DECEMBER 2004 NEWS RELEASES 

WEEK OF DECEMBER 30, 2004

WEEK OF DECEMBER 23, 2004

WEEK OF DECEMBER 16, 2004

 

WEEK OF DECEMBER 9, 2004

 

WEEK OF DECEMBER 2, 2004

November rains good news for waterfowl hunters

            They go hand in hand - water and waterfowl - and this November Oklahoma has received plenty of rainfall.

            “As far as I am concerned the more water we get the better. Right now our waterfowl habitat is in good shape which is good news for both ducks and duck hunters,” said Mike O’Meilia, migratory game bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

            According to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, the state has seen significant precipitation in November. Here’s just a few examples of the rainfall Oklahoma towns have received in the last 30 days. Altus has received 7.1 inches of rainfall, Broken Bow, 6.11 inches, Kingfisher, 4.64 inches and Tahlequah, 8.95 inches.

            “In regards to waterfowl habitat in reservoirs, rivers and small marshes we’re doing much better than we have in the last few years,” O’Meilia said.

            According to O’Meilia, duck and goose hunters have plenty of reason to be optimistic about the second half of the waterfowl seasons.

            “If we just get a little normal winter weather in Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas, I think we will be in great shape,” he said. “It seems like the migration has been a few weeks late this year, but I expect it to really begin picking up in the next few weeks.”

            For more information about waterfowl hunting pick up a copy of the “2004-05 Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com. To find how much rain your town has received in the last month, log on to http://climate.ocs.ou.edu/rainfall_update.html

 

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Crappie fishing can heat up as the weather cools down

It may be getting colder outside, but that doesn’t mean it is time to put up your fishing gear.

“The winter is just about my favorite time of year to fish, especially for crappie,” said Robert Reece, aquatic habitat coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

According to Reece, crappie often begin to concentrate into larger schools in November and December.

“Sometimes it takes a little work to find them, but if you catch one crappie you’re likely to catch a bunch more,” Reece said.

The best place to fish for crappie is in deeper water adjacent to some form of structure such as a submerged tree.

“When it is cold outside, it is important to fish very slowly around the structure before moving on. I like to use small feather jigs, but minnows are a great choice too,” Reece said.

Just because it is cold outside, doesn’t mean you have to shiver your way through your next fishing trip. Heated docks are perfect for those who prefer to keep the feeling in their fingers and toes while fishing. Enclosed docks can be found on many lakes and reservoirs around the state and are excellent locations to catch a stringer full of crappie.

A list of enclosed fishing docks can be found by logging on to the Department’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com. Anglers may want to call ahead to find out more information about specific docks such as cost, hours of operation or directions.

 

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Furbearer season now open

Oklahoma’s furbearer seasons are now open allowing trappers and hunters plenty of opportunity to carry on a long tradition and pursue the state’s rich diversity of furbearers.

"Most furbearing species are plentiful, and bobcats continue to increase their populations across the state. In fact, there were almost 5,000 bobcats tagged in Oklahoma last year," said Russ Horton, central region senior biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Hunters and trappers have an important role in helping manage Oklahoma's furbearer populations."

Furbearing animals include raccoon, mink, badger, muskrat, opossum, weasel, bobcat, beaver, striped skunks and gray foxes. According to Horton, trapping and hunting furbearers has several benefits.

“These methods are the most effective tool and in most cases the only tool we have to manage predator populations,” Horton said. "From a management standpoint, harvesting furbearers benefits other wildlife such as ground nesting birds, especially wild turkeys.”

Horton added that trappers are excellent woodsmen and often become real experts at reading and interpreting a wide variety of animal sign.

“Trappers are very keen observers of nature. They have to be in order to be successful,” Horton said. “Trappers, more often than not, are the ones who really know what is going on in the woods.”

Last, but not least, there is money to be made from furbearers.

“The average price for a bobcat pelt was around $57 last year and it looks like the fur prices overall should remain stable as compared to previous years,” Horton said.

For a list of fur dealers in Oklahoma log onto the Department’s Web site at http://www.wildlifedepartment.com

Oklahoma's statewide furbearer season runs Dec. 1 - Jan. 31 except for bobcat season, which runs Dec. 1 - Feb. 28. Consult a copy of the “2004-05 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” for specific details on bag limits and other regulations concerning each furbearing species.

Those wanting to take bobcats, raccoons or gray fox must possess a special bobcat-raccoon-gray fox license. It costs $10 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 pursue furbearers with dogs but do not harvest them.

A trapping license is required for all persons who trap. Cost is $10 for residents and $375 for nonresidents. Only resident landowners or tenants or their children who trap on land they own or lease (not including hunting leases) are exempt from purchasing trapping licenses.

Hunters and trappers are also reminded that all bobcat pelts must be tagged with an official identification tag, available from several Department installations and 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.

 

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Wildlife Commission recognizes NWTF contributions

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission recognized the National Wild Turkey Federation’s $34,921 contribution toward a slate of habitat projects at the Commission’s December meeting. The donation highlights the strong partnership between the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in restoring and enhancing wild turkey habitat across the state.

“These funds were raised in Oklahoma by hundreds of volunteers and we hope these projects will benefit both turkeys and turkey hunters across the state,” said Chuck Townsend, Oklahoma state president of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Several different projects will be implemented on eight wildlife management areas (WMAs) across the state. For example, invasive cedar trees will be removed near roost trees on Ellis County WMA (northwest OK), fireguards will be constructed to allow for prescribed burning at Love Valley WMA (southern OK) and Oologah WMA (northeast OK) and aerial herbicide application will be used at Atoka WMA (southeast OK) to improve turkey habitat.

Brek Henry, state game warden stationed in Rogers County, was awarded two separate honors at the meeting. First, Henry was named the ODWC Game Warden of the Year. Second, Bill Crawford with the Shikar Safari, presented Henry with the Shikar Safari Officer of the Year award.

“Ever since I was a freshman in high school I wanted to be a game warden and now I can’t imagine doing anything different. It’s easy to get up every morning to work at a job you really love,” Henry said.

In other business, Commissioners received a report from Finley and Cook PLLC, the company that performed the Department’s 2004 annual financial audit. According to Nathan Atchison with Finley and Cook, the audit went smoothly and no irregularities were found.

Also at the December meeting, Commissioners heard a report regarding the current status of the Department employee retirement plan. Although the stock market saw a downturn from 2000 to 2002 the retirement plan is relatively well-funded at 86 percent, according to Diane Hunt with Mellon Inc.

In other business, the Commission voted to amend the employee handbook to clarify employee’s duties and responsibilities when dealing with wildlife such as road-killed deer and handling certain types of live wildlife.

Also at their December meeting, Commissioners recognized the following employees for their service to the Department:

Paul Mauck, southcentral region fisheries supervisor, for 35 years;

Kyle Eastham, human resources administrator, for 20 years; and

Dwight Luther, state game warden stationed in Creek and Okfuskee counties, for 20 years.

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 January 10 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City at 9:00 a.m.

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Unique Project WILD workshop coming soon

Although there are Project WILD workshops held throughout the year, there is a unique opportunity coming soon for Oklahoma educators.

“We have a special WILD About Reading workshop coming up that will be held at St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee,” said Lisa Anderson, Project WILD coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “The workshop will give educators the tools they need to encourage reading as well as teach kids about the outdoors around them.”

Project WILD, an innovative conservation education program, gives educators training and materials to assist them in teaching students about wildlife. The exciting curriculum helps teachers and youth leaders teach a wide range of subjects such as math, science, social studies, language arts and expressive arts while teaching about the importance of our environment at the same time.

The workshop will be held Jan. 22 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and there will be a follow-up session on June 4 from 9 a.m. to noon. The cost of the workshop is only $10 and includes both Project WILD activity guides, a WILD About Reading Supplement, as well as lunch.

“The WILD About Reading workshop is for educators who have never attended a Project WILD workshop as well as those who may have already attended but want to learn to make a literature connection with the WILD activities,” said Anderson. “This workshop meets the criteria for high-quality professional development specified in the No Child Left Behind Act and PASS objectives for Elementary and Middle School.”

Oklahoma Project WILD conducts workshops statewide for educators or anyone who is interested in teaching kids about wildlife. At the workshop, participants receive two activity guides consisting of over 170 hands-on activities. Guides are only available by attending a workshop where participants actually do activities and learn more about Oklahoma’s wildlife.

Project WILD is designed for any age and any learning level. Classroom teachers, youth group leaders, naturalists, and park, zoo, and museum educators all will find the curriculum useful. In Oklahoma, Project WILD is sponsored by the Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. Since its inception in 1984, over 20,000 Oklahoma educators have been trained in Project WILD.

Educators can learn more about Project WILD and view a list of upcoming workshops by logging onto the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com and clicking on the link for education programs.

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Over 50 events spotlight eagle viewing

Outdoor and indoor programs offer visitors an intimate glimpse into the life of America’s national symbol at statewide eagle viewing events during weekends in January and February. As many as 750 to 1,000 eagles annually visit Oklahoma, making it one of the top 10 states in the nation for winter eagle viewing.

Hosted by state parks, lake management offices and local Audubon Societies, each event is unique, according to Jenny Thom, Wildlife Department information specialist.

“They all offer different experiences,” Thom said. “To help you decide which one to attend, the Wildlife Department has compiled information from all the events and listed them on our website and in a free brochure.”

Most events are free or have a minimal charge and occur on weekends during January. Many begin with informative bald eagle programs led by naturalists and biologists. Several events offer indoor programs including videos, exhibits and children’s activities. A few present a live, captive-reared bald eagle. Across the board, naturalists and volunteers are on hand to assist visitors with eagle viewing. Binoculars and cameras come in handy, but spotting scopes are provided at some events.

“I’ve watched people respond with awe when they see bald eagles in the wild,” Thom said. “With over 50 events this winter, there’s sure to be one that fits your schedule.”

For a complete list of events, descriptions, locations, dates and times, go to www.wildlifedepartment.com or call the Wildlife Department for a free brochure at (405) 521-4616. Brochures are also available in Oklahoma City at Bass Pro Shops and Martin Nature Park. Tulsa area residents may find brochures at the Wildlife Department’s Regional Office at the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks and at Oxley Nature Center in Mohawk Park.

 

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Opportunities still available for deer hunters

There is still plenty of opportunity for deer hunters to harvest a deer with the special antlerless deer gun seasons coming soon. The first three-day hunt, to be held Dec. 17 through 19, will be restricted to the north central and northwestern portion of the state. Much of the state, except for the far southeast and the panhandle, will also have three days of antlerless-only gun hunting running from Dec. 31 through Jan. 2. Hunters should consult the antlerless deer hunt zone map on page 14 of the “2004-05 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” to determine which areas will offer the special antlerless deer gun seasons.

"I hope everyone will take the opportunity to participate in this special season. Much of the small decrease we have seen in the deer harvest this year can be attributed to a decrease in the number of does harvested," said Mike Shaw, wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "By increasing the antlerless deer harvest, hunters will be helping to balance the state's deer population with available habitat, improve buck to doe ratios, reduce agricultural depredation and reduce deer/vehicle collisions. The most sound management strategy that can be employed in many areas is to harvest more antlerless deer."

Hunters who participate in the special antlerless deer gun season must possess a special antlerless deer gun license in addition to their annual hunting license. Lifetime hunting and combination license holders are exempt and do not need to buy the special antlerless deer gun license.

The statewide season limit during the special antlerless deer gun season is one antlerless deer. All hunters participating in the special gun season must comply with the same blaze orange requirements as set forth for the regular deer gun season, as well as tagging and checking requirements. Archery deer hunters and those hunting other species (quail, squirrel, pheasant, etc.) must wear either a blaze orange hat or vest in areas open during the special antlerless deer gun season.

To learn more about the special antlerless gun season and deer management in Oklahoma, consult the “2004-05 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to the Wildlife Department’s Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

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Hunting and fishing regulation changes to be discussed at upcoming meetings

Biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation are encouraging sportsmen to attend upcoming public meetings to learn more about a number of proposed hunting and fishing regulation changes.

Many of the proposals are aimed at providing additional opportunities for the sportsmen of the state. Also included in the list of proposals are a wide variety of changes designed to clarify the language of the law, better manage Oklahoma wildlife resources and respond to sportsmen’s desires.

Notable proposals include changing bobcat season dates so that the season opens on the first day of deer gun season. Another new rule would make it unlawful to possess filleted fish while fishing. It would also make it unlawful to transport filleted fish to shore or to the final take-out point. This rule should increase voluntary compliance and assist in enforcement of existing length and bag limits and improve angling opportunity.

All of the 21 proposed changes will be detailed at the meetings, where biologists will answer questions and get feedback.

A complete list of the rule change proposals can be seen at wildlifedepartment.com.

Each of the following public meetings begin at 7:00 p.m.

Fish & Wildlife Public Hearings Combined

January 10, 2005 - Monday

January 11, 2005 - Tuesday

Fish Regulations Only Public Hearings

January 10, 2005 - Monday

January 11, 2005 - Tuesday

Wildlife Regulations Only Pubic Hearings

January 10, 2005 - Monday

January 11, 2005 - Tuesday

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Oklahoma’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy draft plan available

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has released the first draft of Oklahoma’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. 

The Strategy, which is being created by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in collaboration with wildlife stakeholders, will address the needs of fish and wildlife species in the state that are rare or declining. It will use a habitat approach rather than a species-by-species management approach. All 50 states are creating similar Strategies such that when fit together like a puzzle, they will show the current state of America’s wildlife and identify actions needed to keep fish and wildlife populations healthy.

A wide variety of stakeholders have provided information for Oklahoma’s Strategy, including technical experts from Federal and State agencies, conservation organizations, landowner interests, sportsmen and other stakeholders interested in wildlife conservation. This draft is the next step in the development of the Strategy.

Hunters, anglers and boaters, and participants in outdoor recreation have traditionally funded the majority of fish and wildlife conservation. This funding has not been enough to address the needs of all 800 plus wildlife species in Oklahoma. That is the case nationwide, and state fish and wildlife agencies have been working for 20 years to fill this funding gap. This Strategy is a component of the new federal State Wildlife Grants Program - the nation’s core program for keeping America’s wildlife populations healthy.

This draft review period is one vitally important step - and opportunity - in the process of preparing Oklahoma’s Strategy. Anyone with an interest in wildlife in Oklahoma is encouraged to review the draft and provide their comments by January 31, 2005. Draft Strategy chapters can be downloaded from the planning contractor’s Web site in PDF format: http://www.dynamicsolutionsgroup.com/OK/.

Those with comments should use the form provided and send email to bruce.h@dynamicsolutionsgroup.com.

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Lower Mountain Fork River Foundation supports area fishery

            With the help of members across the southcentral United States, the Lower Mountain Fork River Foundation has become an important partner in improving trout fishing opportunities on the southeast Oklahoma river.

            “We love the river and we just enjoy giving back to the resource,” said Linda King, an active member of the foundation. “We would encourage everyone who enjoys the river to find a way to get involved, whether it’s joining our foundation, picking up trash or just telling a neighbor about our great resource down here.”

            Since its inception three years ago, the foundation has raised more than $20,000 for projects on the Lower Mountain Fork River.  Most notable among their efforts is their dedication to helping provide cooler water from Broken Bow Lake for trout.  More than $14,000 has already been raised for this project and foundation members are working to raise more.

            “The Lower Mountain Fork River Foundation has been instrumental in several efforts,” said Paul Balkenbush, southeast region fisheries supervisor. “Projects like the trout rearing pens and cold water access improvements aren’t inexpensive.  It takes help from our partners like the Lower Mountain Fork River Foundation to get things done.”

            Both rainbow and brown trout can be coaxed into biting along the 12-mile Lower Mountain Fork River Trout Area managed by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The area is known for trophy trout, in fact, the state record brown trout (9 pounds, 12.75 ounces) was caught from the Lower Mountain Fork River.

            For more information or to learn how to join the Lower Mountain Fork River Foundation log on to www.ncic.com/lmfrf.

 

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Statewide waterfowl report just mouse click away

         There will be never be a replacement for windshield time or boot leather when it comes to finding ducks and geese, however waterfowl hunters can do a little “virtual scouting” by logging on to the Wildlife Department’s Web site. Statewide waterfowl reports are available at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

         For instance, this week’s reports indicates that Kaw Lake in northcentral Oklahoma is a real hotspot for mallards. According to Ron Folks, wildlife biologist at Kaw Wildlife Management Area, as many as 30,000 ducks can be found on the upper end of the lake. The Department’s annual millet planting efforts at the reservoir were particularly successful this year, which is good news for ducks and duck hunters.

         Kaw Lake certainly isn’t the only prime waterfowling spot in the state. Good numbers of Canada geese are using the wetland units at Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area in southwest Oklahoma and more mallards are moving into Hugo Lake in southeast Oklahoma.

         Not only can hunters find a report of the number of ducks and geese in the area - the site also offers a status report of the habitat conditions at wetland development units across the state.

         Waterfowl hunters should be sure they have a state waterfowl license and a federal waterfowl stamp, along with their Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) Permit. The free HIP permits are required to be carried by all migratory bird hunters in the United States. Data collected from the surveys helps state and federal migratory bird biologists better gauge bird harvests and hunter numbers, which are used to improve migratory bird management.

         For complete details see the “2004-05 Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Guide” available at hunting license vendors or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

 

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Congressman Lucas works to secure conservation funds

         U.S. Congressman Frank Lucas played a key role as Congress solved a two-year funding dispute when it recently passed a key conservation bill.  The legislation provides technical assistance funding to landowners who want to participate in the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).   President Bush must now sign the bill for it to become law.

         “The funding we worked so hard to include in the farm bill for conservation practices was being redirected to other conservation programs by USDA officials in Washington,” Lucas said. “They were robbing Peter to pay Paul, and the landowners who use these cost-share programs were losing out as a result.”

         The WRP and CRP programs conserve and restore wetlands and grasslands important to waterfowl and other wildlife, as well as helping maintain and improve water quality.   The legislation prevents the conservation funds from being spent on other projects by requiring that funds set aside for conservation programs can only be spent on those programs. 

         “This language will correct a problem we’ve been working on since USDA began implementing the 2002 Farm Bill,” Lucas said.

         The bill resulted from an ongoing debate among USDA officials, and House and Senate Agriculture Committee members over how to fund the technical assistance for certain conservation programs.  Technical assistance is provided by USDA field staff and conservation district employees, who help landowners plan and implement soil and water conservation practices.

         Landowners interested in learning more about conservation programs or improving the wildlife habitat on their property call the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (405) 521-2739.

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“Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine seeking reader’s photos

         “Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine is once again accepting photos for their annual Readers' Photography Showcase. The special issue offers a great chance for photographers, either professional or amateur, to display their color slides, prints or digital photos. Hopeful photographers have until March 18 to submit their best shots.

         "Whether you like taking pictures of scenics, wildlife or people, our state offers plenty of opportunities for the outdoor photographer," said Nels Rodefeld, “Outdoor Oklahoma” editor. "We’re looking for a wide variety of shots, but we especially enjoy those images of hunters and anglers in the field."

         “Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine consistently receives recognition for its photographic excellence. Last year, the magazine was awarded first place in the magazine competition of the Association for Conservation Information, a professional organization made up of state and federal wildlife agencies and other conservation organizations. Additionally, the 2004 Reader’s Photography Showcase took first place honors in the magazine photography category at the Oklahoma Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists annual awards banquet.

         According to Rodefeld, 35mm slides, color prints, and digital images will be accepted. Rodefeld added that original 35mm slides still offer the best color reproduction quality, but that “Outdoor Oklahoma” will accept high-quality images captured on digital cameras or in print photos.

         “The annual Readers' Photography Showcase is one of the most popular features in the magazine and it is one of my personal favorites as well. It seems like every year the pictures just get better,” he said.

         The photographer's name, address and phone number need to be printed on each slide using a fine point pen or rubber stamp. Slides should not be encased in glass.

         Each participant may submit up to five images and all entries will be returned undamaged. Each submission should include a brief description of the photo including location taken, camera used, names of subjects and what it took to get just the right shot.

         Photographers can mail their submission to Paul Moore, Photo Editor, “Outdoor Oklahoma,” Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife Conservation, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152.

         Individuals who wish to obtain their own copy of the July/August Readers Photo issue can subscribe to “Outdoor Oklahoma,” on the Universal License form wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold; or via credit card by calling 1-800-777-0019. Subscriptions are just $10 for one year, $18 for two years, or $25 for three years.

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Snow geese to be featured on the 2005 Oklahoma waterfowl stamp

         Jeffrey Klinefelter, of Etna Green, Indiana took first place in the 2005 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp competition held Dec. 10 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's central office in Oklahoma City. An accomplished wildlife artist, Klinefelter has also taken top honors in several other state duck stamp contests.

         The Oklahoma duck stamp program was designed to ensure quality habitat for the hundreds of thousands of ducks and geese that migrate through the state. The program, which began in 1980, features portraits of the state’s diverse waterfowl species by the nation’s best artists.

         "Oklahoma waterfowlers have benefited greatly from the duck stamp program," said David Warren, information and education chief for the Department. "Through the program, critical funds have been generated to establish and maintain 40 wetland development units across the state. Not only do these areas provide resting habitat for migrating waterfowl, but they provide habitat for a host of other species such as wading birds and small mammals."

         The program generates funding for waterfowl conservation projects through the sale of waterfowl licenses, which are required of waterfowl hunters, and stamp sales, many of which are purchased by collectors. The program has helped purchase 11,675 wetland acres and enhance, create, restore and maintain thousands of additional acres of critical waterfowl habitat. Wetland development units such as Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area in southwest Oklahoma and the Red Slough Wildlife Management Area in McCurtain County, have benefited from duck stamp funds.

         Three honorable mentions were named in the 2005 contest as well. They were; Kim Norton of Wayne, Oklahoma, and Ronnie Hughes and Amanda Hughes both of Anderson, South Carolina.

         A selection of the winning waterfowl stamp art from previous years is currently on display in the lobby of the Wildlife Department headquarters located at 1801 N. Lincoln, in Oklahoma City.

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Cutline: Jeffrey Klinefelter took top honors in the Wildlife Department's 2005 Duck Stamp competition with his painting of two snow geese in flight.