Close call

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake jamiedrake­out­doors@out­look.com

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.

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