John Harrigan: Of heat, habitat and hunting and bombers flying overhead

JOHN HARRIGAN April 13. 2013 8:35PM

As this is written, I'm undergoing an annual oil furnace check. Even though I heat the whole place with wood, hot water included, every now and then I shut the outdoor wood furnace down for maintenance.

In the way back when, I had one of the first outdoor wood furnaces in the territory. Now, they are common. They have been rightly banned from close confines of neighborhoods. This resulted from stupid people burning tires and trash and the like. I do neither.

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This last week on WGIR, host Jack Heath of "New Hampshire Today" and I got a question about pine martens. These are mid-sized members of the weasel family. Old-time woodsmen (the latter would not be me) said that the only animal that could catch a red squirrel in a tree was the pine marten.

We very nearly lost pine martens due to uncontrolled trapping and changes in habitat. But the federal government, in the form of John Lanier, chief wildlife biologist at the White Mountain National Forest, worked with New Hampshire and Maine wildlife people to live-trap martens in the Moosehead Lake region in Maine and transplant them in the Wild River area in eastern New Hampshire.

This saga in the Wild River watershed involved considerable followup, in the form of a heroic tracking episode involving biologist Lanier and assistants John Harrigan and Dick Moore. Moore was the designated Sherpa, hauling an impossible load of food and stuff while Lanier and Harrigan capered far ahead on snowshoes. While getting down to business, i.e. actually looking for marten tracks, they quickly became dehydrated, but survived by retreating to camp for more salt-laden food, augmented by beverages, and then chopping though several feet of ice for water on account of even more salty food. Harrigan, upside down, was held by the feet by Lanier for this last part.

Martens are now in almost their entire original habitat. I've seen a few around the farm or in my forays into the wild, and camp. They are neat little creatures. But I worry about their close cousin, the otter. I've looked for their tracks from ice patch to ice patch in rivers, and have seen none.

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This brings to mind a topic that isn't talked about enough, which is how fortunate we are, thanks to Theodore Roosevelt and his inspired cohorts, to be on the planet at a time when old wildlife wrongs are being righted. We've seen the restoration of the Peregrine falcon, moose, beaver, loon, bald eagle, deer (like the beaver, at one point almost gone), wild turkey, bobcat, and now, conjecture has it, the lynx. I saw my last lynx track snowshoeing with Vickie Bunnell in 1983 or so. This was when trackers in the northern foothills of the Whites were saying that they had seen nothing. This cadre included famous trapper Ray Evans.

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Much of this good work of righting old wrongs was (and is being) done thanks to hunting and fishing licenses, and excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment. Those millions of dollars each year go toward preserving and enhancing wild country to be enjoyed by all. This includes "non-consumptive" recreators, a term I loathe. We all consume, whether by gun, rod and reel, using gasoline to get to some place, or going to the grocery store, or simply staying alive. And again, I can't help myself from pointing out that there are no similar taxes on hiking, canoeing, kayaking and all other manner of other outdoor gear.

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Next up? I'm convinced, after 45 years in this business (actually a game) of newspapering, and scouting the ground for all this time, and hearing from hunters, hikers, loggers and farmers, that disperser wolves are scouting out their ancestral territory, and I'm vastly more convinced that remnants of the Eastern cougar are doing the same. In this last category, wildlife officials will not be constrained to acknowledge mountain lions until one is killed in the road, as happened in Greenwich, Connecticut, a couple of years ago, or until one is killed by someone protecting livestock. Both will happen.

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I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If my heart weren't in print, which it certainly is, I'd be in radio.

Radio is almost as ethereal as print. You have to mind-meld (okay, so think "Spock") with the listener. In print it's a lot of fun to envision your key-strokes resonating with the reader. It is doubly so with radio, although on a much more short-lived level.

I'm on with host Jack Heath's "New Hampshire Today" every Friday at 8:04 a.m., called "drive time" in radio parlance, which translates to "Hey, you're on the road, maybe stuck in traffic, so you have to listen to me, you poor fool." That's just after the 8 a.m. news on WGIR, 610 AM and 96.7 FM.

Jack Heath, who has been around the block in media, to put it mildly, goes as far back in radio as the advent of the telegraph, first trans-Atlantic cable, the invention of transistors, and wireless communication. Maybe even smoke signals. He is getting older than dirt, but so am I, with 45 years in the crazy business of journalism, a high-falooting term for newspapering.

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SAC bombers regularly fly over my farm. Once they almost helped me kill a deer, their noise masking my footsteps on leaf-laden ground. They refuel over here, at elevation 1553 (mine, not theirs). Whence, and to where? I thought that all the geographically appropriate bases were closed.

My camp-mate EZ Company, a Marine as Marines ever will be, which is always, who used to drive those million-dollar flying machines, could supply no clear answers. "As long as they're ours," I thought.

John Harrigan's address: or PO box 39, Colebrook NH 03576

John Harrigan

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