Keeping Your Lawn From Bugging You

  • There's a movement to stop using pesticides and sprays on your lawn. (Photo courtesy of Horia Varlan CC-BY)

A lot of us have a love-hate relationship with our lawns. We love them when they’re lush. We hate them when they’re full of dandelions and dead patches. It’s easy to have someone come out and spray pesticides to take care of weeds and bugs. But some people say it’s not necessary and could do more harm than good. Rebecca Williams reports:

Transcript

A lot of us have a love-hate relationship with our lawns. We love them when they’re lush. We hate them when they’re full of dandelions and
dead patches. It’s easy to have someone come out and spray pesticides to take care of weeds and bugs. But some people say it’s not necessary and could
do more harm than good. Rebecca Williams reports:

So, you might be using pesticides on your lawn right now. And of
course, the pesticide industry says that’s okay.

The industry says the chemicals are safe to use on the lawn if you use
them correctly.

Alan James is president of Responsible Industry for a Sound
Environment, or RISE. It’s a trade group for pesticide companies.

“If individuals or professional applicators read the labels and follow
labels, the likelihood of misuse of pesticides is virtually zero because the
labels provide all the information a consumer or professional needs to
apply products both efficiently and safely.”

But the problem is, not everybody reads the label.

Alan James says if you’re hiring someone to spray your lawn you should
make sure they’re certified and insured. You should also take your kids’
and pet’s toys off the lawn before they spray.

But a lot of people say there’s no point in using chemicals just to make
your lawn look good.

Jay Feldman is with the group Beyond Pesticides. He says of the 30
most common lawn pesticides, most of them are suspected by the
Environmental Protection Agency to cause cancer, birth defects or other health problems.

“There’s a range of adverse effects that are indicated as a part of the
pesticide registration program at EPA. EPA knows this information.
Why not remove pesticides from the equation, especially in light of the
fact that they’re not really necessary?”

There’s a movement to stop using pesticides in North America. Both
Ontario and Quebec have banned the sale and cosmetic use of
pesticides.

So if you’re not going to use pesticides, what do you do?

That’s a question Kevin Frank gets a lot. He’s an extension agent at
Michigan State University and an expert on lawns.

“I love to mow my lawn on the weekends because nobody can call me on
the phone or email me with questions.”

He’s been showing me green, healthy test plots of grass and some that
look sad and neglected. The scientists here have been working to find
ways to have good-looking lawns without a lot of chemicals.

Back in his office, Kevin Frank says he tells people they shouldn’t be
afraid to experiment.

“Do you have it in you to let it go for one season and see what happens?
And it could be ugly, so you’ve got to be prepared for that!”

He says a healthy, dense lawn is actually really good at fighting off
weeds and pests all on its own. So, how do you get a healthy, dense lawn
without a lot of chemicals? Frank says it might take a couple years to get
there. And it means going against conventional lawn advice.

“We’ve done a great deal of research here at Michigan State that runs
contrary to what I call ‘turf dogma’. You know: water deeply and
infrequently – and we’ve shown if you do it on a more frequent basis you
end up with a healthier plan overall.”

He recommends watering lightly – just 10 minutes – every day instead
of soaking the lawn once a week. Frank says it’s also good to fertilize
twice a year, use a mulch mower, and mow high instead of giving the
grass a buzz cut.

He says that could make your lawn so healthy, it might mean you won’t
need to spray or hire someone to spray your lawn.

He says the biggest adjustment in reducing pesticide use is managing
your expectations, and deciding how many weeds and bugs you can live
with.

For The Environment Report, I’m Rebecca Williams.

Related Links

City Chickens and Urban Eggs

  • Linda Nellet brought a few of her birds to a backyard-chicken seminar in Chicago. She and other seasoned urban chicken keepers hope to keep chicken-raising legal and neighborly in their tight, urban landscape. (Photo by Shawn Allee)

Maybe it’s easy to imagine chickens
cooing and clucking on American farms, but
how about in big-city backyards? Well,
keeping chickens is legal in the nation’s
three largest cities, but in one of them,
chicken-lovers nearly lost that right.
Shawn Allee tells how some urban
chicken-keepers were nearly caught off guard,
and how they plan to keep their chickens in
the coop:

Transcript

Maybe it’s easy to imagine chickens
cooing and clucking on American farms, but
how about in big-city backyards? Well,
keeping chickens is legal in the nation’s
three largest cities, but in one of them,
chicken-lovers nearly lost that right.
Shawn Allee tells how some urban
chicken-keepers were nearly caught off guard,
and how they plan to keep their chickens in
the coop:

No one’s sure how many chickens are in Chicago’s backyards. But honestly, few people
thought about it until last year.

That’s when one woman showed up at a city hearing.

“Hi. My name is Edie Cavanaugh, and I’ve lived in Chicago, since 1968.”

Cavanaugh told aldermen she’d caught messy, noisy chickens clucking around her
neighborhood.

She was stunned the city wouldn’t round them up.

“I was told chickens are permitted as pets in Chicago, and I said that’s impossible,
this is a city.”

Cavanaugh’s story ruffled plenty of feathers.

You see, even some aldermen didn’t know that keeping chickens as pets or for eggs in
Chicago is okay.

“I was riding down the street, and I seen a rooster. I was like, ‘What is this?’”

For a month, it seemed Chicago’s city council would ban chicken-keeping.

People who already had chickens worried their birds were destined for the stew pot.

But Chicago aldermen kept chicken-raising legal.

Chicago’s pro-chicken contingent saw the fight as a wake-up call. Some figured, if they
wanted to keep birds, they’d better police themselves.

“So, welcome everybody for coming to the first-ever Chicago backyard Chicken
workshop.”

Martha Boyd is starting seminars about urban chickens.

She’s part of the Angelic Organics Learning Center, a group that promotes urban
agriculture.

Boyd is confident city-people can raise more of their own food if they’re neighborly
about it.

“So the idea of the backyard chicken workshop is so we can have this thing grow
without creating more problems and potentially, then, having the backlash to the
backyard chickens.”

For this first seminar, Boyd invited chicken-raising veterans to a church basement.

One is Tom Rosenfeld.

His advice to urban chicken lovers? Talk to your neighbors. And, hey, if they cringe, get
creative.

“It also helps to bribe them, because if they think they’re going to get some eggs out
of the deal or they think they’re kids come over and pet them or whatever, then of
course they’ll be a little more understanding when one day you leave the door open
and there’re chickens running around the yard or other issues.”

Rosenfeld says those ‘other issues’ arise pretty quickly. In fact, just a few hours after
chickens eat.

“A lot about chicken keeping is about poop because they do it a lot. They do it in
surprisingly large quantities at a time.”

Rosenfeld says you can literally get ankle deep in the stuff if you’re not vigilant.

But bribery helps here, too. Rosenfeld says chicken poop makes excellent garden
compost.

“Our neighbors love it. They’ll come by with a bucket and that’s their way of
participating.”

Rosenfeld says the last issue that ticks off neighbors is noise.

There’s no such thing as a chicken muzzle, but there’s still a solution – and there’s no
bribe necessary.

You see, male chickens are the noisy bunch, so if you just want eggs…

“You don’t need a rooster. It’s a sad reality as a male chicken keeper to realize that
roosters aren’t necessary. They’re only necessary if you want chicks.”

Rosenfeld says urban chicken-raising could catch on where it’s legal – if people keep a lid
on noise and smells.

As for places where it’s not legal?

You might want to change the law at city hall – just don’t try to bribe your alderman with
fresh eggs.

For The Environment Report, I’m Shawn Allee.

Related Links

Kittens and Climate Change

  • Climate change is making cats' breeding season longer, resulting in more kittens taken to shelters (Photo courtesy of the US Humane Society)

Every year between three to four million
dogs and cats in the US are euthanized in
shelters. That’s according to the American
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
That’s because no one will take them in. Kavitha
Cardoza reports the
warmer temperatures caused by climate change are
making the problem of too many cats worse:

Transcript

Every year between three to four million
dogs and cats in the US are euthanized in
shelters. That’s according to the American
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
That’s because no one will take them in. Kavitha
Cardoza reports the
warmer temperatures caused by climate change are
making the problem of too many cats worse:

It takes just one cc of sodium pentobarbital and a few seconds to turn this…

(sound of cat mewing)

into this…

(silence)

Each year about twice as many cats as dogs are killed.

(sound of dogs barking)

At the Washington Humane Society Shelter there’s a large whiteboard with instructions
scrawled on it. Kittens “Rice and Gravy” need socializing. The dog Clint Eastwood
does not like other dogs.

Some animals are put down because they have medical problems. Others because
they’re aggressive. But, the main reason is there are just too many of animals and not
enough homes willing to adopt them.

It’s a year round problem, but Spring – around April, begins what’s called the “kitten
season.” Michelle Otis, head of the shelter, says that’s been changing.

“We’re finding that starts earlier every year with the climate change. We’re starting to
see large litters come in as early as February now.”

That would start to slow down in September, but now with warmer winters, it’s
continuing until December.

Otis says on a busy day they get what she calls “an avalanche” of kittens – about 100 a
day – some weighing less than a pound with their eyes still closed.

No one at this shelter wants to euthanize more kittens or puppies.

The only solution they see is to get more people to spay or neuter their pets. But that’s
not easy.

(sound of Jeep stopping and door closing)

Paul Hibler is an animal control officer in Montgomery County Maryland. He’s
responding to a complaint call.

(knocking on door)

Officer: “Hi is victor home?”

Lady: “He’s working.”

Officer: “Does he still have dogs?”

While he waits to get the owner on the phone, Hibler walks to the backyard and points
out the 6 large pups crowded in a small space. They’ve all got “cherry eye” or a red
inflammation of the eyelid.

“This is typical of someone who doesn’t understand the importance of spaying and
neutering. I think he just assumed well if the dog became pregnant she’ll have a couple
of pups and ill be able to find homes for them. And lo and behold she had 10 times the
number he thought.”

Hibler says overpopulation could easily be controlled if people would spay and neuter
their pets.

There are many reasons why pet owners don’t get their pets ‘fixed’. Often it’s the cost.
Sometimes they don’t know where to go. But it’s also myths people believe, such as
“my pet will become fat” or “not as affectionate.”

There are some owners who come to the shelter again and again with litter after litter.
That’s despite offers to spay their pets for free. It’s a huge financial burden for shelters.
And it’s an emotional burden for the people who work there.

Diana Foley at the Washington Humane Society says no matter how many times she’s
been present when an animal is euthanized, it’s never gets easier.

“Each time that you’re faced with that decision, and you’re in that moment, and you’re
thinking how can you make him have a good end. And you’re petting them and holding
them and kissing them and touching them, talking to them and you’re saying how can
you make that animal’s last moments peaceful.”

And with climate change making the breeding season longer, the animal shelter workers
are finding their spending even more “last moments” with unwanted animals.

For The Environment Report, I’m Kavitha Cardoza.

Related Links

Keeping Your Lawn From Bugging You

  • There's a movement to stop using pesticides and sprays on your lawn (Photo by Ilja Wanka)

A lot of us have a love-hate relationship
with our lawns. We love them when they’re lush.
We hate them when they’re full of dandelions and
dead patches. It’s easy to have someone come out
and spray pesticides to take care of weeds and bugs.
But some people say it’s not necessary and could
do more harm than good. Rebecca Williams reports:

Transcript

A lot of us have a love-hate relationship
with our lawns. We love them when they’re lush.
We hate them when they’re full of dandelions and
dead patches. It’s easy to have someone come out
and spray pesticides to take care of weeds and bugs.
But some people say it’s not necessary and could
do more harm than good. Rebecca Williams reports:

So, you might be using pesticides on your lawn right now. And of
course, the pesticide industry says that’s okay.

The industry says the chemicals are safe to use on the lawn if you use
them correctly.

Alan James is president of Responsible Industry for a Sound
Environment, or RISE. It’s a trade group for pesticide companies.

“If individuals or professional applicators read the labels and follow
labels, the likelihood of misuse of pesticides is virtually zero because the
labels provide all the information a consumer or professional needs to
apply products both efficiently and safely.”

But the problem is, not everybody reads the label.

Alan James says if you’re hiring someone to spray your lawn you should
make sure they’re certified and insured. You should also take your kids’
and pet’s toys off the lawn before they spray.

But a lot of people say there’s no point in using chemicals just to make
your lawn look good.

Jay Feldman is with the group Beyond Pesticides. He says of the 30
most common lawn pesticides, most of them are suspected by the
Environmental Protection Agency to cause cancer, birth defects or other health problems.

“There’s a range of adverse effects that are indicated as a part of the
pesticide registration program at EPA. EPA knows this information.
Why not remove pesticides from the equation, especially in light of the
fact that they’re not really necessary?”

There’s a movement to stop using pesticides in North America. Both
Ontario and Quebec have banned the sale and cosmetic use of
pesticides. And Home Depot in Canada recently said it will stop selling
traditional pesticides all together by the end of the year.

So if you’re not going to use pesticides, what do you do?

That’s a question Kevin Frank gets a lot. He’s an extension agent at
Michigan State University and an expert on lawns.

“I love to mow my lawn on the weekends because nobody can call me on
the phone or email me with questions.”

He’s been showing me green, healthy test plots of grass and some that
look sad and neglected. The scientists here have been working to find
ways to have good-looking lawns without a lot of chemicals.

Back in his office, Kevin Frank says he tells people they shouldn’t be
afraid to experiment.

“Do you have it in you to let it go for one season and see what happens?
And it could be ugly, so you’ve got to be prepared for that!”

He says a healthy, dense lawn is actually really good at fighting off
weeds and pests all on its own. So, how do you get a healthy, dense lawn
without a lot of chemicals? Frank says it might take a couple years to get
there. And it means going against conventional lawn advice.

“We’ve done a great deal of research here at Michigan State that runs
contrary to what I call ‘turf dogma’. You know: water deeply and
infrequently – and we’ve shown if you do it on a more frequent basis you
end up with a healthier plan overall.”

He recommends watering lightly – just 10 minutes – every day instead
of soaking the lawn once a week. Frank says it’s also good to fertilize
twice a year, use a mulch mower, and mow high instead of giving the
grass a buzz cut.

He says that could make your lawn so healthy, it might mean you won’t
need to spray or hire someone to spray your lawn.

He says the biggest adjustment in reducing pesticide use is managing
your expectations, and deciding how many weeds and bugs you can live
with.

For The Environment Report, I’m Rebecca Williams.

Related Links

Allergies: Are We Too Clean?

  • This label on a package of cookies has six foods of the Big Eight. Over 90 percent of food allergies are caused by just eight foods: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts such as almonds, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. (Photo by Lester Graham)

Doctors say problems with allergies are
increasing. Up to 30% of Americans are
allergic to something. Rebecca Williams reports
doctors are trying to figure out why allergies are
on the rise:

Transcript

Doctors say problems with allergies are
increasing. Up to 30% of Americans are
allergic to something. Rebecca Williams reports
doctors are trying to figure out why allergies are
on the rise:

Micaela Keller is ten years old. Her world is full of things that might
make her sick.

“I’m allergic to pollen, ragweed, anything in the daisy family, nuts, all
nuts, dairy, soy, cats and grass.”

Food allergies are usually the worst allergies. Micaela says she knows
right away if she accidentally eats something she’s allergic to.

“When I have soy I will get really itchy and might get red in the face. My
lips might start swelling up or something.”

In the worst cases… allergic reactions can make it hard to breathe.
Sometimes, your airways can shut down, your blood pressure can drop and you
can die.

Experts say cases of food allergies have doubled over the past 10 years.
Kids have seen the highest increases. But no one knows exactly why.

Dr. Marc McMorris treats kids’ allergies. He’s in charge of the Food
Allergy Clinic at the University of Michigan.

He says our immune systems are so complex that there’s probably not a simple
explanation. He says there are probably at least three different things
going on.

First, allergies run in families. If both parents have allergies, there’s a
70 to 80% chance their child will have allergies.

Second, there’s the way we process food in this country. Take peanuts for
example. Dr. McMorris says dry roasting peanuts makes them more likely to
cause reactions.

Then… there’s the third thing and it’s really causing a lot of debate.
It’s called the hygiene hypothesis. The idea is: we might be too clean for
our own good.

“The immune system is put there for survival, to fight
bacteria, viruses and parasites and that type of thing and in the last 50 to 80
years we’ve had antibiotics, vaccines and a much cleaner world, and if the
immune system doesn’t have to worry about those issues as much it’s going to
find something else to do.”

So… instead of constantly fighting off bacteria… the immune system
thinks something as harmless as a peanut butter sandwich… is going to hurt
the body. So the immune system treats the peanut butter like an invader.

Dr. McMorris says there’s evidence that the more germs you’re exposed to
early in life, the less likely you are to have allergies. He says it
doesn’t make sense to go back to a dirtier lifestyle. But he says we should
be careful about some things… like not over-using antibiotics and harsh
antibacterial soaps.

He also says being exposed to some kinds of bacteria might help. He says
there’s evidence that having pets in the house might make you less likely to
develop allergies.

“The data for pets would say if you have three or more cats or dogs within a
household that you have a lower risk for allergies.”

That’s because you’re exposed to a certain bacteria animals carry. It might
help your system fight off allergies.

But Dr. McMorris says it’s not a good idea to rush out and get a litter of
kittens if you already have allergies in the family. That could make the
problem a lot worse.

Remember Micaela, the girl with all the allergies? Her mom thinks having
pets in the house does help.

(Joy to dogs: “Say hi. High five!” dogs bark)

Joy Keller says her kids have grown up with dogs. They’ve been tested and
it turns out they’re not allergic. So their doctor said they should keep
the dogs. Keller says they just have to vacuum more often.

“We’ve been told right from the beginning, keep where they sleep clean but
don’t be obsessive about cleaning, they have to live in this world and so
the world is not a sterile place.”

The world is not a sterile place. But maybe… we’re trying to make it a
little too sterile.

For the Environment Report, I’m Rebecca Williams.

Related Links

Commentary – Learning From Dog Culture

  • Kyle's dog, Lucy, playing on a tennis court. (Photo by Patrick Sweeney)

For most people – meeting a stranger on the street isn’t something that conjures up the warm fuzzies, but if the stranger happens to be a cute dog that’s a little different. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator and new dog owner Kyle Norris wonders why this is:

Transcript

For most people – meeting a stranger on the street isn’t something that
conjures up the warm fuzzies, but if the stranger happens to be a cute dog
that’s a little different. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s commentator
and new dog owner Kyle Norris wonders why this is:


At age 30, I’m new to dog culture. Growing up my dad was pretty much
allergic to everything with fur. My childhood pets were goldfish, Lizzy the
lizard, and a tiny turtle we found in a neighbor’s pond. Lucy’s the first real
pet I’ve ever owned.


Lucy is 100-percent mutt. When I first saw her last year, my heart melted
into a puddle. She was this trembling little fur-ball with deep-brown,
gumdrop eyes. In the past year, she’s grown into a sweet, skinny, medium-
sized pup.


The thing that struck me the most as a new dog-owner was the way
strangers responded to her.


This summer I was walking Lucy through a campground with my girlfriend. We passed a
man in a lawn-chair, clutching a cold one. He looked up, “That’s a good-
looking dog you got there, lady.”


Compliments like that are small potatoes for Lucy. Another time, my
girlfriend and I were walking the pup downtown. We passed a fancy
restaurant with sidewalk tables. Suddenly this glamorous-looking woman
cried out-loud. “Well hell-o gorgeous!” It caught me off-guard. I thought
she was talking to me. For that frozen moment of time, I felt slick, and then I
watched her bend down and nuzzle Lucy’s face.


People pour their love on Lucy like butter. “Love” might not be the right
word. Maybe it’s adoration or a combination of warm gooey feelings.
Whatever it is, these people open a floodgate inside themselves, and they
do it in a way that they’d never do with human strangers.


Maybe it’s easier to open-up to creatures. The dog on the street wants very
little from us, and that is refreshing.


Sometimes the dog-walker can use this point to their advantage. On
weekends, my sister used to borrow Lucy with the hope of meeting guys.
They would walk into the heart of downtown, where things were buzzing
with foot traffic. They’d loop the main drag and then hit the smaller side
streets.


It didn’t take long until my sister became frustrated. Potential boyfriends
didn’t even notice the pup. Instead, sorority girls, couples, and families
threw themselves at Lucy—not exactly the crowd she was going for.


My sister has this theory about why people open-up to animals and not each
other. She says, “Animals are free love tied to the end of a string.”


At first, I felt funny when people gave Lucy their “love-fests.” I was on
the receiving end of their attention but I wasn’t really the recipient. Now I
appreciate their interactions for what they are—good intentions released
into the world.


I know the ability to open our hearts in us. I experience it through Lucy
every day. I just wonder why we can’t be this open and generous with one-
another. Or maybe we could. If we were cuter, fuzzier, and didn’t talk so
much.


Host Tag: Kyle Norris is a freelance writer, who lives with her puppy in Ann Arbor,
Michigan.

Bill Aims to Slow Spread of New Invasives

  • A new bill aims to prevent new invasive species from entering our country. (Photo courtesy of USGS)

Many states are asking the federal government to take a new approach in fighting aquatic invasive species. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shawn Allee has more:

Transcript

Many states are asking the federal government to take a new approach in fighting aquatic invasive species. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shawn Allee has more.


Currently, federal agencies try to control invasive species after they start disrupting ecosystems in U.S. waterways.


But now the U.S. Senate is considering a measure that calls for testing species for potential harm before they’re allowed into the country. Allegra Cangelosi is with the Northeast Midwest Institute, a regional advocacy group.


“Believe it or not, the door’s been wide open. So anybody in any state, unless the state has a law, can make a decision to bring a new organism to our waters, cultivate it, let it get loose and do whatever.”


If passed, the law would put new restrictions on the pet industry. Federal agencies would decide whether it’s too risky to import a specific fish or other aquativ species. The act would also beef up inspections of ships that might carry invasive pests.


For the GLRC, I’m Shawn Allee.

Related Links

Invasive Fish Rears Ugly Head in Great Lakes

  • With its ability to breathe out of water and wriggle its way over land during dry spells, the media has dubbed the northern snakehead "Frankenfish." Its appearance in Lake Michigan is scary to scientists. (Photo courtesy of USGS)

A few weeks ago, a Chicago fisherman caused a stir when he found a northern snakehead fish. The discovery set off a frantic search to find out if yet another invasive species is threatening the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jenny Lawton has this report:

Transcript

A few weeks ago, a Chicago fisherman caused a stir when he found a northern snakehead fish. The find set off a frantic search to find out if yet another invasive species is threatening the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jenny Lawton has this report:


Just before Halloween, the so-called Frankenfish reared its ugly head… filled with sharp teeth… in Chicago’s Burnham Harbor on Lake Michigan. And it’s still a mystery as to just how it got there.


Although the snakehead is arare item in some Asian cuisines, there’s a more common suspicion amongst local experts and hobbyists. That snakehead was probably a pet that outgrew its tank, and instead of the traditional farewell down the toilet, it was set free in Lake Michigan. Free to eat through the Lake’s food web.


Local pet store manager Edwin Cerna says that’s why he stopped selling the fish years before they were banned by U.S. Fish and Wildlife. He remembers one day, when he was adjusting a tank, he accidentally got in between a snakehead’s lunch and its mouth.


“He bit me in the hand… made me bleed. It hurts. It’s got a nice strong jaw and that’s why it’s so dangerous because it can kill big fish, literally cut them in half. It’s almost like a big old killer whale, like a miniature version of it.”


But why on earth would anybody buy a vicious fish that can grow up to three feet long in the first place? Jim Robinett is with the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. He says he’s a fish geek.


“I gotta say, as a little fish, when you first buy them, they’re really attractive; they’re neat little animals, but they eat like crazy. They’re voracious.”


Robinett knows not to be fooled by the little guys because what happens next is the perfect plot for a B-horror movie. He says the snakehead fish grows quickly, eventually eating everything in its tank. If it doesn’t die from overgrowing that tank, its owner might be tempted to dump it into a nearby body of water where it will keep eating its way up the food chain. Robinett says that’s the fear in Lake Michigan.


“They could potentially start picking off small salmon and lake trout, which is native to these waters here, they’re not real discriminating, they’ve been known to take things as large as frogs, some small birds, even small mammals that happen to get in the way there close to shore. They’ll eat anything they get their mouth on.”


Most hobby fish don’t last long in Chicago’s cold water. But the northern snakehead is different. The snakehead is native to northern Asia, and the Lake Michigan Federation’s Cameron Davis says that makes the fish feel right at home around here.


“It’s a lot like us Midwesterners, it just kind of hunkers down and… that’s part of the problem with the snakehead is that it can live under very extreme conditions. Which means it’ll out compete those other fish, and that’s a tremendous problem.”


Snakeheads have another edge on other species. The fish guard their eggs, giving their young a better chance of reaching maturity. But perhaps the most peculiar thing about snakeheads is that they can breathe. In addition to its gills, they have an organ that works like a lung and allows it to breathe air. It’s able to live up to three days as it uses its fins to wriggle across land in search of another body of water.


But looking down into the murky waters at Burnham Harbor, Davis says we shouldn’t run screaming yet. It’s not exactly a horror film scenario.


“I don’t think that the snakehead is going to come and grab our children out of schools and eat them or anything like that. But it is a problem for those of us who like to fish for yellow perch and whitefish and some of the things that make the Great Lakes so fantatstic, could really be threatened by this fish getting into Lake Michigan.”


Other invasive species cause an estimated 137-billion dollars of losses and damages in U.S. waterways each year. Cameron Davis says simply banning the local sale of fish like snakeheads hasn’t been enough to keep the Great Lakes safe.


“We’ve got to stop imports of these kinds of fish into the United States. We can’t protect the Great Lakes unless we’re checking these things at the door when they come into the country. It’s that simple.”


Davis is pushing for the passage of the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act. The bill would allocate a total of 174-million dollars to develop new technology for identifying and eliminating the invaders if and when they arrive.


So far, local authorities ahven’t found another snakehead near the banks of Lake Michigan, but Cameron Davis says the initial find just proves how hard it is to regulate what comes into the country’s largest body of fresh water.


Standing on the dock at Burnham Harbor, Davis looks out over the dark waters and shakes his head.


“It’s just an indicator that we’re in a race against time right now. Let’s hope that if there are more than one out there, that they haven’t hooked up.”


If they have, he says, it could truly be the stuff horror movies are made of… at least, for the other fish in the Great Lakes.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Jenny Lawton in Chicago.

Related Links

Trapping Laws Come Under Fire

Trapping is still a popular past time in the northern half of the
country. Mostly trappers are looking for beavers, raccoons and
muskrats.
But every year, a small number of household pets are caught as well.
As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports, one pet
owner
is fighting to change that:

Transcript

Trapping is still a popular pastime in the northern half of the country. Mostly, trappers are

looking for beavers, raccoons, and muskrats. But every year, a small number fo household pets are

caught as well. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports, one pet owner is

fighting to change that.


Valentine was Meg Massaro’s best friend. She was a black and brown boxer. And, at one time, a

mangy stray. Massaro found her on the side of the road and nursed her back to health. The two

became inseperable. Then, on a cold January morning, they went for a run on a local bike path.


“So I let her off the leash. She bounded happily in front of me for about thirty seconds. The next

thing I know I heard her screaming and I jumped in after her and she was sailing through the air

with a bucket over her head. I took the bucket off her head and there was a trap and I said to my

husband, ‘What is it?’ She kept looking at me, pleadingly her eyes were just getting bigger and

bigger. She couldn’t breathe. And animal control with the help of police were finally able to get

it off. It was about an hour and a half that she was in the trap. Of course, by that time, she was

long gone. It was gruesome, very grisly.”


The trap was about fifty feet from this bike path just outside of Albany, New York. Massaro

remembers thinking this had to be illegal. It’s an area with playgrounds and picnic benches. So,

she called New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, and found out the trap was legally

set.


“They were really like, ‘Well what do you want us to do, lady?’ And I said, ‘I want you to go out

and see if there are any more traps and if there are, I want you to remove them.’ And the guy

said, ‘We wouldn’t be able to do that.’ So I just said, ‘Thank you very much,’ and hung up the and

I thought, ‘This is war.'”


Massaro started calling newspapers. She circulated a petition with thousands of names. And she

began lobbying – full time – to get traps out of residential areas.


“I can’t imagine that anyone wants traps near their home, near where their kids play, near where

their dogs are walking; it doesn’t make any sense to allow that.”


Albany County legislator Paulette Barletti talked to Massaro over the phone after the incident.

But she wasn’t sure it was an issue she wanted to adopt. Then, she saw photographs the police took

after Valentine’s death.


“I was actually horrified. And the first thing that came to my mind was, good grief, this could be

a child.”


Barletti introduced legislation to ban trapping on state or private land. That’s because New York,

like most states, regulates trapping on the state level. Traps can be set on most state land and

on private land with permission of the landowner.


Gordon Batcheller runs New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation’s trapping program. He

says trappers often serve as their eyes and ears in the field.


“Trapping is actually very hard, it’s hard work and it takes a lot of skills. Studies have shown

that trappers, of all outdoor users, have the highest level of all wildlife biology. They’re

extremely knowledgeable about animals. They can tell us what’s going on out there and we really

value what they tell us because they’re knowledgeable and they see things.”


Batcheller says the majority of trappers are extremely careful about where they set their traps.

And there aren’t too many pets being caught. but Batcheller says it’s clear that in those cases,

the trapper made a mistake.


“In the incidents that we’ve evaluated, the traps simply should not have been set where they were

set. Even though it was legal, poor judgement was used in those instances and experienced trappers

that look at these cases, they shake their heads and say why did they do that.”


Now, thanks in part to Meg Massaro’s campaign, Batcheller is trying to find a compromise. He’s

come up with new recommendations. They’d require trappers to move traps off the ground and onto

stands and trees where dogs can’t reach them. And, he’s proposing tougher restrictions near roads

and bike paths. Batcheller hopes the recommendations will be in place by next fall. But Meg

Massaro says it’s not enough. She’s lobbying for local control so counties can make their own

decisions about trapping. And she wants traps banned from recreational areas. But mostly, she

wants to make sure that this never happens to someone’s dog again.


“When I drover her home that first time, tears were running down my cheks that day because I

couldn’t believe how abused this dog had been. And i promised, I said it out loud to her, no one

will ever hurt you again. And I lied. I didn’t mean to, but i lied and i can’t live with that. I

have to do something to compensate for that. She deserved better, and other people and their pets

deserve better.”


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly in Albany, New York.