State Now Allows Hunting on Farmers’ Fields to Control Deer

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When Max Dubansky first moved to his farm about 15 years ago, he often saw about 100 deer in his fields.

“We were losing up to $1,000 in lettuce in one night,” Dubansky, 40, said. “Something had to give.”

Dubansky owns and operates Backbone Food Farm in Oakland. His farm is right up against woods, which makes it more vulnerable to hungry deer.

“Deer are responsible for $7 million to $8 million in crop damage each year,” Maryland Department of Natural Resources Deer Project Leader Brian Eyler said.

But the Maryland Department of Natural Resources offers a program to help farmers protect their crops against hungry ruminants.

Deer Management Permits are available at no cost to farmers who suffer economic loss from deer eating or damaging crops.

Those farmers with crop loss or damage can contact their county Department of Natural Resources representative who sends a technologist or a biologist to evaluate the property.

Based on the acreage, crops, damage, and the status of surrounding farms, the department issues a certain number of permits to the farmer. Each permit allows for a certain number of deer to be killed based on the department’s assessment.

If a farmer continues to suffer crop damage after the permitted kills are reached, they can apply to renew the permit.

“Permits are for antlerless deer only,” said Western Maryland Regional Wildlife Manager Jim Mullan.

Does are the primary targets for deer management because removing one doe essentially eliminates three deer for the next year, Mullan said.

“When you harvest a doe, you’re stopping that doe from any future reproduction,” Mullan said. “A healthy adult doe will produce about two fawns.”

However, Mullan said, farmers are allowed exceptions for antlered deer if orchards suffer from “rubbing;” when bucks rub antlers on trees to strip the velvety coating off new antler growth or during mating season, which is called the rut.

Mullan said the department tends to limit those exceptions so hunters in the regular season can shoot antlered deer, as many hunters strive to bag bucks with large antler racks.

Farmers who obtain permits can choose who hunts on their land — or can do the hunting themselves.

Eyler said a lot of these special permits are issued during the regular hunting season because it’s easier to get a deer that time of year.

The state issued 1,636 permits in 2012, and 1,655 in 2013. Though that’s just a 1 percent increase, hunters harvested 10 percent more deer via permits in 2013 — 8,505 vs. 7,650 in 2012.

Licensed hunters bagged 87,541 deer in the 2012-2013 season, and killed 95,865 in the 2013-2014 season — about a 9.5 percent increase.

Eyler said hunters who kill deer on a permit go through the same process as a regular-license kill — submitting a hunter ID number and registering the kill with the department — but must also submit the deer management permit number under which they killed the deer.

Once that process is taken care of, hunters can treat their harvest as if it were a regular-season kill.

Dubansky said an effective deer fence helped keep them out, but some still found their way to his crops.

“Once we got the fence up, there were problem deer (that found their way around the fence),” he said.

Deer that still got into his fields were taken care of with his permits.

While not a hunter, Dubansky says he thinks the program is great and has used about five permits a year to keep pesky deer out as well as allowing people to hunt on his property during the regular season.

“It’s an important tool for farmers,” Eyler said. “It gives them a tool for outside of the regular season.”

It also helps control the overall deer population in the state.

About 10 years ago, the population peaked at about 300,000, but last year’s fall estimate was about 227,000, Eyler said.

By Max Bennett

Skywatch for Dec. 2014: Planets, Meteors, and the Christmas Program

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December brings the full glory of the bright winter star group: Orion, Canis Major, Canis Minor, Auriga, Taurus, and Gemini —- as we, on Earth, in our orbit around the Sun, face the outer edge of the Milky Way galaxy. We see all these constellations under dark skies that descend much earlier in the evening, because winter arrives in the northern hemisphere with the Solstice —– December 21st at 6:03 pm EST. Day length is at its shortest this time of year as Earth’s tilt directs more sunlight to the southern hemisphere. December also brings the annual Christmas Program to the Kent County High School Planetarium.

This year will be the 28th year of annual planetarium programs at KCHS. And despite the fact that I have now retired from the classroom, Chris Singleton, director of WKHS, our FM radio station at the school, and I have decided to put together, with student participation, another original program this year for the community. I have always been fascinated by the wealth and variety of Christmas music and decided it was time we explored the history of it. Christmas has always been displayed prominently in our past shows, but we have never explored the background of the songs. Indeed, we found that Christmas music has really surprising origins.

This year then, THE BEST-LOVED SONGS OF CHRISTMAS will be presented free of charge at the Kent County High School Planetarium at 7:00 pm, on Monday December 15th through Friday December 19th. Try to join us for one these special nights, under the stars of the planetarium!

December will welcome the return of Jupiter to the evening eastern skies, which rises around 10 pm in early December and around 8 pm by Christmas time. It will be prominent all night then, the brightest thing present except of the Moon. Its magnitude will be –2.3, and it will appear among the stars of Leo the Lion. On December 9th it will be just 7 degrees from Regulus, the brightest star in Leo, while on December 11th, we should look for the waning gibbous Moon to be just below Jupiter around 11 pm.

Venus returns to the western evening sky this month too, but despite its –3.9 magnitude, it will remain too low for easy viewing. Mercury will also appear in the western sky at magnitude –0.8, below and just to the right of Venus on December 31st. It is worth trying to see the pair of planets 1/2 hour after sunset, looking southwest at a place where one can find a clear view right down to the horizon.

The cold winter nights of December also feature 2 notable meteor showers. The more famous and more prolific of the two is the Geminids which peak during the early morning hours of December 14th. The less appreciated Ursids peak on December 22nd. The Geminids are one of the the meteor showers which produces bright meteors before midnight, and this month Gemini rises before a last quarter Moon comes up. Up to 120 meteors per hour have been seen coming from the Geminids. So look high in the east on the night of December 13/14 from 11 pm to 5 am. The Ursids generally produce 15 to 20 meteors per hour and appear to come form the area of Ursa Major(Big Dipper), now seen low in the northeast sky.

December’s Moon Phases: Full (December 6th); Last Quarter (14th); New Moon (21st); and First Quarter (28th).

Illumination of the earth at the Winter Solstice for the northern hemisphere. Day length is at its shortest this time of year as Earth’s tilt directs more sunlight to the southern hemisphere.

Illumination of the earth at the Winter Solstice for the northern hemisphere. Day length is at its shortest this time of year as Earth’s tilt directs more sunlight to the southern hemisphere.

Cool Outdoor Stuff: The Chesapeake’s World of Clams

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With all the concerns recently related to the health of the Chesapeake Bay’s crab and oyster populations, the Upper Bay’s clams sometimes gets lost in the conversation. While it is important to note that these brackish water clams has no economic impact to speak off, due to the fact that it can only tolerate low levels of salt and therefore is not present bay wide, they are cool nonetheless.

In this latest installment of the Spy’s Cool Outdoor Stuff, Captain Andy McCown from Echo Hill Outdoor School puts the spotlight on the clam world found in the Upper Chesapeake the the wonders found in its survival skills.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. Gibson Anthony is our videographer

World Class Racing Event to Benefit Chesapeake Bay Foundation

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More than 30 schooner-rigged vessels will race in the open waters of the Chesapeake Bay in the 25th Annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race next week.

Starting near Baltimore, Md., on Oct. 16, the schooners will sail 127 nautical miles through the night and cross the finish line in Hampton Roads, docking in Portsmouth, Va., on Oct. 17. Considered a world class racing event by sailing enthusiasts, the race and related activities are supported by more than 300 volunteers representing four boat clubs: Fells Point Yacht Club in Baltimore, Portsmouth Boat Club, Towne Point Yacht Club in Norfolk, and Broad Bay Sailing Association in Virginia Beach. Hundreds of donors also contribute to the success of the race.

With the motto “Racing to Save the Bay,” the annual event is held to promote awareness of the Chesapeake Bay’s maritime heritage and to encourage the preservation and improvement of the Bay’s natural resources.

At the conclusion of the race each year, organizers have generously given a portion of the proceeds to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), whose mission is to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay.

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What started out in 1990 as a challenge between the tugantine sailing vessel Norfolk Rebel and the Pride of Baltimore II has grown into an event bringing together the largest collection of schooners in the world, the only overnight race, and the premier event for schooners in the country, according to race organizers.

More than 150 different schooners have participated since the event was started, said Al Roper, president of the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. To date, the race has raised more than $167,000 for CBF’s environmental education programs for students and teachers, all donated in memory of race founder and mentor Captain Lane Briggs and his seagoing family.

“We also have great fun,” Roper added. “I hope people will visit the schooners in Baltimore and Portsmouth, chat with their crews, and learn more about these beautiful boats, the Chesapeake Bay, and Bay restoration efforts.”

“The Schooner Race is an extraordinary volunteer effort, a challenging sailing race, and a wonderful event – all for a serious purpose,” said Elizabeth Buckman, CBF vice president for communications and a former Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race board member and sailor. “In fact, the race is among the oldest supporters of CBF’s education programs. Thanks to its generous donations over the year, thousands of school students have had the opportunity to participate in CBF’s award-winning, on-the-water educational programs that bring to life to what they read in text books.”

The 2014 Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race event highlights include:

Dockside viewing: Monday, Oct. 13, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Wednesday, Oct. 14, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. — Schooners may be viewed dockside in Canton at the Baltimore Marine Center at Lighthouse Point. Some may be open for tours.

Education Program: Wednesday, Oct. 15, 9 a.m. — Selected schooners host area students for a hands-on learning experience in Canton at the Baltimore Marine Center at Lighthouse Point.

Parade of Sail: Wednesday, Oct. 15, 5 p.m. — The public is invited to view the schooners from the Canton, Fells Point, Harbor East, and Inner Harbor shorelines as they proceed to Baltimore’s docking area.

Cast-off for the Start: Thursday, Oct. 16, 8:30 a.m. — Participating vessels will travel 21 nautical miles from Baltimore to Annapolis.

Race Start: Thursday, Oct. 16, 1:30 p.m. — Some 35 schooners line up at the starting line just south of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge near Annapolis, and set sail for the southern end of the Bay, about 127 nautical miles away.

Crossing the Finish Line: Friday, Oct. 17, time to be determined depending on weather conditions, often before dawn, off Hampton’s coast. Vessels then make their way past downtown Norfolk on the Elizabeth River at various times on Friday.

Education Program: Saturday, Oct. 18, 9 a.m. — Selected schooners host area students for a hands-on learning experience dockside in downtown Portsmouth.

Public Viewing: Saturday, Oct. 18 — Many of the vessels will dock in downtown Portsmouth, and some will be open for tours.

A complete schedule is available on the race website, http://schoonerrace.org/schedule.htm.

Team Pecometh Seeks Support for Baltimore Running Festival

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“Help support Team Pecometh’s 10 runners in this year’s Baltimore Running Festival on Saturday, October 18. You can donate online today, track their progress, or sponsor a runner. All money raised goes directly to supporting Pecometh Camp & Retreat Ministries.

Go to http://pecometh.org/team-pecometh/.

For more information, contact Executive Director Jack Shitama by phone, 410-556-6900 ext 101, or email,jack@pecometh.org.”

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Spawning Sturgeon Make Surprise Return to Maryland Rivers

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Biologists recently netted several adult sturgeon on the Marhyhope. The endangered fish were thought gone from Maryland Rivers. Dave Harp photo for Bay Journal News Service.

Biologists recently netted several adult sturgeon on the Marhyhope. The endangered fish were thought gone from Maryland Rivers. Dave Harp photo for Bay Journal News Service.

When a crew of biologists from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources hauled a gill net out of the Marshyhope Creek in late August, they hauled in more than the catch of the day: It may have been the catch of their careers.

One of the nets contained two “ripe” — ready to spawn — Atlantic sturgeon. One was a 7-foot 3-inch, 154-pound female. The other was a 5-foot 2-inch, 70-pound male. The female was filled with black eggs, and the male was leaking sperm.

“That was probably the most exciting and rewarding day in my career,” said Chuck Stence, head of the anadromous fish restoration unit of the DNR Fisheries Service, who was leading the survey crew. “We’re out there fishing — you’re not expecting to catch anything — and then all of sudden two fish like that get dropped into your lap.”

That catch turned out to be just the beginning. By-mid September, the crew had caught eight ready-to-spawn fish, including six males and two females on the Marshyhope, a tributary of the Nanticoke River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. They saw several others that they weren’t able to net.

“That is pretty exciting,” said Steve Minkkinen, who heads the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Maryland Fisheries Resources Office, and has been active with sturgeon programs in the state. “There is a population of them up there. It is not just one or two random fish that showed up for some reason.”

Atlantic sturgeon are the largest fish native to the Bay, where they historically reached lengths of up to 14 feet. Once common, they suffered a dramatic population drop in the last century caused by overfishing, habitat destruction and pollution. Two years ago, the National Marine Fisheries Service listed them as an endangered species.

Like other anadromous fish, sturgeon live most of their lives in the ocean, but return to their native rivers to spawn. The James River is the only Bay tributary known to still have a spawning population. No sturgeon have been documented spawning in Maryland since 1972, when one was found in the Nanticoke River. 

But the recent catches suggest the Marshyhope now has a spawning population. “I can’t imagine a fish that big going up in there for any reason other than to spawn,” Stence said. 

And, like the James River, the sturgeon seem to be spawning in the fall, unlike sturgeon that spawn in rivers farther north, such as the Hudson. 

“I am very surprised by that,” Minkkinen said. “All the other anadromous fish are releasing their eggs in the spring.” That’s when plankton blooms fuel the food web that helps support newly spawned fish. 

Proof of successful spawning would require finding recently spawned “young of year” fish in the river. Right now, Stence said, no surveys exist in the vicinity of the Marshyhope that would catch young-of-year sturgeon. Now, with evidence that suggests likely spawning activity, the fishery service will consider starting one, he said.

It’s unknown where the sturgeon came from. They could be remnants of a native Maryland population that went undetected for decades.

It is possible, some have suggested, that they are James River fish that have wandered up the Bay. 

Another possibility is that they stem from a small batch of juvenile Hudson River fish that were released in the Nanticoke in 1996.

Those questions could be answered in coming weeks. The biologists take DNA samples of each sturgeon for analysis to determine their river  of origin.

Biologists would also like to know what habitats the fish are using. So the captured sturgeon were briefly anesthetized and the biologists made minor incisions in each to insert a small transmitter and a tag so they can monitor the sturgeons’ movements and identify them in the future.

After that procedure, the biologists jump into the chest-deep water and cradle the fish, “like babies,” Stence said. After about 10 minutes, the sturgeon recover and swim away.

The recent catches ended more than two years of frustration for the biologists. Fishermen have reported seeing sturgeon jumping in the Marshyhope for several years. Last fall, one landed in the boat of two anglers.

But crews from the DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had — until Aug. 28 — failed to catch any sturgeon. The previous week, in fact, Stence and his crew saw one jump only 40 feet from their boat, but they were unable to net it.

“It’s so frustrating when you see them jumping right in front of the boat, and you still can’t catch them,” he said.
That changed as they were pulling in the last of four, 100-yard gill nets that had been deployed on the 28th.

“We got maybe a third of the way through the net, and all of a sudden the net started pulling back,” Stence said. “And the closer we got, you could see the big shadow in the water. It’s amazing how the adrenaline kicks in when you go out there for three years and catch nothing, and all of a sudden you can see a big one in the net — and then having another one right behind it.” 

 


By Karl Blankenship
Bay Journal News Service

Distributed by Bay Journal News Service.

Cool Outdoor Stuff: Three or Four Cheers for Shoreline Fish

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They might be small, but with extraordinary populations along the Chesapeake Shoreline, and with names like Atlantic Silversides, Mummichogs, Killifish, and Sheepshead minnow, these shoreline fish are one of the great wonders of the region. In the latest installment of Cool Outdoor Stuff, Andy McCown of Echo Hill Outdoor School, hits the edges of the Bay to tell the remarkable story of the shoreline fish world, but also highlights some good ecological news about the Bay and its estuaries.

This video is approximately five minutes in length

Kent School to Host Fourth Annual Osprey Triathlon

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We’re Training. Are You? Racers are posting and sharing photos of their training sessions on the Osprey Tri Facebook page in an effort to inspire and encourage other racers.

The fourth annual Osprey Triathlon will be held on Sunday, October 5 at 9:00 a.m. The race consists of three legs: a 7-mile bike race, a 2-mile kayak course and a 3-mile run. (Exact distances may vary.) The course will cover mixed surfaces, including pavement, gravel paths and some grassy areas. The race course takes advantage of Kent School’s Chester River access and gorgeous views. The course is flat, fast and racer friendly!

Cyclists take off at the start of the 2013 race.

Cyclists take off at the start of the 2013 race.

The Osprey Triathlon is a family friendly event welcoming athletes at all levels of skill and experience.  Not ready for the full triathlon? Create a team with friends or family and compete in 1, 2, or 3 legs of the race.

The 2014 race will incorporate some new elements that will add professionalism to the race without infringing on the special charm of this family-friendly event. Race coordinator, Tricia Cammerzell said, “We have learned so much over the past three years about planning and hosting this event and it has grown each year. We had to make some changes to accommodate the growth and enhance the racers’ experience.”

Kayaks ready for launch before the race begins.

Kayaks ready for launch before the race begins.

This year the race is sanctioned by USA Triathlon. Race support and management will be provided by Fuel 3 Sports. Sanctioning ensures increased safety measures. Fuel 3 Sports will provide electronic chip timing and wave starts to support the safety of the participants. Cammerzell continued, “I am really looking forward to the improved start, finish, and timing that will come with Fuel 3 Sports but it was important to the full race committee that we maintain the things that make this race so unique. We always want an event that includes three-generation relay teams and first time racers along with elite triathletes….and of course, the post-race barbeque is a requirement! And thanks to our PTF there will be some terrific activities for those who are too young to race.”

Racers can register as individuals completing all three legs of the race or they can break the race into smaller segments and register as two or three person relay teams.  The race is open to anyone age nine and older.  Racers between the ages of 9 and 12 must be part of a relay team with at least one team member age 16 or older.  Registration will be open until Friday October 3.  Visit www.kentschool.org/osprey-triathlon or www.fuel3sports.com.and search Osprey Triathlon for registration information.  Advance registration is appreciated and early registration is discounted. Race fees are as follows:

Race Fees
Early Registration (Before September 15):  $55
Late Registration (Sept 15-October 4):  $65
2 Person Relay (Before September 15): $110
2 Person Relay (Sept 15-October 4): $125
3 Person Relay (Before September 15): $125
3 Person Relay (Sept 15-Oct 4): $145
Mixed Age Group (includes junior racer) (Before September 15): $120
Mixed Age Group (includes junior racer)  (Sept 15-Oct 4): $135
Junior 2 or 3 Person Relay (Before September 15): $120
Junior 2 or 3 Person Relay (Sept 15-Oct 4): $120
Other Fees
Kayak Rental: $10
Lunch for Non-Races: $7

Cammerzell continued, “This race would not be possible without support from our corporate sponsors and legion of volunteers. First on the list to thank is our volunteer committee chair, Pat Parkhurst ‘84. Our top of the Class sponsor for the 2014 race is Chestertown Runners. Segment sponsors are Gunther McClary Real Estate, Peoples Bank,  and Yerkes Construction. Additional sponsors to date include David A. Bramble, Inc.,  Chesapeake Medical Imaging, Clovelly Vineyards, RealTerm, and Dixon Valve. We are very grateful to every sponsor, racer, and volunteer who plays a part in the success of the Osprey Tri. See you in October.  We’re training. Are you?”

For more information about the Osprey Triathlon or Kent School visit www.kentschool.org or call 410-778-4100 ext.110.

Skywatch for Sept. 2014: Longer Nights and the Equinox

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When September arrives, the hours of darkness grow longer in the Northern Hemisphere, while day-length decreases. The shorter daylight hours trigger all kinds of biological events, such as animal migrations and fall leaf color changes. The longer nights bring greater opportunities for skywatchers to view the wonders of the night sky. Meanwhile, September 22nd this year will mark the time of the Autumnal Equinox, which occurs at precisely 10:29 pm EDT. This marks the moment when the Sun appears to cross the Celestial Equator, appearing to move below or south of it. Earth’s tilt and its constant annual motion around the Sun cause this each year. This means that we are heading towards winter. Winter’s cold is still months away and September nights are very comfortable for getting outside.

During an equinox, the Earth's North and South poles are not tilted toward or away from the Sun, and the duration of daylight is theoretically the same at all points on Earth's surface. (Wikipedia)

During an equinox, the Earth’s North and South poles are not tilted toward or away from the Sun, and the duration of daylight is theoretically the same at all points on Earth’s surface. (Wikipedia)

Saturn the beautiful ringed planet stays above our southwestern horizon all month, but it is getting lower each night. In the first week of September it is 20 degrees above the horizon one hour after sunset, with Mars just 5 degrees to its left. Both are down to magnitude 0.6, but Mars appears reddish-orange, while Saturn is more yellowish. By the end of September Saturn will only be 10 degrees above the horizon an hour after sunset, while Mars will appear to move much faster against the background stars all month because it orbits the Sun much faster than Saturn. This motion will take Mars east, or left, of Saturn out of Libra, across Scorpius, and into Ophiuchus. On September 27th, Mars will pass just 3 degrees above Antares, a red star and the brightest star in Scorpius. Saturn will be to the right, or west of Mars that evening, and the waxing crescent Moon will be seen just 0ne degree to the right of Saturn! Two nights later on the 29th, look for the Moon to be directly above the pair of planets.

In the early morning eastern sky we can find Jupiter at magnitude –1.8 rising about 4 am local daylight time in early days of September. During the month it will rise sooner and appear higher above the horizon. Venus may be spotted in early September, rising around 5 am and appearing even closer to the horizon. But with a good clear view to the horizon, we can spot it easily because it is so bright — -3.9 magnitude. By the end of the month it will be only a few degrees from the Sun and be lost to us in its glare.

The Full Moon this month will be on the 8th; Last Quarter on the 15th; and New Moon will be on the 24th.