Good news: The drought is over

May 7, 2013 

I received some information last week I wasn’t sure I’d ever actually see again.

The South Carolina Drought Response Committee has declared that, after a long string of dry years, the drought is over. The committee downgraded the drought from “moderate” to “no drought” in 22 counties and from “incipient” status to “no drought” in the remaining.

“The committee usually avoids downgrading the drought two levels, but in today’s decision there was consistent and overwhelming support from all of the drought indicators combined with a high probability for above normal precipitation in the upcoming weeks,” said Chris Bickley, executive director of the Lowcountry Council of Governments and a representative of the West Drought Management Area, in late April.

I’d say that their indicators were spot on.

According to Hope Mizell, state climatologist, “most stations across the state reported 100 percent to 225 percent of normal rainfall over the past 60 days. The most important factor ending the drought, however, has been the state’s adequate rainfall for an extended five-month period, which coincided with the hydrologic recharge system.”

Our state hydrologist, Joe Gellici, also passed along news showing that normal to above-normal rainfall during what they term the “recharge season” has brought a big increase to stream flow conditions across the state.

As recently as December, 12 out of the 17 streams that are regularly monitored were still showing signs of severe or extreme drought and that’s no longer the case.

In fact, only one stream, the North Edisto, remains labeled as “incipient.”

Sounds like pretty good news to me.

Wanna be a ‘gator getter?’

If you have any interest in taking part in our state’s 2013 alligator hunting season, which opens noon Sept. 14 and runs until noon Oct. 12, the application for the required permit is available online.

Twelve hundred of the permits will be offered for public land gator hunts along the coastal plain, which is split into four management units. The allocation calls for 300 permits in each and those applying may opt to be considered for a specific unit or all of them.

The permit is good only for the specific unit awarded.

During our state’s fairly recent addition of an alligator season, hunters are only allowed to take a gator that’s 4 feet or longer and the animal must be tagged upon harvest with the supplied tag.

Hunters going after alligators need to also understand how it’s done. Unlike most all other forms of hunting, gators must be brought boat-side or onto land with approved equipment before being shot. In other words, you don’t simply see an alligator that you’d like, take aim and pull the trigger.

It’s for this reason that our Department of Natural Resources conducts a series of optional seminars for hunters who have drawn permits. These events include vital information on how to not only have a successful hunt but how it’s done properly and legally.

Visit DNR’s website at www.dnr.sc.gov to obtain the online application. The deadline for applying is June 15.

A $10 non-refundable application fee is required for a public land permit and it’s upped to $15 if you wish to put in for one of the Wildlife Management Area hunts.

The selections are made via a randomized computer drawing. Those chosen must then pay a $100 fee to take possession of the tag and permit.

DNR reminds us about fawns

This time of year it’s actually quite common for people wandering around the woods to come across very young deer fawns in the woods. State biologists say leave the fawns alone.

“Many people who come upon a solitary spotted fawn in the woods or along a roadway mistakenly assume the animal has been deserted by its mother and want to take the apparently helpless creature home to care for it,” said Charles Ruth, deer/turkey project coordinator for the state DNR.

“Young fawns like this have not been abandoned but are still in the care of the doe,” he said.

These fawns are typically born in April, May and June and won’t begin moving around with the doe for several weeks after birth. During this time, their innate instinct is to “hide” by staying still and allowing their natural spotted camouflage to work for them.

“It’s part of nature’s plan for a doe deer to leave her fawn or fawns alone (during the day) for the first few weeks of life,” Ruth added. “The reason for this unusual maternal action is that the fawn at this age is better protected away from the doe. The presence of the doe nearby would attract predators because the doe lacks the protective coloration of the fawn, and the older and larger doe has a much stronger odor.”

Every year the DNR receives tons of calls from well-intentioned folks wishing to report a “lost” deer that they have taken in. This action is illegal and those found taking a fawn home are presented with the same charge as someone hunting outside of the season and taking a deer.

Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at www.bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter @BHarveyOutdoors

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