Deer aren’t the only thing to look out for
Anyone who drives at night or early in the morning in Southern Maryland knows to be alert for white-tailed deer. They are everywhere, not just in the boondocks but right alongside the major suburban thoroughfares, too.
The early morning hours have been unlucky for me on more than one occasion, and I’ve heard plenty of stories from other people about their unfortunate encounters with deer. In high school, a friend’s father hit a deer at an intersection less than a mile from their home. Two weeks later, after his car was repaired, he hit another deer just feet from where he collided with the first one.
Even when drivers are using caution and keeping watch for deer, accidents happen, and it’s not just deer we need to be alert for. I see plenty of raccoon, possum, squirrel and sometimes even occasional fox or owl carcasses on the side of the road.
I remember a night when I was very young, growing up in St. Charles, and my dad heard a bobcat scream behind our house. We had neighbors over for a barbeque, and my dad and his friend went on a patrol around our backyard looking for it. I don’t want to denigrate my father’s good name, but it was probably more likely that Schlitz affected his hearing than an actual bobcat was prowling around Carrington.
I haven’t given much thought to bobcats roaming around Southern Maryland, and I most certainly have never thought about bears, but one motorist in St. Mary’s County had a big surprise last week on Route 235 in Oakville. A car struck and killed a 1-year-old male black bear in the wee hours of the night, its remains found on the shoulder by police.
What’s even more surprising, though, is the odds of seeing a bear in Southern Maryland are probably better than winning the Powerball Lottery (odds: 1 in almost 300 million). Black bears do reside in Maryland, mostly in Garrett, Allegany, Washington and Frederick counties. Based on surveys done in 2011, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources estimates the current bear population to be around 1,100 adult and subadult bears.
Just in case you are wondering, those same counties are also home to Maryland’s indigenous bobcat population.
This past weekend, my kids and I did some hiking at St. Mary’s River State Park. We hiked out about a mile and a half at a nice leisurely pace, taking time to notice interesting fungi specimens and swallowtails flitting about. After stopping for a water break and snacks, we headed back. That’s when one of my daughters, in light of the recent news about the black bear, asked what we would do if we encountered a bear on
the path. We made it back to the parking lot in record time.
Black bear hunting lottery
DNR is now accepting applications for this year’s black bear hunting lottery. Those selected will receive a permit for the four-day hunting season that will take place Oct. 24 to 27.
In the past, the hunt was restricted to just Garrett and Allegany counties. New to 2016, the hunt has been extended to include Washington and Frederick counties, too. Furthermore, DNR will be issuing 750 hunting permits in 2016, up from 500 in 2015.
The bear population is growing, as quickly as an estimated 12 percent per year. The expansion of the hunt is an effort to slow the growth of the black bear population as it disperses eastward into more suburban communities and counties while sustaining the species in Maryland.
Smokey Bear is going to have quite a blaze of candles on his birthday cake when he turns 72 next week. Since 1944, this endearing black bear has been proclaiming, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires” on posters and in commercials between cartoons on Saturday morning. His ad campaign is the longest running PSA in U.S. history.
The average forest is about 70 to 100 years old, and trees in some forests can be 4,000 to 5,000 years old. It’s a sobering thought, but just one act of carelessness can cause a fire that destroys trees that have been growing since before Woodrow Wilson signed the National Park Service into existence. Ninety percent of all wildfires are caused by humans. Prevention is the key to reducing these often dangerous, and always destructive, fires.
Smokey the Bear has been educating the young and old alike, and through his friendly and simple message, protecting our natural resources for decades and hopefully many more years to come.
When I was a kid, one of my favorite books to take off the shelf again and again was a guide called “Edible Plants.”
During those unstructured weeks of summer vacation, my sister and I spent a considerable amount of time making sassafras tea and dandelion “wine” and traipsing through the woods dreaming of finding a cache of valuable morels. Even now, I wish I still had a copy of the book to leaf through. I’m sure it would inspire a trip outdoors to explore the world of edible plants and perhaps even forage for a bite direct from nature.
There’s a place in Virginia that taps into that desire to get connected with the outdoors, the Earth Connection School of Primitive Living Skills. Classes range from wilderness survival to hide tanning to how to brew tasty alcoholic beverages using wild ingredients for flavor.
On Aug. 14, instructor Tim MacWelch will show students how to identify and harvest medicinal plants and create medicines that have been employed for healing since ancient times. Participants will learn how to make poultices, salves, tinctures, and oils through a unique, hands-on approach that includes collecting plant materials and creating medicines the very same day. They’ll go home with a newfound appreciation for plants that grow in this area, a detailed guidebook and a wild medicine “first aid kit.”
The cost is $97 for this one-day class, with special discounts for military, law enforcement and fire and rescue