Deer aren’t the only thing to look out for

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake

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

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.

‘Ed­i­ble Plants’

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

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