Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Joan Root: No Op-Ed can do her justice

A few weeks ago, I got my hands on an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times (thank you Steel!) that talked about the need for armed guards to protect the poaching of wildlife throughout the world, specifically in parts of Asia and Africa. The author, Elizabeth Bennett from the Wildlife Conservation Society describes these places as having seen a significant decrease in poaching once the armed guards were present. The call to action was clear; the more armed guards there are, the more animals will be saved. Clearly, it is the only way to protect them, right?

As I read the article, Joan Root flooded into my mind. One of the best books I have read is "Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Untimely Death in Africa" By Mark Seal. This woman worked her entire life to protect and advocate for the conservation of animals in Africa. There are so many people like her and books about the efforts being made to protect the animals that are in critical danger of being killed off: tigers, gorillas, elephants, rhinos etc. Glancing at my bookshelf, books like Rick Ridgeway's "The Shadow of Kilimanjaro," Tony Fitzjohn's "Born Wild," Seal's "Wildflower" and countless Hemingway books and stories all advocate for conservation efforts dating back to the early 1900's.
Hemingway (my favorite author) writes passionately about hunting in his book "The Green Hills of Africa" and "True at First Light" (published posthumously 100 years after his birth). He acknowledges the cultural aspects of hunting and preserving a way of life and an ecosystem that is dependent on healthy animal herds. These books share common themes of individuals and groups trying to protect the natural beauty of Africa as well as raise global awareness to the ecological problems plaguing the lands.

So my offer to Bennett's how to stop poaching is this: remove the money. Armed guards will not stop the demand for ivory or rhino horns, they will just make it harder to get but the demand will still be there. The incentives to poach will still be there and as long as it is, poaching will continue to be severe problem in the conservation efforts around the world. In one of the last lines of her Op-Ed, Bennett writes, "Rangers in Ndoki also enforce agreements that the government has made with logging companies to ensure that hunting and the bushmeat trade do not follow" but is it really helping the cause? The solution has to be more than just putting more armed guards in place. While they might slow down the rate of poaching, it will not end it. There needs to be a cultural shift.
Joan Root worked to do that. Educating the next generation and those that follow is critical. Teaching our kids about what conservation is and how important it is, is crucial to ensuring that these animals do not die off. We need to lead by our actions and not just words. People do not like to be told what they can or can not hunt, but the importance of keeping a herd healthy is something everyone can agree on.

For us, in Maine, we took a 46% drop in available doe permits going into the 2011 hunting season. The drastic cut was done to ensure that the population could begin to come back after harsh winters and an increase in the coyote population. But were there deer taken illegally last fall? Absolutely. I live in a State where people shoot deer because they need the meat in the freezer for the winter. I heard stories from my grandfather about shooting deer all year long to provide for the family. And while I agree that if everyone felt that they could go out and shoot a deer to provide for their family, we would be in trouble... educating future generations can help stop poaching and create a respect for the animals and the ecosystem they inhabit. Two generations later, I am not out shooting deer whenever I can.

People like Joan Root have been advocating for conservation for decades. Maybe someday that message will finally have the impact it deserves.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Happy Father's Day

It was an amazing weekend to be outside and spend it with Dad. After breakfast and grabbing coffee (for me), Dad and I headed out into the woods to put up cameras and to mark off a wood lot that he is cutting. I bathed in deet before I went into the woods and tall grass. I didn't need a repeat of this.

This little guy was not happy that we were around. He was chirping at me, would stick his head out of the pipe, duck back in, squeak some more, stick his head out... on and on until I left.

Hello decent size track!

So many tracks! Its a good sign.

We put up three cameras. Dad picked out a new spot for us to put a seat up. All kinds of sign, now with the camera up, we can see how many and how big the deer are. Come on big buck!

One more by the Sky Condo. It looked like a super high way; beaten down paths in the field and muddy prints going in every direction. We shot one out of the Condo two years ago. Now, we need some good photos.

It was a great day in the woods and with Dad. I hope all of you out there got a chance to spend time with your dads!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Working to restore the fish of the Penobscot

The following is a news story that aired yesterday about the removal of one of two dams along the Penobscot river and the impact that it will have on the fish population. For audio and original publication, please click here.

There are "high hopes" for the Penobscot River once the Great Works Dam is completely removed, and dismantling of the Veazie Dam begins next year. That's how Maine Marine Resources Commissioner Pat Keliher framed his remarks at a celebration along the river's banks today. Restoring 11 species of migratory fish is a big part of the dream. Hopeful signs are evident at the Veazie Dam fish trap operated by state biologists every spring and summer. But, there's still a long way to go.


For endangered Atlantic salmon, whose mysterious, powerful instinct propels them hundreds of miles from their native rivers to ocean feeding grounds and back again to reproduce, the Penobscot River is a force to be reckoned with all its own. Currently, salmon face a gauntlet of four dams just to get to their historic spawning grounds.

Once the Great Works Dam and the Veazie Dam are removed, and a fish bypass is constructed around the Howland Dam by the end of 2014, the fish will face just one big hurdle: the Milford Dam--and by then it will have a fish elevator to help them along their way.

For now, salmon and other migratory fish who are pushing upstream, are caught here at the fish trap on the Veazie Dam, the lowest dam on the Penobscot River.

Mitch Simpson is a biologist with the Department of Marine Resources. "They come up the fishway. We trap in a trap. We release everything else into the river except for the salmon," Simpson says. "The salmon we take back in this barge, and 650 of them go to the hatchery and the rest of 'em get trucked upstream."

Simpson is standing on a small, powerful barge tethered, for safety reasons, to a cable that runs across the top of the Veazie Dam before the water spills over the edge. Every spring and summer, from the first of May until the end of October, he and other biologists make twice-daily trips across the dam to gather up salmon that are caught in the trap in the middle of the Penobscot River.

"And we do take biological information like length, the sex, we take a genetic sample," Simpson says. "Some of them we take scales from to get age and origin, and injuries or anything that we notice on the fish."

June is usually the busiest month of the season, with as many as 70 salmon caught a day. The numbers drop off dramatically as the weather heats up. Last year was a big year--more than 3,100 salmon caught. Simpson says that's one of the best counts since the trap was installed in 1978.

So far this year the numbers are off. Biologists aren't sure why. It could have something to do with heavy rainfall. It could be something else. The numbers are still better than the lowest count of 524 fish about a dozen years ago.

Still, 95 percent of these salmon are hatchery fish--fish that are raised in the Orland hatchery about 50 miles away. But with or without the hatchery's help, the move to recover migratory fish such as salmon, sturgeon, shad and alewives on the river is something the Penobscot Indian Nation has been trying to do since the dams were constructed two centuries ago.

"Tribal members used to spear and net salmon by the tens of thousands when they came in the spring," says John Banks, the natural resources director for the Penobscot Nation. "You know, we have records of tribal officials going to Augusta around the turn of the century to complain to state officials about the lack of fish, and the impacts on our fisheries," he says. "You know, and that's after a 10,000-year history of using this river to meet all of our needs as the first stewards of this area."

Banks says back then the complaints fell on deaf ears. But this is a new era for the Penobscot and for that Banks is grateful. Now state and federal officials have hopes not only of reviving salmon populations, but other fish as well. Marine Resources Commissioner Pat Kelliher says one needs only to look at what happened to alewives in the Kennebec after the Edwards Dam was demolished in 1999.

"I fully expect our migratory fisheries numbers to increase remarkably on the Penobscot, as we have seen on the Kennebec," he said. "The alewive run this year on the Kennebec will exceed over three million fish. And it is so robust now that there is a commercial fishery for the first time in generations."

Keliher says the alewives provide bait for Maine's $300-million lobster fishery. And he thinks they have even more potential in the Penobscot, with its large swaths of undeveloped territory above the Great Works Dam--and where his department has just finished stocking more than 50,000 alewives, so when both the dams are removed, adult herring will be ready to return to their natal waters and spawn for the first time.

Photos by Susan Sharon.

Another article about the dam removal:
Maine Dam Removal a Start to Restoring Spawning Grounds

Friday, June 8, 2012

Antler Point Restrictions

Recently, I have been doing some research on this topic and asking my friends on Twitter if they have restrictions like this where they hunt. If so, do they think it is an effective method for growing and creating a healthy herd.

Here are some of the comments:

- No but if it's less than 3 inches, u can check as doe if I remember the regs correctly. Never been as issue for the guys I hunt with.

Idaho – No, we don't have any restrictions like this.

Georgia - Ga. allows counties to set antler if they desire and those that have service pt. and/or restrictions have much better bucks ! Point & spread restrictions are best. Erin, there are only a couple of Counties that i know of. I'm sure there are some i don't know. Dooly County has min. 8 pt. & 15" spread. It has made an incredible difference in their herd but is difficult to bring in more areas because we have more killers than trophy hunters.

Oklahoma – No. There are no antler restrictions like "must be 3x3 to shoot". I think it would do a lot to help there be more mature deer on public land if there was a restriction. Private land hunters hold themselves to their own standards where I would never take less than a 3x3 due to maturity others might.

Missouri - The APRs have definitely increased the number of quality bucks in some areas, but I can also understand why the APRs frustrate some hunters.

Tennessee - Not here in Tn. It's still important law or not to harvest appropriately to ensure future game

This interactive map shows the deer population per square mile across the United States. I don't know about other States but it looks pretty true for Maine. In the winter of 2007-2008, the northern part of the State received more than 15 feet of snow and had severe flooding that wiped out towns along the Big Black, St. John, Allagash, Fish, and Aroostook Rivers. As a result, the deer were incredibly vulnerable to coyotes and had a harsh winter of dealing with the lack of food and habitat in the area.

Since then, there has been significant efforts made to rebuild the population across the central, western and northern parts of the State. Last season, we harvested 18,839 deer in Maine which is about average. But, the herd is still small and being threatened by the booming coyote population.

So, here is my question:
If you are not in Maine: Are there restrictions where you hunt and are they effective?
If you are in Maine: Do you think this would help us rebuild our herd?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Update on ticks in Maine (and how much I still hate them)

A few weeks ago, I blogged about getting bit by a deer tick and the increase in the sheer number of them across the State. Last week, the BDN ran an article about the increase in illness here in Maine due to those horrible bugs.

Here are some scary take aways if you live here:
* Lyme sickened about 1,000 Mainers in 2011 and more than 180 so far this year
* The deer tick can transmit Lyme, anaplasmosis and babesiosis.
* The dog tick can carry Lyme but doesn’t transmit it
* On average, 50 percent of Maine deer ticks carry disease
* Ticks are less of a problem in northern counties of Maine and at higher elevations (<-- don't complain about a good, snowy, cold winter!)

The biggest issue I had with this article is that they never mention that the rash you can get does not have to be near the site of the bite. Instead, it makes that assumption for the reader "But patients can miss the rash if the bite occurs where they can’t see it, such as under the hair on the back. If you get bit on your stomach, like I did, and it is an infected tick, you can get a rash on your foot, your back, your neck etc. It does not have to be where the bite is.

While writing this, I am pretty sure I had 3 ticks crawling on me. 4 months until October and snow!!!