Volume 4 • Issue 4 • April 2010

The Oklahoma Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy

Taking Care of All of the Wildlife

The Oklahoma Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (CWCS), is a strategic-level, habitat-based conservation plan focused on rare and declining wildlife species.  Within the CWCS, these species are classified as “Species of Greatest Conservation Need.”  The Oklahoma CWCS identifies 256 species of conservation need and these occupy the spectrum of wildlife from familiar birds and mammals to less well-known fish, freshwater mussels and insects.  The plan organizes these species into groups based upon their geographic distribution and their habitat relationships.  The CWCS is organized into six regional chapters that correspond to six larger biogeographic regions: Shortgrass Prairie Region, Mixed-grass Prairie Region, Tallgrass Prairie Region, Crosstimbers (upland oak woodland and forest) Region, Ozark Region and the Ouachita Mountains/West Gulf Coastal Plain Region (an area dominated by pine woodlands and forests).  Within each of these six regions, the CWCS identifies the native plant associations (or habitat types) that are the most biologically important in supporting healthy populations of Species of Greatest Conservation Need.  Within each region, there are 8 to 12 important habitat types and ten to 30 species are typically associated with each of these.

All CWCS Regions
The map located above shows the CWCS regions.

The goal of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy is to conserve and enhance the populations of rare and declining species.  To this end, the CWCS identifies and prioritizes the conservation strategies that are the most efficient and provide the greatest bang for the limited conservation funding that is available.  The CWCS is also the guiding document for a relatively new federal assistance program called State Wildlife Grants, which provides 50:50 cost-share funding to state wildlife agencies to help them implement the conservation strategies that are needed to stabilize or improve the status of at-risk species.  The CWCS and the State Wildlife Grants program are permanently linked – the development of the CWCS was required to receive State Wildlife Grants funding, and at the same time the State Wildlife Grants program is critically important in implementing the CWCS.

Since the inception of the State Wildlife Grants program in 2002, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has received funding to support 49 conservation projects aimed at the species and habitats that are the highest conservation priorities in the CWCS.  These include projects to evaluate and learn more about the status of rare species including the Swainson’s warbler, mountain plover, alligator snapping turtle, Texas horned lizard, cerulean warbler, grotto salamander, rabbitsfoot mussel and swift fox.  These also include a couple of projects to acquire grassland and shrubland habitat from willing-seller landowners to safeguard and manage these areas for future generations of wildlife and people.

The CWCS was developed over a two-year period (2004-2005) by a team of biologists and conservation planners.  However, this team did not work in isolation.  Multiple meetings were held with conservation stakeholders and technical experts in the realms of biology, ecology and habitat management.  In total, nearly 300 people were involved in the process and provided information, comments and edits to the plan.  To keep the plan current, the ODWC will re-evaluate and update the plan at intervals of approximately seven years.

Look for more information on the revision of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy in future additions of this newsletter, along with summaries of important conservation projects that are funded through the State Wildlife Grants program.

Written by Mark Howery. Mark is a wildlife diversity biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Legless Friends?

Time to Come Out

It’s that time of year again when flowers start blooming and trees start budding and animals that have disappeared for the winter make their appearance. As you listen to birds chirping and see them flying about, don’t forget to look closer to the ground for other signs of spring. As the temperatures warm in April we begin to see other visitors awaking from their long winter slumber and we see the emergence of snakes from their protected winter shelters to begin assuming their role in the springtime festivities.

The Great Plains ratsnake easily blends into its habitat.
During the cold winter months Oklahoma snake species seek refuge from the cold temperatures below the frost line in small crevices in rocky bluffs, by burrowing into the soil, or by using burrows built by other animals. As snakes hibernate, most activities cease due to decreased body temperature slowing the physiological processes. However, depending on temperatures some activities may still occur on a limited basis such as feeding, mating, or gestation.  As temperatures warm and prey become more readily available, snakes begin to emerge and resume their normal activities such as foraging and basking in the warm springtime sun.

As you begin putting in your gardens and hiking around enjoying the signs of spring, don’t forget to take time to enjoy all of the creatures stirring around you, especially our legless friends.

Written by Buck Ray. Buck is the environmental biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Welcome to Spring!

Hummingbirds and Scissortails and All Sorts of Birds

After their long flight from the south, the little zippers are back; here comes spring time!

Hummingbirds are a popular bird visiting homes throughout the state.  Those not-so-large birds usually consume half of their weight in sugar every day.  There is one easy way to enjoy these tiny birds - put up a hummingbird feeder.  Use your own hummingbird feeder.

April 1st is the recommended date for putting out hummingbird feeders.  One should mix 1 part sugar to 4 parts hot water and allow to cool before hanging them.  Place the feeders at least two feet off the ground in a somewhat shady spot.  The feeders should be rinsed with vinegar to keep bacteria from taking off. Try to rinse the feeder at least twice a month with a mix of equal parts of vinegar and water to kill mold and yeast, then rinse thoroughly with water before refilling with sugar water.

The Annual Birding and Heritage Festival will be April 23-25 in Alfalfa County.  If you enjoy events such as birdwatching, geocaching, wildlife identification or even primitive spear tossing this is the event to attend.  For information about the festival contact the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge.

April is one of the dreaded months of the year.  You know what it is – tax season.  The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Tax Check-off Program allows anyone who receives a tax return on their state income tax to donate a portion of that return to the Wildlife Diversity Program.  Please help all of your friends that stay and play outdoors by donating to the Wildlife Conservation Tax Check-off Program.  

Written by Lesley B. Carson. Lesley is a wildlife diversity information specialist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Wildlife Diversity Donations

Scissortail Supporters

Robin and Mark Smith, Midwest City

Wildscape Properties

Newly Certified

Bill and Deby Hefner, Blanchard

Our Mission:

The WILDLIFE DIVERSITY PROGRAM monitors and manages the state's wildlife and fish species that are not hunted or fished.