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From winter wildlife to access, outdoors questions just keep on coming

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Tinley Park Fishing and Outdoor Show

Where: Tinley Park High School.

When: Saturday and Sunday.

Tickets: $6; seniors, $5; kids 7-13, $4; kids 6 and younger, free.

Parking: Free.

Free-ticket winners: Justin Spada, Lee Sczepanski, Brian Markham, Alan Epich, Bob Anderson and Robert McGrath. Ted Koski won the lunch tickets.


Updated: February 4, 2014 10:44PM

On Monday evening, my 12-year-old daughter asked me if it was mating season for squirrels.

I considered for a moment if it was more than a biological question. It wasn’t.

I said, yes, February is generally the start for squirrels.

There are questions and there are questions:

On winter wildlife

Despite the historic mix of cold and snow, life goes on for animals in the area. On my morning rambles, I see plenty of tracks. Squirrels are chasing each other around, even on days hovering around zero.

I asked forest wildlife program manager Paul Shelton if he was worried about the deer herd, especially after the latest heavy snow and with more heavy snow forecast overnight.

‘‘Winter severity with regard to deer tends to be a cumulative effect, and most of the Midwest states in the northern part of the deer range (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan) calculate some form of winter severity index that uses the number of days with greater than a certain depth of snow combined with the number of days with a temperature less than zero,’’ he emailed. ‘‘I think Michigan also includes wind in its calculation.

‘‘However, no matter how you slice it, the amount of ‘points’ compiled from Illinois’ winter so far would be virtually all from low temperature, as most areas have not had days in which average depth of snow cover exceeds 15 or 18 inches. Because of this, most of northern Illinois would have a current WSI in the neighborhood of the mid-20s, which is a long way from moderate, let alone severe. This is why Wisconsin doesn’t monitor WSI for the southern portion of their state: because it seldom comes into play.’’

I should take comfort in that.

On access

On Friday evening, a good fisherman (good in terms of ethics and fishing skills) called to talk about an incident at the slip north of 87th Street on the Southeast Side.

That slip, which has a piece of access at the east end of new Park No. 523 of the Chicago Park District, has been the hottest spot this winter for fishermen in northeast Illinois and northwest Indiana.

But many fishermen have been fishing from the shore on private land, which is owned by a developer, or gaining access to the ice from private land.

On Friday, Chicago Police first asked fishermen to move their vehicles off the improvised parking area and out to the street. That’s something I think fishermen should have been doing all along.

Then they said fishermen had to leave the ice or be subject to arrest. That’s a much more interesting legal issue. I think it would take a sage legal scholar to figure out whether ice fishermen have access rights once on the frozen water.

But the bigger question is more than theoretical. My main objective for the slip since I began writing about it in November has been to find a mutually beneficial answer to questions of access, use and modern urban wilds there.

May saner heads prevail.

‘‘If you were the developer, wouldn’t you want people coming from three states that are fishing world-class perch through the ice?’’ the fisherman asked.

Absolutely. There has to be a way to use world-class fishing in an urban spot to everybody’s benefit.

Stray cast

Chicago sports in February is like a burbot.

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