Friday, June 23, 2017

American Shad Return to the Musconetcong River

It has been at least 100 years since we could say that there were American shad in the Musconetcong River in Hunterdon and Warren counties. But that is what the Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this month.

Shad is a benchmark species indicative of the overall ecological health and diversity of a waterway. This recovery of the river is the result of the removal of dams on the lower Musconetcong River several years ago, followed by the removal of the Hughesville Dam in Warren County last year. These projects – made possible by a partnership of state, federal, nonprofit and private entities – opened nearly six miles of the Musconetcong to migratory fish, such as shad, that spend much of their lives in the ocean but return to rivers and their tributaries to spawn.

“The return of shad, a benchmark species indicative of the overall ecological health and diversity of a waterway, is an exciting milestone,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “This achievement is the direct result of an ongoing partnership among state and federal agencies, nonprofit groups, and dam owners – all committed to making this beautiful waterway free-flowing again.”

As the shad population continues to rebuild, anglers are reminded that this fish may not be taken from any New Jersey freshwater area except the Delaware River.

NJDFW biologist Pat Hamilton holds a shad near the Warren Glen Dam

The return of shad to the Musconetcong was confirmed earlier this month after anglers fishing for trout reported seeing small schools of shad in the river above the site of the former Hughesville Dam. Biologists from the DEP’s Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries responded and captured shad at the base of the Warren Glen Dam in Holland Township, Hunterdon County.

American shad is the largest member of the herring family, weighing from four to eight pounds at maturity. Shad once supported important commercial and recreational fisheries along the Atlantic coast, especially the Delaware River. But dams built to generate power, for mills and for other now-obsolete purposes greatly reduced their spawning habitat.

The 48-mile-long Musconetcong flows from Lake Hopatcong in the northwestern part of the state and through the wooded and rocky hills of Morris and Warren counties. It flows into the Delaware River at a point in Hunterdon County about 10 miles south of Phillipsburg.

Long stretches of the Musconetcong are on the National Park Service National Wild and Scenic Rivers inventory. The DEP classifies much of the river as a Category 1 stream, affording it the state’s highest level of protection due to its exceptional ecological and fisheries values.

Partners in restoring the Musconetcong to a free-flowing river also include the Musconetcong Watershed Association; American Rivers, the National Park Service, the federal Natural Resource Conservation Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, North Jersey RC&D, Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, and International Process Plants and Equipment Corp.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Time for Jersey Summer

It is summer and that means the Jersey Shore, but there is a lot more to do in the Garden State. After you hit the beaches and boardwalks, here are more suggestions from

You don't have to hit a boardwalk to get your thrills because other amusement parks and water parks are throughout the state. 
From our maritime heritage, historic lighthouses along the coastline are scenic and historic. Sandy Hook Lighthouse (Highlands) is the oldest working lighthouse in the country, built in 1764. Check out the lighthouses in New Jersey.
Our Garden State also has hillsides covered in grapevines, so check out our wineries and vineyards. You can enjoy wine tasting in a tasting room and take in the views.

How about cruising gently above NJ in a hot air balloon? I thought I'd be afraid of one of these rides (heights are not my thing) but it was great. No fear! You can also watch them from the ground at the July QuikChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning in Readington every July.) Watch Video!
I often write here about state parks in New Jersey. They offer swimming and boating, hiking and mountain biking and many state parks, such as Monmouth Battlefield State Park (Manalapan) and Long Pond Ironworks State Park (Hewitt), also have important American history sites.

The state parks are great for mountain bikers but there are plenty of places for mountain bikes or a beach cruising. Take an early morning boardwalk ride or an all-day excursion on the Henry Hudson Trail. Check out some places to ride bike in NJ.
And that brings us to camping. Sitting around the campfire on a cool night beneath a starry sky in one of our campgrounds and RV parks. Here are just a few of our favorite campsites with gorgeous scenery.
In New Jersey we are surrounded by history. There are many free and low cost visit a historic sites for a day trip. We have living history villages such as Fosterfields Living Historical Farm (Morristown) to experience farm life in the early 1900s, or Howell Living History Farm in Lambertville, which also has field, barn and craft programs or just explore the grounds on a self-guided tour.
We have more than 400 publicly accessible lakes, ponds and reservoirs, and many secluded rivers and streams for your fishing trip. That can be a day with the little kids fishing for little fish at a little pond, or aiming for a big, trophy fish on a charter fishing boat to go deep-sea fishing.

Start planning your NJ trip with the FREE travel guide and travel map.

View it online or get a copy mailed directly to your door, see

Monday, June 19, 2017

Protecting Piping Plovers at Island Beach State Park

Newborn piping plover chick - NPS photo

Beginning Friday, June 23, a section of Island Beach State Park ocean beach will be temporarily closed to Mobile Sport Fishing Vehicle (MSFV) traffic.

A vehicle barrier will be erected approximately 3/4 mile north of the jetty.

The closure is to protect Piping Plovers, an endangered species nesting in the Southern Natural Area.

Due to the temporary closure, IBSP may reach its capacity of MSFVs sooner than normal.

Piping Plover - via Flickr, Andrea Westmoreland

For more information visit

Friday, June 16, 2017

Preparing For Mosquito Season

The Department of Environmental Protection is working closely with New Jersey’s county mosquito control agencies to step up public education efforts to reduce mosquito-breeding habitats and combat illnesses such as West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and the non-native Zika virus, Commissioner Bob Martin announced today.

With a wet spring and the arrival of warmer weather, DEP is reminding the public that common-sense actions such as eliminating standing water, or removing containers where water can collect, can reduce the risk of exposure to mosquito bites and illnesses.

The 21 county mosquito control agencies use a variety of methods to combat mosquitos, including public awareness campaigns, larval habitat source reduction programs, use of natural predators, and judicious application of approved insecticides by ground and aerial means to manage mosquito populations and reduce the threat of disease transmission.

“We are working closely with all our local mosquito control programs to be on top of the situation this spring,” Office of Mosquito Control Coordination Administrator Scott Crans said. “All our programs are building on last season’s capacity-building efforts that significantly improved Zika virus surveillance and control capabilities.”

As part of mosquito-control efforts this year, DEP will take the following actions:

  • Raise, distribute and stock in appropriate sites fish that eat mosquito larvae.
  • Use mosquito traps purchased and provided to the counties last year to collect exotic, invasive container-inhabiting mosquitoes found in backyard settings. The information will be shared with state and federal partners to track the distribution of Zika virus vectors in the United States.
  • Expand the State Mosquito Control Commission’s Eastern Equine Encephalitis surveillance program to monitor for this deadly and debilitating disease in areas where activity has previously not been monitored closely.
  • Increase access to the state-supported arbovirus testing services that are in place.
  • Educate the public on how to reduce exposure to mosquito bites, and the risks associated with mosquito-borne illnesses.
  • Perform insecticide resistance monitoring on Asian tiger mosquito populations found breeding across the state.

These efforts build on top of a 2016 statewide investment that distributed $500,000 in grants to county mosquito control agencies to supplement budgets for increased mosquito control projects, monitoring and identification efforts, as well as supplies and additional staffing. Additionally, the state purchased four distribution tanks to assist in the transport of mosquito-eating fish throughout the state and five temporary holding tanks to assist counties with their distribution of the mosquito-eating fish.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating 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.

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

Zika is a viral infection that is usually spread by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, which can also spread 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. This activity expanded dramatically during 2016 with more than 60 countries where Zika is present. Local transmission of Zika also occurred in the continental United States for the first time in 2016, in South Florida and South Texas.

About one in five people develop symptoms for Zika and infection is usually mild. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain or red eyes. Pregnant women are especially vulnerable if bitten by an infected Aedes mosquito because the Zika virus can cause birth defects.

The eggs of the Yellow Fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, can be transported long distances if they are deposited in water-holding containers. These eggs can withstand long periods of drying. If introduced into New Jersey at the right time of the year and sufficient rainfall occurs, the mosquito can breed locally until winter temperatures kill off the population. The last time a population of the Yellow Fever mosquito was found breeding in New Jersey occurred in 1991.

“As mosquito season continues in New Jersey and families travel this summer, residents should apply EPA-registered insect repellent, use air conditioning and wear long sleeves and pants when possible,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Cathleen D. Bennett. “Travelers returning from areas with mosquito-borne disease, such as Zika, should especially protect against mosquito bites for three weeks after travel to avoid spreading the disease to local mosquito populations.”

DEP also is using biocontrol methods to combat mosquitos, by producing larvae-eating fish at the Charles O. Hayford State Fish Hatchery in Hackettstown, Warren County. To date, the hatchery has stocked 5.3 million mosquitofish since the program’s inception in 1991.

Counties stock the fish in places of the greatest attraction to species of mosquitoes that are native to New Jersey, are a nuisance, or have the potential to spread disease. This summer, building on last year’s efforts in response to concerns about Zika and mosquito-transmitted viruses, the hatchery is acquiring, raising and distributing enough fish to meet local program’s needs. To date, 10 counties have worked with the state hatchery to replenish their supply of these fish.

“The Hayford Hatchery’s biocontrol fish program has been a critical component of our mosquito eradication efforts for years, and its importance only grows in protecting public health,” said Acting Division of Fish and Wildlife Director Larry Herrighty. “These fish eat mosquito larvae, which in turn prevents the young from growing into adult mosquitos, biting, and producing more mosquitos.”

Five species of mosquito-eating fish are bred at Hackettstown for biocontrol of mosquitos: 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 commonly as the mosquitofish. The fish are raised at the Hayford Hatchery and distributed, at no charge, to county mosquito control agencies.

The first four fish species are native to New Jersey, but the Gambusia originates in Central and South America. They are placed in water bodies with no resident fish, and no natural or manmade water outlets. They are stocked only in standing water sources which cannot be drained and produce mosquitoes by the millions.

“We are continuing last year’s increased mosquitofish production to provide counties with this valuable counter measure against the real and annual threats posed by virus-carrying mosquitos in our state,” said Hackettstown Hatchery Superintendent Craig Lemon. “We will be ready to assist in getting these resources to the counties and into the areas where they are needed most, when they are needed, and at levels large enough to ensure success.”

DEP encourages residents, business owners and contractors to follow these steps to help reduce mosquito populations on their properties:

  • At least once or twice a week, empty water from flower pots, pet food and water dishes, birdbaths, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels and cans.
  • Clean out clogged rain gutters. Cover rain barrels to prevent access by adult mosquitoes looking to lay eggs. Downspout elbows and corrugated extension tubes moving water away from house foundations can also hold small amounts of water that serve as breeding grounds for exotic invasive mosquitoes.
  • Remove discarded tires, and other items that could collect water.
  • Check for containers or trash in places that might be difficult to see, such as beneath bushes or under your home.

For more information on Zika or

For a June 2016 podcast featuring a discussion of mosquito control and the Zika virus with DEP Deputy Commissioner David Glass and Dr. Arturo Brito from the state Department of Health

For information on the State’s Mosquito Control Commission

For more information on the DEP’s Charles O. Hayford State Fish Hatchery in Hackettstown

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

And in New Jersey Bobcat News...

Wildlife on Hidden Camera” by USFWS

This month I saw a few unusual New Jersey animal sighting stories in the news. One was a
"mystery animal" sighting in Ewing Township that was probably a fox that has shed its fur. Another was a news story about a bobcat that entered a house in Washington Township.

Bobcats typically avoid humans, so the incident is unusual. But bobcat sightings and encounters are on the rise in NJ. Later, in another part of the township, a bobcat attacked and injured a dog, and then a half hour later, police received a call that the bobcat was in a nearby barn.

Conservation officers snared the animal because they believed it was showing possible early signs of having rabies and it was removed by the Division of Fish and Wildlife for observation and possible testing.

Native New Jersey bobcats were almost extinct in New Jersey in the 1970s, but thanks to ongoing conservation efforts have been making a slow comeback.

Bobcats roam an average of seven miles a day, so they require lots of land. Car strike deaths is the leading cause of bobcat mortality in the state.

Having connected wild habitat for them is the best situation for them and would decrease their entry into populated areas, but that is a difficult task to accomplish in our densely populated state.

The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey is working to protect "Bobcat Alley," a 32,000-acre corridor of connected and protected habitat in northwestern New Jersey.

Bobcat infographic via  click link for larger original 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Reporting Rare Wildlife Sightings in NJ

I get emails and comments at this blog fairly regularly when people sight what they believe is an endangered, threatened or rare species. Some of those contacts have led to posts, but this is not an official blog, so I can't always get the information to the people at the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife or the Endangered and Nongame Species Program.

Fisher - via wikipedia commons
Just this week, a commenter reported sighting a fisher. The state agencies are understaffed and really need accurate information, so that conservation action can be focused on NJ's most important natural areas. If you have information on the location of an endangered, threatened or rare animal or plant and would like to help, you can report the sighting. This data will helps develop critical habitat mapping and look at habitat and population trends, and ultimately helps to develop conservation strategies for endangered and threatened species.

  • Look at the information at 
  • Complete a sighting report form OR, for marine wildlife, please use the Marine Wildlife Sighting Report Form Complete this form in its entirety - anonymous submissions cannot be incorporated into the database.
  • These reports are for first hand field observations only. DO NOT COMPLETE THIS FORM if the source of your information is a report, news item, email, conversation, or other document. If that is the case, send the documentation instead.
  • Only report one species at each location per form and map.
  • Mark the location of the sighting on a map. When submitting a report, a map is necessary to help our biologists determine if suitable habitat is present at the location. Once the suitability of the area is determined the map provided aids in the delineation of land to be protected.

Mail completed surveys to:
Endangered and Nongame Species Program
NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife
P.O. Box 400
Trenton, NJ 08625-0400
or send it as an e-mail attachment to:

In order to maintain the validity and integrity of the database, each record will be reviewed by an ENSP biologist. NOT ALL SUBMISSIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED.

Click these links for a listing of the current New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Species List or Special Species of Concern.

If you have any questions please contact ENSP at 609-292-9400.