Wildlife politics are often messy.
Politics and wildlife management don’t mix. Most sportsmen and women know that.
They don’t know. Or maybe they don’t care.
Either way, unfortunately, the last week or so saw several examples of elected officials going against the wishes of their own wildlife professionals to set policy.
First, there’s New Jersey.
The state allowed hunters – after a 30-year hiatus – to again pursue bears starting in 2010. That was in response to a growing population and numerous public complaints.
The state’s Fish and Game Council, which regulates hunting, scheduled hunts through 2021, too.
Yet last week, newly-elected Gov. Philip Murphy banned black bear hunting on all state-controlled public lands by executive order. He cited “public safety” and a desire to examine “non-lethal options” as his reasons.
He promised before his election to ban bear hunting altogether. But in his order, he admitted he lacks that authority.
The New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club thanks Murphy, but said it will to work toward a total bear hunting ban.
The Sportsmen’s Alliance, meanwhile, a pro-hunting group, called Murphy’s ban “pure political pandering” and a “backdoor attempt to undermine scientific wildlife management.”
Then there’s Illinois.
Many wildlife professionals around the country have voiced fears in recent years that congregating whiletails – via artificial feeding – makes the spread of chronic wasting disease more likely to occur, and faster.
Some states already ban the practice. Illinois is one. Feeding deer there is illegal and has been for 15 years.
Yet, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is considering whether to sign a bill that would change that.
The legislation before him would launch a five-year study aimed at seeing whether artificial feeding – using a special feed formula – would make the deer herd healthier.
In one media report, Brent Manning, former director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, called the idea “the biggest wildlife bungle the General Assembly could possibly make.”
And, of course, there’s California.
There, lawmakers are considering Senate Bill 1487, which would restrict the importation of trophies from Africa. Specifically banned would be the “Big 5,” namely lions, elephants, leopards, black or white rhinos and Cape buffalo.
Two other states – New Jersey and Washington — already have similar bans.
Currently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allows Americans to hunt those species, and even bring parts back, so long as that hunting occurs in countries that maintain “sound conservation plans improving threatened and endangered wildlife.”
Sportsmen argue that an end to hunting means an end to conservation, as it is their dollars that support wildlife management in Africa.
Ticks and predators
Solid chunks of woods patrolled by a variety of predators, that’s what it takes to control ticks.
Researchers at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York spent 19 years monitoring ticks in relation to forest composition and species diversity. Their resulting report, recently published in Ecology, determined “a diverse predator community is a weapon against Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. And intact forests are less risky than their fragmented counterparts.”
Rodents are the reason why, they said.
White-footed mice especially, and eastern chipmunks to a slightly lesser degree, carry lots of ticks. Researchers said some mice carry 50 ticks each.
When acorns are abundant and predator diversity is low – meaning coyotes dominate, to the exclusion of foxes, bobcats, fishers, raccoons and opossums – tick population boom.
Good numbers of bobcats, foxes, and opossums especially keep tick numbers down, researchers noted.
The only other thing that helps? The right weather.
Researchers noted a correlation between low tick survival and warm, dry spring or winter weather.
Do you have a recipe that relies on native foods you’d like to share?
If so, Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and its Association for Sustainable Agriculture want to hear about it.
The two agencies are collaborating on a “conservation cookbook.”
It “will share information on native trees and shrubs that enhance our landscapes, as well as recipes that use the fruits and nuts produced.” Recipes including berries, fruits, and nuts native to Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic region – think elderberries, walnuts, Pawpaw and the like – are wanted.
All those plants produce tasty foods while also being great for integrating into riparian buffers, wildlife plantings and hedges, organizers said.
“The hope is that by sharing recipes, we can encourage productive conservation and reconnect to native bounty,” they added.
Recipes can be submitted here.
So you want to work in the outdoor industry?
Auburn University might be the place to get started.
The Alabama school is offering a new degree in “wildlife enterprise management.” It’s meant to prepare students to work at hunting and fishing lodges, resorts, outdoor adventure companies and similar places.
Students will study wildlife management, hotel and restaurant management, and accounting and marketing, among other things. They’ll get a minor in business.
Enrollment begins with the fall 2019 semester, pending approval by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education this December.
Kansas State University is the only other school in the country offering such a degree program.
Labor Day fishing
Pennsylvania’s Fish and Boat Commission is offering two special fishing opportunities for adults and kids on Labor Day.
Adults – both state residents and non-residents – can get a one-day fishing license good for Sept. 3 for $1.
Kids, meanwhile, can take advantage of a mentored youth panfish opportunity. On Labor Day, those with a voluntary youth license or free mentored youth permit – available at www.GoneFishingPA.com — can fish any one of 19 “panfish enhancement” lakes and keep bluegills, crappies, yellow perch, punpkinseeds and red-eared sunfish without regard to the usual size restrictions.
All of the lakes are home to nice panfish populations, the commission said.
Pheasants Forever and the Pennsylvania Game Commission will host their second annual wild pheasant youth hunt this fall.
Forty-eight junior hunters ages 12 to 16 will participate, having been chosen in a random drawing earlier this month. They will be assigned a hunt day – either Nov. 3 or 10 – and a mentor.
After the hunt, all kids and their guests – an adult parent or guardian who can also go on the hunt as an observer – get a free lunch.
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