Thursday, October 30, 2014

Excellent fish recruitment anywhere else is just average for Lake Erie

Wade through the bad news regarding Lake Erie and you’ll have to push aside the scum line of the zebra mussel, sea lamprey and round goby take-overs, the threat of a possible Asian carp invasion and even the return of the pea-soup blue-green algae.

Consequently, folks tend to forget, ignore or possibly disbelieve that some good still resides in this 9,910-square mile freshwater puddle.

Exclude anglers in that last category, however, even though this demographic subset is happy to grouse about what is wrong now and what may be even worse down the road.

All that being said fishers of Lake Erie walleye and yellow perch will continue to find an abundant supply of targets in the coming years. The reason is that the Ohio Division of Wildlife is reporting no worse than an average hatch of baby walleye and toddler perch this year.

And though “average” is a relative term, what anglers in other states would say is a “wow” hatch, on Lake Erie the state’s fisheries biologist shrug their shoulders and say “oh, just average.”

We’ll take it, of course.

Without being too overly boring by using such biological geek squad terms as “bottom trawls” and “per hectare,” data compiled by the Wildlife Division says this year’s walleye hatch is “similar to the average hatches of 2001, 2007, and 2010.”

“Average hatches from three of the past eight years has resulted in a broad range of walleye ages and sizes that make up the Lake Erie walleye population,” the agency’s Lake Erie fish recruitment synopsis says.

“Based upon result(s) from the August trawl surveys, it appears that the 2014 hatch was near average and should contribute to the fishery in future years.”

Even better was the lake’s 2014 yellow perch hatch. Here, the species’ recruit was better than average in the Lake Erie waters of both Ohio and Ontario, says the Wildlife Division.

“This (was) the forth-best yellow perch hatch in the Western Basin since the interagency survey began in 1987,” the Wildlife Division’s synopsis says.

Thus, “two back-to-back” good yellow perch hatches should help the perch population in the Western Basin rebuild.”

Translation: This will “lead to quality fishing in the near future,” the Wildlife Division’s rosy prognosis says.

Anyone who has wet a line for walleye or yellow perch elsewhere and also Lake Erie will almost certainly say that the latter all ready qualifies as a quality fisheries.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

CORRECTED TIME LINE: After 8 years and many court challenges, Brown Couny Five matter at end

With the last paragraph to the last chapter of the so-called “Brown County Five” matter being written, the eight-year-old book is about to be closed.

A federal judge in Cincinnati has dismissed most of the civil claims the five current or former Ohio Division of Wildlife officials filed against Brown County (Ohio) prosecutor Jessica A. Little and several other officials.

The Brown County Five include now-retired Randy L. Miller, David M. Graham and James E. Lehman. Graham was chief of the Ohio Division of Wildlife during the opening days of the matter and until he was fired.

Rounding out the group are Todd E. Haines and Michele E. Ward-Tackett. Both Haines and Ward-Tackett continued to work for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources during much of the period and ultimately returned to their former posts after charges against them eventually were dropped.

When the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Brown County Five that their Garrity Rights against self-incrimination during an administrative investigation were violated, the group filed civil suits against a laundry list of officials, including Little.

Besides Little, others named in the civil suits were the Ohio Inspector General Office, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, former ODNR Anthony J. Celebreeze III, former ODNR Director Sean D. Logan, current ODNR Director James Zehringer, Ohio Inspector General Randell Meyer, Deputy Ohio Inspector General Ronaald E. Nichols, and former Ohio Inspector General Thomas Charles.

Each of the five plaintiffs sought $200,000 in judgment plus another $200,000 per plaintiff “for punitive damages, plus interest, costs, attorney fees and all further relief to which (the) Plaintiffs are entitled.”

However, Little’s attorney filed a motion in federal court to discharge most of the civil claims, which the federal judge agreed to, Little said.

And the remaining claims against Little and the Ohio Inspector General are also likely to be discharged in federal court. That dismissal is expected to be consummated once Little’s attorney has the opportunity to present the kind of detailed evidence that was not allowed in the other civil suit complaints, Little said today.

The remaining two claims involve “manufacturing evidence” and “conspiracy to manufacture evidence.” 

“Now we can prove their claims have no truth as to the facts,” Little said. “It really wasn’t a difficult decision for the (federal) judge to arrive at.”

Perhaps not but the road to this point was still a very long one.

In 2010 the Ohio Inspector General launched an investigation into the conduct of the-then Wildlife Division officer assigned to Brown County, Allen D. Wright.

It was learned that on Nov. 6, 2006, Wright had allowed an out-of-state wildlife officer to use his (Wright’s) home address in order to obtain a resident Ohio hunting license. Such infractions are frowned on to the point where it is a violation of Ohio hunting laws.

As a result of its investigation the Ohio Inspector General concluded that the Brown County Five had failed to take appropriate disciplinary – or, criminal - action against Wright.

Instead, Wright was punished under much-less severe administrative rules that were eventually rescinded as well.

Thus the Brown County Five became vulnerable to criminal charges of their own for their alleged misconduct.

From that point the court system pretty much took over. After being kicked around in the local court and then climbing to the appellate court, each side could claim at least one victory.

However, the Ohio State Supreme Court came down convincingly that the Brown County Five were denied their right against self-incrimination. Consequently, the charges against them were dropped.

All of which set the stage for the five to file civil charges against the officials they believed had harmed them; included in the latter, Brown County prosecutor Little.

And now one – likely – footnote to a case that attracted a huge following and intense interest from not only state wildlife officials but Ohio’s outdoors community as well.

“I’m still surprised at the level of public interest in this case; it really didn’t occur to me it would generate this much attention,” said Little.

Asked if she would have done things differently, Little responded with a qualified “no.”

If anything, Little said, she would have been more careful in requesting information and not “so reliant on a source to provide me with what I need.”

“I didn’t know what was out there and I should have been more careful,” she said.

Even so, Little said the process was worth the effort of digging in her heels and going the full distance, all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court.

“When the public trust is at stake there must be someone there; looking,” Little said.

Yet in spite of the layer upon layer of legal wrangling and the years of filing charges, civil claims and such, Little also says she has not soured on working with the Ohio Division of Wildlife nor its commissioned officers.

After all, Little says, she is still Brown County’s prosecutor and as such must work hand-in-glove with the Wildlife Division and its officers.

“We take their cases and I believe we work splendidly together,” Little said. “I do not see any continuing issues that will disrupt that professional relationship.” 

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ohio names operations under CWD quarantine

A close eye of more than a dozen licensed deer-breeding/big-game hunting operations by the Ohio Department of Agriculture is intended to help ensure that chronic wasting disease does not extend beyond the one confirmed case.

That deer – a buck – came from the World Class Whitetails of Ohio, and was confirmed as the first-ever CWD-infected white-tailed deer in an Ohio privately owned deer-breeding/big-game hunting operation.

Ohio thus became the 14th state where CWD has been identified in a captive-run operation.

No such positive findings have ever occurred in an Ohio wild white-tailed deer, state agriculture and natural resources officials emphasize.

To keep that lid on a potentially serious pot from boiling over, 19 deer-breeding/deer-hunting operations have been placed under quarantine.

“The terms of the quarantine require submitting samples from every deer that had died on the property since being placed under quarantine,” said Agriculture Department communications director Erica M. Hawkins. “Please note too that other than World Class Whitetails of Ohio none of the other facilities has had a positive for CWD.”

Hawkins did not explain why the Agriculture Department originally said 21 operations were under quarantine but provided the names of just 19 operations.

These 19 operations – with the information supplied by the Ohio Department of Agriculture - are:

Dan Yoder/Dan Weaver Farm, 7918 Township Road 553,Holmesville; David Miller, 12003 Hilltop Road, Baltic; World Class Whitetails Hunting Preserve, 7888 Township Road 308, Millersburg; David Yoder, 5755 Private Road 5500, Millersburg; Norman Troyer (Monroe and  Roman) Troy Ridge Farm, 3998 County Road 168, Millersburg; Dwain Schlabach, 1532 County Road 200, Dundee; Mark Mast, 6741 Township Road 668, Dundee; Bob Ramer, 3275 Deerfield Ave, North Lawrence; Marvin Yoder/Scioto Valley Whitetails, 15460 County Road 209, Kenton; Dan Czartoszewski, 8177 South Cleveland-Massilon Road, Clinton; Ed Giovannone, 421 State Route 534 Northwest, Newton Falls; Kevin Glick – Preserve, 45300 Upper Clearfork, Jewett; Albert Hershberger, 4603 Township Road 302, Millersburg; Mose D. Yoder, 5415 State Route 557, Millersburg; Wayne Weaver, 7308 Township Road 568, Holmesville; Whitetail Haven (Roy Yoder), 5790 County Road 68,Millersburg; Dakota Outfitters/Preserve, 63511 Starr Road, Quaker City; Dan Yoder (Honey Run), 7391 County Road 203, Millersburg; Raymond Troyer/Wildcat Whitetails, 54614 Township Road 85,Fresno.

These deer-breeders/big-game hunting preserves will continue to see their operations under quarantine until such time that the Agriculture Department believes their animals are free of CWD, an always fatal disease that is believed to spread via direct contact with an infected animal’s fluids such as saliva or urine.

Ohio’s CWD monitoring group says because these operations declined to kill the imported deer they bought, they will remain under quarantine for five years. That time frame is being used because CWD has a long incubation period before initial exposure results into the disease manifesting itself.

In all, the state held a watch on 125 deer, all of the animals imported from Pennsylvania, likely from five deer-breeding venues in that state.

Once Ohio learned that Pennsylvania had CWD-infected animals it closed the door on white-tail imports from that state.

Ohio also began back-tracking the animals that had entered the state, examining the records required of all importers. Once that work was  underway Ohio was able to discharge 21 operations – including five big-game hunting preserves when no CWD was found in 53 of the suspected imported deer, the Department of Agriculture said in a joint release with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The state also will intensify its efforts at detecting CWD by doing a more thorough monitoring of legally taken deer, road killed animals within a six-mile radius of Millersburg.

It will do this by scientifically examining the lymph nodes of dead deer, about the only way the disease can be detected.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, October 24, 2014

UPDATED: Up to 125 CWD-exposed deer imported into Ohio may have been supplied by five Pennsylvania vendors

Armed with the knowledge that chronic wasting disease has appeared in a captive white-tailed buck in Ohio's Holmes County, details are beginning to emerge as to the source - or sources - of possibly other infected animals.

With the acknowledgement that at least one animal has tested positive for CWD, Ohio becomes the 14th state where the disease has cropped up in at least one deer.

Ohio Department of Agriculture media relations spokeswoman Erica M. Hawkins says that up to 125 deer may have been exposed to the always fatal prion-based disease. All of the deer came from Pennsylvania with up to five possible candidate breeders, Hawkins says.

Hawkins says as well that once CWD was confirmed in Pennsylvania's captive-raised deer-breeding operations, Ohio's Agricultural Department moved immediately to "close its boarders" to any more deer imports from that state.

"It must be emphasized that none of the Ohio operations which imported deer from Pennsylvania did anything wrong," Hawkins said.

The one known case of a captive deer - a three-year-old buck and not a seven-year-old buck as has been commonly cited in the media - which tested positive for CWD came from the "World Class Whitetails of Ohio" big-game hunting preserve ( This operation is located near Millersburg in Holmes County.

World Class Whitetails of Ohio quietly has been under quarantine since April 15.

Originally 43 Ohio entities were under Ohio's quarantine protocols. In all, 22 of these operations saw their quarantines lifted once the Agriculture Department confirmed through testing that no CWD existed in their respective captive deer herds.

However, quarantines continue to exist with the remaining operations, including five big-game hunting preserves, of which World Class Whitetails of Ohio is one.

Ohio has 539 licensed deer-breeding operations, each required to obtain their permits from the Agriculture Department, not the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. It is the former that was prescribed the lead agency in managing captive deer-breeding operations.

Hawkins says also a list of he operations which received the deer from Pennsylvania and which remains under quarantine is being compiled now and will be made available Monday morning.

A telephone message and an e-mail request seeking comment have been left with World Class Whitetails of Ohio but have not yet been returned. As of late Friday (October 24) the operation's web site has not posted any comments regarding the CWD discovery in one of the ranch's harvested bucks.

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

A Chronic Wasting Disease primer - adjunct to the immediately previous blog post

The prion’s very name says it all: Derived from “protein,” a prion is an infectious misshapen protein.

It is not a living entity; not even on the order of the simplest bacteria. Nor is it a virus, which more than a few scientists say is a “thing” that is “almost life.”

Prions have neither DNA nor RNA. It attacks mammals only and is considered what’s called a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy disease that recruits via converting healthy proteins into the misshapen form.

In effect, the prion seeks to duplicate itself over and over again. As this insidious process expands, holes in an infected animal’s nervous system – including and perhaps, especially, the brain – develop. Such a condition results in the organ becoming sponge-like matter; hence the application of the word “spongiform.”

As a result, some scientists refer to prions as “killer proteins.”

Consequently, something so seemingly simple that isn’t even alive is a complex process that still baffles the scientific community. The Centers for Disease Control notes this paradox by saying that prions “… are still not completely understood” yet notes that “Prion diseases are usually rapidly progressive and always fatal.”

In humans, the Disease Centers also say, they are four known prion-linked disease. Chronic Wasting Disease is not one of them.

The Disease Center says as well that science knows of six prion-linked diseases in animals, CWD being one of them.

Known CWD- impacted animal species include elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer, and moose, the Disease Centers says.

Though the delivery mechanism is yet to be fully understood the Disease Centers does say that scientific speculation suggests direct animal-to-animal contact and/or “indirect exposure” through CWD-contaminated food or water sources are likely the culprits.

Yet while such organizations as the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance says that research “suggests that humans, cattle and other domestic livestock are resistant to natural (CWD) transmission” such infection still “remains a concern.”

This, in spite of the fact that no human has been known to contract CWD under any circumstances, natural or otherwise.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources says that disease signs in deer include excessive salivation, loss of appetite, progressive weight loss, excessive thirst and urination, listlessness, teeth grinding, and holding the head in a lowered position as well as drooping ears.

Likewise, the agency says an infected deer may not display symptoms for as many as 18 months.

“In fact, 94-percent of the deer from Illinois that have tested positive for CWD have otherwise appeared healthy,” the agency says in a question and answer document on the subject.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn