In this issue: The Wild Side of GMF
Red-spotted Newts
Fishers in the Forest
Snapping a Snapping Turtle
GMF Welcomes 2021 Interns
HVRHS Students Learn from GMF
Bear Necessities
Thrillin' about Trillium
Good Newts: Red-spotted Newts are a Sign of Healthy Forest

A sure sign of spring in GMF is the appearance of the Red-spotted Newt (Notophthalmus v. viridescens), whose presence is a sign of healthy forests and wetlands. Beginning their lives as larvae with external gills in aquatic habitat, they spend their young eft years in forests, pastures, and meadows developing lungs to replace their gills. After several years they return to a watery setting where they live out their days.

These newts need a large wooded habitat near their aquatic breeding site so they can grow up close to home. They feed on mosquitoes and other insects along with small creatures such as fish and crustaceans.

Efts (pictured above) are bright orange with black and black-ringed orange spots. Adults are greenish in color but maintain the spots of their youth. And our red-spotted friends are salamanders--not lizards.

What's the Difference?
  • amphibian
  • prefer cool ,moist habitat
  • smooth and slippery to the touch
  • related to frogs and toads
  • reptile
  • prefer warm, dry habitat
  • dry and scaly to the touch
  • related to snakes and turtles
GMF: Where the Fisher's Aren't--or Maybe They're Camera Shy
Central Connecticut State University researchers Associate Professor Dr. Paul Hapeman and master's student Katerina Gillis recently conducted a study to determine fisher (Pekania pennanti) presence in GMF.

Here's an excerpt of their report on what they did--and didn't--find during their monthlong investigation.

Fishers are medium-sized furbearers with a wide distribution extending throughout the northeastern United States. In the 19th century, fishers became scarce due to logging, clearing for agriculture, and overexploitation. Through reintroductions, closed trapping seasons, changes in land-use practices, and recolonization, fishers were able to recover throughout their range in the Northeast. Sighting reports and annual harvest data suggest that fishers in Connecticut have declined in the last 15 years, particularly in the western part of the state.

During the study, 13 species were detected including barred owl, black bear, bobcat, broad-winged hawk, eastern coyote, flying squirrel, gray squirrel, moose, porcupine, raccoon, turkey, turkey vulture, and white-tailed deer. Fisher, gray fox, and red fox were notably absent from the carnivore species detected at GMF.

Photo: Shutterstock
How to Snap a Snapping Turtle
Snaps of the Snapper of the Snapping Turtle: Brooke Loening
Welcome to the 2021
GMF Summer Interns

Summer forestry interns are a longstanding tradition at GMF. This season, we welcome Joe Rupe of Paul Smith's College and Marissa Currie of the University of Maine. They began their work with Forest Manager Jody Bronson on May 10th.

Joining Marissa (left) and Joe (right) at the end of June is incoming University of Vermont student Caleb May, who will focus on wildlife monitoring and environmental policy research.

You'll hear more about them in our June newsletter and we'll be learning about sustainable forest management, wildlife monitoring, and environmental policy through their eyes this summer.

Photo: Jody Bronson
Students Learn Forest Management from GMF
By Audra Leach, HVRHS Ag Ed Science and Technology Teacher

The Agricultural Science classes at Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village are fortunate to have a relationship with Great Mountain Forest.

This spring, students had the opportunity to learn about various land and forest management strategies from GMF Forest Manager Jody Bronson to best determine a management plan for their own land lab at the high school. They will apply this knowledge to their public speaking presentations and open house demonstrations.

Importantly, they will use the knowledge of soil testing, succession, and wildlife management to the plot of land they aim to turn back into a productive Christmas tree lot.
Bear Necessities:
Safely Sharing GMF with Ursus americanus
In the 1800s, if you walked through what is now GMF you wouldn't see a bear. At that point, they had been extirpated in Connecticut. Since that time, with the regrowth of woodlands like GMF, bears are the comeback cubs! According to CT DEEP Wildlife Division, in 2019 the northwest part of the state had the highest concentration of bears, with approximately 7,300 bear sightings from 150 of Connecticut’s 169 towns.

GMF is a perfect habitat for omnivorous Black bears, who thrive in mature forests with lots of acorns. In the spring, wetlands are a food source when plants begin to emerge. Cut understory with berries and fallen logs rife with insects are attractive to bears, who primarily feed at night.

Females (sows) and their cubs move in ranges of 5-7 square miles; males roam in ranges of 12 to 60 square miles. These ranges can be shared with other bears, but not simultaneously. They mark their territories by clawing and biting the bark of "bear trees."

The bear population is thriving, so it's important to understand these creatures and learn how to share the Forest with them, especially in the spring when female bears emerge from a winter of denning and to raise their young and protect them from threats, both perceived and real.

This spring, if you see a bear, particularly a mama and her cubs, remember the following:
  • observe it from a distance--don't get too close
  • make your presence known by shouting and waving or walking slowly away
  • don't try to attract or feed them
  • keep your dog on a leash (a GMF rule)
  • bears are shy and seldom aggressive, but those who have become habituated to humans through proximity to homes can lose their reticence
  • be aware of snapping, grunting, and false-charging, which is when a bear will take a few steps toward you and stop.

Photos: Jody Bronson
Thrillin' about Trillium
Yellow Trillium Makes Its Spring Debut at GMF
This spring ephemeral season stumped our Forest Manager Jody Bronson with the presence of Yellow trillium for the first time in his 40-year career. This flower is a color morph of normally reddish Trillium erectus, also known as Wake-robin.
Forest Notices

Welcome to the forest!

GMF is a place of peaceful co-existence for everyone

  • Keep your dog on a leash and if you pack it in--pack it out.

  • Sign in at kiosks at the East and West Gates.

  • Watch for inclement weather notices on social media.

If you have any questions, email
Stand with the Trees!
Donate to Great Mountain Forest.
Your generosity makes our work possible!
GMF is critical to the environmental and economic sustainability of the region as well as an important contributor to research and education about climate change and environmental health. Help us support the forest as a vital natural resource and a place for those who love the woods.