The evil that are coyote hunts

 

coyBy Bob Quarteroni

 

Coyote hunts are widespread and popular in Pennsylvania – at least 23 are listed for 2017. The coyotes are shot, weighed and then thrown away, like so much garbage.

The “hunts” — in which participants pay a fee and vie for cash prizes for the biggest coyote killed — are touted as a method of attracting young hunters to the shooting sports. They are also promoted as a way to manage the coyote population, to stop coyote attacks on humans and to stop coyotes killing deer and decimating the herd.

On top of that, they are just plain fun, their supporters say.

Only problem is, that they are none of these things. They are simply wanton killing events, which do not belong in a civilized society

As Dan Flores wrote in the New York Times, “Their victims are not only coyotes but the very image of rural America, tarnished by widespread photos of beefy, middle-aged men in camouflage, with guns in hand and dead animals no one is ever going to eat piled up in the backs of pickups.”

The hunts are anachronistic blood baths, just like our dwindling pigeon shoots, and just as meaningless and ineffective in correcting problems that, quite simply, does not exist.

So while there are crazies like rocker Ted Nugent who posted on Twitter that “The only good coyote is a dead coyote,” the facts say otherwise.

Let’s dismember them one by one. First, the hunts attract more young people to the sport.

Wrong. According to the Game Commission junior resident licenses dropped from 30,539 in 2014 to 28,111 in 2015 to 24,771 in 2016. So that dog don’t hunt.

Second, coyotes are rabid killers.

The Humane Society of the U.S. puts that canard into perspective.

“Coyote attacks on people are very rare. More people are killed by errant golf balls and flying champagne corks each year than are bitten by coyotes.”

There has been exactly one recorded fatal attack by a coyote in the United States since the 1980s, when a child was killed in Southern California. No one has ever been killed by a coyote in Pennsylvania.

Since three million children are bitten by dogs every year, your small child is millions of times more likely to get hurt by the family pet than by a coyote.

Adds the Humane Society, “In many human attack incidents, it turns out that the offending coyote was being fed by people. In many other instances, people were bitten while trying to rescue their free-roaming pet from a coyote attack.”

Next, coyotes are decimating the deer population. Hardly.

Coyotes do prey on deer, taking about the same number of fawns as bears do, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Most prey are fawns younger than 9 weeks of age. Among deer that reach 6 months of age, less than 1 percent died because of predators, based on a study the game commission did while putting radio collars on more than 1,000 deer.

Third, and perhaps, most important, coyote hunts help reduce the coyote population. Absolutely, totally wrong.

In a seven-year study of coyote populations published in 2005, Eric Gese, of the USDA’s Wildlife Services research center, found that coyote culling does not facilitate population management of the species. Coyote-killing might result in the opposite.

Research suggests that when aggressively controlled, coyotes can increase their reproductive rate by breeding at an earlier age and having larger litters, with a higher survival rate among young. This allows coyote populations to quickly bounce back, even when as much as 70 percent of their numbers are removed.

Nevertheless, Pennsylvania allows hunters to harvest coyotes around the clock every day of the year. They can use dogs, bait and decoys but still haven’t pushed coyotes to the brink.

AND despite the fact the Commission’s own fact sheet on the Eastern coyote concludes this way: “Coyote populations throughout North America have continued to expand, despite man’s attempt to control them. If there’s one thing we have learned about this intriguing animal, it’s that the coyote, not man, controls the coyote’s destiny.”

So call the hunts what they are: Mindless blood baths.

Coyote hunting competitions were banned in California at the end of 2014. It’s high time Pennsylvania did the same.

Oh, and as for that the hunts are fun argument. Consider what Greek philosopher Bion said thousands of years ago, “Though boys throw stones at frogs in sport, the frogs do not die in sport, but in earnest.”

 

 

Hey, it’s mid-January, we’re scraping the bottom of the nature barrel

golf

But to our rescue  come   Opie and Molly after a brisk 18 holes at Wilkes-Barre Municipal Golf Course.

Yes, Opie was channeling Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl and was having a costume malfunction, but my hands were too cold   to fix his really weird little jacket.

And just to pad this baby out, 10 dog facts from Caesar the whisperer.

If ever a state needed an official fossil;(nation already has one in Trump)

fossilBy Bob Quarteroni

 

Well, in a state where it’s still unlawful to sing in a bathtub, sleep on top of a refrigerator or catch a fish with your hands – you may not catch a fish by any body part except your mouth – this really isn’t surprising.

All these…things…are still on the books in Pennsylvania, the result of the clear thinking and sensible actions we have come to expect from our legislators. And I haven’t even mentioned Allentown’s law banning men from becoming aroused in public.

Still, the first time I heard that we have an official state fossil I thought these legislators have waay too much free time.

They used some of that time, in December of 1988, to pass an act “designating the Phacops rana, a trilobite, as the official State fossil of the Commonwealth….”

For those of you not keeping up with these things, a trilobite is an extinct marine arthropod that occurred abundantly during the Paleozoic era.

But a little digging found that there was actually a good reason for this: An elementary school science class campaigned for the trilobite to be enshrined as the state fossil.

Which means that our elementary school students are intelligent enough to believe in Darwinian evolution, not necessarily the case with our alleged educational leaders.

In Arizona – where the state fossil is petrified wood – fossils may or may not exist, at least in the classroom textbooks.

Last month, WKOV.com reported that “School Superintendent Diane Douglas is apparently behind a rewrite of science standards for all Arizona school children that would delete references to evolution and allow ‘intelligent design,’” that cleaned-up phrase for creationism, to be taught.

So it would seem that petrified might be sort of a theme out there.

But let us not wander from our own little playground.

I’m pleased to inform you that Pennsylvania also has a state insect – politicians apparently being wrongfully omitted from bug classification: the firefly.

Well, at least it’s better than Rhode Island’s incomprehensible choice of the American burying beetle. However, Rhode Island does have a state appetizer: calamari. Interesting state, Little Rhodie.

Back home there’s more. Official state dog: The Great Dane, which would seem more appropriate for Denmark but hey, William Penn was said to have one.

Our politicians were at their best for the 1965 vote.

According to statesymbolsusa.org, “When the Speaker of the House called for a voice vote to designate the Great Dane, yips, growls and barks assaulted his ears from every part of the chamber! With a rap of his gavel, the Speaker confirmed that the ‘arfs have it’ and the ‘Barking Dog Vote’ entered the annals of legislative history.”

And while everyone knows that mountain laurel is the state flower, betcha didn’t know we’ve also got an official state plant: penngrift crownvetch.

As statesymbolsusa.org notes “The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has planted it along roads throughout the state. “

One tiny problem. The State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has it listed as “invasive” on its invasive plant fact sheet.

As the Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of Arkansas says, “Once touted as the end-all for erosion control along road cuts and other difficult locations, it’s now being considered an invasive weed by many.”

Well, can’t win ‘em all.

So many more.

State beverage: milk.

State song – hold onto your hats – “Pennsylvania.”

The chorus makes it pretty clear this is DOA.

“Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, may your future be, filled with honor everlasting as your history.”

State colors? blue and gold. State firearm: The Pennsylvania long rifle.

We even have a state aircraft, the Piper J-3 Cub (pay no attention to wags like Max Stanley, a Northrop test pilot, who said “The Piper Cub is the safest airplane in the world;…it can just barely kill you.”).

But of more importance – and boy, isn’t this all important? — are three things that haven’t received the official state designation.

First is the state soil. Proposed is “Hazleton soil,” which is listed as only the “unofficial” soil right now.

Named for the Luzerne County city where Lou Barletta ran amok as mayor, the soil occurs in half of the counties of the state.   I have nothing further to say about this.

And we have a proposal for a state toy, the Slinky. An Act was proposed by Rep. Richard Geist in 2001, but not enacted, which is a shame.

A Slinky is a perfect symbol for Pennsylvania: wobbly, always going downhill and without a spine. It’s a match made in heaven.

Lastly, consider the monumental battle for state cookie: In 1996, a group of 4th grade students started lobbying to have the chocolate chip cookie named the official state cookie.

But in mouth-dropping wonder, usastatesymboles.org reveals “The legislation to adopt a state cookie has been held up for several years as lawmakers struggle between the chocolate chip, Nazareth sugar cookie (House Bill 219), and the oatmeal chocolate chip cookie (House Bill 2479).”

And we actually pay them.

 

                 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bald Mountain hike takes you to the top of the world

bald.jpg

 By Bob Quarteroni

“I was told it was called Bald Mountain because in the past they would burn the top off – making it appear bald – so the blueberry bushes would thrive,” said Charlene Wildes, North Branch Land Trust volunteer naturalist.

And thrive they have, a low, sprawling counterpoint to the gigantic alien-looking wind turbines that make up the Bear Creek Wind Farm at the very top of Bald Mountain in Bear Creek Township.

A unique combination of the natural – and a view of technology that harnesses the natural to provide clean energy — greet trekkers on a hike of Bald Mountain, a unique nature preserve.

The hillside preserve stretches from Bear Creek Camp to near the top of the mountain, where the privately owned Bear Creek turbines spin, and which is privately owned and not open to hikers or sightseers. But looking at the turbines even from a distance makes you realize just how massive these whirring sentinels.

Starting in 2011, NBLT worked with the landowners and others to preserve the property. They secured $850,00 in funding for the purchase from a Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Program Grant and in 2013 the 385-acre Bald Mountain Preserve on the East Mountain came into being.

“North Branch Land Trust conserved a 385-acre portion of Bald Mountain in 2013 and transferred the property to Natural Lands Trust that same year,” said Paul Lumia, NBLT Executive Director. “Bald Mountain is a unique natural area in that it straddles two significate watersheds, the Delaware watershed to the east and the Susquehanna watershed to the west. The mountain also harbors a globally rare scrub oak barrens habitat that is invaluable to wildlife at local and landscape scales.”

So now, Lumia said, “When you’re driving on the Cross-Valley Expressway and you look up at the windmills, you know all that property below the windmills is protected.”

The rugged terrain of this mountain is largely forested. Dominant species include red oak, white oak, and red maple. Two state-designated “high quality” streams flow through the property, bordered by native hemlocks and aspens.

And the trail abuts a large glacial bog that is home to several rare and carnivorous plants.

Wildlife abounds, from the chattering of migratory songbirds – such as scarlet tanagers, Eastern towhees and hermit thrushes — to black bears, bald eagles and the red eft (salamander) that charmed folks on Sunday.

The walk left hikers feeling inspired.

Sue Lenahan of Penn Lake said that “it’s very exciting to have opportunities to explore wonderful new places like this. I’m very happy NBLT is sponsoring these hikes.”

“Today was a reminder of how fortunate we are to live in this area,” said Debb Krysicki, also of Penn Lake. “The hike with good people and company, the size of the turbines and the picturesque view of the nearby towns in the distance provided a great experience.”

Like many of Natural Lands Trust’s other nature preserves, Bald Mountain Preserve eventually will be open — free-of-charge — to visitors for passive recreation. Since its founding in 1953, Natural Lands Trust has protected more than 100,000 acres of land, including 42 nature preserves that it owns and manages in 13 counties.

 

 

 

 

 

California barking up right tree; Pennsylvania isn’t

twoCalifornia just became the first state to allow pet shops to only sell rescue pets. What a great, progressive idea, especially compared to Pennsylvania. I’m pitching an article on that right now to my various editors.

In the meantime, an earlier article on the dog struggle in the Commonwealth.

By Bob Quarteroni

When you run across something like this, it makes you understand that Mark Twain’s opinion of the human race was, if anything, a little too charitable: “Can any plausible excuse be furnished for the crime of creating the human race?”

No, I would say, and this is just one more log on the fire of that proof.

Pennsylvania State Representative Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie) is again sponsoring a bill (House Bill 13) to address problems that one would have thought would have disappeared along with the cavemen. But, in our enlightened society, apparently not.

In a memorandum accompanying his bill, Bizzarro a third-term legislator serving the 3rd Legislative District, explains:

“A horse was beaten to death in broad daylight and captured on video. A firecracker was forced under a turtle’s shell and lit. A dog was left to die, suffering for days or weeks from illness, injury and exposure.

“In Pennsylvania, the maximum punishment for all three is the same as a traffic ticket.

“In Pennsylvania, the penalty for stealing 50 cents from someone’s car is tougher than for stabbing a dog.”

We kid you not. Stealing change out of a car is a third-degree misdemeanor and carries a jail sentence of up to a year and a $2,000 fine. Stabbing a dog is only a summary offense with a maximum penalty of a $750 fine and 90 days in jail.

And in one of those we-couldn’t-make-this-up-if-we-tried things, even if convicted, the heinous stabber can have his dog back.

Bizzarro is showing exceptional intelligence for one of our legislators (hell, room temperature intelligence for most of them would impress me) – in re-introducing the “Animal Cruelty Bill.”

Yes, oh fellow befuddled readers, the bill didn’t pass the first time around, failing to secure a final vote before the legislative session ended.

Well, in a state where it’s a crime to shoot a big game animal while it’s swimming, where it’s illegal to use dynamite to catch a fish and where it’s also illegal for a minister to perform a marriage when either the bride or groom is drunk, this kind of dynamic legislative action should come as no surprise.

All I know if someone stabbed Opie, Molly, or frequent flier Reilly, he’d have a lot more to worry about that a $750 fine, since I consider my animal friends as least as important as my human friends.

They are not clods of dirt, o pieces of offal or meat by-products that can be damaged with a shrug and a “sorry.”

So I am behind Bizzarro big time.

His bill would require that upon conviction of a misdemeanor level charge of animal cruelty, the abused animals be forfeited to an animal shelter.

It puts reasonable limitations in place for tethering a dog outside as a main means of confinement, including that they cannot be chained for longer than nine hours in a 24-hour period and cannot be tethered for longer than 30 minutes when it is under 30 or over 90 degrees.

It creates an offense of aggravated cruelty to animals which is graded as a misdemeanor of the first degree or — if it causes serious bodily injury — a felony.

Pennsylvania is virtually alone in the nation in still needing such commonsense laws.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund ranks Pennsylvania in its “bottom tier,” 44th out of 50. And Safeway, a security organization, ranks the Commonwealth even lower, 47th.

We’re 47th because Pennsylvania is one of only three states – along with Idaho and Iowa – to not provide meaningful penalties for first-time animal abusers or provide reasonable safeguards for animals.

To quote Mark Twain again, such laws are needed because the human race is not wont to do the right thing without some prodding.

“Of all the animals,” Twain wrote in a wonderful essay entitled “The Lowest Animal,” “Man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it. It is a trait that is not known to the higher animals.”

Because of that, It’s time to put teeth in the state’s animal cruelty laws. So please contact your state representative or senator and ask him to support this bill.

Dog bless.

Bob Quarteroni, a prolific freelance writer with articles appearing in the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Saturday Evening Post and many other publications, is a former columnist and editor at the Centre (cq) Daily Times in State College, Pa. He was director of Public Information at Montclair State and Alfred universities and Senior Writer in Information Services at the University of Florida. He lives in Swoyersville, Pa. 33 New Sullivan St. Swoyersville, PA 18704; 570-331-7401; bobqsix@verizon.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deep Hollow: A natural treasure you can’t legally get to

I love Deep Hollow. It’s several dozens of miles of trails, its varied habitats, its dam and wetlands, its precious trove of fringed gentians and other treasures and miles of cliffs like these, this one often used as a shelter and for campfires.

Only problem is that there’s no legal public access. We go in at the end of Baltimore Drive but that’s only thanks to a gated road that leads to a power substation.

I asked a Pinchot State Forest Recreation forester for an update and this is what he emailed me:

“As for Deep Hollow, a small piece of land was acquideep hollowred recently off of 115 opposite the Seven Tubs. This acquisition will help protect a High Quality tributary to Laurel Run. It is not known at this time if an access point is feasible here or not.”

So I guess we’ll have to keep leaning on the kindness of the power company until Pinchot figures out a way to get a legal enrance point for this local  gem.

 

 

Ok, so its name stinks, but it is edible, if you feel adventuresome

car winter

carrion berry

 

Carrion berry in summer and now when it’s looking a little –well, more than a little — worse foe the wear.

But at its peak its edible and I’ve even posted a menu here.

These pics were taken where there’s a sizable colony, right after the concrete steppers over the water on the trail at the bottom of Green Road. Bon Appetit!

It’s Edible

August 16, 2012 lawanda Magazine Columns

If you’ve been reading the “Plant Matters” column in Badger Sportsman for a while, you may have noticed that the topics have been alternating between edible plants and invasive plants.  If you remember last issue’s article on wild parsnip, you may have thought that I’ve gone off pattern when you read the title of this one.

Carrion?  Really?  In case you don’t know what carrion means, it’s basically road kill, or dead meat.   And you know how less than pleasant that smells!  But carrion flower is edible and not disgusting at all.

Not many people can readily identify carrion flower.  It grows throughout Wisconsin along fencerows, at the edges of swamps, woods and fields and in other places with rich soil where it can receive full sun.  You may have seen a young carrion flower shoot in spring or a vine with the purple balls of berries in fall and thought, “What the heck is that?” and gone on your way.  Whenever I’ve seen the plant, there’s just one; it doesn’t form colonies or overspread an area.

The name of the plant comes from the unpleasant smell of the flower – yup it smells like a dead animal.   But before it flowers, the shoots and young leaves are edible, and the awful smelling flower later produces edible berries.

Carrion flowers are perennial vines that die back to the ground every winter.  But when they shoot up in spring, they grow very quickly – up to six feet in two weeks.  By the time you notice them when they first come up, they look like asparagus plants that are just a little further along than you’d like asparagus to be for harvest.

When the vine gets too heavy to support itself, it slowly bends sideways and lies over onto neighboring vegetation.  This vine is really smart.  When it first comes up in early spring, it grows straight up toward the sunlight.  As the leaves grow on the trees overhead and begin to shade the plant, it leans over so its leaves can take advantage of as much light as they can get.

The vines grow from six to ten feet in length.  The smooth, round stems can be up to an inch thick.  Sometimes, again like asparagus gone a bit too far, the stems have ridges running lengthwise.  The vine forms hefty branches and as the year progresses, they go from green to dark green to reddish-brown.

Greenish white flower balls form in early summer and these flowers develop into green balls of berries that turn blue-black by late summer.  Each berry is less than a half-inch in diameter, but the berry balls are several inches across and contain up to 80 berries.  Berries remain on the vine throughout the winter.  Many Indian tribes relished the berries, but I haven’t tried them myself and I can’t find any research that tells me what they taste like.  Any takers?

The shoots and young leaves of the carrion flower are also edible.  Shoots are collected in mid to late spring when they are from a few inches up to three feet tall.  If they don’t snap off easily, as asparagus does, you are too late.  Sometimes you can still break off the more tender tops of the shoots wherever they break easily.  This will take some experimentation.  When the top is broken off, the plant doesn’t die, but instead produces several branches that grow from the broken point.  Later in the summer, you can harvest the tender growing tips of these branches for greens.

Carrion shoots are more tender than asparagus and have a milder flavor.  They can be eaten raw as a trailside snack, in salads, in stir-fries or stews, or boiled or steamed and eaten with butter, salt and pepper.

The tuber, or root, of carrion flower can be dug up any time of year and roasted and ground into flour.  This flour can be used half and half with wheat flour, made into jelly by boiling 1 tablespoon per cup of water, or diluted and sweetened for a cold drink.

Unless you are already familiar with carrion flower, you probably won’t recognize the shoots in spring when they are tender for picking.  The best plan is probably to spot the vines in summer or fall when they are in flower or the berries have developed, and mark the spot for the following spring.

Roasted Carrion Flower Shoots

Serves 3-4

1 3/4-2 lbs. fresh carrion flower shoots

1/4 c. olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 t. lemon zest

1/2 t. dried oregano

1/4 t. red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

1 – 2 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley

3 – 4 oz. crumbled feta cheese

1 lemon

Preheat oven to 400F.  Heat olive oil, minced garlic, lemon zest, oregano, and red pepper flakes in a small pan over low heat until garlic becomes golden and oil becomes fragrant; remove from heat and allow to cool.  Cut carrion flower shoots into pieces of desired length and toss them with infused olive oil.  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and crumbled feta cheese.

Roast in oven for 10 minutes or until cooked to your liking.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and squeeze the lemon over the carrion shoots, being careful to catch the seeds.  Serve hot.

Edible Wild Plants