The Lake Mitchell area is frequented by quite an array of wildlife.
In recent years cormorants have been seen in the area, these large fish-eating birds often can be seen sitting on pilings near the old Naval Reserve Building on Lake Cadillac or swimming in the lakes. Frequently they will stand spread-eagled and swim low in the water, but are distinguished from loons because of the upward angle of the head and bill.
Fish make up a major portion of their diet and an adult bird weighing four pounds will consume about a pound of fish a day. During their time in Michigan, roughly from mid-April until late September, an adult bird may consume 150 pounds of fish.
Among the Les Cheneaux Islands in Lake Huron and near Beaver Island in Lake Michigan thousands of cormorants roost. Recreational and commercial fishermen have noticed a significant reduction of perch and bass and attribute that to fish-eating nature of cormorants.
Although the few birds residing here probably do not effect the lakes’ fish populations, should the birds become numerous, we may have a problem.
In the spring and fall flocks of snow geese, black ducks, pintails, wood ducks, buffleheads, scaups, golden-eyes, canvasbacks, mergansers, and coots all find refuge in the lake during their migration. Often in the evenings one can hear the cries of loons. These majestic birds cruise about Lakes Mitchell and Cadillac until the boating season drives them out. In the fall gunshots echo at dawn and dusk as hunters crouched in blinds along the west side of the lake blast away at ducks and geese.
Blue herons have become common. These elegant birds, often stand like statues, in the shallows, until a fish or frog appears and is swiftly skewered and swallowed. At dark they fly, often emitting raucous squawks, heading for their roosting trees.
Eagles are seen by many residents. Look for them at dawn and dusk soaring high overhead, or diving to catch fish. If you follow their flight, you may see them land in trees along the lakeshore. Ospreys and a few cormorants also live in our area.
Mallards and Canada geese are residents throughout the open water season. A flock of about thirty Canada geese cruise the Lake Mitchell shoreline in the summer apparently looking for docks and yards where they can roost and defecate. Seagulls seem to have a similar mission as they, when not looking for dead fish on the lake’s surface, enjoy sitting atop boat hoists and docks emptying their bladders and bowels. Property owners have varying degrees of success in spooking these birds with owl statues and trimming their hoists and docks with streamers.
Every year lakeshore property owners have trouble with flocks of Canada geese coming ashore to defecate on their lawns. If this is a persistent problem these geese can be relocated. The City of Cadillac has done this in recent years. An officer of the Lake Mitchell Association needs to procure and fill out an application from the Wildlife Division of the DNR if there is a consensus of lakeshore owners who agree to remove the geese. The application must be received by June 1, after which a permit may be issued by the DNR for goose removal. After receiving a permit the Lake Assoc. conducts the goose roundup with DNR assistance. The DNR will provide the trap & crates for transporting the birds. The Lake Mitchell Association provides 2 or 3 boats and people to handle the geese with DNR training and a truck &/or trailer & driver to haul the birds to the release site. For the project to go forward, those property owners in the area where the geese are concentrated must approve the relocation of geese and will be expected to provide the vehicles and needed manpower. The Goose roundup will occur during the last two weeks of June when the geese are molting and are unable to fly. If you would like to initiate a removal of geese, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
After residing in Little Cove for several years, the pair of mute swans who raised babies each year, did not return in 2004. Early in the season a single swan appeared, stayed a couple weeks and then left.
Turkeys often scuttle along the roadside feeding on vegetation and picking at gravel.
Bear sightings are quite frequent along West Lake Mitchell Road going west beyond the Camp Torenta turn off and then on Pole Road from Hemlock Park west to West Lake Mitchell Road. The bears invariably bolt away when spotted. The "Bear Crossing" signs that are seen along M-115 and M-55 near our lake were put up last summer as a result of bear/car collisions which resulted in eleven bears being killed in this area in the last five years. This is the first area in the state to have "Bear Crossing" signs because of a collaboration between the MDNR & MDOT for the safety of notorists as well as the bears. The nutrient rich wetland complexes that include the Mitchell swamp & the watersheds that connect Lks. Mitchell & Cadillac is excellent bear habitat. The abundance of skunk cabbage that appears early in spring provides necessary feed for bears coming out of hibernation. This core bear reproduction area, provides home territories for sow bears to rear their young, & target areas for male bears during breeding season. This critical habitat which sits next to the urban area of Cadillac & our congested lakeshore properties, makes for many bear/human encounters. Especially, when 2 major highways intersect with busy Bear travel corridors!
Mink, which look like lanky black or dark brown squirrels, live along the shoreline especially where there are sections of rock riprap. Muskrats are commonly seen swimming in the shallows; often they are carrying weeds. Beavers live in Big Cove and have lodges and dams up Wheeler (Mitchell) Creek. The creek is navigable for canoes or kayaks up to West Lake Mitchell Road. A few otters live near Big Cove but are rarely seen.
Possums are common although most seem to end up as road kill. Skunks make evening visits to lawns where they dig small divots in the grass in their search for grubs.
If you leave food uncovered or in a compost pile, you will likely draw raccoons, whose antics may be cute until you have to deal with having your garbage strewn all over your property. Do not leave your trash out overnight unless it is a secure container as dogs or raccoons will ravage it.
Frogs are becoming rare in some parts of the lake; the fact that they are favored food for mink and blue herons, whose populations have increased in recent years, may account for the scarcity of these amphibians.