Summer resident Jan McKnight has a great eye for finding things in nature. She found "Stump" the Beaver right in her own backyard. "Stump" really is a stump, the stump of an old birch tree. With the right lighting he truly resembles a gigantic beaver since Jan says he's almost ten feet tall! Thanks so much for sharing your new friend, Jan.
The island in early summer is spotted with a huge variety of wildflowers ranging from bright yellows to pale pinks with bright blue and chocolate brown mixed into the palate. It's a delight for the eyes.
Next time you're out for a walk, bike ride, drive take it slowly and savor the wonderful sights, sounds, and smells that are uniquely Beaver Island. You won't regret it.
BY FRED GRAY NEWS-REVIEW STAFF WRITER
Friday, June 16, 2006 1:04 PM EDT
Thousands of big, black, voracious migratory double-crested cormorants have arrived in the Beaver Island archipelago for their annual visit to feast on the islands' bait and game fish, crayfish and other tasty natural resources.
The cormorants are the ultimate in uninvited guests, birds that literally come for dinner and stay on for months, with the first few appearing Alfred Hitchcock-like in April and the rest coming in ever-increasing droves during the weeks that follow.
By mid-summer there will be an estimated 60,000 of them, counting their newly hatched youngsters, and most will stay through mid-November, making their homes on the reefs and islands that are free of coyotes and other natural predators.
The birds' acidic droppings denude trees and bushes, and create an environment that state Rep. Kevin Elsenheimer, R-Bellaire, described after a visit with top legislators last month as resembling a “virtual war zone.”
“The stink is just unapproachable, unimaginable,” said one member of the Beaver Island Wildlife Club, whose 200-strong membership blames the birds for destroying the islands' small mouth bass fishery that was once the envy of the world.
Club president Jeff Powers, who has a national reputation as a veterinarian and local renown as the political force that has drawn the state legislature's attention to the cormorant devastation on the islands.
The four legislators, who held hearings on the birds throughout the Michigan North over the last year, made their first stop on Beaver Island just last month, and have since passed legislation to add $150,000 to the state budget to help the federal and tribal agencies control the birds.
The Senate has removed the allocation from its budget bill, which is now in the House-Senate Committee for reconciliation over the summer.
Elsenheimer told the News-Review on Thursday that restoring the $150,000 for cormorant control to the budget is a priority item for House negotiators.
“Certainly the legislative intent was that the money be used for cormorant control and that at least some if not all of the money be used for cormorant control in the Beaver Island region,” he said.
In any event, Powers said that after the legislators flew over the birds' nests and breeding grounds, they said they were convinced of the need for cormorant control.
“They told me, ‘Thanks but we don't need to go for a boat ride.'”
Club member Steve West, executive director of the local chamber of commerce, said the hearings would not have taken place if Powers hadn't beat on legislators' doors and said, “We've got a problem here on Beaver Island.”
Powers said the Beaver Islands have the largest concentration of cormorants in the Great Lakes, a finding he attributed to the DNR's 2005 Double Crested Cormorant action plan. That document states that the cormorant population in the Beaver archipelago accounts for about 41 percent of the nesting colonies in Lake Michigan.
The club members joined a reporter and an Island Airways pilot last week for a long, low, slow flight over the archipelago that includes uninhabited Hog and Garden islands. The islands, and dozens of smaller islets and reefs, lie in shallow rocky waters a mile or two north of St. James and the main Beaver Island coast.
The sportsmen, who saw the northern waters for the first time from the air, remarked on the thousands of black dots below them that had taken over what had once been the perfect habitat for small mouth bass. At a pre-flight coffee hour the Islanders - many of them residents for 25 years and more - recalled how the bass fishery collapsed almost overnight in the late 1980s, coincident with the arrival of the cormorants.
And they sought to refute Department of Natural Resources (DNR) theories, particularly one the held that today's dearth of small mouth bass may have been caused by over-fishing. Powers says over-fishing was not a factor in the decline of bass.
The birds seem to be on the mind of most islanders, who number about 550 year round and 2,500 or 3,000 in the summer.
Lloyd Cochran, who lives on the east shore about half way down the 13-mile long, 38-mile perimeter main island, says the cormorants fly in front of his house daily in strings five miles long, going south from their nests to feed.
Lois Williams, a club member who lives nearby, sees them too.
“Only I call them ‘black necklaces,'” she says.
Her husband Joe Williams said the schools of alewives, the bait fish, also get smaller every year because of cormorant depredation.
He said most people now fish for Coho and Chinook salmon, but they are getting smaller too.
Each cormorant consumes between one and one and a half pounds of fish a day - fish the islanders would rather see in creels and coolers of their own and of the tourists that used to come by the hundreds every day on private charters from Harbor Springs and Charlevoix.
The group is well aware of the success that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services Division has had in controlling cormorants in Les Cheneaux Islands in the eastern Upper Peninsula over the past two years.
The efforts, which includes oiling eggs and shooting the birds under license and supervision, have reinvigorated the perch fisheries there, and the Beaver Islanders look forward to next year when the federal cormorant control program is expected to move to their territory.
But as of now, club members say no one is shooting cormorants on the island.
“Pete Butchko, Michigan director of the USDA Wildlife Services, told us at the township meeting: ‘We're making inroads. The depredation order is only good to 2009. Let's not ruin it. Let's not screw that up.' Butchko likes to use his own crew. He doesn't want vigilantes. We respect his request,” Powers said.
The Cedarville and Hessel area of the eastern UP is in the second year of the Wildlife Services cormorant control program.
“They started out by shooting 15 percent of the cormorants and now are up to 40 percent. And things are improving up in the area,” Powers said of the fisheries there.
A Different View...
Central Michigan University biologist Nancy Seefelt, who works at CMU's biological station on the island, says there is “no direct evidence that cormorants are adversely affecting any sports or commercial fishery, including the small mouth bass.”
In a letter published in the April 2006 issue of the Northern Islander, Seefelt wrote:
“It is true that cormorants are opportunistic predators, but research in the Beaver Archipelago and elsewhere has indicated that they tend to feed on schooling fishes, such as alewife, when these fish are available.
“There may be impacts on forage fish and indirect impacts on sport and commercial fish through competition for prey.”
“Researchers indicate that the lack of juvenile and sub-adult bass was the result of cormorant predation, but other potential factors such as changes in lake levels, the introduction of non-native species, and overfishing remain to be investigated.”
Powers responded that Seefelt's position that the cormorants are in balance with everything and are not harming the fisheries is, in a sense, true. “The cormorants got it down so there were no fish left, and so they are keeping it in balance,” he said.
About her position that there is no concrete evidence that cormorant predation caused the decline in the small mouth bass, West said:
“She's the only person in the world that believes that.”
The Walleye Fishery
While waiting for the federal government to bring its cormorant control program to the islands, the club members continue their program of building a walleye fishery, centered in the island's largest lake, Lake Geneserath.
Powers says the club has spent over $20,000 and hundreds of man-hours over eight years to build an artificial pond to grow walleye fry.
The DNR provides 25,000 fry each spring, of which 11,000 will grow to fingerling size of about an inch and a half long and ready to be transplanted to the lakes, beginning today.
It will take three years for the young walleyes to grow to game fish size - 15 inches or more, Powers said.
West says the incipient success of the walleye fishery is the under-reported outdoor sporting news story of the year.
“We probably have the distinction of having the worst devastation in all of the Great Lakes when it comes to bass fishing.
“But the walleye fishing in Lake Geneserath is getting really really good. The other lakes on the island are also good fishing. Last Sunday afternoon I went wading and bass fishing and caught nine largemouth bass between 1 1/2 and 3 pounds. I released them all.
“The fishing on the inland lakes is really exceptional, and few people know about it. And the Wildlife Club is on the way to making Lake Geneserath a world-class walleye lake. People have caught some big fish out of there.”
Powers said several research projects had concluded that the only way the small-mouth bass fishery will come back is if cormorant numbers are greatly reduced.
Help From the Tribe
The dozen or so members of the Grand Traverse Band of Odawa/Chippewa Indians who live on the island and fish off its shores have offered to help control the cormorants.
Tribal member Skip Duhamel, who sits on the tribe's conservation committee, says cormorants are “terrible things.”
He said the conservation committee has recommended to the tribal council that it initiate cormorant control with state and federal governments on the Beaver islands.
Duhamel says the tribe shuts down its fishing operations for three weeks in November when the whitefish come to spawn. But he said the cormorants stick around, rather than head south, to eat young whitefish.
“The tribe is interested in helping out here,” Powers says. “They are working with Butchko to get approval to work on some of the islands. They can take cormorants in open water now, but they can't go on an island and oil eggs.”
The groundbreaking for the Gregg Fellowship Center occurred on April 30th and already the outside of the building is almost completed. The long-time dream of the Beaver Island Christian Church is becoming a reality even faster than expected and plans are already in the making for summer events to be held within the building. From the first Easter morning service in a small motel room to the little log cabin, which was quickly out-grown, to the finished church the congregation has grown in leaps and bounds. A place was needed for meetings, receptions, etc. that didn't involve constantly changing the actual church into the gathering place but allowed it to remain a church. The saying, "if you build it, they will come" can be said for this building. Below is the site map with the blue rectangle representing the Fellowship Center.
AMVETS Post #46 has been placing flags on our veterans graves at both cemeteries for quite a few years. We do the best we can to make sure every veteran has a flag at their grave by Memorial Day. However, there very well could be people buried that we don't know were veterans.
If you happen to be at either Holy Cross Cemetery or the St. James Township Cemetery and notice a veteran's grave without a flag, please contact Brian and Dee Gallagher, who are members of AMVETS Post #46 and Auxiliary, and members of the Holy Cross Cemetery Committee.
For the kids there's T-Ball, Little League and Big League at the Ball Park on Monday and Tuesday (check the Community Calendar for times).
On Thursday there's a Field Trip and Open Beach Volleyball.
Saturday is the AMVETS USO Dance at Holy Cross Parish Hall. Dig through your closet and find a terrific outfit and head to the hop where you can do the Lindy, Charleston, or the Shag.