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A walk in the woods: Where should you look for wildlife?

By Sherwood ‘Woody’ Wilkes
For the Salisbury Post
If you’re looking for wildlife, start along the edges.
Where the meadow meets the forest, the water meets the shore or the lawn meets the sidewalk. All of these places are what biologists call ecotones.
Whenever one habitat meets another type of habitat the greatest number of species can be found representative of both habitats. This is where the greatest amount of food opportunities will be found and creates a natural “path” through the environment.
Trails are another type of ecotone. Trails through the forest provide a “trapline” for predators as various animals use the path to travel from their bedding area to their feeding area or traveling in search of new areas to live, find a mate or raise their families.
Think about it ó were do you normally see the most wildlife?
Experienced nature observers, wildlife photographers, hunters and fisherman all know to look for the edge. They know that their greatest opportunity to find whatever animal they are seeking will be along an edge. The behavior of deer is a perfect example. Hunters position themselves in the forest hidden from the approach of the deer when they come to feed. The deer know that the edge of the forest gives them a quick escape route from predators and at the same time an opportunity to feed on fresh shoots of plant material growing along the edge.
Fishermen fish along the shoreline or around “structure” to find largemouth bass. A voracious predator, the largemouth bass knows that if they hide along the edge of a log, a rock or a weed bed, that sooner or later their prey will come along. Even the current in a stream creates an edge that allows prey to move along with the predators just outside of the current waiting to pounce.
City critters are no different. Just walk outside your home or school. Look along the edge of the building or the sidewalk. You will be amazed at how many living creatures you will see using that edge to move from one place to another. Insects, especially ants, will always be found using the crack in the sidewalk or the seam of a building.
Sherwood “Woody” Wilkes is a naturalist from A Walk in the Woods, an environmental education company. Contact him at 704-436-9048 or visit www.awalkinthewoods.us.

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