Not a day goes by without someone calling or e-mailing the Inside Outside guy with odd and strange happenings in the outdoors. Some of the reports are fascinating.
Take the quixotic e-mail I read a few days ago that simply said, “Hi there. I found a surprising number of snakeheads in a puddle where part of the creek dried up in Charles County. There were two [Chinese snakehead fish that were] over 18 inches long and possibly 75-plus juveniles.”
That pretty much was it until a Maryland DNR insider told me that the fellow who found the dreaded snakeheads was Gary Owen, 39, a Charles County deputy sheriff, who lives in St. Mary’s County, Md.
Owen was on patrol duty down by the Mattawoman Creek, driving a 4-wheeler through the woods, when he happened upon a small rill that used to carry water — all part of the Mattawoman Creek — but now pretty much dried out what with the lack of rain Charles countians have had to live with of late.
However, a small puddle of water remained. Owen found little more than 10 gallons of water in it, but he saw something alive in the puddle.
The small water pocket had turned into a trap for two adult snakeheads that weighed perhaps 3 pounds and a bunch of finger-long snakehead juveniles, all of which were removed by the DNR after Owen contacted the staff at the DNR facility in Cedarville.
What happened to the young and old snakeheads? By law, they have to be destroyed because this fish species is a foreign invader that can do a great deal of damage to native fish if allowed to proliferate even more than it already has in the tidal Potomac River below the nation’s capital. After an apparent release several years ago of some live (perhaps aquarium) fish into Virginia’s Little Hunting Creek, a tributary to the Potomac, they quickly bred and spread into the adjacent Dogue Creek and now are caught by sport anglers from the District down to King George County, Va.
All of them must be killed and disposed of on land, not thrown back into the water. Besides, many claim the snakehead is a tasty delight.
Then there was an e-mail directed to the Inside Outside department (email@example.com) from a reader who said he saw a beaver swimming along a tidal Maryland creek shoreline, carrying a silver-scaled fish in his mouth.
A beaver with a fish? Hardly possible.
Beavers are vegetarians and picky ones at that. They don’t eat fish.
When I contacted the man, who asked to remain anonymous, he described a brownish furry animal that swam with the greatest of ease. “It had to be a beaver,” he said. “I know a beaver when I see one.” Yes, and everybody knows that a beaver is a fine swimmer.
But could it have been a river otter? I asked the man about it and he started laughing. “There aren’t any otters down here in tidal water,” he said. I reminded him that some people used to think beavers couldn’t live in tidal water either, but we know better now. Besides, otters are great fish hunters and catching a white perch or a gizzard shad is no great accomplishment for this frolicking creature that does indeed occur in waters that ebb and flow.
Mystery solved. Bring on some more.