Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

When bobcats attack


Bobcat (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service photo)

The expression, “You look like you’ve been sorting wildcats” is meant to comment on someone with a badly disheveled appearance.

For Roger Mundel Jr., the expression not only is descriptive, it is accurate. From the Associated Press:

BROOKFIELD, Mass. (AP) — A man in Massachusetts says all he heard was a hiss before a bobcat pounced on him in his own garage, sinking its teeth into his face and its claws in his back.
Roger Mundell Jr. went into the garage in Brookfield on Sunday morning to fetch some tie-down straps for a friend when the animal attacked.
It then ran out of the garage and bit Mundell’s 15-year-old nephew on the arms and back.
Mundell and his wife pinned the cat to the ground and shot it dead.
Mundell, his nephew and his wife, are being treated for rabies. His wife wasn’t bitten, but got the animal’s blood on her.
State Environmental Police took the bobcat to have it tested for rabies, which they think is likely given its unusual behavior.

A wildlife photographer shares some secrets

Mike Furtman

My friend Mike Furtman is a phenomenal wildlife photographer. His images have appeared in dozens of regional and national magazines.

Interestingly, he takes many of his photos inside the city limits of his hometown — Duluth, Minn.

Sam Cook, the superb outdoors writer for the Duluth News Tribune, got Mike to tell how he gets such great photos in an otherwise urban area. The article is here. Check it out; it’s a good read, and the pictures are terrific.

Two sides of the elk-stocking coin

Good and bad

This week’s column takes a look at the fervor that often precedes elk-reintroduction programs, and the consequences those reintroductions can create:

Elk have become a bit of a controversial subject in West Virginia.
Some hunters are clamoring for the Division of Natural Resources to launch an elk-stocking program. Opponents are concerned that reintroducing such large animals might cause unforeseen impacts.
It’s interesting, then, that two bordering states are experiencing each side of the coin.
Maryland wildlife officials just finished a public-opinion survey that showed strong support for the stocking of elk in Garrett and Allegany counties.
The study, done by arguably the most respected outdoors-related opinion research firm in the country, revealed that 72 percent of Marylanders would like to see elk reintroduced to the Old Line State.
Interestingly, only 68 percent of the people who live in Garrett and Allegany counties want the reintroduction to happen.
The survey suggested that elk-based tourism would generate close to $3.1 million a year.
My friend Mike Sawyers, who writes for the Cumberland Times-News, reported that wildlife officials haven’t yet determined whether the region contains suitable habitat for such large critters.
As a whole, though, it appears folks in Maryland are getting all het up about having elk.
Not everyone is as enamored of the idea.
Just outside the opposite border of West Virginia, citizens of eastern Kentucky have quite literally taken up arms to thin out an elk herd that’s making their lives miserable.
For the past three years, Kentucky wildlife officials have allowed residents in the Stoney Fork area to shoot and kill elk that come down from the mountains, trample lawns, tear up shrubbery and get hit by cars.
Elk were reintroduced into eastern Kentucky in 1997. In just 15 years, the state’s herd has grown to more than 10,000, all confined into roughly a 15-county area.
The animals’ presence has been a boon to tourism, and carefully managed elk hunts have attracted sportsmen from throughout the country. In at least a few areas, though, the 500- to 700-pound creatures have become overpopulated.
Stoney Fork is sort of the poster child for elk problems. Residents grew so upset that state wildlife officials began issuing depredation permits, much the same as West Virginia issues deer-damage permits.
People are particularly worried about elk-vehicle collisions. Hitting a 110-pound deer with a car can cause thousands of dollars’ worth of vehicle damage. Hitting a 600-pound elk can total a car in no time.
According to an Associated Press report, more than 100 Kentucky elk have been killed in deer-vehicle collisions since 2005. Pickup trucks have been flipped upside-down from the impacts. The AP report contained an account of a bull elk crashing through the windshield of a Geo Metro.
There is no doubt that a thriving elk herd in West Virginia would help the state’s coalfield counties to attract more tourists and hunters.
There is also no doubt that if elk become abundant enough, problems similar to those in Stoney Fork would eventually arise. A magnificent 7-by-7 bull elk in the wild is a stirring sight; the same critter frozen in the headlights of your car is downright terrifying.
DNR officials want to allow the state’s elk herd to build naturally, with animals that migrate across the border from Kentucky and Virginia. Would-be elk hunters want a stocking program.
Whatever happens, the ultimate result will likely be a combination of good and bad. But isn’t that the way it goes with just about everything?

Another good reason to go deer hunting

When Roger Custer of Levittown, Pa., returned home from a deer hunt, he handed a Powerball lottery ticket he’d purchased to his wife and asked her to check it “to see how many millions we’ve won.”

She checked it — and, much to her astonishment and delight, found that she and her husband were $50 million richer. After taxes, they took home a check for more than $33 million.

The Philadelphia Inquirer has the full story.

When asked what he planned to do with his winnings, Custer said what any other red-blooded outdoorsman would say — “spend more time hunting and fishing.” Gotta love it.

Hat tip: J.R. Absher in The Outdoor Pressroom.

Trout stockings begin today!


Coming soon to 55 West Virginia trout waters.

Heads up, everyone! West Virginia’s trout stocking season begins today. Trucks were scheduled to begin rolling early this morning from the state’s seven trout hatcheries. Before the month ends, 55 waters — 28 streams and 27 lakes or ponds — will receive a total of 35,000 pounds of trout.

Division of Natural Resources officials don’t divulge which streams were stocked until after the trucks have run. The list of streams stocked each day gets posted here on the DNR’s website every day between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m.

Photo courtesy Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

Washington state wildlife police have gotten their first chance to sock it to poachers who not only kill game illegally, but also do it while trespassing on other people’s private property. A new law made it possible.

From the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Police Facebook page:

Anyone who hunts knows that respecting private property is essential to continued access and preservation of a prescious resource and heritage. Prior to legislation passing last session, Fish and Wildlife Police Officers could makes arrests when trespass occurred, but because trespass wasn’t a ‘wildlife crime,’ they couldn’t seize the ill-gotten gains.
Well, some folks thought the risk was worth the reward if they got to keep the animal at the end of the day. And this seemed particularly true when trophy class animals were involved. For a $250 slap on the wrist, you could still brag about the wall hanger you harvested.
This was the case with a couple of men who repeatedly trespassed to kill trophy bull elk in East Pierce County. However, these two men will now be among the first to be prosecuted under the new ‘Hunting While Trespass’ law. They had cheated successfully before, but this time they weren’t so lucky. And perhaps their fate can help others decide whether the risk is still worth the reward.
The two subjects took one 5×5 and one 5×7 bull after setting up camp nine miles into private property (closed to hunting) during the archery elk season. It was no accident that Officers Leonetti, Summit, Langbehn, Prater, and Hillman were there when the two men tried to sneak portions of the first bull out at 1:15am. Nine days later, the Officers were back when the subjects took portions of the second bull out at 2:00am.
The two were arrested and booked into the Pierce County Jail on multiple counts of trespassing while hunting, criminal trespassing and wastage. A vehicle and two motorcycles were seized, along with all of their hunting gear and camping equipment. A search warrant was then served at the residence of one of the subjects. The antlers and portions of the first elk were recovered, along with two unlawfully possessed raptors that were found in the freezer.
For all of the true hunters who respect private property and understand the much bigger picture, this arrest is for you! For those who just don’t get it, here is what you potentially face if you ignore the new ‘Hunt While Trespass’ law: A penalty of up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.  In addition, upon conviction, the Department will revoke your hunting licenses and suspend your hunting privileges for two years. Any animal harvested or retrieved in violation of the section will be forfeited to WDFW.

W.Va. DNR issues mast survey results

White oak acorns (Ohio DNR photo)

From the Associated Press:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — For every serious hunter it’s a must have: the annual mast survey.
The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources has issued the 2012 edition of the survey of fall foods available to deer, bear and turkey. Game management services supervisor Chris Ryan says for hunters, the survey is a critical tool to know the availability of food for the animal they’re stalking.
The division’s wildlife section partners with other agencies to conduct the fall survey of mast produced by 18 species of trees and shrubs. They found, for instance, that the production of acorns is well above the 42-year average, while beechnuts and walnuts are below their long-term average.
The survey is as available at DNR offices or on its website.

I highlighted the mast survey’s findings in one of my recent columns. You can read it here.

Hurricane forces cutback in deer hunting

In short supply

Natural disasters such as hurricanes don’t ordinarily affect wildlife all that much. Hurricane Isaac, which drenched Louisiana last month, apparently did.

Wildlife authorities have dramatically curtailed deer seasons in low-lying areas of the state, where as many as 90 percent of this year’s fawns are feared drowned.

From the Associated Press:

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — More than a month after Hurricane Isaac invaded southern Louisiana, state wildlife biologists confirmed last week that the Category I storm’s surge and heavy rains could have more long-lasting wildlife and habitat effects than much stronger storms bearing names like Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike.
State Wildlife Division chief Kenny Ribbeck told the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission that extended periods of high water over 391,000 acres in what he described as “The Maurepas Basin,” likely resulted in fawn mortality as high as 90 percent and light-to-moderate adult deer mortality.
Those estimates, Ribbeck said, forced wildlife biologists and managers to call for a reduction in the seasons lengths and switch in the decade-old either-sex-take allowed to deer hunters.
While the emergency plan the LWFC approved during Thursday’s meeting did not change the structure of the archery-deer season, it altered the primitive and modern firearms seasons throughout this basin and most of Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes.
The firearms seasons in these areas will be bucks-only, and a reduction of 46 days for Maurepas Basin and more than 60 days for St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes’ deer hunters.

Mountain lions ain’t no fools

Texas Parks and Wildlife photo

Where would you rather live — a state where you can be hunted, or a state where it’s illegal to hunt you? Gotta give those lions credit — they know where they’re safe.

Well, not really. But it’s fun to think so…

From the Associated Press:

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Many mountain lions in Nevada are migrating westward to take up residence in California, according to a seven-year study.
The findings ran counter to the expectations of researchers, who thought the cougars would have moved eastward from California to Nevada, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.
Because lions are hunted in Nevada but not in California, biologists thought more of the territorial predators would migrate east into habitat in Nevada made available when lions were killed by hunters.
“We predicted we would have more lions coming in from California. We were surprised the Sierra itself was a net importer,” said Jon Beckmann of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Researchers theorize the animals could be drawn to California because the Sierra offers lusher habitat with a greater selection of prey than Nevada’s arid mountains.
“It may just be more attractive to move into the Sierra Nevada,” said Alyson Andreasen, a University of Nevada, Reno, doctoral student and a lead researcher in the study. “It’s just conjecture at this point, but that’s what we think might be going on.”
California is home to an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 cougars compared to Nevada’s 3,000.
The study, jointly conducted by UNR, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Nevada Department of Wildlife, used genetics to identify distinct populations of mountain lions in both states.
The findings were recently published in the online edition of Molecular Ecology.
Among the goals was to determine which areas animals move to at a greater rate than those that leave, and places from which animals disperse to other locations at a greater rate.
Lion population structures and history were determined by analyzing DNA from tissue samples taken from 739 lions in both states.
Scientists were able to trace lion movements over multiple generations, saying such information is particularly useful when it comes to managing cougar populations.


WCO David Grove (PGC photo)

It took an Adams County, Pa., jury just four hours to sentence 29-year-old Christopher Johnson to death by lethal injection for killing Wildlife Conservation Officer David Grove.

Gvove, 31, was killed in an apparent shootout as he tried to arrest Johnson for poaching. Reports at the time of Grove’s death said he had West Virginia ties — he attended college at Appalachian Bible College near Beckley.

The Lebanon, Pa., Daily News has the sentencing story.