By Jack McShane
Summer is about over and much has happened in our natural world here in Andes, a place that I appreciate more than ever after a trip down to a place where I was born and spent my early formative years: a place called Lawn Guyland as I pronounce it. We stayed two days and one night at a somewhat fancy hotel in Long Beach with a room on the 7th floor overlooking the boardwalk and the ocean where I honed my surfing and fishing skills. The salt air was refreshing and initiated much nostalgia and remembrances of memorable incidents both in and on the ocean. It wasn’t far off this beach, about 25 miles, that my son Kris and I caught, tagged and released a very large, and, as it turned out, a very pregnant female blue shark. Our target species was the best eating and spectacular fighting Mako shark, none taken. This on a Wednesday only to have the blue shark caught on the following Saturday by a boat participating in a shark tournament. The shark was killed and brought in, winning the tournament and $8,000. It had within it 54 pups, our tag in its back. NOAA fisheries officials took measurements, notes, pictures etc.
The best part of the story is that when about 25 years later as my son Kris was working in National Marine Fisheries Service and taking a class in species identification with about 30 others from all over the east coast down in NOAA headquarters in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, he raised his hand and asked the instructor to go back to the slide of the blue shark stating, “I know that shark.”
Well you can imagine the instructors look and that of the rest of the class. “Me and my dad caught, tagged and released that shark four days before it was killed and brought into a marina in Freeport, Long Island where your guys checked her, her 54 pups and our tag in its back. Silence. The instructor checked the print on an old index card and stated, “You are absolutely right!” Wow! Fond memory.
We tagged and released many sharks and other species over those years, one being a small, four-foot-long dusky shark which was caught two years later off the coast of Venezuela. All this made for important mind diversion during my hectic and often insane days in the NYPD, patrolling, trying to maintain peace and equilibrium on the chaotic streets of the upper west side of Manhattan during the 60’s and 70’s. I survived, thanks to many wonderful side adventures in the natural world.
The return trip to Andes from the traffic and over-development of Long Island was like a trip back to paradise, something I will remember for the rest of my days. Our open, forest-and field-lined, non-congested roads, a pleasure not to be forgotten and now even more appreciated.
Back to Andes: The very ugly snapping turtle, big momma, had her nest of eggs pilfered by either a skunk, raccoon or other predator. A total loss, but we must remember the predator must make her best effort to survive and possibly had young to nurture. This is how our natural world works: some are lucky, others are not.
After possibly saving that gray fox by honking my horn to get him to make a U-turn before he crossed the busy road, I was dismayed to see that a red fox had been hit and killed a few days later in the same general area. On a Sunday morning run into Margaretville to get my paper I spotted what I first thought were some small dead branches in the woods along the road, but they were moving and turned out to be the antlers of a still-in-velvet young buck that, if lucky, would become an eight or ten pointer. He was paralleling the road and appeared to be seeking a comfortable place to cross. A few hundred yards on there was a large camper moving fast toward that location, I put on my blinkers. It didn’t slow down, so all I could do was hope for the best. On my return trip no sign of a deer-camper collision. Maybe the driver heeded my blinker message and did slow down and become vigilant. Sadly we have had two bird window hits, one an Ovenbird that survived and an unidentified warbler that did not. As stated, some are lucky others are not and that goes for us as well. I know in life I am one of the former, having not yet hit the window.
An interesting note: On one of the days as I was watching our government soap opera on CNN while completing this article, the word Mako on the lower banner caught my eye. It turned out CNN was reporting that a Mako shark weighing 926 lbs. and 12 feet long had been caught off the New Jersey coast and was the largest ever caught there. Wow!~