2017-08-17 / Columns

Outdoors This Week in the Eastern U.P.

By Stephen King

With all of this rain we have been having, this is a banner year for berries.

You don’t need a license to pick berries on state land, said Keith Magnuson, district manager for the Department of Natural Resources.

“About the only real rule we have is that we don’t allow rakes to be used for picking blueberries,” he said. “This is because it damages the bushes. With all of the rain we have been having, from the reports I have been getting, there are a lot of blueberries this year. They are plentiful and plump. Also, there are no limits. You can pick as much as you want, however, we do ask that it be for personal consumption only.”

Part of this is because a lot of birds and animals eat berries. For them, this is what they do for a living. Without berries, life would get really tough for them.

Which brings up another point: When picking berries, you should be aware that you might get noseto nose with a bear. This could be slightly traumatic for both of you. From the bear’s point of view, it’s just hanging out, munching berries. Then, out of nowhere, it is eyeball-to-eyeball with a human. It’s enough to scare the berries right out of the bear. For the human, getting eyeball-to-eyeball to a bear is just about the same. Bears are just as afraid of humans as you are of them.

If this happens, do not run. This will trigger a reaction in the bear that makes you look like food. It may think, “Things that run away from me are afraid of me. Things that are afraid of me are food. I need to chase this thing and eat it.”

Not a good way to present yourself to the bear.

Just stay calm. Back away slowly. If the bear runs away, do not chase it. This is not Yogi or Booboo. It is a wild animal. Even if it should act friendly, don’t make nice. Don’t try to cuddle with it. It will probably not work out well for either of you.

I like butterflies. My favorites are the monarchs. They are one of the Creator’s most beautiful creations. But, to have monarch butterflies, you need milkweed. That is the only plant that they feed on. Adult females lay their eggs on the milkweed. The eggs hatch into caterpillars. They eat the milkweed. There, they make a chrysalis before they turn into butterflies.

The problem is in our modern, suburban life style. We have all but eliminated milkweed from a lot of areas. This has caused a huge reduction in the number of butterflies. To try to help, I let a portion of my yard go to milkweed, along the fence, and a nice corner of my yard is totally milkweed. I enjoy butterflies and like seeing them. Also, I love the smell of milkweed flowers.

So now you know, the berries are ripe. Get off that couch and go out and get some. And if you like butterflies, don’t forget the milkweed.

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