The benefits of forest buffers

Forests that surround a river, stream, lake or swampy area are called riparian forest buffers. These forests enhance the environment by trapping sediment, nutrients and pollutants before they can reach the water. Forest buffers also act like a big sponge soaking up a lot of rain water before it can accumulate and contribute to flooding.

Forested areas adjacent to wetlands also provide important wildlife habitat, since all animals need water. Many migratory birds follow streams and rivers and nest in these forests. Many professionals believe that a forested buffer must be at least 35 feet wide to effectively trap sediments and nutrients from entering a water source from adjacent areas. Buffers need to be 100 feet wide to be useful for wildlife and 300 feet wide to accommodate migratory birds. Planting and maintaining forested riparian buffers is something we can all do to help enhance our waterways, wildlife, and promote the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

Credit: - Frank Marsden

The American mink (Mustela vison) is native to most of Maryland. Mink have a brown to blackish coat with a white patch on their chin. An adult mink may grow to be 2 feet long and weigh from 2 to 4 pounds. Mink have long narrow bodies, short legs and webbed feet. They are good swimmers, much like the otter.

Mink can dive up to 20 feet in water to find prey; they are opportunistic feeders, finding food both in water and on land. Their favorite foods include crayfish, snakes, frogs, mice, voles and rabbits.

Minks live in forested areas near streams, lakes, ponds and marshes. They normally do not dig their own den but typically den in hollow logs, under rocks or in abandoned muskrat or beaver dens. Minks are intelligent, playful animals that are mostly nocturnal.

Their fur has been long prized for clothing, and mink were widely trapped as a result. Most populations declined, and the Pacific coast variety was nearly brought to extinction. During the last century mink farms were started to grow mink for fur. Although this activity is perceived as being cruel by some, the net effect was that trapping pressure declined for wild populations and numbers bounced back to sustainable levels.

A fairly large mink farm once operated in northern Frederick County off Mink Farm Road. Domestic mink have escaped these fur farms in Europe and pose local conservation concerns since they have no natural predators. Great horned owls and coyotes are the biggest predator of mink in this region.

Article by FCFCDB

Nature Notes for 3/7/2010