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Entries in South Carolina (8)

Sunday
Jan242016

We Must Manage Fish and Wildlife to Maintain Healthy Populations, Minimize Conflicts

In 2014, hunters killed 11,653 double-crested cormorants on Lakes Marion and Moultrie (Santee Cooper) in South Carolina. Such an event would have been unthinkable just a decade ago. That’s because cormorants are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

But in recent years both federal and state resource managers recognized that these fishing-eating birds are causing problems for our fisheries, as their populations explode. Vocal, angry anglers played no small part in that recognition.

More recently, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) allowed a limited hunting season for bears, in the wake of an increasing number of  incidents in which bears damaged property, killed pets, and injured people.

What do these two incidents have in common? They highlight who we are as a species and what we must do if we are to share land and water with other species.

We are beings who alter our environment to meet our needs. We clear the land to farm and to build cities, homes, and highways. We erect dams to control floods, irrigate formerly arid lands, and generate hydropower.

And when we do those things, we take away the habitat of other species, such as black bears in Florida.

Many think that we manage only domestic animals. In truth, if we are to have healthy populations of most wildlife species, we must manage them as well.

And that means sometimes that we must kill some of them because their numbers are too great to be sustained in their remaining habitat and/or they pose a threat to us.

As they were relentlessly hunted and their habitat destroyed, buffalo, deer, and turkey nearly disappeared. But enlightened management has brought them back, and now regular hunts keep their numbers at sustainable levels for their available habitat.

The cormorant is an interesting exception to the rule. That’s because it habitat has not been diminished by us, but rather greatly expanded by the reservoirs behind all of those dams that we’ve built. That’s why it has become such a nuisance species. Many no longer migrate, but instead stay year-around, feasting on fish and expanding their numbers.

Of course, many of those who call themselves animal lovers do not want to hear such rational arguments. They did not like the killing of so many cormorants in South Carolina, and they've been relentless in their  hate-filled verbal attacks on the FWC, one of the best wildlife agencies in the nation. (Check out some of the comments here.)

Clearly, few, if any, of the attackers understand wildlife, their habitat needs, and the complexity of management.These people want us to either ignore the problem or attempt to solve it in an impractical way.

Several years ago, the Missouri Department of Conservation decided to do something about the overpopulation of deer in suburban St. Louis awhile back. Its first choice was to have a managed hunt. But bowing to pressures from animal lovers, it went with the much more expensive option of trapping and moving the deer.

The agency later discovered that most of those transplanted deer starved to death because their new habitat contained little to none of the types of plants that they were accustomed to eating in the suburbs.

Moving bears won’t solve the problem in Florida either. Suitable bear habitat in the state already is at peak population. Otherwise the animals wouldn’t have moved in so close to humans in the first place.

Additionally, those that have ventured into civilization now grow fat as they scavenge garbage around homes or are intentionally fed by these same animal lovers who have exacerbated the problem with their compassion. In other words, the bears now associate humans with food and if trapped and moved, they’ll just head for the nearest subdivision.

The reality is that we must live with the consequences of our actions as a species that alters its environment, and one of those consequences is that we must manage the other species that share our land and water.

Wednesday
May272015

State Record Striper Caught in Missouri

After outlasting a huge striped bass, Lawrence Dillman of Rockaway Beach became the most recent record-breaking angler in Missouri. The new “pole and line” record striped bass caught by Dillman on May 21 weighed 65 pounds, 2 ounces with a length of 49 ¾ inches and a girth of 36 inches. Dillman used 20-pound test line and a chub minnow to catch the behemoth at Bull Shoals.

“I fought the giant for over 45 minutes until I got him to shallow water,” Dillman said. “I then bear hugged the fish and got it out of the water on to the bank.”

The new giant broke the previous pole and line state-record striped bass of 60 pounds, 9 ounces caught on Bull Shoals Lake in 2011.

Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) staff verified the record-weight fish using a certified scale at the MDC Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery in Taney County.

“Once the fish was on the line, I knew I had a decent one, but I didn’t at all think it was a striped bass,” Dillman said. “I thought it was a spoonbill or something else. But when I got him to the bank I knew I had something amazing!”

Here's a story about an even larger striped bass that was caught on Bull Shoals a few years ago. In saltwater, meanwhile, the world record striper weighed more than 81 pounds and was caught in Long Island Sound in 2011.

Fisheries managers realized that stripers could be stocked in imoundments following the creation of South Carolina's Santee-Cooper system in the early 1940s. Biologists at first thought that stripers trapped behind the dams eventually would die-off. But they did not. Instead, they thrived. 

Monday
Jun302014

Hunters Reduce Cormorant Population on Santee Cooper System

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Nearly 12,000 fewer cormorants are eating fish in the Santee Cooper system.

That’s because the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) granted permits to 1,225 hunters to shoot the birds Feb. 2 to March 1 on Lakes Moultrie and Marion. Forty percent of those reported back, with a final tally of 11,653.

The agency said the hunt was necessary to reduce predation on forage, including herring, shad, and menhaden, as well as on juvenile game fish and catfish.

“In addition, cormorant harassment has been linked to significant winter kills of adult redear sunfish too large to swallow,” it said. “Permanent damage to flooded bald cypress and tupelo trees used for roosts has also been documented.”

For decades the birds were protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and their numbers exploded as resident populations established themselves on large lakes and impoundments. Recently, though, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has granted states permission to reduce their numbers.

Mostly only agency personnel have been involved in these efforts. But South Carolina decided to enlist public assistance to reduce shoot the birds that anglers love to hate. Permits were granted to those who attended a training session and agreed to follow the strict rules.

“The taking of cormorants will be restricted to the legal boundaries of the Santee Cooper lakes and will be allowed only in areas where waterfowl hunters can legally hunt waterfowl,” SCDNR said.

While many were pleased with the state’s first cormorant hunt, some were not.

“When I requested scientific evidence from SCDNR to justify this proposed hunt, none was provided,” said Norman Brunswig of Audubon South Carolina. “I strongly suspect that none exists. Rather, as I’ve said, I believe that the SCDNR has been pushed and bullied into an unnecessary slaughter of a native non-game bird, by fishermen, fishing guides, and a few powerful but misguided politicians.”

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Friday
Apr252014

Fish Back Tournament Set for June 7

 

Activist Angler note: Teaming with Fishiding, PotashCorp introduced a conservation component to its benefit tournament last year and plans to include it again on Saturday, June 7. I hope that other tournament organizers will take note and follow the leader because these kinds of projects actually could improve fisheries.

A few have had competitors release fry during one of the competition days, but all that really does is provide an opportunity for promotion of the event. It does little or nothing to help the fishery. If bass have sufficient habitat, they will reproduce just fine on their own. If they don't, adding more fish to compete for already limited forage and cover is pointless.

The following is a variation of an article about the event that ran in the April issue of B.A.S.S. Times:

In regard to bass tournaments, Joey Bruyninckx had a better idea.

“I wanted to do something that benefits charity, kids, and the environment,” said the environmental specialist for PotashCorp, who added that he likes to fish and has ties to fishing. “From there, it just all came together.”

Thus was born the PotashCorp Fish Back Tournament, set for Saturday, June 7, at Clarks Hill (also known as J. Strom Thurmond Reservoir) on the Georgia-South Carolina border.

Last year’s two-day tournament, with a $12,000 payout for first place, was a “huge success,” said the employee of the world’s largest fertilizer company. With 135 teams competing, $6,000 was raised for the Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance and $4,000 for the North Augusta Fishing Team, a youth organization. Volunteers from the latter performed much of the labor, including returning bass to the lake.

What made this event different from most others, meanwhile, was the conservation component. On Day One, each team placed habitat in the reservoir on its first or second stop.

“I was worried that there would be a lot of fussing and grumbling,” the environmental specialist said. “But afterward, a number of them told me how much they appreciated what we were doing. There were way more positive comments than negative.”

Had competitors been asked to load a brushpile with cinder blocks onto the deck of their bass boats, the reaction might not have been so positive. But instead PotashCorp provided them with self-contained habitats made from reclaimed vinyl siding by Fishiding (a supporter of Activist Angler). All anglers had to do was unfold and drop the “Safehouse,” which boasts a 7-foot diameter when opened.

Fishiding owner Dave Ewald said the units “sink to the bottom and land upright to resemble a bush. The wide limbs create maximum shade, often preferred by bass and forage fish. Nutrients then stick to the vinyl and start the food chain.”

Bruyninckx sought and received approval from Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) before implementing the habitat-improvement component of the tournament. Orginally, he had considered having each team release bass fry, but DNR biologists convinced him that adding habitat would be more beneficial.

The same is planned for this year’s event, which its creator hopes will have more sponsors. PotashCorp donated $25,000 last year and is expected to increase that to $30,000 this year.

 

Tuesday
Apr152014

Birds, Bears, and Balance

Cormorant photos by Robert Montgomery

Early this spring, hunters killed 11,653 double-crested cormorants on Lakes Marion and Moultrie (Santee Cooper) in South Carolina. Such an event would have been unthinkable just a decade ago. That’s because cormorants are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

But in recent years both federal and state resource managers recognized that these fishing-eating birds are causing problems for our fisheries, as their populations explode. Vocal, angry anglers played no small part in that recognition.

More recently, Florida Fish and Wildlife killed five black bears after a woman was attacked at her home in central Florida.

What do these two incidents have in common? They highlight who we are as a species and what we must do if we are to share land and water with other species.

We are beings who alter our environment to meet our needs. We clear the land to farm and to build cities, homes, and highways. We erect dams to control floods, irrigate formerly arid lands, and generate hydropower.

And when we do those things, we take away the habitat of other species, such as black bears in Florida.

Many think that we manage only domestic animals. In truth, if we are to have healthy populations of most wildlife species, we must manage them as well.

And that means sometimes that we must kill some of them because their numbers are too great to be sustained in their remaining habitat and/or they pose a threat to us.

As they were relentlessly hunted and their habitat destroyed, buffalo, deer, and turkey nearly disappeared. But enlightened management has brought them back, and now regular hunts keep their numbers at sustainable levels for their available habitat.

The cormorant is an interesting exception to the rule. That’s because it habitat has not been diminished by us, but rather greatly expanded by the reservoirs behind all of those dams that we’ve built. That’s why it has become such a nuisance species. Many no longer migrate, but instead stay year-around, feasting on fish and expanding their numbers.

Of course, many of those who call themselves animal lovers do not want to hear such rational arguments. They did not like the killing of so many cormorants in South Carolina, and I’ve no doubt that Florida Fish and Wildlife will endure sharp criticism for killing so many bears.

These people want us to either ignore the problem or attempt to solve it in an impractical way.

For example, the Missouri Department of Conservation decided to do something about the overpopulation of deer in suburban St. Louis awhile back. Its first choice was to have a managed hunt. But bowing to pressures from animal lovers, it went with the much more expensive option of trapping and moving the deer.

The agency later discovered that most of those transplanted deer starved to death because their new habitat contained little to none of the types of plants that they were accustomed to eating in the suburbs.

Moving bears won’t solve the problem in Florida either. Suitable bear habitat in the state already is at peak population. Otherwise the animals wouldn’t have moved in so close to humans in the first place.

Additionally, those that have ventured into civilization now grow fat as they scavenge garbage around homes or are intentionally fed by these same animal lovers who have exacerbated the problem with their compassion. In other words, the bears now associate humans with food and if trapped and moved, they’ll just head for the nearest subdivision.

The reality is that we must live with the consequences of our actions as a species that alters its environment, and one of those consequences is that we must manage the other species that share the land and water.