Of lynx, roundups and eels

JOHN HARRIGAN February 18. 2012 11:43PM

Today's wildlife management and conservation movements have long been dedicated to trying to right old wrongs. One species high on the list for help in reoccupying its ancestral range is the Canada lynx, long thought to be hanging on by a thread in northern New Hampshire. Confirmed tracks were found in the unincorporated town of Success, and this winter four kittens were photographed in Pittsburg.

Wildlife workers found a lynx population in northwestern Maine that was more numerous than thought, boosting the hope that this might help a renewed population take hold in New Hampshire.

Now, however, Maine's role in this scenario is being muddied by a state-sanctioned persecution of coyotes (in the name of saving the diminished deer herd) that threatens bobcats as a by-catch. State officials want immunity for trappers who accidentally trap lynx, an endangered species.

Sounds more like Alaska than Maine. When all else fails, blame the predator, damn the torpedoes and don't bother anyone with the facts.

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People inherently loathe walls and fences - as do various species of wildlife. Now it turns out that the much-hyped fence along the Mexican border is making life harder not just for potential illegal immigrants, but migrating bears, as well. Bears in southern Arizona and adjacent states are more closely related to northern Mexican bears than their U.S. cousins, the Wildlife Conservation Society says, and the barrier might hinder the continuation of this species.

But what would be a solution? Special bear tunnels or fense openings with 'Bears Only' signs in English and Spanish?

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A rogue cow made headlines in Milford, Conn., where it got loose and fell in with a bunch of deer. It fought off two attempts to capture it - and became something of a folk hero in the process. A posse of Connecticut state officials, veterinarians and assorted helpers eventually rounded up the cow, tranquilized it and hauled it off to a new home.

It reminded me of a father-son team I wrote about years ago who ran a sort of posse business in the southern part of New Hampshire. They specialized in finding and capturing escaped livestock and wilder animals. I wonder whether anyone is still doing that kind work.

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Lastly, a longtime reader in Canaan sent me a letter inquiring about eels, as in do we have them and, if so, are they any good to eat? He found a three-foot dead eel last summer while fishing in the Connecticut River.

The answer is Yes, Virginia, eels do exist here, several varieties. I once caught one at the Beaver Brook dam in Colebrook, in the northern reaches of that self-same river, and it scared the daylights out of me, writhing there on the end of my telescoping rod. I ran all the way home (hey, I was only 6 or so).

Are they good to eat? The books say yes. But so are snakes. Which brings me to 'You first.'

John Harrigan's address is Box 39, Colebrook 03576. Email him at hooligan@ncia.net.

John Harrigan

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