservation, including Lands for Maine’s Future.

31. Help frogs and salamanders by allowing a wider vegetation buffer to grow up around any wetlands or shorelines on your property.

32. Get involved in your local land trust, conservation commission or planning board to guide smart growth in your community.

33. The state of Maine is blessed with rich wildlife resources and tremendous conservation partners. Please support their efforts!

34. Learn more about species at risk in Maine by reading the State Wildlife Action Plan and visiting the list of endangered and threatened species here.

35. If you see that a turtle has laid eggs in your yard – leave them alone! Don’t try to relocate them, it will likely kill the embryos. Keep your pets away and look for baby turtles to hatch in September!

36. Conserve water at home, school, and work by using collected rainwater for watering gardens and potted plants. The water you save now keeps a clean habitat for amphibians.

37. Don’t disturb compost piles from June to September if it isn’t enclosed. Snakes may use it as an area to lay eggs.

38. Keep dogs away from reptiles and amphibians, for the safety of them and your dog!

39. When filing your Maine state taxes, say yes to the “Chickadee Check-off on the Charitable Contributions page to donate to the Endangered & Nongame Wildlife Fund.

40. Purchase a Loon Conservation License Plate to provide funding for Maine’s nongame and endangered and threatened wildlife.