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Canines On a Mission
In Clarke C. Jones
\\ hen tlie mission gets tough, our oniceis eal
in additional lielp ot'tlie4degged varielA.
b\ Jason E. Davis
W hile this bird generates |)l('ul\ ol had press, the
author urg(\s us to r(>s|)('cl ilsadaphxc nature.
Tiny Aquatic Treasures
In Marie Majarox
Stonefliesand niidgcsaud h(']lgr"iniinit(>s. oh un\
loiter' the world oi'henlhicerealui'fvs.
in Gleiida C. IJootli
.Scieulisis ha\e Miau\ more (jueslions than
answers in the (luest lo under'sland fish diseases.
O O Paradise Creek Nature Park
^^ In Belli lle.ster
\ new park uuColdingin Portsmouth |)ro\ides
puhlic access loa rich arra\ oCwildlile and fish.
O C coasting for Recovery. . . Literally
In Briiee Ingrain
Sometimes emotional and physical therapx com
in ihe form ol'flshing. Il\ (ishinglhal is.
28 AFIELD AND AFLOAT
30 Whilelail Biology • 32 PholoTips
33 Oil the WaUM- • 34 Dining In
CO\ ER: June is a ujrcal lime lo \isil one oIN liiiiiiiMs iiia;!iiillccril ri\('r's! ' Dwiylil l)\k('
This issue of Virginia Wildlife covers a variety of seasonal topics,
several having to do with fisheries. One in particiJar, by Marie
Majarov, focuses upon the importance of macro-invertebrates to
stream health and shines a light on the many volunteers across Vir-
ginia who perform water sampling for these indicator species. Just
remember, "inverts" are the backbone of the animal world! The fea-
ture about Casting for Recovery heralds the fine services of a non-
profit organization working to provide therapy through fly fishing to
women struggling with the aftermath of breast cancer. All of these
stories extol the value of volunteerism.
Also in the June issue is a feature about the Departments new
canine (K9) unit — which has recendy expanded to five handlers and
their canine partners. They have done a superb job in the relatively
short time they have been training, and have provided a real boost to
our law enforcement division. Watching these dogs work is simply
amazing. There is absolutely no denying the bond that forms be-
tween each officer and his or her canine partner. I invite you to read
the story inside and learn about this remarkable program — how they
train to go about the business of tracking people, detecting game, re-
covering evidence, and educating the public about the mission of
Public education and outreach are at the forefront of my mind
these days. As a result of the 20 1 2 legislative session, we were asked to
study several different issues that have engaged our constituents, in-
cluding how to better address their concerns about exotic animals
(following what happened in Ohio last year). Additionally, we have
been asked to work with the Fox Hound Training Preserve Associa-
tion regarding best management practices for those facilities; to
identify possible improvements for hunter access to private land, es-
pecially on properties with a history of crop damage by wildlife; and
to work with localities in Northern Virginia on lyme disease-related
The most serious follow-up task to the legislative session is one
that involves taking a fresh look at our law enforcement practices and
policies, while considering strategies to address some of the law en-
forcement legislation that was introduced, and either carried over or
tabled. Our Department and the leadership of our law enforcement
division are dedicated to providing the best conservation law en-
forcement program possible. We will be examining all aspects of
what we do and how we do it — including recruitment, training, su-
pervision, and officer priorities, as well as outreach and other divi-
We have heard the issues. I can assure you we are taking every
possible step to provide the type of law enforcement — and public
outreach programs — that all Virginians can be proud of
To manage Virginia's wildlife and inland fish to maintain optimum populations of all species to serve the needs of the Commonwealth; To
provide opportunity for all to enjoy wildlife, inland fish, boating and related outdoor recreation and to work diligently to safeguard the rights
of the people to hunt, fish and harvest game as provided for in the Constitution of Virginia; To promote safer)' for persons and property in
umncction with boating, hunting and fishing; To provide educational outreach programs and materials that foster an awareness of and appre-
ciation for Virginia's fish and wildlife resources, their habitats, and hunting, fishing, and boating opportunities.
Dedicated to the Conservation of Virginia's Wildlife and Natural Resources
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINl!
Bob McDonnell, Governor
HUNTING & FISHING
Subsidized this publication
SECRETARY OE NATURAl REi,OllRCESj
Douglas W. Domenech
DEPARTMENT OF GA.ME AND
MEMBERS OF THE BOARD
Lisa Caruso, Church Road
J. Brent Clarite, III, Great Falls
Curtis D. Colgate, Virginia Beach
Ben Davenport, Chatham
Garry L. Gray, Bowling Green
James W. Hazel, Oakton
Randy J. Kozuch, Alexandria
Hugh Palmer, Highland Springs
F. Scott Reed, Jr, Manakin-Sabot
Leon O. Turner, Fincastle
Charles S. Yates, Cleveland
Sally Mills, Editor
Lee Walker, Ron Messina, Contributing Editors
Emily Pels, Art Director
Carol Kushlak, Production Manager
Tom Guess, Staff Contributor
Printing by Progress Printing Plus, Lynchburg, V/
Virginia Wildlife (ISSN 0042 6792) is published month
by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fishcri«
Send all subscription orders and address changes to Virgin
Wildlife, P O. Box 830, Boone, Iowa 50036. Address i
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Copyright 2012 by the Virginia Department of Game an
Inland Fisheries. All rights reserved.
The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries shall affoi
to all persons an equal access to Department programs an
facilities without regard to race, color, religion, national or
gin, disability, sex, or age. If you believe that you have bet
discriminated against in any program, activit)' or facilic
please write to: Virginia Department of Game and Inlar
Fisheries, ATTN: Compliance Officer, (4010 West Broa
Street.) P O. Box 11 104, Richmond, Virginia 23230-1 10-
This publication is intended for general informational pui
poses only and every effiart has been made to ensure its n
curacy. The information contained herein does not serve i
a legal representation offish and wildlife laws or regulatioa
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries da
not assume responsibility for any change in dates, reguu
tions, or information that may occur after publication.
: ■ 4
P'-,' ' /
vi • V . •
■ A ■■■ 1
7^ ^efrant0€e^'^ ^teciA ^^teaw^ ^a^ ^t^
by Clarke C, Jones
e gotta go!" Pointing gun. . .
country road. . .wife. . .that's
all I hear. We are on our way.
We speed south on Route 20. The blue lights
are flashing atop the SUV: We are lit up like a
Up ahead we see a car in our lane.
Richard hits the siren. On a two-lane, country
road with hills and turns there are few places to
pass the slower car. To my amazement, the car
in front of us makes no attempt to pull over to
the right and ambles on its way. So, I'm think-
ing, this is how it looks when you're driving an
emergency vehicle. I could feel my blood pres-
sure rise with frustration, impatience.
"You never know what people are going
to do in front of you, " mutters Richard. "I
have had people literally stop in the middle of
the road on a hill and try to wave me around.
Of course, you cannot see what is coming
from the other direction in a situation like
that, and the person in the car in front of you is
looking at you — like there is something
wrong with you? As if on cue, the driver in
front of us stops in the road, and then makes a
left turn. I guess the logic here is, "I am only a
mile from my house so you'll just have to wait
till I get home. " Incredible!
Richard steps on the gas and we press on,
Richard is Conservation Police Officer
Richard M. Howald, with the Department.
Packed into Richard's SUV are Jessica
Wliirley — an officer (CPO) from Prince Ed-
ward County — me, and Scout, a female
Labrador retriever. As one of three Labrador
retrievers used by the Department of Game
and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) to track suspects.
Scout also helps find evidence and locate fish
or other wildlife that may be in the possession
of or hidden by, a suspected game violator.
Right now, all we know is that a gun has been
pointed at a citizen and the address where the
reported incident has occurred.
When we arrive at the scene, none of the
people who were pointing the gun are still
around. The alleged victim is not on-site but
his angry, upset wife is. The last thing she is
thinking about is calming down. If a gun has
been pointed at your spouse, you can under-
Richard and Jessica must begin to build
the case to bring an alleged criminal to justice.
The woman does not have any license num-
bers of the vehicles involved. She thinks she
knows the identities of some of the people
who pointed the gun at her husband, but
couldn't swear to it. She says her husband
does know. Then she tells the officers what
the laws are regarding possession of firearms
and hunting along a road. She is wrong. But,
of course, she can't be wrong because that is
what her husband told her!
Here is where problems occur. So many
people — even lifelong hunters — frequently
do not know the game laws in their own
county. There is not much the officers can do
at this point but ask the wife to have the hus-
band call them to try to get more informa-
tion. About a half-hour later, the husband
calls and Jessica speaks to him. He is upset
and wants the officers to take action. Jessica
explains to him that no game laws have been
broken and that he will need to speak to the
county magistrate and swear out a warrant
against the alleged perpetrator for brandish-
ing a firearm. The man does not like this. I
can hear his, ahem, displeasure in the com-
ments coming from the phone Officer
Whirley is holding to her ear.
It is the job of the conservation police of-
ficer to protect not just wildlife, but also the
hunter's rights and the landowner's rights.
Protecting all three can lead to confiision and
frustration. Just before the pointing gun call
came in, we had spent over three hours
bouncing around the rutted back roads of
Cumberland and Buckingham counties,
checking for possible game violations. I
quickly realized that the life of a CPO is not
the glamorous job I thought it was. It is dan-
gerous, tedious, often thankless work requir-
ing patience and diplomacy that few of us
have or would tolerate. Employment as a
conservation police officer in Virginia may
look like something you would want to do,
but only a select few can do this job and do it
well. It takes exceptional skill and judgment
CPO Frank Spuchesi with his partner, "Comet," train for evidence recovery with the
assistance of CPO Wayne Billhimer
VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com
to handle non-routine, sometimes life-threat-
ening, events and make them appear routine.
For the CPO, hunting season is not only
a busy season; it can also be a holiday season.
While you are relaxing at the table with family
at Thanksgiving, sitting around a cozy fire on
Christmas Day, or planning New Year's cele-
brations, our CPOs are patrolling in the cold,
wind, rain, and snow protecting wildlife,
property, and you. And because felons like to
work in the dark, the CPO has to be out then
When responding to an emergency re-
port, a CPO may have to quickly drive 20 or
more miles along winding, rural roads to
reach the site of the incident. If you are a CPO
with a Labrador, it is not uncommon to be
called to a location over two hours from your
base. So you not only have to know your terri-
tory and the players in it, you must also know
all the game laws of the counties in your dis-
trict, as well as the state. Each county has a cer-
tain amount of leeway when writing their
hunting rules — and the rules are not consis-
tent among localities. During my ride- along
CPO Wes Billings and partner "Josie" look for
an article hidden in the ground, as CPO Wayne
Billhimer looks on. Right, CPO Megan Vick
works her dog, Jake, during a field exercise.
The Department's K9 program has
been generating great results. In fact,
the original team of three dogs with han-
dlers (shown right) has recently expanded
to five, with the addition of "Comet," han-
dled by CPO Frank Spuchesi, and "Josie,"
handled by CPO Wes Billings. Colonel Dab-
ney Watts leads the Law Enforcement Divi-
sion and has only positive things to say
about the program.
Col. Watts provided some background
during a recent interview. He was quick to
note that DGIF is indebted to the K9 Acade-
my at the Indiana Dept. of Natural Re-
sources, a 14-year program run by
Conservation Officer Jeff Milner, who pro-
vided training for these dogs and their han-
dlers at no charge. Other state wildlife
agencies assisted, too, by sharing with our
CPOs their experiences and lessons
learned over the years. Two of the dogs in
the first "class" were generously donated
to Virginia's program by the Kansas Dept. of
Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
Virginia's K9 Wildlife Team uses sport-
ing breeds. The dogs are trained in three
areas specific to the Department's wildlife
mission: tracking, wildlife detection, and
article/evidence recovery. After an inten-
sive 8-week course, the teams are ready to
take on assignments. Each dog knows what
is required during a particular operation by
the type of collar or harness placed on him
by the handler. Likewise, in the field the dog
lets the officer know he has discovered
something by "alerting" the CPO with a
specific body movement. In the case of arti-
cle recovery, for example, the dog would
make a digging motion.
With time and experience, K9 partners
become accustomed to working together
in the field— a process that can take six to
eight months. The biggest, single advan-
tage to the agency is the manpower saved
during search (and sometimes, rescue) op-
erations. The K9 team has also proven valu-
able in educating the public about the work
our law enforcement officers perform.
Sporting breeds are a good choice for this
aspect of the mission, since they are com-
fortable around people. Officers in the pro-
gram are available for demonstrations to
schools and other groups.
For more information about the pro-
gram and to make a donation, go to:
The K9 team was launched with 3 officers, shown here: CPO Vick, with Jake; CPO Billhimer, with
Justice; and CPO Howald, with Scout— in partnership with the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia.
with Officers Howald and Whirley, I also
began to get a clearer picture of how much
"sufficient" evidence a CPO must have to
even bring a case to court, much less win it. I
also got some sense of the volume of paper-
work and reporting required for each inci-
A quiet break for lunch today is out of
the question. We drive on, checking out old
logging roads and farm roads. As we approach
a power line easement, we can see that clover
has been planted in the clearing. We look
around and discover a blind. The officers
make a note of it. Sometimes it's these little
discoveries that lead to bigger things.
We approach some woods and stop to
give Scout a quick, mandatory training les-
son. This must be documented for both
DGIF and court records when the evidence
of, or pursuit and capture of, an alleged viola-
tor involves one of the dogs. Richard places an
object in the woods along a leafy, logging
road. Scout does not know where it is.
Richard paints me the scenario that I have
spotted someone in the woods who then takes
off when he sees me. I grab Scout, put on his
tracking lead, and take off in pursuit. The cul-
prit has hidden himself, thinking there is no
way you will find him in these woods with the
head start he has on you. But then he sees the
Lab following his tracks, coming toward him.
About 50 yards away from the officer he bolts
and throws something to his right. The officer
apprehends the suspect and learns that he is a
convicted felon. If the object he threw was a
gun, the felon now has bigger issues.
Now the daylight is fading and, in all the
commotion, the officer only has a general idesi
of where the object may be. Before the De-
partment's K9 program started in 20 11 , the
officer might have to call in one or two other
officers to help search for the weapon, spend-
ing time, energy, and the taxpayers' money to
help locate it. I have a general idea of where the
object is (the object that the felon threw away)
and then Officer Howald sends Scout and me
to look for it. I immediately go in the direction
I think the object is located. Scout just knows
she is to look for something. We both walk
I want to outwit the dog in this high-
stakes Easter egg himt and am looking hard in
the leaves. Scout comes back to a place we
passed and "alerts" at a particular location I
have just covered. Richard gives Scout a verbal
signal and Scout, by her actions, reinforces the
fact that she has found something. Richard
then rewards Scout with about five minutes of
playtime, which the Lab obviously enjoys.
Scout has been trained that her "treat" is play
and she will work her hardest for a litde play-
time with Richard!
The value of these Labs is proven almost
every day. Richard tells me of one violator he
caught who told him, "I was hoping you were
off today. I've heard about you and that dog."
That sentiment is echoed by CPO
Megan Vick, who initially proposed — and
persuaded — the Law Enforcement Division
to consider undertaking a K9 program. Vick
did her homework and discovered that other
state wildlife agencies with K9 units had expe-
rienced great success; yet, the programs are
young and there are very few wildlife dog han-
According to Vick, "One of the immedi-
ate benefits of this program is the amount of
manpower we save. If we are looking for a
shotgim or a shotgun shell, it may take the dog
six to eight minutes to find it. Without the
dog, we would need a team of four to five peo-
ple to be able to cover the same territory, and
VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com
even after hours of work, still may not find
what we are looking for." Vick's district covers
much of southeastern Virginia and the East-
ern Shore — a broad territory and something
not uncommon for today's CPOs.
When you think about it, other than a
spear, man's first hunting aid was a dog. It
helped him track, find, and run down game,
and at times, it has acted as an early warning
device. Hundreds of centuries later, even with
all the technology a CPO has at his or her dis-
posal, we have realized the advantage of rein-
troducing the dog to ^ain track suspects, find
wild game, and uncover evidence.
We continue making the rounds and
head off^ along another country road. We ap-
proach a pick-up parked off the asphalt near
some woods. Driving past the truck, we follow
an old, overgrown farm road deep into Cum-
berland County. As we turn around a sharp
bend we suddenly come upon six hunters with
shotguns. They look the way anyone looks
who is having a party and some uninvited peo-
ple decide to crash it. Normally, I wouldn't
crash a party hosted by people carrying shot-
guns. Officer Howald tells me to stay in the car
as he and Officer Whirley get out to check
everyone's license. The two officers chat a bit
with the hunters and then ask to see their li-
censes. It all looks very routine but I could not
help but wonder how I would react if I was on
patrol alone and found six hunters who may
not have been obeying the law. What then?
After the license check, we head back to
Cumberland Courthouse and my ride home.
CPO Whirley has to prepare for a spotlighting
stakeout, meaning she will not go off duty
until around midnight — a long day in any-
one's book. As I say goodbye to Officers
Howald and Whirley, and assistant Scout, I
think about special times hunting with my fa-
ther, or fishing with my friends, and I silently
give thanks for the conservation police officers
who safeguard our opportunity to make more
of those memories in the future. ?f
Clarke C. Jones is a freelance writer who spends his
spare time with his black lab, Luke, huntingup
good stories. You can read more by Clarke at
www. clarkecjones. com.
Whether performing evidence recovery
or tracking or wildlife detection, time is
a pressing concern. Canine handlers
and their dogs must be in top physical
Extolling the virtues
' I M A- eve been invaded, but you
ly \ / probably didn't even notice.
^ If Those of us living in Vir-
ginia, and indeed all across North America,
have been living under an occupying force for
more than one hundred years now. We see
these feathery intruders every day in our
yards, in the eaves of our office buildings,
darting in and out between cars in the grocery
store parking lot, but most of us don't pay
them any real attention. But maybe it's time
we gave the devil its due. Conquering the
world isn't easy, and house sparrows have
done it with room to spare.
House sparrows are scrappy, ill-tem-
pered, barbarian birds with an attitude. Be-
cause house sparrows have made themselves
at home at the expense of native species, they
are often looked down upon, even despised,
by both bird aficionados and environmental-
ists. But beneath their drab brown and grey
feathers they carry an array of formidable
adaptations, including a surprising intellect,
an adaptable physiology, and an amazing be-
havioral flexibility that has helped them to be-
come the most common songbird in the
House sparrows (sometimes called the
English sparrow, or Passer domesticus) are na-
tive to Europe and the Near East. As an old
world species, house sparrows aren't at all
closely related to native North American spar-
rows. In fact, house sparrows and native spar-
row species — such as song sparrows, swamp
sparrows, and white-crowned sparrows —
aren't even in the same family. House spar-
rows and their distant American cousins may
be generally the same size and color, but the
similarities pretty much end there. A closer
comparison rapidly reveals a large number of
physical and behavioral diff^erences. House
sparrows have stubby tails, stocky bodies, and
thick, wedge-shaped beaks ideal for crunch-
ing seeds. In comparison, native sparrows are
The house sparrow is at home in just about any setting and might be considered the
generally more slender, with longer, more
pointed beaks. House sparrows are distinct in
their social behaviors as well: They flock to-
gether in large social groupings year-round
and don't exhibit the kind of territoriality that
can be found in most native sparrows. This set
of traits, along with several other somewhat
less apparent specializations, has given house
sparrows a huge wing-up in colonizing our
House sparrows first arrived on North
American shores in the mid- 1800s. Local
farmers released a few dozen birds in Brook-
lyn in 1851, thinking that the birds would
help keep pest insects under control. House
sparrows were released several more times at
different locations around the country
through the 1 890s, though it seems unlikely
that they helped much with insect manage-
ment, since the main part of their diet is com-
posed of seeds and grain. Since then, the
house sparrow population has bloomed and
expanded to the point that recent estimates
suggest there are now more than 150 million
house sparrows in the lower 48 states alone.
Like feathered mice, house sparrows
have made a home for themselves on our
streets and alleys. In fact, house sparrows
seem to prefer to be near us; they have spread
With a reputation for aggression, house
sparrows can intimidate other songbirds.
JUNE 2012 ♦ 11
Urban environments offer several benefits to house sparrow/s, including generally warmer average
temperatures and plenty of nooks and crannies for raising their young.
successful invader; house sparrows are willing
to eat a variety of foods, from old Cheetos to
insects to hot dogs to grain to popcorn. Re-
cent research has even shown that, unlike
many native songbird species, new popula-
tions of house sparrows readily investigate
unfamiliar types of food and explore areas far
away from cover. This boldness almost cer-
tainly gives them an advantage when moving
into new environments where familiar re-
sources and refuges may be missing.
House sparrows exhibit a variety of other
traits that seem tailor-made for exploitation
of an urban environment. Recent studies
have shown that house sparrows have particu-
larly strong immune systems, which likely
serve them well when feeding in our trash
piles and garbage dumps. They are also non-
migratory, a feature that might seem to be a
weakness for surviving cold winters, but is ac-
tually a strength when they can seek refuge in
warm attics and crawlspaces to while-away
the winter nights instead of undertaking dan-
gerous and exhausting long-distance travel.
House sparrows also have a flexible reproduc-
tive system that can easily go into overdrive.
In well-provisioned environments house
sparrows can hatch out three or more broods
per year, compared to many other songbird
species that produce at most two broods.
Much like discontented humans, house
sparrows often don't make good neighbors, at
least not for native bird species. House spar-
rows have a reputation for belligerence and
are often seen fighting with members of their
own and other species. Their innate aggres-
sion, along with their strong, thick beaks,
makes house sparrows a potential threat to
alongside us and demonstrate a marked pref-
erence for cities and towns over rural areas.
This isn't to say that urban areas are easy places
to live, even for the scrappy house sparrow.
Cities are loud, bright, polluted, and chock
full of an ever-shifting array of hazards and
challenges. However, if you can stand the
stresses of urban life, there are some definite
advantages to living in towns. Cities boast
warmer average temperatures, multitudinous
nooks and crannies that can be used as nest-
ing sites, a general reduction in most natural
types of predators and competitors, and a
near-constant supply of food from both bird
feeders and garbage. It might not be the most
glamorous of lifestyles, but being a "rat bird"
can certainly pay off.
In the past 30 years, more than a thou-
sand scientific studies have been done on
house sparrows. This research has provided
substantial insights, not only into the nature
of the house sparrow itself, but also into the
fundamentals of fields such as endocrinology, ^ I
immunology, reproductive biology, and ecol-
ogy. From die house sparrow we have learned ^ strong Immune system helps the house
that culinary curiosity helps a species to be a sparrow tolerate things like street garbage.
12 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.Com
Like the house sparrow, the Pyracantha shrub (shown here) can thrive in many environments.
other songbirds. House sparrows have been
documented stealing nesting sites, harassing
aduhs, and destroying the eggs of native song-
However, despite being equipped for
conquest, it is difficult to determine how
much of a threat house sparrows actually pose
to native bird populations. Areas inhabited by
house sparrows often have a less diverse array
of other songbird species, but these are also
typically areas that have undergone a large
amount of human modification. How much
of the impact on native populations can be
laid at the scaly feet of house sparrows and
how much is actually due to direct human in-
tervention is hard to say, but is certainly a
question worth investigating further.
Despite all we've learned about them,
there are still house sparrow mysteries waiting
to be unraveled. Perhaps the greatest of these
is why house sparrows do so well in many
places, but fare poorly in others. House spar-
row populations are waning in their Euro-
pean homeland. In England alone, house
sparrow populations have declined by more
than 50 percent since 1975. There are a vari-
ety of theories regarding the cause of house
sparrows' European decline, from changes in
^ricultural practices, to differences between
populations descended from colonists, like
those in North America, versus populations
descended from homebodies, like those in
Europe. However, none of these theories has
yet presented a definitive answer.
Regardless of whether you love them or
hate them, there can be little doubt that house
sparrows are here to stay. The next time you
see one, keep in mind that though they may
be down and dirty, raucous and pushy, they're
actually one of the most interesting things on
the wing. ?f
Jason E. Davis is an assistant professor of biology at
Radford University. His research focuses on
physiological processes in wild animals.
JUNE 2012 ♦ 13
An entire army of
supports the fish you
love to catch.
by Marie Majorov
Serious anglers know that the health
and vitality of Virginias native brook
trout, smallmouth bass, rainbow
trout, and all other fish species, as well as the
waters in which they swim, are intricately
linked to a fascinating world of wiggly, squig-
gly, variously shaped critters known as benth-
ic macro-invertebrates (BMIs). But to those
of you who don't fish: Their environmental
importance is HUGE!
BMIs are quite simply animals that have
no backbone, live all or part of their lives in
freshwater environments, arid are big enough
to be seen without magnification; however,
they are anything but simple. The word "ben-
thic" comes from the Greek benqos, meaning
bottom — referring to the bottom of lakes,
rivers, and streams where BMIs mosdy live.
"Benthos," as these little guys are sometimes
referred to, range from the tiniest pencil point
sized "no-see-ums" to crayfish as big as 6 inch-
es, and number close to 9,000 ingeniously
Larval and nymph stage insects, mol-
lusks, worms, leeches, and crayfish comprise
the most common BMI found in Virginias
BMIs are middlemen, an essential link
14 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFlshVA.com
that BMIs "are absolutely vital to the survival
of our fish. If this food source were lost, our
fish wotild be gone." BMIs have another, less-
er known but critically important environ-
mental role: Their presence, absence, or
abundance serves as a remarkably effective in-
dicator of water quality and stream health.
Fisheries biologist Paul Bugas describes BMI
measurements as an "extremely valuable tool"
used by the Department (DGIF) in manage-
ment efforts to preserve precious fisheries and
A (diverse Assemblage
Classification of BMIs, complex and intrigu-
ing, follows a number of dimensions. Only
the most basic can be described here. The first
is habitat: the fast- or slow-moving, cold or
warm waters of seeps, streams, rivers, bogs,
marshes, swamps, ponds, and lakes, where
the bottom contains a great diversity of mate-
rials — from boulders, cobble, pebbles, gravel,
sand, silt, and clay, to logs, leaves, detritus,
algae, and a variety of aquatic plants. Yes,
BMIs are everywhere in our freshwater sys-
tems, and they need specific body shapes and
methods to maneuver in order to survive in
their particular habitat.
"dingers" have strong legs for holding
on and flat bodies that reduce drag from
in the aquatic food chain. In streams, life-sus-
taining energy and nutrients are found in fall-
en leaves, algae, aquatic plants, micro-
organisms, and similarly sized animals — all of
which are fodder for BMIs. These necessities
pass on to the fish that feed on the BMIs or are
released back into the water when the BMI
die and decay. Fish forward these nutrients
further up the food chain to those that eat
them: birds (herons, egrets, bald eagles, king-
fishers, for example), raccoons, water snakes,
and yes, even fishermen who enjoy a fine fish
Carl Rettenberger, Winchester Trout
Unlimited BMI/fly-tying educator, states
water flow (flathead mayflies and water pen-
nies), while others produce a stick}' silk to
glue themselves to surfaces in riffles and fast
moving streams (non-biting midges). Still
others, casemaker caddisflies for example,
make intricate cases from pebbles or bits of
leaves to attach themselves to rock surfaces.
Climbing is another form of locomo-
tion. "Climbers" have spindly legs, (think
dragon- and damselfly larvae), an adaption
that enables movement up and down aquatic
plants to feed and, when ready, to hatch into
their familiar, beautiful adult winged form,
climb out of the water, and take flight.
Climbers are capable of ssvimming but do so
only if necessar)', in contrast to "swimmers"
like the ameletid minnow maj'flies which flex
their bodies to actively move themselves
through the water or paddle with specially de-
signed legs and tails. Much of the time,
though, swimmers remain perched on rocks,
pieces of wood, plants, or coarse detritus.
"Crawlers" such as common stoneflies
and hellgrammites seek small, protected
Shenandoah Chapter VMN and Friends of the North Fork, Shenandoah River carefully sort and
count BMIs during a sampling project. Left, Winchester TU members follow Save Our Streams
sampling protocol using a kick seine on Redbud Run.
JUNE 2012 ♦ 15
BMIs are sorted into taxa using ice cube trays
filled with stream water. Left, the shadow
darner spends its larval stage as BMI, growing
and developing under water.
places and crawl slowly, using their legs and
tarsal claws. They need firm surfaces unlike the
"sprawlers" and "burrowers" (crane flies)
which have adapted to move on top of or dig
down into fine sediments of sand, silt, and clay.
A final, very small group of BMI, "skaters"
(think water striders), is uniquely adapted to
remain on the surface of slow waters.
BMIs are also classified according to
their varied feeding methods. "Shredder-de-
tritivores" (giant stoneflies) feed on large
pieces of dead plant material, while "shred-
der-herbivores" (northern casemaker stone-
flies) prefer living aquatic plants. "Collectors"
acquire and ingest very small particles of de-
tritus, some with innovative filters such as the
nets spun by common net spinner caddisflies.
Others, collector-gatherers (non-biting
midges and aquatic worms), gather tidbits
that are lying on the bottom or mixed with
sediment. Algae growing on rocks and hard
surfaces provide "scrapers" and "grazers" with
a nutritious aquatic salad bar. Still other BMIs
use piercing methods to suck fluids: from
plants, the "piercer-herbivores" (micro-cad-
disflies); and from animals, "piercer-preda-
tors" (water scorpions). Finally,
"engulfer-predators" such as free-living cad-
disflies, common stoneflies, and dragonflies
feed on animals by swallowing them whole or
Stress tolerance, or the ability to with-
stand various types of disturbances (organic
pollutants, sediments, and toxicants) in their
environment, is perhaps one of the most im-
portant dimensions on which to classify
BMIs. Some organisms are very sensitive to
\T Good BMIs make for healthy streams and
beautiful fish like this rainbow trout.
A healthy smallmouth bass is shown to
VMN by DGIF fisheries biologist Paul Bugas
during an electrofishing demonstration.
pollutants (stoneflies and many mayflies) and
their presence, especially in high numbers, in-
dicates healthy, almost pristine water condi-
tions; just what brook and rainbow trout
need to thrive. Others are very tolerant of en-
vironmental stressors and their presence in
large numbers, especially in the absence of the
sensitive BMIs, suggests compromised water
quality and poor conditions for sustaining
fish. And of course there are a range of condi-
tions between these two extremes.
BMIs are usually described using all of
these dimensions. To illustrate, riffle beetles:
can be present in both slow- and fast-moving
waters, are primarily dingers preferring peb-
bly and stony areas, and are usually scrapers or
collector-gatherers somewhat sensitive to
stress. Materials and guides with such descrip-
tions, detailed life history, biological informa-
tion, and color drawings, are essential tools to
those wishing to identify BMIs. Freshwater
Invertebrates by Voshell is one of the most
popularly used references.
I^MI Sampling ^ Education
Unlike fish, BMIs cannot move great dis-
tances to avoid water pollutants, stormwater
runoff, or naturally occurring stressors to
their environment. They are a relatively stable
community of organisms, often long-lived,
that therefore reflect the effects of sediments
and pollutants over time, thus adding critical
information to enlarge the picture of stream
conditions gained from the snapshots provid-
ed by chemical water analysis and fish moni-
Using a seine net, BMIs are collected
from the area to be sampled. Keeping them
wet, they are placed on a light-colored flat
surface and carefully sorted by type into white
trays (ice cube trays) filled with stream water.
A variety of indices based on the total num-
ber of species, relative percentages of sensitive
and tolerant species, and the most dominant
species are calculated. Observations about the
habitat and conditions seen at the site are
"DGIF conducts BMI surveys when in-
vestigating particular issues," states Bugas,
adding, "Ongoing monitoring of Virginias
more than 400 streams requires strong part-
nership efforts. The Department relies on the
ongoing monitoring efforts and databases of
the Virginia Department of Environmental
Quality (tasked with implementing the fed-
eral Clean Water Act in the commonwealth)
and Virginia Save Our Streams (VASOS)."
Bugas particularly extols the BMI sam-
pling protocol and training opportunities de-
veloped by VASOS for citizen science, and
the organization of "friends" groups — such
as Friends of the North Fork of the Shenan-
doah River and Friends of the Middle River
(Bugas himself is a member of this group) —
which help to implement BMI sampling and
educate the public about clean water. Virginia
Master Naturalists study BMI identification
and sampling methods as part of their train-
ing and also work closely with river groups.
Trout Unlimited chapters actively participate
in monitoring the streams where they fish
and put in significant preservation work.
BMI sampling is a wonderful way to
give our youth a hands-on, stewardship expe-
rience and teach them the value of preserving
our watersheds. Cacapon Institute (CI), a
West Virginia organization which works co-
operatively with DGIF in a variety of forums
regarding mutual efforts to preserve the
Chesapeake Bay, believes that science and ed-
ucation are essential in the protection of our
rivers and watersheds. To that end, CI has de-
veloped a truly unique Watershed e-School
and innovative materials used by numerous
schools throughout Virginia as part of the
"meaningful watershed experience" required
for all 6* and 9* grade students. Go online
yourself or with your children, click on the
school door of the "Potomac Highlands Wa-
tershed School," then the "BMI Portal," —
free resources to all, and a terrific way to learn
more about BMI identification and sampling
as well as watershed conservation. In particular,
try the "Virtual Stream Sampler" activity that
simulates a BMI stream sampling trip (based
on real stream data) and includes stream scor-
ing using the VASOS method.
Be forewarned, studying and monitoring
BMIs is fun and exciting and you could easily
become hooked on trying to identify these
spineless treasures! ?f
Virginia Master Naturalist Marie Majarov
(www. majarov. com) lives in Winchester with husband
Milan. Both nature enthusiasts are active in the
Virginia and the Mason-Dixon outdoor writers assoc.
For More Information on
♦ Cacapon Institute's Watershed
♦ Friends ofthe Middle River:
♦ Friends ofthe North Fork ofthe
♦ A Guide to Common Freshwater Inverte-
brates of North America, by J. Reese
Voshell, Jr Published by The MacDonald
& Woodward Publishing Co., 2002.
♦ Virginia Master Naturalists:
♦ Virginia Save our Streams:
♦ Winchester Trout Unlimited:
This online BMI learning portal is a project
ofthe Cacapon Institute (link above).
JUNE 2012 ♦ 17
by GlendaC, Booth
When studying widespread fish kills
and fish disease in several Virginia
rivers berween 2005 and 2008, sci-
entists found suspicious lesions on a number
of fish species. Upon closer inspection, they
also discovered mysterious abnormalities to
reproductive organs in some.
Dr. Vicki Blazer, a U.S. Geological Sur-
vey (USGS) fish pathologist, has found two
forms of feminization in fish: the presence of
vitellogenin, a precursor of egg yolk, in male
fish blood; and what scientists call intersex,
precursors of egg cells — that female fish nor-
mally produce — in the testes of male fish,
mosdy bass and sunfish. In 2006, for exam-
ple, in three Potomac tributaries scientists
foimd that more than 80 percent of all male
smallmouth bass were growing e^s.
Generally, intersex refers to aji organism
having the characteristics of both sexes, when
the organism should be one, distinct sex. The
fish look normal to the naked eye and to the
amateur, but the fish is abnormal, with a dis-
turbance of the hormonal system called en-
docrine disruption. Sciendsts are seeing fish
with endocrine disruption all over the coun-
These findings have sparked studies tar-
geting what are called endocrine disrupting
compounds (EDCs), chemicals that interfere
with the endocrine function of fish. "En-
docrine disruptors are widespread in the envi-
ronment," says Blazer.
In addition to uncovering the intersex
phenomenon, USGS scientists have deter-
mined that a high incidence of intersex occurs
at sites in the Potomac watershed where farm-
ing is most intense and where human popula-
tion density is the highest. And they've
concluded that the greatest prevalence of in-
tersex occurs in the spring, just before and
during the spawning season.
In Virginia, scientists have found intersex
fish in the upper James, Shenandoah, Cow-
pasture, Jackson, and Rappahannock rivers, as
well as the South Branch of the Potomac River
(West Virginia). In terms of species, Blazer has
seen intersex in small- and largemouth bass
and occasionally in redbreast sunfish. Scien-
tists have not analyzed fish in many Virginia
rivers; therefore, the fiill extent or occurrence
of the intersex condition is unknown.
VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFlshVA.com
Are there "hotspots"? Blazer says she's
seen a high prevalence and high severity in the
Shenandoah River's North and South forks.
"On the Shenandoah, rates of intersex were
highest — ranging from 80 to 1 00 percent in-
tersex in male smallmouth bass," she reports.
The sample size from some of these rivers was
small, at fewer than 50 fish.
Intersex fish have also been documented
in wild fish populations in the St. Lawrence,
Columbia, Rio Grande, and Mississippi
rivers, in Colorado waterways, and in certain
areas of the Great Lakes.
Also troubling are fish with lesions, according
to Steve Reeser, a fisheries biologist with the
DGIF who has found fish attacked by bacte-
ria with lesions on the gills and skin. Some re-
searchers theorize that EDCs are compromis-
ing fish immune systems, making the fish
more vulnerable to pathogens. However,
other scientists suspect that primary
pathogens could be the direct cause of the le-
sions and mortality.
Working with USGS bacteriologist Dr.
Rocco Cipriano as early as 2007 in the upper
James and Shenandoah river systems, DGIF
biologists documented one particular species
of bacteria (Aeromonas salmonicida) causing
the lesions in both rivers. This species of bac-
teria is "fairly ubiquitous" in colder waters,
"The location of disease and mortality
were not consistent from year to year, but
they were always a spring event when water
was in a particular temperature range. The
virulence of bacteria appears to be tied to
water temperature, and rivers with ground-
water influence are more affected. The bacte-
ria cannot survive above about 80 degrees
Fahrenheit. The reason DGIF has been fo-
cusing on a primary bacterial pathogen as the
direct cause of the lesions and mortality is
that the bacteria has only been encountered
where and when fish disease has been ob-
served. The bacteria has not been cultured
from fish in areas where we have never seen
sick fish, nor from the affected rivers when
the fish appear healthy. Overall, there is not
enough conclusive evidence to link the inter-
sex condition observed in these fish to the dis-
ease and mortality events that have occurred
in Virginia's rivers, " Reeser contends.
JUNE 2012 ♦ 19
Scientists across Virginia are studying fisli lesions in an effort to determine causes. The striped bass
siiown here is from sampling performed in the lower Chesapeake Bay watershed, courtesy of the
Multispecies Research Group at VIMS.
Why Is This Happening?
The endocrine system secretes hormones that
govern many fimaions, including sexual and
reproductive development in all vertebrate
species, including fish and humans. Endocrine
systems regulate biological processes through
hormones such as estrogen, androgen, and
thyroid. Chemical compounds appear to
block, mimic, or disrupt the normal functions
of the endocrine system of some aquatic
"Environmental contaminants may dis-
rupt endocrine function," according to a
USGS report. "In terms of causes, there is no
specific chemical, but complex mixtures from
multiple sources that can have effects. They
can affect the endocrine and immune systems
and make fish more susceptible to opportimis-
ric pathogens," explains Blazer.
Compounds are everywhere, from sham-
poo to food containers, from suntan lotion to
clothing. Over 1 ,000 new compounds are in-
troduced every year, reports the Potomac Con-
servanc)'. "Our waterways are becoming a soup
of hormones, antibiotics, painkillers, and other
drugs," states Katherine Baer, senior director of
the Clean Water Program at American Rivers.
"While we still have more questions
than answers, the good news is that
the severity of the fish disease and mor-
tality have declined the past two years
in both rivers and the fish populations
are viable, "sums up Reeser.
EDCs enter the environment through
several pathways. The average American fills
1 2 prescriptions a year, reports the Kaiser Fam-
ily Foundation. Drugs can leave the human
body almost intact or unchanged, according to
Baer. Pharmaceuticals are especially troubling
becaiise they are designed to alter biological
processes, the effects of chronic exposures are
poorly imderstood, and drug consiunption
grows each year.
Other possible sources of chemicals:
♦ Substances from cosmetics and body lo-
tions are rinsed off and flushed into
♦ Veterinary pharmaceuticals and hor-
mones fi-om livestock operations drain
off agricultural land.
♦ Some natural hormones and antibiotics
used in animal feeding operations pass
through animals and enter the environ-
ment through animal waste.
♦ Compounds like estrogen from birth
control pills and hormone replacements
flow through sewer systems into water
♦ Pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers can
leach into streams.
♦ EDCs like polychlorinated biphenyls
(PCBs), dioxins, bisphenol-A (BPA)
and phthalates get into rivers and
streams from industrial operations.
Reeser puts it like this: "Chemical con-
taminants are the 500-pound gorilla in the
room, because our rivers are a soup of chemi-
cals." He cautions, however, that natural
things can affect fish immune systems too, es-
pecially in the spring. Fish come out of the
winter with a suppressed immune system, he
explains. Spawning is a natural stressor that
taxes the immune system, compounding
both natural and unnatural pressures.
Searching for Answers
Scientists are quick to say that they need
more answers. They need better data on in-
tersex fish, lesions, seasonal variations, fish
kills, and fish reproduction at a population
level. The USGS and DGIF are currendy col-
lecting long-term trend information from
monitoring sites in the upper James and
Scientists want to bener understand the
prevalence of certain chemicals and the effects
of land uses, wastewater effluent, pesticides,
herbicides, and hormones in manure. They
want to learn if some chemicals by themselves
are harmful and what happens when chemicals
interact wdth other chemicals. Researchers need
to ascertain what concentrations or exposures
have harmful effects.
Blazer suggests keeping animals like
cows out of rivers, using fragrance-
and dye-fee products, minimizing
the use of herbicides and pesticides,
and avoiding anti-micro bial soaps
". . . We still don't know why certain
species seem more prone to this condition or
exacdy what is causing it. In fact, the causes for
intersex may vary by location, and we suspect it
will be unlikely that a single human activity or
kind of contaminant will explain intersex in all
species or regions," USGS biologist Jo Ellen
Hinck has said.
"Trying to determine if EDCs are a con-
tributing factor in fish health issues in mid-At-
lantic rivers is extremely difficult and
profoundly complex. There are probably hun-
dreds of thousands of chemical compounds
found in these rivers and it is not known at what
levels (even extremely low concentrations) they
tt "tltt^-^ 'W
-a microscope, tnecens of normal testes
look like this. (Slide images, courtesy of Vicki S.
Blazer, U.S. Geological Survey.)
20 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com
can negatively affect aquatic organisms,"
A March 14 report in the journal of the
Endocrine Society examining hundreds of
studies of hormone-altering chemicals over
three years concluded that health effects "are
remarkably common" when people or animals
are exposed to low doses of EDCs." Linda
Birnbaum, director of the National Institute
of Environmental Health Sciences, responded
to the study by supporting testing EDCs in
"ultra-low doses relevant to real human expo-
sures." Some industry officials argued that low
dose effects have not been established.
"While we still have more questions than
answers, the good news is that the severity of
the fish disease and mortality have declined
the past two years in both rivers and the fish
populations are viable," sums up Reeser.
What Can We Do?
Wastewater treatment processes are not de-
signed to treat or remove these contaminants.
Virginia does not issue health advisories for
EDCs. Virginia's Department of Environ-
mental Quality (DEQ) will investigate a site
"if we identify a particular situation to try to
find a cause of any demonstrated water quality
problem," says Fred Cunningham, DEQ
Water Permit Manager. "It's really a national
issue," he adds. "There's a big concern on the
drinking water side. "
The U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) is conducting research to deter-
mine the extent of impact of EDCs on hu-
mans, wildlife, and the environment — EPA's
Elaine Francis reported during a June 20 1 1
conference at George Mason University — in
hopes of developing risk assessments and
management options. Federal water laws do
not regulate many substances that affect
aquatic and human health.
Some advocates argue for water qualit}'
standards to address EDCs and upgrading
wastewater treatment systems. The Potomac
Conservancy is pushing for "measurable, ac-
tionable solutions," says its president,
Blazer suggests keeping animals like
cows out of rivers, using fragrance- and dye-
free products, minimizing the use of herbi-
cides and pesticides, and avoiding
anti-microbial soaps containing triclocarban.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is working
to eliminate dangerous chemicals from cos-
metics and personal care products, from de-
odorants to aftershaves. "Trash and every-
thing else you throw in the river affects the
fish," notes Blazer
Keeping drugs out of waterways is criti-
cal, say American Rivers advocates. Their
data show that 54 percent of Americans
throw unused drugs in the trash, where they
can leach into groundwater supplies from
landfills, and around 35 percent of Ameri-
cans and many medical facilities flush unused
Keeping drugs out of waterways
is critical, say American Rivers
drugs down the toilet and into local waterways.
Some localities like Fairfax County aaively dis-
courage flushing drugs down the toilet.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Adminis-
tration holds drug take-back days to safely
discard medications. The 20 1 1 event collect-
ed over 377,086 pounds (188.5 tons!) of un-
wanted medications at 5,327 sites across all
50 states. In one day, Fairfax County police
collected over 280 pounds at three police sta-
tions. Check DEA's website for the next one.
And, for the Angler
What does this all mean for Virginia's anglers?
Blazer's answer: "From our chemical analyses,
when we look at different fish tissues, the low-
est levels for many of the new chemicals are in
fish muscle, which is what people eat. A lot of
the new chemicals are not accumulating in
the muscle. So eating fish is not necessarily an
issue for humans. Humans will get exposed
in many other ways."
In recent years, DGIF has not seen a de-
cline in fish populations that the agency can
attribute to fish disease. Factors other than
poor water quality, such as nesting fish that
are exposed to strong flows, can also affect
their numbers. "We've had good spawning
success the last five to six years, " says Reeser.
That bodes well for strong year classes offish
and that, of course, determines how good
fishing will be in the years to come. ?f
Glenda C Booth, a freelance writer and member of
VOWA, grew up in Southwest Virginia and has lived
in Northern Virginia over 30 years, where she is
active in conservation efforts.
■ •?:. i>vr- ,<i':
fiUsex'l!ii!!fl!iiiUimi|&lo^(tytes(b l ack
irrows) within the testes, which also have sperm
Fact Sheet, "Intersex Fish, Endocrine Disruption in Smallmouth Bass,"
Disposal of Home Pharmaceuticals, Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality, http://www.deq.virginia.gOv/Portals/0/DEQ/
Fact Sheet, "Don't Flush Your Medications," Fairfax County
♦ National Drug Take-Back Initiative, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration,
♦ Fact Sheet, Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products, U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, http;//www.epa.gov/ppcp/faq.html#define
♦ Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Environmental Working Group,
♦ The Potomac Conservancy, 2009 State of the Nation's River report,
JUNE 2012 ♦ 21
ise Ciref * Natwre Paric
When Public/Private Partnerships Go Wild, Everyone Wins
An aerial view of Paradise Creek Park reveals its close relationship to the surrounding community.
"Parks support public health, the economy, the environment, education, and
community cohesion. . .parks produce measurable environmental and commu-
nity savings. Citizens devoted to creating and revitalizing neighborhood parks
help create safe communities. "
-The City Park Alliance
by Beth Hester
images courtesy of the
Elizabeth River Project
They're calling it Portsmouth's "big
dig." To date, 350,000 cubic yards
of river silt, clay, and industrial
dredge spoil have been excavated from an area
formerly known as the mud flats to help create
a 40-acre urban nature park and wildlife nurs-
ery in the heart of Portsmouth's heavily indus-
trialized Elizabeth River corridor. The park
initiative was heralded in the recent Growing
America's Outdoor Heritage and Economy
White House conference on community-dri-
ven conservation efforts.
Once completed, Paradise Creek Nature
Park will be the third largest park in
Portsmouth — and the only park specifically
designed to promote appreciation of the natu-
ral world, be a haven for wildlife and a nursery
for fish, and give the community access to one
of the region's most successfiil restoration ini-
tiatives. The park conserves 40 acres on the
southern branch of the river and will include
1 1 acres of restored wetlands, plus mature for-
est. The park has been designed to incorporate
green development practices and will boast a
wind- and sun-powered interpretive center,
two miles of hiking trails, a tidal garden', a
canoe/kayak launch, a large earthworks sculp-
ture, playground, outdoor classrooms, and
picnic pavilions — even composting toilets.
Creating the park can be a tactical challenge,
especially in the more compact, forested areas,
, Over 70 community volunteers cleaned up debris uncovered after phragmites was removed along a section of park land.
^r - ''
•• 1 ■. '; /- - ^ i
■ ■ V- • '
Area students explore the park's 'living
but agile construction and landscaping teams
are constandy devising low-impact construc-
A pedestrian bridge will link adjacent
neighborhoods to the park. Community sup-
port for the park has been overwhelming, and
they're already calling it "a place of peace"
within the busding, historic seaport town.
The nature park is what Elizabeth River
Project (EPR) founder and Executive Direc-
tor Marjorie Mayfield Jackson has called the
crown jewel of an innovative 250-acre envi-
ronmental program led by the non-profit or-
ganization. It's part of a sub-watershed
restoration plan, one that is becoming a
model for restoring the greater Elizabeth
River and the Chesapeake Bay "one creek at a
time." Joe Reiger directs watershed restora-
tion for the ERP and explains how the Para-
dise Creek Nature Park embodies this
"Almost twenty years ago when we ini-
tially began to look at ways to clean up con-
taminated areas around the watershed, we
had rather scattered tactics. We worked on a
number of projects around the river, but what
happened was that in a 200-square-mile wa-
tershed, doing a project here and a project
there, well, you don't completely realize the
impact of your work. We knew that we need-
ed more than a shotgun approach, so we start-
ed to look at river remediation and restoration
on the sub-watershed level, and after several
years we developed a plan to concentrate a
great deal of our work on sub-watersheds
along the river where everyone can see, and
feel, the collective benefit of these efforts."
The Paradise Creek area is a perfect ex-
ample of this approach, as it's a microcosm of
the entire watershed; it is partially residential,
partially commercial, and heavily industrial-
ized. Four superfund sites along the creek —
largely legacies of wartime shipyard
activity — have been remediated by the U.S.
Navy and transformed into wildlife-friendly,
warm-season grass meadows.
Since its inception, the ERP has forged a
unique partnership of public/private con-
cerns for the benefit of the region. The Para-
dise Creek Nature Park project showcases the
The artist renditions here and on pp. 22-23 help park visitors envision ail the amenities to be offered upon project completion.
A local Young Life group enthusiastically
pitches in to trim invasive vines.
powerful impact of ongoing conservation and
restoration partnerships that range from the
National Fish & Wildhfe Foundation, the
U.S. Navy, die Virginia Port Authority, the
University of Virginia School of Architec-
ture, Enviva LE, Giant Cement, SPSA, CSX
Transportation, the U.S. Army Corps of En-
gineers, and the Virginia Department of En-
vironmental Quality, to various foundations,
garden clubs, and civic leagues. Park con-
struction may be in its first phase, but already
the beneficial effects are reverberating
throughout the community.
The public entrance to the park was once
a garbage and phragmites-filled border flank-
ing a busy roadway and concealing an im-
promptu transient encampment. Now,
people driving past this strip of land will enjoy
a changing seasonal palette of native plants
and vegetation. Tbe adjoining parking area is
constructed of pervious gravel paving to re-
duce stormwater runoff, and the medians will
perform double-duty as rain gardens.
Varieties of wildlife species are currently
reclaiming this revitalized area as their own,
and a recent survey undertaken by an Old
Dominion University ornithology team dis-
covered 14 species of birds. Box turtles have
been spotted, and there are fox, osprey, garter
snakes, and a great horned owl. A nearby oys-
ter reef at the mouth of the creek was created
by community volunteers, and 1 6 species of
healthy fish have been recorded using these
new piscatorial amenities. An exciting part of
the wetland creation is the formation of an
open channel that will link the wetlands di-
rectly to Paradise Creek, thus creating a viable
nursery for fish, crabs, and local aquatic life.
The nature park also will serve as a
teacher training base and living laboratory for
students. The Portsmouth Public School Sys-
tem is already creating a "wetlands in the
classroom" curriculum that will support SOL
mandates. The programs of study will in-
clude an osprey initiative, pre-school wild-
flower program, and oyster reef experience.
Volunteers, including participants from
the Boy Scouts and Young Life Association,
have logged many hours cutting back inva-
sive vines, growing wildflowers for park
plantings, and acting as de facto park ambas-
sadors, cultivating beneficial long-term sup-
port for the park's initiatives among area
youth. During an official groundbreaking
ceremony. Young Life/I.C. Norcom High
School representative Ulysses Keeling
thanked the ERP and other project sponsors
for involving them in the project, calling their
experience "a beautiful thing."
Paradise Creek Nature Park will be a liv-
ing legacy for generations to come. From a
macro-perspective, it anchors an ever-grow-
ing, thriving network of clean river initiatives
within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Closer
to home, the park and complementary ERP
conservation and reclamation projects further
the collective goal of making the Elizabeth
River swimmable and fishable once again. ?f-
Beth Hester is a writer and freelance photographer
from Portsmouth. Her passions include reading,
shooting kayaking, fishing tyingsaltwater flies,
and tending her herb garden.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information on Paradise Creek
and other Elizabeth River Project
■ . \
■^r^^^ .-.--, ^ — »
Volunteers place seed oysters at the mouth of the creek. Craddock neighborhood residents and
Boy Scout Troop 222 will grow oysters in floats for summer planting.
24 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ vww.HuntFishVA.com
by Bruce Ingram
r I ver my 33 years of marriage,
I 1 the worst thing I recall is that
\^^^ day in September 2008, when
Elaine was diagnosed with breast cancer. One
of the best things in her revitalization, after
seven months of chemotherapy and a double
mastectomy, has been her participation in a
Casting for Recovery (CFR) retreat in May of
Launching in 1996 with four retreats
and now offering 46 retreats in 33 states in-
cluding Virginia, CFR is a national, non-
profit organization that supports breast
cancer survivors through activities that com-
bine fly fishing, counseling, and medical in-
formation to create an emphasis on wellness
instead of illness. Why fly fishing, though?
Lori Simon, executive director for CFR,
believes that just being out in nature provides
healing qualities, both mentally and physical-
ly, and teaching participants how to fly fish
helps connect them to the outdoor world.
"The motions of casting a fly also gently
stimulate and heal the muscles affected by ra-
diation or surgery," added Simon.
A breast cancer survivor herself Carolyn
Harvey is program coordinator and retreat
leader for the Virginia events. She plans a
budget and performs fiindraising, communi-
ty outreach, participant recruitment, and vol-
unteer recruitment and training. Her
introduction to CFR came in 2003 as a par-
"The staff treated us as royalty and made
the experience something to last for a life-
time," she recalled. "I came to a group of
women as a stranger and left having made
friends that left an impression on my life that
I would not forget and that also gave me an
opportunity to develop a love of fly fishing.
I've volunteered with other organizations
around breast cancer, and the warmth and
fellowship developed between the CFR re-
treat staff and participants made me want to
Mollie Simpkins is volimteer media co-
ordinator for the Virginia retreats.
"I do this because breast cancer aware-
ness and serving the women who have been
affected is my passion," she said. "When my
mom was diagnosed in 1983, breast cancer
was not talked about in polite company. Even
eight years later when she lost her life, it was
not something that many were comfortable
having a conversation about ... Times have
certainly changed for the better.
"I'm just lucky enough that my position
gives me the knowledge base to reach out to
the media. Working with the amazing people
of CFR, both nationally and locally, along
with the participants and all of the volun-
teers, has absolutely changed my life and fo-
cused my purpose."
A Typical Schedule
Elaine and I attended the May 20 1 1 retreat
in Madison County as members of the
media. Over the course of two and a half
days, fly-fishing activities (knot instruction,
fly tying, practice casting, entomology,
equipment needed, stream etiquette, and fi-
nally, actual fly fishing) are combined with
discussions on the physical and emotional as-
pects of dealing with breast cancer and the
objective of overall wellness. Volunteer an-
glers handle the guiding aspects, and volun-
teers in the medical field handle the physical
and emotional dimension.
Media members are only allowed to at-
tend the last day of the retreat. When Elaine
and I arrived, participants were eating break-
fast and taking part in drawings for fly-fish-
ing gear. Soon afterward, the ladies paired off
with the volunteer men and women who
were to be their guides for the morning fish-
ing at a farm pond. While all of this was
going on, Elaine saw her guide from the 20 1
Virginia retreat, Andy Manley of Fairfax.
"Do you remember how I told you to
retrieve a fly," Andy asked when he greeted
"Strip, strip, strip," giggled Elaine, and
then both laughed about a man instructing a
woman to do so in front of her husband.
That type of light-hearted banter is very
much a part of CFR retreats, but they contain
a powerful emotional component as well.
"I've had three different bouts with
breast cancer and still have 'chemo brain,'"
said Karen Hines of Virginia Beach. "Last
night, I got my best night's sleep since this
whole cancer thing started.
"Meeting and talking with other
women who have been through what I have
been through and who were so supportive of
me is the best thing that has happened to me
in a long time. 1 wasn't much of a fisherman
before coming here, but being outside and
enjoying nature is very healing."
Manley agrees about the emotional as-
pects, for both the guides and the partici-
26 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFlshVA.conn
Left, volunteer Marcia Woolman of Middleburg lands a fine trout for participant Rachel Wetherill
after landing her first trout with the help of guide Brian Randolph.
Above, Sara Fought shrieks w^ith joy
"One of the most special memories I have
took place at my first retreat," he recalled. "My
participant was close to 70, had never fished,
and was a little unsure of herself when we
waded out into a trout stream.
"But then she started catching trout like
crazy and became so excited that she almost lost
her balance and fell in. Just to see her enjoying
the outdoors is something that I'll never forget."
It was time for these 1 3 attendees and their
guides to go fishing at a farm pond stocked with
trout and bluegills. I first observed Manley tu-
"1 caught my first fish on a fly rod yester-
day," Hines told me. "It was a beautiful 4-inch
bluegill. I'm going to catch my first trout
Soon afterwards, Hines hooked a jumbo
rainbow that immediately leapt into the air,
threw the fly, and landed with a loud splat.
"Are the other fish going to go away now
because of all that racket?" Karen asked Andy.
Soon afterward, across the pond 1 wit-
nessed Rachel Wetherill of Bluemont doing
battle with a huge rainbow as guide Marcia
Woolman of Middleburg coached her on how
to fight and net a fish. After numerous leaps and
runs, the trout finally entered Woolman's net
and Rachel beamed with delight.
"Last night, the women formed a circle
and shared their darkest fears," Wetherill told
me after releasing the fish, her first-ever trout.
"1 can't tell you how much love and support I
felt when that was going on.
"Fishing is a way we women can get close
to one another, too. It's something that we can
experience with our new friends for the rest of
our lives. "
I then heard shrieks of joy coming from
farther down the shoreline and went to inves-
tigate. The sounds were coming from Sara
Fought, who was simultaneously talking,
laughing, and well, yes, shrieking at her just-
landed trout, along with guide Brian Ran-
dolph of Reston, and me.
"I'd never been fishing before," she ex-
claimed. "I thought at best I might catch a lit-
de sunfish. But the whole retreat has been
about me doing things that I didn't think were
possible, from being able to survive breast
cancer to catching a big trout. "
On a personal note. Casting for Recov-
ery has played a major role in Elaine's healing.
She has developed friends from her participa-
tion in the 20 1 event. Before CFR, she re-
garded going fishing with me as merely an
unpleasant, wifely chore to be endured every
few years. Now, we plan trips together and
Elaine regularly orders gear from catalogs.
My wife even ties her own flies, adding to her
kit turkey feathers and deer hair from game I
CFR welcomes donations and volun-
teers from corporations, clubs, and individu-
als, as participants do not have to pay to
attend a retreat. The Virginia retreat raised
funds for 1 3 women to attend last May, but
with additional donadons more could partic-
ipate. Individuals are turned away every year
because of a lack of funding. As the om-
nipresent CFR motto states ... "To fish is to
Bruce Ingram is the author of four books on river
fishing and writes a weekly outdoors bbgfor more
information: imvw. hruceingramoutdoors.com.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Casting for Recovery:
JUNE 2012 ♦ 27
AFIELD AND AFLOAT
iForaging I ClSSSlCS
The Everything Guide to Foraging:
Identifying Harvesting and Cooking
Nature's Wild Fruits and Vegetables
by Vickie Shufer
2011 F+W/Adams Media
www. ever)TJii ng. com
"Knowledge that isn't used is lost. It's one thing to
know how to identify a particular plant and
know it's edible, but you also need to know how
to process and prepare it "
This new book by one of Virginias foremost
experts on native plants and wild foods fills a
real void in wildcrafting literature. It bridges
the gap between the traditional pictorial
plant identification field guide and wild food
books that contain recipes, but which seem
targeted to a niche audience of wild food
devotees. Here is a book for the rest of us,
suitable for both novice foragers and experi-
enced wild-foodies alike. Packed with infor-
mation on sustainable, earth-friendly
foraging tactics, conservation ethics, and
recipes that emphasize each season's bounty,
Shufer also includes safety guidelines crucial
to successful foraging, touching upon topics
such as allergies, poisonous plants, and pesti-
Readers can put together numerous de-
licious, multi-course meals from the recipe
chapters: everything from soup and appetiz-
ers to dessert, preserves, vinegars, and cor-
dials. There are recipes for Clover Mint Tea,
Rose Hip Cider, Jerusalem Artichoke Salad,
Red Bud Stir-fry, Wild Veggie Pizza, Stuffed
Wild Grape Leaves, and Beech Nut Pie.
But there are limits to foraging enjoy-
ment if you don't know how to prepare, store,
and preserve nature's bounty, or if you don't
know which kitchen devices can make wild
food preparation easy and fun. Shufer
though tfiilly suggests methods by which any-
one can safely dry, can, freeze, or dehydrate a
variety of wild foods, and adds a compendi-
um of useftil kitchen gadgets and utensils. In
addition, there is a chapter designed to assist
readers who might be interested in growing
and reproducing native wild plants on their
own. An extremely useful volimie.
King George County's
by Ken Perrotte
Youngsters who signed up for King George
County Middle School's new "Outdoors
Club" are enjoying a full sensory experience
during the program's initial year. They have
heard and practiced with deer, duck, and
turkey calls, learned about the workings of
trail cameras, studied deer and their habitat,
and even tried butchering venison quarters
into pan-sized pieces of meat.
The club had informal beginnings last
year when English teacher Mark Fike hosted
lunchtime discussions with several students
who expressed interest in hunting and fish-
ing. Brown bag lunches of wild game pre-
pared by Fike or the students' parents were
Afi:er the Department's Senior Conser-
vation Police Officer Frank Spuchesi spoke to
the group one morning about treestand safe-
ty, he and Fike hatched a plan for an outdoors
club. After all, there were drama clubs, chess
clubs, and more. Why not an outdoors club?
Fike laid the groundwork with the
school and when first-year teachers Kevin
Linza (social studies) and Sarah Smigielski
(math) heard about the plan, they wanted in.
The fledgling club initially had 60 stu-
dents sign up, making it the school's largest!
The teachers surveyed the children to assess
their level of experience and identify the top-
ics they wanted to see covered. The kids sug-
gested nearly 30, including cooking venison
and game, aging deer by their jawbone, read-
ing a river, using a fish finder, and more.
Students ofiien break into groups, based
on individual interests, for their monthly
Teacher Kevin Linza (L) gives students a turkey
meetings. Some may hear a presentation
about waterfowl hunting, while others take to
the woods to learn how to read animal sign or
use a piece of outdoors equipment. Linza says
the club reinforces outdoors ethics and op-
portunities for the experienced youngsters
and introduces newcomers to things that
may later become passions.
"Some of these children don't have role
models to expose them to the outdoors.
Maybe the parents aren't interested, but the
kids are . . . This gives us a chance to share
what we know and love," Linza said. "It's a
positive, educational environment. "
June 23-24: Annual "HerpBlitz" Survey,
Mattaponi Wildlife Management Area
August 18: 1 -Day Survey Event, CaieAon
Natural Area State Park
More information at:
20 1 2-events/20 1 2-vhs-events/index.htm
The 2011 Angler Hall of Fame will now be
published in the July/August issue of the
28 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com
Black Bear Management
Bear populations have increased in Virginia
and diroughout the eastern U.S. during the
past quarter-century. Harvest management,
reforestation, public land purchases, oak for-
est maturation, bear restoration efforts, and
natural range expansions have all contributed
to bear population growth here. Although
this growing population has been welcomed
by many people, the abundance of bears can
also create concerns for others.
~ \B-24, o^
Since 2001, Virginias Black Bear Man-
agement Plan (BBMP) has provided the blue-
print for black bear management to meet the
Department's mission of managing
"wildlife. . . to maintain optimum popula-
tions... to serve the needs of the Common-
For six weeks during June and July, we
are asking for public input on the revised
BBMR This plan has been constructed over
the past two years through guidance from
public Stakeholder Advisory Committees
and the DGIF Technical Committee. The
goals in the revised BBMP reflect the values of
a diverse public and are broad statements of
pri nciples and ideals about what should be ac-
complished with bear management in Vir-
ginia. This plan will guide black bear
management across the commonwealth over
the next ten years.
We encourage you to review and com-
ment on the draft BBMP, which will be post-
ed at www.dgifvirginia.gov/comment.
June 18-24, 201 2
w\A/w. pol I i nator.org
Pollinators are critical to the health of the
planet and an abundant food supply. Many
species are at risk, including the honeybee. A
host of environmental factors are suspect, in-
cluding pesticides and cell phone towers. But
fortunately, people are waking up to the need
to protect — rather than harm — these winged
partners that carry so much weight.
Education is key. Did you know, for ex-
ample, that a honey bee:
• Pollinates flowers, vegetables, and agri-
cultural crops within a five-mile radius
of its hive.
• Only stings as a last resort (if stepped on,
for example), because doing so means
• When traveling or resting as a swarm, is
completely docile. The bees are totally
focused upon protecting their queen,
who is being "escorted" at the center of
• Along with other pollinators, generates
one-third of our food supply.
Quail and Upland
June 16: Fundraiser benefiting wildlife
habitat and youth programs of Virginia.
Shady Grove Kennels, Remington,
9 A.M.-2 P.M. Open to all. Adult sporting
clay and youth shotgun and rifle shooting.
For details call 703-232-3572 or e-mail
Recycle Your Fishing Line
For Mary and Billy Apperson, their latest
fishing trip to the James River produced
something that they never thought they
would catch. This great horned owl had a
fish hook in his shoulder and had been
trying in vain to get free from the entangle-
ment. The Appersons found him exhaust-
ed, suspended between two trees.
After rescuing him, they received our
permission to transport the bird back to a
Williamsburg vet clinic. Sadly, the bird
expired before receiving medical care.
Anglers and boaters are encouraged to
properly dispose of used monofilament
fishing line! Many boat landings and public
access sites around the state have special
PVC containers for collecting used fishing
line, making it easy to do so.
For information about the program,
locations of recycling containers, and how
groups can become partners in sponsoring
potential container sites, please go to
"Hey Mom, you won't believe it
but Dad caught a boot this big."
JUNE 2012 ♦ 29
Summer = Seasc
essay by Matt Knox
With the start of summer, the
whitetails world has again un-
dergone a dramatic change: the
fawns have arrived. All of the chaos of the
breeding season, or rut, 200 days prior has
now resulted in the arrival of the next genera-
tion of deer. In Virginia, this happens in late
May and early June and translates to the ar-
rival of probably a half-million new, spotted
wildlife residents in less than one month's
Does which separated from their family
groups to set up and defend a fawning territo-
ry have now given birth. In healthy deer pop-
ulations, most adult does give birth to twin
fawns. Not surprisingly, older does with high-
er social stams and more experience tend to
make better, or more successful, mothers.
Fawns are generally born head and feet
first and are able to stand and nurse within
about 30 minutes of birth. Twin fawns are
normally born 1 to 20 minutes apart. After
the fawns are born, the doe will lick them
clean and groom them and eat the afterbirth
to reduce odors, thus minimizing the chance
that predators will find them. These first
hours of seclusion are critical because they
allow the doe and fawn(s) to imprint each
other, forming a critical bond where the doe
will be able to identify her young in the fu-
Young white-tailed deer fawns are
hiders. This means the doe leaves them lying
in the woods and fields alone nearly all the
time for the first couple of weeks to month of
life. The doe does not abandon them. She
moves off far enough that her presence does
not draw attention to the fawns, but remains
close enough that she can come to their de-
fense if necessary. Picking up a young fawn
will normally cause it to make a piercing cry
or bawl, which will bring the doe running. It
is often during this time of year that protec-
tive does attack dogs, or sometimes even peo-
ple, defending very young, hidden fawns.
During these critical first weeks, the doe
will approach the area where the fawn is hid-
ing two to four times each day, mostly during
daylight hours. With a soft grunt she will call
the fawn to her, allowing it to nurse for 5-10
minutes. While it is nursing, she will lick and
groom it. Then she will typically move the
fawn a short distance and leave quickly.
When she leaves, the fawn will automatically
lie down again to resume hiding.
Healthy fawns generally weigh about six
to eight pounds at birth, and they grow
quickly. During a typical nursing session a
fawn will consume about eight ounces of
milk, which is richer than cow's milk, and will
usually gain about a half-pound per day,
tripling its birth weight in the first month of
Although ruminants by nature, a fawn
has a digestive system folded in such a way
early on to allow the milk to bypass the
rumen and reticulum. By two to three weeks
of age, fawns begin to eat vegetation. Al-
though fawns can be seen nursing into fall, by
1 2 weeks of age they are fianctionally weaned
and full-time ruminants.
The spotted coat of a hiding white-tailed
deer fawn is one of the most well-known
physical characteristics. White spots on a
chestnut brown background act as nature's
30 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com
1 of the Fawns
camouflage, hiding the fawn by mimicking
dappled light coming through the forest
canopy. Yes, someone has counted the spots.
On average, a fawn has between 270 and 350
of them, with two fairly straight lines down
either side of its back and the rest scattered
randomly over its sides. This camouflage
works so well it is very difficult to see and find
fawns in the woods.
For the first five to ten days of life, young
fawns will lie completely still and not even at-
tempt to escape when approached by a preda-
tor or a person. Because of this behavior, very
young hiding fawns are highly vulnerable to
predators such as black bears and coyotes.
Many fawns do not survive. At least ten per-
cent are generally lost to natural causes, and
fawn predation rates of 20-30 percent, up to
75 percent or more, have been documented
across the Southeast recently. Not surprising-
ly, most predation losses occur during the first
week to ten days of life.
Many times in suburban environments,
young fawns will be found hiding in home-
owners' yards or mulch beds, or even on
porches or in carports. Because the fawns ap-
pear to be alone, well-meaning people pick
them up, thinking they have been aban-
doned. They have not. Young fawns should
not be picked up in late May and early June.
Truly orphaned fawns, injured fawns, or
fawns mistakenly picked up as orphans
should be returned immediately to the area
where found. If that is not possible, they must
be taken to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. It
is illegal in Virginia to keep deer as pets.
By ten days to two weeks, although they
still spend most of their time bedded and hid-
ing, young fawns have changed from helpless
hiders into exceptional escape artists, easily
outrunning a person and most predators. As
fawns age they become more active and
spend increasingly longer periods with their
mother, playing and frolicking about. By one
month, sibling fawns that were kept separat-
ed since birth are reunited. These play ses-
sions are important to building strength and
i^ility for escaping predators. Most activity
by young fawns takes place during the day.
This is thought to be an adaptation to avoid
nocturnal predators like coyotes and bears.
The first two months, most of their time is
spent alone with their mother and siblings;
however, by three months of age they will quit
their solitary lifestyle and reunite with their
mothers doe family group and other fawns.
By fall, the fawns spend all of their time ac-
companying the doe.
While family life occupies the does dur-
ing summer, adult males literally lie around
and do nothing except grow antlers. Bucks re-
main in loose bachelor groups, with size and
membership routinely changing until the rut
begins in September.
Antler growth in male deer is the fastest
normal tissue growth known among mam-
mals; most is accomplished in less than 100
days during May, June, and July. Growing
antlers are sensitive, tender, and soft. Bucks go
out of their way to avoid injuring them, as in-
juries frequently result in malformed anders.
By August 1 , shortening days mean the
annual life cycle of the deer is beginning to
turn again, back to fall and back to deer life in
Matt Knox is a deer project coordinator for the
Department, serving south-central Virginia.
"*fti^i . " *^
JUNE 2012 ♦ 31
by Lynda Richardson
One spring, I joined Bob and Linda
Cole and long-time buddy Mitchell
Byrd for a bird watching trip to Dutch Gap
and Henricus Park. We were looking for
spring warblers; more specifically, the com-
mon yellowthroat. Wandering around areas
known to be yellowthroat haunts, we
scanned the trees with our binoculars, listen-
ing intendy for their calls. There just weren't
any to be found.
"They have to be here by now," Mitchell
noted aloud. We all stood quietly watching
the canopy above. Then, something amazing
happened. Linda pulled out her phone and
called a yellowthroat.
the birds fast, melodious voice erupted from
her hand. Within seconds, "witchity-witchi-
ty-witchity-witchity" cascaded down from
"How did you do that, " I asked, walking
over to see what number she could possibly
have dialed. Linda showed me her phone and
on it I saw the photograph of a beautifial com-
mon yellowthroat in breeding plumage with
a listing of several vocalizations below it. You
simply press one and it plays the bird song of
Linda scrolled around the phone, show-
ing me other birds and the information in-
cluded with each. Her phone was a
hand-held encyclopedia of bird songs, de-
scriptions, habitat preferences, ranges, and
even a place where you could report sightings
and keep a log of birds you'd seen and where
you'd seen them. You could also find out what
birds had been sighted recently and where.
I'm not kidding. . . there was even a map to
direct you to the location.
Linda filled me in to an amazing thing
called APPS and I want you to know there are
a BILLION apps out there for just about any-
thing you can think of including photogra-
phy. I wasn't really interested in apps before as
I still owned an "ancient" 2003 flip phone.
Now, apps had my attention.
You wouldn't believe the number of apps
that can be found in the bird identification
field. Some are free downloads, while others
There's An App For That!
range in cost from $9.99 to $39.99 depend-
ing on the extent of the collection. The Green
Mountain Digital Audubon Society Field
Guides ofi^er an entire collection including
birds, mammals, trees, and wildflowers for
$39.99, or just birds for $19.99. The Sibley
eGuide for $19.99 or the National Geo-
graphic Society's Handheld Birds app for
$9.99 are great bird-only apps. Feel free to try
them out before you buy, as each will allow
you to preview the information! If you have
an iPhone, simply go to the App Store icon
on your phone, do a search, and shop away.
Needless to say, I now have an iPhone
and a bird field guide app, and I love both of
them! If I'm taking a walk, birdwatching, or
just hanging out, I enjoy opening the app and
listening to various vocalizations — trying to
memorize them and which bird creates them.
I have also been checking out the photogra-
phy apps, which look pretty darn cool too.
And oh, did I tell you the iPhone also has a re-
ally great camera? Stay tuned for more on
that! Happy Apping and Happy Shooting!
The use of apps or other means of play-
back to call in birds remains a controver-
sial topic among birders. It is important
to note that there are some situations in
which the use of such playback is either
illegal (when used on threatened or
endangered species) or prohibited (in
many parks and refiiges). Recommen-
dations on appropriate situations and
ways to use this technology most effec-
tively, while minimizing disturbance to
birds and fellow birders, are available at:
Be sure to check out my upcoming
workshops at: www.lewisginter.org or
my website at www.lyndarichardson
Bob and Linda Cole and Mitchell Byrd (R) look for common yellowthroats at Dutch Gap. Linda plays
an app on her phone that has the song of the bird we are after. Amazingly, one responds! Obvious-
ly, this is a great tool for photography! © 2011 Lynda Richardson
32 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFlshVA.com
t)n the Water
by Tom Guess
Things That Make You Wonder
It's starting to feel like boating season and
you are either already on the water or get-
ting your boat ready for that. Our staff re-
ceives hundreds of calls and emails each year
with questions about boating equipment or
boating laws. I thought this might be a great
oppormnity to share some of the most com-
monly asked questions with you.
Where can I get a copy of the Virginia
Wiitercrafi Owner's Guide?
This year we merged the Virginia Watercraft
Owner's Guide into the Virginia Freshwater
Fishing & Watercraft Owner's Guide. This new
combined guide is available at any licensed
vendor that sells a license for the Department.
They are also available in the sporting goods
section of several major department stores, as
well as rest areas, visitor's centers, and various
locations that have information kiosks con-
taining outdoor information. The guide is
also available online through our website:
Dolneedto renter my boat, andifso,
This requirement is derived from the Code of
Federal Regulations, 33 CFR 173: All vessels
with propulsion machinery (electric, gaso-
line, diesel, steam, or other) must be regis-
tered in the state of principal use. States can
be more stringent than the federal require-
ment, but must at least meet this require-
ment. This is why all vessels, even vessels with
a trolling motor, must be registered.
Do I need a horn or whistle on my boat?
All vessel operators are required to be able to
make a sufficient sound signal if needed. For
vessels less than 39.4 feet, this could be as sim-
ple as a police whistle — which is audible for
up to 0.5 nautical miles. Many boats are
equipped with automotive-style horns, or the
operator may have a Freon-style, manually
activated horn on board. Any of these will
make a sufficient sound signal and meet the
requirements of the law. This is why we issue a
whisde to every student who takes a Boat Vir-
ginia classroom boating safet)' course.
Why do I need a boating class? I have
been boating all my life and never had
Many boaters often launch and remrn at the
same ramp, transit to the same area, or boat
the same way with no trouble for many years;
however, if they find themselves in a position
of having to navigate to another area due to
weather, or navigate in fog, or if they have a
sudden onboard emergency, it may be a
much different stor\'. On average, recreation-
al boaters who complete a basic boating safety
course approved by the National Association
of State Boating Law Administrators (NAS-
BLA) are 75 percent less likely to be involved
in an incident on the water.
Virginia experiences, on average, 120 re-
ported accidents and 20 fatalities annually.
Only about 1 1 percent of these accidents in-
volve alcohol and the incidents involving
rental boats are very low. Most accidents hap-
pen on small, open motorboats during calm
weather in the late afternoon. By taking an
approved boating safet)' coiu'se, you will not
only be in compliance with the law, you will
be mitigating the chance of being involved in
an incident on the water. The Boat Virginia
classroom course is free of charge. You can
also take a course offered by the U.S. Coast
Guard AiDdliary, the U.S. Power Squadrons,
or online through a third party provider for
about $25—35, depending on the course you
choose. To locate a classroom or online
course, visit our website: www.HuntFish
Until next time: Be Responsible, Be
Safe, and Have Fim!
Tom Guess, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret), serves as the
state boating law administrator at the DGIF.
JUNE 2012 ♦ 33
by Ken and Mono Perrotte
Oven Barbecued Bear
Talk to most wild game neophytes about eating bear and
watch with a smile as their defensive shields are activated.
"Bear? Isn't it too greasy?"
"Bear? Isn't it too gamey?"
"Bear? Can't it make you sick?"
Greasy and gamey are usually a function of field care. Proper
handling is essential from the time the bear is killed through the
processing and final preparation of the cuts of meat for the cooking
pot. It is true that bears can carry the parasites that cause Trichi-
nosis. The solution here is to simply ensure the bear is well cooked,
to an internal temperature of at least 165° throughout. The truth
is, once people try well-prepared bear, it often achieves delicacy
status and a place at the top of the tasty red meat list.
Bears are expanding their range in Virginia. Additional
seasons could mean more lucky hunters might be adding this
flavorful, rich red meat to the dinner table.
Maria originally concocted this recipe using kitchen know-
how and a creative gleaning of ingredients hanging out in the
refrigerator. It has never failed to delight anyone who tried it. And,
here's a secret — it would work just as well with a nice venison roast.
1 small bear roast, about 1.5 pounds, well trimmed of silver skin,
gristle, and visible fat
I or 2 tablespoons salt for brining
1 teaspoon bacon fat
1 teaspoon olive oil
V4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Vi onion, chopped
2 tablespoons green pepper, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
Vs teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Vi cup ketchup
Va cup vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar (more or less to taste)
6 or 7 drops Tabasco or hot sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon canola oil; less if bear has any fat
Vi cup water
Fresh chopped chives
Prep and Cooking
In a non-metal container, brine the meat in a mixture of 1 table-
spoon salt to 3 cups water. Use more salt and water if needed so
that the roast is fully covered. Brine for at least 4 hours, or
overnight. Drain the meat, pat it dry, and let sit it on counter to
air dry and for about 1 5 to 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 300°.
In a Dutch oven or oven-proof pan, heat the fat and olive
oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. All oil can be used
if you don't want the bacon fat. Brown the meat on all sides and
remove to a plate. Turn down the heat to medium-low and add
the onions, celery, and green pepper. Saute until soft. Add the
garlic and dry seasonings and cook for a minute. Add the tomato
paste and cook another minute. Then add the rest of the ingredi-
ents, turn up the heat, and bring to a boil. Add the meat and
turn or baste to cover the meat with sauce. Cover and place in
the oven. Cook for 3 or more hours, depending on the size and
shape of the roast. Turn and baste occasionally. Add a litde water
if the sauce gets too thick or dry.
When done, the meat must be fiilly cooked and should be
fork tender and easily shredded. Garnish with coarsely chopped
fresh chives for color and flavor. Accompany with favorite potato
and vegetable sides, such as lightly sauteed tomatoes. A hefty, dry
red wine that's not too heavy on fruit nuances pairs well.
Sauteed Grape Tomatoes
Vi tablespoon olive oil
Vz tablespoon unsalted butter
1 pint grape tomatoes
Pinch of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
Heat olive oil and butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add
tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook until soft, stirring several times.
34 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ wv\w.HuntFishVA.conri
Coming This July!
Change is a part of life,
and that's certainly true of the
publishing world these days. So you
will probably not be surprised to learn
that this magazine will undergo
some changes soon.
Beginning this July, Virginia Wildlife \n\\\ become
a bi-monthly magazine. We will add more
pages, more content, and more special features— as
we move to six issues a year: July-August, September-
October, November-December, January-February,
March-April, and May-June. This change means that,
even in the face of increased production costs, Virginia
Wildlife will maintain its low subscription rate and re-
main free of advertising while giving you more of the
stories and photography that you have asked for. Our
goal is to make every issue bigger and better than ever!
We will kick off the new format with a special fea-
ture about the history of the Pittman-Robertson Act,
the legislative linchpin in the foundation of all wildlife
and sportfishing restoration programs across this coun-
try. The following issue will include a special hunting
guide, running at the start of the fall seasons. Also
coming to you next year will be a trout guide, a fishing
forecast, and a special outdoors guide showcasing
wildlife-related recreation opportunities and events.
That guide will be combined with our annual photog-
raphy contest, to be published in July-August 2013.
(More details about the photo contest will be forth-
coming; categories and deadline will change.)
The magazine staff is excited about the new format
and the opportunity to better serve our loyal sub-
scribers who have supported the magazine over the
past 73 years. We ask for your patience as we move
forward, and trust that the new and improved Virginia
Wildlife will continue to find a spot by your favorite
lune 1 -3
If fishing in designated stoclted trout waters,
botli a fresliwater and trout license are required.
Boating Safety Courses Are Required
Personal Watcrcraft (PWO^JetSkr
All ages by July 1, 2012. No one under the age of 14
cam operate a PWC
Motorboat 1 hp or Greater
Age 30 or younger, July 1, 2012
Age 40 or younger, July 1, 2013
Age 45 or younger, July 1, 2014
Age 50 or younger, July 1, 2015
All ages by July 1,2016
UMITEP TIME OFFEI2
Bound Copies of Vii:ginia Kf Idlife Magazine
Annual Editions from 1990 through 2011
Are Available in Limited Supply
$26.75 per edition (includes S/H) Pay by Check Only to : Treasurer of Virginia
Mail to : Virginia Wildlife IViagazine P.O. Box 1 1 104, Richmond, VA 23230- 1 104
Include your full name, daytime phone, and USPS shipping address.
Reference Item No. VW-230 and the year(s) you are purchasing.
Please allow 4 weeks for receipt of order.
Magazine subscription-related calls only 1-800-710-9369 ♦ Annual subscription for just $1 2.95
All other calls to (804) 367-1 000; (804) 367-1 278 TTY
Now it's easier thaw ever to find a fishing destination close to you.
Simply visit TakeMeFishing.org where you'll find places that are
close, convenient— and they'll pass the muster with all your fishing
buddies. Hey you'll even get insider's tips on how to catch the big one.
Buy your fishing license today. Call (866)721-6911, go to
^^^^B & U^ www.dglf.virginia.gov or visit your nearest location.
?uy any two Shakespere products that ,
total HO and a 20 1 2 fishing license, and '
get ^10 back by mail.
Go to www.shakespeare-fishing.com for terms
and conditions, and the official rebate form.