It looks like we dodged a bullet. Hopefully, we’ll be in position to dodge a fusillade headed our way in the future.
In early January, almost every fishermen who throws a live or soft-plastic shrimp in South Carolina’s coastal waters crossed his or her fingers when the “polar vortex” dipped down across North America and dropped temperatures into single digits across much of the Southeast. Our immediate thought was, “What about the specks?”
Speckled trout are something of a fragile species when it comes to temperature. When the water temperature drops into the high 40s, their metabolism slows way down. If the water reaches the mid- to low-40s, they become stressed and often die. The result is something biologists call a “cold-stun kill.”
South Carolina last experienced a cold-stun kill in the winter of 2011; it resulted in mortality that some SCDNR estimates put at around 80 percent. Fortunately, the past two mild winters have allowed the population to rebuild, and many fishermen bragged on this past fall as one of the best ever for specks.
It appears, several days after the polar vortex headed back to the north pole, that trout, by and large, survived the cold snap. However they did it, and if we don’t get another strong cold front this winter and the trout survive, we could be looking at a banner 2014 fishing season.
Fishermen can’t control cold fronts, but hopefully, they and other sportsmen can have something to say about hot spells. Last fall, the National Wildlife Federation released a 36-page report, “Nowhere to Run: Big Game Wildlife in a Warming World” that detailed how big game species across North America are already being affected by climate change.
Before the anti-global warming crowd gets up in arms, this report wasn’t written by pointy-headed liberal scientists from the Ivy League and other colleges that don’t have good football teams. Most of its authors are biologists in charge of state wildlife departments across the country or professors from southern schools whose teams have been in a lot of BCS bowl games.
It basically says that climate change is already affecting wildlife, and if it isn’t stopped or reversed, even laymen who don’t spend their lives studying deer, moose, elk and antelope are going to notice. In a nutshell, it said that longer, hotter summers are changing the habitat on which some big-game species depend, and some species are in for trouble in some areas.
Close to home, it predicts epizootic hemmorhagic disease will be more common among whitetail deer because the first frost that kills the insects that cause the disease will be showing up later. Also, deer ticks that cause lyme disease will to live longer into the fall, so that disease is liable to spread.
So wherever you stand on the global-warming issue, give it some thought. These are our people, our experts, calling for our help.