DECEMBER 2000 NEWS RELEASES 

WEEK OF DECEMBER 25

WEEK OF DECEMBER 18

WEEK OF DECEMBER 11

WEEK OF DECEMBER 8

Canada Goose to grace 2001-2002 Waterfowl Stamp

  A single Canada Goose floating on the water will appear on the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp.

  The 2001-2002 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp competition was held Dec. 7, at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's central office in Oklahoma City. Daniel Brevick, of Chatfield, MN, painted the winning goose print.

  "The duck stamp program provides valuable funding," said David Warren, chief of information and education for the Department. "We have lost more than three-quarters of our wetland habitat in Oklahoma. This program gives us the ability to reverse this trend by funding wetland restoration and creation."

      Funds generated from the sale of Oklahoma waterfowl stamps go toward a number of habitat related projects, including purchasing, restoring and creating wetlands. These projects benefit ducks, geese and other wildlife throughout the state.

      Three honorable mentions were named in the 2001-2002 contest as well. They were Jeffrey Klinefelter of Etna Green, IN, Dick Benson of Washington Court House, OH and Mark Anderson of Sioux Falls, SD.

Hunters encouraged to help solve depredation

      Wheat farmers experiencing goose depredation are encouraged to enlist the help of responsible hunters, according to personnel with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

      "Hunters are usually the best, most economical deterrent for keeping geese from staying on a field," said Mike O'Meilia, migratory bird biologist for the Wildlife Department. "With most wheat just now sprouting and beginning to develop, we're concerned that we could experience an increase in crop depredation this winter."

      O'Meilia said that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services Division (405/521-4040) could provide technical advice on migratory goose depredation. John Steuber, Wildlife Services director, reiterated that landowners experiencing goose problems should enlist the assistance of hunters to help alleviate goose depredation on wheat fields. The Department of Agriculture's website URL is http://www.state.ok.us/~okag/wildlife/wildlife.html.

      "Migratory Canada goose populations are at an all-time high," Steuber said. "Hunting is an effective deterrent. We also encourage landowners to try a variety of dispersal techniques since geese can become accustomed to any single technique.

      Proven goose dispersal techniques include:

       Installing scaring devices in fields experiencing problems. Large helium-filled balloons, scarecrows, t-posts and flagging, Mylar flags and shell crackers are all options for scaring geese. Something as simple as parking a vehicle, or scattering barrels in the field may be initially effective.

      To be most effective, visual deterrents (such as t-posts with flagging) and all other scarecrow-type deterrents should be combined with some sort of actual harassment such as shooting, shell crackers, propane cannons, etc.

       Chasing geese off the field using a vehicle or dog. This is most effective when the birds are chased as soon as they land.

       Hazing, or harassing, geese with a firearm can be a viable option, but landowners should attempt to contact their local warden and let them know they have a problem before undertaking this tactic. Additionally, if the landowner shoots at the geese to kill them, state and federal waterfowl hunting regulations apply, and in all cases, shooting on, from or across a public road is unlawful.

      "The number one thing to remember is that no matter what technique is used, it is most effective when it is undertaken as soon as the geese begin using a particular field, not two or three weeks after they have become accustomed to feeding in it," said O'Meilia. "If you can prevent them from establishing a pattern of using a particular field, you can prevent them from becoming a problem."

      Hunters interested in current goose hunting information, including bi-weekly population counts, regulation information and more, should log on to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife's website - www.wildlifedepartment.com. They can also pick up a copy of the current Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Guide and Regulations, available at sporting goods stores throughout the state.

Christmas Gifts for the Outdoor Enthusiast

  If you're struggling to find that perfect gift or stocking stuffer for the outdoor enthusiast in your family, you need to check out the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Outdoor Store.

  "The Department's Outdoor Store has something for every hunter, angler and wildlife viewer in your family," said Nels Rodefeld, information and education assistant chief  for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "There are several  items that will make great gifts and stocking stuffers for the outdoor enthusiast. My personal favorite is a one-year subscription to the Department's official magazine, Outdoor Oklahoma."

  Hunting atlases, caps, bird houses, bat houses and bird identification booklets are just a few of the other items found at the Outdoor Store. The Outdoor Store is found on the Department web site www.wildlifedepartment.com. Pictures and a detailed description of each item are included.

  A simple mouse click will download an order form. Simply fill it out and mail it in and your shopping is complete. Outdoor Store items are also available at the Department's Oklahoma City and Tulsa offices.

  Resident lifetime hunting and fishing licenses also make a great gift for the hunter and angler. A resident lifetime hunting license costs $400, fishing $150 or a combination can be purchased for $525.   Applications for these licenses are available at Department installations and some license dealers. Proof of residency is required and must be verified by a Department employee.  Those planning to purchase a lifetime license as a gift should call 405/521-3852 regarding documents accepted for residency verification.                

Donations fund trout area improvements 

Thanks to several monetary donations, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation recently began work on two important projects at the lower Illinois and lower Mountain Fork trout areas. 

At the lower Illinois River, the Department is constructing a handicapped accessible fishing dock at the dam site that will provide excellent access for anyone wanting to fish the swirling waters below Tenkiller. Traditionally one of the most productive trout fishing locations on the lower Illinois, the dam site has had bank fishing access, but the new dock will greatly improve fishing opportunities for trout enthusiasts. 

The Oklahoma Chapter of Trout Unlimited in Tulsa donated $625 for constructing a handicapped access walkway leading to the fishing dock, which anglers are already using to catch trout. 

"We need to recognize Corps of Engineers personnel with the Tenkiller Project Office because only through their help, and more importantly, funding assistance, can anglers now enjoy this great access point," said Hutchie Weeks, northeast region fisheries supervisor for the Wildlife Department. 

The lower Mountain Fork trout stream also is benefiting from Trout Unlimited (the 89er Chapter in Oklahoma City). Department personnel, through a $500 donation for habitat improvement, have constructed and installed a series of 30 "half-logs" in the river. The structures resemble wooden benches with rocks placed around them providing additional cover, stability and to blend the structures with the surrounding landscape. Although the structures, which trout use for cover, have only been in the river for a few weeks, biologists have already seen fish in and around them. 

"Both projects were made possible by anglers," said Kim Erickson, fisheries chief for the Wildlife Department. "In addition to the direct donations we received, the Department also matched those donations on a three to one basis with Sport Fish Restoration funds. These funds also come from fishermen through their purchase of fishing tackle and motorboat fuels." 

Under the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration programs, hunters and anglers pay a special federal tax, about 10 percent, and the funds raised are distributed to the various state fish and wildlife agencies. This year, Oklahoma received approximately $4.7 million in Sport Fish funds and approximately $3.8 million in Wildlife Restoration funds. The funds are used for a variety of fish and wildlife habitat improvement and hunting and fishing access projects.

Improved process aimed at rule changes 

A new public hearing process aimed at improving communication between the Wildlife Department and anglers regarding proposed rule changes will be unveiled Jan. 8 and 9 at seven meetings across the state. 

Under the new process, each meeting begins with fisheries biologists explaining each of the proposed rule changes, along with reasons for the proposals. Applicable biological and social survey data relating to the proposed changes also will be explained at this time. As each proposal is being discussed, those attending the meeting will have the opportunity to ask fisheries personnel questions about the changes or the reasoning behind the proposals. 

Once the discussion has concluded, the public meeting will be adjourned and a formal "hearing" will be called to order. At this point, anyone wanting to make formal comments - either for or against - any of the proposed changes may do so. Comments made at all of the seven individual meetings will be compiled into a master list, and this will then be presented to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission when Department personnel ask the Commission to adopt as proposed, or modify based on public input, the fisheries rule changes for 2002. 

"This will be a dramatic improvement in the process because the pre-hearing meeting will allow us to explain what we're proposing and why we're proposing it," said Barry Bolton, assistant Fisheries chief for the Wildlife Department. "In addition, anglers will also be able to better express their desires because they'll be able to state the reasons why they favor or oppose the proposals, rather than just whether or not they favor the changes." 

Bolton said the Department had been considering the new format because the agency wanted to be more responsive to its constituents, but changing a system that has been in place for many years sometimes takes time. 

"We wanted to make sure we were going to implement something that was in the best interest of the public," he said, "something that gave us a real opportunity to solicit public input." 

Meetings to discuss fisheries regulation change proposals will be held in Oklahoma City, Ponca City and Woodward on Jan. 8, and in Broken Bow, Tulsa, Ft. Cobb and Muskogee on Jan 9. Those who are unable to attend one of the meetings and wish to comment on the proposals may do so in writing on or before January 12, 2001, by mailing them to: The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, 1801 N. Lincoln, Room 219, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105. 

Many of the proposals relate to the implementation of a joint agreement between the city of Oklahoma City and the Wildlife Department, whereby the Department will assume the responsibility for enforcement of fishing regulations on city owned waters such as Lakes Hefner, Overholser and Draper. The proposed agreement, which is currently under review and not yet approved by the city, is designed to expand and improve fishing opportunities in the greater Oklahoma City metro area. 

Other proposed changes include: 

     lowering the walleye/saugeye size limit at Ft. Cobb Reservoir to a 14-inch minimum size limit with no change in bag limit;

       changing the 13- to 16-inch slot length limit on black bass at Pine Creek Reservoir to a 14-inch minimum size limit, except no size limit will apply to spotted bass;

       changing the 20-inch minimum size limit; one (1) per day bag limit on rainbow trout in the Mountain Fork River from the re-regulation dam downstream to Highway 70 to six (6) per day bag limit; no size limit. The one-fish, 20-inch minimum size limit would, however, remain in effect for brown trout;

        establishing rules pertaining to possession and/or importation of restricted noxious aquatic plants and/or their seeds, stems or parts; and

          housekeeping provisions regarding the number of rods anglers can fish with, and safety zones near Department-owned facilities. FISHERIES DIVISION PUBLIC HEARING SCHEDULE Time: 6:30 p.m. Place: Oklahoma City - Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd. Ponca City - Hutchins Memorial, Fifth St. and Overbrook Time: 7:00 p.m. Place: Woodward - Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Regional Office, 3014 Lakeview Date: January 9, 2001Time: 6:30 p.m. Place: Broken Bow - Broken Bow Public Library, 404 N. Broadway Time: 7:00 p.m. Place: Tulsa - Zebco Cafeteria, 601 E. apache Fort Cobb - Caddo-Kiowa County Vo-Tech, Career Tech Road, N. Seventh St. Muskogee - Muskogee Public Library, 801 W. Okmulgee.

Public to hear proposed wildlife rule changes 

In addition to several January meetings scheduled to discuss specific proposals that address deer management, officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) will discuss a broad range of other wildlife proposals January 16. Most of the measures deal with rule changes governing Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). 

A new public hearing process aimed at improving communication between the Wildlife Department and hunters regarding proposed rule changes will be used at the meeting. Under the new process, the meeting will begin with wildlife biologists explaining each of the proposed rule changes, along with reasons for the proposals. 

Applicable biological and social survey data relating to the proposed changes also will be explained at this time. As each proposal is being discussed, those attending the meeting will have the opportunity to ask Department personnel questions about the changes or the reasoning behind the proposals. 

Once the discussion has concluded, the public meeting will be adjourned and a formal "hearing" will be called to order. At this point, anyone wanting to make formal comments - either for or against - on any of the proposed changes may do so. Comments made at the meeting will be presented to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission when Department personnel ask the Commission to adopt the rule changes. 

According to Bill Dinkines, assistant wildlife division chief for the Department, most of the rules are "house-cleaning" type measures or rules that will increase hunting opportunities.

 "Within the Title 800 Wildlife Code, we occasionally have language that is redundant and needs clarification, or, we have rules that are no longer warranted. In order to change those rules, however we are first required to hold public meetings to get input from constituents," Dinkines said. "Within the upcoming public meeting, we have several of these proposals such as one that would clarify how Wetland Development Units are defined on some WMAs." 

Among other proposals for the upcoming hearing is one measure to establish a waterfowl refuge portion on the Hackberry Flat WMA, and another to allow hunting within an area of Ft. Cobb WMA that had previously been closed. Once home to enormous flocks of crows, the Crow Roost portion of Ft. Cobb WMA was closed to hunting. However since the 1980s, the crows have dispersed and no longer roost in that specific area. 

The meeting will also include various rule changes on 16 different WMAs as well as proposals dealing with elk, antelope, and the Department's controlled hunts program. The public hearing begins at 7:00 p.m. at the ODWC Auditorium 1801 N. Lincoln in Oklahoma City. 

Special youth deer hunts offered 

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is hosting several youth controlled deer hunt opportunities the weekend of January 27 and 28. Approximately 50 antlerless permits will be available for youngsters aged 14 and under provided they have completed hunter education requirements. 

The one-and-a-half day hunts are being held on four different private ranches located in Alfalfa, Dewey, Ellis and Woods counties. The youth, along with their non-hunting adult partner, are required to attend a pre-hunt briefing on January 27 at 7:00 a.m. at sites to be determined. The hunt will then begin Saturday afternoon and will continue all day Sunday, January 28. According to Wade Free, Wildlife Division northwest region supervisor, participants should have very good opportunities to harvest an antlerless deer. 

"These hunts are all taking place on private ranches with an abundance of antlerless deer," said Free. "With western Oklahoma's wide-open terrain, all the youth hunters can expect to see good numbers of deer, and should have a good opportunity to take home a doe."

To apply for this hunt, applicants must send a 4x6 index card titled, "NW Youth Deer Hunts." The card should include the hunter's name and date of birth, mailing address, telephone number, and hunter education certification number. Also, include the name of the non-hunting partner. Applications must be received at Department of Wildlife headquarters no later than 4:00 p.m., Jan. 12. The drawing will take place on Monday, Jan. 15, at which time successful applicants will be notified by phone. 

If selected for the hunt, youth must possess a $14.75 Resident Youth Deer Gun permit unless they possess a Resident Lifetime Hunting or Resident Lifetime Combination License. The youth's non-hunting adult partner, however, will not be required to possess an Oklahoma hunting license or deer permit. Participants must also pay a $7 controlled hunt fee at the pre-hunt briefing. In addition, the youth's proof of age and hunter safety certification are also required at check-in. 

Any antlerless deer harvested during the controlled hunt will be considered "bonus" deer and will not count against the youth's yearly combined limit. 

Applications for the NW Youth Deer Hunts should be sent to Attn. Wildlife Division/NW Youth Deer Hunts, Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife Conservation, 1801 N. Lincoln, Oklahoma City, OK 73105. For additional information concerning drawing details, contact wildlife division at 405/521-2739.

Be a winter bird survey researcher 

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Wildlife Diversity Program will be holding its annual winter bird survey in January. Amateur and experienced bird watchers are asked to help with this important survey. "This survey has been conducted since 1987," said Julian Hilliard, information specialist with the Department's Natural Resources Section. "It contributes to the Department's expanding database of winter bird information including bird preferences for different types of habitats, seeds, and feeders. Not only is this on-going project beneficial to us, but it allows bird-watchers to use the skills they've learned to help take part in some exciting biological research." 

To participate in the simple survey, pick two consecutive days within the four-day period of January 11-14, 2001, and as accurately as is reasonable, count the birds that visit your feeders. Record the greatest number of birds seen together at any one time. While several groups of the same species of bird may appear numerous times over the two days, record only the greatest number seen together concurrently. 

Record observations on the official Winter Bird Feeder Survey form. Mail the completed survey to the address on the bottom of the form. All forms must be mailed in no later than Feb. 9, 2001, to be counted. Instant electronic submissions are also possible under the Watchable Wildlife Opportunities link on the Department's website: www.wildlifedepartment.com. "The survey is easy but it is vital that it is done correctly or we can not use the data," Hilliard added. "Please, do not record any bird species you aren't sure you can correctly identify. Estimates don't help us either, so please do not record 'a lot' or 'a few', but instead try to make an accurate count of the number of birds." 

The survey results will be printed in Outdoor Oklahoma and in the Wildlife Diversity Program's newsletter, Watchable Wildlife News. Results will also be posted on the Department's website. The information will include the species and numbers of each species observed, the areas of the state they were observed in and the most effective method for attracting those species. More information regarding the Winter Bird Survey or the Wildlife Diversity Program is available by calling the Natural Resources Section of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation at (405) 521-4616.

Oklahoma Winter Bald Eagle Events 

Every winter, hundreds of bald eagles make their way to Oklahoma to feast on fish from our many lakes. Not only are bald eagles our national symbol, these magnificent birds represent one of America's greatest conservation success stories. Bald eagle populations have increased steadily over the past 40 years from 425 to around 5,700 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states. One important group, the Sutton Avian Research Center (SARC) in Bartlesville has been instrumental in restoring bald eagles. As part of their recent captive-breeding program SARC has released a total of 275 bald eagles in the Southeast U.S. 

According to Julian Hilliard, natural resources specialist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the number of eagle viewing tours has grown in recent years. 

"Several tours are conducted by state park personnel and others who not only help eagle watchers find eagles soaring and fishing around Oklahoma lakes, but also help folks understand the ecology and habits of these raptors," Hilliard said.

 Most eagle tours are offered free or for a nominal charge. Eagle watchers are encouraged to bring binoculars and dress warmly. 

Call the ODWC's Natural Resources Section at (405) 521-4616 for more information, or log on to the Department's website at wildlifedepartment.com.