Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Box Turtles in Peril From Black Market Madness

Several box turtles confiscated by SCDNR
A law enforcement arrest of an illegal box turtle smuggler in South Carolina crawled to the top of the headlines in September. The Eastern box turtle is commonly found in the Southeast and is usually ubiquitous with people as one of the friendliest wildlife species to encounter in the wild. The equation that tempts this illegal trade remains in place today, a combination of global demand from Asia and inadequate laws protecting this species in South Carolina. The Turtle Survival Alliance based in Charleston advocates to change the current laws, or face a landscape devoid of the beloved box turtle.

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources reports that 200 box turtles were in the possession of the smuggling operation based in Chester County. Since box turtles are not usually found in high concentrations, it is particularly alarming to find such a high number of box turtles ready for smuggling. The questions raised from this bust include how many other smugglers are out there, what is number of people that are scooping up box turtles for pay, and what can be done to prevent box turtles from being harvested from any protected properties that are open to the public.

Will Dillman is a herpetologist with the SCDNR. “We know this illegal trade is going on and we are beginning to catch more of the offenders,” said Dillman. “Box turtles are a part of the International pet trade, food trade and medicinal trade. Other turtle species are in peril too, but the more colorful and ornate the turtle, the higher the black market price in Asia. A longtime cultural affinity for turtles in Asia has driven many of their own turtle species past the brink of sustainability, and they have the disposable income that is fueling global demand.”

Jordan Gray is the Communications Coordinator for the Turtle Survival Alliance. “We were founded in 2001 in Texas and then established a Turtle Survival Center in 2013 in the Lowcountry and moved our headquarters to South Carolina,” said Gray. “We work with 118 species of turtles and tortoises around the world including the Top 20 endangered turtles. The illegal trade of the Eastern box turtle is a hot topic right now and South Carolina is at the epicenter of much of the discussion.”

To view the entire feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.



Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Ragan and Massey Forage and Food Plot Talk

Timmy Beton introduces the speaker from Ragan and Massey
The products of a seed and fertilizer company based in Louisiana are present in Walterboro at Benton’s Feed and Seed Store. Steven Meadows is a salesman for Ragan and Massey who resides in York, South Carolina. On Monday September 30 Meadows addressed local planters and cattlemen at the Walterboro Farmer’s Market. Clemson Extension’s Marion Barnes followed up with a talk about the components of soil, and how soil information is critical for maximizing forage growth.
            
Speaker Marion Barnes Talked About Soil Types
A packed house of attendees gathered at 6:30 p.m. to enjoy fellowship, a meal, and to swap stories about just how hot and how dry the weather has been in September, which greatly hinders plans to plant any seed. Host Timmy Benton gave the invocation and then everyone enjoyed eating dinner from a large metal pot filled with chicken bog. The main course was rounded out with a pot of green beans with sides of sweet tea and banana pudding, served with a smile by Sandra and Michelle Benton.

            
Just as Meadows stepped in front of the room to speak and give a slideshow presentation, a forecasted 20-percent chance of rain came to fruition outside. A crack of thunder was soon followed by a pouring rain that pounded the roof of the Farmer’s Market so loud that it suddenly hard to hear the speaker. A collection of muted cheers and spontaneous relief washed across the room as the hard rain brought promise to everyone in the room that their own piece of turf in Colleton County would also be receiving some much needed rain.

To view the entire feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian

To view past blog entries on Food Plots click GameKeepers

To view past blog entries on Marion Barnes click Beginner Farmers



Monday, October 14, 2019

Four Pilot Whales Strand on Edisto Beach

A Pilot Whale stranded on Edisto Beach on Sept. 28
Not long after dawn on Saturday September 28 beach walkers found four pilot whales stranded on Edisto Beach. Edisto’s police Chief George Brothers received a phone call at 7:03 a.m. regarding the stranded pilot whales, and was on the scene within minutes. Chief Brothers notified SCDNR, NOAA and the relatively new Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network (LMMN). Around 10 a.m. a veterinarian associated with the LMMN was on the scene and proceeded to euthanize the pilot whales that were suffering on the beach.
            
“When I arrived on the scene, each one of the four whales was still alive,” said Edisto Police Chief George Brothers. “The group consisted of two bigger ones, maybe about 15-feet in length and two smaller ones that I assume were calves. This was a new experience on Edisto Beach and I certainly appreciate all the people that came out to try and comfort the pilot whales. Some brought umbrellas to shade the pilot whales, and many brought buckets to transport water in an effort to keep the whales calm and cool. It was a community effort.”
                        
The Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network was founded in 2017 by marine biologist Lauren Rust. They protect marine mammals like dolphins and whales that are present in South Carolina waters. The LMMN hopes to increase awareness about marine mammals and is a part of the S.C. Marine Mammal Stranding Network that operates under a letter of authorization by the NOAA Fisheries arm of the federal government. Marine mammals are protected by law under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the LMMN exists in order to coordinate pertinent activities when a stranding occurs like the one on Edisto Beach.

To view the entire feature story in the newspaper click on Colletonian

To view past blog entries from Edisto in 2019 click on Edisto Billfish TourneyACE Basin AppreciationDolphin Slam - Jim Bost Memorial - Sea Turtle Nesting

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Large Wildfire in NW Colleton Requires Six Dozers

Scott Ulmer surveys the wildfire
Despite tropical weather systems that pass close to the South Carolina coast, the month of September has brought hot and dry conditions to much of the state. Readers of the Colletonian recall the August 12 declaration of incipient drought, and on September 18 Colleton County was upgraded to a moderate stage of drought. A larger than average 138-acre wildfire burned through a rural area in Northwest Colleton County last week, requiring fast action from the South Carolina Forestry Commission to plow around the fire during a day with temperatures soaring into the 90’s.
            
Edisto Unit Forester Pete Stuckey is a longtime S.C. Forestry Commission employee who oversees eight counties including Colleton County. “The good news from the fire on September 17 is that Fire Management Officer Scott Ulmer got on that fire quickly since he lives near the area,” said Stuckey. “Acting as the Incident Commander on the scene, Scott directed six of our bulldozer operators about where to plow and how to handle a hot fire burning through terrain that was rough and tough.”

            
The 138-acres wildfire crossed multiple property lines in a section of the county with no major roads between Highway 178 and McLeod Road. With many contiguous tracts of land that are under various states of active timber management, this setting was a real threat for an even wider wildfire. Many acres is this area have been bedded with heavy equipment to plant pine trees along wind rows, making it rough terrain even for a large bulldozer to plow through. With lots of younger pines in the area, it is also thick with flammable vegetation that thrives in the Lowcountry.

To read the entire feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

2019 Port Royal Sound Foundation - Fall Calendar

An example of recycled art
On Saturday September 21 the Port Royal Sound Foundation (PRSF) asks for volunteers for their annual Adopt-A-Highway Litter Pick Up. Meet at the PRSF Maritime Center at 310 Okatie Highway at 7:30 a.m. for the light-duty work of keeping a section of highway, that is in close proximity to the spartina marsh, free of debris that could otherwise wash into the sound. The clean up is over at 11 a.m. and then the educational programs inside the nature center are available to view such as marine communities under the microscope, and the popular creature feedings.
            
On Saturday September 28, marine enthusiasts will have a tough choice to make when the eco-boat tour and the nature journaling class begin at the same time. Meet at the PRSF Maritime Center at 11 a.m. and be dressed for the outdoors, since each event is outside. The two-hour boat ride with Captain Amber Kuehn of Spartina Marine Education Charters will cruise the Chechessee River in search of wildlife viewing. The boat ride cost is $45 and space must be reserved by calling 843-645-7774. The Nature Journaling Class is free and lasts for an hour, and is a great way to start a hobby that increases ones time enjoying the Lowcountry.

            
The Recycled Art Contest is open between now and November 8, and is supposed to bring awareness to Beaufort County’s plastic bag ban. This is the second year for the recycled art contest and the theme for 2019 is animals, beaches and fun in the sun. Entries must be created from 80-percent recyclables or trash material. A whopping $3500 in prize money will be awarded in several categories. The contest is looking for imaginative entries and is open to clubs, schools, businesses and recycling enthusiasts. The winners are announced on November 14.

To view the entire feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries from the Port Royal Sound Foundation click on 2018 Bald Eagle Update


2019 S.C. Shrimp Baiting Season


Just one week ago Hurricane Dorian made time stand still in the Lowcountry, as residents showed respect for the power of nature. Businesses, schools and other daily endeavors were put on hold. The start of the hunting season was interrupted by the threat of flooding and crop damage, and the saltwater fishing season outlook was iffy. The fact that Dorian stayed about 40-miles off the coast of the Lowcountry and passed by, helped save our natural resources from any worst case scenarios. The annual bait shrimping season opening on September 6 signals a return to normal.
            
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources sets the season on shrimp baiting, which opens at noon on September 6 and runs through noon on November 5. The daily limit remains 48-quarts of head-on shrimp, which is measured best by filling a 48-quart cooler full of shrimp. Throwing a cast net over bait at ten stations that are marked with a PVC-pipe is the most common method of bait shrimping. The method of using only one-pole requires a slower tempo and more wait time between casts, but if the shrimp are running strong it can be very productive.

            
Participants must purchase a shrimp baiting license, and shrimp caught over bait cannot be sold. No more than 10 poles can be used per license per day. Poles must be marked with reflective tape, may not exceed 1-inch in diameter and require stickers with a corresponding number to the license holder. All ten poles must be set out within a 100-yards, and they may not be placed within 50-yards of a dock. Cast nets must have a minimum mesh size of 1/2-inch square, and the heavier the weights the better for getting down to cover the shrimp that are darting in every direction.

To view the entire feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about shrimp season click on 20162015 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2009