Elk Loin Stir Fry – Wild Game Recipes
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This one is quite simple. All you need is a bunch of different vegetables, some steak (elk loin in this batch’s case), Japanese Udon noodles (you can find them in the Asian section of your local supermarket), and some soy sauce. Oh, and a wok for best results.

The Udon noodles can be bought dry or already cooked/shrink-wrapped in a rectangular package. Each is delicious, so get whatever you can find or whichever is cheapest.

The only catch to doing the stir fry is figuring out the sequence of throwing each ingredient in the wok. You want each vegetable to finish up at an equal level of tenderness/crispness depending on your preference. I usually do my meat first and then set that aside to worry about the veggies.

Last night, my vegetable sequence went something like this…4 garlic cloves pressed, julienne-style carrots, red peppers, onions, broccoli, green beans, and finally Napa cabbage. Throw the meat back in with a couple extra splashes of soy sauce. Crank the heat to get some caramelization on everything and stir in the noodles for 2-3 minutes. I usually serve Kara and Raelyn and then throw in a good-sized pinch of red pepper flakes for me. This will become a favorite if you try it once.

Deer mice, Lyme’s disease, and Habitat fragmentation
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One thing I’ve learned over the past 10+ years of being in wildlife science education and research, things are WAY more complicated than they appear at face value. I suppose most things in life are that way.

Lyme’s disease is a major concern to human health and well being, and millions upon millions of dollars have been spent to understand its epidemiology and cycling patterns in nature.

There’s a lot going on this figure, but for the sake of this post, let the emphasis rest on the 2 o’clock to 4 o’clock portion of the cycle. Tick larvae emerge from tick eggs and need blood. Deer mice are a destination food source for the tick larvae, and deer mice are the main reservoir for the Lyme-disease causing bacteria.

Put simply, tick eggs hatch into hungry larvae which seek a blood-pumping host. If that host turns out to be a deer mouse, there is a good chance that the tick larvae will contract the Lyme’s disease bacteria.

There is a great example of ecosystem and trophic level interconnectedness in the next statement: In fragmented (patchy) habitats, humans are 5 times more likely to contract Lyme’s disease than comparable landscapes with more contiguous habitat.

Let’s explore this further…

Some animal species are adapted to living in urbanizing landscapes characterized by more fragmented habitats, some are not.

For the different patches of forest in the preceding aerial image, mesocarnivores (e.g., foxes, raccoons, coyotes) and birds-of-prey – both predators of deer mice – are more likely to be found in larger habitat patches. Most deer mouse competitors (e.g., other mouse-sized rodents) are also more likely to be found in more contiguous blocks (bigger patches) of habitat.

Deer mice, enjoying an absence of predators and competitors, are found in extremely high densities within small patches of habitat.

Picture these 3 species groups – deer mice, predators, and competitors – interacting in the following graph.

Back to the hungry tick larvae and let’s pretend we’re following “Joe” on his mission to find blood.

In a landscape characterized by larger habitat patches, “Joe” is seeking blood and could really care less about the supplier of that blood. “Joe” is likely to find himself fastened to any number of species – a fox, a coyote, a vole, a mole, a deer mouse, a chipmunk, a squirrel. Let’s pretend the probability that Joe finds himself attached to a deer mouse is 5%.

Switch over to a fragmented landscape, “Joe” is still hungry for blood but now the pool of critters wherewith to find blood is noticeably less diverse. In fact, 50% of the critters with four legs are deer mice. Now “Joe” has a 50% probability of finding himself attached to a deer mouse.

Remember that deer mice are the primary source by which a growing tick becomes a carrier of Lyme’s disease…

So long story short – deer mice are a greater proportion of the available blood donors within fragmented forest patches…ticks are more likely to latch on to deer mice in those habitats…ticks are more likely to contract the Lyme’s disease bacteria in fragmented forest patches because they are more frequently in contact with the primary reservoir…people are more likely to contract Lyme’s disease from tick bites suffered from within more fragmented forest patches.

It’s a complicated world we live in.

Wild Game Recipes – Simple Roast (Cut is Key!)
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If you haven’t whipped up a vegetable and meat roast before, you probably don’t have a pulse either. This post is less about a recipe and more about the proper cuts of meat to use. In my opinion, you have 2 choices. Neck roast – my almost favorite. Shanks – my all-time favorite. Oops, did I say 2? 3. Rib roll – my new favorite.

In this roast’s case, combining cuts to reach a critical mass is perfectly okay.

Add in desired quantity and type of veggies.

Fill half with stock, toss in ground pepper, parsley flakes, 6 splashes of Worcestershire, and press 3 garlic cloves. 6 hours on high.

Can of mushroom soup plus 3 ladles full of broth from the crock pot plus 2 teaspoons of corn starch will thicken a gravy over low heat in 10-15 minutes.

Moral of the story – stop leaving the neck roast and shank roasts in the woods. For that matter, roll the ribs when it’s practical. I even did so on my archery doe this year and that meat is DELICIOUS broken down in a crock pot. The perfect ratio of meat to sinew to fat to result in the perfect slow cooked meal.

If you’re interested in another shank roast recipe, try this one out – Bear-B-Que (substitute species of choice!) Another favorite!

Golden Eagles and Wind Energy in Appalachia
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As a scientist in natural resources, it’s not always easy to connect a particular research project with something tangible that relates to everyone in the public in at least some way. Those cases are rare. Imagine trying to relate the importance of your work to even a single family member if you were a quantum physicist! Fortunately this is a lot easier than that. Most of my research does yield results which steer management actions for land managers or a state agency or other stakeholder group. One of my big focuses lately has been the re-structuring of Ohio’s deer management units, something that will directly approximately 1 million people in coming year, so that’s encouraging. Anyways, I’m straying off the subject of golden eagles and wind energy (click here –> LINK –> to view an older post I made regarding wind energy). I’ve done research reviews in the past, but I’d like to make them a more consistent staple of the blog content. This glimpse into wildlife science will hopefully show you how practical wildlife science can be and how applicable wildlife management can be.

The Central Appalachians are a prime place for wind energy – exposed ridge lines (lots of wind) in “close” proximity to urban centers (easy energy transmission). The Central Appalachians are also a primary migratory corridor for raptors, and species such as golden eagle rely on those same ridge lines to provide updrafting thermals and deflected winds necessary for efficient flight.

I think you can see the obvious problem.

The four leading causes of eagle mortality: lead poisoning, capture in leg hold traps, habitat loss, and wind energy.

A research team (Miller et al. 2014) determined what things drive golden eagle habitat selection by equipping golden eagles with “backpack” GPS unit that relayed locations every 30-60 seconds during flight.

In layman’s terms, what features of the landscape do golden eagles use at a rate that exceeds their availability. Put a third way, if you can demonstrate that golden eagles are using Resource X 24% of the time, but Resource X only makes up 12% of the landscape, you can likely say that golden eagles are selecting for Resource X.

The premise of the study is this: If you can figure out what features golden eagles select and if you can figure out what features wind turbine developers select, you should be able to build a predictive map of risk – eagle death by turbine. If you know where eagles are mostly likely to encounter spinning turbine blades, you should be able to inform turbine site placement to minimize those risks.

At a coarse scale, it looks like eagles might be doomed at every ridge line, but if you zoom in closer with the risk map, there’s a much better ending to the story.

Paying attention to the green-shaded areas – these are areas not predicted to be used by golden eagles, but areas that still supply all the necessary requirements for good wind turbine “habitat”. For the image on left, the shade of the turbine site is the color of map where it is located – yellow being moderate risk to eagles, orange being high risk to eagles, and green obviously being low risk to eagles. This is where the study is progressive, the color green is low risk to eagles, but green is also high quality for turbine energy production. The study isn’t just pointing accusative fingers at the energy companies, it is helping to develop a solution that benefits both interests.

For the image on right, shifting turbine sites by a football’s length or two is all it takes to achieve a happy coexistence with both parties walking away happy. Obviously an overly simplistic conclusion to a study that took years to execute and with conservation recommendations that are easy to write and still difficult to execute, but the point still holds – wildlife science and wildlife management is (or at least should be!) practically effective in reconciling dynamics between human society and the natural world.

First Antlers of the 2015 Shed Hunting Season
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Cabin fever got the best of me, and even though I knew I’d be pushing around a good number of bucks still toting antlers, I went strolling in search of some early sheds anyways. No fresh sheds from this year, but definitely a successful walk.

I focused on a dried up slough area that is thick with cedars on the perimeter. Deep cut deer trails and plenty of droppings and lots of flagging deer tails. I was in a good spot, but alas, I do think it was a bit early for most of the fresh sheds.

But…I did not get skunked. My first find was from a pretty good distance.

A little closer…

And close up…I’d guess 125″. The pearling on his beams were still really sharp and there was traces of velvet at the end of the beams as well as in the deeper knurls of the bases. Given his proximity to the major creek in the area and the degree of decomposition, I’d put the blame on EHD. Time of death: mid-September?

On my loop back to the truck, I pulled an ancient 5 point side from the leaf litter. It was pretty chewed up but was a typical 4 point with a 1.5″ kicker off the base. I didn’t get a picture, but it was at least 2 years old, perhaps 3. Solid mass though and there was a section of beam that was still in good enough condition to make a cabinet pull.

Hopefully more to come!

Infolinks 2013