MAY 2010 NEWS RELEASES 

WEEK OF MAY 27, 2010

WEEK OF MAY 20, 2010

WEEK OF MAY 14, 2010

WEEK OF MAY 6, 2010

Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is key player in Oklahoma wildlife conservation
            The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program has worked in cooperation with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for nearly two decades to restore wildlife habitat in Oklahoma, contributing over $700,000 since 2000 alone.
            At its May meeting, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission heard a presentation from Jontie Aldrich, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Oklahoma Partners program coordinator, on the projects and progress of the Partners program in the state.
            As a voluntary program designed to help private landowners restore fish and wildlife habitat on their property, the Partners program coordinates primarily with landowners and the Wildlife Department to accomplish a range of conservation goals and outreach efforts.
            “In Oklahoma we have great diversity, and we have a lot of private ownership — 94-97 percent is privately owned — so obviously that’s where the majority of the wildlife resource is located and that’s why it’s a very effective program in this state,” Aldrich said.
            Projects undertaken through the program had included wetland and prairie restoration, bird nesting habitat improvement, bat habitat conservation, controlling invasive plants, and more, leading to the restoration of more than 295,000 acres statewide.
            Additionally, projects have also included about 125 outdoor classrooms at schools across the state to promote and increase involvement and exposure of youth to the outdoors, nature and conservation. Along similar lines, the Partners program also supports the Wildlife Department’s Oklahoma Archery in the Schools Program, which introduces archery curriculum to school students across the state through classroom shooting activities and annual state shoots at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. At the 2010 state shoot over 1,600 students from 129 of the 225 schools involved in the program participated in competitive archery events, qualifying many of those students and schools for the National Archery in the Schools national shoot in Louisville, Ky.
            The program also partners with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to release an annual wildlife habitat management calendar for landowners.
            In other business, the Commission heard a presentation from Joe Hemphill, southeast region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department, on the status of the Eastern wild turkey in southeast Oklahoma.
            According to Hemphill, turkey numbers are down noticeably in southeast Oklahoma.
            Research shows populations estimates in 2005 to be around 35,000 birds, but last year estimates had declined to around 19,000 — a 46 percent decline over four years.
            “Very untimely weather patterns in reproductive months influenced declining turkey populations,” Hemphill said. “It’s not just in southeast Oklahoma. It’s Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri.”
            Hemphill said extreme drought from 2004-06 followed by extreme moisture in the following years through 2009 affected turkey reproduction. The decline is shown in hen to poult ratios and other survey methods used to track turkey numbers.
            A quorum was not present at the meeting, and the Commission did not vote on any of the action items on the agenda.
            The Commission also recognized wildlife technicians Robert Guinn and Ian Campbell, both for 25 years of service the Wildlife Department. Guinn works at Keystone and Skiatook WMAs, while Campbell works with landowners in northeast Oklahoma.
            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 set for 9 a.m., June 6, at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), located at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City.
 
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Controlled Hunts application deadline is May 15
            Oklahoma sportsmen hoping to draw out for a bull elk, whitetail deer, antelope or other controlled hunt through the program have until May 15 to submit applications over the Internet by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com.
            The controlled hunts program offers a wide variety of highly desirable hunts through a random drawing. Opportunities offered through the program include hunts on Department or other government-owned or managed lands where unrestricted hunting would pose safety concerns or where overharvest might occur.
            Ryan Parker of Yukon is one of those who believe it is well worth the time to apply for controlled hunts.
            “I know I have benefited greatly from them,” Parker said. “Both my first deer — a doe — and my first buck — an eight-point — were taken on controlled hunts held in southeast Oklahoma. I encourage everyone to seek this ‘extra’ tag and take advantage of the best public opportunity available to Oklahoma sportsmen.”
            All applicants, including lifetime license holders, must pay a $5 application fee to enter the controlled hunts drawings. The fee is paid only once per person per year regardless of the number of categories entered.
            Applications are offered online through a secure process that only accepts applications once they have been filed correctly, and a print-out confirmation page is available for sportsmen to document their submitted application.
            Applicants have until May 15 to apply online.
            For complete application instructions, including tips on enhancing your chances of being selected as well as a full listing of available hunts for elk, deer, antelope, turkey, quail and raccoon, log on to
http://www.wildlifedepartment.com .
 
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May 15 marks longstanding squirrel season opener
            Sportsmen wrap up their turkey hunting each spring just in time to prepare for the May 15 opener of squirrel season, one of Oklahoma's most generous hunting opportunities.
            Squirrels are readily available on public and private lands all across the state. Hunters can harvest 10 squirrels daily and enjoy nearly nine full months (May 15-Jan. 31) of hunting opportunity.
            Oklahoma is home to two species of squirrel that are legal to hunt — the eastern gray squirrel, which inhabits the eastern portion of the state, and the fox squirrel, which is found statewide in suitable habitats.
            Sportsmen use several approaches to hunt squirrels, among them calling, stalking, still hunting or relying on dogs trained to hunt and locate squirrels. Both shotguns and .22 rifles are good choices for hunting small game.
            One key element squirrel hunters should look for when deciding where to hunt is a squirrel food source that is producing food during the time of year that you plan to hunt. Foods attractive to squirrels include a variety of seeds, nuts, berries, insects, pinecones and buds from a variety of plants and trees. Depending on the time of year, some foods are more readily available than others. This spring, hunters should watch for mulberry trees and other fruit trees. As early fall arrives, hickory nuts will become attractive as well as other mast-producing trees. About any tract of oaks, hickory or pecan trees can be productive.
            Additionally, hunters who use one of a variety of manufactured squirrel calls can locate squirrels quickly and even draw squirrels within close range, eliminating some of the guess work of deciding where to start their hunt. Hunters who use dogs generally send their dogs in the direction they wish to walk, and then follow behind while the dog locates a squirrel.
            Regardless of method, hunters have no shortage of squirrel hunting opportunities. Excellent squirrel hunting can be found on a number of wildlife management areas, statewide, depending on which species sportsmen hope to find.
            Hunters taking to the woods after squirrels would also be interested to know that squirrel skins and/or tails may be legally sold and have brought up to $2 for whole skins in past years.
            Additionally, squirrel meat makes excellent tablefare and is popular for use in a variety of recipes. Long-celebrated squirrel meat preparations include fried with biscuits and gravy or served with dumplings, among others.
            To hunt squirrels in Oklahoma, hunters need a resident or non-resident hunting license, unless exempt Resident hunters younger than age 16 can hunt squirrels without a license. Seasons on public lands may vary from statewide season dates. For full details and regulations consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to the Wildlife Department’s website at http://www.wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Shad stocked at Lake Texoma
    Personnel from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation have made efforts to stabilize Lake Texoma threadfin shad populations that substantially declined due to a winter die-off.
    “We were able to stock more than 39,000 adult threadfin into Lake Texoma this week,” said Matt Mauck, south-central fisheries supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “We expect these shad to begin spawning soon and really jumpstart the threadfin population.”
    The shad were stocked in numerous areas in the lake and according Mauck, they are a critical part of the food system in the lake.
    "The threadfin is an important prey species for stripers and other sportfish in Lake Texoma," said Mauck. "This winter it just got too cold for the shad to survive and the population took a hard hit. They will come back on their own over time, but we felt additional stockings would speed up the recovery process."
    The die-off occurred when water temperatures in the lake dropped to 40 degrees or below for several weeks this past winter and dramatically impacted threadfin populations, Mauck added. Fishing guides and anglers have had difficult time collecting bait for trips and have had to rely on collecting gizzard shad or purchasing shiners if they did not wish to fish artificial lures.
    Lake Texoma is nationally recognized as a premier striped bass fishing destination. Additionally, numerous other species thrive in the lake including trophy populations of smallmouth bass and blue catfish. This resource offers countless hours of recreational opportunities but is also important economically with many businesses and fishing guides relying on the continued success of the fishery.  While sport fish generally get most of the attention, they are all reliant upon available forage within the lake.  
    “While there are many different forage species within the lake, shad are a staple food item for many of the most sought after fish, especially stripers,” Mauck said. “In fact, striped bass eat almost exclusively threadfin and gizzard shad, avoiding other food items in many cases.”
    While gizzard shad are a readily available staple in the lake, threadfin remain smaller than the gizzard shad and therefore can offer more forage variety to smaller predator species as well as stripers.
    Similar cases of mass die-offs have been reported three other times in Lake Texoma history, the latest being in the winter of 2001. In all cases, the threadfin shad made a successful comeback between the remnant population that survived the winter and supplemental stockings from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).
 
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El Reno Lake reclaims distinction for state record flathead catfish after 11-month hiatus
            For years El Reno Lake held the distinction of producing the state record flathead catfish, so when the five-year record of 72 lbs., 8 oz., was smashed in 2009 by a 76 lb. fish caught from the Poteau River, the waters of El Reno must have felt the hit. On May 11 — not even a year later — El Reno Lake answered the Poteau River’s challenge when Richard Williams of El Reno landed a 78 lb., 8 oz., flathead while bass fishing with a crankbait.
            “I’m not a catfisherman,” Williams said, but he admitted that claiming the state record flathead catfish was still “pretty cool.”
            Williams’ wife told personnel with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation that her husband had quit fishing and had just started up again this year. The only other fish Williams had landed that morning was a crappie until about 11 a.m. when the 51-inch fish hit his 14 lb. test line rigged with a Strike King crank bait.
            Flathead catfish, channel catfish and blue catfish are readily available in the state’s lakes, ponds and rivers, and they can be caught using a variety of methods, such as by rod and reel and by noodling, but also by trotlining, limblining and juglining.
            Catfish grow especially active when warm weather coincides with rising water levels, and a variety of baits can be used to catch them such as worms, crayfish, cut shad and prepared baits.
            For a complete list of record fish and the procedures regarding certifying state record fish, consult the current “Oklahoma Fishing Guide” or log on to wildlifedepartment.com. Anglers who believe they may have hooked a record fish must weigh the fish on an Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture certified scale, and the weight must be verified by a Wildlife Department employee.
 

Caption: Richard Williams caught this 78 lb., 8 oz., flathead catfish May 11 from El Reno Lake, setting a new state record for the species.
 
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Outdoor Calendar offers full schedule of fall activities
            As temperatures begin to heat up in Oklahoma, outdoor activities do as well, and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s online Outdoor Calendar is a great tool for discovering what is happening at an outdoor destination close to home.
            The Outdoor Calendar is available on the Wildlife Department’s website at wildlifedepartment.com and highlights each month’s events, such as the James Collins Wildlife Management Area Outdoor Adventure Day May 22. The event, to be held at the James Collins WMA south of Featherston, will include shooting sports like archery, shotguns and air rifles as well as casting, turkey calling, crafts and other activities for all ages.
            Visitors to the Wildlife Department's website can use the Outdoor Calendar to find out about all kinds of outdoor activities taking place in their area — whether it is a shooting sports event, a wildlife watching tour, hunting seasons, or any other number of activities.
            The Outdoor Calendar provides information about upcoming hunting seasons and events such as banquets sponsored by conservation organizations, birding tours or — later in the fall — even elk bugling tours at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge to hear the seasonal mating call of the Rocky Mountain bull elk. Sportsmen also can use the Outdoor Calendar to plan for hunting dog trials, free fishing and hunting days and more, sometimes months in advance.
            Those interested in receiving the Outdoor Calendar by e-mail can also subscribe to the Department’s weekly Wildlife News at wildlifedepartment.com. The weekly news release provides detailed information about events, breaking outdoor news such as state record fish and wildlife, hunting and fishing opportunities and more, in addition to the most timely information from the Outdoor Calendar.
            For even more information about Oklahoma’s outdoors, log on to the Department’s website at wildlifedepartment.com. The site is a great source for information to help sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts get the most from Oklahoma’s outdoors while benefiting wildlife at the same time.
            Whether you’re interested in learning more about the Wildlife Department or fish and wildlife species in Oklahoma, or you want to buy a hunting or fishing license, it can all be done with a few clicks of the mouse. In addition, the Department’s annual hunting and fishing regulations also are available on the site.
 
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Plan a summer fishing “staycation” for the family
            The search is on this summer for activities that are fun for the entire family yet easy on the wallet, and officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation say fishing provides the answer.
             The start-up costs for fishing are minimal — a rod and reel, some bait and an appropriate fishing license are all it takes — and the sport itself is easy to learn. Additionally, most Oklahomans don’t have to travel far to find fishing opportunities.
            Oklahoma has many fishing opportunities that provide a chance to get away for an in-state vacation or for a one-day outing with the family, and fishing can be paired up with wildlife watching, hiking or camping.
            Fishing in Oklahoma normally requires a license, which can be purchased online at wildlifedepartment.com or at various sporting good vendors across the state. However, anglers fishing June 5-6 can fish without a state license during Oklahoma’s free fishing days. Anglers should note that certain city permits may still apply to specific fishing areas during Free Fishing Days.
            Oklahoma was the first state in the nation to offer free fishing days over 25 years ago and has since been followed by dozens of other states that have established similar opportunities.
            Free Fishing Days offer one way that families can enjoy an inexpensive day on the water by fishing at lakes and ponds across the state or at one of Oklahoma’s year-round designated trout waters. Anglers fishing Lake Texoma should be aware that Free Fishing Days applies for all of the lake on June 5 but only on Oklahoma portions of the lake on June 6.
            Families who would like to learn more about fishing together can attend one of several fishing clinics held throughout the summer as part of the Wildlife Department’s Aquatic Resource Education Program. Clinics are held at the Arcadia Conservation Education Area at Lake Arcadia as well as other locations in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas. Full clinic schedules will be posted online at wildlifedepartment.com as dates approach.
            The Wildlife Department’s Close to Home Fishing program is another option that offers fishing opportunities in or near urban areas. To learn more or to find Close to Home Fishing areas or other angling opportunities, log on to wildlifedepartment.com or consult the current “Oklahoma Fishing Guide,” available at sporting goods stores or anywhere fishing licenses are sold. These sources also include tips for catching and identifying the various species of Oklahoma fish, regulations, fish recipes and more. Fishing licenses also are available for purchase at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Chickasha 5th-grader claims second consecutive national archery championship
            The second consecutive championship claimed by Chickasha 5th-grader Meredith Noland at the National Archery in the Schools National Tournament May 7-8 is just one indicator that Oklahoma students are building a fierce legacy in archery competition at both state and national levels.
            Noland’s score of 288 out of 300 put her in first place in the 5th-grade girls category, ahead of 331 other girls her age. Additionally, she tied for the highest score among over 1,000 girls ranging from 4th through 6th grade.
            “Oklahoma students had a memorable experience at the national tournament,” said Justin Marschall, Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “They represented Oklahoma well; Chickasha even won the Spirit award, which is given to the school demonstrating exemplary sportsmanship. The Wildlife Department congratulates Meredith and all the other Oklahoma students who went to the national tournament to represent Oklahoma.”
            Oklahoma has proven to be a strong presence at the national tournament, claiming two national championships last year and multiple high standings among students from all over the nation. Last year, Noland took the 4th-grade girls national championship.
            At this year’s national tournament, Oklahoma again had several high scores among the near 8,000 students present from across the country. In addition to Noland’s win, notable finishes include the following:
 
4th Grade Girls:
4th place - Kody Tolliver, Zaneis (Wilson); scored 266 points out of 300.
7th place - Kassidy Perkins, Zaneis (Wilson); scored 262 points out of 300.
There were 155 4th-grade girl shooters.
 
5th Grade Boys:
10th place - Clayton Mosley, Chickasha; scored 277 points out of 300.
There were 500 5th-grade boy shooters.
 
6th Grade Girls:
7th place - Haylie Douglas, Chickasha; scored 284 points out of 300.
9th place - Courtney Grigg, Chickasha; scored 282 points out of 300.
There were 564 6th-grade girls shooters.
 
High School Boys (9th-12th Grade):
11th place - Cole Thompson, 11th grade, Keys (Park Hill); scored 292 points out of 300.
There were 1,133 high school boy shooters.
 
Middle School Girls (7th & 8th Grade):
11th place - Michelle Holiman, 7th grade, Maryetta Jr. High (Stilwell); scored 283 points out of 300, with 17 bullseyes.
13th place - Cheyenne Keith, 7th grade, Greenville, (Marietta); scored 283 points out of 300, with 15 bullseyes.
There were 812 middle school girl shooters.
 
Middle School Boys (7th & 8th Grade):
6th place - Will Gibson, 8th grade, Chandler; scored 291 points out of 300.
11th place -, Brydon Edmonds, 8th grade, Chickasha Middle school; scored 289 points out of 300.
There were 1,355 middle school boy shooters.
 
            Students involved in the program hone their concentration skills by shooting at targets from 10 and 15 meters, attempting to place their arrows into a three-inch diameter bullseye for points. Students of all ages, sizes and athletic abilities can compete at the same level for high standings and personal success.
            Oklahoma students qualified for the national competition based on their individual and team scores from the Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools State Shoot held in March at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. More than 1,600 students from 129 schools across the state gathered at the Cox Convention Center for the state shoot to wrap up a season of archery practice and competition at their respective schools and to determine qualifiers for the national shoot.
            Oklahoma is in its sixth year of participation in the Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools Program, and more than 225 schools are currently participating.
            The Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools Program, administered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, is part of a national organization that introduces students to the sport of archery, in which students of all athletic abilities can learn and excel. The Archery in the Schools curriculum is designed for 4th-12th graders and covers archery history, safety, techniques, equipment, mental concentration and self-improvement.
            Teachers interested in learning more about the OAIS program or starting the program at their school should contact Marschall at (405) 522-1857
            For more information on the Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools program, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 


Photo Caption: Chickasha 5th-grader Meredith Noland took her second consecutive championship at the National Archery in the Schools National Tournament May 7-8. Her score of 288 out of 300 put her in first place in the 5th-grade girls category, ahead of 331 other female shooters her age.
 
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Young wildlife better left alone
            This time of year offers the chance to see newborn wildlife in Oklahoma, and while outdoor enthusiasts may be inclined to try to help young critters that appear to be abandoned, biologists say they are better left alone.     
            “If you find newborn wildlife while in your yard or in the woods that appears to be alone, chances are an adult animal is nearby and is simply waiting for you to move along so they can take care of their young,” said Melynda Hickman, wildlife diversity biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “It is common for fawns to be left in a safe place while does feed nearby, and interfering with that always causes more harm than good. It’s also best to leave birds, young squirrels and other wildlife alone as well.”
            In Oklahoma, most fawns are born in May and June and start becoming visible in mid to late June.
            Young birds and squirrels can be blown out of their nests during storms as well, and even though they may appear to be alone and distressed or in need of help, an adult animal will often find and care for them.
            Biologists say it can actually be more stressful on young wildlife if people try to help.
            “It’s good when well-meaning sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts want to help, but sometimes the best help we can offer young wildlife is to leave them alone and let nature run its course,” Hickman said.
            In most cases, it also is illegal to pick up wildlife. Log on to
http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/ for more information about wildlife conservation in Oklahoma.
 
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Oklahoma’s Free Fishing Days slated
            Anglers can fish for free June 5-6 during Oklahoma’s Free Fishing Days, when people can fish without state fishing licenses, which are normally required of most anglers.
            “Oklahoma's Free Fishing Days provide a great opportunity for our veteran anglers to take someone fishing who has never been before, since they don’t have to buy a license or permit to go,” said Damon Springer, Aquatic Resource Education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Anglers have an opportunity to introduce someone to the sport who otherwise wouldn’t know what fun they are missing.”
            Families in Oklahoma City wanting to get in on the free fishing fun can attend Family Fishing Day at Edwards Park Pond June 5, where a free fishing clinic will be taught by volunteers through the Wildlife Department and the Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department. Participants should bring their own fishing equipment and bait, and prizes will be awarded to anglers who land specially-tagged fish that have been stocked in the lake for the event. To pre-register, call (405) 755-4014.
            Oklahoma offers fishing in lakes and rivers, but also in urban waters designated by the Wildlife Department as “Close to Home Fishing” locations. Anglers who don’t know where to start can turn to the Wildlife Department’s weekly state fishing report to find just the right place to go. Every week the fishing report provides a listing of lakes and the current state of angling success at that location. The reports are compiled by Wildlife Department employees and volunteers and cover lakes and waters throughout every region in the state. Information such as lake levels, water temperatures, species being caught, locations of best angling activity and successful baits is included in the reports. Anglers can receive the fishing report by subscribing to the Department’s weekly news release at
http://www.wildlifedepartment.com .
            Although state fishing licenses are not required during Free Fishing Days, anglers should note that certain city permits may still apply to specific fishing areas.
            Anglers fishing Lake Texoma should be aware that Free Fishing Days applies for all of the lake on June 5 but only on Oklahoma portions of the lake on June 6.
            Oklahoma was the first state in the nation to offer free fishing days over 25 years ago and has since been followed by dozens of other states that have established similar days.
 
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Bat fungus documented in Oklahoma
            Laboratory tests performed at the U. S. Geological Survey National Health Center in Madison Wisconsin have demonstrated that a Cave Myotis (Myotis velifer) bat collected alive on May 3, 2010 from a cave in northwest Oklahoma has tested positive for the fungus Geomyces destructans. This fungus is associated with a condition known as “White Nose Syndrome” which appears to be specific to some species of hibernating bats and was first observed in four caves in New York during the winter of 2006.
            Bats with White Nose Syndrome have noticeable white fungus growing on their skin, particularly on their noses and other bare surfaces including their wings.  White Nose Syndrome frequently results in the death of the infected bats. Biologists continue to study the bat specimens to determine if all bats that come into contact with the fungus will develop the disease.  There have been no reported human illnesses attributed to the fungus or to White Nose Syndrome, and there is no evidence to suggest that the syndrome is harmful to organisms other than bats.
            Although genetic tests indicate that the bat was harboring the fungus, the pattern of infection was not consistent with the White Nose Syndrome infection observed in bats in the eastern United States. There also has not been a mortality event attributable to White Nose Syndrome in Oklahoma to date.  Both the ODWC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) are concerned about the potential development of White Nose Syndrome in Oklahoma in the near future.  The ODWC and FWS’s Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Office anticipate working in partnership with other federal and state agencies, researchers and conservation partners to monitor other Oklahoma caves and bat populations for the fungus and signs of WNS.
            This finding is the first record of the fungus in Oklahoma and represents the most western report to date.  The next closest known report of the fungus occurred in eastern Missouri earlier this year.  To date, all of the White Nose Syndrome cases have been east of the Mississippi River.  This finding also represents the first discovery of the fungus in a bat species that does not occur in the eastern United States.  The range of the Cave Myotis extends from western Oklahoma and Texas west and south into New Mexico, Arizona, California and Mexico.
            The potential impact of White Nose Syndrome is considered to be significant due to the highly beneficial ecological and economic roles played by bats.  Bats consume mosquitoes, moths and other night-flying insects including species that cause extensive forest and agricultural damage.  Additionally, bat guano provides essential nutrients to many otherwise nutrient-limited cave environments where other animals live.
            Currently, White Nose Syndrome is believed to be transmitted primarily through bat-to-bat contact.  However, it is possible that the fungus could be transmitted by humans who enter caves and carry the fungus on their shoes, gear and clothing. Within the past four years, White Nose Syndrome has been documented in 13 eastern states and two Canadian provinces.  
            For more information about White Nose Syndrome, including information about ongoing research, recommended decontamination procedures for caving gear and clothing, and answers to frequently asked questions, please visit the Service’s White Nose Syndrome national website at
http://www.fws.gov/northeast/white_nose.html


 
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Selman Bat Watch registration available June 1
            Oklahomans looking to attend a Selman Bat Watch this summer can download a registration form beginning June 1 at wildlifedepartment.com.
            The bat watches, hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, will be held the last four weekends in July at the Selman Bat Cave WMA near Freedom. The nightly exodus of at least a million bats attracts visitors to where the state's only Mexican free-tailed bat viewing occurs. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children (12 & under).
            “Pre-registration is different this year with attendees being randomly drawn from mailed in registration forms,” said Melynda Hickman, Wildlife Diversity biologist for the Wildlife Department. “Given the popularity of this event, the Department is using this approach to streamline its registration process. The specified mail-in registration period begins June 1 and ends June 7.”
            The drawing will be held June 10. To pre-register, log on to wildlifedepartment.com beginning June 1 and print off a registration form, then mail the completed form to the Wildlife Department at Bat Watch Program, P.O. Box 53465 Oklahoma City, OK 73152.  Be sure to carefully read the step-by-step instructions for completing the registration form.
Registration is by mail only and must be postmarked no later than June 7 to be included in the drawing. More information and details about the Selman Bat Watch can be found online at wildlifedepartment.com. Successful registrants will receive a confirmation packet by mail.
            “This is the only event of its kind here in the state,” Hickman said.
            The Wildlife Department purchased the area around the bat cave in 1996 because of its ecological importance to the Mexican free-tailed bat. According to Hickman, the cave is important because it is one of only five major sites in Oklahoma that is used by females to raise their young.
            Hickman says the bats provide a great service: free pest control. The bats spend daylight hours inside the cave. But most of the action is after sunset.
             “Studies tell us that the bats at Selman Bat Cave eat about 10 tons (20,000 pounds) of insects, moths and beetles every night,” Hickman said.
            The bats' evening emergence is the highlight of a Bat Watch, but there's more to the evening than simply watching bats. Buses take visitors to the Selman Bat Cave Wildlife Management Area, usually closed to the public, where they learn facts about bats and the prairie community. There is also an optional nature hike before the bats emerge. On Friday and Saturday evenings, staff and telescopes from the University of Central Oklahoma's Selman Living Laboratory will be at the observatory to assist stargazers.
            Additionally the Bat Watches benefit the local economy by drawing tourists from a multi-state region into Oklahoma. Hickman said Oklahomans enjoy a rare opportunity to get close to wild bats and to share their importance to the environment and the economy.
            The bat watches are limited to 75 people each night, and registration is required. For more information, call (405) 424-0099 or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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‘Tis the season for ANS awareness
            In the summer of 2009, anglers came across a non-native crustacean — a Harris mud crab — while fishing on the Oklahoma side of Lake Texoma. While the species is only slightly larger than a dime and its direct impact on Oklahoma’s fisheries is unknown, it is just one of several known aquatic nuisance species that can inflict major economic and ecological problems on waters all across the state.
            According to Curtis Tackett, aquatic nuisance species biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, aquatic nuisance species, or ANS, are a threat because of their potential to disrupt the balance of state fisheries. Since they are invasive and often non-native, they may have few predators, reproduce and spread rapidly, and compete with native species for available forage and habitat. Aquatic nuisance species in Oklahoma include species such as zebra mussels, didymo, white perch, golden alga, and hydrilla, among others.
            “An ANS can be any organism that threatens our native waters, not just fish or plants,” Tackett said. “They are often unknowingly transported by man — usually boaters and anglers — to a new location, where they thrive and cause problems for native habitat or native aquatic species.”
            Oklahoma’s most widespread ANS is the zebra mussel. Though not much bigger than a thumbnail, these striped aquatic invaders can live for several days out of water and can be dispersed overland by boats pulled on trailers, though their main method of spread is by free-floating larvae. Zebra mussels can multiply rapidly to the point of clogging water treatment plant intake pipes, fouling boat bottoms and possibly depleting food sources relied on by fish and other aquatic species.
            Another ANS recently discovered in Oklahoma where it was not formerly known is Didymosphenia geminata, or “didymo” in the Lower Mountain Fork River below Broken Bow Lake. The invasive algae thrives in low-nutrient, cold flowing streams that are rich in oxygen. Though it starts out as small tufted colonies, it can grow into dense, thick mats that cover large portions of a streambed, outcompeting native algae relied upon by native insects.
            “That may not sound like a problem, except that those insects provide an important source of food for trout in the Lower Mountain Fork River,” Tackett said.
            Tackett said that in some cases, the reduction of available food sources for trout because of competition from invasive species like didymo can result in smaller fish. Additionally, didymo can clog water pipes and other flow structures as well as become a nuisance to anglers because of how easily it can be snagged by a fish hook.
            To stop the spread of aquatic nuisance species and their possible economic and environmental consequences, the Wildlife Department depends on anglers’ support and help.
            According to Tackett, anglers can help prevent further spread of ANS, and it just takes a little bit of effort.
            “But that effort can go a long way,” Tackett said.
            Tackett offers the following measures to prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species:
* Drain the bilge water, live wells and bait buckets before leaving.
* Inspect the boat and trailer immediately upon leaving the water.
* Scrape off any zebra mussels or aquatic vegetation found. Do not return them to the water.
* Wash boat parts and accessories that contact the water using hot water (at least 140 degrees F.), or spray with high-pressure water.
* If possible, dry the boat and trailer for at least a week before entering another waterway.
* Before leaving a river or stream, remove all clumps of algae and look for hidden fragments.
* Soak and scrub all gear for at least one minute in a two percent bleach solution, or five percent salt solution, or simply use hot water and dishwashing soap.
* If cleaning is not practical, then wait at least 48 hours before contact with another water body after equipment has dried.
* Consider keeping two sets of wading boots, and alternate their use between cleaning and drying.
* Avoid using felt-soled waders.
* Avoid wading through colonies of the algae. Breaking up the material could cause future colonies and blooms to occur further downstream.
 
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Free family fishing clinics slated throughout summer
            “Give a kid a fish and feed him for a day.”
            The second half of that saying goes something like, “Teach a kid to fish and feed him for life.” The old adage explains in just a few words what so many anglers already know — that fishing is a lifelong hobby and practical skill, but also that fishing can become a foundation for both memories and appreciation for the natural world.
            Through the Wildlife Department’s Aquatic Resources Education Program (AREP), kids and adults can choose from courses held near urban areas throughout the state this summer to learn about fishing and try their own hand at catching a fish.
            Oklahoma has thousands of miles of shoreline along its many lakes, rivers, streams and ponds, and many of them are close to urban areas and open to the public for angling. The AREP program is designed to help people get a start in the sport so they can take advantage of the many fishing opportunities available to them.
            According to Damon Springer, aquatic education coordinator for the Wildlife Department, the free clinics will benefit families trying to learn about the sport as well as those looking for easy and affordable opportunities to spend time with family.
            The Aquatic Resource Education Program will hold classes through August, many of which will be held at the Wildlife Department’s Arcadia Conservation Education Area in Edmond or the Zebco Pond in Tulsa. Others will be held at local ponds in Oklahoma City and in Jenks. A full course listing is available on the Wildlife Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com. Pre-registration for each course is required and can be done by calling the phone number listed with each course.
            The Aquatic Resources Education Program is the Department's means to promote the sport of fishing and aquatic resource awareness as well as a way to give youth, regardless of family situation, an opportunity to learn about Oklahoma's aquatic environments and how to fish.
            Developed in 1988, the program's objectives are to increase the understanding, appreciation, and awareness of Oklahoma's aquatic resources; facilitate the learning of angling skills, outdoor ethics, and sport fishing opportunities in the state; enhance urban fishing opportunities; develop adult fishing clinics and provide information on specialized fishing techniques.
            These events — usually lasting a few hours — present information on such topics as fish identification, knot-tying, fish cleaning and cooking, fishing tackle selection and use, water safety, outdoor ethics and more.
            Most clinics, including Lake Arcadia family fishing clinics, include fishing at a nearby pond or lake.
            According to Springer, the fishing clinics will benefit youth as well as play an important role of the future of Oklahoma’s outdoor heritage.
            For more information about the Aquatic Resources Education Program, log on to the Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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Handling live fish with care ensures safe release to swim again
            Black bass are often released quickly after being caught by anglers, sometimes only out of the water long enough for a moment of admiration and a photograph.
            Releasing black bass back into the water to continue growing and reproducing can be a smart choice, but there are a few steps that can help ensure black bass and other sport fish are released unscathed by the few minutes it spends in an angler’s possession. With a little effort, anglers who choose to release fish can know that their catch was not released in vain, whether they are tournament anglers who collect large catches of fish, or recreational anglers who enjoy sharing nature with their families.
            One of the most important steps to ensuring the survival of caught and released fish is the way the fish is lifted from the water and held.
            Gene Gilliland, central region fisheries supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, advises anglers to carefully avoid holding larger bass by the lower jaw in a vertical position — a hold often seen in photographs — as this can dislocate or even break the fish’s jaw, preventing it from eating and likely resulting in the death of the fish. Gilliland also advises anglers to wet their hands before handling a fish with bare hands.
            Additionally, the following tips are suggested for handling larger bass that will be released:
* Using your dominant hand, grip the fish with your thumb inside the mouth and your fingers locked on the outside of the mouth.
* Support the back end of the fish with your opposite hand placed beneath the fish just forward of the tail.
* Lift the fish out of the water in a horizontal position using both hands for support.
* Handle the fish only when putting it into a livewell or holding tank. Avoid keeping the fish out of water or habitually removing it from the water for photographs. A good rule of thumb is to avoid keeping a fish out of water longer than you can hold your own breath.
            When care is taken to preserve the life of a fish planned for release, anglers can be certain their good intentions will be followed by continued productivity of their favorite fishing holes and angling hot spots.
            Keeping one’s catch of fresh fish is also popular among Oklahoma anglers and can result in a delicious meal with family and friends in addition to reliving the memory of the catch. Fish battered in cornmeal and preferred seasoning are considered delicious when pan-fried. Other preparation methods include broiling until flaky, or cooked by any method of choice and served with cole slaw and hot sauce in a tortilla for a delicious “fish taco.”
            When keeping fish for the freezer, care should be taken to avoid “freezer burn” which occurs when oxygen is allowed to contact the meat directly in freezing conditions. It can be avoided by submerging fish in water before freezing or by using a vacuum sealer — available at sporting goods stores and other locations — to remove air from the container that stores the fish for freezing.
            For more information about fishing in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
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