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Learning About the Birds and Bees . . .

Even several shots around the wound to numb the flesh didn’t detract from the relief that I felt. And as we waited for the anesthetic to kick in, I decided to impress the doctor with my innate knowledge of human anatomy.

“Is that the inner ear canal?” I asked, pointing to an illustration on the wall.

“No,” he said. “That’s the female reproductive system.”

Perhaps realizing that one day in the not too distant future I might develop an unwarranted reputation for sexual perversion if I didn’t know what goes where, my mother decided that my father should talk to me.

(Excerpt from a Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies essay about how I learned about the birds and bees from the birds and bees --- and turtles.)


Finding Ways to Tame Lionfish

Years ago, Missouri wildlife managers decided to reduce an exploding deer population in a St. Louis suburb. But instead of culling the herd humanely, they bowed to pressure from animal lovers, and, at great expense, trapped and moved deer to a more rural area.

Follow-up research revealed that those deer died of starvation. They had grown so accustomed to eating tulips, roses, and other domesticated plants that they did not recognize wild forage.

Besides showing the folly of trying to manage wildlife by emotion instead of science, this example reveals one of the reasons that exotic species can become so prolific and troublesome in their new habitats. Native species do not see them as food, and, consequently, their populations are free to grow unchecked by predation.

Down in the Caribbean, divers are trying to do something about that by teaching sharks to eat invasive lionfish. The latter are gobbling up native species, especially reef fish.

“From a scientific point of view, we don't know how successful the project is. But, apparently, recent videos show native top predators are starting to eat lionfish without them being previously speared by divers,” says a marine biologist. (Go here to see some great photos of sharks eating lionfish.)

Meanwhile, lionfish populations have declined around Jamaica because another species is eating the invaders --- man.

Dayne Buddo, a Jamaican marine ecologist who focuses on marine invaders at the Caribbean island's University of the West Indies, attributes much of the local decrease in sightings to a growing appetite for their fillets. He says that Jamaican fishermen are now selling lionfish briskly at markets. In contrast, a few years ago island fishermen "didn't want to mess" with the exotic fish with spines that can deliver a very painful sting.

The same strategy eventually may help us control Asian carp in the nation’s rivers and impoundments. Go here to check out my post about that.


Unlike Some Environmentalists, Fish Love Oil and Gas Rigs

Life is rife beneath Platform Gilda, off the California coast (Image: Scott Gietler)

California environmentalists and others who hate the petroleum industry don't want you to know this:

A recent submarine study reveals that fish are far more adundant under oil and gas rigs off the coast of California than on reefs in the same waters.

"We find that fish production rates around individual oil rigs – scaled per unit of seafloor – tend to be around 10 times higher than comparable estimates in other highly productive marine habitats such as reefs and estuaries," says Jeremy Claisse of Occidental College in Los Angeles, who led the study.

The team surveyed 16 oil or gas platforms and 7 rocky reefs each year for 5 to 15 years, from 1995 to 2011. They counted how many fish, and of what size, were associated with each habitat. From this they worked out the weight of fish supported each year per square metre of sea floor in each area. To avoid overestimates, they included only fish within 2 metres of each structure that were clearly resident there, excluding fish just passing through.

Read more here.


Pikeminnow Bounty Program Helps Anglers Find Smallmouth Bass

While many anglers fish for pikeminnows in the lower Columbia and Snake rivers in hopes of collecting bounties, they also catch plenty of other fishing, including smallmouth bass.

“I always thought it (catch statistics) could be of some use to anglers fishing the Columbia and Snake who are not obsessed with only salmon and steelhead,” said Eric Winther, pikeminnow manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Typically, fishermen catch the greatest number of warmwater species at the Columbia Point station in the Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland). During the week of July 7-14, they boated 949 pikeminnows and 601 smallmouths, with Greenbelt and Lyon’s Ferry yielding more than 1/3 of the bass.

In 2013, pikeminnow anglers landed nearly 9,000 smallmouth bass, along with more than 4,000 sturgeon and nearly 1,500 channel catfish.

Operating from May 1 to Sept. 30, the program pays $4 to $8 for each pikeminnow caught that measures 9 inches or longer.

Formerly called northern squawfish, the pikeminnow is a native species that resembles a walleye. Impoundments on the rivers have enabled it to become a much more effective predator of young salmon and steelhead.

Since 1990, more than 4.2 million pikeminnows have been removed through the bounty program.



We're Never Too Old To Grow Up With Nature

In Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies - Growing Up with Nature, award winning outdoors writer Robert Montgomery and 13 friends explore what and how we learn about life from the everyday miracles of nature.  Each story celebrates the tangible and intangible blessings we derive from the outdoors.

These tales encourage us to sleep in a tent, swim in a lake, blow the fluff off a dandelion, and wish on a falling star.  Invest enough time and a butterfly might land on your nose, or a hummingbird on your finger.  You might see an eagle soar or a double rainbow splashed across the western sky at dawn.

Read this book to a child!  Take it with you on a hike, a fishing excursion, or camping trip.  The essays and short stories will inspire you to enjoy the natural world, even if you don't know a cricket from a cricket frog.  They will enlighten you with cautionary tales of thin ice and blazing campfires.  They will entertain you with accounts of an alien invasion, white rats run amuck, and an embarrassing trip to the emergency room.

Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies will educate you about nature's mysteries and miracles, ranging from mermaids and snake spit, to African lions and Ozark dinosaurs.  This book will take you to the stars, the mountains, and a little creek below the tree line at the baseball field.  And if you enjoyed the outdoors as a child, they will bring back glorious memories.

Others books by Robert Montgomery include Why We Fish and Better Bass Fishing.