Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wild Pigs: Not Tough Enough to Face Ol’ King Coal

© By Albert A Rasch

In my ongoing operation against Mountain Top Removal I have uncovered another example of the wanton disregard for the environment that the mining companies have.

In Baiting up Hogs, I gave instruction on methods used for attracting wild pigs. Hunter Angler of Jake’s Outdoors, said that there where very few wild hogs in his region. I went to his web site and saw that he hails from West Virginia. Hell I thought, there’s got to be a mess of razorbacks tearing up the mountains out there. Boy howdy, was I ever wrong.

I wanted to speak with some authority about his area of the country, and in researching through the data to answer his question I naturally started by searching the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources web site.

“Hunters killed 7 wild boar during the 2004 season. Archery hunters took 4 and firearms hunters killed 3. The entire harvest came from the same general area in Logan County.”

Seven? Total? For the year? Are they kidding me? I’ve killed seven just walking in an afternoon. OK, maybe I didn’t kill seven, but I sure saw a lot more than seven. Either those West Virginia mountain boys are really bad hunters, or something else is going on.

Biologists do not believe that boar hunting contributed to the population decline. Past seasons have been short and hunter participation restricted by permits.”

Ok, maybe they are so good that they just don’t get a long enough season to put a dent in the population. But there’s been a population decline?

“Wildlife Resources biologists conducted an extensive survey in February 2004 to confirm the presence or absence of wild boar…The survey indicated a much reduced boar population of probably fewer than 50 animals.”

Holy smokes! Less than fifty animals! I have raised wild hogs and let me tell you that three little pigs can turn into thirty-eight in nothing flat. I’m not kidding. In less than one year I had more than forty pigs. But that’s another story in and of itself. How could an area of four counties in beautiful, rugged, bountiful West Virginia have only FIFTY wild pigs in it?

“The main reason for the decline of wild boar in the four southern counties of Boone, Logan, Raleigh and Wyoming is habitat destruction resulting in poor reproduction and survival. Specifically mountain top mining and logging have eliminated much of the once mature oak forest that was favored by the boar.”

So there you have it; mountain top removal and logging are the shameless destroyers and despoilers of the land. How could I have missed it?

“Impacts of coal mining in the boar area account for significant losses of habitat in Casey Creek, Sycamore Creek, Jigley Fork and Skin Poplar Fork. During the last 6 years, 1999 – 2004, there are 14,424 acres under coal mining permits in Boone County and 4,946 acres in Logan County (WV Department of Environmental Protection). Clearly much of the ideal oak forest habitat favored by the wild boar has disappeared.”

“In the 1980's and early 1990's much of the boar area was mature oak forest. Since then accelerated commercial logging removed vast tracts of mast producing trees in main Spruce-Laurel Creek, Sycamore Creek, Dennison Fork, Jigley Fork and Skin Poplar Fork. In the past more than 75% of the boar harvest came from these areas.”

You see, Ol’ King Coal sold off all the marketable lumber before sending in the cranes and dozers, and blowing off the tops of the mountains. They are obviously unashamed of their wholesale destruction and they won’t leave a potential revenue stream untouched either.

“The demise of the wild boar population in West Virginia is certainly highly correlated with the destruction of the mature oak forest habitat favored by the species.”

If you go to the article where I found this information, they also mention the relatively low birth rate of the European Wild Boar. It appears that the hogs in West Virginia were originally stocked from a commercial operation. I have trapped high percentage European Wild Boar hogs here, and I have to disagree with the WV biologists on this:

“These individuals undoubtedly came from a few animals in Germany and were said to have originated in the Ural Mountains of Russia. This pure strain of wild boar seems to be less prolific and more habitat specific than the typical wild hogs of the south. They are certainly poor pioneering species. Their poor adaptability may in part be a result of a genetic bottleneck and the lack of genetic diversity in the population.”

I doubt the genetic bottle neck theory. Unless there was a specific set of negative genetic variables, it is unlikely that such a scenario occurred. I started with three pigs, two females and a male, brother and sisters, which reproduced at an alarming rate, with great viability in their offspring. I caught several high percentage European Wild Boars, and when I bred and crossbred them they demonstrated high fecundity and viability. So again, I’m not so sure that biological issues are the culprit to any great degree.

But, I will SHOUT LOUD AND CLEAR that Ol’ King Coal and mountain top removal are the main perpetrator of the demise of the wild hogs of West Virginia. The callus and reckless disregard for the environment and the people of the Appalachian regions shown by the mining companies is appalling. As I continue to work on this issue I beg you to frequent all of the hunting and fishing forums and tell everyone about the plight of the Appalachian Mountains. Remember that though it might not be in your backyard, something very much like it is probably happening somewhere nearby! When we are finished with Big Coal we’ll be coming to your backyard to help.

Here is a link to get you started: Stop MTR is Denny's blog and in my opinion probably the best center for information on the destruction of the Appalachia.

As an outdoorsman, fisherman, and hunter I am aghast at the result of this abuse of the public trust. Though I am a capitalist through and through, and have absolutely no interest in any government intervention in my daily life, I am completely against this sort of wanton destruction of what should be in the public domain, though owned by private entities. The effects of mountain top removal are so widespread, that regardless of the specific location of destruction, the need for public intervention is apparent. For the coal companies to use an interpretation of the law to justify this abuse is not only unethical but immoral.

Among my current projects, I am working with my local elementary school trying to partner them up with the Marsh Fork Elementary School near Sundial, West Virginia. As soon as I have it all set up, I am having the local news paper do a write up on it. I will be writing a piece on this endeavor as soon as I have it put together. When I finish that, I am going to try to interest the High School to do the same. I am going to present it as older brothers and sisters coming to the rescue of their little siblings. Another idea I have for kids is a letter writing campaign, where I’ll prepare sample letters for them and then allow them to express how they feel about the issue in their own words. Another is a lollipop or Tootsie Roll sale with the proceeds to go to Marsh Fork; these are the kind of things that involved kids like to do.

That’s the shout out for this week! I’ve had one of those months that everyone talks about. Hopefully April will be a bit less hectic! Then again that’s what I said about February…

Albert A Rasch
The Hunt Continues…

Florida Sportsman Fishing and Boat Show

© By Albert A Rasch

I woke up late.

It’s the daylight savings thing, I hurt my back moving the chicken coop, and overall I felt like crud. (Still do.) So somehow I overslept this Sunday morning, and it was the Florida Sportsman Fishing and Boat Show and now we were all late.

I hurriedly woke the dead up. Blake sleeps in a sepulcher like stupor, which not even a fire alarm pierces. As a matter of fact, the emergency action plan calls for me to get Blake, while Mom gets The Bear. Since this was definitely an emergency, I got a wet paper towel and slapped it on Bubby’s face, while pulling his blankets off. To make a long story short, I managed to get him in the bathroom with only one herniated disc.

About an hour later we were on the road heading for the expo!

I haven’t been to a good expo in quite a while, so when we pulled up I was happy to see the parking lot was full of cars and a bunch of nice boats were lined up at the entry. Inside we found several hundred tables filled with all sorts of inshore and offshore fishing gear, electronics, boating accessories, and apparel. There where many seminars on different facets of fishing, many taught by local guides. We learned how to rig for groupers and Capt. Larry Finch taught us where and how to fish the surf for pompanos. There was a fish filleting display and a knot tying class where we bought a rigging book. Florida fishing is very tide dependant so we attended that class too.

We checked out all the boats, from the Glades Runners which were long narrow beamed runabouts, to large multi-engine offshore kingfish hunters with conning towers and radar. There were even a couple of fiberglass pangas in the mix.

Blake really liked a beautiful 24 foot flats boat by NauticStar Boats, the 2400 NauticBay. Not only is it a flats type boat, but it is designed to run blue water too. I wouldn’t try rough seas with it mind you, but it looks very capable for the occasional offshore foray on calm days. Capt. Al Lewis, (The Boat House at Boater’s World, 4809 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte Florida, Tel: 941*235*2628), was willing to throw in a T-Top and the trailer if I would take it home with me. It was all I could do to drag the Mrs. and the two lug nuts away before I was parted from my hard earned money! If you are in the market for a great quality American Made fishing machine that is reasonably priced, see or call Capt. Al. No hard sell, no pressure, just the facts and the guidance of an experience fisherman. If it makes any difference, Cristal and I have decided to purchase one as soon as finances allow. As Cristal said, “It’s an investment in Blake’s education.”

One manufacturer in particular deserves accolades for the way they handle their business: Calusa Trading Company (PO Box 61902 Ft. Myers Florida, 33906 Tel: 1*888*5 CALUSA.) Their table had several examples of their cast nets, from small mesh baitfish nets, to large nets designed to catch eating size fish. Here is another quality Handmade American product. For those of you unfamiliar with a cast net, it is a large circular affair that is thrown by hand. It is non-destructive to underwater habitats, and at one time was what fishermen used to supply mullet for the market. That of course was before commercial fishermen started using seine nets and gill nets to catch everything in the water.

Trevor and Jeff were the two young men teaching the “Zen and the Art of Cast Netting” class. After a quick explanation on centripetal force and the theory of cast nets, they invited us to learn “The Art of the Net.” Blake and Trevor had no trouble. A couple of tries, and Blake’s net spread the full 16 feet and landed, nice and round, on the carpeted throwing area.

Jeff really tried hard to get me to coordinate all the actions properly, but I just had a bit of trouble remembering which sequence of events I was to follow. A couple of Mae Wests, figure eights, and an indecipherable net hieroglyph later, Jeff patiently explained, “You must become one with the net.” To which Trevor added “Feel the force.” I’m no Obi Wan, but after a half dozen more throws I was getting the hang of it and remembering to release the lead line I was holding in my teeth. Good thing I don’t wear dentures. Those two guys were the paragons of patience, and before long I was throwing almost as well as Blake. I was feeling pretty sore in the shoulders by then and was more than happy to hand the nets over when I was done.

Both Jeff and Trevor were fantastic, well mannered, and good natured young men. I am certain that their parents are very proud of them. My family and I certainly enjoyed their company and tutelage, and look forward to meeting them again at the next show.

Overall I was very pleased by the Florida Sportsman Fishing and Boat Show. The show itself was reasonably priced at $8.00 per person, the venue was great, and even the snack bar was well supplied and fairly reasonable. All of the vendors but one, (I don’t want to discuss that one yet until I have done more research.) were very nice, very helpful, and lots of fun. All of the patrons seemed to be having a great time, with all of the seminars and classes filled to capacity. I’ll be looking for the next one in Tampa, when it comes around!

Albert A Rasch
The Hunt Continues…