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Wildlife lover lays it on line

LONDONDERRY - Growing up in Londonderry in the 1960s, Eric Orff remembers strapping on his snowshoes for a brisk hike into Little Cohas Marsh, where the young boy who dreamed of becoming "a forester that works with animals" would check on nesting boxes he'd made for local wood ducks.

"Londonderry was still a farming community then," said Orff, now retired from a 31-year career as a regional wildlife biologist for the state Fish and Game Department. "We had about 2,000 people living in town then."

Though he now lives in Epsom, Orff hasn't forgotten his longtime home and will return to Londonderry on Jan. 10 for a lecture at the Leach Public Library.

During the free evening program, "Too Hot Trout and Ticked Off Moose," Orff will discuss climate change in southern New Hampshire and its impact on local fish and wildlife.

As a preteen living on Harvey Road, just south of the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, Orff joined the local Fish and Game Club as a junior member, where he convinced club officials to help him set up and monitor duck boxes at the local marsh.

Orff grew up and completed college, but he'd often return to the area to check on his duck boxes over the years. Each year, the winters seemed a bit milder.

"By the 1990s, I was riding my three-wheeler out to the boxes," he said. "Over the past few years, we've had winters where there's no snow, no ice out there. In my lifetime, I have seen winter disappear from Little Cohas Marsh."

Wildlife report

During his career with the state Fish and Game Department, Orff was the Region 3 regional wildlife biologist, as well as the black bear biologist for nearly two decades.

An active lecturer and writer since his retirement in 2007, Orff has been lecturing on behalf of the National Wildlife Foundation, educating the public on the impact of climate change on wildlife. He contributes to the Fish and Game Departments' monthly online "Wildlife Reports" as well as the fall "Hunting Reports".

He also maintains his own website with weekly "NH Nature Notes" at www.nhfishandwildlife.com.

"Growing up decades ago we could pretty much count on the beaver ponds in Londonderry to be skimmed with ice by the end of October with good ice for fishing by mid-December," Orff said. "Now safe ice does not come until at least late January."

Orff said he hopes to raise public awareness on global warming and encourages residents to take some simple steps to help preserve the state's wild places and the creatures who live there.

"Climate change is occurring, and it's definitely impacting our local wildlife," he added, noting that springtime floods mean fewer duck eggs hatching in the springtime, while milder winters have had drastic effects on the moose population since the warmer weather has allowed the deadly moose tick to flourish.

"Too Hot Trout and Ticked Off Moose," begins at 7 p.m. The Jan. 10 program is open to the public and will be held in the library's lower-level meeting room. Light refreshments will be served.

For more information contact the Leach Library, 276 Mammoth Road, at 432-1132.

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April Guilmet may be reached at AGuilmet@newstote.com.

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