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Mike Riordan and Frank Petrosino of Auburn show off Mike's very large northern pike.

Frank Petrosino of Auburn and his son, Nick, took 15-year-old Mike Riordan, also from Auburn, fishing on Owasco Lake a few weeks ago. Frank has fished Owasco 52 of his 57 years and Nick has been fishing with him since he was 4-years old. Mike is Frank’s godson so taking him fishing is very important to Frank. Mike’s father, Jim, and Frank were very good friends and avid sportsmen. Unfortunately, in June 2015, Jim passed away at the young age of 51 from colon cancer. Frank is committed to take Mike hunting and fishing whenever he can.

Frank and Nick were hammering the smallmouth using minnows and jigging with power grubs. Mike just could not catch a fish until Frank told him to put a fresh live minnow on his line. Within a matter of seconds, a fish slammed his bait and Mike’s pole bent over. He had one heck of a fight getting the fish to the boat. Frank tried to net the fish twice, but it still had a lot of strength left in it and ran line back out. Frank saw that is was a very large northern pike and was worried that Mike might lose it because it was barely hooked in the outside of the upper lip! Finally, Mike got the big pike up to the boat where Frank could net it. Frank says he does not know who was more excited when they did, himself or Mike.

DEER MANAGEMENT PERMITS AVAILABLE

Remaining Deer Management Permits were made available to hunters in several Wildlife Management Units starting Nov. 1. In some WMUs, all applicants received permits during the initial application process and the DMP target was not reached. In these units, the state Department of Environmental Conservation reopened the DMP application process on a first-come, first-served basis. Hunters may apply for up to two additional DMPs in these WMUs at any DEC license sales outlets.

The leftover DMPs are not available by phone, mail or internet. Applications must be made at license issuing outlets. Applicants who previously paid the $10 DMP application fee during the initial application period, or who are exempt from the application fee, will not be charged for this additional application. Hunters who did not previously apply for a deer management permit are required to pay the $10 application fee.

Applications for leftover DMPs will be accepted for the following WMUs: 1C, 3M, 3R, 3S (bowhunting-only), 7F, 7H, 7J, 7R, 8A, 8C (bowhunting-only), 8F, 8G, 8H, 8J, 8N, 8R, 9A, 9F and 9G. Additionally, bonus DMPs are available for hunters who successfully take an antlerless deer in WMUs 1C, 3S, 4J or 8C. For WMU locations, refer to the 2018-19 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide or visit DEC's website.

During this extended application period, DEC will issue DMPs for an individual WMU until the target quota is achieved. The status of permits will be reviewed each night, and as individual units are filled they will be removed from the list of those available effective the following day. A list of units with available leftover DMPs will routinely be updated on DEC's website or via the DMP Hotline at (866) 472-4332.

Do not forget to report any deer, bear or turkey harvested within seven days. Also, if you have a sufficient amount of venison in your freezer donate extra venison to the Venison Donation Coalition. The program has helped feed the hungry with more than 330 tons of venison, the equivalent of 2.8 million meals served, since beginning in 1999. Information on the Venison Donation Coalition including local participating butchers, can be found on DEC’s website.

TRAIN SOUTH AFRICAN WILDLIFE RANGERS

Five DEC police officers traveled to South Africa on a 10-day mission to train local wildlife rangers in crime scene investigation to support global efforts to protect Africa’s elephant and rhinoceros populations from illegal poaching. The officers volunteered their time for this trip and paid their own travel expenses to support New York’s efforts to end the illegal ivory trade and protect endangered species. 

“Our ECOs employ advanced techniques in crime scene reconstruction and forensic evidence collection to uncover wildlife crimes in New York on daily basis," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a press release. “I applaud this special convoy of officers who volunteered their own time and money to travel abroad and help end the killing of endangered animals for their ivory. New York continues its vigilant enforcement efforts to stop the killing of animals for art, and this is just one more action that will help to stop illegal ivory sales.” 

The trip helped develop partnerships between DEC and the non-governmental organizations protecting wildlife across the globe, providing New York ECOs with valuable on-the-ground insight into African poaching trends. In addition, New York officers had the unique opportunity to share knowledge of the global ivory trade with a host of law enforcement personnel from across the African continent. 

Maj. Scott Florence, Capt. Jesse Paluch, Lt. Liza Bobseine, Lt. Karen Przyklek, and Investigator Edward Piwko traveled to KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, for the 10-day trip and delivered a course in wildlife crime scene investigations, including securing and sketching a crime scene, crime scene photography and reconstruction, techniques in the detection and collection of evidence, fingerprinting, DNA collection, casting impressions, mock scenarios and exercises, and New York wildlife investigations. 

The course was taught to several dozen anti-poaching rangers from South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique, and was held at Tembe Elephant Park, a 75,000-acre government reserve run by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. The park is currently home to 220 elephants, with 14 breeding herds and emerging "tusker" elephants, some of the last remaining large-tusked elephants on the continent.   

ECOs documented their training and experiences throughout the trip, and those interested in seeing an inside look at the trip can visit DEC’s Facebook and Flickr pages.

DEER BAITING SHUT DOWN

On the local front ECO Scott Sincebaugh returned to the site of a complaint alleging deer baiting in the town of Brutus. He located the illegal bait pile and, after monitoring the site, found a hunter waiting over the bait pile with a crossbow. Crossbows are not legal hunting to hunt with during the archery-only season for big game. The subject was issued tickets for hunting with a crossbow in the archery-only season and hunting over bait.

AVOID HIBERNATING BAT CAVES

DEC is urging individuals to suspend exploration of cave and mine sites that may serve as seasonal homes for hibernating bats. Human disturbances are especially harmful to the State’s bat population since the arrival of the disease known as white-nose syndrome, which has killed more than 90 percent of bats at hibernation sites in New York. According to DEC, white-nose syndrome makes bats highly susceptible to disturbance and even a single, seemingly quiet visit can kill bats that would otherwise survive the winter. If you see hibernating bats, assume you are doing harm and leave immediately.

All posted notices restricting the use of caves and mines should be followed. If New Yorkers or visitors encounter hibernating bats while underground, DEC encourages them to leave the area as quickly and quietly as possible. When bats are disturbed during hibernation it forces them to raise their body temperature, depleting their fat reserves. This stored fat is the only source of energy available to the bats until the weather warms in spring. 

Two species of bats are currently protected under federal and state endangered species law. The Indiana bat, which is sparsely distributed across New York, is a federally endangered bat listed before white-nose syndrome began impacting bat populations. The northern long-eared bat is protected federal and state law. The current population for this formerly common bat is approximately 1 percent of its previous size, making the species the most severely impacted by white-nose syndrome. Nonetheless, northern long-eared bats are still widely distributed in New York. Their presence is documented in most of the 100 or so caves and mines that serve as bat hibernation sites in the state. According to Carl Herzog, DEC’s bat specialist, there are several caves with bat populations near Syracuse as well as several more in the central New York area that the department has yet to locate. If you are aware of a cave or mine that harbors hibernating bats stay away from it and report its location to the Region 7 Wildlife Office at (607) 753-3095. Anyone entering a northern long-eared bat hibernation site from Oct. 1 through April 30, the typical period of hibernation for bats, may be subject to prosecution.  

There is currently no treatment for bats suffering from white-nose syndrome. Along with the state Department of Health, DEC is partnering with researchers from the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, and experts at several universities across the country to better understand the disease and develop a treatment. This collaborative effort helped identify that reducing disturbances at hibernation sites during the winter can help the remaining animals survive.

For more information about white-nose syndrome, visit the White-Nose Syndrome Response Team website. Details about the protection of the northern long-eared bat can be found on DEC’s website.

STOCKING DINOSAURS

Approximately 4,000 lake sturgeon were stocked last month. The fish were raised from eggs taken on the New York Power Authority property at the Moses-Saunders Power Project in Massena and raised at DEC’s Oneida Hatchery in Constantia. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey were also involved in the egg take. Some of the eggs were taken to the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Genoa, Wisconsin, where they were hatched, and the young sturgeon reared there are now returning to New York waters.

Some of the fish to be stocked are being tagged for future identification. Passive Integrated Transponder tags are inserted under the skin into juvenile sturgeon. These are unique identifier tags like the ones placed in pets. They allow fishery biologists to identify individual fish over time as they are encountered in future sampling.

DEC has been actively working with federal, tribal and university partners on protecting and restoring lake sturgeon throughout New York for more than 20 years. Beginning in 1993, DEC reared small numbers of eggs at the Oneida Hatchery. In 1995, nearly 18,000 fish were raised to six inches in size at the Oneida hatchery and released into Oneida, Cayuga and Black lakes and the Grasse and upper Oswegatchie rivers. Hatchery fish were stocked in most years from 1995 to 2006, in these and other locations.

Lake sturgeon from New York’s inland waters are smaller on average and may grow to as much three to five feet in length and 80 pounds as adults. These fish feed on the bottom and eat primarily aquatic insects, worms, snails, clams and crayfish. Specimens caught in Oneida Lake have also been found to consume zebra mussels. Larger sturgeon have also been found to consume round gobies.

One thousand sturgeon averaging about six inches long were stocked into the following waters: Black Lake, Oswegatchie River, St. Regis River, Raquette River, Salmon River and Genesee River. Approximately 500 lake sturgeon were stocked in Oneida Lake and the St. Lawrence River at Massena. Two thousand five hundred fish were stocked into Chaumont Bay, Cayuga Lake and the St. Lawrence River at Ogdensburg.

Although DEC and partners have discovered gravid or egg-bearing females and young fish in previously stocked locations, DEC will continue propagation of lake sturgeon through 2024. Low levels of stocking are continuing to enhance the genetic structure of previously stocked populations. Sturgeon are infrequent spawners and use the same gravel and cobble beds as do walleye. They congregate in tributary streams in late May to mid-June. Only about 10 percent of the population spawns in any given year. Males reach maturity at about age 15, and spawn only every second or third year. Females mature at about 20 years of age and spawn only every four to seven years.

Bottom fishing with worms is likely to attract sturgeon, so that fishing technique should be avoided if you know you are fishing in sturgeon waters. If you accidently hook a sturgeon, release it as quickly as possible and try not to remove it from the water. Always support its full weight across its abdomen; do NOT hang it by the gills or tail. Do not touch its gills or eyes.

For more information on lake sturgeon, visit DEC’s website at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/26035.html.

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Wayne Brewer is a past president of the New York State Outdoor Writers Association. His outdoor column is published the first Sunday of each month in The Citizen and at auburnpub.com. Please send any information about scheduled events and meetings at least one month in advance to brewersoutdoorcolumn@gmail.com.

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