Wednesday, July 13, 2016

So Far, No Zika Mosquitoes in New Jersey

Aedes aegypti

There has been a lot of press around the Zika virus that is carried by mosquitoes, and New Jersey certainly has its share of mosquitoes. But, happily, as far as we know, there are none of the disease-carrying skeeters here - so far.

Though mosquitoes are certainly not endangered or threatened in our state, we would love to see them reduced.

Aedes aegypti is the mosquito most known for carrying the Zika virus. It is found in tropical climates and is unable to survive New Jersey’s winter conditions.

The Department of Environmental Protection had a press release about providing increased resources to county mosquito commissions throughout New Jersey to combat the threat of Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases.

Zika is a viral infection that is usually spread by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, which also spreads dengue and chikungunya. Outbreaks typically occur in tropical Africa and southeast Asia. In May 2015, Brazil reported the first outbreak of Zika in the Americas. Zika is now present in Central and South America, and the Caribbean. To date, there has been no local transmission in the continental United States.

About one in five people develop symptoms and infection is usually mild. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain or red eyes. The biggest concern is for pregnant women because Zika can cause birth defects.

One concern for NJ is being investigated by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are looking at the extent to which the Aedes albopictus – also known as the Asian tiger mosquito, which is found in New Jersey – can spread Zika. In April, the Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization reported that Mexico had identified Asian tiger mosquitos carrying Zika.

New Jersey’s 21 county mosquito control agencies use many methods for mosquito control -  including aerial spraying, application of approved insecticides, water management programs, public awareness campaigns - but my favorite is the use of natural predators. We know about how bats consume many mosquitoes, but my favorite biocontrol is using fish that love to eat mosquitos and their larvae.

Larvae-eating fish is common in New Jersey and has been used since 1991. The DEP's Hayford Fish Hatchery has stocked more than 4.4 million mosquitofish in New Jersey. This summer the hatchery is raising and distributing more than 500,000 fish, more than double a normal season.

Gambusia affinis
Five breeds of mosquito-eating fish are bred at Hackettstown for mosquito control; the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas), the freshwater killifish (Fundulus diaphanus), the pumpkinseed sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus), the bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus) and the Gambusia affinis, also known as the mosquitofish, for biological control. The fish are raised at the Hayford Hatchery and distributed, at no charge, to county mosquito control agencies.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Nesting Pair of Piping Plovers at Island Beach State Park

A pair of piping plovers is now nesting on the beach at Island Beach State Park, the first ocean side nest in more than 25 years and the first in the park in more than a decade.

This is great news for recovery of this federally threatened and state endangered bird.

NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists hope this is an indication of a rebounding population after sharp declines witnessed between 2003 and 2014.

To give this new pair of piping plovers their best chance of successfully fledging their young, sportfishing vehicles are temporarily restricted from the beach. DEP officials did not make this decision lightly, recognizing that anglers who have purchased passes for the privilege of driving on the beach will be temporarily restricted from the area.

Without this measure, it would be highly likely that one or more of the chicks would be killed by the high volume of traffic this section of beach experiences on a typical summer weekend day. The state recognizes its responsibility to support the recovery of this imperiled species and to follow guidance provided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state Endangered and Nongame Species Program biologists to protect the chicks.

Pedestrian access to the area will remain open, but the public is required to observe fencing and other regulations (such as no dogs on beach) to protect the nest and chicks. While the vehicle closure will provide some protection for the plovers, it by no means guarantees that plover chicks will survive. Many other factors play a role in determining fate of piping plover broods, such as weather, predation and feeding success.

For more information on the nest, including its impact on park visitors, and links to more information, visit

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Observing (and Reporting) New Jersey's Endangered Species

Is that a bobcat or a feral house cat?

I sometimes get requests here about "where to find endangered species" in New Jersey. Of course, in general, we don't want you to be seeking out and disturbing threatened or endangered species.

We have about 500 animal species in our state and 83 of are classified by the state as endangered or threatened.

No one will stop from birdwatching for endangered birds - peregrine falcons, northern goshawks, red knots, piping plovers, short-eared owls, black skimmers and our breeding populations of bald eagles - but don't approach them or their nests.

There are guides (Endangered and Threatened Wildlife of New Jersey) and places online that can point you to areas where endangered species have been reported, but they are somewhat general.

You would be lucky to spot one of our elusive bobcats. And some other endangered mammals, such as Indiana bats and Allegheny woodrats, are more likely to be avoided by the average citizen.

We have six whale species listed and everyone loves to see them, either passing offshore or while on a whale watch boat that, hopefully, stays the legal distance away from them. The six are blue, fin, humpback, sperm, sei and North Atlantic right whales.

Have you spotted a bald eagle, bobcat, peregrine falcon, bog turtle, corn snake, blue-spotted salamander or southern gray tree frog? The New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife's Endangered and Nongame Species Program would be happy to hear from you. Volunteers and "Citizen Scientists" are useful for record keeping on the places where these species are found.

The state's endangered reptiles and amphibians include timber rattlesnakes, corn snakes, bog turtles, Atlantic loggerhead and leatherback turtles, blue-spotted and eastern tiger salamanders, and southern gray tree frogs.

Invertebrates on the list include northeastern beach tiger beetles, gray petaltail dragonflies, Aragos skipper butterflies and green floater mussels.

Two fish, Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon, are on the endangered list.

Last year, citizen scientists reported 465 rare species sightings, which supplemented about 2,000 staff reports.

There were probably a few reports of wolves, moose and other animals that do not live in our state. Some coyotes turn out to be dogs. So, you need to know your species. Look at the list of New Jersey's endangered and threatened animals, at and check out the online field guide to help you identify these species found at

How to report spotting a rare animal: Go to and download a report form which will ask you to filling some information, a map showing where the sighting occurred and, if possible, photos, video or audio recordings.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Green Navigation

Press Release: DEP Promotes Environmentally Friendly Trips for Boating Through Ecologically Sensitive Areas of Barnegat Bay

The Department of Environmental Protection is asking boaters to be cautious this summer as they navigate a number of ecologically sensitive areas of Barnegat Bay.

Reducing the impacts from boating and the use of personal watercraft to the most critical areas of the bay’s ecosystems is part of the Christie Administration’s comprehensive efforts to protect and restore the bay.

“The reduction of watercraft impacts helps protect the environmentally sensitive ecosystems of the bay, including wetlands, shellfish and fish habitats and aquatic vegetation,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “It is especially important that we work with the boating community to help protect and maintain this environmental treasure, which offers such a wealth of recreation and tourism opportunities for New Jersey residents and visitors.”

Boaters can access an online interactive map on mobile devices and computers to find the locations of 16 designated ecologically sensitive zones of Barnegat Bay. The maps can also show the locations for marinas, sewage pump-out facilities, bait and tackle shops, launches and ramps, restrooms, and places to dispose of trash.

The map may be found at

New Jersey’s boating and fishing industries also are involved in the effort to promote ‘green’ boating.

“Recreational marine businesses, especially marinas, depend heavily on clean water and a healthy boating environment,” said Melissa Danko, Executive Director of the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey. “As an industry, we work hard every day to preserve our natural resources and encourage boaters to do their part when out on the water and to be aware of their actions and impacts at all times. By working together, we will be able help protect our natural resources not only for this generation but for generations to come.”

The 75-mile environmentally sensitive estuarine system of Barnegat Bay is home to plants, fish and other wildlife. It contains submerged aquatic vegetation that serves as nursery grounds for fish and wildlife. Motor boat propellers and turbulence caused by boat wakes can disturb and harm these sensitive areas.

To help maintain the vibrancy of Barnegat Bay, DEP encourages boaters to follow these guidelines:

  • Stay out of restricted areas set aside for wildlife
  • Do not harass nesting birds and other animals
  • Maintain a 100-foot distance from natural shorelines
  • Minimize wakes in all shallow areas to help reduce erosion and harm to aquatic animals and plants
  • Buoy mooring chains and lines to prevent them from scraping the bay’s bottom and harming submerged aquatic vegetation
  • Appreciate wildlife from a distance
  • Reduce air pollution by not idling in open water

To learn more about environmentally conscious boating, and reducing impact to Barnegat Bay and other state waterways, visit:

For clean boating tip sheets available to boaters through the Clean Marian Program, visit:

For more information about the Christie Administration’s Barnegat Bay Action Plan, visit:

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Visiting the Pequest Trout Hatchery and Education Center

If you missed the spring Open House at the Pequest Trout Hatchery in Oxford, NJ, or have never been there, you have plenty of opportunities this summer.

Some people only know Pequest for its state-of-the-art techniques and procedures to produce some 700,000 trout each year for stocking in nearly 200 ponds, streams and lakes throughout New Jersey. But the Pequest facility includes a Natural Resource Education Center for environmental education.

If you visit, you can learn about trout and how they are raised. You can also use the 5,000 acres of state Wildlife Management Area land that surrounds the hatchery for recreational opportunities such as hiking, hunting and bird watching - and fishing opportunities abound in the nearby Pequest River and with programs held at the education pond.

Pequest is open for visitation year-round (hours vary seasonally). The best time to see the hatchery area is  is October through May when all areas of the facility are in operation (May through September, the nursery building is not in use). But the staff and volunteers at Pequest are fully engaged with teaching visitors about a variety of natural resource topics - from fishing to forestry - with the goal that visitors will develop the behaviors and skills necessary to become stewards of wildlife and natural resources.

Educational programs are scheduled year round for groups of all ages.

Upcoming programs for July at Pequest include:

First Saturday Hike
Saturday, July 2 9:00 a.m.

The Fundamentals of Earthworms & Waste Reduction
Saturday, July 9  10:00 a.m.

Vermiculture: The Art & Science of Home-Composting
Sunday, July 10  10:00 a.m.

Family Fishing Basics
Tuesday, July 12  10:30 a.m.

Fly Fishing with Dry Flies
Saturday, July 16  10:00 a.m.

Family Fishing Basics
Saturday, July 16  10:30 a.m.

World of Amphibians
Saturday, July 23  2:00 p.m.

Coldwater Conservation School Day
Sunday, July 24  9:00 a.m.

Family Fishing Basics
Wednesday, July 27
10:30 a.m.

Woodland Animal Tracks
Sunday, July 31  11:00 a.m.

See the detailed schedule and information on registering at

For more information on the Pequest Trout Hatchery, visit:

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Burrowing Pine Snake

Northern pine snake
Northern pine snake - Pituophis melanoleucus - State Threatened Species - Photo via Zack Bittner, Flickr

Some snakes are tree snakes, some make nests, but the Northern Pine Snake is one of the only burrowing snakes in New Jersey. They make dens and have a nose designed for digging.

They are also currently listed on the Threatened and Endangered species list of New Jersey along with three other snakes.

Most of our pine snake populations are found in the southern part of the state, as they like sandy soils to burrow like those found in the Pine Barrens.

Pine snakes can be hit by cars when trying to move across roads, and are threatened by natural occurrences such as fires. Habitat loss from human development is a factor, as it is for many species in our state. And, unfortunately, a lack of knowledge about snakes in general cause people to fear all snakes, poisonous or not, and people often kill them.

Source: Pine Snake Still Capturing Interest