Phil Pash’s Great Outdoors

Phil Pash’s Great Outdoors

By By Phil Pash

Where Do They Come From? Back in June, Robert A. Hedeen wrote in The Rock River Times about finding a brown recluse spider in his basement in the Rockford area.

Last week I read in the local daily that a woman captured a black widow spider while fishing in the Rock River behind Rockton Cemetery.

Neither of the spiders was supposed to be where they were, though it probably is more likely to find a brown recluse in the Rockford area than a black widow.

Of the two, Hedeen, a former professor of biological science, wrote that, if he had a choice, he would prefer to be bitten by the black widow

because the bite of the brown recluse kills cells around the bite.

“They (the dead area) must be cut away, leaving a deep sore that may take months to heal,” he wrote. “In some cases skin grafts are required. The venom also disrupts the human immune system, and, in a few cases, death can occur, usually as a result of secondary infection.”

So how did these critters get to the Rockford area? No one can say for certain, but one thing I have learned to never overlook is the possibility

that someone brought them here and then turned them loose. You’d have to catch them to know their motives. But there are a lot of people out there

with sick minds, or they’re just too dumb to know better.

How else do you explain a youth catching a piranha from the Kishwaukee River years ago? Or the piranha that have been caught from Lake Columbia near Portage, Wis., a power plant cooling lake. How else would you explain giant snakes—boa constrictors and pythons—being found in the Rockford area? Maryland right now is battling something that shouldn’t be where it is—the northern snakehead fish, which is native to Asia and equatorial Africa. You already may have seen it on the nightly TV news. It has been getting a lot of play, much more than most of the 50,000 other non-native plants and animals that have taken root in the U.S. and cost us $138 billion a year.

But typically for TV, it is getting the “cutesy” treatment, being treated more like a joke than a serious problem.

From pictures I have seen, it looks like a dogfish. Only this thing is more scary. It can breathe air, crawl on land, hide in mud and is a voracious predator whose diet is about 90 percent other fish. Winter won’t kill it, females can lay as many as 100,000 eggs a year, and bigger ones have not been phased by electro-shocking, though the pond is very weedy. According to National Geographic News, Maryland officials quickly are coming down to their most drastic option—poisoning the pond with rotenone, a plant-derived toxin that is very effective.

The pond is in Crofton, Md., and about 100 juvenile snakeheads have been found, indicating they are multiplying. The Little Patuxent River is only 75 feet from the pond, and officials don’t want any of the snakeheads

getting into a river system. Otherwise they could be facing the same situation as Illinois with those “sterile” grass-eating carp getting into river systems.

The northern snakehead invasion in Maryland highlights one of the most frustrating problems wildlife specialists face—the ignorance of the general public about the catastrophic consequences that can occur when non-native species are released into the wild, said the National Geographic News story.

According to the Maryland DNR, the Crofton invasion was born sometime in 2000 when a man purchased two live snakeheads in New York City’s Chinatown district, intending to make soup for his sick sister; the soup was postponed, the fish put in a tank. When they outgrew the tank, he dumped the by-then foot-long fish in the pond.

Because of their potential invasiveness, possessing a live snakehead is illegal in 13 states. Maryland is not among them, although it is illegal to release non-native fish into Maryland waters.

Charges won’t be filed against the Maryland culprit because of a two-year statute of limitations that bars prosecution.

But Maryland and probably U.S. taxpayers will be handed the bill because of someone’s irresponsibility. Which is why $138 billion is spent every year on battling non-native plants and animals.

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Bass Masters Live: The CITGO Bass Masters Classic will be today though Saturday with weigh-ins at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center in Birmingham, Ala. The Thursday and Friday weigh-ins will be live on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. (CDT) while Saturday’s final weigh-in will be live on ESPN at 6 p.m.

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DEET Still Best: Legions of swarming, bloodsucking, flying vermin really can ruin that summer picnic or outdoor party. So what’s the best way to fend off the mosquitoes and “no-see-ums” intent on making you their next meal?

A host of products claim to effectively repel the nasty critters without chemicals. But timely research shows that insecticides containing the long-relied-on chemical DEET are more effective and last longer.

“DEET is not exactly the perfect product, so people are always looking for alternatives,” dermatologist Mark S. Fradin, MD, told WebMD. “But it has been proven effective over 45 years of use, and there is almost no science to support the notion that it is highly toxic.”

Always a summer annoyance, mosquitoes became more of a health threat in the U.S. three years ago when the first cases of West Nile virus were discovered. By the end of last year, the mosquito-spread virus had been documented in 28 states and was blamed for 18 deaths.

According to research by Fradin and John F. Day, PhD, University of Florida, reported in The New England Journal of Medicine, DEET-based products were found to provide complete protection for the longest time. Products containing 24 percent DEET protected for an average of five hours, while those containing 4.75 percent DEET kept the mosquitoes away for an average of 1.5 hours.

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