Wildlife
More and more Howard County residents are having close encounters with white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Some encounters are pleasant. The opportunity to observe or pursue deer is a valuable and memorable experience. These are encounters some people would like to continue to have and experience more frequently. 

However, for an increasing number of Howard County residents, encounters with white-tailed deer are less than pleasant. Many of these residents have voiced legitimate concern about increased agricultural crop, commercial nursery and residential landscape damage caused by deer. They have expressed fear about the connection between elevated deer populations and the occurrence of Lyme disease, the increased frequency of automobile/deer collisions, and the condition of the county's remaining wildlife habitat and natural areas.


 

Important Information about Deer Management

Howard County Deer Management Task Force Report

Howard County Comprehensive Deer Management Plan

2016-2017 Park Closing Schedule Press Release

Contact Phil Norman call 410-313-1675

 

 

History

The beaver (Castor canadenis) is an important mammal to Maryland, as well as to North America, from both a historical economic perspective and from an aesthetic perspective. Although excessive harvesting and unrestrained habitat destruction extirpated the beaver in Maryland by the early 1800s, reintroduction efforts have enabled the beaver to return to much of their former range. Their populations have grown steadily and occur in every county in the state and in every watershed in Howard County.


Beaver in Howard County

Beaver can be among the most beneficial of the county’s wildlife. They create favorable habitat for a variety of wildlife species including fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. This variety of wildlife is in turn valued for recreational, scientific, educational and aesthetic purposes. Beaver activity is also helpful in retaining storm water runoff and improves water quality by trapping sediment, nutrients, and pollutants. Beaver activity can also cause flooding of roads, trails, forest land. They also consume trees and shrubs. Their impacts often occur suddenly and dramatically.

These benefits and detriments often occur simultaneously at a single location. Because of the varying degrees of tolerance levels among people to beaver activity, there are bound to be disagreements on how best to “deal” with beaver conflicts.

The Departments Role

In its role as a steward of Howard County’s natural resources (Howard County Code Title 19, subtitle 2, Section 19.200-211), it shall be a goal of the Department of Recreation & Parks to practice an attitude of acceptance of, and tolerance for, beaver activity as part of the county’s natural environment and it will foster this attitude among the public through education.

The Department recognizes beaver as a natural and desirable component of the environment because of their contribution to the quality and diversity of natural habitat.

However, it is also recognized that conflicts between beaver and humans arise when beaver activity impacts public health and safety, private property, or public infrastructure.

Biology

  • The beaver is the largest rodent in North America. An adult can weigh between 30-60 lbs. and measure 25-31" in length.
  • Beavers are nocturnal which means they are most active at night.
  • Beavers are social animals and live in family units called colonies that can range in size from two to eight individuals.
  • Beavers are monogamous and mate in January and February. Four months later 2-5 one pound “kits” are born.
  • Beavers are herbivores. Their diet in the winter is comprised mainly of the bark of hardwood trees and shrubs such as willow, birch, maple, yellow-poplar, cherry, and alder. In warmer months they also consume aquatic plants, rhizomes of water lilies, sedges, grasses, ferns, and the leaves and twigs of trees.
  • The beaver greatly impacts its environment. It is one of the few mammals, other than man, capable of modifying habitat to suit its needs. They instinctively build dams and lodges from any available materials such as tree branches, mud, and stone.

Conflict Resolution

Beaver activity emanating from county-owned property and resulting in conflict will be evaluated by the Department of Recreation and Parks Natural Resource Division for the existence of, or potential of:

  • impact to public health and safety
  • impact to private property
  • impact to public infrastructure
  • impact to public parks and facilities

The significance of these impacts will determine the type of management action taken. Any action taken will be based on proven wildlife management techniques, appropriate animal welfare concerns, and applicable laws and regulations.

It is important to remember that one function of county parks and open space lands is to provide habitat for wildlife. These areas are one of the few places left in the county where wildlife can live. In most cases, damage done to trees on county-owned lands is accepted as part of having beavers.

Damage Prevention and Control

Exclusion involves fencing small critical areas such as culverts, drains, or other areas, and individual trees. A low, sturdy fence, three feet high, can keep a beaver out of an area. When fencing around an individual tree, a simple fence 3-4 feet high made of heavy wire mesh can prevent damage. The fence should be approximately eight to 10 inches from the plant and can be supported by driving metal rods into the ground.

Cultural methods and habitat modification include the elimination food sources such as trees and other woody vegetation and harassment of beaver by repeatedly destroying dams and removing food caches, or installing a pond leveler which regulates the water level of the beaver pond. These methods are not always practical in every situation and have varying success rates. Permits may be required.

Trapping of all wildlife is regulated by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. State law provides for a legal winter trapping season for beaver on private and state-owned lands. State law also provides for regulated trapping outside the normal season; however, a permit must be secured from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. State law also requires that captured beaver be destroyed by euthanasia and not relocated. Wildlife Cooperators are available to assist private landowners in dealing with nuisance beavers. These individuals are certified by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and able to handle nuisance wildlife situations. It is illegal to trap beaver on county-owned lands, unless permission has been granted by the Appointing Authority.

Useful Contacts

Brenda BelenskyHoward County Recreation and Parks
Natural Resource Manager: 410-313-4724

Maryland Department of Natural Resources - Wildlife and Heritage Division: 410-836-4557 or 301-258-7308

U.S. Department of Agriculture APHIS - Wildlife Service
Nuisance Wildlife Information Line: 1-877-463-6497

Environmental Education Series

The goal of the Department of Recreation and Parks is to preserve a balance of ecological, natural and environmental values in Open Space land throughout the County. We strive to manage these areas in a way that will preserve their ecological integrity while making them available to the public for passive recreational use.

A key element in our management plan is public awareness and education. This brochure is one of a series of publications designed to educate the public on matters related to the conservation and preservation of our environment.

To help accomplish this goal, our staff is available to speak with various civic and community organizations and to assist with the planning and implementation of projects such as habitat enhancement, reforestation, stream walks, water quality monitoring, etc. It is our firm belief that only by working together can we fulfill the moral and civic responsibility with which we have all been charged . . . the stewardship of the land.


Printable Flier

Click on the link below for a pdf flier version of this information.

Printable Flyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regular feeding can cause:

  • dependency on people for food
  • bird/people conflicts
  • spread of disease

Over the centuries waterfowl have developed patterns of seeking out and feeding on highly nutritious marsh and grassland plants. These feeding patterns are then passed on to succeeding generations. Survival of waterfowl ultimately depends upon the ability to make sufficient use of food and habitat.

In northern regions of the United States, extreme cold and snow cover severely reduces the quality and quantity of marsh and grassland plants. Thus, each year most waterfowl, like many other birds, migrate long distances in search of food and habitat to carry them through the winter. In spring they again migrate, this time returning to their northern breeding grounds.

Not all waterfowl, however, complete the migration cycle. In Howard County, there are increasing amounts of resident Canada geese. Although resident Canada geese look similar to the migratory geese, they are different. It is thought that many resident Canada geese are descendants from races of nonmigratory Canada geese that were released in Maryland by private individuals or released as decoy flocks during the 1930's.

Many urban environments provide sufficient space and food for small populations of waterfowl. Small ponds, community parks with lakes, reservoirs and golf courses provide ideal habitat. However, the added attraction of human handouts can result in the concentration of hundreds or thousands of waterfowl. These wild birds then become quite "tame," lose their fear of people and pick up habits that conflict with humans.

Lack of the fear of cars or planes can cause traffic problems as birds casually stroll or sit in the middle of roadways or fly across airport runways. Large numbers of birds in parks, golf courses, residential lawns and agricultural fields graze, trample vegetation, and produce large amounts of defecation. One goose can produce one pound of droppings per day! Excess nutrients, caused by waterfowl droppings, in ponds and lakes may result in water quality problems such as increased harmful bacteria and algal blooms.

Food handouts often lead to large numbers of birds competing for limited food in small areas. Such crowding and competition for food combined with the stresses of less nutritious food and harsh weather increases their susceptibility to life threatening diseases like avian cholera, duck plague and avian botulism. These diseases have the potential to kill off large numbers of waterfowl.

The result of the seemingly kind and generous act of feeding waterfowl can be a continuing cycle of the birds becoming nuisances and being subjected to diseases. An infected bird may spread the disease to many other birds by infecting the water supply. When the birds are scattered over a large area, this does not pose a serious problem. However, when the birds are bunched close together their chances of contracting disease increase and the result may be disastrous.

If you care for waterfowl, there are things you can do to help them retain their wildness and maintain their well-being:

  • Stop feeding them! They don't understand the problem . . . you do.
  • Learn more about waterfowl by visiting a library, nature center, state wildlife management area, or National Refuge, then teach others what you know.
  • Allow waterfowl to stay wild . . . observe and appreciate them from a distance.

 

Environmental Education Series


The goal of the Department of Recreation and Parks is to preserve a balance of ecological, natural and environmental values in Open Space land throughout the County. We strive to manage these areas in a way that will preserve their ecological integrity while making them available to the public for passive recreational use.

A key element in our management plan is public awareness and education. This brochure is one of a series of publications designed to educate the public on matters related to the conservation and preservation of our environment.

To help accomplish this goal, our staff is available to speak with various civic and community organizations and to assist with the planning and implementation of projects such as habitat enhancement, reforestation, stream walks, water quality monitoring, etc. It is our firm belief that only by working together can we fulfill the moral and civic responsibility with which we have all been charged . . . the stewardship of the land.

For additional information, or to become involved in our program, please call 410-313-4700, or email the Department of Recreation and Parks.

 

Click on the link below for a pdf flier version of this information.

Printable Flyer

 

 

What is Purple Loosestrife?

Lythrum salicaria is an introduced, hard, aggressive perennial that occurs predominately in wetland habitats. Originally from Europe, it was inadvertently introduced to the U.S. in the 1800's in ship ballast water and intentionally as a medicinal herb. It can now be found in 40 of the lower 48 states and Canada.

Description:

  • 2-7 feet tall
  • Flowers on spike, attached closely to stem
  • 5-6 petals per flower
  • Opposite leaf arrangement
  • Stiff, four-sided stem
  • Blooms July-early Sept.
  • A single mature plant can produce up to 2.5 million seeds per year.

Why is Purple Loosestrife a Threat?

Wetlands are the most biologically diverse and productive components of our ecosystems in Maryland. Productive wetlands are the backbone support for a healthy Chesapeake Bay. Hundreds of species of plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, fish, and amphibians rely on healthy wetland habitat for their survival.

Once this plant becomes established, it rapidly degrades wetland habitat by out-competing beneficial native vegetation. If left unchecked, purple loosestrife forms vast monotypic stands that will dominate an area and provide very little if any habitat for wildlife.

An estimated 190,000 hectares of wetlands, marshes, pastures, and riparian meadows are affected in North America each year. This has an economic impact of millions of dollars. Purple loosestrife is classified as a noxious weed in 19 states; however, it is not considered so in Maryland at this time.

What you can do to help!

Because purple loosestrife is so widespread in the U.S., its total eradication is unlikely. However, the spread of purple loosestrife can be halted and newly invaded areas can be controlled.

Prevention is the best way to stop the purple loosestrife invasion.

  • Don't plant purple loosestrife in your garden! Even Lythrum varieties advertised not to make seeds can cross-breed with the invading loosestrife to make seeds.
  • Be on the look out for pioneering plants or isolated small colonies. Notify the proper authorities. If they occur on your own property, remove the plants or cut off the flower heads, bag and destroy them. Repeat throughout the flowering season mid-June, July - early August before seeds are set.
  • Rinse equipment, gear, or clothing and footwear used in infested areas before moving to un-infested areas.

Control Methods

Any control method you select should be repeated for several years to catch missed plants and those established from seed. Purple loosestrife seeds remain alive in the soil for many years.

By Hand (for small clusters)

Pull young plants, bag and destroy all materials. Dig older plants and remove all the roots. Any remaining will sprout new shoots. Be careful to avoid excessive soil disturbance. If this is unavoidable, consider chemical methods.

By Herbicide (on larger populations)

As with any herbicide, extreme care must be taken to ensure the control of loosestrife and minimize damage to desirable vegetation. It is best to call the Cooperative Extension for up-to-date information on the herbicides recommended for loosestrife control and all precautions that need to followed when using herbicides.

Biological Control (in the future)

Refers to the use of natural "enemies" or agents such as parasites, predators, or pathogens to control plant populations. In the past ten years, much research has been conducted to find selected insects that feed specifically on purple loosestrife as a means to naturally control the spread of the plant. Back in the 1800's when purple loosestrife was introduced to this country, left behind in Europe were the natural insect enemies of the plant that helped to prevent population explosions. The goal of biological control is to reduce numbers of the target plant to lessen its ability to displace native vegetation. It does not eradicate a plant population. Obviously, extreme caution must be taken when introducing one organism to control another. Prior to introduction of a biological control agent, intensive testing is conducted to ensure that a safe and effective agent is selected. Currently, the effectiveness of this option are being field tested. As of 1996, biological controls have been released in 25 states and seven Canadian provinces.

Alternative Plantings for Purple Loosestrife

If you currently have purple loosestrife or a cultivar growing in your garden, it could contribute to the loss of fish and wildlife habitat. Please remove it (roots and all) or at least cut off the flower tops before they begin to form seed. Dispose of all materials properly.

Several species of garden perennials display characteristics similar to purple loosestrife, yet they pose no threat to our natural environment. The following are examples of some alternatives to purple loosestrife.

  • Blazing Star or Gay Feather (Liatris spp.)
  • Delphinium (Delphinium spp.)
  • False Spirea (Astilbe arendsii)
  • Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
  • Lupine (Lupinus)
  • Lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis)
  • Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)
  • Salvia (Salvia superba)
  • Siberian Iris (Iris)
  • Spike Speedwell (Veronica spicata)

Environmental Education Series

The goal of the Department of Recreation and Parks is to preserve a balance of ecological, natural and environmental values in Open Space land throughout the County. We strive to manage these areas in a way that will preserve their ecological integrity while making them available to the public for passive recreational use.

A key element in our management plan is public awareness and education. This brochure is one of a series of publications designed to educate the public on matters related to the conservation and preservation of our environment.

To help accomplish this goal, our staff is available to speak with various civic and community organizations and to assist with the planning and implementation of projects such as habitat enhancement, reforestation, stream walks, water quality monitoring, etc. It is our firm belief that only by working together can we fulfill the moral and civic responsibility with which we have all been charged . . . the stewardship of the land.

For additional information, or to become involved in our program, please call 410-313-4700, or email the Department of Recreation and Parks.

The Maryland Amphibian & Reptile Atlas was a state wide amphibian and reptile survey conducted from 2010 to 2014 to map the distributions of these animals every 10-square miles.  This checklist draws on data collected from this survey. 


Click here to see the most up to date checklist for Howard County.