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A group of fish jumping out of the water.

Outdoors in RI: Impressive Trout, Safe Ice (not), Hunting as conservation, 2A again and again – Jeff Gross

by Jeff Gross, contributing writer

Photo: RI DEM

We may have some ice next week but if we are fortunate to have safe ice it will be short lived. Meanwhile the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is stocking some impressive trout in 13 ponds. As of this writing the following ponds were stocked:

• Melville Ponds, Portsmouth

• Simmons Mill Pond, Little Compton

• Stafford Pond, Tiverton

• Willett Pond, East Providence

• Barber Pond, South Kingstown

• Meadow Brook Pond, Richmond

• Silver Spring Lake, North Kingstown

• Watchaug Pond, Charlestown

• Wyoming Pond, Hopkinton & Richmond

Again the DEM is performing some exemplary work as some of these trout are massive.  In fact, a Rainbow trout was caught in the Northern part of Rhode Island that may, in fact, be the new state record. This writer has seen the photo and it is indeed worthy of being mounted in the Den. Being single, and if it was my fish, it would be above my headboard! Hopefully the angler has it weighed at a certified weigh station and also recorded.

The warm weather brought out the ticks again and they had a hatching. The RI DEM wrote a great article on Deer Management in RI and can be read here.  Mentioned in the article is the Deer Tick dilemma.  Two weeks ago this writer found one embedded in his arm pit, but it was dead. Apparently, Arm and Hammer Deodorant is toxic to ticks.  Late last week my Golden Retriever had 3 ticks on her – one tick was on her in 28F outdoor temperatures.  The day after the last severe monsoon Rhode Island endured, a friend had his lab in the woods in West Greenwich and the yellow lab had spots all over him that were pencil tip sized black ticks. Hopefull,y this upcoming cold snap will eliminate that latest tick infestation and hopefully kill off the Brown Tail Moths in Maine as well.

From the DEM: Hunting’s crucial role in wildlife conservation and managing deer populations

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is highlighting the important role of hunting in conservation, managing deer populations, and providing funding for DEM’s broader network of wildlife conservation efforts. Hunting has a long tradition in RI, supporting family customs, providing locally sourced meat, connecting people with nature, and attracting tourism to the state. DEM works to protect and enhance wildlife habitat in Rhode Island forests and management areas to ensure healthier, more diverse, and abundant wildlife populations. White-tailed deer are a common sight in Rhode Island. Regulated hunting has proven to be the most cost-effective, efficient, and successful method of controlling deer populations, which in turn ensures that the population remains in balance with ecological and social factors. DEM’s Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) runs a robust deer program, offering opportunities for hunters to harvest deer across the state with lengthy season, liberal bag limits, and extensive access to public lands. DFW biologists seek to balance deer hunting opportunities with maintaining a healthy deer population and reducing negative impacts associated with overpopulated deer, including agricultural crop losses, nuisance complaints from residents, and especially deer vehicle collisions (DVCs).

“Deer hunting is the most effective and economical option for managing deer populations, and is the primary management tool used by federal, state, and provincial wildlife agencies across North America,” said Dylan Ferreira, a Principal Wildlife Biologist in DFW. “Other options such as translocation and fertility control are cost prohibitive and have limitations rendering them ineffective in most scenarios. Relocating wildlife is illegal in Rhode Island under most circumstances and can spread parasites and diseases to new locations. Although Chronic Wasting Disease is not currently present in RI, it is spread primarily from the movement and transportation of live deer. Fertility control comes in the forms of contraceptive medication or physical sterilization, with both considered mainly unviable population control techniques when used alone due to low efficacy from multiple required dosages and the difficulty of capture. Both alternative options can lead to deer mortality from the stress of capture and require significant resources to capture, treat, sedate, operate on, or translocate deer. Legal regulated hunting remains the best method for managing deer population growth.”

Bristol DVC and deer harvest data as of 1/7/2024. *Private land: 23, Cooperative land: 40.

Deer vehicle collisions (DVCs) are a public safety risk and can be costly, averaging around $6,717 per collision according to the Federal Highway Administration. Deer reproductive behavior is the main driver behind DVCs. During deer breeding season (known as the “rut”) beginning in late October and continuing through early December, deer tend to move around more frequently and is the peak period for DVCs. Deer do not often leave their home ranges in response to hunting, and there is no evidence for a correlation between hunting season and an increase in DVCs. In 2022, there were 1,544 reported DVCs in Rhode Island, an increase of ~20% compared to 2021 when 1,285 deer auto strikes were reported. In 2022, the number of reported DVCs was equivalent to 57% of the total reported hunter harvest according to DEM’s annual Deer, Deer Harvest and Deer Hunter Summary, which serves as a guide for future management decisions to maintain a healthy deer population.

In areas with overabundant deer issues, DFW works with local landowners such as municipalities, lands trusts, NGOs, or private landowners to open lands to public hunting in hopes to increase harvest to reduce the negative impacts associated with too many deer. In 2022, a deer hunting cooperative program with DEM was requested by the Town of Bristoland its constituents to manage its deer population, which has one of the highest rates of both DVCs and nuisance complaints from residents in Rhode Island. After an initial town meeting held in August, the Town Council voted unanimously in favor of the cooperative agreement with DEM opening four parcels of town-owned property to archery only deer hunting to reduce Bristol’s deer population. During the 2023 deer hunting season since the cooperative program began, Bristol’s deer harvest almost tripled that of 2022 and is four times higher than its five-year average. DVCs in Bristol have been increasing steadily since 2009, reaching a record high of 59 in 2022. Since the creation of cooperative hunting program with DEM, Bristol has seen a significant decrease in DVCs this year, with a 31% decrease from 59 to 41. DEM aims to continue expanding cooperative hunting agreements throughout Rhode Island to effectively manage the deer population and hopes to see a reduction in deer vehicle collisions across the state.

Another major concern expressed by the public is the risk of tick-borne diseases from ticks which feed on deer. Although there is an obvious correlation between deer and ticks, ticks do not get Lyme disease from deer as is commonly believed. Lyme disease is contracted by humans through the bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, through the bite of an infected deer tick. Deer are implicated as reservoirs and transmitters of zoonotic diseases as are many species of wildlife residing near human dwellings. Ticks require large mammals, such as deer, as a host for feeding and mating during their adult stage. Adult ticks lay eggs that hatch, after which the nymphs feed on small mammals or birds and become infected with the B. burgdorferi. The nymphs or adults located in brush and on tall grasses can then come into contact with humans as we pass through these environments. When a tick becomes infected and continues to feed on various hosts, tick-borne diseases can be transmitted.

DEM supports deer hunting through DFW’s Hunter Education Program. Safety training is required by law in Rhode Island for beginner hunters and to date, more than 40,000 people have completed a hunter safety course, helping to reduce related accidents in the state and elsewhere. Hunter Education promotes safe, ethical, and legal hunting practices preventing hunting related accidents nationally. Hunters are taught to clearly identify a target and what is beyond it before shooting. All archery deer hunters complete a hunter education class to obtain an archery deer permit. Archery proficiency testing is also required every two years to bow hunt on Prudence Island, Patience Island, Block Island National Wildlife Refuges, Trustom National Wildlife Refuge, John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge, Beavertail State Park, the Bristol town property co-op parcels, and anywhere in the town of Lincoln. During hunting seasons on lands open to public hunting, the public must wear solid, daylight fluorescent orange. Public lands remain safe for all visitors to enjoy while following this safety requirement. A complete schedule of hunter educational offerings is available online here.

Licensed hunters are law-abiding, respectful stewards of our natural resources and according to the recent Rhode Island Hunter Sentiment Survey, most hunters hunt for food rather than trophies. In addition to the sport of hunting and spending time in the outdoors, harvested deer are a great source of local, free-range, organic meat that hunters, their families, and friends consume in a variety of wild game recipes. RI’s 2022-23 deer hunting season yielded over 32 tons of consumable venison, equivalent to about 130,000 meals. Hunting deer is a traditional use of this natural resource and meat from harvested deer is not wasted but is often frozen and consumed throughout the year. By harvesting wild game, hunters reduce reliance on factory-farmed meat that often travels thousands of food miles to the grocery store. DEM’s enforced seasons, rules, regulations all aim to reduce and manage deer populations rather than eliminate them. Hunters remove a portion of the population, which alleviates competition for resources. During winter, food resources are scarce which can lead to starvation when there’s an overpopulation of deer. Additionally, deer hunting season does not coincide with the animals raising their young. Environmental Police Officers from DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) monitor lands that allow hunting statewide to enforce hunting laws and help protect public safety. DLE takes poaching very seriously as it steals opportunities from hunters that follow regulations and selfishly depletes RI’s precious natural resources.

Hunters provide funding for wildlife conservation through their purchase of firearms and ammunition through the Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Program, and through the purchase of their state hunting licenses and permits. These funds are distributed to each state by the federal government and used to conserve land, manage habitat, restore wildlife populations, and much more. In 2023 alone, Rhode Island received $7,176,940 in funding for wildlife restoration from this program. Hunters and anglers purchase around 70,000 licenses, permits, stamps, and tags each year and contribute more than $235 million to Rhode Island’s economy. With the help of hunters, DEM has protected thousands of acres for wildlife in RI, continued our research and monitoring efforts for both game and non-game birds and mammals, established a strong research partnership with University of Rhode Island, and continue to provide hunter education and wildlife outreach opportunities for the public. Without the contribution of legal and responsible hunters, DEM would not be able to conserve and protect our state’s wildlife. 

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Second Amendment updates

This week the Anti-gun groups were pummeled in the courts – a comparison would be a boxer that received  two swollen black eyes and a bleeding broken nose.  The week started off with a Federal District Judge in Florida declaring banning the carrying of firearms in a Post Office is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle cited the NYSRPA v Bruen case that recognized the right of “We The People” to carry concealed firearms for self defense and all other lawful purposes. The next on the list is Loper Bright Enterprises case which involves Fishermen from New Jersey and little ol’ RI. The challenge brought by the fishermen is to eliminate the Chevron Difference powers of the Alphabet Agencies. Paul D Clement is the attorney for the fishermen. Paul is also lead council for the Rhode Island mag ban case. Needless to say, it appears that the BATF and other alphabet agencies were definitely neutered that day. 4 hours before this writing came the coup de grâce.  The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals declared that 18-20 year olds have the right to carry a concealed weapon and open carry a weapon.  Looks like the We the People gun community will compete with the 2007 New England Patriots for the most wins as 2024 is off to a great start.

Back in the day members of the 2A Coalition stated we need to show respect to the members in the RI State House. This is 2024 and there are those in the State House who do not respect our constitutional rights so respect for that has ended and I may be the first to display it. Trust is out the window – and this writer is throwing in the towel in trying to educate the anti-gun politicians as they seem to use their heads for a hat rack on the subject. When he was a youngster and a baseball pitcher, he had a fastball of 103 mph. It is time to play hardball again.  This writer has been told that the bad actors in the anti-gun corridors in the RI State House will again resort to what some have called a “communist” agenda.

It is crystal clear that the majority of people on both sides of the RI State House aisle have no idea about the constitutionality of the 2nd Amendment and the Heller and Bruen decisions. A conversation with one male politician who has sponsored an unconstitutional bill stated that the capital lawyer feels the law is constitutional. The new bill piggybacks off a separate unconstitutional law. Though the bill is aimed at criminals, it still follows a path that violates the 1791 document. Maybe it is time to turn the focus on eradicating the violent criminals, just like the disease they are to our society.

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Read more articles by Jeff Gross, here: https://rinewstoday.com/jeff-gross/

Jeffrey “Jeff” Gross spent 21 years as an Analytical Chemist at the USCG R&D Center in Groton, Connecticut, Woods Hole Laboratories, and Helix Technologies. Changing careers is a “great learning experience for everyone”, Jeff says, and I’m an avid outdoorsman and conservationist, a student of the sciences, and the world. The US holds too many wonders not to take a chance and explore them”.Jeff is the Model Train and Railroad entrepreneur. Proud Golden Retriever owner. Ultra strong Second Amendment Advocate and Constitutionalist. “Determined seeker of the truth”. Jeff is a RIFGPA Legislative and Legal Officer, Freshwater Chairman, NRA Liaison.His subjects include Outdoors, Second Amendment, Model Railroading, and Whimsical.

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