Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rescuing a Harbor Seal pup

Over the past few years, I have been lucky enough to spend Memorial weekend on a great island off the coast of Maine. It is beautiful, relaxing and I can sit on the rocks for hours just watching the ocean.

This past weekend was a little more exciting than others. On Saturday morning, I took the dog for a walk and saw two seal pups on the rocks. This was about 5am (I know. So much for sleeping in on my mini-vaca) and no one was up yet. The seals were both alive and breathing but you can see from the picture that the seal in the foreground (let's call him Sam) is not in good shape. Neither seal was moving a lot but the little guy in the background climbing up the rocks (let's call him Joe) was a little more lively than the other. I stood there for maybe 15 minutes, much to my dog's dismay, and watched the seals. I took a few photos and headed back to the cottage to tell my hosts that I had found.
We looked up the number of the Marine Resources in Maine and called them to report the stranded little guys, or at least let someone know that there were pups on the rocks that did not look like they were in good shape. While it is common for pups to be left on the rocks, or out of the water for a long period of time while their mothers are feeding, these guys did not look like they were just chilling til Mom came back.
I called the number and got the answering machine. I chalked it up to the time of day I was calling and planned to call them back.

On an island, news like this travels fast around the neighborhood. After our brunch at 10:30 or 11, we heard commotion next door and assumed it was in regards to the seal pups. When one of my hosts went over, she saw people on the rocks "helping" the seals by moving them closer to the water. If you learn one thing with this blog post, here it is: It is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to handle these animals. What these people did was illegal and just plain stupid. One more time for good measure:

All marine mammals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. This law makes it illegal to touch, disturb, feed or otherwise harass marine mammals without authorization.

I went back in the afternoon, after everyone had left and watched as the tide came in. It reached Joe first and with every wave, he would struggled to stay on or get back onto a rock. Sam lay between a couple of rocks about 20 feet away from Joe and I could occasionally see him take a shallow breathe or move his flipper (it might have been a twitch-like reflex and not him intentionally moving) as the water same in and washed under him.

It was a very surreal moment for me. I love to hunt. If I am a good hunter, I will kill whatever it is I am hunting. With every deer I kill, I am removing an animal from the population, keeping the numbers in check, and the herd healthy. So why was I so concerned with these seals? For all I knew, they were sick and their mom had abandoned them on purpose to keep her colony healthy. But for whatever reason, I couldn't stay there and watch these two little seals be overtaken my the ocean. I took a deep breath and knew that nature would do what it was going to do.

The next morning (7am this time!), I went back and was surprised to see a seal on the rocks. He was in the same area as Joe had been the day before and since Joe was the livelier one, that is which seal I assumed it was. He was in the shade when I saw him the first time and he lifted his head and flippers slightly. He was not moving too much and I knew with the hot sun just a few minutes away from hitting him, more people would be out walking. I went back to the cottage, got my phone and headed back. I tried the Marine Resources phone number again and Linda picked up the phone. I was surprised that someone was there on a Sunday morning! I told Linda that the seals had been on the beach for more than 24 hours now (meeting the minimum time frame for when you can assume a pup has been abandoned), that there had been two the morning before and folks had moved them closer to the water and now there was only one seal. She asked if I could see it moving, if there was an umbilical cord that I could see and could I send her photos of the seal for them to see the size, location etc. She took my phone number, made sure I would be on the island all day if they needed to reach me and thanked me for calling.

About an hour later, I got a call from the biologist who was coming out to get the seal! I made plans to meet her at the dock and use one of the wagons we had to help transport the seal back to the boat. I went to find my host and tell her that they were coming to get the seal. She was standing on the path, looking at the little guy with about 5 other people. A part of me was glad that others were around so that they would not try to move the seal again (if they had been the ones to do it the day before).

The following pictures are of the seal rescue. Dominique arrived with a dog carrier, headed to the rocks and scooped the little guy up in her arms. Her concerns were that he was not making noise or crying out. She said his temperature was good but he was malnourished and they would be doing a full work up of blood tests, start him on antibiotics and then send him to Southern Maine for rehab. She was glad to see that he was suckling when he his face was up against the edge of the carrier because it meant he was hungry.

Surprisingly, (but not really because Maine is really a small community) I had worked with Dominique when we were both in Bar Harbor so we exchanged cell numbers and I plan to follow up with her on how Joe (now referred to as Seal #26) is doing.

I sent Dominique a text to see how the seal was doing. Her response:
Bad news, the pup died in transport. Never made it to rehab :( Had some very bad infected wounds from a blunt force trama- falling off the rocks is my guess. Sad! But thank you for calling it in!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Conservation and Common Sense: Working to preserve Yellowstone

When I was 25, I flew into Albuquerque, rented a car and drove for two weeks. I sketched out my route and made sure to hit as many National Parks as possible. I went to Grand Canyon National Park, Zion, the Canyonlands, and Arches (I was there a few months before the big arch fell!). It was breath taking! I would hike and just stop in awe of what an amazing resource we have in our National Parks. Standing in these places and seeing the grandeur of the Parks made me so grateful to live in a country that preserves and protects places like this.

I live in Maine and have Acadia National Park in my backyard. I worked on Mount Desert Island for 4 summers and would see thousands of tourists spend time in the Park. So many people use, enjoy and spend time in our National Parks, but, I would say few look beyond the views to what makes Acadia and the rest of the National Parks, what they are: their ecosystems.

When you go home after a great trip, there are photos and memories but the impact that all of us have on these places is taking its toll and as my generation gets older, has kids and grandkids, we need to do a better job of educating them and teaching them about appreciating these Parks and how important conservation is to ensuring the future of species like the Cutthroat trout to Yellowstone National Park. We want to ensure that the animals and fish are not just photos in an old picture book of memories telling a story of what was.

I use the Cutthroat trout (both the Yellowstone and Westslope subspecies) as an example because of the issues surrounding the fish of Yellowstone National Park and how the result of what happens now with these fish populations can have a lasting impact on the entire ecosystem in Yellowstone.

There are 11 native species of fish (the Cutthroat species are two of them) and 5 non-native species in Yellowstone. When the Park was founded, many waterways were fishless and so there was an effort made to stock the lakes, ponds and rivers. This practice continued until the 1950's. With any new population boom, there are issues. In Yellowstone, the native species like the Cutthroat were (and are) having to battle a number of other trout species (like Rainbow, Brown and Brook) for food and a solid, healthy habitat while dealing with a high number of Lake trout that prey on them.
There is also illness. Whirling disease is an infection that destroys the cartilage of young trout and causes them to become unable to feed or escape from their water and land predators. As the picture shows, the cartilage turns black as the disease takes over the fish. The result is a kill off of the next generation of young and a massive population hole.

There are more problems facing the Cutthroat (there are 7 invasive aquatic species in the waters of Yellowstone plus human interference and good ole' Mother Nature) but if we could stop and think about it, they are not alone. If we took a step back and thought about the world around us and how with one thing removed from the circle, in this case the Cutthroat, it could have so many repercussions that could change the waterways and overall ecosystem, of Yellowstone forever. I am guilty of this; I hunt and am slowly getting into fishing but until I wanted to enter this essay contest, I had never thought about what my responsibility is as a conservationist to promote a better understanding of how it all works. How many of us - those who regularly read this blog and those of you who will for the competition - have talked to friends and family about what we are passionate about (hunting, fishing, hiking etc) and the details around how these resources can be sustained?

It is wonderful to have people interested in supporting the effort to keep the wolves, bears, bison and elk herds healthy in Yellowstone, but in order to truly have an impact on the future, we need to look a step or two down the food chain. It is important that we look at what sustains the animals we have grown to associate with Yellowstone and work to keep a fragile ecosystem in balance. Fish are an intricate part of this as they provide food for grizzly bears, eagles, otters, herons and a number of other birds and animals. If we can put our efforts and awareness into the issues surrounding the fisheries in Yellowstone National Park, we would be taking steps to preserve the beauty and awe that is Yellowstone.

This is my submission for the Trout Unlimited, Simms, the Yellowstone Park Foundation and the Outdoor Blogger Network – Blogger Tour 2012 contest.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Maine Gov signs bill to help build Deer Herd

Just out in the Bangor Daily -

LePage signs bills to rebuild deer herd

Kevin Bennett | BDN

White-tailed deer bound across a field in Orono in October 2010.
By GLENN ADAMS, The Associated Press
Posted May 23, 2012, at 12:08 p.m.
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AUGUSTA, Maine — With hopes of rebuilding a deer herd that’s shrunk in parts of Maine to worrisome levels, Gov. Paul LePage has signed new legislation that implements multipronged strategies laid out in a bill that passed last year.

The new laws, signed Monday by LePage, are aimed principally at two areas: restoring all-important deer yards that help the animals survive Maine’s winters and controlling coyotes where they are the biggest threat to deer.

Wildlife officials say one of the best ways of protecting deer yards is through cooperative working agreements with large timberland owners to leave those areas intact.

The legislation adds $100,000 to the fish and game department’s predator control program. With money left over from this year, the department will have $150,000 to reduce coyotes’ efforts next year.

I sense a follow up with Mr. Woodcock coming up!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

If it's legal, who cares?

I found a blog post via Twitter from the US Sportsman's Alliance and US Sportsman's Alliance Foundation about the possibility of getting fired for hunting in other States and the legality of the whole ridiculous situation.
The gist of the story is this: The Commish in California went to Idaho and shot a legal Mountain Lion. In California, that's illegal. When he got back, activism groups called for his resignation. As a result, there is all sorts of legislation being proposed that would prevent this kind of potential prosecution from happening.

I know many of you out there hunt in different State. Do you hunt any wildlife in these States that is illegal to hunt in your home State?

AND - let's go back to the first time in the blog "The answer is yes, of course. Especially if you were supposed to be at work, your work was not completed prior to your hunting trip, or if you lacked time off to actually miss work." How do you handle hunting and your job?

When I took the job I have now, I made it clear in my interviews that I will have every Friday off in November so that I can go hunting. I did the same thing with my last job. It also works well since I don't like the heat (no summer vacation for me!) and don't have kids that I need to account for. For those of you who do - how do you manage this?

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Maine Outdoorsman: Maine Guide Coffee

 How could I not re-blog this?  I write a blog that has the word "coffee" in the title?!?!?

The Maine Outdoorsman: Maine Guide Coffee: In the annuals of recorded time, there exist a few rare and memorable icons that define a place, an individual or even a profession. For t...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ixodes scapularis - I hate you!

Throughout my life thus far, I have been the kid who looks at the sun and gets a severe sun burn. I walks outside in the spring and comes back in looking like I have chicken pox. I can bathe in deet (or any other "repellant") and easily get 20 bug bites. I look like an idiot when I am outside in the summertime; at a friend's house, out by the fire, I am in jeans, sneakers, wool socks, long-sleeve shirt, sweatshirt, hat and covered in bug dope. And I will have 15 bug bites all over me the next day. I have heard it all: "You're just so sweet" (I'm not), "They like your blood type" (My blood is just as good as anyone else's!) and a bevy of suggestions on the type of bug spray to use. Nothing works. It is May 14th and I have already had 6 black fly/mosquito bites and... a TICK BITE!

Over the past few years, the number of deer ticks in Maine has risen and spread. I never use to be worried about ticks when I was little and playing in the fields around my home. The dog might find one in his lifetime. It was not an issue. Two years ago, in Southern Maine, I saw my first live tick when I was brushing the dog. Hubby killed it. Here is the breakdown (to the best of my knowledge) for this year:

Sister - 1
Dad - 2
Leah (the dog) - 2
Hubby - 2
ME - 5

ITS MAY! and I have had 5 ticks on me. One was a dog tick, but the others were the oh-so-wonderful deer tick or Ixodes scapularis to be scientific. When I see them crawling up my pant leg, I just see the red and am usually calm enough to get it off me and kill it.

I am also the kid that will scratch for the next 24 hours thinking that every itch is a bug crawling on me. I hate these things!!!

This weekend, I was outside enjoying the sunshine and nice weather. I went for a walk with a donor from work, had a tick on my pant leg and killed it. I wore my gum rubbers and knew I was all set. All was fine, then Dad and I went to check the trail camera we have started putting out to see which deer are still around. The path is a beaten down path that we can drive on to get to the Sky Condo. I didn't feel a thing until we were home and I was in the recliner. I scratched my stomach and felt something. I couldn't get it off me, so I scratched again and came out with a leg under my finger nail. *Shutters* I made a mad dash to the bathroom, saw that it was a tick and rushed back out to get Dad to help (Mom was outside).

Like a pro, Dad put on his glasses, got the nail kit and came at me. The thing did not want to let go. I could feel it trying to hold on as Dad pulled - and won. We had to check to make sure the head came out - Mom had a tick last year and the head stayed in so she had to go on med. But, in this case, everything came out. From the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, here is the proper way to remove a tick. I then put hydrogen peroxide on the bite site just to make sure and keep it clean.

Deer ticks are the carriers of Lyme disease, but "the tick must be attached for 36-48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted" which made me feel better since I know that thing was on me for only an hour or so.

Still, I hate them. Ticks and bugs alike. The CDC does do a great job of giving you information about ticks and their life cycle, how they attach to their hosts and all of that fun stuff but I really wish I didn't have to worry about it. But, now you can see why I keep a count down of months/days until October. Not because opening day is the last Saturday of the month or because my birthday is in October, but because it snows somewhere in the State in October and snow means cold temperatures and NO BUGS. I think I would do well in Alaska.

Fun fact: I have now itched 4 times thinking I am feeling a bug crawling on me. Urgh!

4 months and 17 days = )

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Part 2: Common Bonds: Discussing family and hunting with Bryan White

Last week, I posted the first part of my interview with Bryan White. Here is the rest of our interview. Enjoy!

What do you think can be done to promote the outdoors to more people? To get kids interested in hunting and fishing?
More government funded organizations with celebrity spokespersons that are actually involved. I feel that more celebrities need to be proud of continuing their heritage and make their love for the outdoors better known. Children and adults look up to these public figures and they can play a huge role in mainstreaming the outdoor lifestyle.

What would you tell someone who wants to get into these sports?
I’d tell them I’m excited for them and that they’re about to step into a world of awesome adventure…And hook them up with links, gear, and schedule a trip to start letting them get their feet wet. Experiencing what it is like to reel in your first fish or call in your first turkey, is amazing. You really can't describe it and people need to get outdoors, take a risk and try it for themselves.

Hunting for me, has been beneficial in my career. Have you found hunting/fishing to be a plus in your career?
Yes. It's great because I've made some dear friends because of being at certain Outdoor types of events and doing certain Outdoor Television Shows. An example: Last year my Brother and I went to the NWTF Convention and ran into my friend Rob Keck. He just happened to know of a Governor's hunt in Kansas that needed a celebrity for their hunt and it worked out that I could go. It was one of the most fun hunts I can remember AND my brother got to go with me, which was a bonus!! None of that would've happened had I not gone to the convention!

Are there a lot of country singers who hunt and fish? Yes. Anyone in particular that you like to go with?
I haven’t actually gone with any of my peers but have definitely talked about it with many of my friends who are artists.

In Maine it is legal to bait coyote and bear. It is legal to build food plots for White-tail deer but it is not legal to bait deer. Is it legal where you are? Do you do it?
I have hunted over plots but only in other states. No, it is not legal to bait Whitetail in Tennessee. There is definitely something to be said for studying the patterns of the Whitetail deer and hunting them in a 100% natural setting. However, if we are looking to get children involved in hunting, the last thing you want is for them to get bored in the early years of their hunting career. There is no doubt that baiting attracts deer and is helpful in getting them into range. It is also helpful in getting an inexperience hunter an ethical shot. It gives the hunter the extra time to calm down and make a clean shot. Not everyone has enough time, money or land to build food plots so, baiting is a solution that works.

Maine brings in 200 million each year from hunting license costs. The cost of a basic resident hunting license is $27. For hunting and fishing it is $42. How does that compare to the cost of your hunting license?
In Tennessee your basic hunting/fishing license is $28 and allows you to fish and/or hunt small game. It is $28 for EACH additional license, such as, migratory bird, big game gun, big game archery, and big game muzzleloader.

Maine does not allow Sunday hunting. Can you hunt on Sundays where you are? Yes.

Do you hunt on Sundays? Yes.

If there is Sunday hunting where you go, do you think it would impact the sport if Sunday was a no hunting day?
There would definitely be a negative impact. Hunting is something that should be experienced with friends and family and this would limit the number of days that you could create life long memories in the outdoors with friends and family. For some people that may be the only day they can get out to hunt due to their work.

Maine has faced a boom in the coyote population that has directly impacted the deer herd. Does Tennessee face the same problem? (Maine cut its doe permits by 46% this year which resulted in a -6% drop in total deer harvested in 2011 in the hope of building the herd back up.)
It seems that the coyote population is growing but, has not had an impact on the deer heard in middle Tennessee. In fact, the deer herd in middle and west Tennessee has reached the point in some areas where management efforts are focused at slowing or stabilizing herd growth, and sometimes reducing the overall size of the herd.

What book are you currently reading?

I’m not reading anything currently but my favorite book is “Wild At Heart,” by John Eldredge.
I also really love “The Worst Hard Time” by Timothy Egan

A huge thank you to Bryan, for being willing to let me interview him about hunting and fishing for this blog. Just before I drafted this post, he sent me a message saying he and the boys were heading out to go turkey hunting. I think I should work out a deal with him; he takes me turkey hunting in Tennessee and I will take him into the woods of Maine for a buck =)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Common Bonds: Discussing family and hunting with Country Music star Bryan White

The ability to connect with others about hunting is constantly amazing me. It has led me to new friends, new experiences and it has given me the opportunity to talk with people I would have never had the chance to. I have been lucky enough to ask questions and learn about how others hunt, fish and interact with the outdoors.
After my interview with the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, I was looking for other people to talk to about their experiences in the outdoors and started going through who I followed on Twitter. I wanted to find someone who was passionate about the outdoors and would be really cool to interview. I sent a message to Grammy-winning country music artist and songwriter, Bryan White. I explained that I wrote a small hunting blog and could I interview him about fishing. Within a few minutes, I got my response: “Yes”.
I have been a fan of Bryan’s since the mid 90’s and had the opportunity to meet him when he played in my hometown. I was beyond excited when he agreed to the interview. What followed were a few Twitter messages, then email exchanges. The more I emailed with Bryan, the cooler it became; no matter what your background, what career you have or where you are geographically, hunting is a common thread that can bind us to one another. It connects us to friends, creates great memories with our families and allows a girl from Maine to interview a Country music star.
I cannot thank Bryan enough to being so kind and open as I sent him interview questions, revised questions, asked follow up’s and sent him drafts of his post. He was also gracious enough to include photos for the blog posts. It has been wonderful to read his comments about his family traditions and how much they mirror the same traditions Dad and I have.

The following is part 1 of my interview with Bryan.

When did you start fishing? Hunting?
I remember being very young when my Dad started taking my Brother and I fishing. Maybe 5 or 6 years old. I hunted maybe once or twice growing up but really have just become a hunter in last 6 years. A friend of mine invited me to go turkey hunting and I’ve never been the same. I absolutely love it.

Who got you interested in the outdoors and hunting/fishing?
My Father

I recently sat down with Maine's Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and he spoke about fishing being a tradition for generations in his family. How does fishing play a role with your family?
To me, it’s imperative to pass it on to my children, so I try to take them as much as possible. What happens in that time is priceless. It’s not just about teaching them to fish and hunt, it’s a whole lot more. There’s a bond and a connection that happens that no one can really put into words. It’s incredibly important.

Do your kids hunt/fish? Do they like it?

Yes. They are still very young but they’re getting it…

I buy my dad hunting gear for his birthday, father's dad and Christmas but I benefit from it. I recently bought him an ice fishing trap for his birthday. Have you ever used your kids to buy gear for yourself?
Yes!! Haven’t we all? Lol

What does it mean to you to be able to go hunting and fishing?
It’s a way of life for me…I can’t imagine not having that escape and peace in my life…It means very much…

What do you typically hunt? (deer, moose, bear etc)
Turkey and Deer. Emphasis on Turkey…

What's the biggest fish you have caught? The biggest deer?
A Dolfin (Mahi Mahi) of the coast of Maui. It was 21lbs. I have not taken a buck yet so nothing huge to speak of- yet!

What do you use for a weapon?

I have a Matthews Z7 bow, and an NWTF 7/11 Browning Shotgun. I don’t own a rifle but hope to get one soon.

Do you hunt from a seat, walking or something else?

I love both

What was your favorite fishing trip?

Wow, that’s a tough one…All of them?? I have the greatest memories fishing with my Dad and little Brother as a kid.

What was your favorite hunting trip?
Albany, TX. My Brother and I got our 1st Turkey on the same day…Beautiful, rugged country out there…I gravitate toward wide open and vast places…They make me breathe deeper.

What do you do while waiting for a bite?
Try to focus on my surroundings and figure out how to get in the fish’s head…Check out the surface; water temp; keep changing baits until I figure out what they’re wanting.

Or waiting for deer to come in?

Mess with my iPhone…Haha!

How many States have you hunted in?
Let’s see…….OK, TX, TN, WY, AL GA, KS, KY, MS, and AR…

Where would you like to go fishing/hunting that you have not been to yet?

Colorado, Idaho, Alaska (I’ve salmon fished in AK), MAINE!

Come back next week for Part 2, when we talk about the impact hunting can have on a family and the differences between Maine and Tennessee when it comes to the rules and regulations around the sport.