Although it is the 12th smallest state in the United States, Maine is well known for its stunning scenery. With 3,500 miles of coastline, countless bays and inlets, and an immense 17 million acres of forest, Maine provides a diverse range of ecosystems. These rich habitats are absolutely teeming with wildlife, both large and small. But just how big do animals get in Maine? Read on as we discover the largest animals in Maine and where you’ll find them!
The largest bird in Maine by wingspan is the bald eagle. Bald eagles have a distinctive appearance with dark brown bodies, white heads, and tails. They have a massive wingspan of 5ft 11ins to 7ft 7ins. However, such large birds require large nests too, and bald eagles make the biggest nests of any bird in the world. Nests are made in trees, and these birds keep adding new material to the same nest every year, meaning the nest keeps growing. The largest nests can be 20 feet deep and 9 feet wide! Bald eagles live near large water areas such as lakes or the sea. Bald eagles particularly favor the coastline in Maine, but they can also be found in the Arcadia National Park.
Great White Shark
One of the largest animals in Maine is the infamous great white shark. In recent years the number of great whites in the area has increased, with the state recording its first fatal shark attack (the result of a great white) in 2020. Great whites are large mackerel sharks that can reach 20 feet long and weigh up to 5,000 pounds. They are apex predators and are found in temperate waters all around the world. Great whites prey on a range of fish, whales, dolphins, seals, and sea turtles. An increase in the seal population around Maine is thought to be the reason behind the increased presence of great whites in the area.
The biggest freshwater fish in Maine is the lake trout. Lake trout are typically a greenish-grey color with yellowish spots. They average 3 to 3 feet long, although the largest can reach almost 5 feet and weigh approximately 100 pounds. The largest caught in Maine was 44 inches long and weighed 39.2 pounds. Lake trout live in cold lakes, often at depths between 66 and 197 feet, and prey mainly on invertebrates and small fish. Due to their size, lake trout are prized amongst sports fishermen and are present in most major lakes in Maine.
The largest land mammals in Maine are moose which weigh approximately 1,500 pounds. Standing an immense 4ft 7ins to 6ft 11ins at the shoulder, moose are huge imposing animals – males even more so as they have a set of large, broad antlers. Moose are herbivorous animals and typically live in forest regions. However, they can also be found in areas near water as they are very capable swimmers. Moose are also able to eat while underwater, thanks to a unique adaptation that they have. This is because they possess fatty pads over their nostrils which allow them to close them while they are underwater. The best places to see moose in Maine are Baxter State Park and Moosehead Lake.
The wild turkey is one of the largest animals in Maine and the heaviest bird in the state. Wild turkeys are large black or grey birds with distinctive red heads and throats. They average 17 pounds, but the largest individuals can reach an immense 37 pounds. Despite their large size, wild turkeys are actually very accomplished fliers and are quick and agile when in the air. Wild turkeys are omnivorous and eat a range of nuts, seeds, lizards, salamanders, and small snakes. They are native to North America, where they live in upland regions. Wild turkeys are widespread across Maine, and the state has an estimated population of 60,000 of them.
The longest snake in Maine is the black racer which can reach lengths of up to 6 feet. Black racers – also known as eastern racers – are typically black with lighter bellies. They are not venomous, but despite their scientific name – Coluber constrictor – they are not typical constrictors either. Instead, they prefer to subdue their prey by pinning it down, with small animals being swallowed alive. Black racers prey on rodents, amphibians, lizards, and other snakes. They are quick, active snakes which makes them very capable hunters. They are diurnal and can often be seen holding their head aloft while scanning their surroundings. Black racers live in open grasslands as well as forests. They are often found in Kennebunk, Sandford, and Wells in Maine.
Giant Water Bug
The largest insect in Maine is the giant water bug which can reach up to 4.5 inches long, depending on the species. Giant water bugs are a family of insects that inhabit ponds, streams, and swamps worldwide. They have flattened, oval-shaped bodies, usually dark brown or black. Giant water bugs are also known as “toe biters” as they can give a particularly painful bite if disturbed or handled. They prey on aquatic animals such as small fish, tadpoles, and other insects. Giant water bugs are fairly common right across Maine in suitable habitats.
One of the largest animals in Maine is the basking shark, the second largest shark in the world. Most basking sharks average 26 feet long, although they can reach 36 feet long occasionally. These huge sharks are filter feeders and ironically feed on some of the smallest organisms in the ocean – mainly zooplankton and crustaceans. Although they are slow-moving, basking sharks are ram feeders and catch their prey by swimming into and through the group. Basking sharks live around the continental shelves in temperate waters and can be found in the Gulf of Maine annually. Unfortunately, these gentle giants are an endangered species – largely due to overfishing and their slow reproduction rate.
The largest marine mammal in Maine is the fin whale. Fin whales are baleen whales and the second longest after the blue whale. They can reach a maximum reported size of 89 feet long, and even newborns are approximately 20 feet long. These huge whales are filter feeders like the basking shark and prey mainly on crustaceans and small fish. Fin whales are typically a dark grey color on their dorsal side and white on their underside. Their heads have unusual markings; their left side is grey, while their right side has a white patch on their lower jaw. Fin whales are found in every major ocean and can dive to a depth of up to 1,540 feet. They regularly visit the waters in and around the Gulf of Maine yearly, and many whale-watching trips are run from harbors along the coast.
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