Outdoor News

July 2014
Edited by V. Paul Reynolds

July. Let summer begin! Although fishing has begun to peak, there is much angling left. Togue (Lake Trout) will be found by those willing to go down deep with lead core line or downriggers. Fly fishers are keeping a vigil over the ever-popular Green Drake hatch on trout ponds. Stripers and mackerel runs keep it going for salt water anglers. Bass fishermen are enjoying Maine's incomparable bass fishery.

And, believe it or not, bear hunters and bear guides have already begun laying plans for the annual bear season that begins the end of next month!

Meanwhile, if you were lucky enough to boat a fat landlocked salmon, don't forget to poach it, apply an egg sauce and find some fresh garden peas to go along. Happy Fourth of July!

CAPTION FOR PHOTO ABOVE: Vermont State Game Warden Robert Sterling is shown here receiving Vermont’s Warden of the Year Award from Governor Peter Shumlin in Montpelier on May 22. Also pictured are (from left) Lt. George Scribner, Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz, Col. David LeCours and Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter. (Photo by Tom Rogers)

Club News

If your club or outdoor organization has news or photos that warrant publication in the Northwoods Sporting Journal, send them to: Club News, NWSJ, P.O. Box 195, W. Enfield, ME 04493, or e-mail news to: paul@sportingjournal.com

Vermont - Vermont’s Warden of the Year

Robert Sterling (Pictured Above) of Fair Haven is Vermont's State Game Warden of the Year. A State Game Warden for 18 years, Sterling was given the award by Governor Peter Shumlin in recognition of his excellent service on May 22 in Montpelier.

"I want to thank Robert for his outstanding performance in protecting Vermont's fish and wildlife resources and serving the people of Vermont," said Gov. Shumlin. He said Warden Sterling was chosen for “his professionalism, his strong work ethic, his dedicated training of new wardens, helpful outreach with the public, and his tracking and evidence work with his dog, “Rufus.”

Lt. George Scribner, Sterling’s supervisor, also commended him for his ability to conduct thorough investigations in hunting and fishing violations and the leadership he has provided in coordinating Fish & Wildlife’s K-9 training program. “He is a true team player, and is always willing to drop everything to assist another warden or another agency,” said Scribner.

“Our warden force provides a broad range of services that go far beyond protecting fish and wildlife,” said Colonel David LeCours. “In Warden Sterling’s case, his peers chose him for this award because he exemplifies an exceptionally high standard that others strive to reach.”

Warden Sterling’s district includes the towns of Fair Haven, West Haven, Castleton, Benson, Sudbury, and Orwell.

Shikar-Safari Club International, a private wildlife conservation group, sponsors a warden of the year award in each state and Canadian province to help promote and encourage the enforcement of wildlife conservation laws. Sterling received a colorful framed certificate honoring his selection as Vermont’s State Game Warden of the Year, provided by Shikar-Safari Club International.

Maine - Moosehead Gets Fire Tower Grant

On June 10, 1905 the M.G. Shaw Lumber Company in cooperation with the Maine Forest Service, constructed the first full-time manned fire tower in the United States. The fire tower was located on top of Big Moose (formerly Squaw) Mountain just north of Greenville, Maine. On August 7, 1993, the fire tower was placed on the National Historic Lookout Register. The cab of the fire tower was in a state of disrepair for many years yet the original steel frame was in good condition. In 2011, the State of Maine planned to upgrade the telecommunication systems at the fire tower location on top of Big Moose Mountain. At that time an agreement was reached with the Maine Forest Service to remove the steel frame from the historic fire tower with their helicopter and store it on the NREC property in Greenville until further funding could be secured to reconstruct the fire tower.

Last winter, NREC developed a plan to construct a wrap-around deck on the Visitors’ Center on Rte 15 at the entrance to the Moosehead Lake Region. The plan includes attaching a fully restored fire tower to the deck with steps and a hand rail to the cab. NREC will supplement the fire tower with other educational materials such as maps, navigational tools, and other displays related to the importance of fire towers and commercial forest lands to heritage of the Moosehead Lake Region.

This April, NREC received a grant from the Plum Creek Foundation for $7,500 toward the plan and just last week they were awarded another $8,500 from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund which is funded from sale of instant lottery tickets. Other partners for the project include the Forest Fire Lookout Association, The Maine Forest Service, the Charleston Correctional Facility, and the Moosehead Lake Region Chamber of Commerce. Final details will be made this summer and construction will begin in the early fall.

Maine - Moosehead Lake Region Fishing Report

The big lake is finally free of ice after what seemed like a very long and cold winter. The official ice out date was May 10th this year which is actually not far from the long-term average. We had a very busy winter and are now ready to slide into the summer field season here at the Fisheries Division. Many people ask us what we do in the winter and off-seasons. Of course, on the weekends in the winter we are collecting data from anglers on various lakes in the Moosehead Lake Region, and during the week we are compiling and analyzing data from the previous year. Fisheries change with time and we do our best to stay on top of it. We are constantly researching, collecting and evaluating data, and reviewing management strategies on our waters. We are fortunate here in the Moosehead Lake Region because we have a long history of consistent data collection which helps us to analyze changes in trends and look for methods to protect our gamefish populations while improving the fishing.

As an example, we have been working with Brookfield, the company that operates the dam on behalf of Kennebec Water Power Company, to improve the water management on Moosehead Lake. A few years ago we conducted some pretty intensive evaluations of our lake trout population. We re-confirmed that our lake trout were still spawning at depths greater than 4 ½ feet in the fall on rocky, wind-swept shoals. However, the actual dates of spawning are about a week to two weeks later than much of the historical data suggests. Lake trout are spawning near the end of October instead of mid-October. Brookfield is currently required by license to have the lake drawn down by Oct 10th each year to protect lake trout spawning. The idea is to have the lake at a low level while lake trout are spawning then the lake usually refills in the late fall, and as long as the lake level does not drop more than 4 ½ feet below the spawning elevation, all the eggs will be safe until they hatch in early spring. Prior to the licensing of the East Outlet Dam and before a gentlemen’s agreement between the IFW and the past dam owners, it was possible to fully open the gates on the dam in the fall creating as much as a 7 foot drawdown. This would have caused lake trout eggs to become dewatered in the winter. Therefore, the current license sets a minimum lake elevation for the winter and notes that the power company cannot draw the lake down any more than 2 feet below the spawning lake elevation that occurred on October 10th. However, this single date requirement has created the situation where the dam operators must dump large volumes of water in September and early October to achieve the water level goal on that day. This makes it tough to fish in the East Outlet at one of the best fishing times of the year. We are working with Brookfield to amend their license to enhance the fishing in the East Outlet while providing protection for our lake trout. IFW has recommended changing the October 10th deadline to a window of dates from October 10th to October 25th to more accurately reflect current conditions. IFW has also recommended increasing the allowable over-winter drawdown from 2 feet to 3 feet. This will protect the lake trout which are still spawning at depths in excess of 4 ½ feet and allow the company to have a more gradual fall drawdown to reduce high flows in the East Outlet. Campowners will still have an opportunity to work on their docks in the fall as the lake drops in late October and November. It also provides additional storage in the spring which is very important to alleviate spring flooding downstream of Moosehead Lake along the Kennebec River. Brookfield has been a very responsible partner with IFW. It is clear they understand the recreational and economic importance of the sport fisheries for the communities around their projects and they have shown a commitment to improving the fishing and safety for all those that work and play within their project areas.

Submitted by: Tim Obrey, Regional Fisheries Biologist

New Hampshire - Bear Feeding Not Good

By Andrew Timmins, N.H. Fish and Game Bear Biologist

It seems that people in New Hampshire may not be taking the old adage "A Fed Bear Is a Dead Bear" seriously enough these days. Recent events across the state involving the feeding of bears show a trend that has serious consequences for both communities and bears.

In 2006, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department established a rule (FIS 310.01) that prohibits a person from feeding bears, either intentionally or inadvertently, given that doing so causes nuisance situations, results in property damage and can become a human safety concern. Not directly mentioned in the rule language, but of equal importance, is the fact that feeding bears habituates bears to humans and essentially eliminates, or severely alters, the natural behavior and foraging patterns of bears.

Since 2006, Fish and Game has addressed a number of intentional bear feeding sites around the state, at some of which people had been feeding bears for over 20 years. Collectively, staff from the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Wildlife Services, Fish and Game Wildlife Biologists and Conservation Officers have worked hard to identify intentional feeding sites and try to help people who are feeding to understand the serious consequences of this practice. Some have been cooperative, others, less so. People who are feeding bears are initially asked to stop via a formal warning. If they fail to stop, they are then in violation of FIS 310.01 and may be issued a summons. In many instances, a formal warning, coupled with education, has been effective. This year, however, this sensible approach doesn't seem to be working as well.

During the first week of May, Fish and Game discovered four historical feeding sites in New Hampshire where intentional bear feeding has resumed, despite previous formal warnings being issued. One site in particular, located on West Side Road in North Conway, has been particularly challenging for bear managers. In the area known as Birch Hill, bears highly habituated to human food have been breaking into motor vehicles, garages, sheds, and killing livestock. Fish and Game has been forced to destroy two bears at this location in one week that were destroying property of posing a human safety concern. The scat of these animals has been full of both black oil sunflower seed and cracked corn, suggesting purposeful feeding. This prompted Fish and Game to investigate an historical feed site located within a half mile of the location where the bulk of the conflicts were occurring. The resident had been previously warned to cease feeding, but had resumed the activity in spring of 2014.

The decision to kill these animals was not an easy one and not taken lightly. However, there were few other options for these bears, for a variety of reasons. The less developed northern part of the state, where bears are typically released when translocated, is still covered in snow, offering no natural food.

The behavior of these animals and the fact that the conflicts were becoming more severe with time forced a response. Both bears were large adult males, which tend to have strong fidelity to their home range and therefore would likely have returned very quickly if moved. In my opinion, these bears had essentially been "ruined" by intentional feeding and human habituation. They had lost the ability to be wild bears that avoid human-occupied areas.

Intentional backyard feeding is not the only problem. A number of locations around the state experience bear/human conflicts each and every year. Most are areas with open or plastic-topped dumpsters (not bear proof), unsecured household garbage, bird feeders or unprotected poultry and livestock. Despite working with these residents year after year, things never seem to change. Why is that? Why are bears so devalued by some members of the public that they refuse to change their own behavior? Why is there an expectation by some members of the public that Fish and Game should remove or kill the bear, so that people are not inconvenienced by the need to change their behavior?

Without support and assistance from the public, Fish and Game lacks the ability to significantly change human behavior and reduce bear/human conflicts. We can't force restaurant owners to use locking, steel-top dumpsters. We can't make people put electric fence around their chickens. We can't force people to stop feeding birds during spring and summer. We can't mandate the appropriate storage of garbage and other food attractants by homeowners so that they are inaccessible to wildlife. All of these are examples of relatively simple, effective, commonsense solutions. We can't convince people not to selfishly feed bears, despite the detriment to the animal, if we are not informed of the location. We can't challenge people's constitutional right to shoot bears that cause property damage, despite the refusal of the landowner to even attempt to mitigate the conflicts. I find this very discouraging, because we are so fortunate to have this magnificent wild animal in our state.

Isn't it worth changing your own behavior just a little, so they can live here, too?

We have been trying to get this message out for many years. Most residents and visitors of New Hampshire are familiar with Fish and Game's educational campaign "Something's Bruin in New Hampshire - Learn to Live with Bears." This campaign began in the mid-1990s and was designed to educate the public on bear behavior and provide proactive steps that the public could follow to avoid conflicts with bears. Essentially, it was hoped that if the public better understood bears, perhaps human tolerance towards bears would increase. One common message from this campaign is the slogan "A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear" -- a straightforward way of saying that allowing bears to become habituated to human environments and dependent on human-related foods has severe, and often fatal negative effects on the animal.

This education campaign has helped the public better understand the behavior of bears and has reduced conflicts. However, the recent incidents in which I've had to dispatch bears because of stubborn human behavior is making me lose faith. Is the public even listening anymore? Is our society that self-centered and callous towards the wildlife of our state?

The next time you are reviewing a friend's photos of a sow with cute cubs lying next to a pile of feed in their back yard, think about the consequences for the bear, and her cubs, who are learning behaviors that may result in their future death. When you see a dumpster with muddy paw prints on the side and garbage strewn through the woods, think long and hard about that image. Is that how you picture New Hampshire's majestic black bear? The next time you hear about Fish and Game biologist climbing to the top of a tree to remove cubs because the sow was shot at an unsecured chicken pen, ask yourself if that was a reasonable resolution to a conflict.

If you find these questions provoking, please lend your support and assistance. Follow the Something's Bruin guidelines at http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Wildlife/Somethings_Bruin.htm. Talk to your friends and neighbors and encourage them to be proactive in preventing conflicts with bears. Get active within your community and work for change. Change may be hard but it is not impossible. It's our own human behavior that creates these conflicts, and therefore it is our own behavior that needs to be modified.

Maine - Woods Donated to Downeast Land Trust

Leaving a mark on a beloved place is an aim to which many aspire. Robert Yacolucci did it by donating 100 acres of forest to the Downeast Lakes Land Trust (DLLT). The trust will now manage “Yacolucci Woods” in perpetuity for wildlife habitat, recreation, and sustainable forestry.

This gift, along with a generous endowment, ensures the land will be conserved forever. “We are extraordinarily grateful to Mr. Yacolucci for his vision and generosity,” said DLLT Executive Director, Mark Berry.

The 100-acre property is located in Talmadge, and is easily accessible on the west side of Route 1. To its south and west, the property abuts the Sunrise Easement, a 312,000-acre area permanently conserved under easements for conservation and public access held by the New England Forestry Foundation and the Maine Dept of Agriculture, Conservation, & Forestry.

Public Asked to Report Feral Swine

The public is being asked to report any sightings of free-ranging feral swine, more commonly called wild pig, wild boar or feral hog. These animals can now be found from Florida to Washington, with an estimated population of 5 million nationwide. Feral swine are not native to North America and have expanded their range from 17 to 39 states in the last 30 years. They currently inhabit many northeastern states, including New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.

Expansion of this invasive species is of significant concern to farmers, livestock producers, natural resource managers, animal health officials, and the general public. In the past few decades, feral swine have arguably become the most invasive and destructive large mammal species in North America. They have been labeled an ecological disaster, in large part because our ecosystems did not evolve with feral swine and therefore have not adapted to their damaging behavior.

Turning the Tide on Feral Swine

"Feral swine don't know boundaries and what happens in one state affects neighboring states," says APHIS' new national feral swine initiative coordinator Dr. Dale Nolte. "Only through a concerted, comprehensive effort with the public and our State and Federal partners, can we begin to turn the tide on feral swine expansion and reduce their negative impacts to our economy and environment."

The USDA and its partners hope to accomplish just that. In 2014, APHIS Wildlife Services (WS) received $20 million from Congress to begin a collaborative, national feral swine management initiative with APHIS Veterinary Services and International Services, as well as numerous local, State and Federal partners. The goal of the initiative is to prevent the further spread of feral swine, as well as to reduce their population, damage, and associated disease risks to protect both human health and the health of domestic swine. Though management efforts will occur in many different locations and habitats throughout the United States, these actions will be modified and adapted to best meet the needs and objectives of each state.

Feral Swine Damage

Nationwide, it is estimated that feral swine annually cause approximately $1.5 billion in damage and can destroy as much as 1,000 acres per hour. Their aggressive rooting behavior - when they use their snouts to uproot the vegetation and earth in search food - can cause substantial property damage in suburban communities, leading to destruction of lawns and landscape, backyard gardens, parks, and golf courses. Affected areas will appear as if they have been run over by a number of out-of-control rototillers. Severity can range from superficial rooting of less than 6 inches deep, to more extensive rooting of 1-2 feet deep.

Feral swine cause agricultural damage by rooting and creating wallows (mud baths) in pastures, consuming and trampling crops from corn to soybeans and preying upon livestock and poultry. They devastate native habitat by impacting forest regeneration and restoration, as well as contaminate water supplies and reduce water quality through fecal material, erosion and increased sedimentation.

Feral swine are voracious omnivores that will consume many plant and animal species. They will prey upon insects, frogs, salamanders, white-tailed deer fawns, wild turkeys, grouse, woodcock, and other ground-nesting birds and their eggs. In Florida, feral swine are associated with the decline of at least 26 plant and animal species that are now listed as rare, threatened, endangered, or of special concern. Feral swine will also out-compete native wildlife for food, such as acorns and beechnuts, which are important and variable resources to New Hampshire's wildlife.

Feral swine can transmit as many as 30 pathogens and 37 parasites, many of which pose serious threats to humans, livestock, wildlife, and pets. Humans are susceptible to such diseases as brucellosis, leptospirosis and trichinosis. Along with these human health risks, feral swine are vectors for livestock diseases, including brucellosis, pseudorabies and classical swine fever, which pose a significant risk to our country's multi-billion dollar commercial domestic swine industry.

Signs, Tracks and Reporting

Feral swine have no legal game status in New Hampshire, but are considered escaped private property and may only be hunted with permission by the property owner. The pigs come in many colors, shapes and sizes due to their hybridizations, but are most often black or brown. An average adult weighs anywhere from 100-200 pounds. Although most of their activity occurs under the cover of night, they leave behind unique sign to indicate their presence, such as rooting, wallows and tree rubs. Tracks are similar to deer, although swine hoofs are rounder in overall shape and tend to be more splayed and blunt at the tips than deer tracks.

To assist in determining the presence of feral swine and aid in mapping distinct populations please report sightings and any information to USDA Wildlife Services. WS is also interested in obtaining fresh blood and tissue samples from the carcasses of harvested and road killed feral swine for disease testing and biological data collection. The results of this effort will help protect agriculture and natural resources of New Hampshire. WS is conducting similar surveillance activities in Vermont, Maine and New York.

To report feral swine please contact:

Tony Musante, Wildlife Disease Biologist
USDA/APHIS-Wildlife Services
59 Chenell Drive Suite 7
Concord, NH 03301
603-340-2890 (cell)

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