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June 2013

 

June 19, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation


TECHNICIAN EARNS FEATHER IN HIS CAP FOR HIS WORK WITH BIRD WINGS

Time flies when you're looking at bird wings. For Jeff Neal, a wildlife technician with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, that time amounts to 20 years.
In February, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recognized Neal for providing 20 years of service to the annual Central Flyway Wing Bee event. This federal program collects waterfowl hunting data by evaluating bird wings submitted by hunters throughout the central part of the United States. That data is ultimately combined with data from the other areas, or flyways, and become part of the national USFWS Parts Collection Survey database.
"It's just another part of my job, part of my work duty dealing with migratory game birds, that I enjoy doing," said Neal, who works out of the Arcadia Conservation Education Area office.
Neal began participating in the Central Flyway Wing Bee in 1991. In recent years, the gathering has been held at Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge near Emporia, Kan.
Each year, during duck and goose hunting seasons, hunters submit about 20,000 wings or sets of tail feathers to the Wing Bee organizers. The hunters are selected randomly from the Harvest Information Program. For each duck harvested, the hunter will send a fully feathered wing; for each goose harvested, the hunter sends all the tail feathers and some primary flight feathers.
Neal and about 40 other researchers gather at the Wing Bee for several days each February. They "read" all of the wings and/or feathers, which have been separated by species. The researchers can determine the age and sex of each duck, and the age and population origin of each goose that was harvested.
Wing Bee data is used to develop statistics about the just-ended duck and goose seasons, such as the species, age and sex composition, an estimate of the success of the previous year's breeding season, and research opportunities into the prevalence of pesticides and pollutants in the environment.
"One aspect of the Wing Bee I really enjoy is visiting with all the individuals throughout the Central Flyway," Neal said. "Most of them have similar duties in their states. A person gets to hear some pretty good hunting and fishing stories, too."
Neal also attends the Dove Wing Bee at Lee's Summit, Mo., in November. "I've made all but one of the Dove Wing Bees," Neal said. That survey began in 2005.
He said about 30,000 dove wings are inspected at that gathering, and age and molt codes are taken from each wing.


June 21, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Lakes Elmer and Etling full, ready for anglers and boaters
Lake Elmer in Kingfisher Co. is full and its boat ramp is usable, according to fisheries personnel with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
The 55-acre lake has undergone a slate of recent renovations since being drained in 2009 - including stockings of catchable-size bass, sunfish and catfish - but up until the most recent rains, its water level had remained too low to be usable for boaters.
Lake Elmer is one of 15 Wildlife Department-owned and managed lakes across the state, ranging from as small as 30 acres to more than 260 acres. It was last renovated in the late 1970s, but a 2009 fish kill all but ruined the lake as a fishery. However, it created an opportunity to revamp the lake and make it into a "showplace" fishery for the Wildlife Department.
Renovations have included adding a courtesy dock near the boat ramp, removing over one million cubic yards of organic muck, rebuilding existing fishing jetties and constructing new ones, all of which would have cost about $2.2 million if contracted out. Instead, the Wildlife Department relied heavily upon the skill of its own lake maintenance crew and other Department employees for renovations.
The Wildlife Department's law enforcement division helped secure donations and transportation for over 100,000 tons of concrete that was used for rip-rap in the renovations. Two silt trap ponds were constructed above the lake to prevent the need for future renovations, and upstream landowners are putting conservation measures into place to slow future erosion issues. Additionally, new fish habitat was installed including 200 brush piles and 100 spider blocks built and delivered by Dover FFA students.
Spider blocks are manmade structures composed of polyethylene pipes that are concreted into cinderblocks, then placed at the bottom of lakes for fish cover. The Department also built and installed its own artificial fish structures, called "tarantula blocks," which resemble spider blocks but are much larger in scale.
After renovations were completed, the only thing that remained to do was to wait until the lake filled to accessible levels for boaters and anglers. As of last week, the lake completely filled up, making the boat ramp accessible and the lake ready to be used.
"There is a fishable population in there now," said John Stahl, northwest regional fisheries supervisor for the Wildlife Department.
Stahl said the Department will continue monitoring the fishery. Plans are being made to electrofish the lake to check the overall status of the fishery, and that the Department has been receiving good reports from anglers who have been fishing near the newly installed structure.
Drought has hit western Oklahoma reservoirs hard in the last several years, leaving several lakes with low water levels and susceptible to significant fish kills due to dissolved oxygen. But recent rains have helped lakes like Elmer.
Another western Oklahoma lake benefitting from recent rains is Carl Etling in the Panhandle. Until recent rains, Etling had been so badly affected by drought that for years the 150-plus acre lake dwindled to a mere 20-60 acre pool, fluctuating over the last years and providing some fishing opportunity. But like Lake Elmer, recent rains helped fill the lake. In fact, Etling filled to 150 acres in one night due to its shallow depth and hard-surface lakebed.
According to Stahl, the Department is considering how it can improve fishing there as well. The Department has stocked some brooder sunfish, and plans are in place to electrofish the lake to check its status as a fishery. The results of the survey will help determine the next step for the fishery.
To learn more about fishing in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.

June 19, 2013
2013-14 Oklahoma hunting regulations available online now
Hunters can now log on to wildlifedepartment.com to view the newest version of the "Oklahoma Hunting" guide, which provides regulations and dates for the 2013-14 hunting seasons.
The 62-page full-color guide, produced by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, also features a wide range of hunting-related articles and other helpful information, such as a sunrise/sunset table, hunter education requirements, game warden listings and detailed information on the state's wildlife management areas.
"The 'Oklahoma Hunting' guide is an important publication for hunters, because it summarizes the laws and regulations that hunters need to know," said Don P. Brown, information specialist and hunting guide editor for the Wildlife Department.
The free guide will also be available in printed form in late July anywhere hunting licenses are sold.
To find the new "Oklahoma Hunting" guide online, log on to wildlifedepartment.com/laws_regs/huntingguide.htm.

 

June 28, 2013
A service of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Bartlesville rancher appointed as newest Wildlife Conservation Commissioner
Bartlesville rancher Robert S. Hughes II is the newest member of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, the governing board for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
The Wildlife Commission establishes most state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities.
Hughes was appointed by Governor Mary Fallin and confirmed this past session by the State Senate. His eight-year term begins July 1. He will serve as the Commission's District 1 representative, which includes Ottawa, Delaware, Craig, Mayes, Nowata, Rogers, Washington, Tulsa, Pawnee and Osage counties.
Hughes is an avid quail hunter and sportsman.
"I consider it an honor to serve on the Wildlife Conservation Commission because of the love I have for the land and the wildlife of Oklahoma," he said.
Hughes was raised on his family's ranch - the Hughes Ranch - and he now partners with his father, John F. Hughes, in the Hughes Cattle Company. He has served on a number of boards of directors for organizations such as the National Livestock Credit Corporation, National Livestock Commission Association, Frank Phillips Foundation and Superior Livestock Auction. He also has served as a member and director of the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association, director of Arvest Bank Board, president of the Osage County Cattlemen's Association, director of the Bartlesville Community Foundation and Northeast District vice president of the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association. He has also been honored as the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association's appointment to the N.C.B.A. Young Leadership Program and as the BEEF Magazine Stocker Operator of the Year Award recipient in 2006.
Hughes received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Animal Science - Production from Oklahoma State University in 1983 and graduated in 1985 from Texas Christian University's Ranch Management Program.
Hughes and his wife, Michelle, live in Bartlesville and have two children - Jessica, who is working toward a career in nursing, and Sam, who is working toward a career in ranch management.