Rants and Raves

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Want to help the environment? Fish and hunt

Note: This was a feature written for a North Dakota newspaper. The point remains valid for the whole country. I didn't want to hit anyone over the head with it, but anyone can draw the obvious conclusions about anti-hunting sentiment, gun control and not allowing commercial hunting.

People concerned about food prices might be happy to know they can find good protein free for the taking and help the environment at the same time.

Or maybe not.

Common carp and snow geese are plentiful, good to eat and North Dakota Game and Fish Department (NDGF) officials would like hunters and fishers to take all they can.

Common carp is a delicacy in Europe, an ingredient in gefilte fish, and is traditionally served at Christmas in many countries.

In North America it's considered a nuisance species.

According to Lynn Schlueter, aquatic nuisance species coordinator for NDGF said, “Carp came from the Caspian Sea and the Romans took them all around. Some king thought they were great and brought them to England, and the earliest settlers brought them to America. Poles, Ukrainians and Germans stocked ponds with them and the U.S. government thought it was a good idea to spread them around in the 1800s.”

Schlueter said common carp root around in the mud of lakes and streams for plant food and invertebrates, muddying the water and destroying food sources of other fish and waterfowl.

And now they're in the Sheyenne River.

Ron Zitzow, manager of the Valley City National Fish Hatchery, said their progress has been stopped by the Baldhill Dam.

“Our problem in the hatchery is they get mixed up with other fish and spread. We don't try to eradicate them, we try to manage around them,” Zitzow said.

Snow geese are native to North America and not considered a nuisance species, but are considered “overabundant,” according to NDGF wildfowl biologist Mike Szymanski.

Szymanski said snow geese have adapted to agriculture and learned to forage in grain fields between the arctic tundra and the Gulf Coast on their migration.

“Now they can stop anywhere and fuel up, and it's dramatically increased their survival rates,” Szymanski said.

Unlike Canada geese, which are surface grazers, snow geese grub the soil and destroy the root systems of plants and increased numbers are overeating the tundra beyond its ability to recover. This increases evaporation and leads to soils becoming saline.

“This causes so much ecological damage that you wouldn't recognize it as the same habitat,” Szymanski said.

Carp are not considered a game fish, so fishermen can take as many as they like, but many anglers don't like them.

Perry Kapaun, president of the Barnes County Wildlife Federation said, “A big carp is vicious and good for a fight, but some think they're greasy. It's where you come from and what you're brought up on I guess,” Kapaun said.

Snow geese are also good to eat. In the fall the bag limit in North Dakota is 20 per day, in the spring, unlimited. But though you can freeze them or make jerky for your own use, you can't sell migratory birds.

Szymanski said hunting has stabilized the growth rate, but game and fish departments would like them reduced still further.

Kapaun said snow geese are getting harder to hunt.

“They're getting tougher and tougher to decoy, because they live forever. A snow goose can live for 30 years and the young follow the old. When I was young we decoyed them with rags and took them by the pickup load. Now when they'd like us to take them, it's not as easy. Migration routes have changed too; we used to be in the middle of the flight path,” Kapaun said.

Kapaun said snow geese are lingering in the grain fields of Canada as well, and tougher Canadian gun laws make it difficult to hunt there.

“It's complicated to get your gun across the border now. It's probably too late for the fall season already,” Kapaun said.

Sidebar: Recipes

Barbecue snow goose

Boil 20 goose legs and thighs, attached, in a large pot of water. Stir in 2 packages of dry onion soup mix.

Do not overdo, you don't want the meat falling off the bones.
When done, grill with lots of barbecue sauce.

Or for chili:

Chop up and sauté: 2 bell peppers, 2 large onions, 10 cloves of garlic
Add the veggies to the pot. Keep the pot topped up with water, beer or tomato juice.
Add: 2 jars spaghetti sauce, 1 can kidney beans, 1 can brown beans in sauce
Season with: chili powder, hot sauce, and seasoning salt to taste
Cook for two hours or until you can pull the meat off the bones.


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