Belmont Wildlife

Belmont is home to many species of wildlife, open areas, wet lands and habitats. Here are just a few:

Fisher (Martes pennanti):  Sometimes called "fisher cat" (has no relation to any cats), this animal has arrived in Belmont and is a very capable predator.  Fishers are considered to be quite carnivorous, favoring snowshoe hares as well as squirrels, carrion, mice, shrews, voles, birds, fruits like berries, and ferns. They are also famous for their ability to successfully hunt and kill porcupines. One of the very few other animals to prey on porcupines is a close cousin of the fisher, the wolverine.  Owners of small pets should be aware that this animal can climb trees easily and often stalks animals that are arboreal.  Reaching about 15 pounds, the fisher is tenacious and belongs in the weasel family.

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis, fisher, hit by car upper Concord Ave, December 2005)


American River Otter (Lontra canadensis):  Otters are members of the Mustelid family which includes badgers, polecats, martens, weasels, stoats and mink.  The otter pictured below appeared at Claypit Pond on 15 May 2005, but has not been seen since.  Simply amazing what turns up these days.

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis)

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis)

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis)

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis)


Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus):  Great Horned Owls can vary in colour from a reddish brown to a grey or black and white. The underside is a light grey with dark bars and a white band of feathers on the upper breast. They have large yellow-orange eyes, bordered by an orange-buff facial disc. The name is derived from tufts of feathers that appear to be "horns" which are sometimes referred to as "ear tufts" but have nothing to do with hearing at all. The large feet are feathered to the ends of the toes, and the immature birds resemble the adults. Females are 10 to 20% larger than males.  Size: Length  18-25", Wingspan 36-60",  Weight 32-63½ oz.  These owls are the biggest species we get around here and are awesome to view.  Good luck to our newest residents, the fledglings!

(Mature Great Horned Owl, ©Photo by John P. Maguranis)

(Mature Great Horned Owl, ©Photo by John P. Maguranis)

(Immature Great Horned Owl; notice the developing ear tufts, ©Photo by John P. Maguranis)


Woodchuck (Marmota monax):   Woodchucks play an important role in the wildlife community. Skunks, foxes, weasels, opossums and rabbits all use woodchuck burrows for their dens.  Woodchucks are one of the few large mammals abroad in daylight, and many people get enjoyment from seeing them, however, many more people seem to hate these fellows, as they can rip through a garden in no time!  Please be reminded that using moth balls is illegal and really doesn't deter these animals.

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis)


Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura):  Vultures are best known for their practice of feeding on dead animal carcasses, but will occasionally attack young and helpless animals as well. They obtain much of their water from the moisture in carrion, and their powerful kidneys enable them to excrete less water when expelling waste products.

Turkey vultures have a highly sophisticated immune system which pretects them from disease associated with decaying animals. Their unfeathered "bald" head is easy to keep clean and is characteristic of vultures and condors throughout the world.  A very large bird that can be seen soaring high with it's tell-tale "tipping" flight pattern.

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis)


Double-crested Comorant (phalacrocorax auritus):  Migratory bird that appears locally and can be seen diving for prey in Claypit pond. Since they rely on diving under water for food, they have little oil on their feathers and will raise their wings outward to "dry off" as seen below.

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis)


Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis):  Once abundant and common in and around Belmont, their numbers are falling due to increased mountain bikers, capture and kept as pets, habitat destruction and pollution.  They eat insects and small rodents and help balance the natural species found in the area.

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis)


Mute Swan (Cygnus olor): The mute swan received its name for its silence (except when it is threatened--then it hisses). This swan is a native of Europe and Asia and was introduced into the United States in New York's Hudson River Valley in the 19th century.  This one was seen behind the Hill Estates.

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis)


Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis):  Common in and around town.  Fairly large raptor can be seen soaring above Belmont Center or Rock Meadow.  Eats mostly rodents and squirrels.  This particular hawk was hit by a car near Grove Street.  He suffered a broken wing, hip and leg.  The amazing staff at Tufts wildlife clinic fixed him up and he was later released to join his mate and two chicks.

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis)                                               (©Photos by John P. Maguranis)


Red Fox: The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is found throughout most of North America and is deserving of its reputation for being secretive, wily and cautious.  Foxes inhabit Belmont and have for years.   I've tracked and observed them over twenty years ago right here in Belmont, and have been tracking them again since November 2001.

Foxes are intelligent animals that are believed to enjoy a chase by dogs, or spring a trap intentionally.  They have keen senses of sight, smell and hearing, which they use quite well in avoiding enemies and hunting prey.  They are much more likely to be watching you, than you are to see them.  They appear much larger than actual size.  This is due to their thick, long fur and they average about 10 to 14 pounds.

Red foxes are not always red.    There are several color phases (black, silver, cross-phase) that represent the individual character of the animal and are not the result of seasonal changes.  The red fox diet consists mainly of mice and rabbits, as well as fruits, berries, grasshoppers, snakes, muskrats and fowl.  They are opportunists and may even prey on small domestic cats and kittens.

Red foxes are vulnerable to rabies and should be suspect if seen acting abnormally.  Mange and parvo enteritis are two of the most serious fox diseases.  Both of these diseases are transmittable to dogs.  Healthy foxes are wonderful animals to observe, and there’s virtually no danger when encountering a healthy one, as they will quickly scamper away.  If residents see one, and it seems to be in good health, they should enjoy the thrill and rare good fortune.  If one appears to be sick, or unhealthy, it should be left alone and the Animal Control Officer or the Belmont Police Department should be called immediately.  If a fox den is located on a resident's property, it should be left alone.  Foxes leave their dens after a few weeks and move elsewhere, at which point the resident can permanently close up the den so no other wildlife moves in.

As always, make certain pets are current on all vaccinations, especially rabies.

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis)

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis)


Great Blue Heron:  Very shy bird, but this fellow has been seen in Claypit Pond hunting small fish.

(©Photos by John P. Maguranis)


Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis):  Skunks have been trapped by many homeowners trying to get rid of squirrels and other pests.  Many people are unaware that trapping and releasing animals is unlawful and inhumane.  Massachusetts law prohibits trapping and releasing wildlife, so please hire a pest exterminator and/or leave these guys be!!  Many skunks get trapped in window wells, too.  If not discovered and rescued, they will suffer from hypothermia, starvation and/or heat stroke.  Residents are urged to purchase and install plastic window well covers.  They're cheap, easy to install and allow light to enter the home.  Best of all, they save these animals from suffering and sometimes death.

(This skunk was rescued, but was very cold and close to hypothermia, ©Photos by John P. Maguranis)


Eastern Coyote (Canus latrans):  This animal is the center of a lot of controversy and misleading information.  Large predator, shy, elusive and cunning.  All pet owners should be aware that this animal has and will take a pet if the opportunity arises.  Small pets like cats and small dogs should never be left outside unattended or unleashed.  For more information, a whole section has been devoted to this animal.

(©Photos by John P. Maguranis)

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis)

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis)

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis)


Barred owl (Strix varia):  Woodland owl can be seen around town in woodland areas, usually near wetlands.  Hunts small mammals at night.

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis)

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis)


Raccoon (Procyon lotor):  These guys have adapted well to urban living.  Securing your garbage will keep these guys from your home.

(©Photos(by John P. Maguranis)


Eastern Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris):  These critters show up from time to time, and are a real treat to see. These were off Common Street near the center.

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis)


Snapping Turtle  (Chelydra serpentina):  Larger snapping turtles have been seen around town, but even smaller sized turtles can do serious damage to hands and fingers.  Keep away from these animals, but do realize they play an important role in our ponds, streams and swamps.

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis, This snapper was laying eggs)

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis, Baby Snapper)


American Woodcock, (Scolopax minor):  Ground nesting bird that is known for its spectacular courtship diplays.  Numbers are declining and very few can be found in Belmont.  The nest of chicks seen below were almost stepped on before the female took off and did her wounded bird routine to draw me away from the nest.  Their color and absolute stillness amazed me when getting these pictures.

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis)

(©Photo by John P. Maguranis)

More pictures will be posted as I get them.
-John Maguranis