DECEMBER 2003 NEWS RELEASES

WEEK OF DECEMBER 25, 2003

WEEK OF DECEMBER 18, 2003

WEEK OF DECEMBER 11, 2003

WEEK OF DECEMBER 4, 2003

Wildlife Commission builds on relationships with conservation organizations

The National Wild Turkey Federation continues to build upon its strong partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and other partners in restoring and enhancing wild turkey habitat across the state as evidenced by 11 different habitat projects that will be funded by the NWTF.

At a recent meeting of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission the Wildlife Department recognized the National Wild Turkey Federation’s $34,000 contribution toward a slate of habitat and other projects aimed to improve both turkey populations and turkey hunting.

“We are proud to partner with the Wildlife Department in these efforts. There are projects going on in each corner of the state and hopefully they will be of benefit to both turkeys and turkey hunters,” said Gary Purdy, senior regional director for the NWTF.

Several different projects will be implemented on wildlife management areas (WMAs) across the state. Roost trees will be planted on Sandy Sanders WMA (southwest OK), prescribed burns will be conducted at Spavinaw (northeast OK) and Cherokee (northeast OK) WMAs, and the Hugo WMA (southeast OK) shooting range will be improved.

Also at the December meeting, the Commission approved a donation of $1,250 from the 89er Chapter of Trout Unlimited. The money will fund an angler use survey on the Spillway Creek portion of the Lower Mountain Fork River.

“This survey should give us a more complete understanding of how this portion of the river is being used and also how we can improve upon it,” said Kim Erickson, fisheries chief for the Wildlife Department.

The 89er Chapter of Trout Unlimited has been an important partner in improving trout fishing in the state. To date they have donated $14,000 for a wide variety of projects.

The Commission also accepted a donation of $1,000 from the Oklahoma Bluebird Society. The funds will go to the Department’s Natural Resources Section, which oversees all non-game species.

In other business, the Commission voted to increase the Law Enforcement Division budget $15,504.50. The money was raised through the recent auction of seized and forfeited firearms. The money will be used to refurbish approximately 80 shotguns issued by the Department to state game wardens.

“Many of these guns are over 20 years old,” said John Streich, chief of law enforcement for the Department.

A gunsmith will add synthetic stocks and forearms, replace all worn-out parts and apply a dull matte finish to the barrel and receiver.

Also at their December meeting, Commissioners recognized a pair of Department employees who have served 30 years each.

The following employees were recognized for their service to the Department:

Mike Gabbard, state game warden stationed in Comanche County, for 30 years; and

Doug Frazier, game warden supervisor stationed in Osage County for 30 years.

“Over the years, these individuals have proven to be a great asset to the sportsmen, the landowners and to the wildlife resources of Oklahoma,” said Greg Duffy, director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

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 5 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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Youth deer hunt featured on “Outdoor Oklahoma” television show

There is nothing like the smile on kid’s face after a successful deer hunt. Thanks to Oklahoma landowners, there were quite a few more smiles this fall.

Already in its third year, the private lands youth deer hunts have proven to be an outstanding success. Landowners now have another tool in managing the deer herd on their property and the youth participants have a great opportunity to harvest an antlerless deer.

An upcoming episode of the “Outdoor Oklahoma” television program features a recent private lands youth deer hunt in Roger Mills County. The show takes a unique look at the different perspectives of the hunt participants, from both the youth hunters and their hosts.

Also appearing on the program will be never-before-aired video of two trophy bucks fighting over rutting rights. The video is enough to get any hunter’s heart racing and is part of the Outdoor News Report which features all the latest information sportsmen need to know.

The program will air on OETA-The Oklahoma Network Sunday, December 14, at 8:00 a.m.

Outdoor Oklahoma features such topics as fishing, hunting; and fisheries, game and non-game wildlife management. The 30-minute program can be seen on OETA-The Oklahoma Network Sundays at 8:00 a.m. and Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. Outdoor Oklahoma can also be seen on the following television stations: KSBI Network (greater OKC metro area), Wednesdays 11 p.m., Saturdays-7:30 p.m., KTEN (south-central and southeastern Oklahoma) Sundays-5 a.m., KWEM (Stillwater), Wednesdays-8:00 p.m., Fridays-7:00 p.m. and Sundays-8:00 p.m.

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

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Legislation introduced to protect playa lakes

An important piece of conservation legislation to preserve playa lakes and recharge the Ogallala Aquifer was recently introduced to the floor of the U.S. Senate.

"The playa lakes are wetlands often overlooked, but invaluable to water quality, to recharging the Ogallala Aquifer and as sanctuary for wintering birds," said U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (KS) who introduced the bill. "This bill works within legislation that is already proven to bring real conservation results in a sustainable way."

Playa lakes stretch from west Texas up through the panhandle and parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming. Playas are the most common wetland in these areas, totaling approximately 60,000 in the seven states. They are shallow, clay-lined wetlands that average less than 30 acres and are not filled with water on a year round basis. In many areas, the lakes have been used for grazing, irrigation and run-off. Some playas have also been filled in by sediment runoff from cropland.

According to Senator Roberts, the bill protects these wetlands by amending the Farmable Wetlands Program under the Conservation Reserve Program to allow the enrollment of 40 contiguous acres instead of 10, and allow payment on 10 of the acres instead of five. These changes ensure that the majority of lakes and their buffer areas will be eligible for enrollment, and it also guarantees that playas will be considered eligible wetlands by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Because playa lakes are dry much of the year, traditionally they have not been recognized as wetlands in Farm Bill programs. But the wet-dry cycle of playas is a natural function of the wetlands. The seasonality of playas produces diverse vegetation which supports all types of birds - waterfowl, shorebirds, waterbirds and grassland species alike. When the playa’s clay basin is dry, deep cracks form which are the main channels for recharge of water through the playa into the Ogallala Aquifer.

"Research indicates that playas can be a significant source of recharge for parts of the Ogallala," Senator Roberts said. "Recharge rates under the playas can be many times greater than surrounding areas. This legislation makes a critical investment in our water supply."

In addition to recharge, the bill will produce significant benefits for millions of migratory birds which depend on the playa lakes region. The playas support 37 mammal species, 185 bird species and 340 plant species. They provide temporary shelter for wintering birds including some 400,000 sandhill cranes along with 2.5 million ducks and 500,000 geese.

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Mallard to be featured on the 2004 Oklahoma waterfowl stamp

One of the most recognized and quintessential game birds of North America, the mallard duck, will appear on the 2004 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp.

The 2004 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp competition was held Dec. 4 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's central office in Oklahoma City. Scot Storm of Sartell, Minnesota, painted the winning duck print. Storm gave up a career as an architect in 1999 to devote himself to his art - a move he has not likely regretted. In addition to winning the 2004 Oklahoma Waterfowl Stamp, Storm’s other paintings will also be featured on the 2004 Federal Duck Stamp and the 2004 Minnesota Waterfowl Stamp.

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 2004 contest as well. They were; John Nelson Harris of Groveland, Florida, Jeffrey Klinfelter of Etna Green, Indiana, and Jeff Hoff of Rugby, North Dakota.

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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Wildlife officials looking to the future

An opportunity to shape the future of Oklahoma’s fish and wildlife conservation is in the works. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, in collaboration with wildlife stakeholders, is creating a Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. The strategy will address the needs all fish and wildlife species in the state. It will also use a habitat approach, rather than a species-by-species management approach.

All 50 states are creating similar strategies. 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.

“Overall, we’ve made great strides in fish and wildlife conservation over the past few decades,” said Greg Duffy, director of the Wildlife Department. “However, some areas of the conservation effort have been historically under funded.”

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 all 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.

“At this point, the State Wildlife Grant funding is not permanent, but it gives us an exciting opportunity to develop long-term conservation goals and to demonstrate the need for long-term funding,” said Andrea Crews, project leader and responsive management specialist for the Department.

“We’re looking at this as the key to our future success as stewards and caretakers of Oklahoma’s wildlife,” Duffy said.

The Department needs input from citizens and organizations as it develops this comprehensive wildlife strategy. “We’re going to need everyone’s input, including sportsmen and sportswomen, birdwatchers and landowners,” Duffy said.

Public meetings will be held across the state during the first week of March. These forums are Oklahomans’ opportunity to voice important conservation concerns. Details about upcoming meetings, dates and locations will be available soon at wildlifedepartment.com.

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A new bird may be at your feeder this winter

The recent temperatures and light dusting of snow make it clear - winter has arrived in Oklahoma. Indoor gatherings replace outdoor barbeques, basketball replaces baseball, and birds begin appearing in flocks at backyard feeders.

If you feed and watch your feathered neighbors, the Wildlife Department has a winter activity idea. Be a part of the 16th annual Winter Bird Survey. Choose two days between Thursday, Jan. 8 and Sunday, Jan. 12 to count and record birds visiting the feeders in your yard.

Your observations help biologists track the population trends of winter birds at feeders. This year, Wildlife Department biologists are following the presence of a new bird, the Eurasian collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto).

“It’s only been in the United States 20-25 years, and it’s already made its way to Oklahoma,” said Jenny Thom, natural resources information specialist.

The Eurasian collared dove is tan in color with a black crescent along the back of its neck. It is larger than a mourning dove but smaller than a pigeon. Its call is a three-syllable “ku-koo-ku.”

Biologists have said the Eurasian collared dove may be one of the most adaptive bird species in the world. Originally from Asia, it’s been expanding its range since the early 1900s. It first appeared in Britain in the 1950s and is a common bird there today. After being accidentally introduced to the Bahamas, the collared dove arrived along the Florida coast without human assistance in the early 1980s. Reports of the collared dove in Oklahoma first began in the mid 1990s. However, Winter Bird Survey participants did not report seeing the collared dove at feeders until 2001. January 2003 participants reported 26.

“That may not sound like a lot,” Thom said, “But the survey represented 59 counties. Collared doves are in the state. As they continue to establish themselves, and as people become more familiar with them, we can expect to hear about more birds at winter feeders.”

The 2004 Winter Bird Survey period is Jan. 8 - Jan. 11. Use the following survey form and select two consecutive days during that period to watch your feeders. Don’t forget to return your results to the Wildlife Department. You may mail the completed survey or submit it online. The online survey form will be available Jan. 1 at www.wildlifedepartment.com

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Christmas gifts for the outdoor enthusiast

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

"The Department's Outdoor Store has something for just about everybody," said Nels Rodefeld, information and education assistant chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Whether your friends or family enjoy hunting, fishing or bird watching, there are some great presents for the outdoor enthusiast.”

A quick mouse click at www.wildlifedepartment.com will download an order form. Simply fill it out and mail it in and your shopping is complete. You can also pick up the gifts yourself at the Department’s Oklahoma City and Tulsa-area offices.

For the gift that lasts all year long, consider a subscription to the Department’s official bi-monthly magazine, “Outdoor Oklahoma.” Six issues packed with stunning photography and informative articles will be delivered right to your loved one’s door for only $10 a year. Subscriptions are available by calling 1-800-777-0019, or you can order over the Internet by logging on to the Department’s Outdoor Store.

No outdoor enthusiast’s yard is complete without a birdhouse. Not sure what type of bird she would want to attract? No problem. For $18, the Dial-a-Bird house’s unique design has a rotating entry hole. Set the hole to one of three sizes to attract species like the tiny chickadee or the medium-sized tufted titmouse or the larger bluebird.

“Don’t forget appreciation gifts for landowners when you are making your Christmas list," Rodefeld added.

Know someone who spends spring and fall seasons working in the yard and loves watching wildlife?  The Department’s book, “Landscaping for Wildlife,” outlines steps any landowner can take to turn a yard into a wildlife haven. It is 200-plus pages of full-color photographs, diagrams and charts. For $20, it provides details about what to plant and build to attract birds, ducks, butterflies, frogs, turtles and a host of other wildlife.

Rodefeld said that one of five Wildlife Conservation vehicle license plates is the perfect gift for that spouse who already has every hunting or fishing gadget ever made. Choose from white-tailed deer, scissor-tailed flycatcher, largemouth bass, bobwhite quail or the turkey plates. The plates cost just $25 above your regular annual registration fee, and the best part is that $20 of this cost is earmarked for Oklahoma’s Wildlife Diversity Program. Applications for the unique tags can be picked up at any local tag agents and the plates can be customized for no extra charge.

The “Bobwhite Quail in Oklahoma” handbook is for quail enthusiasts of all kinds - hunters, landowners and do-it-yourself game managers. This 40-page, full-color booklet contains tips for habitat improvements and everything you should know about the natural history of Oklahoma’s most popular upland game bird.

Fishing publications, caps and birdhouses are just a few of the other items found at the Outdoor Store. Pictures and a detailed description of each item are included on the Internet, or go check out the items for yourself at the Department's Oklahoma City and Tulsa offices.

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Make your hunting and fishing New Year’s resolutions

Believe it or not, the New Year is just about upon us. It’s time to get a new calendar, remember to write 2004 on your checks, and make your New Year’s resolutions.

Most everyone has a few things they would like to get around to doing, but the days and the years slip by too quickly. Take the opportunity and make 2004 your best year of hunting and fishing ever. Here are a few things you may want to add on to your list of New Year’s resolutions.

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Small game opportunities abound

Don’t put up those hunting boots yet.

While Oklahoma deer seasons may be winding to a close, many hunters’ thoughts are turning to one of Oklahoma’s most traditional outdoor pursuits, small game hunting.

"Rabbit and squirrel hunting are really a lot of fun. There are plenty of places to go and it is a great way to spend an afternoon with friends," said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

According to Meek, one of the best things about small game hunting is the availability of hunting locations. Many wildlife management areas scattered around the state offer first-rate hunting with minimal competition.

"A leisurely day of small game hunting is a perfect way to expose a youngster to hunting,” Meek added. “Many older hunters learned the basics of hunting and hunting safety while pursuing rabbits and squirrels and it is still a great way to introduce novices to the sport.”

Whether they are pursued behind a pack of beagles or flushed from a briar patch, rabbits are one of the most accessible species that hunters go after. With keen eyesight, sensitive hearing, camouflaged fur, and blazing speed, cottontail rabbits offer a challenge to hunters and have historically been an important game animal in Oklahoma.

"Rabbits can often be found in areas where two types of cover meet such as abandoned homesteads, tangled thickets and fence rows,” Meek said.

With a season running through March 15, 2003, there is plenty of opportunity to head afield for a few rabbits. Whether hunters take a shotgun or .22 rifle to the field, a streaking rabbit can offer a challenge for even the most skilled sportsmen.

If you prefer the winter woods to open fields, then squirrel hunting is for you.

"One of the best things about hunting squirrels is that you can often have the woods to yourselves," Meek said. “Look for squirrels where ever there is a good number of mature oak or pecan trees. Slowly following a creek bottom with eyes to the skies can be a good tactic for bagging squirrels.

Running through Jan. 31, squirrel season is one of the longest continuous hunting seasons available to Oklahoma hunters. Both the gray and fox squirrel are abundant on many of the Department's wildlife management areas. A generous ten-squirrel limit offers a challenge to those going afield with a .22 caliber rifle. Other sportsmen prefer carrying a shotgun while going after squirrels.

To hunt rabbit and squirrels in Oklahoma, all you need is a resident or non-resident hunting license. Hunters 15 and under can hunt squirrels without a license. For a complete list of squirrel hunting regulations consult the “2003-2004 Oklahoma Hunting Guide” or log on to the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

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Time to renew hunting and fishing licenses

It’s that time of year again - time for Oklahoma sportsmen to renew their annual hunting and fishing licenses. With few exceptions, annual hunting and fishing licenses expire December 31 each year.

Bowhunters who plan to take advantage of the added January days need to be particularly mindful about renewing licenses and permits. Unless archers possess a lifetime hunting or lifetime combination license, they will need both a 2004 annual hunting license and a new 2004 archery deer license to hunt from Jan. 1 through Jan. 15 (antlerless deer only). Bowhunters who purchase a new 2004 deer archery license, but do not harvest a deer in January, should hold onto their permit. The unfilled license remains valid throughout the fall of 2004, during times open to archery deer hunting.

Two licenses that do not expire Dec. 31 are state and federal waterfowl permits (which run from July 1 through the end of the following June). In addition, trapping licenses expire Jan. 31. The special Bobcat-Raccoon-Gray Fox license expire Jan. 31 for raccoon and gray fox and Feb. 28 for bobcat.

For those who enjoy both hunting and fishing, a combination license is a great bargain, and it means one less license you have to carry.

All annual licenses and even a subscription to “Outdoor Oklahoma” magazine can be purchased at any license vendor statewide. For a $10 fee, people can subscribe for one-year (six issues) to the Department's award-winning magazine “Outdoor Oklahoma.” Some of the more popular auxiliary permits are the special trout fishing permit, as well as permits for deer and turkey.

License requirements and exemptions are outlined in the “2003 Oklahoma Hunting Guide.” These publications are available at hunting and fishing license dealers statewide or by logging on the Department’s Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.

Information is also available from the Department's licensing section at (405) 521-3852.

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