This gray squirrel decided to go for a swim on a Waldo County pond recently. Credit: Courtesy of Judy Berk

In this, a week that has turned into a catalogue of squirrely goings-on, we’ve already learned that an overabundance of food has led to an overabundance of squirrels which has led to a remarkable number of dead rodents on the state’s roadways.

Add this nature sighting to the list of “things I never even suspected happened in the Maine woods.”

Earlier this week, Judy Berk of Northport posted some photos on Facebook that generated plenty of discussion.

There, paddling its way across a pond, was a gray squirrel, the top half of its tail still seemingly dry and fluffy.

Berk said the scene caught her by surprise.

“I spend a lot of time in the outdoors in midcoast Maine, hiking around, taking pictures and paddling my tiny kayak in the pond (it actually fits entirely inside my Prius and I can move it myself which is great!),” Berk explained in an email.

“Over Labor day weekend, I went for a paddle at the pond on our road and spotted what I assumed was a log floating a ways off,” she wrote.

That wasn’t the case.

“As I got closer it looked like it might be a beaver … no, not a beaver, a muskrat … no, not a muskrat, it had a bushy tail,” Berk wrote. “First it crossed the pond from left to right, later from right to left.”

Credit: Courtesy of Judy Berk

Despite the fact that she was able to watch the swimming critter for quite a while, Berk was not able to positively identify it with the naked eye. Luckily, she was prepared.

“I took some photos so I could zoom in to take a look. When I got home I Googled ‘muskrat tail’ and they were all rat-like, not bushy at all,” Berk wrote. “Then I loaded the photos into my laptop and zoomed in to see that, lo and behold, the critter was definitely a gray squirrel swimming!”

And her reaction was likely pretty similar to yours … or mine.

I’ve had a baby muskrat swim within arm’s length of me while I was wading in a Canadian Atlantic salmon river and have had beavers shock me out of my reverie with a mighty tail slap on more than one slow troll through a cove. But I’d never even thought to look for a squirrel doing its best Michael Phelps imitation.

Neither had Berk.

“Well, I had never seen or heard of that before, so I Googled that and, yup, apparently squirrels do swim,” she wrote. “Who knew?”

Any-deer permits

If you’re one of the thousands of hunters hoping to win an any-deer permit this year, your wait is nearly over.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will draw the names of 84,745 permit winners Friday.

We’ll have a story linking to those results as soon as the lottery is complete at

Landowner appreciation cleanup

If you’re looking to do something that will help further improve the relationship between landowners and recreational users, you may want to volunteer to help out on Landowner Appreciation Cleanup Day, which is set for Sunday, Sept. 9.

The program, a cooperative effort of the DIF&W and the Maine Forest Service, focuses the efforts of civic organizations and outdoor clubs to clean up illegal dump sites in the Maine woods.

Those interested in taking part in the event should call 207-287-5240 or email Virginia Vincent at

Groups will be assigned specific spots to clean, and dumpsters will be set at predetermined locations around the state to accept that trash.

Over the past four years, the program has resulted in the removal of about 1 million pounds of forest trash.

John Holyoke can be reached at or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke.

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John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...