WOODS ‘N’ WATER: Where the wild things are (and how they’re best managed)

WOODS ‘N’ WATER: Where the wild things are (and how they’re best managed)


“There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.”

— Aldo Leopold

I, for one, cannot!

I’ve spent most of my life wandering the great outdoors, both locally and in some other states as far west as Oregon, Washington and in Idaho and Utah; as far south as Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia; midwest to Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan; and here in the northeast, including all of New England, New York and parts of Canada.

In some, I have hunted and fished. In others, I simply took in the many sights, including the wildlife.

I am a hunter. To some folks, I and others like me who like to hunt, trap and even fish, are looked upon as “enemies of wild things.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. It has been proven over the years that if it were not for hunters, fishermen and trappers and their continuous contributions to maintain wild things through the monies garnered from excise taxes, licenses and permits for hunting, trapping and fishing equipment, many of our wild creatures would have taken the path of the now-extinct passenger pigeon.

Oh, there are many animal rights groups who will call me a liar, but the “proof is in the pudding,” as the saying goes. One only has to look as close as Bluff Point here in Connecticut to see that this is true.

At one time, because of a lack of hunting to keep deer numbers in check, the Bluff Point deer herd was so great that there was no longer sustainable habitat to support the deer. They were reduced to eating the bark off of trees to survive.

Finally, the powers that be decided the only feasible way to bring the herd down to healthy numbers was to hold a hunt. The hunt was successful and the remaining deer at Bluff Point are surviving in a healthier habitat.

In many of our suburban areas, it has been proven that bowhunting is the best way to bring deer numbers down. An overpopulation of deer in the suburbs often results in the devouring of ornamental plants and flowers, plus the deer often leave Lyme ticks.

Believe it or not, even here at our home on Dogwood Lane in Meriden we have had deer come into our yard during the evening and eat some of our flowers. On one morning, Edna woke up early and saw two deer walking right down the middle of Dogwood Lane.

Over the years in my travels I have seen elk, moose, whitetailed deer, mule deer, antelope, turkeys, bobwhite quail, grouse, woodcock, coyotes, fox (both gray and red), bobcats, skunks, black bears, raccoons, possums, muskrats, porcupines, nutria, beavers and all kinds of reptiles in the wild and have marveled at every sighting. Unfortunately for many of these wild critters, we humans have taken over much of their habitat, and this has forced them to try to exist within populated areas.

Sometimes it works. Many times, it does not.

Properly managed through hunting and trapping, healthy populations of wildlife can exist with man. It is when some well-meaning folks and others who are not so well-meaning interfere with proper wildlife management that things begin to get ugly.

We only need to look as close as Hubbard Park and its overabundance of “Nuisance” (a.k.a. “Resident”) Canada geese to see the folly of well-meaning humans feeding what were once wild creatures. The area is soiled with feces from geese that have the ability to leave a quart of poop a day in any area they stay in.   

Yet, I still have to marvel at the diversity of wildlife here in Connecticut. Seeing them close up and personal offers me an even bigger thrill. As a hunter, I have sometimes been so close to some of these wild creatures, I could almost reach out and touch them.

I had a bobcat walk right under my deer stand one afternoon. It had no idea I was so close.

I have lost count of the number of coyotes I have seen in the wild and even right here in the suburbs of Meriden. Coyotes and the suburbs are not a good mix. It is only a matter of time before a small family pet might fall prey to a hungry coyote. And while it is not a common occurrence, there is no guarantee that they will not go after a human.

And now we have moose appearing in certain areas of Connecticut and the back bear sightings appear to be everywhere. The days of trapping unwanted black bears and relocating them to more wilderness areas is now long gone because there are just too many bears. And, YES, they are currently protected, but it won’t be long before something has to be done to lower their numbers.

I said it before and I will say it again: I do not envy the DEEP when it comes time to make a decision on how to lower the black bear numbers. Not that my opinion maters, but I still think deer hunters should be allowed to purchase a special “bear tag” so that if they see a bear in an area that allows hunting, they can harvest it. This would help bring down the bear numbers in Connecticut.

For me, one of the most amazing wild critters in Connecticut and one you hear very little about is the beaver. I had my first ever encounter with a beaver many years ago while deer hunting in Maine. It was still very dark as I cautiously made my way across a beaver dam to an area I wanted to hunt. Suddenly, I was jolted by a resounding “SPALOOSH” in the water by the dam. It sounded like someone had just launched a giant boulder into the water, but it was the warming sound a beaver makes with its flat tail.

Believe me when I tell you that it is a sound you will not soon forget.

Historically, in the late 1800s there were no beaver in Connecticut. In 1914, a pair of beaver were released in Union, CT. There were also releases in the late 1920s and early 30s.

By the late 50s, there were enough beaver colonies established that they began to cause trouble with some landowners. Because their dam building on small streams often resulted in some flooding of private lands, the owners of the flooded lands wanted them removed. In the wild, beaver dams benefited many wildlife creatures, but when they began to encroach on human habitat the problems began. I have even seen areas where their dams have flooded roads.

In 1961, the Board of Fisheries and Game (as it was called back then) opened the first regulated trapping season in response to the growing number of complaints and Connecticut’s beaver population became a renewable natural resource. Today, beaver numbers are in the thousands. There are places they are not welcome, but they do have their spot in nature and because of man’s encroaching on their wilderness with housing projects, industrial complexes and corporate buildings, many times they have to be removed by licensed trappers.

Since we humans have taken so much habitat away from many of our wild critters, it is also up to us to ensure that the remaining numbers stay in balance with the existing habitat. This means managing them through hunting and trapping. The only other alternative would be to let them overpopulate and then die of disease and starvation.

As for the animal rightists with their mega-money bank accounts, I will believe they really care about sustaining wild creatures when they turn their homes and land back to the wildlife.

I vote for DEEP managed hunting and trapping as the best way to manage our wildlife, and here in Connecticut we have one of the best wildlife divisions going.

See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.