NOVEMBER 2001 NEWS RELEASES

 

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 29

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 21

 

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 15

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 8

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 1

Whooping crane migration underway

The final days of October and the first few days of November mark Oklahoma's annual fall migration of the whooping crane.

During the migration, state residents have a unique opportunity to spot one of rarest birds in the U.S.

"Approximately 185 whooping cranes, large wading birds that nest in the bogs and marshes of northern Canada, are in route to their wintering grounds along the Texas coast," said Mark Howery, natural resources biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "If anyone spots a whooping crane this fall, we would like for them to contact us. We need information such as the date, time and approximate location that the birds were seen, as well as the habitat they were using and the number of birds observed.

"The Department is joining the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in an effort to monitor the progress of these migratory cranes and to identify important habitats along their migration route. Reports from the public help accomplish that task, so we ask them to call the Natural Resources section at 405/521-4616 anytime they have seen a whooping crane."

Whooping cranes typically migrate during daylight hours in small groups of up to six birds, Howery added. They are frequently seen in shallow wetlands, marshes, flooded pastures and fallow wheat fields in the western half of the state. The majestic birds can be identified by a combination of characteristics: their large size (they are the tallest North American bird), bold white plumage, black tips on their wing feathers, red and black markings on their heads, and long necks and legs.

While in flight, a whooping crane's neck is extended straight in front of its body and its long legs are visible beyond the length of its tail feathers. Despite their distinctive appearance, they are often confused with white pelicans, snow geese and great egrets at this time of year.

The whooping crane is an endangered species and is slowly recovering after a brush with extinction. Though never common historically, approximately 5,000 whooping cranes are thought to have occupied the once extensive wetland complexes of the prairie pothole and boreal plains regions from North Dakota through northern Alberta.

Several smaller populations of whooping cranes lived along the Gulf Coast in Texas, Louisiana and Florida. However, large reductions of their wetland habitat, coupled with unregulated market hunting during much of the 1800s, reduced whooping crane populations to a few dozen birds by the early 1900s.

By 1941, fewer than 20 cranes remained. The small population bred in remote wetlands near the Alberta/Yukon border and wintered nearly 2,000 miles south near Corpus Christie, Texas. Conservation measures such as the protection of the crane's breeding and wintering habitats helped the small population to grow nearly 12-fold over the past 60 years.

In addition to the birds passing through Oklahoma, nearly 130 additional whooping cranes live in three captive breeding facilities established in the 1970s and 1980s. Young cranes from this captive population are now being used to establish two new populations in the wild.

Nearly 60 whooping cranes live in central Florida, as part of an eight-year effort to establish a non-migratory Gulf Coast population. This year also marked the beginning of a new experimental release program that hopes to establish a breeding population in the western Great Lakes region that would winter in Georgia and Florida.

Those interested in more information about the whooping crane can contact the Department's Wildlife Diversity Program at 405/521-4616 for a free brochure. For more information about the Wildlife Diversity Program and other wildlife viewing opportunities across the state, log onto the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Department will hold equipment auction

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will hold a public auction Saturday, Nov. 10. The auction will begin at 9 a.m. at Lake Burtschi near Chickasha.

More than 90 items will be available at the event including lawn equipment, cameras and numerous computer systems.

"This auction will be a great opportunity for the public to bid on some outstanding items for use at home and in the field," said Ken Ryel, property manager for the Wildlife Department. "The items have been well maintained, and we expect a high turnout for those wanting great bargains on miscellaneous items too numerous to mention."

To see a list of other items available, log onto the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com. For more information, call 405/521-4600 or 521-4618.

Mammoth flathead caught in El Reno Lake

Every angler dreams of catching a trophy fish. What would you do? Would your heart race? Could you stand it?

Ron Cantrell, of El Reno, caught a bragging sized, once-in-a-lifetime flathead catfish the evening of October 18 from El Reno Lake. Cantrell's mammoth fish was bigger around than some folks’ waists and longer than most legs - an incredible 50 inches long and had a 35 1/2 inch girth. He caught the monster using a sunfish as bait and floating it through the water under a balloon.

Once Cantrell found certified scales and a Wildlife Department employee to witness the weighing, his fish came in at a whopping 70.7 pounds, just three-tenths of a pound off of the current official rod and line class record. Currently, the record is a 71-pound giant that was caught by James Skipper from Oologah Lake in 1998.

Cantrell didn't have a record but will always have terrific memories and an amazing story to tell about the trophy fish, which he released back into the lake. He also received a Master Angler Award and a Trophy Conservationist Award from the Wildlife Department's Angler Recognition Program.

"Mr. Cantrell caught an amazing fish and we applaud him for releasing it back into the lake," said Barry Bolton, assistant chief of fisheries for the Department. "Releasing this fish will allow other anglers the opportunity to catch it, and there is the possibility that it could grow to become a new record. The Department created the Trophy Conservationist Award to encourage anglers to release trophy class fish."

Anyone catching a fish they think may be a state record is encouraged to contact a Wildlife Department employee to witness weighing the fish on certified scales as quickly as possible. Department telephone numbers, current record fish and official Oklahoma record fish rules and regulations can be found in the Oklahoma Fishing Guide, or on the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com. Phone numbers for local game wardens are also provided in the Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations.

http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/newsrelease/110101/catfishcolor.jpg

Cutline for picture: Ron Cantrell holds the monster flathead catfish he caught Oct. 18 at El Reno Lake.

 

OKLAHOMA RECORD FISH RULES AND REGULATIONS

1. Fish MUST be caught on rod and line and MUST be hooked and played by only one person. (Except for unrestricted division).

2. Fish MUST be caught in accordance with Oklahoma fishing regulations.

3. No fish caught from any hatchery or commercial put-and-take lake is eligible.

4. Accredited or certified weight scales MUST be used to weigh the fish. Steel measuring tapes MUST be used to measure the fish. The fish should be measured from tip of nose to tip of tail with the fish laid flat, mouth closed and tail lobes pressed together giving length of fish in inches. Measure the girth of the fish in inches around its widest point. Three witnesses, one of which must be an employee of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife, must witness the weighing and measuring of the fish and sign the affidavit.

5. The fish MUST be preserved in a live-weight condition until approved by an Oklahoma Wildlife Fisheries Biologist, and an official letter of verification from the Director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has been received by the angler.

6. A clear photograph showing a close-up side view of the fish MUST accompany the completed fish affidavit form. All photographs become the property of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

7. The Department reserves the right to collect fish scale, tissue or spine samples to check fish identification and to refuse any questionable fish affidavit submitted. The affidavit must be submitted within 30 days of the date the fish is caught. In addition to rod and line records, an unrestricted division includes the heaviest of those species taken by other legal means (bow and arrow, gig, spear, trotline, jugline, bankline, etc.) TYING or EXCEEDING the weight of existing rod and line records.

Hunters encouraged to harvest antlerless deer

Oklahoma's deer herd continues to grow and biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation believe the only way to manage for a healthier, balanced herd is to harvest more antlerless deer.

Outdoor Oklahoma will highlight new regulations affecting the state's deer seasons and the reasons behind those regulations when "Hunters in the Know Take a Doe," airs Nov. 11 on OETA.

"The Department knows that many of the state's deer hunters still have a strong buck preference," said Rich Fuller, information supervisor with the Department. "But, unprecedented regulations are in place to allow hunters more opportunity than ever to harvest a doe. This show provides insight into the importance of antlerless harvest and we hope it will encourage more hunters to consider taking a doe. It's the right thing to do."

Outdoor Oklahoma features such topics as fishing, hunting, and wildlife management. The 30-minute program is produced by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and can be seen at 6 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday on OETA. It also airs Mondays at 5:30 p.m., Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. and each Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on KSBI.

For a complete listing of show times and channels in your viewing area, consult the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or your local TV guide.

Web site provides temporary card

Oklahoma's deer gun season is approaching quickly and many hunters may panic if they can't find their hunter education card, which in many cases is needed to purchase a license.

Those worried about missing hunter education cards have a quick and easy solution available, according to Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation personnel. They can obtain a temporary card by logging onto the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

"Most local libraries now have Internet access available for the public to use, so hunters can go there if they don't have access at home," said J.D. Peer, the Department's hunter education coordinator. "Once they reach the main page or index page, they can scroll down and click on the link named 'Replace your hunter education card' to bring up the replacement page. Follow the directions to fill in the requested information, entering the date as shown in the example provided, then click 'submit' and the card should appear on the screen.

"Hunters can print the card out and use it temporarily to get their licenses. It will be accepted at any license vendor across the state and in other states as well. The information can also be useful to request a permanent replacement card."

If a card does not come up, the hunter can contact the Department's Information and Education Division at 405/521-4636, Monday-Friday, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. and Department personnel will try to remedy the problem, Peer added. Those wanting a permanent plastic replacement card can receive one for $5 by visiting the Department's Oklahoma City Head-quarters or submitting a letter to: Attn: Replacement Card, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, 1801 N. Lincoln, Oklahoma City, OK 73105.

Letters must contain the hunter's name as it appeared on the original card, current address, birth date, and student number if known. Those who do not know their student number should provide the date and location for the course they attended. They should also include a daytime phone number so additional information can be obtained if needed.

Solutions to quail decline as hard to come by as coveys

The opening days of Oklahoma's three-month quail season are history, but based on a number of reports, hunters generally experienced spotty success.

"In some areas hunters found decent numbers of coveys, but in other areas coveys were hard to come by," said Mike Sams, upland bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Initial success reflects this year's roadside survey data, which showed significantly fewer birds statewide."

Oklahoma isn't alone in searching for answers to decreasing quail numbers, though. Throughout the southeast and southcentral U.S., across the bird's entire range, bobwhite quail populations have been steadily declining for three decades.

Kansas wildlife officials are reporting that with the exception of localized pockets of excellent habitat that will hold fair numbers, 2001 quail hunting prospects are poor throughout the state. They go on to say that even in the traditionally-best southeast region, survey data indicates that bobwhite numbers are very low.

In Texas, quail surveys indicate that bobwhite numbers in all ecological regions surveyed are below their respective long-term averages, but Texas wildlife personnel say there should be good hunting opportunities in some areas under proper range management, which received adequate rainfall. Missouri's outlook appears to be more in line with Oklahoma's.

The statewide average quail count reached a low in 2001 (in Missouri), said a printed report by Thomas Dailey, wildlife research biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. The report went on to say that the total quail index is 61 percent below the state's long-term average.

"Almost everyone agrees there is a problem," said Sams, "but agreeing on solutions to fix the problem has been where opinions differ. That said, weather and habitat are universally recognized as the two biggest influences on quail populations. And since we can't control the weather, we must focus on large-scale habitat management."

Sams said there are four key areas of habitat management being looked at throughout the southeastern U.S. They are:

1. Increasing the amount and quality of native warm season grasses for nesting, brood-rearing and roosting by quail.

2. Enhancing management practices on pinelands by thinning, controlled burning and properly preparing planting sites to benefit quail.

3. Preserving and enhancing rangeland quality by using vegetation management and grazing techniques that improve native plant communities.

4. Seeking continued improvements in the practices permitted by the Farm Bill to provide for wildlife conservation on private agricultural lands.

Specific techniques needing to be implemented in Oklahoma include:

restoring native rangeland through prescribed burning, grazing management and brush management.

converting croplands, pasture/hay fields and established Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands back to native warm-season grasses. Establish woody cover through native tree and shrub plantings.

restoring savanna communities by thinning upland forest areas.

"It's easier said than done, because when you look at the cost to the landowner in converting 160 acres of fescue pasture back into native warm-season grasses, well, there just aren't that many landowners who want to pay that much for better quail habitat," Sams said.

"Financial incentives for landowners to improve their property for quail will likely be needed, and that could require millions of dollars a year because you really need habitat improvements over large areas, rather than on small, isolated tracts.

"Increased technical assistance, coupled with the financial incentives, could, over time, stabilize the population and lead to a gradual recovery. The alternative is to do nothing and watch quail become increasingly scarce."

Sams added that the current quail crisis cannot be solved by simply changing the season dates or reducing the bag limits, two measures often proposed to improve quail numbers.

"Neither would provide a covey a place to live," he said. "That can only be done by spraying that 40 acre bermuda or fescue hayfield and replanting it to native grasses. Habitat improvement takes a lot of hard work and money. It's easier to blame the situation on excessive predators, such as hawks, or that too many quail are being taken by hunters. However, these really pale in comparison to the effect of declining quality habitat for quail."

Primitive deer harvest likely down; gun outlook very good

Deer hunting across the state has been slow and biologists are reporting that although some hunters have had good success, they anticipate the rut is still ahead.

"I believe the deer harvest is down compared to last year at this time," said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "We don't have a reliable indication of the actual numbers because we have added so many check stations, but reports of light movement is fairly consistent across the state. A number of factors have limited movement so far, but the weather has been the biggest detriment.

"The good news is that it looks like we may hit the rut during the gun season," Shaw added.

Regional wildlife biologists across the state report similar findings that indicate the primitive season harvest may be down compared to the record harvest of 2000.

"Hunters saw some rutting activity during the cooler mornings during the early part of muzzleloader season," said Johnny Herd, central region wildlife supervisor. "It slowed down due to the warmer weather we had later in the week, but did pick up a little due to the rain we received the last Saturday. Acorns are spotty, but the rut should break open pretty soon and I believe we will have a good gun season in this region."

Hunters across the eastern half of the state experienced spotty success as well, according to biologists.

"They took some nice deer early in the mornings and in the middle of the day during the latter half of the muzzleloader season," said Jack Waymire, southeast region senior biologist. "Most along creeks and rivers where water oaks and red oaks produced some good acorn crops. There are a few being taken in the mountains around recent clear-cuts or in areas that were recently thinned for timber management.

"The doe harvest is down though and any rutting activity is taking place at night. I anticipate the majority of the rutting activity is still ahead so the gun season looks good."

Things are spotty but seem typical across the northeast, said Craig Endicott, northeast region wildlife supervisor.

"It was warm and dry during the muzzleloader season other than the second Saturday which was pretty much a rain out," Endicott said. "There are always variations from one area to another and some hunters seem to be taking advantage of the expanded opportunities to harvest antlerless deer. Some areas have a good acorn crop and there are some bucks chasing does or working scrapes.

"The weather is the key. It is nice enough to keep hunters out and about but is hampering rutting activity so many hunters are using their time in the woods to scout for the gun season."

Biologists say the western half of the state faced many of the same conditions.

"I have some reports of hunters taking nice deer, but the muzzleloader season was extremely slow," said Rod Smith, southwest region wildlife supervisor. "It has been hot, dry and windy and it is hard to walk without everything crunching underneath you or without kicking up dust. Typically, if it is slow this time of year we can have a gangbuster gun season, but it depends on the weather and time will tell."

"Although we had high hunter activity in the northwest part of the state, we too experienced a slow primitive season," said Wade Free, northwest region wildlife supervisor. "It was unusually mild weather, and several hunters reported that the only deer they saw, moved right at dark. Even a slight cool front, could trigger the rut which would jumpstart things going into the regular gun season," Free added.

As many hunters are aware, the 2001 antlerless hunting opportunities have been significantly increased from those in 2000. For a full listing of deer hunting regulations, including the new antlerless deer hunting zones, refer to the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations, or, log www.wildlifedepartment.com

 

Youth Deer Hunt Featured

According to biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, an increase in antlerless harvest is needed to better manage the state's growing population of white-tailed deer. Hunters can find out more about antlerless deer harvest in an upcoming episode of Outdoor Oklahoma.

"Last fall, we had unique opportunity to film some seasoned hunters from the Christian Sportsmen's Fellowship (CSF) who introduced the sport of deer hunting to some young hunters," said Todd Craighead, associate producer for Outdoor Oklahoma. "The ranch we were on has an overabundance of does, and the CSF decided to sponsor a special youth hunt to help them manage the population.

"Many of the kids who participated in the hunt were physically challenged and had never had the opportunity to deer hunt, which made the event even more special. Whether or not, they succeeded in harvesting a deer, all of the kids had a good time and learned a great deal about wildlife management."

The program airs Nov. 18 on OETA. Outdoor Oklahoma features such topics as fishing, hunting, and wildlife management. The 30-minute program is produced by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and can be seen at 6 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday on OETA. It also airs Mondays at 5:30 p.m., Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. and each Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on KSBI. For a complete listing of show times and channels in your viewing area, consult the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or your local TV guide.

Commission approves 40 acre land purchase

At its regular monthly meeting, held Nov. 4, in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to pursue purchasing a 40-acre tract adjoining Grassy Slough Wildlife Management Area in McCurtain County.

The tract is one of two 40-acre parcels containing springs that feed the 938-acre Wildlife Department-owned wetland area. The Commission approved the purchase of the other parcel in 1998, and Department personnel expect to close on it soon. Grassy Slough has been recognized by numerous outdoor conservation groups for its unique ecological features, one of which is the 538 diverse plant species that have been identified on the area, including 30 that are considered rare. The $6,000 purchase will be funded through revenue generated from Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting License (stamp) sales.

In other action, Commissioners voted unanimously to reject a sealed bid to lease 230 acres of mineral interest in Pushmataha County. "Drilling interest has decreased with the recent downturn in oil and gas prices," said Alan Peoples, wildlife chief for the Department.

Commission members voted to accept a $1,000 donation from the Oklahoma Striper Association, funds that will be matched with federal Sport Fish Restoration dollars to purchase a tiller tractor attachment for Byron State Fish Hatchery. The tiller is used to aerate the bottom of hatchery ponds where striped bass and hybrid striped bass fingerlings are grown. Aerated soil stimulates growth of microscopic organisms, which the newly hatched fish eat.

While natural reproduction of striped bass occurs at both Lake Texoma and in the Arkansas River system below Keystone Lake, most striped bass and all hybrid striped bass are produced at the Byron Hatchery. Hybrid striped bass are created by mixing striped bass eggs with milt from male white bass. The resulting crossbreed is widely considered one of the hardest fighting fish in fresh water, growing to weights exceeding 23 pounds. The current state record, caught at Altus-Lugert in 1997, weighed 23 pounds, 4 ounces.

Also accepted by Commissioners at the November meeting was an actuarial report from Buck Consultants for the Department's retirement plan. According to the current actuarial valuation ending June 30, 2001, the agency's retirement plan is funded at 100.5 percent. Sound investment strategies, coupled with a smoothing method for plan returns, has helped the plan overcome recent poor performance by the financial markets. Commission members said they plan to continue evaluating the investment mix in the coming months.

In his monthly report, Wildlife Department Executive Director Greg Duffy informed Commissioners that:

• Carlos Gomez, Tulsa County game warden, had been honored as the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agency's (SEAFWA) Game Warden of the Year. The SEAFWA consists of 16 states in the southeastern United States, and this was the first time an Oklahoma warden had garnered this honor.

• Natural Resources Biologist Julianne Hoagland was recently recognized as the Outstanding Wildlife Professional of the Year by the Oklahoma Chapter of the Wildlife Society.

• Progress continues on construction and development of the $15 million Oklahoma Aquarium. Located in Jenks, the Aquarium is slated to open during the summer of 2002 and will house the Wildlife Department's Tulsa-area offices. Photo updates following the Aquarium's construction can be seen on the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com

• The recent tornado relief drive, called Sportsmen Helping Sportsmen, was successful in collecting numerous sporting goods and outdoor items for the residents of Cordell. In addition to individual contributions, ZEBCO donated two pallets of sporting goods valued at several thousand dollars.

• Youth antlerless deer hunts on private land in northwest Oklahoma are again being scheduled for January. Department personnel expect about 30 permits to be awarded to youngsters ages 12 to 14.

• The controlled deer hunts at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant have been cancelled due to increased security measures. All of the 1,500 hunters affected by the cancellations were given the option of participating in next year's McAlester hunts or a full refund. Only two hunters elected refunds.

• Access below some federal reservoirs is being curtailed due to increased security precautions, which will mean some restrictions on angling and boating.

• The Department recently acquired a 50-acre in-holding at the Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area in southcentral Oklahoma. The property will be a significant addition in providing access to the scenic and pristine Blue River, home to one of the state's six designated wintertime trout areas. The site also has the potential to be developed as an outdoor classroom.

Commissioners voted to set the dates for their 2002 regular monthly meetings, normally held on the first Monday of each month. The selected dates are: Jan. 7; Feb. 4; March 4; April 1; May 6; June 3; July 1; Aug. 5; Sept. 9; Oct. 7; Nov. 4; and Dec. 2.

The Commission's next monthly meeting will be Monday, Dec. 3, at 9 a.m. at the Wildlife Department's headquarters in Oklahoma City.

Bonus youth deer hunts offered

Beginning deer hunters have a unique opportunity to participate in two youth controlled hunts that will take place in January on private lands in Roger Mills and Alfalfa counties.

The hunts are scheduled for Jan. 4-6 and will offer 25 bonus antlerless deer gun licenses for youth 12 to 16 years of age who have completed their hunter education requirements.

"These hunts are on private property and should provide the hunters a great opportunity to see a lot of deer as well as the chance to harvest a doe," said Rod Smith, southwest region wildlife supervisor. "They also provide a management strategy to help control abundant populations of antlerless deer that are present in western Oklahoma. There are 10 licenses available for the Roger Mills hunt and 15 available for the hunt in Alfalfa County."

A non-hunting adult that is at least 21 years old must accompany youth chosen for the hunts, Smith added. To apply for a hunt, applicants must send the Department a 4x6 index card titled, "NW Youth Deer Hunts." The card should provide the hunter's name and date of birth, mailing address, telephone number, hunter education certification number and social security or drivers license number.

The hunter must designate their hunt preference if applying for both hunts and the name of the non-hunting adult must also be included. Applications must be received at Department's headquarters no later than 4:00 p.m., Nov. 26, 2001.

Successful applicants will receive a notification letter about their hunt by Dec. 3. The letter will inform the youth which hunt they were drawn for and details about the hunt. In addition, both the hunter and their adult companion will be required to attend a pre-hunt briefing on Jan. 4, 2002.

Any youth selected for the hunt must possess a $14.75 Resident Youth Deer Gun License 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 a license of any type. Any antlerless deer harvested during the controlled hunt will be considered a "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 the hunts, contact the Department's Wildlife Division at 405/521-2739.

Deer season is state's biggest attraction

It attracts more participants than the busiest day of the Oklahoma State Fair and the Tulsa State Fair -- combined. It attracts more Oklahomans than the number of football fans attending sold out home games at Lewis Field, Owen Field, and Skelly stadium --- combined. And although it may surprise many, the state's largest single-day recreational attraction is the opening day of Oklahoma's deer gun season.

The gun deer opener, Saturday, Nov. 17 this year, will draw an estimated 200-250,000 hunters and their non-hunting companions. The nine-day season, which runs Nov. 17-25, will see these thousands of orange-clad hunters heading into Oklahoma's forests and prairies in search of the state's number one game animal, the white-tail deer.

Through deer hunting license statistics and license holder surveys, officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) say at least 160,000 people hunt deer during the modern firearms season, although the actual number may be higher. When combined with non-hunting relatives, who participate in camping and other deer season related activities, the total number of participants is estimated at well over 200,000.

"We know that virtually all of our deer gun hunters are out on opening day of the season, and a significant number of those hunters have non-hunting family members either with them in the field, or back at their campsite or RV," said Mike Shaw, research supervisor for the Department. "It's pretty remarkable when you consider how many people might be sitting in the stands of all our major college football stadiums on a fall Saturday, and then realize there are many more sportsmen out enjoying the deer woods on opening day."

Department officials say that per capita participation in the deer gun season is traditionally strongest in the southeast part of the state, however, the trend is changing. Due to the expansion of the state's whitetail deer herd, other regions of the state are growing in popularity.

"For many hunters and their families living in the southeast, deer season is family tradition that has been passed down through generations," said Rich Fuller, information supervisor for the Department.

"From the time of Oklahoma's first deer hunting season in 1933 to the 1960s, the forests of southeast Oklahoma were about the only places with huntable populations, so consequently people in that area have the strongest ties to the activity. Certainly, with the expansion of our deer herd to all corners of the state, you'll see about as many people driving around wearing blaze orange caps in towns like Woodward or Vinita as you do in Antlers. The southeast, especially places like the Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area or Honobia Creek Wildlife Management Area, is still unique as far as big deer camps with grandparents and grandkids who are along to enjoy the camaraderie."

Through a special $16 land access fee paid by hunters and other users of the area, the ODWC leases approximately 725,000 acres of timber company lands in southeast Oklahoma that are open for deer gun season. The Three Rivers WMA is comprised of 450,000 acres of Weyerhaeuser property, and approximately 275.000 acres are leased from John Hancock Timber Resources Group for the Honobia Creek WMA. Additionally, the Ouachita National Forest offers another 320,000 acres that is open for deer gun season. Deer season remains such a popular event in the southeast that many lucky youngsters get an entire week off from school during the season, rather than just two days at Thanksgiving.

Due to the successful trap and transplant restoration efforts of the ODWC beginning in the 1950s through the late '70s, Oklahoma deer hunters have a better opportunity to harvest a deer than at any time in the state's history. According to Department officials, the state's whitetail deer herd is estimated at between 500,000 and 750,000 animals, and is reaching levels considered to be excessive in some areas.

"This year, our deer hunting regulations underwent dramatic changes in order to encourage harvest of more antlerless deer," said Shaw. "We need more does harvested in order to balance the herd with available habitat, reduce agricultural depredation and reduce deer vehicle collisions."

For more information about Oklahoma's deer hunting regulations and opportunities, consult the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations, available wherever hunting licenses are sold.

Oklahoma winter bald eagle events

Every winter, hundreds of bald eagles make their way to Oklahoma to feast on fish from our many lakes, and those wishing to watch these majestic birds can do so during upcoming eagle viewing tours.

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.

"The number of eagle viewing tours has grown in recent years," said Julian Hilliard, natural resources specialist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Several tours are conducted by state park personnel and others who help spot eagles soaring and fishing around Oklahoma lakes, and also assist in understanding the ecology and habits of these raptors."

Most eagle tours are offered free or for a nominal charge. Eagle watchers are encouraged to bring binoculars and dress warmly. Call the Department's Natural Resources Section at (405) 521-4616 for more information, or log on to the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Water sale plans should include wildlife

State and tribal officials announced Wednesday, Nov. 14, a water sale compact delineating how proceeds would be shared from the sale of water from southeast Oklahoma. Fish and wildlife officials are concerned that potential impacts to fish and wildlife resources may not be adequately addressed before terms of the sale are finalized. Protecting southeast Oklahoma's fish and wildlife resources, and ensuring that the region's outdoor recreation is not compromised, were both identified by the State Legislature in House Concurrent Resolution 1066 as cornerstone principles in any large-scale water sale. Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation personnel want to make certain those principles are not forgotten when specific proposals are considered.

"We have not been involved in special discussions regarding a water sale compact, nor have we been asked to evaluate fish and wildlife impacts resulting from the sale of water to Texas or other prospective water buyers," said Barry Bolton, assistant chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department. "We would oppose any proposal that does not account for the needs of fish and wildlife, but hope that if we participate in the planning process we could identify and address those needs so the resulting water sale plan is sound."

Bolton added that the proposed water sale is significant because it involves large amounts of water from several different watersheds, and because it could be a long-term contract spanning almost 100 years.

"Numerous concerns have been raised regarding how much 'excess' water is available and the region's current and future water needs, but our concern is that fish and wildlife issues not be forgotten when it comes time to draft the specifics of the sales contract," he said. "The Wildlife Department has a statutory mandate to manage, conserve and protect the state's fish and wildlife resources. We take that responsibility very seriously, and given the scope of the proposed water sale, believe we have an obligation to be involved in its planning."

Eufaula, one of country's best crappie lakes

Lake Eufaula is not only well known by Oklahomans as the state's largest lake, but its also gaining national recognition for a different reason. Recently a national fishing magazine rated Eufaula in the top 10 nationally for crappie fishing. An upcoming episode of Outdoor Oklahoma will feature Eufaula crappie fishing with Dalvin Sukenis of Lexington and Glen LeDoux of Oklahoma City.

"Lake Eufaula has quite a number of local crappie anglers who can catch a limit of 37 crappie just about every time they go out, and Dalvin Sukenis is certainly one of them," said Rich Fuller, information supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Sukenis has fished the lake for decades and can catch fish in any month of the year, but his favorite time is during the dog days of summer. Contrary to what some believe, 100 degree weather doesn't hurt fishing success, but you have to know where to go and what baits to use."

The show will air on Sunday, Nov. 25th on OETA at 8:00 a.m. Outdoor Oklahoma features such topics as fishing, hunting, and wildlife management. The 30-minute program is produced by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and can be seen at 6 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday on OETA. It also airs Mondays at 5:30 p.m., Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. and each Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on KSBI.

For a complete listing of show times and channels in your viewing area, consult the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or your local TV guide.

Furbearers offer exciting opportunities

Many fortunes were made when the first mountain men started trapping in the western regions of the U.S., and this rich heritage is often credited for forging the trails and towns that helped settle the West.

Despite increasing populations and the promise of economic return, the number of sportsmen pursuing furbearers in Oklahoma has declined in recent years. But, there is no better time to reverse this trend than right now. Oklahoma is blessed with a rich diversity of furbearers allowing both hunters and trappers ample opportunity to enjoy pursuing raccoons, bobcats, coyotes and gray foxes, among other furbearing species.

"Most furbearing species have very healthy populations, and bobcat numbers are plentiful in many parts of the state," said Russ Horton, central region senior biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Hunters and trappers play an important role in helping maintain the health and well-being of Oklahoma's furbearer populations. Trapping and hunting are the most effective tool to manage the resource, and it provides sportsmen extra opportunities to spend some quality time afield during the winter."

Oklahoma's statewide furbearer season runs Dec. 1 through Jan. 31, except for bobcat season, which also begins Dec. 1 but runs through Feb. 28. Furbearing animals include raccoon, mink, badger, muskrat, opossum, weasel, bobcat, beaver, skunks and foxes. Consult a copy of the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations for specific details on bag limits and other regulations concerning each furbearing species.

Horton said that while fur markets have generally been down, hunting and trapping furbearers has been a long-time tradition.

"From a management standpoint, harvesting furbearers benefits other wildlife such as ground nesting birds, especially wild turkeys," Horton said. "Bobcats prey on adult wild turkeys, raccoons consume considerable numbers of wild turkey eggs, and opossums prey on tree-nesting birds.

"Controlling furbearers is a desirable wildlife management practice. It's also a good way to become more familiar with the areas you ordinarily hunt other game, and it's a great way to introduce a newcomer to the outdoors."

Horton added that early reports indicate the fur market may be stronger this year. Last year Oklahoma had one of the poorest seasons on record with regard to trapping activity and prices paid for pelts. Although it is too early to tell what the markets will do this year, many fur handlers are optimistic that hunting and trapping conditions will be good, and prices will be higher.

Anyone wanting to take bobcats, raccoons or gray fox must possess a special bobcat-raccoon-gray fox license that costs $9 for residents, $51 for non-residents. Resident lifetime license holders are exempt from having to purchase the license. The license is not required for those who chase furbearers with dogs but do not harvest them.

A trapping license is required for all persons who trap, and only resident landowners or tenants or their children who trap on land they own or lease (not including hunt leases) are exempt from purchasing trapping licenses. Nonresident landowners are required to purchase the license to trap on property they own in Oklahoma. Landowners or lessees may kill furbearers actually found destroying livestock or poultry without having a license, but they may not remove any part of the fur or carcass from the premises where taken.

Hunters and trappers are also reminded that all bobcats must be tagged with bobcat carcass tag, available at selected check stations statewide. For a list of bobcat check stations, log on to the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or contact the Wildlife Division at 405/521-2739.

Winter, good time for catching catfish

For those brave enough to face the elements, winter can be a very productive time of year to catch catfish. Among many Oklahoma lakes or rivers, the Arkansas river and its tributaries offer excellent wintertime catfishing, particularly fishing for large blue catfish.

On an upcoming episode of Outdoor Oklahoma, several big blue catfish are caught by Delmer Shoultz of Vian and Blake Podhajsky of Bethany. Podhajsky, an information specialist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said the trip was quite an adventure.

"I had done quite a bit of fishing for channel catfish while growing up, but this was a quite a trip. We caught several really big fish with some over 10 pounds. I'm definitely going to try it again this winter," said Podhajsky.

The show will air on Sunday, Dec. 2 on OETA at 8:00 a.m. Outdoor Oklahoma features such topics as fishing, hunting, and wildlife management. The 30-minute program is produced by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and can be seen at 6 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday on OETA. It also airs Mondays at 5:30 p.m., Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. and each Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on KSBI.

For a complete listing of show times and channels in your viewing area, consult the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or your local TV guide.

Pheasant season outlook promising

Just inches from the nose of a statue-like bird dog, the ground erupts with the frenetic rush of wingbeats and the telltale "chawk, chawk, chawk!" In an instant, the hunter shoulders his shotgun once he sees the iridescent green head and the long streaming tailfeathers.

The hunter's quarry is the prince of upland game birds, the ring-necked pheasant and this year's population surveys suggest this will be another good year for Oklahoma pheasant hunters.

According to Mike Sams, upland bird biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, pheasant hunters harvested an estimated 120,000 cocks last season and surveys suggest this year's population level is similar to last year's.

"Our spring crow counts suggest that populations are at an all-time high, and are up slightly over last year's totals," said Sams. "Another good sign is our roadside brood surveys were also up slightly over last year."

Although huntable populations of pheasants occur in some northcentral counties, the panhandle and far northwest counties have been the stronghold for pheasants since they were introduced in the 1920s and 30s. Wildlife biologists in the panhandle report good reproduction this year with the northwest reporting pheasant levels comparable to last year.

Pheasant hunters who go afield this year will notice several regulation changes. This year's season dates and bag limits have been unified to include all panhandle, northwest and northcentral counties open to pheasant hunting. The season runs December 1 through January 31, 2002 statewide, and will have a daily bag limit of two cocks per day. Previously, there were two separate pheasant seasons and bag limits established for the panhandle and northwest/northcentral counties. Another change pheasant hunters should note is that the legal shooting hours have changed to 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

"The changes in pheasant season were established primarily to unify and simplify the regulations into a single statewide season," said Bill Dinkines, assistant chief of wildlife division for the Department. "We've seen pockets of areas, particularly in the northcentral counties of Garfield, Grant, Kay and Noble where hunters are finding good populations that can withstand taking two cocks per day, instead of just one."

Panhandle pheasant hunters who could previously take three cocks per day, can now only harvest two, however, the season length has been doubled.

"Despite the reduction of one bird in the bag limit, we've received good support from panhandle pheasant hunters who will now have two months to hunt instead of just one," said Dinkines.

Hunters heading either to the panhandle or northwest for this year's pheasant season should look for crop fields such as milo or sorghum, and also lands that are enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program. Additionally, brushy edge areas adjacent to roads or the corners of cropfields that are irrigated via center-pivot sprinklers are likely places to find pheasants.

According to J.D. Peer, hunter education coordinator for the Department, safety should also be on the minds of pheasant hunters.

"One of the most potentially dangerous situations for pheasant hunters is when they use a technique that employs the use of so-called blockers," said Peer. "Hunters acting as blockers stand at the end of a field and await other hunters who are walking directly toward them. The theory is that the blockers keep the pheasants from running by them, and while this can be an effective technique it demands that both the walkers and the blockers know their safe zones of fire and do not shoot in the direction of others."

Peer suggested that all pheasant hunters wear blaze orange vests or head coverings to help other hunters see them.

"Unless you're hunting on days that are concurrent with a deer gun season, wearing orange isn't required by law during pheasant season, but it's just good common sense," he said. "If a bird happens to fly between two hunters, the orange helps them from taking an unsafe shot in the direction of their buddy, and vice versa," Peer added.

For more details and information regarding Oklahoma's pheasant season, consult the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Hunting Guide and Regulations, available wherever hunting licenses are sold.

Biologists meet to discuss slow fishing

Fisheries biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) met recently to discuss what anglers are calling one of the slowest bass fishing years in recent memory.

Since last spring, bass anglers who fish northeast Oklahoma reservoirs in particular have reported the catch of quality-size bass greater than two pounds has been poor to fair at best. Tournament data bears out what anglers are reporting.

"It's been pretty sorry," said Gene Gilliland, avid bass angler and senior fisheries biologist with the ODWC. "Our bass tournament catch results validate what anglers are saying. Total numbers, weights and average sizes of bass caught over four to five pounds are down compared to previous years."

At the meeting, ODWC fisheries workers collaborated on causes for the downturn in big bass fishing success, including the possible role that the Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV) may have played. Bass anglers know fishing success is often affected by changing weather patterns, fluctuating lake levels, prolonged drought, flooding or other environmental extremes, such as prolonged periods of high or low lake water temperatures.

In fact, meteorological experts reported that the winter of 2001 set a record for being the coldest winter in the last 20 years. Coincidentally, ODWC biologists report that winterkill this past year on threadfin shad populations was fairly common across the state.

"Environmental factors like these may have contributed directly or indirectly to the slow bass fishing in 2001," said Kim Erickson, ODWC Fisheries Chief. "But what bass anglers want to know and what biologists can't say for certain is how significant LMBV is contributing to the problem. It's certainly not too much of a stretch to suspect that sick bass may change their behavior in feeding and movement patterns as a result of the virus, but we just don't know for sure."

LMBV is one of more than 100 naturally occurring viruses that affect fish but not warm-blooded animals. Its origin is unknown, but it is related to a virus found in frogs and other amphibians and is almost identical to a virus isolated in fish imported to the United States for the aquarium trade. Although the virus apparently can be carried by other fish species, so far it has produced mortality only in largemouth bass. Healthy bass can acquire the virus from contact with carrier bass, but it is still not known how the virus is activated into a fatal disease. Unfortunately, there is no known cure or prevention for LMBV.

The disease first gained attention in 1995, when it was implicated in a fish kill on Santee-Cooper Reservoir in South Carolina. Since then, the virus has been found in impoundments throughout the South and portions of the Midwest. Not all bass that have the virus die from the disease. In fact, most bass that carry LMBV appear completely normal. Where the virus has triggered the fatal disease, dying fish often swim near the surface and have trouble remaining upright.

LMBV affects only cold-blooded animals and although researchers have found it in other bass and sunfish like crappie, it has proven fatal only to largemouth bass. LMBV is not known to infect warm-blooded animals, including humans. Fish infected with the virus are safe to eat when properly cooked. LMBV was not identified in Oklahoma until recently. In 2000, ODWC biologists received laboratory confirmation that LMBV was the fatal disease that caused a bass die-off at Lake Tenkiller during July and August.

Erickson added, "since that time, biologists have collected bass in several other lakes and found LMBV present in 13 of 15 lakes sampled. No other bass die-offs due to LMBV have been confirmed since last year at Lake Tenkiller."

Lakes testing positive for LMBV include Arbuckle, Eucha, Eufaula, Ft. Gibson, Grand, Hudson, Konawa, McGee Creek, Sardis, Skiatook, Tenkiller, Texoma, Thunderbird. Only Broken Bow and Holdenville City Lakes tested negative. Fisheries crews will conduct their annual electrofishing surveys next spring. Anglers are encouraged to observe these sampling operations at any time. ODWC will continue to follow the status of LMBV in lakes across Oklahoma and will keep the public informed on any new developments.

ODWC biologists voice optimism that if trends in Oklahoma follow other state's experience with LMBV, the virus will run its course and bass fishing will recover to normal within a few years.

Gilliland said there is more good news to report.

"So far, there has never been a documented case of a second LMBV related die-off on a lake occurring anywhere in the U.S.," he said. "Also, our electrofishing results this year on Fort Gibson, Grand, Hudson and Tenkiller showed that catch rates of small to intermediate sized bass look outstanding, even better in some cases than the three or four years prior to discovering LMBV in the population. Fishing will get better. We'll just have to be patient."

Wildlife calendar featured in magazine

A unique wildlife calendar is the centerpiece in the latest issue of Outdoor Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's official bi-monthly magazine.

Covering 24 pages in the Nov./Dec. 2001 issue, the calendar not only showcases award-winning color photography of the state's most scenic landscapes and wildlife, but also provides helpful tips for landowners, hunters and fishermen. Each calendar month lists up to 10 suggested habitat management practices, along with interesting fish and wildlife notes for that month. Among others, featured photographs include strutting tom turkeys in the snow, a nest full of Canada goose goslings, a sunrise in the October woods, a duck hunter putting out decoys in the early morning light and a bobcat surveying its surroundings.

"We recognize the important role sound land management plays in promoting healthy fish and wildlife habitats and populations," said Nels Rodefeld, Outdoor Oklahoma editor. "From that standpoint, it's important for the Department to provide timely management information to those who might implement it on the landscape. Of course, anyone with an outdoor interest will enjoy the stunning photography."

Rodefeld added that the current issue also features a special section outlining Rio Grande turkey management. It also contains articles on the 2002 Winter Bird Survey and catfish in Oklahoma, along with two popular magazine mainstays - Off the Beaten Path and Watchable Wildlife Profile. This issue features the Eastern gray squirrel.

Individual copies of the Nov./Dec. 2001 issue of Outdoor Oklahoma are available for $3 if picked up at any of the Wildlife Department's offices, or $4 by mail (mail to Outdoor Oklahoma, 1801 N. Lincoln, Oklahoma City, OK 73105). One-year subscriptions, which are only $10, are available by calling 1-800-777-0019, or you can order over the Internet by logging on to the Department's web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Nostalgia popular with viewers

In celebration of it's 25th anniversary, the producers of "Outdoor Oklahoma" TV show, have been showing short clips from past hunting, fishing and wildlife watching segments within it's normal half-hour program. According to the show's producers with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), viewers have enjoyed the nostalgic visits back to the 1970s and ‘80s.

"Throughout 2001, we've been showing clips of some of our golden oldies, many of which were originally shot on 16 millimeter film with no sound. Even though the picture quality may not be the best, and people are wearing outdated clothes and hairstyles, we've had several people call or write letters telling us that they have really enjoyed seeing some of our trips from the past," said Rich Fuller, information supervisor for the Department.

"Another fun thing is when someone we actually filmed 15 or 20 years ago sees themselves on the show and calls us to tell us how much they enjoyed working with us back then. And more often than not, they invite us to go out with them again to make a new show."

Officials with the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA), say "Outdoor Oklahoma" remains one of their most popular programs broadcast on the statewide PBS network. Over the years, the show has received numerous awards, and recently won a first and second place award in the 2000 Society for Professional Journalists contest conducted among members of Oklahoma media.

According to David Warren, chief of information and education division for the ODWC, the attraction of the show hasn't changed much over the years.

"The reason the show has remained popular for so long is simple, it shows everyday folks out having a good time and in the process the audience learns how much fun and easy it is to go fishing, hunting or just watching wildlife," said Warren.

"The real star of the show is Oklahoma's wildlife and beautiful outdoors. All we do is try to showcase it with people."

"Outdoor Oklahoma" can be seen each Sunday at 8:00 a.m. and Saturdays at 6 p.m. on OETA. Outdoor Oklahoma features such topics as fishing, hunting, and wildlife management. The 30-minute program also airs Mondays at 5:30 p.m., Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. and each Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on KSBI.

For a complete listing of show times and channels in your viewing area, consult the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com or your local TV guide.

Cormorant control measures proposed

Often maligned by Oklahoma anglers, the double-crested cormorant is a large, fish-eating waterbird that is becoming more common on many state lakes. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is developing a nationwide management strategy for double-crested cormorants and is seeking public input, including comments from concerned anglers.

Although the extent of cormorants' effect upon Oklahoma's recreational fisheries is not fully known, the bird was declared a "nuisance species" by the Oklahoma legislature in 1991. Recently, USFWS officials released a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) which outlines various options for managing rapidly growing cormorant populations to reduce conflicts with recreational anglers, commercial aquaculture and other human activities.

The draft EIS evaluates six management alternatives, including such options as continuing current management practices, implementing only non-lethal management techniques, issuing a new Depredation Order to address public resource conflicts (the Service's proposed alternative) and establishing frameworks for a cormorant hunting season. The USFWS is seeking public comment on the proposals through January 15, 2002.

During fall and winter months, large flocks of cormorants migrate into Oklahoma from their northern breeding grounds in the Great Lakes region. Over the past two decades, the number and size of flocks of cormorants have exploded on Oklahoma's lakes. According to Kim Erickson, chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the rise in cormorant populations is well documented.

"Our fisheries personnel have certainly seen a dramatic increase in cormorants in recent years, and the number of complaints filed by fishermen has increased as well," said Erickson. "While we don't know the full effect that cormorants are having on recreational fishing, we do know that they can harm aquaculture operations on our state fish hatcheries and private commercial hatcheries around the state. Since 1998, both the ODWC and private commercial fish producers have been given federal authorization to control cormorants by various lethal and non-lethal methods on hatcheries, however, this newest draft of the USFWS could expand control methods and the states' ability to implement management measures.

Erickson added that this is the public’s chance to comment on cormorant issues and specifically the proposals outlined by the federal EIS.

Cormorants have been federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act since 1972, when they were given protection after their populations dropped precipitously due to use of the pesticide DDT, killings by humans and the overall declining health of many ecosystems, especially that of the Great Lakes. Today, the population is at historic highs, due in large part to the presence of ample food in their summer and winter ranges, federal and state protection, and reduced contaminant levels.

Today’s challenge is achieve sustainable populations and reduce conflicts with human activities," said Tom Melius, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's assistant director for migratory birds and state programs

The Service invites the public to comment on the draft EIS. Written comments must be received by January 15, 2002. Comments may be mailed or delivered to the Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 634, Arlington, Virginia 22203. In addition, comments on the DEIS may be submitted via the Internet to: cormorant_eis@fws.gov, or via fax at (703) 358-2272.

Requests for copies of the DEIS should be mailed to Chief, Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 634, Arlington, Virginia 22203. Copies of the DEIS can also be downloaded from the Division of Migratory Bird Management web site at: http://migratorybirds.fws.gov/issues/cormorant/cormorant.html. For further information, call the division at (703) 358-1714.

Comment sought on light goose management

Due to severe habitat destruction to their arctic breeding grounds from overpopulating, wildlife experts from across North America are reviewing control measures. Overpopulations of lesser snow geese and the Ross' geese are of most concern. Recently, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued a notice soliciting public comment on proposed management strategies designed to reduce light goose numbers. The proposals are outlined within a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) issued by USFWS in October.

Among several management proposals, one measure would allow state wildlife agencies to continue with special Conservation Order Light Goose Seasons (COLGS) which were first implemented in Oklahoma in 1999 and which will again be in place this year.

According to Mike O'Meilia, migratory game bird biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Oklahoma waterfowl hunters who have participated in past COLGS's and are planning to participate again in 2002, are playing a vital role in conservation.

"Hunting is certainly the most effective management tool that we have at our disposal to assist in the effort to reduce light goose numbers," said O'Meilia. "Hunters have always been the first to step forward to assist in efforts at conserving our wildlife resources and we are counting on them again to play a key role in preventing a potential catastrophic population crash and the continued degradation of the arctic environment.

"The Conservation Order Light Goose Season will begin February 11, 2002, and continue through March 31, 2002. During the special season there will not be daily bag or possession limits and hunters will be allowed to use electronic calls, unplugged shotguns, and have extended shooting hours to one-half hour past official sunset.

"Although the 2002 COLGS will again be in place, the future of establishing similar hunting seasons is unknown past this upcoming season. If waterfowl hunters wish to see the COLGS season continue, then they should forward their comments on the DEIS to the USFWS," O'Meilia added.

Persons who would like to see the various management proposals can request copies by contacting the Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, ms 634--ARLSQ, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240.

Additionally, copies of the proposals can be downloaded from the Division of Migratory Bird Management Web site at http://migratorybirds.fws.gov/issues/snowgse/tblcont.html. Public comments on the measures can be mailed directly to the address listed above, or, comments can be emailed to the following address: white_goose_eis@fws.gov. USFWS officials are allowing public comment until December 14, 2001.

Waterfowl hunters who would like to learn more about the special conservation order hunting season, can consult the 2001-2002 Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Guide, or log onto the Department's official web site: www.wildlifedepartment.com, and click on the link for Conservation Order Light Goose Season. Additionally, hunters who wish to participate in the upcoming COLGS season, February 1 through March 31, are asked to register on the web site.

"We need waterfowlers to register with us if they plan to participate in the COLGS season. This information is essential to conduct a harvest survey required by the USFWS to determine how many light geese we harvest in the state," said O'Meilia. The survey is mandatory in order for the ODWC to continue to establish the COLGS.

COLGS participants can register over the Internet by going to: www.wildlifedepartment.com and click on the Conservation Order Light Goose link, or by sending a postcard with their name, address and phone number to: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Attn. COLGS, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152.