Spring squirrel season upon us

Published 11:43 am Tuesday, May 14, 2024

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If you thought the end of spring wild turkey season marks the end of hunting until September rolls around, you’re wrong.

Hunters were back in the woods May 13 for two weeks of the state’s second spring squirrel season, allowed through May 27 on private lands only. Hunters can take a daily limit of 8 squirrels; no season limit.

The season was largely overlooked when it was implemented last year in an effort to give hunters more time in the woods at a time when squirrel populations are at their highest levels.

Besides North Carolina, 10 states have spring squirrel seasons: Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia.

Spring squirrel seasons were closed years ago to improve fall seasons. Studies by wildlife agencies discovered that squirrels can be hunted in the spring without endangering populations as long as seasons are timed with the peak in squirrel numbers after the year’s first nesting period and before the second breeding period. As usual, finding food sources is the key, because they concentrate squirrels. That’s a positive and a negative, because the foods that most squirrels are eating during the usual fall seasonare unavailable in May. But finding budding trees that squirrels like (my Mississippi connections say budding mulberry trees are squirrel magnets) is a guarantee for success.

Squirrels will likely be foraging on the ground for mushrooms, fungi and grubs. Pines are another food source, as cones are just starting to develop and are tender and succulent.

CWD surveillance

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission announced surveillance areas for chronic wasting disease among white-tailed deer, with many of the same areas and same special regulations as last season.

CWD primary surveillance areas: Cumberland, Stokes, Surry, Wilkes and Yadkin counties; secondary surveillance areas: Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Bladen, Davie, Forsyth, Guilford, Harnett, Hoke, Iredell, Robeson, Rockingham and Sampson.

In the surveillance areas, it’s illegal to have mineral lick sites or put out bait to congregate wildlife from Jan. 2-Aug. 31. The regulations attempt to cut down possibility of the transfer.

Hunters are required to submit a sample for testing for deer taken during the following dates and counties: Nov. 23-25 Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Davie, Forsyth, Guilford, Iredell, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, Wilkes and Yadkin; Nov. 16-23 in Bladen, Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Robeson and Sampson.

Saltwater fish reporting

Fishermen have less than two weeks to offer comments about temporary rules that the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries have been directed to put in place by the N.C. General Assembly involves reporting the harvest of a handful of saltwater fish species from North Carolina waters: striped bass, spotted seatrout, weakfish (aka gray trout), flounder and red drum.

May 20 at 5 p.m. is the deadline: (https://www.deq.nc.gov/mandatory-reporting-public-comment or regulations@ncwildlife.org) to comment on rules that will enact the aims of a bill passed last fall by the NCGA that will require all recreational and commercial fishermen to report all catches of those five species. Such harvest reports will become mandatory on Dec. 1. Failure to report catches will result in warning tickets beginning Dec. 1, 2025, and violation tickets Dec. 1, 2026.

A video explaining the law and attempts to enact reporting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrbusdMjOiA.