The Fish Story

Being a Nuisance Is Part of Nature; Awaiting Another Week of Windage

By JAY MANN | Oct 09, 2019
Photo by: Jay Mann Sandpipers flocking to Holgate.

Surf City — One of my favorite reads is the monthly report of wildlife-related nuisance calls to the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife. The list is the enumerating, by species, of complaints born of wildlife and humanity failing to play nicely together in the most crowded state in the nation. This is where I get to throw a bone to the NJ Pinelands for sustaining over 1.1 million acres of wilderness in such a crowded state.

Here’s a look at the most recent creature-specific rundown of wildlife-related nuisance calls, via the Wildlife Services section of the Bureau of Wildlife Management: bear, 118; opossum, 4; beaver, 5; owl, 2; bobcat, 1; raccoon, 10; coyote, 26; skunk, 9; deer, 31; fox, 24; squirrel, 3; frog, 1; swan,1; goose, 1; turkey, 15; gull, 1; turtle, 2; unknown, 2; heron, 1; woodchuck, 8; and mountain lion, 2

I can surely understand this list being dominated by deer, bears and coyotes, the latter becoming an instant nuisance if merely seen running far off in the distance.

“It would have killed our cat for sure, officer!”

“Is your cat OK, ma’am?”

“Well, we don’t have an actual cat, but that rotten coyote would have killed it if we did.”

You might sense I harbor a soft spot for crafty survivalist coyotes, ridiculously blamed by the hunting community for cruelly killing all the state’s overpopulated deer – while NJ hunters last year killed about 50,000 whitetails. Hmmm. I’m not big on math but …

Foxes can be a real nuisance in our parts, especially when casually dining on nesting birds. But that’s a repeat of last week’s refuge v. foxes write-up herein.

As to monthly fox complaints, these Canidae are notorious for pilfering food left outside by folks with a penchant for feeding every feral cat in the neighborhood. Somewhat related is a more intimate tendency of foxes to eventually hunker down near to where bowls fill freely, i.e. on the porch. I know of many cases where foxes become porch potatoes, to the point of not even fleeing when humans come and go.

In tribute to foxes, theories have them playing an important role in bringing mankind and canines together as one happy family. An article at sciencedaily.com, headlined “Foxes were domesticated by humans in the Bronze Age,” goes into the archeological evidence supporting that early companionship. I’ll bet it happened when Bronze Agers put out food for the neighborhood saber-tooth tigers.

By the by, a bogus allegation aimed at foxes – and a prime cause for call-ins about their bothersome presence near humanity – is a groundless fear they dine on cats, be they felines of a household or feral form. That’s highly unlikely, in a someone-could-lose-an-eye combat vein. Per authorities at catbehaviourist.com, “Foxes and cats meet many times every night, and invariably ignore each other. When a fight does break out, it’s often the fox that comes off worse in the encounter.”

“Sparky, what happened to your face!?”

“Let’s just stay I’ll be sticking with porch food from now on.”

As to the list’s significant monthly skunk presence, I assume mere whiffable nearbyness qualifies them as bothersome. Admittedly, it’s not the type wildlife you nonchalantly run out and shoo away on your own. “Don’t you raise your tail to me, mister!”

Wild turkeys remain significant people aggravators, especially when rafting around farms in gangs of 20 or more. They can also be a bit harebrained when crossing highways. Hell, we had a Stafford cop driven to shoot one with his sidearm when it wouldn’t quit playing chicken with speeding cars on Route 72. A turkey playing chicken, that’s kinda funny, isn’t it? Whatever. “Bang!”

Back to the list, I’m betting the latest raccoon nuisance calls were down due to the time of year. LBI alone will have many times that many raccoon complaints come winter. How do they get over here? They casually waddle over the bridges from the mainland, usually late at night. They’re already hugging the wide shoulders on the new Causeway.

Underrepresented in the F&W complaint department are swans, with a lone call-in against them. Good thing they didn’t have that list when I regularly fished a creek off the Manahawkin Road-to-Nowhere. I was routinely subjected to swan savagery. Those huge-winged maniacs would ferociously attack me as I quietly fished for white perch and herring.

During a land-based swan attack, an alpha swan begins to stride over, rather slowly – already cockily readying itself for trouble at a goodly distance off. Even from afar, its eyes speak of bad intent. Taking on a total macho air, it closes ground, picking up forward speed. Then, when maybe 30 feet away, it throws open its 7-foot wingspan, lowers its head almost to the ground and explodes into a linebacker-like bull rush. “WTF, bird?!”

Despite being dubbed a mute swan, those whack-jobs can loose a raucously disconcerting battle honk, loud enough to echo across nearby Barnegat Bay. Clammers be out on the flats, all, “Sounds like someone’s getting attacked one good by a swan.” If they listen closely, they might also hear my resounding anti-swan cusses, as I toss my rod and bust back to my truck. Sure, I’ve tried to man-up and take on an attack. All it took was a couple solid, face-level swan pecks aimed at my eyes before it was “screw this!” time – getting ass-bit as I turned to ignobly retreat. Nutcase birds!

Downsizing a bit, Canada geese, also highly prone to attacks, often catch well-deserved nuisance hell based on overpopulation – and related feces deposition. They’ve crapped up so many schoolyards and playing fields that groundskeepers now academically study the proven methodology of Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) in “Caddyshack.”

Speaking of Spackler, woodchuck pests are, indeed, golf course rapscallions. They’re also famed for leaving behind burrowing craters, big enough that Garden State Parkway tractor mowers go atilt when hitting them.  To their credit, these large, abundant rodents are significantly seclusive. At best, you might glance them wobbling about on the grassy fringes of highways, but you won’t be convincing one to take a selfie with you.

But enough with the known wildlife nuisance complaint garnerers. It’s the list’s seemingly innocuous wildlife that elevates my weirdness receptors. Take for instance … that heron complaint. What can a heron do to piss-off anyone? Whatever, I’m guessing the entire heron clan is proud as punch over making the list. “Yeah, we bad.” Rumor even has it the complaint is over a hellacious heron storming a family picnic to power grab a bagel steeped in lox – scaring little Johnny so badly he has since had his daily dose of Ritalin doubled.

Along bird lines, what’s with owls twice reaching the nuisance ledger? “Whoooo … us?” Well, you’re the only ones with the remains of the family’s beloved gerbil hanging from your talons. That’s a stretch, but good luck coming up with owl behavior worthy of nuisance calls.

I’m also fully baffled over what turtles could have possibly done to get written up. Of course, I did write a column segment on the dad who lost much of his pointing finger when showboating with a huge snapping turtle he found crossing the road. “Hey, kids, watch this … kootchi, kootchi-coo … owwwwwwwwww! … Dial 9-1-1! Dial 9-1-1!”

But nothing on the nuisance list can compare to my wonderment when it comes to … a frickin’ frog. Now, I’ve met some big-ass bullfrogs. I was once bitten by one while unhooking it after successfully coaxing it to bite a dangled spinner I bounced in front of its face. But, hell, in that case it was the frog who sent a nuisance complaint into the state … about me. Until Monty Python reunites and comes up with a frog equivalent to the “Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog,” I won’t be convinced a frog has ever done anything nuisancical. Now, watch, the next time I’m pickerel fishing I’ll get ripped into by a leopard frog trying to live up to its name. “Hello, complaint department. Jay Mann here. I’d like to report a nuisance frog ... Yep, another one.”

RUNDOWN: It’s no biggy, and rather expected, that the 2019 LBI Surf Fishing Classic begins with a lone weigh-in, despite a decent weekend showing of casters along the front beaches. Congrats, Matteo Delmonico, for your 9.72 striper. May it be a sign of striperish things to come. For Classic info and updates, go to lbift.com and click on “FALL CLASSIC.”

So far, something like 400 fishing folks have joined the Classic. That’s a fair start, but we need involvement from the full regimen of fishing folks who hold the Island near and dear when it comes to autumnal suds angling. Be part of the tradition. And we’re down to the last of them. The Classic, once Derby, might be the Island’s oldest living throwback event.

The 70-degree seas will stay wild and foamy. After 10 days of persistent wind and wave whackings, we’re now into another week-long crush of onshore winds. Waves will be pushing 10 feet. Gusts could last into next weekend’s Kitefest, an event that won’t mind some wind. Highly unaccepting of windage is Sunday’s 18-Mile Run. Winds might lay down by then. I’d enter it, but I can’t find my running shoes. When I bought them, they were known as sneakers.

While the winds will make surfcasting as tough as nails, it is customarily the stuff of true fall fishing. Now, if only the trophy-size blues and bass would get into the spirit of things. Air temps hanging in the 60s might help in spiritizing weigh-in fish.

Plenty of small bluefish in the inlets and along the front beach. Not sure about bayside.

Buggyists alert: Don’t mess with the Holgate end during high tides. The cutaway area at around 8,000 feet (two-thirds of the way to the Rip) is wholly unwilling to offer vehicles high-water passage. In fact, if the surf keeps building as predicted, we could again see wholesale ocean-to-bay washovers along much of the far south beachline.

MOTORING TIMES: Most of the Island’s traffic signals are on the blink. Ship Bottom’s lights will continue cycling until after the Kitefest and 18-Mile Run.

While the blinkin’ straightaways look inviting, the 45-mph speed limits are strongly in effect, as in, heavily PD patrolled. The police sit on east/west side-streets, radar humming and eyes peeled. They likely won’t miss you energetically buzzing along at 55 mph. For overwintering newbies, the Boulevard doesn’t become the Autobahn during winter months.

More troubling to a slower poke like me is the return of the off-season struggle between left lane lollygaggers and those of us wanting to do the legal left-lane passing thing on the Boulevard. It can quickly become ugly and obscene.

I hate how many of those left-lane hogs know full well what they’re doing. How do I know? Just watch how fast they scoot over to the right lane when a cop comes on scene. Voila. They become kindly law-abiding right-laners. That tells me their left-lane obstinacy is a form of aggressive driving. I kid you not. It’s highly aggressive to intentionally drive too slow in the left lane, purposely hindering the flow of traffic. Oh, there we go whimpering about the right lane often being too bumpy to comfortably cruise. Fine, but at least pull to the right long enough for passers to do their thing.

Moving onward, please fully obey school slowdown zones, speaking mainly about the Beach Haven School area. Heading south on the Boulevard into the Queen City, coming out of a 45-mph stretch, invites staying far above the mandatory 25-mph school zone speed. Making matters worse, the Boulevard is two lanes fronting the BH School. Leadfoot drivers take the opportunity to zip past any traffic properly slowed to 25. As the saying goes: Give it a brake.

jaymann@thesandpaper.net

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