ARMADILLOS ARRIVING IN SW VA
Desert creatures? Not anymore. The armadillo (Spanish for “little armored one”) is good at moving–swimming, hitching rides on trains and in trucks, and sometimes just on foot. In the past 150 years they have moved northward from Mexico, and were first spotted in Virginia in the 1980s, then again in 2010 and 2019 (see map).
The only thing holding back armadillos from colonizing all of Virginia right now is their utter lack of speed and the occasional steel-belted radial. When armadillos are confronted with a predator – say, an oncoming car – they have an unfortunate habit of trying to scare it off by jumping in the air. Their vertical leap is impressive (three to four feet!), but usually fatal.
But they are not alone in now finding Virginia the place to be. Sightings of fishers and porcupines have also increased.
For details, see this article by Dwayne Yancey in the Cardinal News, from which this entry is sourced: https://cardinalnews.org/2021/10/04/armadillos-are-moving-into-southwest-virginia/
STOLEN HARRISONBURG HOME RECOVERED
Normally things are stolen from your home; it’s rare that your home itself is stolen. But that’s what happened in Harrisonburg, VA, last month when a modular home measuring 14 x 60 feet was attached to a truck and driven away. But it has now been found.
Through tips by locals and the coordinated efforts of several law enforcement agencies in neighboring jurisdiction, a 61-year-old Michigan man was arrested and is being held; it turns out that he is also wanted in Michigan and Maryland.
Lock your doors at night–and your house!
OUR MUSSELS GIVE US STRENGTH
On the South Fork of the Holston River, the Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Center team works year-round to keep threatened species of mussels alive and to even help them repopulate and thrive in the region’s rivers. But last month, the news came from U.S. Fish and Wildlife that it is proposing to declare 23 species on its Endangered Species list as extinct. One of those species used to thrive in Southwest Virginia and eastern Tennessee: the green-blossom pearly freshwater mussel. The green blossom hasn’t been seen since 1984, when it was spotted in the Clinch River.
The team believes the green blossom should serve as a poster mussel for the oyster mussel that is a close cousin that is just hanging on. “If we just walk away, it could follow the same path,” as could another two dozen or so mussel species native to this area that are endangered. But they have no intention of just walking away.
Lest you, dear reader, think this is simply a local, parochial concern, know that the Clinch River remains the “last stronghold” for mussels and is critical to the “vitality of the biodiversity of the world.” This area of the Appalachians is recognized as one of the country’s biodiversity hot spots for freshwater mussels and other species.
Why do they matter? The survival of mussels is interwoven with that of other life, including humans. Mussels are often described as the liver of the river: they filter bacteria, algae, sediment, and other small particles; in essence, they clean the water. Pollution is another problem. That’s why the aquatic center is working to restore imperiled mussels.
TOO MUCH MENHADEN?
Too much of a good thing? Virginia may be about to go over its cap on the oily menhaden fish.
This year’s menhaden catch so far in the Chesapeake Bay is worrying Virginia’s top fisheries regulator, but the company harvesting most of the fish says they won’t exceed a set quota. According to the Virginia Marine Resources commissioner, Omega Protein has already caught 75% of the bay’s quota. “This is a troubling development,” he said, “as recent harvest rates mirror those from 2019 when Omega did exceed the Bay harvest cap by 15,000 metric tons.”
Yet the Omega spokesman said the company has no intention of breaking the law: “We are not going to exceed the Bay cap.”
In 2019, Virginia had a different quota from the Chesapeake Bay than the one set by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, an interstate body that manages several fish species. Omega’s catch was within the state cap. The differing quotas led to a federal order closing the menhaden fishery unless Virginia adopted the Atlantic States commission cap and cut the allowable catch for 2020 to make up for what was caught in 2019. Virginia complied, and Omega did not exceed the 2020 cap.
The Commonwealth could face a moratorium and further quota cuts in 2022 if this year’s cap is exceeded.
The commissioner is also concerned about recent fish spills from Omega’s nets.