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Full text of "Virginia Wildlife"

editor 



Rob was down in the mouth yes- 
terday. Acted like a dog off its feed. 
1 couldn't even get him to laugh 
about our last deer hunting exploit 
when he got distracted by a flock of 
turkeys and tried sneaking up on 
them in a field on his belly like he 
was antelope hunting. 

A friend of mine who is married 
to one heckuva deer hunter started 
fussing the other day when her 
husband just up and left for the 
woods on his day off. Didn't do a 
single household chore set out for 
him. And he didn't take his gun 
with him, even though the season 
was still open then. Just took off. 
Typical. 

It's an ache or a frown, or a sud- 
den flash of temper. It happens 
soon after deer season closes and 
the snow starts falling. Ducks are 
still in, geese and quail and grouse, 
too. But you've lost heart. The sea- 
son has stopped dead. 

It's not just that a good thing has 
come to an end again, as we know 
things like that must. Because, I 
think most of us could handle that 
sort of situation in a dignified 
manner with only a few minor days 
of sulking. No, it's much more 
than that. 

It's having to let go of the cold 
sunrises, and the single stars that 
still hold brighmess at 7:00 a.m., 
and whispering to each other while 
you're peering into the woods from 
atop a hill, ready to see a deer slip 
into a field on its way into cover. 
It's being warm and still in the 
morning, full up with coffee shared 
in a farmhouse 10 minutes ago 




with a new friend who is grinning 
about the whole day laid clean out 
in front of you. . . 

Get yourself up into that edge of 
woods that borders the clearcut and 
runs do\Jun to the edge of that creek. 
You might see something once the dogs 
start running. Mapping out your 
stand, you pace off the yards down 
to the creek, then fix in your mind 
the tree that marks your gun's 
limit, beyond which you won't 
shoot. And leaning up against a 
tree, waiting, with the sun moving 
up through the trees, you shift 
positions so that the sun glinting 
off your barrel won't spook that 
two-step rustle in the leaves. . . 

It's losing the midmorning re- 
grouping, when everybody goes 
back to the trucks for some coffee, 
and then starts kicking around 
ideas about exactly where the first 
man drive of the day should be. 
And those times when you find 
yourself scrunched up in a tree 
stand with your hunting buddy. 
He's facing one way, you're facing 
the other. Psstl hJudge me if you see 
something. The hooting and holler- 
ing of the drivers, the whoops and 
groans when they hit briars and 
tear their legs up, all so's you'll get a 
deer this time. 



And it's the loss of those quiet, 
easy conversations at midday, sit- 
ting on a log somewhere in the sun 
and swapping sandwiches and Coca- 
colas, and bringing up matters of 
the heart and soul, and digging out 
answers in the warmth of a Decem- 
ber afternoon. 

It's the ache of losing your grip 
on those kinds of bonds made fast 
with the season, hoping they'll hold 
through another year, until the 
buck rubs, the scrapes, and the 
signs appear again. . . 

It's gonruj he your last stand this 
season. Make this one count. Don't 
mess up. The light is fading, and the 
deer step out, one first, then another 
and another. One shot, and night 
closes in cold and clear, with a pine 
bough ritually placed in a doe's 
mouth, and a blood-dipped pine 
branch laid gently on a gray body 
after the kill, because it all had to 
do with thanks and respect and a 
powerful love. 

It's not an easy thing to accept 
the end of something. And it's even 
harder to tear yourself away from 
the memories and face the fact that 
you're just going to have to try to 
find something else that will at least 
make life bearable for the next 
unmentionable number of months, 
like buying a new rifle or scouting 
some new land. But, it's easier to 
despair. 

And that's mostly what we do 
till the leaves turn green and the 
chill dulls and something stirs inside 
us. 

Still, we won't be right again till 
September. 




Volxune 49 Number 2 



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GINIA 



WILDLIFE 

Dedicated to the Conservation of Virginia's Wildlife and 
Related Natural Resources 




Cover 

Snow geese (Chen caerulescens); photo by R.C. 

Simpson. 

Back cover: Virginia mountain stream; photo by Jean 

M. Fogle. 

Bombers in the East by Joe Coggin 

Ruffed grouse are being reintroduced into eastern 
Virginia by the Game Department, and so far, the 
results look promising. 



Backing Our Brookies 1 Q 

by Christopher Camuto 
A management program for brook trout in Virginia. 



Stalking the Snow Goose by Bob Gooch ^ ^ 

Hunters are learning fast how to hunt these birds, i i 





22 



26 



On the WILD side by Nancy Hugo 
Virginia's Project WILD is bringing v^dlife conser- 
vation into our schools — and it's fun. 



Fast Food For Frugivores by Nancy Hugo 
Cedar berries come in handy for migrating birds 
taking their meals on the wind. 



From the Backcountry Planting for Wild- 30 



life, boating safety tips, recipes, hunter education courses, 

and more. 



3t Virginia's Wildlife byjohnPagels 

The Fisher 






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opposite: photo try Gregory K. Scott 



Many years ago, we at the 
Game Department learned 
that trying to establish wild- 
life species in new areas by raising 
them on a game farm and then release- 
ing them into the wild was destined to 
fail. However, research and experi- 
mentation, especially with wild tur- 
keys, taught us that capturing birds in 
the wild and then releasing them in 
areas of the state that appeared to have 
good habitat could be extremely suc- 
cessful. As a matter of fact, as the 
result of our turkey stocking program, 
we have only 16 counties in the state 
left that do not boast a fall turkey 
hunting season, and turkeys all across 
the state are becoming a common 
occurrence. 

But what about ruffed grouse? 
Except for the counties located just 
east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, 
there are few grouse to be found 
throughout the state, and none in 
Tidewater. Realizing this, we started 
investigating the possibility of relocat- 
ing grouse in eastern Virginia. We had 
no firm evidence that the bird histori- 
cally inhabited the region, although 
reports have indicated that ruffed 
grouse are naturally moving eastward, 
with wild birds being sighted on Fort 
Pickett Military Reservation in Not- 
toway, Brunswick and Dinwiddie 
counties. 

Thus, in 1985, the Game Depart- 
ment made the decision to attempt a 
relocation effort of ruffed grouse into 
eastern Virginia. We decided to con- 
duct the research project on the 
Chickahominy Wildlife Management 
Area ( WMA) in Charles City County, 
located approximately 30 air miles 
southeast of Richmond. Since it is 
Game Department owned land, we 
would have control over timber cut- 
ting and other management practices 
to maintain and improve grouse habi- 
tat there. 

After reviewing the literature and 
evaluating the experiments of grouse 

FEBRUARY 1988 



Bombers 

in the East 



Ruffed grouse are being 
reintroduced into eastern Virginia 

by the Game Department, and 
so far, the results look promising. 

by Joe Coggin 



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relocation in other states, particularly 
in Missouri, Wisconsin, and Arkan- 
sas, we decided to attempt a relocation 
of 60 wild trapped birds. That's when 
the work began. Finding grouse is hard 
enough, but trapping them is a mon- 
umental effort. The Game Depart- 
ment Wildlife Management Area 
Supervisors located west of the Blue 
Ridge Mountains were involved in the 
trapping project that summer and fall 
of 1985. Each supervisor constructed 
20 traps, which gives you some idea of 
the odds of capturing a bird. 

By the last week in August, the traps 
were complete, and with persistence 
and hard work that lasted more than 
two months, the men caught 66 birds. 
Six of the birds died, mostly due to 
injuries sustained in the traps or hold- 
ing pens. Three escaped, and we were 
left with 57 grouse (31 males and 26 
females) to release on Chickahominy 
WMA. 

Once trapped, no bird was kept 
more than 24 hours, and all were 
banded and then released before 9:00 
each morning. Prior to the release of 
any birds, we identified a 600-acre 
release area, chosen with the assistance 
of our biologists and the Ruffed 
Grouse Society. We were looking for 
an area with small sapling size trees, 
some conifers, and fairly dense under- 
story near openings and clearings. 
Cutover areas and drumming logs 
were accounted for in our assessment, 
along with important grouse food and 
cover plants such as vaccinium, honey- 
suckle, and smilax. Once we identified 
the release site, we indentified four 
areas, about l/8th to 1/4 mile apart, 
for releases. Our feeling was that it was 
better not to put all our eggs in one 
basket, so to speak, by releasing all our 
hard-earned trapped birds in one spot. 
Thus, 1 5 birds were released at each of 
the first three sites, and 1 2 birds at the 
last site. 

During the first week in April of 
1986, six months after our relocation 
effort, the entire release area was 
sampled three times to locate drum- 
ming males. Theoretically, one drum- 
ming male indicates the presence of 
one female, but realistically, other fac- 
tors influence such a population esti- 




So far, our grouse relocation efforts in Tidewater look promising, with at least one 
brood reported in 1986. Above and opposite:Brooding hens; photos by Rob and 
Melissa Simpson (above) and Gregory K. Scott (opposite). Below: Grouse chick; 
photo by Rob Simpson. 




FEBRUARY 1988 




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Drumming logs are importam during the spring for male grouse, and Chicka- 
hominy Wildlife Management Area has a gocxi number of suitable drumming 
sites; Above ax\d oppodte: Grouse; photos by Gregory K. Scott. 



mate. After all, it isn't too probable 
that we would hear all the drumming 
males in the area, plus; there may be 
more than one female for every drum- 
ming male. In any case, we located 
nine different durmming sites in April, 
though we did not approach the sites 
for fear of disturbing the birds. 

We repeated the drumming census 
during the first week in April of 1 987 . 
This time eight drummers were heard 
and were located close to the same 
sites they were heard "showing ofP' 
last year. 

The most heartening discovery is 
that the birds have been reproducing. 
One large brood was reported in the 
summer of 1986, by a visitor to the 
area, but few had been seen by Game 
Department personnel. Thus, with the 
use of dogs in August of that year, we 
located three broods. The nvimber of 
chicks in the broods could not be 
accurately determined, but it appeared 
that there were less than five chicks in 
each brood. 

Now where do we stand? We have 
only two years' worth of data from 
which to make an assessment of the 
project, but judging from the number 
of drumming counts and reports from 
area visitors, the results look encour- 
ageing. Based on the brood sightings 
and tlie report of the Chickahominy 
Wildlife Management Area Supervi- 
sor David Brime, who saw two un- 
handed birds at close range, we have 
established that grouse can success- 
fully reproduce on the area. 

To hastily conclude that this exper- 
iment is a complete success this early 
in the game would be a mistake, but so 
far, the project does appear to be 
working. It will take at least two years 
more, or even longer to determine 
whether or not we have succeeded 
with this attempt at grouse relocation. 
But, we have already gained a wealth 
of knowledge and experience from 
this effort — and if it works, we may be 
able to look forward to catching a 
glimpse of this dynamic bird in Tide- 
water Virginia. □ 

Joe Coggin is a supervising wildlife research 
biologist in the iwestem region. He is heading 
up the grouse relocation research project for the 
Department. 



FEBRUARY 1988 



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Brookies 

A management program 

for hrook trout 

in Virginia, 

story & photos by Christopher Camuto 






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VIRGINIA WILDLIFE 




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FEBRUARY 1988 



ho would have thought 
that our native brookie, 
fanning peacefully in a 
remote Virginia mountain stream, 
would incite foresters, biologists and 
fishermen to wear themselves out try- 
ing to protect a fragile thousand miles 
of habitat where these small, but beau- 
tiful fish live? 

Well, it's true. Known to science as 
Salvelinus fontinalis, the brookie is 
perhaps Virginia's most distinguished 
native species, with a strong claim to a 
permanent, protected place in our 
envirorunent. But, with logging, acid 
rain, and increasing angler pressure on 
our mountain streams, the manage- 
ment of this our only native trout 
poses complex problems for state and 
federal wildlife officials, as well as for 
citizens concerned about the preserva- 
tion of Virginia's natural resources. 

Until the mid-nineteenth century, 
brook trout claimed a larger domain 
in Virginia's rivers than they do today. 
But, unrestricted logging of Virginia's 
old growth forests of hemlocks, chest- 
nuts, white oaks, mock-hickories, and 
tulip trees, conversion of woodland to 
agricultural use, and the discharge of 
pollutants raised the temperature and 
tubidity of many rivers that once sup- 
ported populations of native trout. A 
river is only as alive and healthy as the 
watershed surrounding it, and the 
brook trout has been retreating before 
the progress of the axe, the crosscut 
saw, and finally the chain saw for 
almost four centuries. 

The last bastions of brook trout 
habitat in Virginia are in Shenandoah 
National Park, where 110 miles of 
wild trout water are permanendy pro- 
tected from any encroachment on 
their watersheds, and in the George 
Washington and Thomas Jefferson 
National Forests, where, unless na- 
tional policy on public lands changes, 
protection of brook trout habitat will 
be achieved within the context of the 
"multiple use" of forest resources. 

There are approximately 900 miles 
of coldwater trout streams in Virgi- 
nia's two national forests, some of 
which is exclusively wild trout water, 
and some of which is "put-and-take" 
water for hatchery trout. The National 
Forest Service and the Virginia Depart- 



11 




ment of Game and Inland Fisheries 
have joint responsibility for the native 
brookies. 

The suitability of Virginia's moun- 
tain streams for brook trout has a great 
deal to do with the fish's natural his- 
tory. The genealogy of a brook trout 
holding in the current of a Blue Ridge 
mountain stream reaches far back into 
the evolutionary past. One of the suc- 
cessful Salmoniformes, the brook 
trout's primitive ancestors evolved as 
a migratory marine species in arctic 
seas 100 million years ago. Driven 
south by the cycles of Pleistocene gla- 
ciation, the brook trout occupied the 
cold rivers and shallow estuarine seas 
that covered Virginia about 40,000 
years ago. When the last ice sheet 
receded from North America 1 1 ,000 
years ago, the brookies stayed behind, 
working their way toward higher ele- 
vations and cooler water as tempera- 
tures warmed. Going "up mountain" 
was the brookie's only way of going 
back North. 

Ideal brook trout habitat reflects 
the native's arctic origins. A char 
rather than a true trout, the brook 
trout thrives in clean, cold, well-oxy- 
genated water — the kind of water that 
tumbles down out of Virginia's moun- 
tains. The brookie seeks temperatures 



below 68°F and needs cool, sediment- 
free water in which to spawn. It is 
sensitive to all forms of water pollu- 
tion and its reproductive ability is jeo- 
pardized by water with a pH more 
acidic than 5.2. Overhead cover from 
forest canopy and instream cover from 
boulders, logs, and aquatic vegetation 
provide protection from predators as 
well as the shade that keeps stream 
temperatures tolerable. The natural 
sequence of riffles, pools, and deep- 
water runs of mountain freestone 
streams provides the kind of stream- 
scape in which brook trout can suc- 
cessfully grow and reproduce. 

The brook trout is a so-called "fea- 
tured" species in the current George 
Washington National Forest Manage- 
ment Plan. Recognizing that brook 
trout are a sought-after game species as 
well as an ecologically significant indi- 
cator species, this program seeks to 
emphasize the "protection and enhance- 
ment" of native trout habitat in addi- 
tion to providing a relatively undis- 
turbed environment for the fisherman. 
The program provides special protec- 
tion for 29 streams and 77.6 miles, or 
18% of the coldwater stream mileage 
on the George Washington National 
Forest. 

Although work is being done 



through the featured species program 
to improve Virginia's wild trout re- 
source and, in some cases, increase 
coldwater stream mileage, many of the 
management practices directed toward 
brook trout in Virginia's national 
forests are designed to protect them 
from the effects of logging and road 
building. Poor timber practices can 
quickly destroy a trout stream as well 
as the wilderness experience many 
fishermen seek from their days on 
stream. Since considerable clear-cut- 
ting and road building is allowed 
under the multiple-use policy, trout 
habitat must be managed defensively. 
Such management practices include 
providing filter strips in trout stream 
watersheds to check erosion and sed- 
imentation and shade strips along 
stream banks to check erosion and 
keep water temperatures cool enough 
for trout. Given the vulnerability of 
trout habitat, the future of much of 
Virginia's wild trout fishery will de- 
pend on the degree to which the man- 
agement practices dictated by the cur- 
rent Forest Service plans are carried 
out in the field. 

The Forest Service and the Game 
Department also cooperate in manag- 
ing the mix of wild trout and hatchery 
trout in Virginia's streams. Larry 



12 



VIRGINIA WILDLIFE 




Mohn, a Game Department fisheries 
biologist, insists that the Department's 
primary job in trout management "is 
to protect existing native resources." 
In most cases, hatchery fish are not 
introduced into water with a self- 
sustaining natural trout population, 
since rainbow trout (Salmo gairdneri), 
a species originally imported from 
Rocky Mountain watersheds, and 
brown trout (Salmo trutta), a native to 
Europe and Asia, can in some cases 
interfere with a brook trout popula- 
tion. Fishing regulations governing 
catch size, creel limits, and tackle res- 
trictions are designed to encourage the 
viability of native trout populations. 

In addition, cooperation in the pro- 
tection and improvement of trout 
habitat in Virginia currently extends 
beyond official channels. Increased 
citizen concern with land use practices, 
increased interest in fishing for wild 
trout, and increased awareness of 
environmental problems affecting fish 
populations has led to greater citizen 
involvement in fisheries management 
and habitat protection. 

The Virginia Council of Trout 
Unlimited, which is dedicated to the 
preservation of coldwater fisheries, 
has joined with the Game Department 






Native brook trout management in Vir- 
ginia involves coordination betijueen the 
Game Departmera, the Forest Service, 
the 'National Park Service and the 
cooperation of environmental groups 
such as Trout Unlimited. 



and the George Washington and 
Thomas Jefferson National Forests in 
a formal Parmership Agreement de- 
signed to increase and maintain coop- 
eration among trout fishermen and 
state and federal fisheries personnel. 
Although the agreement was signed in 
January of 1986, Trout Unlimited, 
the Forest Service, and state fisheries 
personnel have cooperated on stream 
improvement projects at least since 
1981 . Considerable work was done in 
the aftermath of the November 1985 
flood to stabilize stream banks and 
clear channels on Simpson Creek, 
North River, Ramsey's Draft, and on 
the South Fork of the Piney River in 
Amherst County. 

These cooperative efforts to protect 
trout habitat set a precedent that was 
formalized in the 1986 agreement. 
The collective goal is to improve trout 
habitat, increase public awareness of 
the value of Virginia's coldwater fish- 
ery and the environmental threats, 
natural and man-made, to that fishery, 
and to increase funds and labor for 
habitat improvement work. Accord- 
ing to Rich Standage, fisheries biolo- 
gist for the George Washington and 
Thomas Jefferson National Forests, 
the agreement, only the second of its 



kind in the country, has already had a 
significant positive impact on Virgi- 
nia's native trout fishery. So far. Trout 
Unlimited has donated several thou- 
sands of dollars worth of labor in the 
construction and repair of habitat- 
enhancing structures on the George 
Washington National Forest, and plans 
to increase its on-stream efforts in 
1988. 

Perhaps the most impressive expres- 
sion of the current spirit of coopera- 
tion and the role of volunteers in 
resource management was the Virgi- 
nia Trout Stream Sensitivity Study 
conducted in the spring of 1987, an 
effort which brought together aca- 
demic, state, federal, and private 
resources. A comprehensive two-year 
study of the acid sensitivity of Virgi- 
nia's wild trout water was conceived 
by Dr. James Galloway of the Univer- 
sity of Virginia's Department of Envir- 
onmental Sciences, and the Game 
Department agreed to fund the 
$70,000 project. Acting in the spirit 
of the Cooperative Agreement, Trout 
Unlimited — along with the Float Fish- 
ermen of Virginia, Shenandoah Out- 
doors, and volunteers from organi- 
zations like the Sierra Club and the 
Virginia Wildlife Federation — put 
more than 160 volunteers in the field 
and collected samples at 400 sites on 
370 wild trout streams during a 10- 
day period in April and May of 1987. 
A report on the acid deposition prob- 
lem in Virginia was issued in the fall. 

Managing wild trout and protecting 
the environment they depend upon 
has clearly come to be a broad-based 
responsibility in Virginia. If coopera- 
tion on the federal, state, and local 
level continues, and if national envir- 
onmental problems like acid deposi- 
tion are adequately addressed, then 
the continued residency of one of our 
most distinguished native species will 
be assured. Hopefully, it will always be 
possible to spend a day carefully wad- 
ing a mountain stream, flicking a small 
dry fly to the likely lies of these wary 
but hungry creatures, hoping for the 
sudden rush of color and energy that 
trout fishermen love. □ 

Christopher Camuto has written for Fly 
Fisherman, Trout, Flyfishing, and Sierra. 
He lives in Earlysville. 



FEBRUARY 1988 



13 






Lesser snow goose (Chen caerulescens) blue 
phase; photo by Charles Sdiwartz. 




talkin.' 







14 



now goose?" 

My question was barely a 
whisper. My guide, hunk- 
ered low in die Back Bay blind, glanced 
quickly at me and turned his head in 
the direction of my questioning gaze. 

"Yep." 

The big white bird was directly 
overhead now, and before I could 
swing into action it was angling away 
from the blind, its long, black-tipped 
wings fanning the misty January air. 

I like to take my birds head-on as 
they approach the blind. I seem to 
have that shot down pat. Swing on the 
bird, block out its head with the muz- 
zle of the gun and hit the trigger. Usu- 
ally a puff a feathers and a big bird 
hitting the water with a splash is the 
result, but 1 had picked up this bird's 
approach before the guide had and its 
big white body raised doubts in my 
mind. Swans are also big and white. 
They lack the black tips on their 
wings, but I was having trouble spot- 
ting them in the heavy mist that hung 
over the shallow bay. Whistling swans, 
or tundra swans as they are called in 
North Carolina to the south, are illegal 
in Virginia, and then the big white 
birds were carrying a $500 price tag 
for the hunter who bagged one. 1 

VIRGINIA WILDLIFE 



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Hunters 

are learning 

fast how to hunt 

these birds. 



the Snow Goose 



by Bob Gooch 



would like to bag a swan, but not ille- 
gally. That was why I had hesitated. 

Now I was forced to take a going- 
away shot, but fortunately the angle of 
the bird's flight gave me a chance at its 
head instead of its rear end. I was 
loaded with high-brass number 6 duck 
loads, not goose or swan loads, and I 
needed a head shot. Beyond the shiny 
muzzle of my battered Browning I 
could see the bird's long neck and its 
reddish bill and head. Swinging with 
the bird I got slightly ahead of it and 
touched the trigger. The range was 
short, and the bird faltered and fell like 
a brick. 

"That's just the seventh snow taken 
from our blinds this season," said the 
guide as we stood up in the blind and 
relaxed. "You were lucky a stray came 
this way." 

That statement gave me pause for 
reflection. 

We were hunting the Department 
of Game and Inland Fisheries Poca- 
hontas Waterfowl Management Area 
that day, a friend and I. I had been 
lucky in the drawing for blinds that 
season and was enjoying the foggy day 
on Back Bay. It was late in the season. 
Why only seven snows from this pro- 
ductive hunting area? Why, I had 



never visited Back Bay during the 
waterfowl season without seeing thou- 
sands of the white geese. Admittedly, 
none had ever come near my blind on 
previous trips, but they were almost 
always visible, usually in long, undu- 
lating lines — and also high and far 
away. 

It was not until I met Jim Clark, a 
Back Bay fishing and waterfowl guide, 
that I began to solve the riddle. Clark 
was my guide on one of those Poca- 
hontas hunts. When the talk got 
around to snow geese, as it inevitably 
does on Back Bay hunts, he suggested I 
come back after the duck season 
closed, and hunt snows with him. 

"We'll be fteld shooting,' " he said. 
"You won't need waders or hip boots." 

So that was the answer. While the 
birds spend a lot of time on Back Bay 
resting and sleeping, they feed mostly 
in the fields to the west of the big body 
of brackish water. This obviously 
meant hunting private farmlands. I did 
not have access to such lands, but 
Clark did. 

It was late January when I got back 
to Back Bay. The snow goose season 
ran through January that year, except 
on Back Bay proper, where it had 
ended with the duck season. We 



would not be hunting the bay waters, 
however. 

It was still dark when, laden with 
guns, ammunition, thermos jugs, and 
other gear, we trudged down a long 
farm road to a ditch that divided two 
fields. The blind was there — deep in 
the ditch. We climbed in and awaited 
dawn and legal shooting time. 

The stormy Atlantic Ocean was out 
there to the east. Invisible, but I could 
smell it. And out there the gray light of 
dawn slowly pushed away the blanket 
of darkness that covered the two 
fields. Gradually, they took shape and 
for the first time 1 saw the big white 
silhouette decoys. Made of plywood, 
they dominated the spread of dekes. 
The decoys took a variety of forms, 
however, reflecting the ingenuity gen- 
erated over the centuries by man's 
attempt to outwit ducks, geese, and 
other game. In addition to the sil- 
houettes, there were also decoys 
fashioned from sections of automo- 
bile tires. Perfectly formed goose heads 
and necks had been cut from plywood 
and attached to the tire sections, and 
then the whole decoy painted white. 
The silhouettes and tire decoys were 
built in Clark's basement, but there 
were a few full-bodied plastic decoys 



FEBRUARY 1988 



15 




that were obviously factory-made. 
Together, they painted a scene of 
snows feeding contentedly in the big 
field. 

"That sure ought to bring them in," 
1 whispered. 

"Hopefully," came the answer. 
"But, we could use some fog." 

Snow geese were protected for over 
40 years, for most of this century, but 
they were put back on the legal list in 
1974. As a consequence, there are not 
many snow goose experts in Virginia, 
but those who hunt them are learning 
rapidly. 

The sun was on the flat eastern 



horizon now and we had good shoot- 
ing light. 

"Down!" whispered Jim Clark. 

I held my breath and waited as a 
small flock of snows appeared fi-om 
behind the woods that bordered one 
of the fields. At first they seemed to be 
headed for the decoys and our bUnd, 
but then veered off. 

"Typical. The same old story," 1 
mumbled. 

But then another warning. "Behind 



us; 



I" 



I didn't dare risk a glance, but kept 
my eyes on Clark who had the birds 
fixed in his gaze. The movement of his 



16 



VIRGINIA WILDLIFE 




head told the story. Apparently, they 
were almost overhead. 

"Now!" 

I swung into position, and it was not 
until then that I sighted the birds, four 
of them, eyeing the decoys, and well 
within range. I picked out a bird and 
began to swing on it, but it folded as 
Jim's gun fired. Then there was 
another, frantically fanning the air for 
altitude, but my load of 2's caught it 
before it got far. My partner dropped 
another, and then I had another shot, 
missed, swung a bit farther ahead and 
hit the trigger again. My bird this time. 

The quiet that followed was almost 



startling, but finally Jim spoke. "Four 
dead snows out there." 

"You need a feeding area and plenty 
of decoys," Clark said as we climbed 
out of the blind to recover our prizes. 
"We were lucky. The birds don't feed 
in the same place every day. That's one 
of the problems, but they can rout up 
a field and it's easy to see where they 
have been feeding." 

Calling also helps, but the better 
callers use their mouths only to imitate 
the high pitched yelp of the birds. 

Snow geese are not nearly as predic- 
table as Canadas, and they will not 
stand much hunting pressure. They 



FEBRUARY 1988 



17 



'•■"imr^- 



j: ...Kf 



-«i^' 



•i ', • A^ 



A 





>'^- 



l-^-- 




may abandon a heavily hunted field. 
So, the better guides and hunters try to 
have several locations. 

A good feeding area, a blind, and 
plenty of decoys is one approach to 
successful snow goose hunting — and 
calling helps. 

Another approach is to locate a fly- 
way close to a resting area so the birds 
will still be low and within range when 
they fly out to feed. One good exam- 
ple is the Game Department's Har- 
bours Hill Waterfowl Management 
Area on Back Bay. Hunters who are 
successful in drawing blinds there often 
get good shooting right after legal 



hunting time, as the birds leave the 
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge 
and head out to feed. This is pass 
shooting, of course, and it is usually 
limited to a few minutes each morn- 
ing. Many waterfowlers bag their first 
snow geese out of those Barbours Hill 
blinds. 

Incidentally, it is the greater snow 
goose that taunts waterfowlers over 
those shallow Back Bay waters. The 
estimated North American population 
is between 1 75,000 and 200,000 birds, 
and it's growing. TTiese are eastern 
birds that winter along the Atlantic 
Coast from southern New Jersey to 



20 



VIRGINIA WILDLIFE 







1 


^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^HMv ^i^^^^^l 


Virginia's greatest concentrations of mmm^^^^gmm^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 

which are realhj just a ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^| 

color phase of lesser snow goose ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^| 

race, occur in Chincoteague; photo by ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^M 


^^V^^^^^^flH^^^^^T ^mT^Lt 1^1 


^^V^^^^^^^^^^P^^fl^pv ^^^^^^^H^^^^^^^^A^^P|k^^BJ^^HB^^^^^^^B^ ^^^^^PH^^H^^^^^Hi 






^^^ 


^^^H^Hd^HH 


North Carolina. 

Averaging seven to eight pounds, 
snow geese are slightly smaller than 
the better known and more popular 
Canadas. 

There are also a few lesser snows 
mingled in with the more abundant 
greater snows of Virginia, but not 
many. Although the same species, 
they are a different race of snows, not 
normally interbreeding because of 
geographical limitations. The lesser 
snows are inland birds and their con- 
tinental population far exceeds that of 




appear in dark gray or blue color 
phases, this is a rare occurrence among 
the greater snows of the Atlantic Coast. 
The best place to get a look at a "blue 
goose" is at Chincoteague, where con- 
centrations of the lesser snows in some 
years can be considerable. 

In any case, we are lucky to be able 
to hunt the snow goose. Let's hope 
their populations continue to prosper, 
providing us with great sport and 
memorable days, and something won- 
derful to look forward to next 
season. □ 


the greater snows. 

While the lesser snows sometimes 


^^ iP^ 


Bob Gooch is a newspaper columnist and con- 
tributor to many outdoor magaziries. 



FEBRUARY 1988 



21 



-s; 



F^ 






On the 



WILD side 



Virginia's Project WILD is bringing wildlife 
conservation into our schools — and it's fun. 



Picture this. The gym floor is the 
Chesapeake Bay. Plankton and 
detritus cover the floor in the 
form of tiny squares of colored paper. 
Mysterious white squares dot the sur- 
face, too. Into this ecosystem Susan 
Gilley sends a flurry of teachers in the 
form of insects, fish, and osprey. 

"How many fish do I have now?" 
she asks. Hands go up. 

"You're not a fish, you're an insect," 
one teacher admonishes another. 

Then the race is on. First the insects 
dash in to feed on the plankton, gath- 
ering as much confetti as they can in 
the allotted 30 seconds. Into their 
orange stomachs (plastic orange bags) 
goes the confetti. Then the fish dash 
in, tagging as many insects as they can 
in the allotted time. The tagged insects 
must head for the sidelines after sur- 
rendering their stomachs to the fish. 
Then the osprey swoop down on the 
fish, capturing as many food bags as 
they can. When it's all over, the sur- 
viving insects, fish, and osprey gather 
in a circle to examine the contents of 
their bags. It seems they've gathered 
more than they bargained on, since the 
white squares were DDT. 

"If more than one third of your diet 

FEBRUARY 1988 




by Nancy Hugo 
photos by Cindie Brunner 



is DDT, you're dead," says Gilley. In 
this population, only one insect, one 
fish, and one osprey survive. 

Fortunately, Gilley is able to explain 
that osprey populations in Virginia are 
actually burgeoning, but the point of 
the exercise has not been lost: pesti- 
cides are dangerous when they accumu- 
late in the food chain. 

The activity is called "Deadly 
Links," and it is one of dozens of activ- 
ities presented as part of Project WILD 
(Wildlife in Learning Design), a con- 
servation and environmental educa- 
tion program emphasizing wildlife. The 
teachers in this case are 5 th to 8th 
grade teachers at Stafford Middle 
School, and they are participating in 
an all-day workshop led by Gilley. 

"Can you use this exercise in youi 
classes?" asks Gilley. 

"Definitely," is the chorus of re- 
plies. A math teacher suggests stu- 
dents could figure the ratio of DDT to 
detritus and plankton; a P.E. teacher 
envisions combining the food chain 
activity with physical exercise; a science 
teacher thinks this may be the only 
way to channel energy into the class 
after a rainy day recess. 
Enthusiasm and appreciation are 



23 



A teachers group's fantasy bird evolved 
out of the Project WILD activity ''Adap- 
tation Artistry/' designed to identify the 
advantage of bird adaptations and evalu- 
ate their importance to the animal. 



the hallmarks of the day as Gilley leads 
teachers through the Project WILD 
materials. Activity guides will be left 
with the teachers at the end of the day, 
and teachers will know how to use 
them to supplement the classroom 
curriculum. 

With the guides, teachers can choose 
activities appropriate for each grade 
level. The activities, which correlate 
well with the State Standards of Learn- 
ing Objectives (SOL's), will teach 
required concepts and skills while at 
the same time teaching about conser- 
vation, wildlife and the environment. 
Activities like "Grasshopper Gravity" 
and "Environmental Barometer" can 
be used in mathematics; "Muskox 
Maneuvers" and "The Thicket Game" 
can supplement P.E.; "Adaptation 
Artistry" and "Forest in a Jar" suit 
science; and "Shrinking Habitat" and 
"Classroom Carrying Capacity" com- 
plement Social Studies. Activities are 
also listed by skills, so that a teacher 
needing to stress evaluation, analysis, 
listening, inference, or other major 
skills can select an activity designed to 
develop that skill. Whatever academic 
skills the Project WILD materials 
teach, however, their most important 
lesson is an appreciation of wildlife 



and of the environment upon which 
all life depends. 

Consider the activity "How Many 
Bears Can Live in this Forest?" a favor- 
ite of the teachers at the Stafford Mid- 
dle School. The objective of the activ- 
ity is to define carrying capacity, but 
the teachers playing the bears learned 
more. Each teacher took the role of a 
bear in search of food on the forest 
(gym) floor. Colored paper squares 
represented the bears' food with each 
color representing the proportion of 
nuts, berries, insects, meat, and plants 
in the bears' diet. 

The bears were allowed to walk into 
the forest, gather food one piece at a 
time, and return it to their dens 
(manilla envelopes stationed at the 
edge of the "habitat"). Gilley pointed 
out this was clearly un-bear-like be- 
havior since bears would gobble their 
berries on the spot, but adjustments 
were necessary for the sake of the 
game. 

The complication factors were these: 
one bear, blinded in an encounter with 
a porcupine, would have to search for 
his food blindfolded. Another bear, 
injured in a tussle with another male, 
would have to pretend he had a 
broken leg and hop on one foot to his 




food. A third bear, a mother with two 
cubs, would have to gather twice as 
much food as the other bears. 

On Gilley's cue and following a few 
warnings ("No pushing, shoving or 
running" and "Bears do not steal food 
from other bear's dens") the food 
search began. Colored paper squares 
disappeared like hall passes on Mon- 
day morning. Only the injured bears 
had a hard time gathering their food. 

"I'm starving," one remarked in 
desperation. "I'm not going to live 
through the year." 



24 



VIRGINIA WILDLIFE 




He was right. As soon as all the food 
was gone, Gilley had each bear exam- 
ine the contents of his manilla enve- 
lope. Based on research in Arizona, 
each bear needed to gather the equi- 
valent of 80 pounds of food to survive 
for 10 days, but Gilley had put a little 
less than enough food for each bear on 
the floor. In this poor habitat, eight 
bears had not managed to gather 
enough food to keep them alive for 10 
days, and the injured bears had 
gathered barely enough to make it to 
mid-week. Most desperate, however. 



was the mother bear who needed 160 
pounds of food to keep both her and 
her cubs alive but had managed to 
gather only 98 pounds. 

"Here, Peggy," said one sympathetic 
teacher/bear to the starving mother. 
"You can have some of the food I 
gathered." 

That un-bear-like behavior became 
the subject of much discussion, as did 
Gilley's revelation that a real mother 
bear would eat first, leaving her cubs 
what was left. 

Gilley explained that she might have 
further limited the carrying capacity of 
the land by throwing hula hoops 
around some of the food to represent 
shopping centers. Or she might have 
used white paper scraps to symbolize 
the styrofoam, plastic, and paper that 
makes up a part of some bears' diets. 
The opportunities seemed endless for 
using "How Many Bears Can Live in 
this Forest?" as a classroom teaching 
tool. 

All over the state Susan Gilley and a 
score of trained volunteers have been 
spreading enthusiasm for Project 
WILD. Small wonder. The program, 
which is free to teacher participants, 
includes six hours of instruction. Pro- 
ject WILD activity guides, folders of 



instructional material including color- 
ful pictures of Virginia's wildlife, and 
follow-up newsletters. Not only school 
teachers, but 4-H leaders, scout lead- 
ers and environmental educators at- 
tend. 

"Anyone who works with kids 
benefits from the workshops," says 
Gilley, who emphasizes that Project 
WILD materials are available only 
after six hours of training in their use. 
Gilley, along with volunteer facilita- 
tors who have gone through a two-day 
training process, offer WILD work- 
shops to groups of 20 or more people. 
An in-service day, a Saturday, or two 
three-hour sessions after school pro- 
vide the best blocks of time for 
teachers. 

Funding for the Virginia program is 
supported by the Game Department's 
Nongame and Endangered Species 
Program and the Izaak Walton League 
of Virginia. 

In 1986, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service provided monies through the 
Wallop-Breaux Amendment to the 
Sport Fish Restoration Act for the 
development of a Project WILD 
Aquatic Activity Guide. The guide 
features 40 new activities dealing with 
aquatic wildlife species. In addition to 
the new activities, there are 82 exten- 
sions to the original WILD activities. 
"There's a perfect tie-in with Virgi- 
nia's emphasis on cleaning up the 
Bay," says Gilley, who is particularly 
excited about the new aquatic mate- 
rials. 

The Aquatic Project WILD guides 
will be available through a four-hour 
in-service teacher workshop beginning 
in the spring of 1988. The materials 
will be available along with the other 
Project WILD materials in extended 
workshops. 

Teachers, administrators, environ- 
mental educators and youth leaders 
interested in a WILD workshop may 
contact Susan Gilley, Project WILD 
Coordinator, at the Virginia Depart- 
ment of Game and Inland Fisheries, 
P.O. Box 1 1 104, Richmond, Virginia 
23230-1104; 804/367-1000. Partic- 
ipants are guaranteed a wild — and 
wonderful — experience. □ 

Nancy Hugo is a freelance outdoor writer who 
lives in Ashland. 



FEBRUARY 1988 



25 



by Nancy Hugo 



FAST FOOD FOR 

Cedar berries come in handy for migrating birds taking their meals on the wing. 



What pops up beside every 
new highway, serves low 
quality food, and is visited 
by flocks of hungry travelers? 

It's the Eastern red cedar — the plant 
world's equivalent of a fast food res- 
taurant. Cedar trees pop up like weeds 
along roadsides and in untended pas- 
tures, but although we think of them 
as invaders, they bring riches when 
they come. 

Cedar berries are an important 
source of wildlife food, and their ever- 
green foliage provides important pro- 
tective and nesting cover. Cedar wax- 
wings, bluebirds, robins, mocking- 
birds, starlings, and yellow-rumped 
warblers all feed on cedar berries. Jun- 
cos, sparrows, hermit thrushes, mock- 
ingbirds and cardinals use them as 
roosting cover. Chipping sparrows, 
robins, song sparrows and mocking- 
birds use them as one of their favorite 
nesting sites. They are one of the best 
places to look for long-eared owls in 
the winter. 

Although in times of scarcity deer 
will browse on cedar foliage, it is the 
berries that are the tree's most valu- 
able food. "Berries" is actually a mis- 
nomer because the fleshy fruits of the 
Eastern red cedar are technically cones. 
(Red cedar cones are imbedded in a 
fleshy growth that looks like a berry.) 
It is the female trees that bear the blue 
berries, although now and then a male 
cedar will have a few berries. The ber- 
ries are bom every year, and every two 
or three years there is a bumper crop. 

The berries mature in September 
and October — just when many migra- 
tory birds arrive. These flocks of avian 
frugivores (fruit-eating birds) like cedar 
waxwings can deplete an entire crop of 
cedar berries in a matter of days, but 
their impact is much like that of tour 
buses at the local McDonald's — it's as 




The Eastern red cedar is an excellent fast food stop for hungry birds on their way south; 
photo by Rob Simpson. 



26 



VIRGINIA WILDLIFE 



FRUGIVORES 



unpredictable as it is ravaging. 

Biologist Anthony Holthuijzen, who 
did extensive research at Virginia Poly- 
technic Institute and State University 
on red cedars and on the birds who 
feed on them, found that it is not just 
the flock feeders that are responsible 
for removing cedar berries; it's regular 
customers also who feed consistently 
on the berries. It was single foragers 
like the yellow-rumped warbler that 
he observed most often feeding on 
cedar berries. Resident birds like the 
downy woodpecker, the Northern 
mockingbird, and the Eastern bluebird 
also feed slowly and consistently on 
cedar berries. 

Virginia ornithologist Jerry Via, 
who kept an injured cedar waxwing in 
captivity for several months and fed it 
cedar berries, found that his bird lost 
interest in the berries after they'd been 
hit with a heavy frost, and he believes 
the resinous berries become much less 
palatable to birds after the first frost. 
Holthuijzen found, however, that it is 
in winter that the bulk of a red cedar's 
fruit crop is removed. Although he 
observed that flock feeders consume 
cedar berries in September and Octo- 
ber, Holthuijzen found that the bulk 
of most red cedar berry crops is not 
removed until late November-January, 
when other food sources of higher 
quality have been depleted. 

It should come as no surprise to a 
species that chooses Big Macs over 
brussel sprouts that researchers have 
found that factors governing food 
selection are complex and incompletely 
understood. It has generally been 
assumed that animals will uncon- 
sciously choose the foods that meet 
their nutritional requirements, and 
most reported observations suggest 
that high quality fruits like dogwood 
berries (rich in carbohydrates, lipids, 




Cedar waxiiings (above) and yellow-rumped warblers (belcnv) are two of Virginia's 
birds that feed on cedar berries; photos by Rob Sivnpson. Next page: Virginia has no lack 
of red cedar tree stands, especially at the foot of the Massanutten Mountains in the 
Shenandoah Valley; photo by Rob Simpson. 




FEBRUARY 1988 



27 



and proteins) are eaten by birds before 
low quality fruits like cedar berries. 
However, when you consider which 
foods yield the most nutrients per unit 
search and handling effort, the most 
profitable fruits are not always taken 
first. 

Just how important a food source 
cedar berries are was emphasized by 
William Van Dersal of the U.S. Soil 
Conservation Service in the 1930s. 
After his review of several thousand 
records on plants and animals (includ- 
ing stomach, crop and scat records as 
well as observations in the literature). 
Van Dersal compiled a list to repres- 
ent the "Utilization of Woody Plants 
as Food by Wildlife." ]unipeTus virgi- 
niana (which is the botanical name for 
Eastern red cedar), appeared at the top 
of the list as used by more birds and 
mammals (71 species) than any other 
woody plant. That ranking can't be 
entirely accurate, because foods like 
"acorns" not specifically identified in 
the literature were not ranked, and 
because red cedar is probably over- 
represented due to the relative ease of 
observing animals feeding on red ce- 
dars as opposed to other plants, but 
the listing was enough to suggest that 
cedars were a more important to wild- 
life food than previously believed. 

Alexander Martin, Herbert Zim and 
Arnold Nelson compiled a more 
comprehensive guide to wildlife food 
habitats in 1951, and their American 
Wildlife and Plants: A Guide to Wildlife 
Food and Habits (1951) is still the 
standard text on the subject. In their 
star rating system which ranks food 
sources according to their value to 
wildlife, cedar (all Juniperus species) 
ranks eighth among woody plants in a 
national listing. Only oak, pine, black- 
berry, wild cherry, dogwood, grap»e 
and poison ivy precede it. This is a bit 
misleading for our area because cedar 
berries are used more extensively in 
the prairies, in the Pacific region, and 
in the western mountain and desert 
regions than here, but cedar ranks 2 1st 




28 



VIRGINIA WILDLIFE 




FEBRUARY 1988 



and 24th among woody plant usage in 
the Northeast and Southeast respec- 
tively. 

Martin, Zim and Nelson identify 44 
animals and birds who rely on cedar 
berries. Cedar waxwings stand out as 
the gluttons among the group. Cedar 
berries make up 25-50% of the cedar 
waxwing's diet, and Holthuijzen found 
they can consume an average of 53 
berries an hour. 

Red cedar berries are not only a 
boon to birds, but the birds help the 
trees as well. Birds that feed on the 
berries help disperse the cedar seeds. 
The typical line of cedars along a fence- 
row is often "planted" there by birds 
who fed on cedar berries and then 
excreted the seeds where they p)erched. 
Holthuijzen found evidence that pas- 
sage through the bird's digestive sys- 
tem actually enhances the seed's ger- 
mination. Birds are also instrumental 
in the red cedar seeding of pastures 
where seedlings often form a "shadow" 
of decreasing density the farther you 
get from the parent tree. 

Cedars are so easy to grow that they 
should probably be the mainstay of 
any landscape designed for wildlife. 
They will grow in poor dry soil where 
little else will grow, and they actually 
improve the soil on which they grow. 
Researchers have found that worm 
activity and other beneficial processes 
increase under cedars, and since their 
litter is high in calcium, they raise the 
pH of the soil on which they grow. 

Sun is the main requirement. In 
shade they grow thin and ragged, but 
in the sun they grow fat and full. Left 
where they can grow to a ripe old age 
(sometimes as old as 300 years), they 
become handsome specimen trees with 
fluted trunks and beautiful peeling 
bark. 

The next time you see a cedar, give it 
the respect it deserves. Think of it as a 
treasure in the landscape, as welcome 
to birds as a golden arch. □ 

'Nancy Hugo is a freelance outdoor writer who 
lives in Ashland. 



29 



Safety For 
Boaters 

by Jim Meuninck 

Boaters who fall overboard into 
cold water, 65°F or less, can survive 
for surprisingly long periods of time. 

Once you hit the water you have 
two primary concerns: One, avoid 
drowning until rescued. And, two, 
avoid hypothermia by lessening the 
heat wicking action of cold water 
against your skin. 

By wearing your life vest, of course, 
you may avoid drowning, but what 
about hypothermia? Your first judge- 
ment call is to measure the swim to 
safety. If you believe, beyond a doubt, 
that you can swim to shore, or to your 
drifting boat with littie difficulty — 
then do so quickly as possible. If, 
however, the distance to safety and the 
extreme cold of the water makes it 
suicidal to swim, you must — until 
rescued — practice one of the follow- 
ing maneuvers to stem the loss of heat 
from your body. 

According to Ron Stewart, M.D. 
(from the book Management of Wil- 
demess and Environmental Injuries, Mac- 
millian Publishing) you can cut your 
heat loss in half by folding your fore- 
arms across your chest and pressing 
your upper arms against your sides. 
Then draw your legs up to your chest 
and cross your feet at the ankles. 
Avoid treading water or swimming. 
This cold water survival posture is 
called H.E.L.P. (Heat Escape Lessen- 
ing Posture). It is obvious, in order to 
maintain this position you must be 
wearing a life jacket. 

We found the H.E.L.P. position 
difficult to maintain with some types 
of life jackets. Some life jackets cause 
you to roll to your chest or stomach, 
dunking your head under water (With 
your head vinderwater, heat escapes 
most rapidly from your head into the 
water, thereby defeating the purpose 
of H.E.L.P.). So, be certain to test 
your life vest to determine if it will 



From 

the 
Backcountry 



Oops! 



keep your chest up and face out of the 
water in the H.E.L.P. position. 

When two or more persons are 
overboard in cold water, the Huddle 
technique may be used to lessen heat 
loss. First, put your life jacket on 
backwards so you can hug the other 
person. Press your chests, groin and 
legs inward against each other. Place 
small children in the middle of the 
huddle. As the name implies, this 
looks much like a football huddle, but 
more intimate. Try to make as much 
body contact as possible. Refrain from 
swimming and treading water. 

As mentioned, H.E.L.P. and Hud- 
dle may double your survival time in 
cold water when compared to merely 
treading water. The Ufe saving pos- 
tures decrease body surface area and 
protect the groin and abdomen. 

But, both systems of survival should 
be practiced beforehand. Once in an 
emergency situation, no one will be in 
the mood for instruction. Also, keep 
in mind that what you are wearing will 
increase your survival time in cold 
water. Certainly, high-tech clothing 
like polypropylene (or thermolactyl, 
Damart; capilene, Patagonia) long 
imderwear and vapor barrier clothing, 
covered by a synthetic pile shell will 
provide additional protection from 
heat loss in cold water. On the other 
hand, any fisherman worth his salt will 
be wearing an uncombed, oily, virgin 
wool outer garment. Now, there's an 
old time remedy that holds in the heat, 
even when soaking wet. □ 



In the October 1987 issue, we 
incorrectly credited Lynda Richard- 
son with the photo on page three. Our 
apologies to the photographer, Kevin 
D. Shank, for the mistake. 

Upcoming 
Hunter 
Education 
Classes 

Below are the hunter education 
classes being offered this month as of 
our press date. However, some classes 
may have been added to this list since 
that time. Call the Game Department, 
Hunter Education Information, at 
804/367-1000 for more details. 

The courses offered below fulfill 
the current mandatory hunter educa- 
tion requirement for all new hunters 
and those 16 years of age and younger. 
District 1— Central and South 
Central Virginia 
Location: Chesterfield Court House, 

Central Library 
Date: February 16, 17, 18 
Time: 6:00 - 9:30 p.m. 
Contact: Chesterfield County Parks 
and Recreation Department 
Phone: 804/748-1623 

Location: Rescue Squad Building, 

Powhatan 
Date: February 27 and 28 
Time: 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. and 

2 p.m - 6 p.m. 
Contact: BillBritton 
Phone: 804/379-1364 

District 4 — Northwest Virginia 

Location: War Memorial Building, 

Madison County 
Date: February 7 and 14 
Time: 1 p.m. - 6 p.m. 
Contact: Steve Hoffman 
Phone: 703/948-4453 



j^ 



Planting for 
Wildlife 

by Nancy Hugo 

One of the first things we did when 
we moved into our house was to cut 
down the brier bush next to the front 
porch. Surely anything so thorny was 
a weed, and a good gardener would 
want to get rid of it. It wasn't until 
several years later that I realized I'd cut 
down a Japanese barberry, a shrub 
that's not only of value to wildlife, but 
a beautiful garden shrub as well. 

Fortunately, nature recovers from 
our mistakes, and my barberries have 
grown back. At the moment, they are 
a dense tangle of thorny branches with 
delicate tear-shaped red berries and a 
few crimson leaves leftover from fall. 
They're particularly beautiful in the 
snow because the stems bear the weight 
of the snow and the red berries hang 
like jewels beneath them. 

It seems inconceivable to me now 
that I ever wanted to get rid of my 
barberrry, but often when we're 
"cleaning up," thorny plants are the 
first to go. If we considered their value 
for wildlife cover and nesting sites, 
they might be the plants we value 
most. 

"The gardening slob is the bird's 
best friend," I read in a gardening 
book once, and the author made a case 
for letting more of our ramblers and 
thorny hedge plants grow without 
pruning them. There's some truth to 
that because we often ruin the value of 
our shrubs for wildlife by clipping 
them before they can bloom and set 
seed or by clipping them so severely 
they become impenetrable. Barberries 
and other thorny hedge plants will 
offer the greatest value to wildlife 
where they can be left to grow with as 
little pruning as possible. Actually, the 
barberry's natural shape is beautiful, 
and judicious pruning will easily keep 
it in bounds. 

Berberis thuvhergii, the Japanese bar- 
berry, is a deciduous shrub with yel- 




low wood that usually grows to about 
five feet. In the spring it has bright 
green foliage and dainty yellow flow- 
ers. The stamens of the flowers are 
sensitive to touch and will spring 
toward the center of the flower if 
you — or a bee — touches them. The 
shrub is native to Japan but has natu- 
ralized here where it can be seen grow- 
ing along roadsides, in pastures, open 
woods, and gardens. 

The barberry is not only great as a 
hedge plant, but it's good for comers 
and as a filler shrub in the border. 
Barberries will put a stop to pedestrian 
traffic wherever they grow, because 
the branches are not only thorny, but 
they're closely spaced — the very rea- 
son birds love them so. They're fast- 
growing (three years after I cut mine to 
the ground, they were back to their 
original size, about four feet), and 
they're easy to grow. "If the Japanese 
barberry won't grow in a trying spot, 
no other woody shrub will," writes 
Wyman in his gardening encyclope- 
dia. They'll grow in poor soil and 
although they prefer full sun, they do 
fine in partial shade. 

Mockingbirds, waxwings and spar- 
rows eat the bright red fruits in winter, 
although many of the fruits can still be 
found clinging to the plants in the 
spring. Sometimes they provide food 
to returning migrants. The European 



barberry, B. vulgaris, and the Darwin 
barberry, B. darwinii, reportedly have 
greater appeal to birds as food than the 
Japanese barberry, but B. vulgaris is 
one of the most susceptible of the bar- 
berries to a wheat rust that's a bane to 
grain farmers. There are also several 
varieties of evergreen barberries. 

Another member of the barberry 
family of value to wildlife is the Oregon 
grape holly or Mahonia. It's a beautiful 
shrub that has no thorns but it does 
have intimidating spines on its glossy 
evergreen leaves. Bees love its May- 
blooming clusters of small yellow 
flowers, and many small birds and 
mammals eat the grape-like black fruits 
that ripen later in the summer. Its 
dense foliage provides protective 
cover. 

Mahoruas prefer moist acid soil, 
and they thrive in the shade. They are 
one of the few shrubs that enjoy the 
company of walnuts. 

Both barberries and mahonias can 
be propagated from seeds or from 
softwood or hardwood cuttings. It's 
also easy to divide mahonias with a 
sharp spade. Young plants are avail- 
able at most nurseries. Once the plants 
are established, birds will spread the 
seeds, and you'll find new plants pop- 
ping up all over the yard. Fight the 
urge to remove them, and the birds 
will thank you for it. □ 



Letters 



December Editorial 

It's been two weeks since I received 
my first copy of Virginia Wildlife and 
my concern for sensible hunting and 
sane hunters hasn't abated. 

How many animals are killed need- 
lessly? How many nincompoops are 
adequately trained or self-educated to 
use weapons? How many cows, auto- 
mobiles, no hunting signs, as well as 
barns (not to mention hunters) are 
shot every year? 

It seems frivolous to me to intro- 
duce a magazine dedicated to hunting 
with a discussion of "proper attire" 
when there are important issues about 
life, safety, sanity and respect for 
mother nature. 

I work for the ski patrol at Massa- 
nutten and find the "ski set" more 
polite, more conscious of safety, and 
more sensible than most of the hun- 
dred of hunters that have violated our 
no hunting signs, trespassed, shot holes 
in my car and bam and generally either 
have been rude or devious when 
confronted. 

LenJ. 
Madison 

Your most recent editorial (Decem- 
ber, 87) hit the bull's-eye again. You 



really do have a gift for writing in that 
rare fusion of both the professional 
and the personal. Perhaps you are so 
able to do this because your profes- 
sional opinion is backed by your per- 
sonal experience. Whatever the rea- 
son, I hope you continue to instruct us 
all so gently and persuasively. 

Gerald P. McCanhy 
Virginia Environmental Endowment 

Richmond 

Tribute 

Your October 1987 cover editorial 
tribute to Latane Trice was an excel- 
lent testimonial to a personal friend 
and neighbor. Your message to the 
readers about the tradition of "Brother 
Latane," as he is known to many of us 
in King and Queen, reflects quite 
accurately many of the traditions of 
Southern hospitality, good sports- 
manship and love of the land that he 
has tried to live by and instill into the 
younger generations. 

Robert Shackleford, ]r. 
Newtown 

A New Idea 

I believe there is a means to substan- 
tially increase the number of subscrip- 
tions to Virginia Wildlife. 

I became acquainted with Virginia 



Wildlife during a visit to a doctor's 
office. A copy of the publication was 
available on the magazine table. This 
was many years ago and I have sus- 
cribed regularly ever since. Recently, I 
began saving a few copies in order to 
have a few on hand should a neighbor 
child need reference for a composition 
at school or if I visit a doctor's office 
and not find a copy of Virginia Wild- 
life available in the supply of maga- 
zines. I not only mention the availabil- 
ity, but I hand him a copy and make 
sure there is a subscription form 
included. You would be surprised at 
how many are not only receptive but 
appreciative. 

You have a tremendous publication 
and one that is very much in need as a 
means to promote conservation of our 
resources and respect for life that is in 
danger of being eradicated in some 
instances. I know of no magazine that 
does more to build respect for these 
creatures of the wild than does this 
type of publication. I feel very sure 
there are many people who would be 
glad to help in this way if it were but 
suggested to them. 

Fred Molzhon 
Newport News 

Thanks so much for "spreading the 
word." — Editor 



13th Mid-Atlantic Wildfowl Festival 

Art, Carvings and Photography 

$8000.00 Carving Competition 

Auction 

Buy, Swop and Sell Area 

Duck and Goose Calling Contest with Prizes -$1200.00 

Friday: Hands-on Decoy Painting Seminar- by Jim Sprankle 

Saturday: For Children 12 and under: FREE Decoy Painting Seminar with 
decoy and materials furnished. Co-sponsored by The Virginia 
Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. • 77^7117, — \ 



For information contact: 

Dr. C. Alison Drescher 
105 N. Plaza Trail, Suite D-5 
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23452 
(804)481-5157, (804) 340 1153 



M\RG(N/4 



Department ot Ga 



13th ANNUAL 

MID ATLANTIC 




111! 

RWIUON 

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA 
MARCH 4,5,6, 1988 




Striped Bass Cookery 



by Annette Bignami 



This is the season to catch striped 
bass in our lakes, and more than few of 
us might need to know what to do 
with the "little ones" that don't end up 
on our walls. Annette Bignami shares 
some ideas: 



Cook's Treat Stripers 

I /3 pound fish fillets or steaks per person'' 
I cube butter or margarine, melted 
1 medium onion, chopped 
3 stalks celery, diced 
I tsp. each of thyme, sage and parsley 
I cup raw rice (makes 2 cups cooked) 
1 small can green olives, drained 
salt and pepper to taste 
*rest of ingrediervts serve 4 



Set oven at 350 degrees. Fillet or 
steak striper one-half to one-inch 
thick. Then wash and pat dry with 
paper towel. Steam or boil rice. Melt 
butter or margarine in a skillet and 
saute' onion 5 to 7 minutes or until 
tender. Add celery and saute' 4 min- 
utes more before stirring in cooked 
rice and and seasonings with a fork so 
rice stays fluffy. 

Either move ingredients to buttered 
ovenware or simply put the skillet in 
oven after adding single layer of fish 
and topping with olives. 

Cover with foil and cook in 350 
degree oven for 20 minutes or until 
fish flakes with a fork. Serve with 
vegetable and salad. Leftovers can be 
reheated for the next day's lunch. 



Stripers in Red Wine & 
Mushrooms 

IY2 pownds leftover poached or baked 

striper fillets 
3 uMespoorxs butter or margarine 
I rr\edium onion, chopped 
I cup fresh mushrooms, sliced 

3 tablespocms flour 

I garlic clove, minced 

1 cup fish stock or clam juice 

2 tablespoons tomato paste 

1 cup red wine 

2 tomatoes 

4 or 5 potatoes, boiled and mashed for 
piping 

3 tablespoons butter or margarine for 
topping 

14 cup bread crumbs 
parsley to garnish 

Cut striped bass into one-inch 
chunks. Melt butter over low heat and 
add onion, cover and cook 2 minutes. 
Add mushrooms, raise heat and cook 
until tender. Remove pan from heat, 
stir in flour, garlic, stock or clam juice, 
tomato paste and salt and pepper to 
taste. Bring to a boil, lower heat and 
sinuner 3 minutes. Reduce wine in a 
separate saucepan to one-third cup, 
then stir into sauce. Peel, quarter and 
boil potatoes, then mash with butter 
and a little cream. Add striper to stock 
pot with wine. Simmer 5 minutes. 
Slice tomatoes into 8 wedges. Add to 
pot and toss until well coated. 

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spoon 
fish and sauce into individual baking 
dishes or scallop shells. Pipe hot 
mashed potatoes around edges. Melt 
remaining butter and quickly brown 
bread crumbs. Sprinkle on fish, gar- 
nish with parsley and set dishes on a 
baking sheet to catch spillovers in the 
oven for 5 to 7 minutes. We serve this 
with green beans, homemade soda 
bread and coffee cream parfaits for 
dessert. 



Consider the fisher. 
They're so unknown to 
most of us that we feel just 
about as comfortable dis- 
cussing a tree hyrax. Even 
the name fisher is strange. 
A student asked me, "Why 
fisher — Does it feed on 
fish?" 

The average fisher prob- 
ably never sees a fish in its 
lifetime. I found in a publi- 
cation by fisher specialist 
Roger Powell that though 
the origin of the common 
name, fisher, is unknown, 
chances are Dutch settlers 
noted the resemblance of 
the fisher to the dark phase 
of the European polecat. 
Among the names for the 
polecat are fichet, ficheus, 
and /iitcheu;— derived from 
a Dutch term meaning 
nasty. 

Like the European pole- 
cat — which is our pet shop 
"ferret," the fisher, Martes 
pennanti, is a member of 
the carnivore family Mus- 
telidae. Along with skunks, 
weasels, minks and river 
otters, the fisher is one of 
seven species of mustelids 
in the Commonwealth. 

Too, like other members 
of the family it possesses 
anal glands that produce 
odoriferous secretions for 
marking territory and com- 
munication — but not for 
the spraying kind of pro- 
tection that has reached its 
maximum extreme in 
skunks. 

Although an adult male 
fisher is about fox-size, it 
has the nearly ground hug- 
ging build of most members 
of its family, but not as 
highly pronounced as in 
the highly carnivorous wea- 
sel. The fisher, both in form 
and function, is more of a 
generalist than the weasel 
and is at home in burrows, 
on land, and in the trees. 

Items in the fisher's diet 
are variable and include 



VIRGINIA'S 



The 
Fisher 



by John Pagels 
photo by Leonard Lee Rue, III 



WILDLIFE 



both birds and mammals. 
The snowshoe hare is ex- 
tremely rare in Virginia, 
but to the north where it is 
more abundant, the snow- 
shoe hare is common prey 
of the fisher. But talk about 
sore gums! The fisher is 
among the very few mam- 
mals to prey on the porcu- 
pine. The porcupine doesn't 
occur in Virginia but it's an 
interesting story. The agile, 
short-Umbed fisher repeat- 
edly attacks the head area 
of the porcupine where it 
lacks quills. Both are good 
climbers, and in tree situa- 
tions, the fisher often at- 
tacks from above. When 
the porcupine dies of shock 
or blood loss, feeding be- 
gins from the ventral side, 
also devoid of quills and 
the fisher neatly "skins" 
the porcupine from the 
inside while consuming all 
but the largest bones and a 



few other parts. 

According to Powell, the 
average fisher eats the equi- 
valent of from one to two 
squirrels or seven to 22 
mice every day. As you 
would expect, there are very 
few fishers per unit area. 
Probably only about one 
per every five to 10 square 
miles. Fishers are solitary 
animals. 

Certainly, a couple of 
adult fishers have to get 
together at least once a year. 
As a result of that, one to 
five (usually three) kits are 
bom in the spring. The kits 
are very dependent on the 
mother for several months, 
but at about five months 
the young disperse as the 
result of intrafamihal aggres- 
sion. And mom is alone 
again for the winter. Pop is 
alone and probably far 
away. And so are the young. 

Like several other kinds 



of mammals that have life 
styles that keep them gready 
spread out for most of the 
year, the fisher has a special 
reproductive strategy. It 
involves the female being 
pregnant for about 350 days 
a year, including the time 
that she is nursing and car- 
ing for a litter. 

Fishers mate only a few 
days after giving birth, but 
the zygote develops only to 
an early stage known as the 
blastocyst, which consists 
of only a few hundred cells. 
Growth of the blastocyst is 
arrested for 10 months or 
more, and it floats around 
in the uterus until late win- 
ter until it finally implants 
and development ensues in 
a typical mammalian fash- 
ion. About 30 days after 
implantation the young are 
bom and we're back at the 
beginning of the story. 

But why such a special 
strategy? Why not mate in 
late winter? Well, think 
about hanging around with 
a partner in the winter and 
having to come up with 
about 40 mice every day. 
Or 40 squirrels every 10 
days. Another hint. TThink 
about the end of a long, 
winter. It's still cold, the 
animals are thin and hungry, 
the prey population is low, 
but the males and females 
still have to find each other. 
After all if they didn't mate, 
then the young would be 
bom too late in the spring 
to grow and prepare for 
winter. 

Now it's clear. They don't 
have to mate too early, or 
later because the female is 
already pregnant — has been 
for almost 10 months or 
more. Another of the neat 
adaptations up Mother Na- 
ture's sleeve. □ 

John Pagels is a biologist at Vir- 
ginia Commonwealth University 
who specializes in Virginia 
mammab. 




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