Friday, September 4, 2015

Volunteers Needed for Fish Study

Hackensack River
If you love fishing, and fish the Hackensack River, here's another reason to cast your line out. A Montclair State University student seeks volunteers to assist with collecting fish from the Hackensack River. The fish are being collected as part of a study looking at the transfer of contaminants throughout the aquatic food web. The study area includes the towns of North Arlington, Secaucus, and Lyndhurst with the aim of obtaining 10 fish from each of the species listed below:
  • Bluegill
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Carp
  • Catfish
  • Largemouth bass
  • Chain pickerel

chain pickerel

Volunteers are required to have a valid NJ Fishing License and must abide by all fishing regulations for the specific species and waterways.

If you are interested in volunteering please contact Natalie Sherwood for more details at sherwoodn1 [at]

More information on the river at

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Nutria are large rodents that look like beavers with long, thin tails. They are one of the world's worst invasive species and they possibly exist in New Jersey.

They weigh 12 to 20 pounds. They are primarily nocturnal (active at night), with peak activity occurring near midnight.

Although they are native to Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, they have invaded North America, particularly in the southern U.S. They have been seen and trapped in New Jersey in places like Salem County's Lower Alloways Creek Township.

The problem with them, as with most invasive and non-native species, is that they eat vegetation that causes our native animals and fish to lose their habitats.

This large furbearing rodent (Myocastor coypus) was first introduced  to the United States  in 1899 in California. Between then and 1940,  ranches were established in many states to breed them. A crash in the market for their fur occurred after WWII and ranchers unfortunately released their nutria or did nothing to recapture those that escaped. They once existed in 30 states and still exist in about 18. Nutrias can tolerate winters in temperate areas only, but the milder NJ winters have allowed them to stay and breed and they were trapped in the salt marshes of the Delaware Bay back in the early 1980s.

The New Jersey Division of Fish  and Wildlife would rather not get any reports of nutria and as far as I can find few valid reports of nutria have occurred recently by trappers via the annual trapper harvest survey.

You can report spotting a nutria (or fisher or bobcat) using the form at

In New Jersey, a Trapper Education course must be passed and a trapping license obtained to trap in the state - see

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Wildlife Biologists

Maybe you are a young person considering a career in some environmentally-related field. This video from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service lets you see a bit of what it's like to be a wildlife biologist.

Recorded at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in Colorado.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

NJ WILD Outdoor Expo September 12-13

The NJDEP's sixth annual NJ WILD Outdoor Expo will be held Saturday and Sunday, September 12-13, at the Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area in Jackson Township, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine.

This family event is designed for visitors to discover new ways to appreciate and enjoy New Jersey's great outdoors. Participants can try a many of the outdoor activities available within the state's forests, parks and natural areas such as fishing, kayaking, hiking, shooting sports, rock climbing, camping skills, compass navigation and wildlife watching. Demonstrations of sporting and tracking dogs, historical re-enactments, SCUBA dives, reptiles and raptors, turkey calling, nature photography and much more await.

Admission and parking are free. All activities are free with the exception of a $3 fee to use the climbing wall.

For more information visit

Thursday, August 27, 2015

South Mountain Reservation and Hemlock Falls

trail map - click here for larger image
South Mountain Reservation was one of my youthful playgrounds. I rode my bike there and walked the trails without the aid of trail maps or blazes 50 years ago.

Back then, there was a deer paddock that held the deer in check and where families came to feed the deer - which were an oddity for most urban and suburban kids. The paddock is gone and the progeny of those deer have spread far and wide around that area.

I didn't know the details but South Mountain Reservation, covers 2,110 acres (8 km2). It is part of the Essex County Park System and portions of it are in Maplewood, Millburn and West Orange. It borders South Orange, between the first and second ridges of the Watchung Mountains.

I liked thinking as I walked along the Washington Rock area that once there were Revolutionary soldiers there guarding a signal fire that would warn General Washington's Army at Morristown that the British were  approaching. It was the site of Beacon Signal Station 9 (of 23) built by General Washington to observe British troop movements quartered on Staten Island and New York City.

From this outlook, on June 23, 1780, the Essex County and Newark Militia were first warned that the British had launched an attack westward toward "the Gap," (Hobart Gap), a natural pathway to Washington's troops encamped at Morris Town. In what was termed a "pincer movement," Hessian troops fought along Vaux Hall Road, while the British advanced along Galloping Hill Road. The Hessians were stopped at the base of the First Watchung Mountain. The British were defeated in Springfield.

Campbell Pond

There are a number of easy to moderate trails. Some are quite rocky and there are a few easy stream crossings that in the heat of summer may be dry creek beds. There is one more significant crossing over the Rahway River. The Lenape and Oakdale trails are probably the most popular.

The Reservation is both north and south of South Orange Avenue with the northern half stretching to Northfield Avenue in West Orange near the Turtle Back Zoo and Orange Reservoir. The southern half extends to Glen Ave. in Millburn and includes Campbell's Pond (where we fished as kids and referred to as Diamond Mill) near the Papermill Playhouse.

There are several trail maps available to you, such as the simple one at the top of this post and even a Google map that shows the Lenape Trail. This suburban wilderness has several parking areas, formal trails, and some woods roads that can be used.

You can find more information and maps in the New Jersey Walk Bookand Hiking New Jersey: A Guide To 50 Of The Garden State's Greatest Hiking Adventures

Monday, August 24, 2015

New Jersey Furbearers

mink (Mustela vison)

Despite the title of an online article, "The American Mink, one of N.J.’s most common semi-aquatic carnivore," I myself (and I suspect many readers) have never seen a mink in my Jersey travels. The mink (Mustela vison) is native to the state, although it is thought that escapees from mink farms have interbred with wild mink.

The mink is not threatened in the state and has a stable population. Not threatened, unless you consider that The New Jersey Hunting and Trapping Digest lists raccoon, skunk, opossum, weasel, mink, muskrat, red and gray fox, coyote, beaver, otter and nutria as species that have open seasons for trapping in the State of New Jersey. (In New Jersey, a Trapper Education course must be passed and a trapping license obtained to trap in the state - see

Several of these species were not here historically or disappeared and have only returned through re-introductions.

Native to NJ are the river otter (Lontra canadensis), long-tailed (Mustela frenata) and short-tailed ermine (Mustela ermine). Also native are the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis), raccoon (Procyon lotor) or gray fox (Urocyon cinereorgenteus).

Coyotes, which are now being reported with more frequency in the state, were never present in New Jersey until the past fifty or so years. Their appearance is due to many factors including habitat loss in their previous area of habitation. The current theory is that overall movement (based on DNA sampling) in the last century by the western coyote to the midwest, Great Lake states and through Lower Canada led to some western coyotes mating with gray wolves. Their offspring moved further eastward through Lower Canada and down through the New England states and into the Mid-Atlantic States.

NJ had gray wolves in the state until about the mid-1850s. Today, there are no wolves in New Jersey outside of zoos and preserves. But the eastern coyote appears to be here to stay.

Some of our other furbearing creatures past and present include:
  • Marten (Martes americana) historically present but extirpated since the mid-1800s
  • The fisher (Martes pennanti) also extirpated but again present in Sussex and Warren counties although few in number. Probably due to re-introduction by New York and Pennsylvania in the last decade
  • Beaver (Castor canadensis) had almost disappeared from here by the early 1800s. It is believed that some escapees from the Rutherford-Stuyvesant game preserve in Allamuchy, Warren County established a breeding population. Restocking enabled the beaver to re-establish itself by the mid-20th century. 
  • Most common to us is the raccoon which is, was and has always been a native of New Jersey and was a species that the British explorers to this new land reported, since they did not exist in Britain.
  • Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) was thought to be numerous in the central and southern part of the state in the late 1860s, but in the last hundred years the range of both opossum and raccoons has extended much further north including into Canada where they historically never existed.