Thursday, June 12, 2008

Week of June 8

Foxes are latest threat to sea turtle population, nesting shorebirds

By Gareth McGrath Staff Writer,

Fort Fisher, North Carolina - Kneeling next to a wire-mesh box turned upside down, Jeff Owen pushed back the sand to show the box's sides extending into the beach and the flaps protruding several feet.

Installed over the top of a buried sea turtle nest, the exclusion device looked like a pretty good deterrent.

But Owen, superintendent for the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, just shook his head when asked how effective the cages are in keeping the local red foxes out of the nests.

"They pick up things real fast," Owen said. "It didn't take them long to figure this stuff out."

Officials up and down the coast are struggling with what to do about foxes that have developed a hankering for sea turtle eggs.

Adding to their concern is the precipitous decline in the nesting population of the northern loggerhead, the predominant sea turtle found in North Carolina waters.

Last year North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida all saw loggerhead nesting numbers more than 30 percent lower than those in 2006. Smaller declines also had been observed in previous years.

That's prompted several environmental groups to petition the federal government to declare the northern population of the loggerhead a separate species and give it "endangered" status under the Endangered Species Act.

But sea turtles aren't the only creatures feeling the fox's bite.

Last year, not a single shorebird nested successfully on Masonboro Island, where half the turtle nests were raided. "We're assuming most of that impact came from foxes," said Hope Sutton, southern sites manager for the N.C. Division of Coastal Management.

The drop in turtle and nesting shorebird numbers comes just as the coast's fox population is increasing, apparently fueled by its ability to feel perfectly at home among humans.

Because the red fox is a non-native species, brought to coastal North Carolina by British settlers centuries ago as a game animal, eradication of nuisance animals is supported by some officials and environmentalists as a reasonable solution.

But that support hasn't carried over into the general public - yet. A proposal by Caswell Beach to use lethal means, probably sharpshooters, to control its fox problem prompted a strong reaction from residents. Full Article


Beach in New Hampshire stays open during milfoil treatment

By Terry Date, staff writer, Eagle-Tribune

WINDHAM — Residents can swim at the town beach next week while Cobbetts Pond undergoes milfoil treatment.

The town's recreation director announced at the selectmen's meeting Monday there would be no swimming in the entire 2-mile-long pond for seven days.

But yesterday, Recreation Director Cheryl Haas announced swimming would be allowed at the town beach, which is a good distance from the treatment area.

The confusion stemmed from incomplete information she received about a state law that restricts swimming for seven days in ponds and lakes that have been treated for milfoil with the herbicide Navigate.

Upon further research, the town learned the seven-day prohibition against swimming applies only to treatment areas. At Cobbetts, that is a 49-acre section at the north end of the pond and a 2.7-acre area in the middle of the pond — as well as 200-foot areas extended from those sections, said Amy Smagula, exotic species program coordinator for the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.

Smagula said the town beach is well outside the treatment area and the state has no problem with the beach being open for swimming during treatment. Full Article


Restoring nature’s oasis in Norwalk, Connecticut

By Marcia Powell,

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Norwalk Seaport Association partner to restore natural biological habitat in the Norwalk islands

Due to heavy recreational use, habitat degradation by nonnative invasive plant species and unchecked animal populations, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection has identified the Norwalk Islands and their habitats as one of the 13 most imperiled natural communities in Connecticut.

Now, thanks to a long-term partnership between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Norwalk Seaport Association, efforts to restore the natural habitat in the Norwalk Islands are underway. The Seaport Association, which owns and maintains Sheffield Island Lighthouse, is a recognized Friends organization of the National Wildlife Refuge System, in particular, the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in the Norwalk Islands.

The ongoing Habitat Restoration and Conservation Project will encompass the 51-acre refuge on Sheffield Island and the 68-acre refuge on Chimon Island. In October of 2007, a Fish & Wildlife Service team visited Sheffield Island to begin identifying and mapping the location of specific invasive plants and determine a strategy for habitat restoration and conservation.

Among the invasive species that have been targeted on Sheffield Island are mile-a-minute, perennial pepperweed, garlic mustard, Japanese barberry, Asiatic bittersweet and phragmites. Full Article


Invasive Water Lettuce Harms Bay Grasses And May Impede Boating in Maryland

ANNAPOLIS, MD — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds water gardeners and aquarium owners to properly dispose of aquatic plants to prevent spread of invasive species like water lettuce that harm bay grasses and may impede boating. DNR biologists first identified invasive water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) in Maryland last summer during a routine survey of Mattawoman Creek, a large Potomac River tributary in Charles County.

A native of South America, water lettuce is an aquatic weed that floats on the surface of slow-moving rivers, lakes and ponds. Unmistakable in appearance with light green leaves grouped in rosette like an open head of lettuce, the commonly used household aquatic plant floats on the surface of the water alone or in dense mats. Water lettuce produces seeds and spreads rapidly; growing into thick mats of vegetation that block sunlight from reaching underwater grasses and using dissolved oxygen in the water that fish need to survive. Once established, water lettuce becomes impenetrable to boats, swimmers and waterfowl. Full Article

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