Photo by Bill Hartigan

Wildlife in Dedham

Dedham is also home to a variety of wildlife species common throughout New England including deer, coyote, fox, and beaver. Due to the presence of wetlands and the Charles and Neponset Rivers the area provides habitat for waterfowl and marsh dwellers such as herons, ducks, and geese. Thanks to the organization Dedham Natural Wonders, which runs the annual Dedham BioBlitz the Town has begun to inventory the flora and fauna in Dedham. A BioBlitz is an interactive event where scientists, naturalists, and community members identify as many living species as possible in 24 hours. Over 500 species of flora and fauna were identified in less than 6 hours during the 2011 Dedham BioBlitz. This inventory is an important addition to future Open Space and Recreation Plans, as we continue to catalogue our natural resources in Dedham.

The Charles River is now safe for recreational activities such as kayaking and sailing thanks to clean up efforts that have been going on since the 1970s. Improved water quality in the Charles has brought back habitat for fish. There are over 25 species of fish in the Charles, including Carp and Wide Mouth Bass. The main cause of water pollution today is stormwater runoff where contaminants from paved surfaces enter storm drains after rain events and travel through pipes to discharge in the river. Illegal sewer connections and combined sewer overflows continue to be an issue for the Charles. Advocacy groups such as local Conservation Commissions and the Charles River Watershed Association have played a significant role in cleaning up the Charles.

The Town of Dedham believes that the more people that are out on the river the greater the understanding and appreciation will be for this living system. Through the Water Trail we hope to create a positive connection with nature that will foster the next generation of environmental stewards.

Vernal Pools in Dedham

As you hike in Whitcomb Woods or Wilson Mountain you may come across a vernal pool. To understand what a vernal pool is and why it is important we have put together this brief synopsis of Vernal Pools. Vernal pools are temporary pools of water that fill annually with rising groundwater and melting winter and early spring precipitation. They are usually covered with ice in the winter and generally (but not always) dry up by late summer. They are essential breeding habitats for several species of amphibians, insects, and crustaceans. Because they do not hold water permanently, they do not contain fish which are natural predators for the species that depend on vernal pools for breeding. 

Vernal pools are important because they are essential breeding habitats for many native species and provide a water and food source for other wildlife. Certain species are known as vernal pool indicators such as wood frogs, spadefoot toads, two species of fairy shrimp, and several species of mole salamander (spotted, blue-spotted, Jefferson, and marbled). These diverse species are critical to native biodiversity, both as predator and prey, and some are listed as threatened or endangered by the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (MA-NHESP). 

In order to protect vernal pools they can be certified, meaning that the pool and the upland area within 100 feet of the pool’s boundary are protected under the Wetlands Protection Act. Vernal pool certification is administered by the MA-NHESP and involves making wildlife observations and submitting a certification form with photographs of biological and physical evidence for the vernal pool, along with descriptive notes about the pool (e.g. location, estimated size, depth, vegetation). The certification of a vernal pool makes a great environmental education lesson. Visit MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program for more information on certifying vernal pools.