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Outdoors

James Drake

“Nature Wars,” written by Jim Sterba, is a history book like no other.

The subject is wildlife, and Sterba chronicles the record of European settlers coming ashore in America more than 400 years ago and all the environmental and major landscape changes we’ve made since to benefit only the human species.

Without any consideration to the original residents such as the beaver, deer, wolf, turkey and bear, today we’re sometimes forced to turning our backyards into battlegrounds and we’re not always winning the conflicts.

Sterba writes with uncommon sense and has his facts down cold. There is also a fair bit of wit on the pages, and his prose is a joy to read.

Sterba’s explanation of the remarkable recovery of the whitetail deer herds in the eastern half of America will make you wonder why it didn’t seem so obvious to you before.

We first settled this great new world by cutting down trees and taming much of the available land for agriculture.

By 1900, an initial American deer herd of some 30 million had been reduced to less than 500,000.

A hundred years before that, westward expansion was already well underway and more Americans even started to move off farms into cities. The re-growth of the eastern forests had begun.

Then, just after World War II, urban sprawl got underway and our population started to farm that newly grown forested land for home sites.

We’ve got about as many deer alive right now as were roaming our woods back when Christopher Columbus first landed on America’s shores. We’ve planted trees, and the forests have taken back countless acres of what was once cleared land. Everything is pretty much the way it was with one huge exception: Today, we have to add more than 100 million people living on the east coast from Maine to Florida to the natural world equation. Might you see the problem?

Sterba writes of America’s eastern forests, “It is quite likely that more people live in closer proximity to more wild animals, birds and trees in America than anywhere else on this planet at any time in history.”

Of course, we’re having wildlife conflicts and, after reading “Nature Wars,” you’ll have a far clearer understanding as to exactly why it’s happening.

Do you ever wonder why we have so many troublesome resident Canada geese today that soil and spoil our soccer fields and golf courses? Sterba refers to them as “land carp,” and “Nature Wars” explains why they’re here.

This book also details the early fur trade in America and offers a much needed balance for Mother Nature that’s only possible by humans truly understanding wildlife.

Sterba clearly explains the debate with the practice of spay-neuter and then returning feral cats back into the environment.

He knows how to tell a story; the author was a successful correspondent and national news reporter for more than three decades for the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal. He and his wife spend their summers on Mount Desert Island in Maine, and his observations and obviously detailed research makes “Nature Wars” a fascinating read for all lovers of wildlife.

I highly recommend the book. It’s available at many outlets, and Amazon.com has it discounted for less than $20.

Rules reminder

As of March 1 and running through April 19, regulations are in effect to protect spawning striped bass in Maryland waters.

For starters, the main stem Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River are open for catch and release fishing only. Most other Maryland tributaries are closed now to any fishing whatsoever for stripers.

If you target these fish up in our spawning rivers in the next few weeks, Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources police are going to target you.

If you’re out on the main stem of the Chesapeake or up the Potomac where catch and release is legal, and you are using fish, crabs or worms as bait, you need to also be using circle hooks or a “J” hook with less than a 1/2-inch gap.

Trollers scouting for stripers are limited to six lines only, no matter how many anglers may be on board.

Largemouth bass rules in tidal water, from now to June 15, allow for a five bass limit, with a minimum size of 15 inches. After June 15, the minimum size drops to 12 inches. Freshwater rules allow for catch-and-release bass fishing only from now to June 15.

Ken Lamb from the Tackle Box in Lexington Park reported on some decent catfish catches happening up the Patuxent River by the warm water discharge at Chalk Point. Lamb also showed me some pictures of small red drum caught from the same area. That’s truly amazing. I wonder how they like the snow.

Baretta to move?

These new gun laws recently proposed for Maryland have made Baretta USA in Prince George’s County feel about as welcome here as a couple of dead carp tossed on the fancy banquet table for a formal dinner hosted by the ladies of the Red Hat Society.

Company officials are threatening to move and take their 400 Southern Maryland jobs with them.

Baretta USA, part of the nearly 500-year-old Italian weapons-making company, came here in 1997, and the company has paid state taxes of well over $30 million. They were the standard sidearm provider for the U.S. military and supplied more than 500,000 guns to our Armed Forces.

If these new Maryland gun restrictions become law, Baretta’s renowned and still very popular 9 mm pistol, with its 13-bullet magazine, would be illegal to own.

There are plenty of states that are wooing Baretta to come there, and all of them promise “no unwarranted government intrusion into the business.”

zbasser@aol.com