Volume 15, Issue 8 ~ February 22 - February 28, 2007

Way Downstream

In Anne Arundel County, septic users will flush greener as the county helps buy pricey nitrogen-reducing units for septic systems. The upgrade will curb each home’s release of algae-fueling nitrogen into Bay waters by half. Nitrogen is removed in two ways: by recirculating some treated sewage through the system and by injecting oxygen into the waste. Homeowners apply through Anne Arundel County Department of Health for a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund, aka the Flush Tax.

For existing systems, the grants cover all costs of adding the nitrogen-busting unit, though the grant drops to 50 percent for homes upgrading to build additions. Highest priority goes to systems within the Critical Area, within 1,000 feet of the Bay or its tributaries. Find out more from Anne Arundel’s Sanitary Engineering Program: 410-222-7193.

In Chesapeake Bay, the blue crab news is giving us the blues. The Bay Program reports from its surveys that the number of adult crabs in the Bay last year was just 57 percent of its goal, the 10th straight year it has fallen short. The Bay Program — which consists of the EPA and the states surrounding the Chesapeake — said it was good news that the crab harvest last year was low enough to conserve good breeding stock …

In Worcester County, the newest neighbors to move into Pocomoke State Forest could be six-foot-long northern pinesnakes. The shy pinesnake — the only species that burrows its own snake hole — slithered throughout Maryland forests, until habitat loss forced the docile reptiles out. Pinesnakes have been missing from Maryland since the 1930s, though one was found in Anne Arundel County last year (whether it’s native or a roaming pet remains a mystery).

Scientists hope this species — among others like elk, cougar and wolves that used to roam Chesapeake Country — might make a comeback like peregrine falcons that returned with human help in the 1950s. If Marylanders consent at citizen hearings in Towson and Worchester County, some 50 young snakes from the Pine Barrens in New Jersey will be re-introduced to the forest. “We’re trying to get a species that has disappeared from the state to become a component of our wildlife again,” says Glenn Therres, DNR’s associate director of endangered species.

From Ohio, a cautionary tale about how much we could have to pay if the Emerald Ash Borer jumps its Maryland quarantine and breaks loose from Prince George’s County. Costs of cutting ash trees in that early-infested state may rise to $3 billion. Nationwide, loss of the tree that provides two percent of our shade cover can increase energy consumption, adding another straw to global warming, Plenty Magazine reports …

Our Creature Feature this week is a triple feature from National Geographic’s treasure trove of best animals over the past year. There was the case of the hippo and the 130-year-old tortoise at a Kenya game preserve that became inseparable pals. There was the strange-looking fox in North Carolina that some folks called a Vampire Dog.

But our favorite was the tale of the Monster Rabbit stalking the U.K. village. When we read about it, we thought somebody had watched Wallace and Gromit’s The Curse of the Were-Rabbit too many times. Then we saw more reports of people in the tiny town of Felton, in northeast England, reporting giant paw prints and destroyed patches of carrots, onions and turnips.

“It’s a brute of a thing, absolutely massive,” said one local, inviting speculation that it could be related to Roberto the Rabbit, who also lives in Britain and who, at 35 pounds and 31⁄2 feet long, is believed to be the world’s largest bunny.

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