Archived Weekly Wildlife News

Produced by Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Sign up for the Weekly News Release via e-mail

If you are with the media please call (405) 521-4630 to sign up. 

 

October 2013

 

 

Oct. 3, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation


Youth deer gun season offers young hunters first shot
Youth hunters and their mentors have been heading to the woods for the youth deer gun season for an entire decade now, and over the years this hunting opportunity has become an important part of Oklahoma's outdoor heritage. This year, the unique chance for youth to hunt deer with a firearm before anybody else runs Oct. 18-20.
The youth deer gun season made its debut as a three-day antlerless hunt in 2003. Since then it has grown in popularity and has also become an opportunity for youth to hunt both bucks and does in the same season, enjoying a limit of two deer (no more than one of which can be a buck). Last year, youth gun season hunters harvested almost 5,000 deer.
The youth season is open to hunters under 18 years of age who are accompanied by a hunter 18 years or older.
"The youth deer gun season is a win-win for Oklahoma," says Erik Bartholomew, big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "It provides an opportunity for youth to go hunting and emphasizes mentorship in the sport of hunting. It's also good practice for the regular deer gun season because if they don't harvest a deer, they can use their unfilled youth deer gun license during the regular deer gun season in November."
Hunters who do harvest a deer during the youth deer gun season may purchase another youth deer gun license and harvest a deer during the regular gun season. Complete details and regulations for the season, including information about the apprentice-designated hunting license that allows certain youth to hunt without having first completed the Oklahoma hunter education course, can be found online at wildlifedepartment.com or anywhere hunting licenses are sold.
A detailed guide to participating during the youth deer gun season is printed in the current issue of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine, and a link to the article is provided at the end of this report. Outdoor Oklahoma magazine is the official magazine of the Wildlife Department and focuses on information pertaining to hunting, fishing and wildlife conservation in Oklahoma.
"Along with getting the annual "Big Game Report" article, subscribers get a lot of other news and details about Oklahoma's outdoors from Outdoor Oklahoma magazine, which makes it a great gift for any youth hunter you might be mentoring during the youth deer gun season," said Michael Bergin, associate editor of Outdoor Oklahoma. "It's just $10 a year."
Subscriptions to Outdoor Oklahoma magazine are available by calling 1-800-777-0019.


Oct. 16, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation


Blake Shelton donates $20,000 to introduce youth to the outdoors
Country music star and popular entertainer Blake Shelton recently donated $20,000 to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Shelton - an Oklahoma native, reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year and three-time Male Vocalist of the Year - presented the donation to Wildlife Department Director Richard Hatcher backstage after an Oct. 4 concert in Tulsa. The donation will be used to support the Wildlife Department's suite of outdoor education programs that are designed to introduce youth to the outdoor lifestyle, one that Shelton avidly enjoys himself.
"I grew up out in the country, and life is just better lived outdoors," Shelton said. "The Wildlife Department's youth education efforts are an important way to get kids back outdoors."
The Wildlife Department is the state agency charged with conserving fish and wildlife in Oklahoma and, along with on-the-ground habitat work, much of its activity centers on building on the state's heritage of outdoor recreation. Unlike most state agencies, it receives no general state tax appropriations and is instead funded primarily by sportsmen when they buy hunting and fishing licenses and certain sporting goods. Contributions like Shelton's also are key to conservation projects that benefit wildlife and wildlife habitat.
"The Wildlife Department is committed to introducing youth to a life beyond the couch - a life of appreciating the outdoors through recreation and wildlife conservation," said Department Director Richard Hatcher. "The outdoors and wildlife are things we all can appreciate and strive to pass on to future generations. We know Blake's donation will help pass on our heritage and positively impact the lives of Oklahoma's youth. The Department is grateful to have his support."
To learn more about the Wildlife Department and its programs, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.


Oct. 23, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation


For Immediate Release
Contact: Claire Cassel
703-358-2357
claire_cassel@fws.gov

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endorses Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-Wide Conservation Plan
- Range-wide plan provides model for state leadership in conservation of a species proposed for listing under the ESA

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service endorsed the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies' Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-Wide Conservation Plan, a landmark, collaborative planning effort to conserve a species proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The range-wide plan (RWP) represents a dedicated effort by the five range states of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado to conserve the lesser prairie-chicken. After an extensive review, the Service found the plan is consistent with criteria proposed last May for conserving the species, which is proposed for listing under the ESA. The plan calls for providing financial incentives to landowners who voluntarily manage their lands to benefit the species. It also includes a framework for mitigating the potentially harmful effects to lesser prairie-chicken habitat from development activity throughout its range.
"The unprecedented collaborative efforts of WAFWA and the five state wildlife agencies have produced a sound conservation plan for the lesser prairie-chicken," said Service Director Dan Ashe. "We applaud the states' commitment to lead conservation actions across the bird's range."
The Service's endorsement is not a decision by the Service that implementing the plan will preclude the need to protect the lesser prairie-chicken under the ESA. The Service will carefully consider the plan, its implementation and effectiveness when it makes a final determination on whether to list the lesser prairie-chicken under the ESA in March, 2014.
Under the plan, agreements with participating landowners will aim to improve habitat conditions for the lesser prairie-chicken, increase populations and provide for long-term conservation of the species. The plan also establishes a framework for mitigating impacts from a wide range of activities with a goal of providing a net conservation benefit to the species.
"We are encouraged to see U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service endorsement of the five-state, range-wide plan to conserve this iconic grassland bird and its native prairie habitat," said Carter Smith, WAFWA president and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department executive director, speaking on behalf of WAFWA and the five state agencies. "Years of due diligence have gone into this plan, guided by scientific research and monitoring, and developed with input from landowners, agriculture, wind and oil and gas interests and other stakeholders. We can now work at the local level to implement the plan, facilitate more conservation for the bird while allowing sustainable land use and responsible economic development, and hopefully preclude the need to list this species."
In the coming weeks, the Service will revise the May 6, 2013, proposed 4(d) special rule for the lesser prairie-chicken to more specifically identify the range-wide conservation plan as one that, when implemented, will address the conservation needs of the species. If the Service ultimately determines that the lesser prairie-chicken should be listed as a threatened species, the revised 4(d) rule would provide a mechanism for ESA compliance. Linking the plan to a 4(d) special rule would offer participating landowners and industry participants regulatory certainty, as actions carried out in accordance with the plan would be in compliance with the ESA, even if the species requires ESA protection.
The lesser prairie-chicken is a species of prairie grouse commonly recognized for its colorful spring mating display and orange eye combs. Once abundant across much of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado (the five range states), the lesser prairie-chicken's historical range of native grasslands and prairies has been reduced by an estimated 84 percent. The substantial decrease in the range of the species is primarily a result of habitat fragmentation and loss caused by development and conversion of the species' native grassland habitat to other uses. Last year, the population declined by an estimated 50 percent, primarily due to drought conditions in the West.
America's fish, wildlife and plant resources belong to all of us, and ensuring the health of imperiled species is a shared responsibility. The Service is actively engaged with conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species such as the Working Lands for Wildlife program. To learn more about the Endangered Species program, go to http://www.fws.gov/endangered/.
The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies was founded in 1922. It currently consists of 23 member states and provinces that have primary responsibility and authority for protecting and managing fish and wildlife in the western United States and Canada. WAFWA promotes the principles of sound resource management, as well as strengthening partnerships and cooperation among local, state, and federal agencies, non-government conservation organizations, and private industry. To learn more about WAFWA and other conservation efforts, and to find a copy of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-Wide Conservation Plan, please go to www.wafwa.org.


Oct. 23, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Deer muzzleloader season to offer first firearms opportunity for adult deer hunters
This weekend marks the first opportunity for adult deer hunters to head to the woods with a firearm as well as the opening of one of the best kept secrets in deer hunting - the annual deer muzzleloader season.
Set to run Oct. 26 through Nov. 3, the muzzleloader season attracts fewer hunters than the regular deer gun season that opens in late November. Still, last year there were 21,605 deer harvested by muzzleloader hunters.
According to Erik Bartholomew, big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the deer muzzleloader season is going to be a great time to hunt and harvest deer. And hunters needing any motivation to go muzzleloader hunter need to look no further than the Wildlife Department's Facebook page, where numerous photos display the successes already had by hunters participating in the deer archery and youth deer gun seasons.
"So far hunters have checked in over 12,000 deer using the Department's e-check system on wildlifedepartment.com," Bartholomew said.
Bartholomew offers a few tips to muzzleloader season hunters, reminding them of the importance of spending time outdoors.
"With the recent onset of cooler weather, deer will be moving longer in the mornings and earlier in the evenings," he said. "Hunters need to find natural food sources like oak trees that are dropping acorns or persimmon trees. But most importantly they just need to get out there and not miss any time in woods."
Hunters are also reminded to read the complete details and regulations for deer hunting found in in the current "Oklahoma Hunting Guide," which is available free online at wildlifedepartment.com or in print anywhere hunting and fishing licenses are sold.
To view photos of many of these deer on Facebook, log on to https://www.facebook.com/wildlifedepartment. Viewers who "like" the page can get in on the conversation with the Department as well as more than 21,000 other Facebook users, where daily conversations cover everything from how-tos, news updates and even giveaways.

 


Oct. 25, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approves voluntary plan to conserve lesser prairie-chickens in Oklahoma and range-wide
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and its partners are making strides in lesser prairie-chicken conservation, evidenced especially by the recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) endorsement of a voluntary five-state plan to conserve the birds.
The Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-Wide Conservation Plan (RWP) is the product of collaboration among the five states in the lesser prairie-chicken range - Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico, all members of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The RWP first evolved from Oklahoma's own lesser prairie-chicken conservation plan.
"The Wildlife Department and its partners are leading the way in the effort to conserve lesser prairie-chickens," said Richard Hatcher, director of the Wildlife Department. "This plan ensures the sustainability of lesser prairie chickens while allowing responsible economic development across the birds' range. Equally important, it recognizes private property rights and the role that landowners play in conserving habitat."
Allan Janus, research supervisor for the Wildlife Department and co-author of the plan, said, "The RWP is geared toward conserving the lesser prairie-chicken through financial incentives for landowners to manage their lands in ways that benefit the species. The RWP also provides a framework for mitigating the harmful effects on the bird caused by development activity throughout the range of the prairie-chicken."
The lesser prairie-chicken RWP represents an innovative model of State leadership in the conservation of an at-risk species proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service will carefully consider the RWP, its implementation and effectiveness when it makes the final listing determination on whether or not to list the species. This listing determination is expected in March of 2014.
The RWP encourages landowners to proactively manage property in exchange for financial support. Agreements with participating landowners will aim to improve habitat conditions for the lesser prairie-chicken, increase populations and provide for long-term conservation of the species. The RWP also establishes a framework for mitigating impacts from the wide range of activities covered under the RWP, with a goal of providing a net conservation benefit to lesser prairie-chicken.
The lesser prairie-chicken is a species of prairie grouse commonly recognized for its colorful spring mating display and orange eye combs. Once abundant across much of Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Kansas, the lesser prairie-chicken's historical range of native grasslands and prairies has been reduced. The substantial decrease in the range of the species is primarily a result of habitat fragmentation and loss caused by development and conversion of native prairie grassland habitat to other uses.
The RWP is another example of how Oklahoma continues to lead in conservation measures designed to benefit the lesser prairie-chicken in Oklahoma and across its range.
"Not only have we gained this important endorsement of a range-wide plan that had evolved from Oklahoma's own plan, but we're making other strides as well," Hatcher said.
Oklahoma's Lesser Prairie-Chicken Spatial Planning Tool, produced in 2007, was the first tool designed to help developers avoid impacting crucial habitat and gave way to a similar range-wide tool (Southern Great Plains Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool) that also prioritizes conservation actions while assisting with the siting of industry development. Additionally, the Department has already enrolled about 200,000 acres of private land into its Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) program with a goal of reaching 400,000 acres. The CCAA encourages landowners to manage their lands toward the benefit of lesser prairie-chickens in exchange for assurances in the event the bird is listed as threatened or endangered.
"I'm confident that through our efforts, we can demonstrate that a federal listing is not warranted," Hatcher said.
The Wildlife Department is the state agency charged with conserving Oklahoma's fish and wildlife. For more information, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.


Oct. 31, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Black Kettle WMA turkey roosting areas get new life with three-partner project
The Black Kettle Wildlife Management Area in Roger Mills Co. is more valuable for turkeys today than it was just a few months ago thanks to a joint project conducted recently by state and federal governments and an important conservation group.
The effort involved using two large machines to "chew up" the overgrown understory of 85-100 acres of cottonwood stands that would otherwise be prime turkey roosting habitat.
"This was a joint effort between the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Wild Turkey Federation," said Scott Parry, Wildlife Department biologist stationed over Black Kettle WMA. "The reason we want to do this is that Rio Grande turkeys like to roost in mature trees, primarily cottonwoods. The cottonwoods in these areas were getting grown up with mostly eastern red cedar and brush. I think over the next few years, with a little bit of maintenance on these areas, we'll see these sites being long term usable turkey roosting areas and generally good turkey habitat."
The land-clearing process, called "mastication," removes the brush and undesirable trees around the stands of cottonwoods, allowing turkeys to navigate the newly opened ground more efficiently and access the roosting sites in the cottonwood limbs above. Before the project, the understory was very dense with brush, red cedar and other undesirable growth that reduced wild turkeys' ability to use the otherwise ideal habitat.
"Now, turkeys can immediately start making use of the area," Parry said.
Additionally, a freshly mulched ground is left behind that can receive ample sunlight to grow a range of native grasses and weeds, or "forbs." Next spring, when vegetation begins to sprout, the new growth should help attract insects that wild turkeys eat.
The Black Kettle WMA covers over 30,000 acres near Cheyenne. Located in the mixed grass prairie, it is made up of a mixture of rolling sand hills, red shale hills and wooded bottoms. It is owned by the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that manages public lands in national forests and grasslands. The Forest Service partners with the Wildlife Department to offer the area as a WMA for sportsmen.
"This is a real exciting project that we have going on here where we've grouped up our resources and our energy with Forest Service, the state Wildlife Department and the National Wild Turkey Federation to do some turkey roost regeneration areas," said Tom Smeltzer, district ranger for the U.S. Forest Service who oversees Black Kettle National Grasslands. "It should make a real neat place for the sportsmen of Oklahoma."
More information on the Forest Service can be found at www.fs.fed.us.
Joint partnerships such as the one at Black Kettle WMA are a crucial part of conserving wildlife and habitat on public lands. There are more than 65 public hunting areas in Oklahoma and more than 1.6 million acres across the state devoted to hunters and anglers. The Department maintains working relationships with a number of conservation groups and other state and federal agencies to ensure that these lands are conserved for future generations. The project at Black Kettle is an important example of what can be done when these partnerships come together for important conservation causes.
"Long term plans are to continue joint funding for this work to directly benefit habitat for wild turkeys, bobwhite quail, white-tailed deer, and non-game wildlife on one of the most popular public hunting areas in western Oklahoma," said Gene Miller, NWTF regional biologist stationed in Canyon, Texas.
The National Wild Turkey Federation has been an invaluable long-term partner of the Wildlife Department. With more than 50 Oklahoma chapters, the NWTF has spent over $1 million in Oklahoma in recent decades on things like wildlife habitat enhancements, land purchases, education, outreach and more within the state.
Miller said the recent brush-clearing project fits perfectly with the NWTF's new "Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt." initiative, which seeks to conserve/enhance 4 million acres, create. 1.5 million new hunters and open an additional 500,000 acres of of new, high quality hunting lands across the nation to sportsmen over the next several years.
Miller said more information on "Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt." can be found online at http://www.nwtf.org/Save-the-Habitat-Save-the-Hunt/.