A bear of an opportunity for teachers and more outdoor news

Posted on: June 12, 2017 | Bob Frye | Comments

Teachers can learn about black bears in a free workshop.
Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service

School is about to start. For the teachers, that is.

This will be different than most classrooms, though.

If things go well, this one will include a live black bear.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is hosting an ACT 48-approved “WILD About Bears” educational workshop from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on June 20 at its southwest region office, located on Route 711 near Bolivar. It’s designed for kindergarten through 12th grade teachers as well as non-formal educators.

The class if for those “interested in developing and expanding their knowledge related to black bears and their ecology.”

“Our bear biologist, Mark Ternent, will be on site for the day, providing instruction and answering questions. Participants will learn about black bear biology, physiology and management techniques,” said Pat Snickles, a supervisor in the region office.

“If we’re lucky, participants may get to see a live bear processed and tagged as well.”

There’s still room for teachers to register, too. And best of all? It’s free.

Space is limited, though. Teachers interested in registering should call or email Snickles at 724-238-9523 or psnickles@pa.gov.

Not this year

Those plans to create a waterfowl education course that would help hunters better identify birds in flight and improve hunter ethics in the field?

Don’t expect it to be ready by this fall.
Whistling Wings, a group made up of waterfowl hunters, state wildlife agencies and others, has talked of creating such a course in Pennsylvania. That was discussed in some detail late in 2016 and early again in 2017.

There’s one problem, said Jerry Bish, a land management supervisor for the Pennsylania Game Commission at its Pymatuning wildlife management area.

“We don’t have a membership, as it stands. We don’t have a website,” he said.

So while the group has done a lot already, looking at other states with mandatory waterfowl education to see how and what they do, there’s no one really free to develop anything similar here.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Bish said.

The group remains committed to getting something done, he said. Hunter ethics are a big issue, one that can’t be addressed through legislation or regulation.

It’s all about training, he added. The group still hope sto do more in that arena, as it can.

“We’re still here. We haven’t done a whole lot this past year. We hope to do more this coming year,” Bish said.

Unlikely bait

Spinnerbaits don’t look, in the hand, like anything a hungry bass would eat.

But in the water? That’s another story.

They’re actually versatile lures that can be worked pretty much anywhere in the water column, with the speed of the retrieve determining where they ride, said Noah Heck of Pittsburgh, founder of Kayak Anglers of Western PA. Reeling them very fast can turn them almost into a topwater bait.

“The blade or blades will disturb the surface enough to sometimes resemble a school of baitfish. That will draw predatory fish in,” he said.

They’re especially effective in the post-spawn period for bass, said Rod Bates, owner of Koinonia Guide Service in Carlisle.

“I like something that puts a little chop on the water,” he said. “But it’s a bait you can fish in all water colors and all water clarities.”

He prefers to fish larger ones. A double willow leaf spinnerbait in particular has a lot of splash and makes a good search bait when bass are spread out.

Wild trout

They’re turning up everywhere.

Over the last several years, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has been looking for – and finding – previously undocumented wild trout streams all across the state.

The effort is known as the unassessed waters initiative. It’s an attempt to study the state’s many miles of streams and find what swims within them.

It’s not surprising that wild trout are turning up in the state’s undeveloped regions, like say in the Kettle Creek draininage, said Andy Shiels, director of the commission’s bureau of fisheries.

But in recent months the commission has found wild trout in places ranging from Chester to Erie counties, too, he noted.

“It’s significant to note that they’re out on the fringes of counties we don’t traditionally think of as supporting wilkd trout,” he said.

Commissioner Ed Mascharka of Erie County agreed. He pointed to the discovery of nine wild trout streams in Erie County alone as unheard of.

“I was amazed,” he said.

Commission executive director John Arway said the unassessed waters initiative remains a priority.

“It’s incumbent upon us to find these streams so that we can use the rules society has established to be able to protect these streams as best we can,” Arway said.

Drug money

Wildlife agencies all across the country have talked for years about the importance of battling invasive species, meaning plants, fish and wildlife in an ecosystem that don’t belong there.

But this?

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is accepting proposals for habitat restoration – and handing out grant money – for projects in watersheds most impacted by unregulated marijuana cultivation.

A total of $1.5 million is available. The program will focus on the North Coast watersheds extending from Sonoma County to the Oregon state line, “as they have been most heavily impacted by cannabis cultivation.”

Department director Charlton Bonham said the problem is at “crisis levels in terms of threats to habitat for aquatic and wildlife species.”

The marijuana fields have unlawfully diverted water for irrigation and introduced prohibited herbicides, rodenticides and other environmental contaminants, among other things, he added.

Lead ammunition

There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about the pros and cons of lead ammunition. Some states have banned its use.

Minnesota won’t be one of them.

Recently, Gov. Mark Dayton signed legislation that prevents the state’s Department of Natural Resources from banning the use of lead shot for hunting “in the farmland zone.”

The bill was backed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, among others.

Bob Frye is the everybodyadventures.com editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or bfrye@535mediallc.com. See other stories, blogs, videos and more at everybodyadventures.com.

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Bob Frye is a storyteller with a passion for all things outdoors. He hunts, he fishes, he hikes, he camps, he paddles, backpacks and snowshoes depending on the season. If he’s not an expert at anything, it’s because he’s passionate to try a little bit of everything.