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

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Diamondback Terrapins

There is a proposed ban on the commercial harvesting of diamondback terrapins in New Jersey. These turtles could be on the edge of extinction if more measures are not taken to protect them.

In 2013, the Fish and Wildlife Service alerted the state that it had discovered several harvesters had illegally trapped 3,522 adult terrapins from South Jersey marshes for sale to an aquaculture facility in Maryland for breeding.

This medium-size turtle is the only species in the world that lives exclusively in brackish waters with some salinity. It has a patterned brown, black, and sometimes orange and yellow carapace.

They are vulnerable to overharvesting because they "brumate," or hibernate in the mud, at shallow depths, in large clusters during the winters. Commercial harvesters currently are permitted to collect them by hand in New Jersey, but wildlife investigators found many terrapins were raked from the marshy bottom by illegal harvesters using crab dredges and were then scooped into nets.

After the discovery of the illegal harvesting, the Fish and Wildlife Service recommended the state "immediately close the season . . . and begin to develop a longer term solution," the DEP said. The season this year was curtailed in January.

The federal government classifies the terrapin, known as Malaclemys terrapin, as a species of "special concern" and the majority of the states where the terrapins reside have already imposed complete bans or strict controls. Maryland has prohibited all harvesting since 2007, and Delaware places a limit of four terrapins per day during its designated season. Some states, including Rhode Island, have declared the terrapin an endangered species. New Jersey and New York are the last to take action on the terrapins.


Horseshoe Crab Harvesting

The past month was the time when horseshoe crabs were once again in the news as their egg-laying on the Delaware beaches in New Jersey once again coincided with the arrival of shorebirds that rely on those eggs for sustenance during their migration. Late spring and early summer are the peak Horseshoe Crab mating and spawning time.

Horseshoe crabs are marine arthropods that will be seen throughout the year on New Jersey beaches and bays. We commonly find crabs that are dead and have washed up on the shore. Kids are fascinated by their unusual shape.

Horseshoe Crabs may look like a crustacean, but they are actually a closer relative of spiders and are classified with Arachinda along with scorpions and ticks.

The species found in NJ, limulus polyphemus, is distributed from the coasts of northeastern Maine to Mexico.

They are commonly referred to as “living fossils” that outlasted the dinosaurs and are probably the distant relatives of the more ancient trilobites and Eurypterida or sea scorpions that existed from the Cambrian period 520 million years ago to the Permian 240 million years ago.

The horseshoe crab's threatening-looking spike-shaped tail is not a defensive poisonous stinger. This tail or telson is an adaptation to upright itself after landing in its back or used in steering when swimming upside down underwater.

The ventral side of a horseshoe crab with 5 pairs of walking appendages and overlapping book gills
via Flickr

Horseshoe crabs are harvested as bait. Each year, half a million horseshoe crabs are captured and bled alive. A chemical found in their blue blood is unique. This chemical is found only in the amoebocytes of its blood cells and it can detect mere traces of bacterial presence and trap them in inescapable clots. Pharmaceutical companies use that coagulogen to detect contamination in any solution that might come into contact with blood.

We can question whether or not this bleeding is humane to horseshoe crabs, but we know that the number of horseshoe crabs is decreasing dramatically. Even more so than the medical industry, fisherman use far more horseshoe crabs as bait. They are commonly used in traps meant to catch American eel and conch.

Millions of horseshoe crabs every year as bait. By comparison, the medical industry uses a few hundred thousand horseshoe crabs each year, and the vast majority are returned to the ocean and probably survive.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Salt Water Fishing in New Jersey

Did you know that salt water fishing in New Jersey requires a permit from the state of New Jersey? But, that registration is free.

The New Jersey Saltwater Recreational Registry Program is part of an improved data program to help protect long-term sustainability of recreational fishing. In 2006 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was charged with the creation of a universal registry of all current saltwater anglers in the United States. The registry was developed to allow NOAA to quickly and easily contact current saltwater anglers in an effort to gain more accurate and timely information on recreational fisheries.

States were allowed to establish their own registry program for saltwater anglers that fished in their state, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection established its own registry program (New Jersey Saltwater Recreational Registry Program) in order to exempt saltwater recreational anglers fishing in New Jersey’s marine and tidal waters from the federal registry and the federal registration fee that was imposed in 201. Hurray!

Find out more at:

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Shorebird Migration Underway on Delaware Bay

Reeds Beach

A press release from lets us know that their Delaware Bay Shorebird Project is monitoring the 2016 mass shorebird migration now underway. Recently over 1,100 red knots were seen at North Reeds Beach in Cape May County. And a host of other shorebirds, including ruddy turnstones, dunlins, semipalmated sandpipers, and sanderlings, accompanied the red knots at this Delaware Bay hotspot.

The famished flocks fed on horseshoe crab eggs, while much larger laughing gulls congregated along the shoreline and a few crabs used the incoming waves to flip themselves over and return to the bay.

"These imperiled shorebirds undertake one of the most incredible wildlife migrations in the world — and their key stopover is New Jersey's own Delaware Bay," stated David Wheeler, Executive Director, Conserve Wildlife Foundation. "Red knots and other shorebirds depend on a healthy supply of horseshoe crab eggs, so the birds can build up the energy needed to complete this world-class migration."

Some red knots fly over 18,000 miles each year in their migrations from locations as far south as Tierra Del Fuego in South America all the way north to the Canadian Arctic, with Delaware Bay serving as an irreplaceable stopover.

Yet these migratory shorebirds have suffered a sharp decline over the past few decades, with red knots dropping by around 75%. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the red knot as a federally protected threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in Dec. 2014.

A team of international researchers and trained volunteers, led by Dr. Larry Niles, Conserve Wildlife Foundation, and the State Endangered and Nongame Species Program will spend the next month surveying and studying the at-risk shorebirds during their stay in New Jersey.