WOODS ‘N’ WATER: Plagues, small and great, of the animal world

WOODS ‘N’ WATER: Plagues, small and great, of the animal world


As we struggle to contain or eradicate diseases like COVID-19, using social distancing as one of our preventive measures, various species of wildlife sometimes also have a problem with diseases.

One only has to think back a couple of years ago when certain waterfowl at Hubbard Park were dying under mysterious circumstances.

At first, many locals thought that somebody was poisoning them, but the deaths were attributed to a waterfowl disease: the avian flu. It was thought, by those in authority on such matters, that it was spread amongst the ducks by humans feeding them.

One only has to see the flocks ganging up on each other when well-meaning people come to feed them bread, which is also bad for them. During these feeding frenzies, the waterfowl do not practice social distancing. So just like we humans, if one of them is infected, the disease can be passed on to another critter by close body contact.

Over the years this has proven true with some other wildlife species, like raccoons. Raccoon numbers were kept in check by trapping and hunting, and then animal activists got legislators to put so many restrictions on the trapping of rac        coons that the trappers said the heck with it.

As predicted, the raccoon numbers soared and so did a disease called rabies. It hit them hard and caused some alarm because the rabies could also infect pets as well as humans.

Those who oppose hunting and trapping say, “Let nature take its course.” We humans have made that impossible. Take a look at the many homes that have taken over what was once wildlife habitat.

Oh, we still have skunks walking the neighborhoods as well as raccoons, fox and coyotes, not to mention an occasional black bear and even deer. Here in our East Side neighborhood, we had a rabid skunk a couple of years ago that was captured by the Meriden Animal Control Department.

As our human population expanded, we began to force various species of wildlife into close quarters. This has been especially true with white-tailed deer. If allowed to over-populate, they will soon become diseased or die of hunger. This was a proven fact here in Connecticut at a spot called Bluff Point.

Many Connecticut residents were stricken with Lyme disease caused by tick bites and discovered years ago right here in Connecticut. In some cases of wildlife overpopulation, hunting has been used to control the numbers, such as at Bluff Point, where the deer were suffering from starvation. Their numbers were culled with controlled hunting and, today, the area has a small, healthy herd of deer that is in balance with the habitat.

Now it appears that yet another species of wildlife is in trouble. Moose have been infected by ticks that are threatening their numbers in certain areas in our northern states.

Vermont is one of them. In Wildlife Management Unit E in the northeastern corner of the state, there is an overabundance of moose. This means that there are too many moose that play host to the ticks that have been plaguing them.

To get the numbers more in balance, Vermont intends to lower the numbers of moose in Wildlife Management Unit E, thus lowering the number of host bodies for the ticks. Right now, the moose density in that area is one moose per square mile, which is significantly higher than any other part of the state.

For the 2021 moose season, permits will be issued for Wildlife Management Unit E only. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department will issue 60 either sex hunting permits and 40 antlerless moose hunting permits for the October season.

They estimate this will result in a harvest of 51-66 moose, or five percent of the more than 1,000 moose currently estimated to live in Wildlife Management Unit E. No moose hunting permits are recommended for other regions of Vermont.

It seems the world is getting crazier by the day as we humans battle the COVID-19 pandemic and something as small as a tick can have such a devastating impact on a critter as large as a moose, not to mention what Lyme disease does to the human population.

Ice fishing

Finally, the weather has been cold enough to give area ice fishermen a chance to get out on the hard water and get in some fishing time.

Just keep in mind that many of the bodies of water that are stocked with trout will be closed to ice fishing after this Sunday, Feb. 28. There are exceptions, and this will be a good time to check your Connecticut Angler’s Guide for which waters are legal to fish and which ones are not.

Spots like Silver Lake will remain open as long as the ice is safe.

Speaking of “safe ice,” please keep in mind that even though we had a pretty good cold spell to make the ice, we now are into longer days with the sun getting higher and working on taking away the ice that has formed.

Last weekend gave us a couple of perfect days to get in some ice fishing. A gang of sportsmen from the Meriden Rod & Gun Club hit Lake Beseck last Saturday and said that while they did not get many flags, they did eat good. Member Don Dandelski did land a nice northern pike that was returned back to the water to fight another day.

It may come as a surprise to some that Lake Beseck does have what appears to be a healthy population of northern pike.

PLEASE, as the weather warms, stay safe while ice fishing. There is no fish worth dying for.

See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops, police, firefighters and first responders wherever they may be serving this great country of ours.                                                     

Local school, election and coronavirus news is more crucial now than ever. Help our newsroom deliver the coverage you deserve. Support Local news.