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It started out as a good news story – New Hampshire’s bobcat population is healthy and growing.

At one time, there was a bounty offered for bobcats in New Hampshire, and they were actively sought by hunters with dogs and trappers. Their numbers dwindled until 1989 the state fish and game people put an end to the practice.

Now, following a four-year study by researchers from the University of New Hampshire, the good news is Lynx Rufus has made a comeback.

The bad news is that the fish and game people are thinking about opening a trapping season for the bobcat. But why?

No firm numbers are available, but while the population is healthy, it’s not like they’re becoming a nuisance like coyote or deer. Also, bobcats are notoriously elusive, preferring rocky ledges, dense swamps, and young forests with dense underbrush.

Mostly they feed on rabbits and mice. So it’s not like they’re attacking pets or livestock.

But their pelts are valuable, and that’s the only reason trappers want them.

It’s a shame to think that these beautiful animals were able to make a comeback, only to wind up being worn by someone.

Hopefully the New Hampshire fish and game people will re-think this idea.

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A section of the North Central Pathway

Like so many places, I stumbled across this trail by accident.

I had been planning to snowshoe around the Crocker Pond Recreation Area in Westminster, Mass., but the parking lot hadn’t been plowed. There wasn’t a good place to park along to road, so I decided to go to the High Ridge sanctuary instead, took a wrong turn, then saw a sign for the North Central Pathway along Rte. 140 in Gardner.

I had heard of it, and knew that it had been proposed to develop a rail trail from Gardner to Winchendon. I didn’t know how much had been done. As it turned out, I had a pleasant afternoon snowshoeing along the trail with a few side trips to explore the woods around it. There were some snowmobile tracks, and a few cross country ski tracks.

I don’t know how far it goes, and current information, at least on the internet, is hard to come by. Much of what’s posted is outdated.

In any case, another trail well worth exploring.

After some 150 posts, it’s time for a change. When I started this blog, I only had a vague, general sense of what I wanted to write about. Looking back, the posts seem to fall into two main categories. There are the more or less outdoors/nature-based entries. Then there are the more newsy issues-oriented posts.

I like doing them both, but I’m going start a second blog, The Ecocryptic. That’s where you’ll find the issues pieces. I’m going to keep Perambulations for my nature ramblings.

Thanks for reading.

The Squannacook River in West Groton

I had planned to set out from West Groton to snowshoe along the old railroad bed that’s being proposed for a bike trail. Unfortunately it was tough going – lots of saplings had sprouted up, and older trees had fallen across it.

So, I decided to cut over to see what the Squannacook River looks like in the middle of winter. I was mildly surprised to find that it was completely frozen over, enough to bear snowmobiles in places. I found it exhilarating to be walking over a part of the river I had only been canoeing over.

This is definitely an area that deserves further exploration. There are some conservation lands along the way, but I’m going to have to do a bit of research to find the access points.

A group of interested citizens have been working quietly over the past few years to try to bring a stretch of abandoned railroad bed back to life. The 3.7-mile length under consideration runs from an area near Groton Depot to Townsend Center, along the Squannacook River, a very scenic area. Better yet, there’s plenty of potential to expand it at some later date, since the railbed runs up to Mason, NH. And the Nashua River Rail Trail is nearby for an easy connection.

For now, plans call for making it a stonedust trail, similar to the Mass Central Rail Trail. A nonprofit organization will be formed to find the necessary funding so that the two towns will not won’t be burdened with any of the costs.

Over the past several years, I’ve been taking full advantage of the existing rail trails here in New England, and there seems to be an ever-growing number. They’re great for a short, pleasant rid when time is short, or the one farther off make a great day-long destination.

The members of the Squannacook Rail Trail Committee deserve our gratitude, and our support. Visit their website at Squannacookriverrailtrail.org

Given the massive and sudden die-off of bats throughout the northeast, it makes sense for states to add the most vulnerable species to their endangered species list. Vermont is taking the first steps to do so, and it would great if other states would follow suit.

According to an article in the Burlington Free Press earlier this week, that state’s Endangered Species Committee made the recommendation to add both the Little Brown Bat and the Northern Long-eared Bat to the state list of endangered species. The decision is now up to Vermont’s Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz.

University of Vermont biologists say the state’s little brown bat population has dropped by 75% since white nose syndrome, a fungus that has been killing off the bats, first appeared five years ago. In the most recent survey, no northern long-eared bats were found in the state.

Simply listing the species isn’t the answer, of course, but it could have some beneficial effects. For one, it could draw public attention to the problem that might help promote volunteer efforts to protect and restore bat populations. Also, it would protect existing habitats against any disruptive development.

A group of Republicans in the New Hampshire statehouse are unhappy with the way the Suncook River is flowing these days. Their solution is to force it to flow back up to its original channel, which is, on average 10 to 15 feet higher than where it is now.

Normally, I would say that any half-wit knows water won’t flow uphill, but apparently not these half-wits. It’s probably only a coincidence that the Tea Party has gained a lot of support among the state’s Republicans.

According to an article in today’s Concord Monitor, the Suncook River flooded over its banks in 2006, and started to flow along a new channel in Epsom. It also cuts through a sandpit in the area, resulting in erosion and a build-up of silt farther downstream. That, in turn, is causing more frequent flooding in places that had not previously experienced any.

The price tag for the Republican “plan” – if you can call it that – is $7 million, in a state that’s already facing a $900 million budget deficit, and no one is willing to go out on a limb to say it will work. The best the proponents can say is “probably,” though there’s not a shred of technical information to back that up.

And it’s not as if the state’s ignoring the problem. The state Department of Environmental Services that would spend $850,000 to help control the erosion problem, and another $2 million along with federal matching monies to help buy up the flood-prone properties.

After the flooding in New Orleans, in the Midwest, and elsewhere in recent years, it seemed to me that people were beginning to learn that you simply can’t make a river go where it doesn’t want to. I’ve come across stories of neighborhoods, and even whole towns, relocating out of floodplains to higher ground. Too bad these guys don’t seem to have gotten the message. They still think they can “tame” nature.

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