JUNE 2004 NEWS RELEASES

 

WEEK OF JUNE 24, 2004

 

WEEK OF JUNE 17, 2004

WEEK OF JUNE 10, 2004

 

WEEK OF JUNE 3, 2004

Selman bat watch registration begins

            Register by June 28 to attend a Selman Bat Watch Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights July 1 – July 31 by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com. Find out what it’s like to see more than one million bats spiral out into the evening sky at the only public bat viewing in Oklahoma.

            The watches begin at Alabaster Caverns State Park, near Freedom. The event is limited to 75 people each night, and registration is required. The cost is $9 for adults (13+) and $5 for youth.

            “The bat colony migrates from Mexico each spring to birth and raise their young in Oklahoma. This is the same bat species seen in Texas at Carlsbad Caverns and The Congress Avenue Bridge,” said Melynda Hickman, event organizer and biologist at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

            The Mexican free-tailed bats spend daylight hours inside the cave. Then, from dusk until dawn, they fly abut the countryside hunting an estimated 10 tons of insects each night.

            According to Hickman, it isn’t common to see a colony of female Mexican free-tailed bats in Oklahoma.

            “There are only five major sites in Oklahoma used by these bats to raise young and this site is about as far north in the United States as you will find a free-tail bat colony this size,” she said.

            The bats return year after year to the Selman Bat Cave.  Free-tailed bats require a specific size of cave and opening provided by the Selman Bat Cave, Hickman said.

            “Free-tail populations are stable but a disturbance at any roosting site would impact the population,” she said. “That’s one reason the cave will not be toured, but visitors have an opportunity to take an interpretive nature hike around the area and to learn about the bats and the prairie ecosystem.”

            Stargazing at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Selman Living Laboratory Observatory is a new, optional activity offered after the Bat Watches this year. The laboratory’s telescopes and staff will be available to assist in a free exploration of the galaxy.

            A “Nature at Night” program will be held Friday and Saturday, August 6 and 7 only. Registration for this special program, which includes the Bat Watch, is $20 and limited to 20 adults, age 18 or older. View details on the web or contact the Wildlife Diversity Program at (405) 424-0099.

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Cutline: Find out what it’s like to see more than one million bats spiral out into the evening sky at the only public bat viewing in Oklahoma. For more information log onto wildlifedepartment.com.

 Noodling festivals coming this summer

            Noodling, the sport of fishing by hand, is not for the faint of heart. But if you’re not ready to try it yourself then attend one of the two noodling festivals coming soon. It may be just the inspiration you need.

            Tishomingo will be hosting the Second Annual National Noodling Tournament and Festival to be held at 7:00 p.m., Saturday, June 19. The event, hosted by the Johnston County Chamber of Commerce, will be headquartered at Pennington Park in Tishomingo.

            Contestants will vie for prizes for the biggest fish. Live music, craft booths and a plenty of good food will round out the festival. For more information about the tournament, call (580) 371-2175.

            The annual Okie Noodling Tournament held in Pauls Valley has become quite a tradition for many Oklahomans. In fact, last year the event drew about 600 people to the south-central Oklahoma town. Once again, Bob’s Pig Shop will host the event at 5:00 p.m., July 12. The fifth annual event will feature a fish fry, live music, a noodling queen pageant and plenty of monstrous catfish.

            For more information about the tournament or to download an entry form log on to www.okienoodling.com. For more information about the event, call the Pauls Valley Chamber of Commerce at (405) 238-6491 or log on to their Web site at paulsvalley.com.

            The flathead catfish can be taken legally by noodlers in Oklahoma. As temperatures warm up, flatheads start searching shallow water for holes under logs, rocks and along mud banks so they can spawn. They will stay in the holes to deposit and fan their eggs until they hatch, and noodlers can pull the fish from those holes. Fork-tailed catfish including both channel and blue catfish are classified as game fish and must be released immediately by noodlers.

            Those interested in noodling in Oklahoma should be aware that the daily bag limit for noodlers is three flathead catfish. Flatheads must be a minimum of 20 inches to be kept. Additionally, noodling is a "hands-only" sport and the possession of hooks, gafts, spears, poles or ropes with hooks attached while noodling is prohibited. For fishing regulations or to purchase a fishing license, log on to the Department’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com

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Don’t forget about free fishing days June 5-6

            What will your kids say when someone asks what they did this summer – “played video games,” “watched TV,” or just plain “nothing.” But if you take them fishing during Oklahoma free fishing days, your family can create memories that will last a lifetime.

            June 5-6 is designated as Free Fishing Days in Oklahoma, and this weekend offers a great opportunity to introduce family and friends to the sport.

            State fishing licenses are not required on the free fishing days, although anglers should note that local or municipal permits may be required on those days. Anglers must also follow all other fishing regulations.

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Department to hold vehicle auction

            Looking for a deal on a used vehicle? If so, you will want to head out to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s public vehicle auction. It will be held Thursday, June 17, at 6 p.m. at the Department’s headquarters located at 1801 N. Lincoln in Oklahoma City.
 

            “There is a wide variety of trucks available and most of them are four-wheel drive,” said Johnny Hill, property manager for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “We’re going to sell everything as is to the highest bidder.”
 

            A total of 24 vehicles will be available at the event, including a 1997 Chevy Tahoe, a 1995 Ford van and a total of 21 pick-up trucks.
 

            For more information about the auction call (405) 521-4600 or for a complete list of auction vehicles, log on to wildlifedepartment.com. The sale will start promptly at 6:00 p.m. and items may be inspected June 17 from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.

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Commission elects new officers

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission unanimously voted to approve a new slate of officers for the next year. Bruce Mabrey of Okmulgee was elected chairman; Bill Phelps of Lawton will be the vice-chairman; and John Groendyke of Enid was elected as secretary.

"As chairman of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission for 2004-2005 I am extremely honored to work with the other wildlife commissioners across the state as we face challenges and make decisions that have a far reaching impact on the state’s wildlife,” Mabrey said. “Also, the Wildlife Department is very blessed to have such a fine core of dedicated employees that are committed to do the very best job possible in carrying out the Department’s mission of managing Oklahoma's wildlife resource and habitat."

A lifelong resident of Okmulgee, Mabrey has been the executive officer of a family owned bank holding company with ownership in several eastern Oklahoma banks and is currently the executive vice president of Citizens Bank & Trust Company in Okmulgee. Mabrey represents District Two in east central Oklahoma and his term will expire in 2006.

Outgoing Chairman Mac Maguire said he was proud to serve as chairman during the past year.

“I couldn’t imagine working with gentlemen that were more committed to serving the sportsmen of the state and it was a pleasure to serve as chairman of the Commission,” Maguire said.

Also at the June meeting, the Commission received a status report on the Arcadia Wildlife Management Area. This 750-acre area located on the south side of Lake Arcadia near Edmond and is quickly becoming a popular destination for school children from miles around.

“The Arcadia WMA is so different from our other areas in the fact that it is just about surrounded by suburban development,” said David Warren, information and education chief for the Department. “This large audience located in a relatively small radius around the WMA provides tremendous opportunity for teaching youth about fishing, hunting, wetlands and wildlife management.”

The area now includes three pavilions as well as restroom facilities to cater to groups attending aquatic education classes at a specially-designed youth fishing pond. A small field research station, to be used by the Department’s wildlife biologists, is also in the construction stage.

In other business, commissioners accepted a $1,000 donation from the Grand National Quail Foundation. The funds will be used for the Department’s annual Wildlife Youth Camp.

“Without generous donations from groups like the Grand National Quail Foundation, we would never be able to put on a successful camp for the kids,” said John Streich, law enforcement chief for the Department.

Held near Stillwater, the week-long camp offers approximately 40 youths the opportunity to learn about wildlife conservation and the responsibilities of game wardens, biologists, and other wildlife professionals.

Also at the meeting, the commission approved the 2005 fiscal year budget. The motion to approve the budget also included a $1,200 cost-of-living increase for Department employees. Additionally, a 1.8 percent cost-of-living increase for Department retirees was also approved. The retirees increase is tied to the Consumer Price Index and will become effective July 1.

In employee matters, the Commission recognized Jim Littlefield, state game warden stationed in Delaware County for his 20 years of outstanding service to the sportsmen of the state.

The Commission also voted to accept a high bid of $207 an acre from Raydon Exploration Inc. for a three-year lease to the mineral rights on approximately 22 acres of Department-owned property in Beaver County.

In other business the Commission approved a measure to authorize the Director to sell .089 acres to Helena Laurent. The property’s appraised value is $940 and is located near Lake Raymond Gary in Choctaw County.

The Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Wildlife Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department, and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.

The next scheduled Commission meeting is July 12 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City at 9 a.m.

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Groendyke confirmed to fifth term on board

Prior to concluding their legislative business, State Senators confirmed John Groendyke of Enid to serve an unprecedented fifth term as a Wildlife Conservation Commissioner.

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission governs all operations and financial transactions of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the state agency responsible for fish and wildlife management in the state. Commissioners are appointed by the Governor and require Senate confirmation. Groendyke’s term will expire in July 2012.

“I am pleased to have been reappointed,” said Groendyke. “I think we need to continue to focus on youth education and should continue to work with private landowners to improve wildlife habitat.”

Groendyke added that while there have been a number of significant improvements in Oklahoma’s fish and wildlife resources in the past quarter century, none have been more dramatic that the growth of the state’s deer herd.

“Since I joined the Commission we’ve seen a ten-fold increase in the deer harvest,” he said. “There’s still a lot that can be done, though, in terms of season length and balancing the herd – both to achieve a healthier population and one that is in better balance with available habitat.”

Groendyke, who has served on the Commission since 1976, was elected to serve as the board’s secretary beginning in July. He represents District 8, which includes Cimarron, Texas, Beaver, Harper, Woodward, Woods, Major, Alfalfa, Grant, Garfield, Kay and Noble counties.

In addition to being an avid upland game hunter, Groendyke also enjoys devoting his energies to farming and ranching, real estate and oil and gas operations.

Groendyke is chairman of the board of Groendyke Transport, Inc. Founded by his father, H.C. Groendyke in 1932, it is one of the nation’s largest motor carriers of bulk commodities serving the continental United States, Canada and Mexico. Groendyke graduated from Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, MO, where he attended high school and junior college. He received his bachelor of science degree in business from Oklahoma State University and his law degree from the University of Oklahoma.

He is chairman of the board of trustees of the Wentworth Military Academy and is a member of the board of directors of Central National Bank in Enid. In addition, he is currently on the board of directors of the Grand National Quail Club, an organization for which he has served as president and chairman of the board. He also is serving on the board of directors of the Grand National Quail Foundation and was recently appointed to the OG&E Energy Corp., board of directors, along with the Oklahoma City Fair Board.

The eight-member Wildlife Conservation Commission oversees Wildlife Department operations, including land and equipment purchases, wildlife management areas, plus the state’s hunting and fishing regulations. The Commission also appoints the Department’s director.

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Cutline: John Groendyke of Enid has served as a Wildlife Conservation Commissioner since 1976 and will continue to serve as the District 8 representative until 2012.

 

Selman bat watch provides unique opportunity

See one million bats spiral out of their roost, fly over your head, and ascend into the nighttime sky at a Selman Bat Watch. The nightly exodus of bats attracts visitors to the Selman Bat Cave near Freedom where the state’s only Mexican free-tailed bat viewing occurs.

“If you like watching wildlife, or just feel like experiencing something unique, you don’t want to miss this event,” said Jenny Thom, information specialist for the Wildlife Department.

Log onto wildlifedepartment.com to print off event registration form. Watches occur Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights July 8 – 31 beginning at Alabaster Caverns State Park, near Freedom. The event is limited to 75 people each night, and registration is required. The cost is $9 for adults (13+) and $5 for youth. Register by June 28 so that you and your family can attend.

“From a distance, the flying columns of bats look like smoke. But as you sit in the viewing area, and the bats fly over your head, there is no doubt you’re seeing and hearing bats. It’s an extraordinary experience,” Thom said.

The bats’ evening emergence is the highlight of a bat watch, but there’s more to the evening than watching. There’s also learning and exploring. Buses take visitors to the Selman Bat Cave Wildlife Management Area, usually closed to the public. Visitors learn facts about bats and the prairie community. There is also an optional nature hike before the bats emerge.

“Stick around after the event for some free star gazing,” Thom said.

Staff and telescopes from the University of Central Oklahoma’s Selman Living Laboratory will be at the observatory all evening to assist stargazers.

Every spring about 500,000 female Mexican free-tailed bats migrate from Mexico and Central America to arrive at the Selman Bat Cave in Freedom, Oklahoma. The cave is on a tract of land managed by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The Department purchased the area in 1996 because of its ecological importance to the Mexican free-tailed bat. According to Melynda Hickman, natural resources biologist for the Wildlife Department, the cave is important because it is one of only five major sites in Oklahoma that is used by females to raise their young.

“In late June each bat will give birth to one baby, called a pup,” Hickman said. “In order for free-tail populations to remain globally stable, this site needs to be here each year when the bats return.”

Hickman feels the community benefits by having the bats. The bats are nature’s exterminators, playing a role in insect control.

“They fly about the countryside hunting insects from dusk until dawn,” Hickman said, “We estimate they eat about 10 tons (20,000 pounds) of insects, moths and beetles every night.

The bat watches benefit the local economy by drawing tourists from a multi-state region into Oklahoma. Hickman feels Oklahomans are lucky to have the bats here.

“It’s exciting to offer this rare opportunity to get close to wild bats and to share their importance to our environment and economy,” Hickman said.

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Grants make youth wildlife camp possible

            There’s no need to even ask 14 -year old Ian Austin if he is having a good time – you can see it on his face. This week Austin is attending the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's sixth annual Wildlife Youth Camp.

            “This is really cool! We get to try a bunch of different stuff and we are all learning about the different jobs people do to help wildlife and hunters and fishermen,” Austin, of Stillwater said.

            While Austin is having a good time and even learning a thing or two, several volunteers are buzzing around to make sure the camp is successful. A pair of organizations also made generous donations to the camp to help ensure it is a success.

            The Grand National Quail Foundation headquartered in Enid and the National Rifle Association Foundation each provided $1,000 grants to the camp.

            “We just couldn’t put on this great camp without generous donations from organizations like these. These donations show the commitment of these organizations to the youth and to the future of wildlife conservation” said Dennis Maxwell, assistant chief of law enforcement for the Wildlife Department.

            The week-long camp is conducted each year by wildlife professionals including game wardens and biologists. Held each June at Camp Redlands near Stillwater, the camp is open to Oklahoma youths ages 14 to 16. Participants attend courses in firearms handling, wildlife law enforcement, wildlife and fisheries biology, water safety, self-defense, rifle and shotgun training, waterfowl hunting and archery.

            “The kids really seem to enjoy the camp and they get the opportunity to learn what wildlife professionals do on a day to day to basis. Through the generosity of these two organizations we are able to offer this camp free of charge to all successful applicants,” Maxwell said.

            To apply for next year’s camp, look for application’s next March at wildlifedepartment.com

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Call 1-800-ASK-FISH for the latest fishing information
           
With so many outstanding reservoirs in Oklahoma it can be tough to keep up with current fishing conditions, but you can simply pick up the phone, call one number and get all the information they need to enjoy a day at the lake. Anglers can call 1-800-ASK-FISH to find out where the fish are biting or where to find a particular lake or even how to get a fishing license. 
            The 1-800-ASK-FISH hotline, which was created in 1998, operates 24 hours a day providing anglers information on a wide variety of useful information such as weekly fishing reports, where to buy fishing licenses, regulations, and other information.
            "Whether you’re a new angler or one who has been fishing for many years 1-800-ASK-FISH is a great service. It’s great to be able to call one number and have access to such a wide range of information," said Kim Erickson, fisheries chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
            Compiled by Wildlife Department personnel and independent volunteer reporters, the updated reports even include techniques and locations to increase angler success.
            Broken into five state regions, the reports also include other valuable information for the informed angler. Water temperature, water conditions and lake levels can help fishermen get the most out of their outings.
            The 1-800-ASK FISH program is a cooperative effort between the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Sportfish Restoration Program and Bass Pro Shops.

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A Daily Dose of Wildlife Trivia
           
Trivia #1:           What Oklahoma event was ranked in the top 10 “lesser known – but still jaw dropping – spectacles,” by “Birder’s World” magazine in August 2003? 
            Answer #1:        The Selman Bat Watch.        
 

            Trivia #2:           Ten tons, or the weight of 5 elephants, is equivalent to what?
            Answer #2:        The amount of flying insects eaten each night by the Mexican free-tail bats at the Selman Bat Cave Wildlife Management Area.

            Register by June 28 to attend Thursday, Friday or Saturday night July 8 - July 31. The cost is $9 for adults, $5 for children (12 & under).  Each night limited to 75 participants. For a registration form, call (405) 424-0099 or log onto wildlifedepartment.com.

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Playa Lakes to be the focus of Festival in Goodwell, Oklahoma

Certain subjects are an accepted part of a child’s curriculum: reading, writing, and arithmetic. Nowadays, that list should also include learning about the water cycle and how to preserve our water resources.

Oklahoma students who are interested in water resources, and are entering grades four to seven in the coming school year, can register for the Playa Lakes Festival, to be held July 20-23, 2004, at the Oklahoma Panhandle Research & Extension Center in Goodwell. The Festival is a fun way for students to become more knowledgeable about the High Plains water cycle through the context of playa lakes. During a four-day program, students will learn about the main components of a unique and largely hidden water cycle – playa lakes and the Ogallala Aquifer.

Darryl Birkenfeld, coordinator of Ogallala Commons, the main Festival sponsor, is passionate about why students should learn about the water cycle.

“Water is the lifeblood of human and natural ecosystems. We call this a ‘Playa Lakes Festival’ but it is really a learning session on our entire water cycle. Playas are a unique feature of the Southern High Plains, and can serve as a tool to teach students, adults, and communities about a healthy and functioning water cycle,” Birkenfeld said.

There are 585 playa lakes in the three counties of the Oklahoma Panhandle. In recent years, numerous studies are demonstrating that the groundwater lying deep below the Panhandle, known as the Ogallala Aquifer, is actually recharged via playa basins. Due to the lack of surface water in this arid part of Oklahoma, groundwater is the major source for crop irrigation, livestock watering via windmills as well as municipal water. Though long treated as a nuisance, playa lakes are not only important to wildlife, but for the long-term viability of the water cycle as well as human communities.

“Whether our children grow up and live in the High Plains or in distant cities, water use and conservation will be one of the greatest challenges they will face the rest of their lives,” notes Birkenfeld. “Learning where our water comes from, how we use it or misuse it, and how we can preserve it indefinitely into the future is one of the most important lessons kids and their families can learn in life.”

Using an indoor/outdoor format, students will spend six hours each day in three-hour modules that involve science, biology, creative writing, art, photography, and local history. Adults or students interested in participating in the Playa Lakes Festival can contact Darryl Birkenfeld at (806) 938-2529 or e-mail Darrylb@amaonline.com

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Quick reference bird guide now available

Ever wonder which birds you’re seeing on road trips throughout the prairie? A “Pocket Guide to Prairie Birds” may help, and it can be yours for only $1.50.

This quick-reference guide shows 86 species of birds commonly seen throughout the western prairie region of the United States. As the name suggests, the guide is small enough to fit in a pocket. It measures 3.25 inches by 4.25 inches.

The book provides species identification tips, habitat, and food information. Color-coded range maps cover 10 states, including Oklahoma. The maps also indicate the season a bird may occur. Icons show the main component of diet and primary habitats. Emphasis is on adult birds in the breeding season.

The “Pocket Guide to Prairie Birds” is available through the Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Diversity Program. Log onto the Outdoor Store at www.wildlifedepartment.com for an order form or mail a check or money order for $1.50 to: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Wildlife Diversity Program, PO Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152.

The Wildlife Diversity Program monitors, manages and promotes Oklahoma’s wildlife that are not hunted or fished. For a $10 tax-deductible donation supporters will receive a complimentary copy of the “Pocket Guide to Prairie Birds” and the Wildlife Diversity Program’s bi-annual newsletter, “The Wild Side.”

Contributions go towards programs that assist declining species like Texas horned lizards (horny toads), swift foxes, crayfish, mussels and migratory songbirds among others. Donations also contribute to programs like the Selman Bat Watch and Bald Eagle Viewing Events.

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Cutline: The “Pocket Guide to Prairie Birds," is a quick-reference guide shows 86 species of birds commonly seen throughout the western prairie region of the United States.

 

Water garden plants belong in the water garden – only

A small water garden is a great source of relaxation and enjoyment for an increasing number of Oklahomans. While water gardening can certainly be a rewarding hobby, individuals should take certain precautions to ensure that their water garden will not harm the surrounding native environment.

“Water gardens are great, however people need to be aware of the potential problems they could cause if they release non-native plants into nearby lakes and streams,” said Gene Gilliland, senior fisheries biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Many of the plants used in water gardens, such as water hyacinth or milfoil, are non-native species. One of the reasons these plants are so popular is that they can reproduce rapidly - quickly filling a water garden with lush vegetation. For this same reason they can have a very negative impact on Oklahoma’s lakes and rivers.

“If gardeners release these plants into a nearby drainage ditch or creek, they can out compete our native species and become very difficult to eradicate or even control,” Gilliland said.

Water hyacinth and water lettuce are two of the most common water garden plants which could become ecological problems when released. According to Gilliland, a large water fern known as giant salvinia, poses the highest threat to native environments.

“Once established, non-native plants can decrease native plant diversity, block out light from entering the water and even harm fishing in the long term,” Gilliland said.

There is a wide range of alternatives to releasing excess or otherwise unwanted plants into the environment.

“You can burn them, mulch them, or give them away to a fellow water gardener. Basically, do anything except release them into a nearby creek or pond,” Gilliland said. “This situation has not become serious yet, but everyone needs to do their part so people can enjoy their water gardens as well as our lakes and rivers.”

The Wildlife Department has published a full-color poster designed to help water gardeners identify non-native plants as well as show the beauty of native varieties. To obtain a copy of the poster call the Oklahoma Fisheries Research Laboratory at (405) 325-7288. For a list of plants that have been classified as potentially harmful, log onto www.wildlifedepartment.com

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