One of the greatest hallmarks of the 21st century is humans’ ability to travel great distances in short periods of time.
The web of ships, airplanes and trains that traverse the globe make it relatively easy to get from Point A to Point B quickly, but a downside of this globalization is humans and their stuff sometimes bring along unwelcome hitchhikers that can disrupt the natural order of regional wildlife.
That’s often the story of how invasive species get introduced to places they shouldn’t be.
White nose syndrome, a deadly fungus responsible for wiping out entire colonies of bats, has been detected in Maryland and dozens of other states. It got a free ride to the United States from Europe via caving equipment, clothing and boots.
Every fall, officials remind us not to transport firewood to keep the Emerald Ash Borer at bay. Felt-soled shoes are prohibited for anglers in Maryland and within 5 feet of state waters. That’s to help prevent the spread of didymo, an invasive
algae known descriptively as “rock snot.”
Zebra mussels, small bivalves native to the Black and Caspian seas, were first detected in the United States in the late 1980s. They made their way here in the ballast water of ships and quickly colonized the Great Lakes, causing lots of ecological and economic havoc. Now they’ve spread all over the country, including close to home in the upper Chesapeake Bay.
During the larval stage, they are free swimming creatures and when they find a hard surface, attach themselves and start to grow, usually in dense groups. They will stick to boat bottoms, navigational buoys and power plant and public water intakes and pipes, causing damage to motors, clogging water systems and necessitating expensive upgrades to infrastructure.
While they are filter feeders and could presumably help oysters and menhaden clean up the Chesapeake Bay and improve its water clarity, these mollusks are a great threat to native shellfish populations.
Zebra mussels grow prolifically, and they compete with animals in the larval stage for food, disrupting the food chain and adversely affecting native populations of fish and shellfish. There’s also scientific evidence that the presence of zebra mussels increases the risk of deadly algae blooms, something the Chesapeake Bay certainly doesn’t need more of.
Last year, officials successfully interdicted a boat bound for Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County with zebra mussels attached to the outboard motor and propeller. The Deep Creek Lake Launch Steward program has done it again this summer.
On July 9, during a routine and voluntary boat inspection, a launch steward found a zebra mussel attached to a fragment of milfoil in a boat’s intake system. The boat had presumably picked up the tiny aquatic hitchhiker in Otisco Lake in New York just a few days before. The owner thoroughly
cleaned the boat before entering the lake.
Zebra mussel larvae and shellfish can be transported in bait buckets, live wells, coolers and even by having a little green grass or mud stuck to the trailer.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources recommends carefully washing down hulls, cleaning out bilges and removing any aquatic vegetation from props and trailers when leaving a launch site. Limiting movement from place to place will help stop the spread, but if you are traveling with your boat, DNR recommends letting everything dry at least two days — and preferably five — before outings. Zebra mussels can live for several days out of water, especially in cool and humid weather.
While we can’t go back in time and keep the zebra mussel out of the Chesapeake Bay
watershed, a little vigilance and know-how on the part of responsible boaters and anglers can stop them from invading Deep Creek Lake, too.
Off-road vehicle trail opens
There is more good news out of Garrett County for the adventuresome types who like to enjoy nature fast-and-furious style.
Savage River State Forest has long been a destination for hikers, hunters, anglers and bird-watchers. The pristine woodlands and miles of marked trails draw in visitors from all over the state. DNR’s website describes it as a “forest brought to life with delightful colors and sounds, like bright white trillium on a sunny slope and the sounds of migrating warblers making a brief stop to rest in the forest.”
Now we can add motorcycles and the roar of off-road vehicles to the list of sights and sounds one can appreciate while communing
with nature there.
All kidding aside, with more than 54,000 acres in Savage River State Forest, there’s more than enough room for all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts to do what they enjoy.
After several years in the making, the new St. John’s Rock Off-Road Vehicle Trail opened last week. It was designed to have minimal ecological impact and took into account feedback from ORV riders to create the first world-class off-roading opportunity in Maryland.
The new addition boasts more than 12 miles of woodland trails, a primitive campground with large parking lots to accommodate equipment trailers, children’s trail loops within the camping area, single-track hare-scramble style trail sections for motorcycles and a full-size rock crawl area for four-wheel drive vehicles.
ORVs must be registered with DNR. MVA-tagged vehicles that are suitable for off-road use are also permitted. There are four large and four
small campsites, 10 trailered vehicle parking spaces and 9 non-trailered parking spaces. That means only 19 day-use passes with parking are available each day.
Parking permits can be reserved in advance through the Compass portal, along with daily ORV passes and overnight camping reservations. Parking permits must be placed in plain sight on the dashboard of all parked vehicles.
New rates for veterans
A new discounted rate for hunting and fishing licenses went into effect this month for any Maryland veteran who has received a Purple Heart award.
Individuals applying for special pricing must purchase their license directly from a regional service center. In Southern Maryland, the service center is located immediately on the Calvert County side of the Route 231 bridge in Benedict. Active duty military personnel must provide official documentation of their Purple Heart award and veterans are asked to bring their DD-214.
Currently, complimentary hunting and fishing licenses are available to Maryland residents who are 100 percent service connected disabled veterans or former prisoners of war. The Mar yland Migrator y Game Bird Stamp is not part of the hunting license and must be purchased separately. The fishing license combines both the non-tidal and Chesapeake Bay sport fishing license, but does not include the trout stamp.
And Maryland residents who currently serve in the Armed Forces and want to spend some of their well-earned vacation time hunting don’t need to purchase a license either. A copy of official leave orders will suffice and must be in their possession while hunting.
For details and an overview of discounts available to men and women in uniform and veterans, go to http://dnr. maryland.gov/Pages/MilitaryOne-stop-Shop.aspx.