With the upcoming July 4th holiday week, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) announced that their waterways conservation officers (WCO) will be focusing on keeping boaters safe by cracking down on boating under the influence (BUI).
The PFBC, in partnership with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, is working to increase boater awareness of the hazards associated with boating under the influence, and to decrease the number of accidents and deaths attributed to impaired boating and other unsafe boating practices.
According to Col. Corey Britcher, Director of the PFBC Bureau of Law Enforcement, alcohol impairs judgment and reaction time on the water, just as it does when driving a car, even more so because of the added stressors of sun, heat, wind, and noise on a boat. Said Britcher, “Choosing to consume alcohol while boating puts everyone at risk, including passengers and people in the water. Our goal is to remove anyone choosing to operate a vessel impaired and to keep everyone else safe.”
Last year across the state, the PFBC reports that 15 individuals died in boating accidents. Alcohol was a contributing factor in three of the cases.
The agency puts boaters on notice that throughout the week, boaters will notice an increase in the numbers of officers on the water and at recreational boating checkpoints. This effort will result in the removal of impaired operators, providing a safe and enjoyable experience for boaters this boating season.
So far this year, PFBC waterways conservation officers have arrested 12 individuals for boating under the influence:
• Allegheny County, Allegheny River – 2
• Centre County, Sayers Lake – 1
• Crawford County, Conneaut Lake – 1
• Huntingdon County, Raystown Lake – 3
• Dauphin County, Susquehanna River – 3
• York County, Susquehanna River - 1
• Union County, Penns Creek – 1
Waterways conservation officers arrested 68 individuals in 2017; 90 individuals in 2016; 48 individuals in 2015; 93 individuals in 2014; 90 individuals in 2013.
Broken down by region, WCOs in 2017 arrested the following number of individuals for BUI:
· 7 in Northwest Region (Counties – Butler, Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Forest, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango, Warren)
· 16 in Southwest Region (Counties - Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington, Westmoreland)
· 14 in Northcentral Region (Counties - Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Tioga, Union)
· 19 in Southcentral Region (Counties - Adams, Bedford, Blair, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lebanon, Mifflin, Perry, York)
· 6 in Northeast Region (Counties - Bradford, Carbon, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Wayne, Wyoming)
· 6 in Southeast Region (Counties - Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Schuylkill)
“Many boaters may not know that the threshold for BUI is the same as with motor vehicles – 0.08 percent,” said Britcher. “If you are found to be impaired and operating a boat you will be arrested.”
The agency reminds boaters to remain sober while on the water and don’t forget to wear a life jacket as 85 percent of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket. And interestingly, 71 percent of deaths on boats occurred where the operator did not receive safety instruction. As such, the agency highly recommends taking a boating safety education course.
I saw only two of them in my yard two weeks ago as the sky turned to darkness. Then, last week, I saw four. And this week, the yard was aglow with them.
As robins signal the beginning of spring, fireflies (or lightning bugs) signal summer is upon us. These inch-long bugs are actually beetles, or nocturnal members of the family Lampyridae. Most fireflies are winged, which distinguishes them from other luminescent insects of the same family, commonly known as glowworms. And there are about 2,000 firefly species. They live in a variety of warm environments, as well as in more temperate regions, and are, as we know, a familiar sight on summer evenings.
Fireflies are nocturnal and during the day they spend most of their time on the ground. At night they crawl to the tops of blades of grass and will fly into tree branches to signal to mates with their flashes. They love long grasses as it conceals them better and allows them a better vantage point for signaling at night. And when mowing your lawn, it may disturb them.
During the day, nocturnal adult fireflies hide in grass and low-profile plants. A nice variety of shrubs, high grass and low-growing plants will provide shelter. And did you know they are not found west of Kansas for some reason.
Adult fireflies live about two months or long enough to mate and lay eggs in grasses. Their larvae usually live for approximately one year from mating season to mating season, before becoming adults and giving birth to the next generation. Females deposit their eggs in the ground, which is where larvae develop to adulthood. Underground larvae feed on worms and slugs by injecting them with a numbing fluid.
The flashes seen are done primarily by females to attract a male. Sometimes a male will imitate them to attract females of their own species. And when the female shows up thinking its food, they find a mate.
Fireflies are said to feed on plant pollen, nectar, insects. other fireflies or nothing at all. And in case you’re wondering how they flash and glow, they have light organs that are located in their abdomens. They take in oxygen and combine it with a substance called luciferin to produce light with almost no heat. Then when they flash, they flash in patterns that are unique to each species. Each blinking pattern is an optical signal that helps fireflies find potential mates. Scientists, however, are not sure how the insects regulate this process to turn their lights on and off. Their flashes also serve as a defense mechanism to warn other insect's that they are unappetizing.
If you’re seeing fewer fireflies, scientists say their populations are on the decline. It’s attributed to a combination of light pollution, pesticides and habitat loss. And it’s been said that when a field where fireflies lived gets developed, they don’t migrate to another field, they just disappear.
As a kid I’d catch them then let them go. I remember afterward that my hand would smell from a scent they must have deposited on it. And although kids continue to catch them today it’s recommended to not put them in a jar or bottle but give them their freedom allowing them to live to make a new generation so we can enjoy their brilliant flashes in the summer night.
Project ChildSafe, the nationwide firearms safety education program of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, is urging all gun owners to make responsible firearms storage a priority — and providing the tools to do so — with the launch of its sixth annual “S.A.F.E. Summer” campaign.
Launched in conjunction with “National Safety Month” every June, S.A.F.E. Summer emphasizes the importance of storing firearms responsibly when not in use, especially during the summer months when children are home and more likely to be unsupervised. "S.A.F.E." serves as an acronym for Store your firearms responsibly when not in use; Always practice firearms safety; Focus on your responsibilities as a firearms owner; and Education is key to preventing accidents.
“Summer is an important time for firearms owners to make sure they’re properly securing their firearms, both in the home and in their vehicles, as children may be spending more time unattended in these locations,” said NSSF President and CEO Steve Sanetti. “NSSF and Project ChildSafe encourage firearms owners and non-owners alike to talk with their families about firearms safety to help prevent firearms accidents, thefts and misuse.” Secure storage of firearms also can play a role in helping to prevent suicide by placing time and distance between an at-risk person and a firearm.
Through Project ChildSafe, firearms owners can obtain free firearm safety kits, including a gun lock, at local law enforcement agencies across the country. Project ChildSafe also offers a variety of educational resources free on its website. These include a S.A.F.E. Summer Quiz, information on safe storage options, brochures and a video series. New videos for 2018, developed in partnership with the National Crime Prevention Council, feature McGruff the Crime Dog, and teach children the four important steps to remember if they find a firearm or if someone they know brings one to school. Another video offers guidance to help parents talk about gun safety with their kids. Also available is the AFSP-NSSF Firearms and Suicide Prevention brochure developed by NSSF and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
NSSF launched Project ChildSafe (originally known as Project HomeSafe) in 1999 as a nationwide initiative to promote firearms responsibility and provide safety education to all gun owners. While children are a primary focus, Project ChildSafe is intended to help children and adults practice greater firearms safety. Through partnerships with more than 15,000 law enforcement agencies, the program has provided more than 37 million free firearm safety kits to gun owners in all 50 states and the five U.S. territories, which is in addition to the more than 70 million free locking devices manufacturers have included with new firearms sold since 1998. Project ChildSafe was also recognized as one of three finalists in the National Safety Council’s 2018 “Green Cross for Safety” Awards.
Mark Rabenold, a longtime friend of mine from Allentown, took his mother for a ride this past Tuesday afternoon to visit his grandparents’ grave site at Jordan Lutheran Church’s cemetery. When he pulled up into the cemetery he couldn’t believe what his eyes saw. No, it wasn’t a ghost like something you’d see in a horror movie. But a more realistic figure.
There before him, and looking right at him and his mother, was a sizable black bear. Since my friend is an avid and accomplished photographer who usually carries his camera, he managed to snap off a photo as the bear ran between the tombstones and before it took off.
“I’m only sorry I didn’t have my camera all ready to go when I first saw him crossing the cemetery road, as I could have gotten a great picture of him looking right at me,” Rabenold recalls and regrets. “You can bet the next time I stop by the Jordan Lutheran Cemetery, I’ll be constantly looking around before getting out of my car,” he opines.
According to Bob Danenhower, of Bob’s Taxidermy in Orefield who usually has a handle on bear and deer sightings in and around the Orefield area, he had reports of a bear in fall in the same area of Rabenold’s bear. He thinks it may be the same bear.
Judging from the photo, and in his taxidermy experience with bears, Danenhower believes the bear is possibly a 250-300 pound female (sow) that’s on the prowl for food. If it’s the same bear in spotted in fall, it may have been denned-up over the winter in the woodlots along Haasadahl Road in Upper Macungie.
It’s at this time of year bears go on a feeding spree looking for berries, orchards, bird feeders and yes, trash cans and dumpsters.
So if you’re in the area of Jordan Lutheran Cemetery, keep an eye peeled for this seemingly resident bruin.
WOMEN IN THE OUTDOORS EVENT
If you’re a female looking to expand your knowledge of the great outdoors to include fishing, shooting sports, outdoor cooking, paddle sports, animal forensics and more, plan to register for Saturday’s (June 16) annual Women in the Outdoors event that returns to Ontelaunee Rod & Gun Club in New Tripoli.
The event begins at 7:30 a.m. and is open to females ages 14 and up. The program offers 16 different workshops covering such topics as camping, hiking, fly fishing, claybird shooting, outdoor cooking, sporting dog first aid, firearms familiarity and safety and other outdoor pursuits.
Women in the Outdoors (WITO) was began and hosted by the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) and the local Jerry Zimmerman Memorial and Walking Purchase chapter.
Registration is $65 and includes a continental breakfast, lunch and a one-year membership to WITO/NWTF. To register contact Debbie Smalley at 484-651-2174. Or check LehighValleyWITO@yahoo.com.
This years Lehigh River Stocking Association's (LRSA) Lunkerfest that was postponed due to high water in the Lehigh River, is on again. Lunkerfest 2018 will take place this Saturday, June 16 at the Lehigh River’s East Penn Boat Launch in Bowmanstown, Pa.
The event gets underway at 8:30 a.m. and continues until 3:00 p.m. that date. And as always, the LRSA will stock sizeable trout. This year they’re stocking 500 trout, 14-28 inches in length with 12 or more trout over 20 inches in length, says Steve Chuckra, LRSA Lunkerfest chairman.
The fee to fish is $25 for nonmembers and $20 for members. Kids 12 and under may fish for free. PA fishing licenses are required. Food and bait will be available on site (no alcohol permitted) along with raffle tickets, LRSA memberships, and free giveaways.
The rules are as follows:
Contest boundaries are from the confluence of the Lehigh River and Lizard Creek to the first island below the East Penn Boat Ramp. According to Chuckra, this stretch allows anglers to spread out and it offers different types of water to fish. Incidentally, there will be tables and bathrooms on site.
Anglers may wade or fish from boat. All legal baits, lures and flies are allowed. Any fish, with or without a tag, caught on the day of the contest is eligible for prizes. Each fish caught must be brought to the measuring table and may be released after measuring. Length of fish will determine prize choice order. For example, the longest fish gets first choice from the prize selection, second longest gets second choice and so on. Ties in length will be broken by the time of measurement. Prizes and raffles will be awarded beginning at 3:00 p.m. Prizes consist of rods, reels, fishing equipment, guided trips, gift certificates and more.
For more information check the organizations website at www.LRSA.org. Interested sponsors should call Steve Chuckra at 570-386-3586.
So far the sponsor list includes: LL Bean, Cabela’s, Skinner River Guide Service, Rivers Outdoor Adventure, Wayne’s Rod, BC Bait, Boyers Hardware, Wildlands Conservancy, Bob’s Taxidermy, Archery at the Glen, River Walk Saloon, Catfish Creek Cabins, Flies by George, Bog Daddy Reels, Wink’s Wildlife Studio, Renaldo Enterprises, Clear Water Angling Guide Service, Timberwolf Spinners, Lip Ripper Charters, and a few more. Judging from this list, it’s a given that there will be impressive prizes.
As we’re in the start of camping and barbecuing season, and with propane grilles being the most popular form of grilling, propane tank users need to take precautions when using them. Few realize that their white tank of propane tucked under the grille or attached to their camping trailer, can be lethal. They are a bomb waiting to go off, said one industry expert.
To find out more about propane cylinders, I spoke to Ernest Steigerwalt of Steigerwalt Associates, an Allentown, Pa firm specializing in gas cylinder worldwide. Steigerwalt, president of the firm, is certified by the U.S. Department of Transportation as an authorized gas cylinder inspector. His firm also inspects fire extinguisher cylinders.
Steigerwalt said burns and explosions occur mainly from “flashbacks,” a condition when the wind, for example, blows the flame to a leak somewhere in or along the fuel line. This situation can occur during grilling or ignition, but only when fuel is leaking.
As a professional propane cylinder inspector who is often called upon to testify as a professional witness in court suits emanating from cylinder failures, Steigerwalt admits that propane tanks are dangerous if handled improperly, and should be treated with the same respect as a loaded gun.
The propane cylinder expert points out the following facts about propane that makes it so volatile. Said Steigerwalt, “One of the properties of propane is that it is heavier than air. It’s also a petrol chemical as opposed to natural gas. When exposed to air, it vaporizes. And because it’s a liquefied gas stored under pressure, it expands 314 times in volume. Pressure in the cylinder is related to the temperature at which the propane is stored and cylinder pressure is temperature dependent.”
When asked what precautions a grille owner should take to prevent an accident, Steigerwalt offered these suggestions:
*Never store a propane cylinder in a house or garage.
*Keep a cylinder upright at all times because you want the safety relief valve to be in the vapor space of propane cylinder, not in the liquid.
*Have the cylinder refilled at a reputable dealer who fills by weight. Cylinder recharging is critical in that they should not be overcharged. Sometimes an attendant will overfill a tank which completely changes the safety feature built into the tank. An empty propane cylinder’s weight is determined by TW or “Tare Weight” as stamped on the cylinder’s top. A typical empty propane cylinder weighs about 18 pounds.
*After refilling, make sure the plastic “POL” outlet safety plug is installed on the valve outlet.
*Never leave a propane cylinder is the trunk or cargo area of a vehicle for any length of time, and make sure it’s secured upright.
*After refilling and reassembly of the hose, check all connections for leaks by applying soapy water to them. It there’s a leak, the soapy water will bubble.
*Check all vents and jets for melted cheese, grease, bug, spider or chipmunk nests that could block the proper mixture of air and fuel. This could also create a flashback.
*Always turn off the cylinder’s service valve after use.
*If you smell propane (you actually smell Mercaptan that is added to propane as an odorant and safety feature because propane by itself is odorless), immediately turn off the the valve as there’s obviously a leak.
Aside from these safety precautions, the next question many grille and RV owners have is when to refill their cylinders. It’s problematic when beginning to grille some food and the cylinder “kicks.” Steigerwalt says it’s a frustrating situation that has few easy solutions especially if you’re camping at a remote location. Said Steigerwalt, “The most accurate method to determine if your cylinder has propane remaining is to weigh the tank on a bathroom scale. Subtract the weight from the cylinders’ totally filled weight. This will give you the remaining pounds of fuel. To calculate the remaining burn time, a good rule of thumb to follow is that a single burner grille burns about one pound of propane an hour. Double that for two burners.”
Steigerwalt goes on to say that the gauges advertised for grilles are not accurate because propane is not measured by pressure but by weight. “The only type that are somewhat accurate are the float type gauges. But they cost as much as an extra tank. And the little stickers being sold for cylinders are not much better. You can get the same effect by checking sweat of condensation on the tank on a hot day. Where the sweat ends, that’s your fuel level. But that only indicates the remaining burn time. Best bet is to keep a filled spare,” he concludes.
For camping trailers with inside propane stoves and refrigerators, Steigerwalt recommends turning off the gas at the tank and appliances when the vehicle is in motion.
In the past, the professional metallurgist has been summoned to testify in a court case when a car rear-ended a Winnebago camper. “From the testimony I heard, the RV literally exploded in flames when the propane tank ruptured,” recalls Steigerwalt.
Taking the time to check your cylinders and connections periodically, will go a long way in making your camping trip and cook-out, safer and more enjoyable.
If you’re an avid bird watcher (birder), have you noticed an unusually large number of turkey vultures soaring local skies? And not just in rural areas, but in the city of Allentown as well.
Often referred to as buzzards, or chicken hawks, there are seven species of vultures in North America, but Pennsylvania has but two; the black vulture and more common turkey vulture.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), the turkey vulture (TV) are about 30 inches in length, have wingspans up to six feet, have black and brown feathers and customarily soar with wings held horizontally and can be seen rocking or tilting their wings in flight. They take on the appearance of a kite being flown. And if able to get close enough to them, they stink.
Perhaps this is because they feast mainly on carrion. And because of this, and to probe deep into carrion, their heads and necks are unfeathered and they have a heavy bill that is hook shaped for tearing. Their toes too are strong with curved talons to hold their carrion in tact while feeding.
Turkey vulture meals consist of dead animals on roadways or fields and include deer, squirrels, opossum’s, road-killed cats, groundhogs and other animals. They’ve also been observed killing smaller birds.
During the evening, TV’s usually roost on trees, buildings even home rooftops until their wings dry and are ready for flight in the morning and they're waiting for the thermals to start up.
Breeding habitat includes remote areas inaccessible to predators says the PGC. Remote areas like caves, steep cliffs, hollow logs or stumps, dense thickets, abandoned farm buildings or chicken coops, the snag of a dead tree, in a beech tree cavity 40 feet above the ground and others.
TV’s make little or no nest, preferring to deposit their eggs on the ground, in gravel on cliff edges or on rotted sawdust or chips in logs and stumps.
Female TVs lay one to to three eggs. Eggs are typically 2 ? by 1 ? inches in size and elliptical or long-oval in shape. Their shells are smooth to slightly grainy, dull or creamy white, overlain with irregular spots and bleaches of pale and bright brown in color.
Both parents share incubating and after 30-40 days, the eggs hatch and the young remain in the nest for about four weeks. The young ones, eat carrion regurgitated by their parents.
Vultures are gregarious; groups of eight to 25 or more adults and juveniles may soar in the sky and roost together in trees at night. And both adults and juveniles molt once each year from late winter or early spring until early fall.
Although TVs are a year-round resident of Pennsylvania, it’s common for them to migrate in late February and March then breed in summer. They generally winter in the southeastern Pennsylvania counties of Adams, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Delaware, Franklin, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia and York counties. And occasionally in southwestern counties of Fayette and Greene. However, many TVs overwinter in southern United States, Central America and South America.
Judging from the large numbers of TVs I’ve been seeing in Lehigh County alone, it seems they had a very successful breeding season last summer.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.