Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bluetongue Virus Identified in New Jersey Deer

News Item provided by OutdoorHub.com

New Jersey wildlife officials confirmed that the state’s first traces of bluetongue virus have been found on two dead deer. According to the Department of Environmental Protection, the deer were discovered in Somerset and Morris County last month (September 2014) and tested positive for the disease, which is spread by bites from the midge Culicoides imicola. Experts often compare bluetongue disease to the similar epizootic hemorrhagic disease, as both share the same symptoms, affect the same species, and are not considered contagious. Bluetongue, however, has a reputation for causing affected animals to develop foot lesions. In animals like deer, elk, pronghorn, and cattle, it can be extremely painful and eventually causes death. The erratic movements caused by the foot lesions have caused bluetongue to also be known as the “dancing disease.”

“The bluetongue virus is widely distributed in the United States, but has not been previously found in deer in New Jersey,” said Division of Fish and Wildlife Director Dave Chanda. “Both diseases are spread to animals by the bite of a certain type of midge. Neither disease can be transmitted to people. While EHD is only found in deer populations, the bites of the midge can transmit bluetongue to certain types of livestock.”

Mortality is relatively low with bluetongue, although there is no effective treatment for affected wildlife. The incubation period can last anywhere from a week to 20 days and symptoms can involve a high fever, swelling of the lips, and respiratory problems. Since the disease is spread by midges, experts expect that the potential for disease transmission will end when the winter frost kills the insects.

Like EHD, people cannot contract bluetongue through handling infected deer or eating venison. A midge bite will also not give people the disease. However, wildlife officials still advise against touching or eating any deer that appears to be ill.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

New York Allows Crossbows For Hunting



© By Othmar Vohringer

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation signed on August 27, 2014 an act into law that permits crossbows to be used by hunters. However, unlike many other U.S. states where crossbows have been made legal archery hunting equipment New York still does not recognize them as such.

In order to hunt with a crossbow hunters need to successfully challenge a crossbow qualification & safety training test. Hunters wishing to use a crossbow also must in some cases be in possession of  a valid muzzleloader licence. The department states; "The new law essentially treats crossbows as a muzzleloader." There are also certain regions or "zones" where crossbows are not permitted. While there are areas and times when crossbows are permitted outside of the muzzlelader season, in most instances they are only permitted during the regular muzzleloader hunting season.

With all the restrictions in place I still find it encouraging to see that yet another state has given hunters the opportunity to use crossbows for hunting big and small game species. It's a start in the right direction.

To read the new regulations and information about crossbow hunting in New York visit the website of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation/Crossbow Hunting.   

Friday, September 26, 2014

PeTA Announces New Plan To Harass Anglers And Hunters

© By Othmar Vohringer

The animal rights lunatic fringe group PeTA announced that they will launch submersible drones called "Aquatic Angel" equipped with cameras to stalk anglers. The "Aquatic Angel" is the newest tool of this animal rights group, following on the heels of the "Air Angel" drones released in 2013 to harass hunters while in the field.  I guess the drones are submersible for one reason only, to scare fish away from anglers.

The release is slated for tomorrow, September 27, which is the National Hunting and Fishing Day in the USA and Canada. Both countries have laws on the book that expressly protects anglers and hunters in the legal pursuit of game and fish from the interference through animal rights and anti hunting people. In other words, what PeTA does with the release of the spy drones is illegal and just another from of harassing hunter and anglers, and interfering with the legal taking of fish and game. I have heard of several reports where hunters have shot down spy drones, apparently they make for good target practice.

Read more about it on the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance Website.
And here is what the PeTA lunatics have to say.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Outdoor News Roundup

© By Othmar Vohringer

It has been a while since we did a “News Roundup” here at Outdoors With Othmar Vohringer. In other words, it about time for one. Staying informed is very important for hunters and anglers, especially about news of new pending legislation.

Without further ado here is the latest news in the outdoor world.

It is with great regret that a missing hunter in Calgary hunter has been found dead. According to the authorities who examined the dead hunter it is very likely that he had been attacked and killed by a grizzly bear. It seems that each year we of more hunters, anglers and hikers are attacked by bears. This means only one thing, despite the claims of animal rights, bear populations grow an nowhere more so than in Canada. For the full story go to the Calgary Herald. In New Jersey a hiker was attacked and killed by a black bear.

Talking about bears. In NW Wyoming the wildlife service has increased the limit on taking grizzly bears for the next three years in a323-square-mile public land grazing complex east of Jackson. In that area hunters can now take three female grizzly bears.

Alligator hunting is on my “must do list” for several years now and so it is no surprise that I read up on alligator hunting news. In the Mississippi Sportsman News I read that the record on trophy gators has been broken twice inside two weeks. The first reptile, a 756-pound 16 ft. beast, was caught by Robert Mahaffey of Brandon. His record was short lived when Brian Montgomery caught a monster gator weighing in at 792-pounds. Both alligators where taken on public waters near Vicksburg.

When I lived in Illinois the state was known as the nation’s deer hot spot number one, hunters from far and wide would travel to Illinois in anticipation of taking a trophy buck. Large deer populations and good genetics made it possible to hunt on public land with good expectations to get a nice buck. However, over the years things changed for the worse. Some blame the decline of the deer population on bad wildlife management and others on the outbreak of CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease)

This lead to the founding of the Illinois Whitetail Alliance, an organization committed to bring the Illinois deer herd back to its former glory. To do so the Illinois Whitetail Alliance borrowed a conservation tactic that helped the duck population to regain their large numbers, it’s called “Voluntary Restraint”. Read here more how the program works.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sturgeons –BC’s Very Own River Monsters

© Othmar Vohringer

Sturgeons are truly unique creatures believed to be on earth in their present form for the last 200 million years, the end of the Triassic period, ranking them among the most ancient animals to inhabit earth. There are 25 different species of sturgeons around the globe from China to Russia, Europe and North America. North America is home to the species “White Sturgeon” which also happens to be the only sturgeon species listed LC (least concern), whereas all other species are either listed as “critically endangered”, “endangered”, “threatened” or “vulnerable”.

The white sturgeon is North America’s largest fresh water fish that can reach an age of over 150 years and weigh as much as 816 kg (1,700 lb) and reach a size of 6.1 m (20 ft.) The largest sturgeon ever caught on record weighed 498.9 kg (1,100 lb.) and measured 3.76 (12 ft. 4 inches)

An important reason why the white sturgeon is doing so well here is British Columbia is because sturgeon fishing is big business. Annually thousands of anglers from around the world and across Canada come to British Columbia to pursue this prehistoric river monster. Anglers going for a sturgeon must use barbless hooks that do not harm the animal and it must be released again. Sturgeon anglers also must obtain a special sturgeon conservation licence costing eight dollars per day for British Columbians and 15 dollars per day for all non-residents. The money from this fee goes in its entirety to sturgeon conservation.

It was last year when a friend asked me “Have ever gone sturgeon fishing?” To his utter surprise I answered “No!” which led him to comment “How can that be, thousands of anglers pay top dollar to travel to BC to fish sturgeon and you practically live in the middle of the action.” That got me to thinking that as an angler and a hunter I probably owed it to myself to at least try sturgeon fishing once in my lifetime and began to give some serious consideration and planning on catching a BC river monster. It just so happened that I knew somebody to ask for advice on sturgeon fishing and he was most helpful and even offered to assist me on the trip.

Originally I set the sturgeon fishing date to coincide with the annual sturgeon fishing derby held in Lillooet, but a change in work schedule nullified that idea, which turned out to be a very good thing. I rescheduled the fishing trip for the last weekend of August; that way I could share this unique experience with my brother who was visiting us from Switzerland and with my wife. On Sunday, August 31st, we met my sturgeon expert friend and followed him to his secret sturgeon fishing place. The weather was mixed with light rain and sun periods, just perfect for some good fishing, although at times heavy winds made it difficult to cast far enough out into the deep water of the mighty Fraser River, where big sturgeons swim. After several hours of watching for the tell-tale twitch on the rod tip it finally happened: “Fish on!!” My sturgeon expert friend Clay hooked the fish and asked “Who wants to real the beast in?” We quickly decided that this honour should belong to the guest and so my brother had the task of getting the sturgeon on land and have the pictures taken. It was not a big fish by any means, maybe 4ft at most, but it was the first BC river monster that I ever have seen close-up and touched with my own hands.

I am thankful for everything Clay did in assisting us on the trip with his advice and tips. It was for sure one of the best outdoor experiences I had in many years and best of all I was able to share it with my wife Heidi and my brother Roland and it doesn’t get any better than that.

Image caption: My brother, visiting from Switzerland, posing with a four foot sturgeon caught in the Fraser River near Lillooet.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Leave No Trace Behind

(Column orginally published in the Merritt Herald - Othmar Vohringer - The Outdoorsman)
© Othmar Vohringer

When we return from our trips in the wilderness we should make sure that we leave no trace of our visits behind. Yet it seems as the years pass I see more and more people leaving refuse in the bush. Sometimes it is just a few beverage cans but more and more often I am finding discarded tarps, tents a, bags of household garbage, motor oil canisters, broken buckets, roles of wire, plastic bags, ropes…the list of human civilization's waste could go on for the rest of this column.

Not only is it a criminal offense in the eyes of the law to pollute nature with garbage it is also a deadly hazard to wildlife. Many years ago when I lived in Illinois, USA, I was a volunteer for the Illinois DNR (Department of Natural Resources) and in this position I assisted in more wildlife rescues than I care to remember. Most times the rescues involved freeing the animal from some human caused predicament. Most vividly in my memory are two cases:

The first involved a deer that got its head stuck in a bucket. Nobody knew for how long the deer was in this pitiful state but judging by its haggard condition and the cuts and bruises on its legs it is very likely that the deer was staggering around blindly for several days, unable to eat or rest until it was reported. We had to tranquilize the deer obviously in order to cut the bucket away.

In the other case we spent over an hour freeing a whitetail deer buck that had somehow managed to tangle himself into a carelessly discarded rope. His front feet, head, neck and antlers were bound so tightly to the point that he was close to strangling himself. He too required tranquilization in order for us to remove the rope that had cut deeply into his flesh. There is no telling how many animals we could not get too in similar situations and because of that died a long and agonizing death.

Most wildlife are very curious animals that like to investigate and are often attracted by human garbage, especially if they smell something edible like a chocolate wrapper or a plastic bag that was used to take food into the camp. Items like this are often found carelessly thrown in the bush. Deer, moose, bears and other animals are attracted to plastic bags and wrappers and will eat them. Plastic is indigestible and will cause a blockage in the animals’ intestines which in turn kills the animal slowly over a period of days, suffering great agony.

Over the years I found that the worst days of nature pollution occur during long weekends holidays when everybody heads out in the wilderness to camp, hike, bike and fish. It puzzles my mind that outdoor visitors don’t mind carting all their supplies into the camp but are too lazy to bring the garbage back out again. If you can bring it with you then you can take it out again too. Nature is the home of the wild animals and it is our responsibility to make sure that their home remains free of civilisation’s refuse. This coming long weekend holiday, and of course at every other time too, be a conservationist and take your garbage, tents, tarps, glass bottles, drink cans and everything else you brought into the wilderness home and discard it in the proper manner.

Enjoy your outdoor activities to your hearts content but when you go home leave no trace behind of your visit so that others too can enjoy unspoiled nature and wildlife does not have to suffer because of irresponsible actions. If you witness environment pollution in progress make notes of the people involved, write down, or take a picture with your cellphone of the vehicle licence plate and call the RAPP-Line (Report All Poachers and Polluters) 1-877-952-RAPP (7277) Cellular Dial - #7277. Let’s all get a handle on trash dumping in our great outdoors.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Childhood Memories That Last A Lifetime

© Othmar Vohringer

On Facebook I came across a “Meme” that contained the following verse: “Memories aren’t made playing video games on the computer.” I had to think about this for a minute and realized that there is a lot of truth in it. Virtually all of my most treasured and vivid childhood memories revolve around outdoor activities with family and friends. Conversely I have almost no recollection of when I started to play (the then) popular video games like Mario and Pong in coffee bars, let alone with whom I played them with and if I lost or won.

While surely not all of the widespread problems with youth today can be blamed on video games, recent social research shows us that some of the more serious social problems can be attributed to these games, especially when children spend many unsupervised hours on the computer. Research done at the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University showed a clear link between juvenile violent offenders with video games as a high risk factor. Other studies on the social aspect of video gaming and online networking seem to reveal that excessive use, up to 3 hours per day, results in a severe lack of attention leading to reduced school grades, lack of patience and loss of reality in real world life. The research also showed that this in turn leads to violent and angry behaviour patterns in over 80 percent of the research subjects. An equally disturbing trend in the research found that these children also suffer from a lack of empathy, compassion and poor social skills.

In other words, they lose touch with the real world and how to behave in a social group which can lead to emotional and behavioural conflicts within the family and society.

On the flip side, a study commissioned by the Eckhard Foundation showed that outdoor activities provide children with self-esteem, a sense of belonging, and a heightened ability to learn. These children also showed more patience and better social adjustment.

There are scientific reports that children exposed to outdoor activities vastly improve their academic skills and lessen considerably their disruptive behaviour. The benefits of outdoor activities is so great in the positive development of children that many schools and youth offender facilities have developed educational outdoor programs with great success in turning “behaviourally disordered” youth into “behaviourally normal” youth.

To me these findings are a no-brainer, because all outdoor activities can be enjoyed as a family and have fun while doing it. An often ignored factor is that family is the most important social structure in a child’s life. It is in the family where our children learn social skills and the associated problem solving skills without resorting to violence, like in video games.

On that note, engage your children in some of the great outdoor activities, not only will this provide provide youth and adults alike with much needed exercise but create memories shared as a family that will last a lifetime.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Merritt Teenagers Ranking High At Shooting Sports

(This column has previously been published in the Merritt Herald)

© Othmar Vohringer

With all the news in the media about youth drug addiction and crime it is refreshing to see that there are still young people working hard to achieve success in life.

I met Sunshine and Dakota O’Donovan for the first time five years ago when they took part in the youth archery that the Nicola Valley Fish & Game Club organized. The siblings enjoyed the bow shooting lessons and eagerly absorbed the knowledge provided. Outside of the program they practiced often and soon became proficient at shooting bows accurately. Two years later they enrolled in the club’s small caliber rifle shooting program under the knowledgeable tutelage of Bruce Merkely, and this has lead Dakota and Sunshine to the point in the shooting sport they are now. With dedication, endurance and many hours of practice at the shooting range Dakota just recently scored another gold medal for his air pistol shooting and is hopeful to reach the necessary points to join the BC shooting sports team that will represent our province in the Canadian Winter Games in February of 2015.

Dakota is training every week three times in Kamloops plus physical conditioning here in Merritt. Sunshine, Dakota’s sister, shows the same dedication with air rifle and is only a few points short of joining the air rifle team to represent British Columbia at the North American Indigenous Games. She too trains hard- in spite of a hectic schedule promoting the film “Shana– The Wolf’s Music” which was filmed last year here in the Nicola Valley and in which she played the lead.

When I spoke to the two teenagers in preparation of this column I could not help but to be amazed at the two. It is indeed rare to find young people in this age of entitlement that still believe in hard work and dedication to achieve their set goals. Throughout the conversation it became apparent that they both enjoy what they are doing and are fully prepared to work for it. Dakota, for example, proudly explained that he delivered newspapers for eight years without missing a single day. The money he earned from that was spent on a compound bow and his biggest pride, his own truck. Sunshine, with all the fame she garnered with her role as “Shana” is still the quiet, modest person that she always has been. With a movie role under her belt she now concentrates on her other goals in life, like joining the team for the North American Indigenous Games.

With that kind of commitment it is hard to believe that the two youngsters still find time to do other things, yet they do. Dakota is, among other things, an accomplished kayaker and a member of the Merritt Search and Rescue Team. Both believe that it is their civic duty to give back to the community by getting involved through sports and charitable activities. During our conversation there were a few times were I had to remind myself that these two are still teenagers 13 and 17 years of age and not adults, such was the wisdom and common sense approach to life the two exuded. As I said, in a time when most teenagers sit around and wait for others to give them things it is refreshing to meet two young people of Dakota’s and Sunshine’s calibre. I wish them both the best of luck in the shooting sport and in life, whatever their achievements will be; they have worked hard for it and that counts for much in today’s world.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

B.C. Government Allows Hunters To Shoot Feral Pigs Anywhere At Anytime

© By Othmar Vohringer

Wild and feral pigs have been spotted in the Kamloops, Okanagan, Peace, Kootenay and Lower Mainland regions, and the government doesn’t want any of it. In a media release the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations announced that the swine are now listed as a “schedule C” animal and hunters with a valid hunting license could shoot them anywhere and anytime they encounter this invasive species.

Having lived and traveled for a few years in America and seen firsthand how fast wild and feral pigs multiply and spread - and the devastation they create on habitat and agricultural crops - I can fully understand and appreciate our government’s drastic measure.

Where do these pigs come from? Wild pigs (like pheasant, fallow deer and many other species) are not native to North America; they were introduced by the first European settlers for sport hunting and agricultural purposes. The current “North American wild pig” is predominantly a hybrid of Russian wild boar and domesticated pigs that escaped. This interbreeding has created a particularly hardy animal that is able to survive in almost any condition from the desert to the lower alpine regions.

So far British Columbia is a small corner of North America where feral pigs are still small in numbers compared to other parts where the pig population, despite relentless hunting from ground and with helicopters, has gone totally out of control. The B.C. government views the “war on pigs” as a proactive measure to make sure we do not end up with the same problems that exist elsewhere.

Once established in an area wild pigs are extremely hard to control and keep their populations in check. Under the right conditions a sow can have two litters of piglets in any given year. While nursing one litter she is already impregnated with the next litter. The piglets are independent within six months and ready to reproduce. The average litter size can be as high as eight to ten piglets with the average surviving to adulthood being five to seven.

The good news for hunters is that wild hogs make for some very good and healthy table fare. Wild pork is some of the best meat that I ever had the pleasure to eat, and being wild it is also totally organic and is not dripping with excessive fat like domestic pork. Hunting wild pigs can also be very challenging. While pigs can’t see much beyond the tip of their noses their incredible sense of smell and hearing make them nearly unapproachable. Something else that makes pigs a challenge to hunt is their “bravery”. When cornered, injured, threatened wild pigs have no hesitation to attack their adversary with the ferocity one would attribute to a lion. There have been eye witness accounts that even a bear or cougar would run if he encountered an angry wild boar. It is for this reason that in Florida and some other American jurisdictions it is mandatory to hunt wild pigs from an elevated platform, like a treestand or shooting house.

In my forays throughout the Nicola Valley I have never seen feral pigs or any sign of them and can’t tell with certainty if we have any roaming around or not. Having said that, I will pay more attention to it in the future, it’s been a while since I had barbecued wild pork ribs and I wouldn’t mind having it again.
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If you have seen any feral or wild hogs in British Columbia or hunted them we would like to hear your story.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Will the BC mountain caribou be extinct in our lifetime?

© By Othmar Vohringer

That might very well be the case if drastic conservation measures are not enacted quickly. The emphasis here is on “quickly”, which is a bit of an oxymoron in politics. The southern mountain caribou populations are in rapid decline despite an extensive provincial recovery plan. Why? The caribou recovery plan is complex and contains important short and long term measures that need to be addressed and implemented if we hope to save the mountain caribou herd.

There are many contributing factors to the steady decline of mountain caribou populations that need to be urgently addressed. Obvious factors are logging of old growth forests, mining and snowmobiling in sensitive caribou habitat. If that wasn’t enough, caribou herds face voracious predation by overpopulation of cougars and particularly wolves. This is a problem that can be fixed right now and with little expense to the taxpayers and would help the caribou enormously to sustain their numbers.

Even more simply and effectively is the government’s own wolf management plan which is essentially culling. Culling however, is controversial to many city people (potential voters) and therefor is not being fully implemented nor promoted.

The science is very clear on what needs to happen right now to save the mountain caribou. It takes time to regrow the forests and restore the habitat to the point where the caribou population can thrive and prosper. However, even these measures are of little use if the wolf and cougar population continues to grow with no controls. The latest survey, conducted by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations, suggests that only 1’5033 mountain caribou are left in BC. In 2007 the population count was 1’900, when the government announced a recovery goal to increase the herd to 2,500 by 2027. At the rate the caribou population loss occurs now there won’t be any caribou left within a few years from now.

Even the extensive captive caribou breeding program with animals transported from Alberta will fail if the wolves kill the caribou faster than they can be re-introduced back into the wild. A year ago, in addition to captive breeding, the government transplanted caribou from a “healthier” herd but that plan failed miserably: all the animals were killed by predators. The experts say that it would take approximately 20 years of intensive captive breeding and habitat restoration to bring our caribou herd back to its former glory but this is impossible as long as the wolf populations remain at such high numbers. Rather than trying to appease animal rights and anti-hunters, or worry about votes, it would be welcomed if the government would listen to wildlife experts and enforce the caribou recovery and wolf management plan. This not the time to worry about the opinions of the anti-wolf cull lobby and the misinformed. We need to implement the wolf management plan now or stand to lose the woodland caribou for ever.
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