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The moose is the largest wild animal in North America. On average, an adult moose stands 6 to 7 feet at the shoulder. Males typically weigh 850-1580 lbs and females weigh 600-800 lbs. In Maine, the statewide moose population is estimated to be ~75,000 animals. The Penobscot Nation lands encompass over 130,000 acres, and roughly 50-60 moose are harvested each year on these territories. A separate and distinct moose hunting season is enjoyed by tribal members on Penobscot lands as part of their sustenance rights.
The moose is one of the most valuable sustenance species of the Penobscot people. A large animal can easily provide enough meat for a family to live off during a long winter. Click here (1.8 MB) to learn more about the traditional uses of moose by the Penobscot people. In the late 1990's, the Penobscot Nation and Passamaquoddy Tribe worked together to test moose and deer livers for various contaminants. The results showed high levels of cadmium were present, especially in moose livers. Click here for the cadmium in moose livers advisory.
Click here for more information on moose in Maine.
White-tailed Deer (nolke)
Deer are another important sustenance species for the Penobscot people. While at the northern edge of their range, Maine has ~200,000 wintering deer statewide. Loss of winter habitat is the biggest issue facing Maine deer today. Deer require forest stands with little or no canopy closure, made up of softwood trees 30ft tall or more. When these forest stands are also located on south-facing slopes near food and water sources, they make ideal conditions for deer to gather together during the long winter months. However, since the 1950's logging practices have reduced the amount of deer wintering areas (DWAs) statewide. What is left are patches of habitat that often lack connectivity which means deer have a hard time reaching them as winter approaches.
The Penobscot Nation forestry and wildlife programs work together to protect and increase DWAs on Penobscot lands whenever possible. The two programs have also worked together to create "wildlife clear cuts" within several territories that have been extremely successful in generating browse for moose and deer where it was most needed. Between 30 and 40 deer are harvested annually on Penobscot lands each year by tribal members and non-tribal members.
Click here for more information on white-tailed deer in Maine.
Black bear (awehsohs)
The black bear is the only species of bear in the northeast and is very important to the Penobscot people culturally as a Clan species. They are found statewide, but higher populations typically are in northern and eastern Maine. A bear's weight fluctuates greatly during the year. They are the heaviest in the fall as they store fat to get them through the long period of hibernation. Males can range from 250-600 lbs, and females from 100-400 lbs. Bears are opportunistic feeders and eat everything from grass and berries to meat and fish. Meat is especially important in the spring as they are building back up their body weight, and recent studies have shown that bears take a large number of deer fawns and moose calves each year during this time.
In 2009, the Penobscot Nation implemented a spring bear hunt. The hunt employs a number of Registered Penobscot Guides and typically between 30 and 55 bears are harvested each year.
Click here for more information on black bears in Maine.
The bald eagle is a cultural symbol for the Penobscot Nation and many tribes across the country. While once on the brink of extinction, the bald eagle is a recovery success story. By 1978, Maine had an estimated 20 breeding pairs of eagles statewide. Numbers had dwindled mostly due to the widespread use of the pesticide DDT, which made eagle eggs too brittle to survive. A nationwide ban of DDT, along with education and research, has helped boost eagle numbers to well over 500 breeding pairs in Maine today! It is no longer uncommon to see an eagle perched on the side of the highway, or flying overhead on a nice day.
Unfortunately for eagles, their battle with pollution is not over. BioDiversity Research Institute in Gorham, Maine has been studing toxin levels in eagles for several years and discovered high levels of mercury in Maine eagles. The Penobscot Nation participated in this study by assisting with the testing of eagle chicks on some trust lands. The studies are not yet complete, but the high levels are most likely due to the amount of mercury in the lakes where eagles are getting their food. For more information on how toxins build up in animals, click here to see the Toxics Section of the Water Resources page.
In 2005, the Penobscot Warden Service rescued a mature eagle from an island in the Penobscot River. The eagle was unable to fly and was taken to Avian Haven Rehabilitation Center in Freedom Maine. The eagle had an old injury that was not repairable and normally would have been put to sleep. However, Avian Haven recognized that this eagle was special to the tribe as it was found on the reservation and secured the permits necessary to keep the eagle and let it live permanently at their facility. The bird is an older male and has kept many of its wild qualities, therefore his "job" is to teach young eagles how to behave. They are placed in a large enclosure with the "Penobscot eagle" and are then able to watch him feed, move around, and learn eagle social skills. The Department of Natural Resources routinely brings meat to Avian Haven to assist in feeding the birds. Due to the issue of lead contamination mentioned above Avian Haven x-rays all game meet for lead fragments, so donations of meat harvested with non-lead ammunition are preferred. Please contact Kristin Peet (207-817-7363) if you have meat you would like to donate.
Snapping Turtle (amihkənahkʷ)
The snapping turtle is culturally important to the Penobscot Nation as a sustenance species. "Turtle soup" was a common dish and can still be found in certain restaurants on the east coast. Snapping turtles are fairly common in Maine and used to be commercially harvested. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife currently does not allow commercial harvesting, but allows individuals to havest turtles or their eggs for personal use.
Snapping turtles live in muddy, weedy ponds or marshes and are often seen in the spring crossing roads. They are in search of loose, sandy gravel where they will dig a hole and lay between 20 and 60 1-inch eggs. These nests are usually located in sunny spots next to streams or ponds so the hatchlings can escape quickly into the water after emerging. People often try to "help" snapping turtles cross the road and a common misconception is that picking them up by their tails is safe. DO NOT DO THIS as it can severely injure the turtle. Professionals will pick up a snapping turtle at the top of the shell (right behind the neck) and at the base of the shell. This ensures that the turtle will not be injured. However, snapping turtles have extremely long necks and can twist around and bite the "helper" so it is best to not handle them at all if possible.
The Penobscot Nation included snapping turtles in a study they conducted that tested many different traditional food species for various contaminants. The study is not yet complete, but as snapping turtles generally have a long life span they have the ability to build up toxins in their fat and muscle tissues over time. Eating them only in moderation is advisable.
Click here for more information on snapping turtles in Maine.