Volume 4 • Issue 3 • March 2010

"Bio" of the Month

Mark Howery- Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Wildlife Diversity Biologist

Mark Howery is a wildlife diversity biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. His position primarily deals with all wildlife you don’t hunt or fish for. Mark has an interesting job, one that any outdoors person might envy.

Mark grew up in a Norman neighborhood where it was possible to walk the brushy creek bottom all the way to the Canadian River. His father and grandfather loved to quail hunt on their family farm near Noble, and Mark went along, not hunting but exploring the other birds, mammals and plants that sustained that population. The farm has been in their family since the Land Run.

Weekdays as a child, his family was in almost daily attendance at the Norman Public Library, where the children sometimes spent whole afternoons. He says he first read everything in the children's section and went on to discover the natural history collections that were not in the same place. Then in high school, he met Eileen Gryzybowski, a biology teacher, and learned about the Audubon Society.

Mark Howery has a constant interest in nongame animals. Here he was at the Texas horned lizard Media Day held at Tinker Air Force Base. Photo by Lesley B. Carson.
Did he ever consider any other career? No, but he thought he would become a teacher, and began by taking a degree in Zoology at the University of Oklahoma. By that time, he'd heard about Dr. Glen Woolfenden, head of the American Ornithological Union, who was teaching at the University of Southern Florida. Mark went on to take his master's there. While in Florida, he volunteered at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. All the while, he watched the Oklahoma Wildlife programs and became interested in the "other animals" -- the nongame species that profit from protection given to those that are protected by license fees and such. And when he first came back to Norman, he worked as a field assistant with Dr. Joe Gryzybowski on the black-capped vireo project. When an opening came up in the new Nongame Wildlife department, he jumped on it. After 17 years, he feels that he is in the right place at the right time.

Mark has been involved with many different grants, with more than 14 years given to the red-cockaded woodpecker project in McCurtain County Wilderness. That project currently boasts more than 6,000 family groups of those critically-endangered birds. Another project is the Hackberry Flats preserve, which provides migration wetlands for most of the central flyway birds.

There isn't any plot to this story: It is the straightforward account of a man living out his destiny in his own place, in his own way. In this age of convoluted forces that seem to compel most of us into careers that resemble only vaguely or not at all the ideals of their youth, Mark stands as an example of singleness of purpose.

Some people just get it right the first time.

The Norman Transcript. Published August 6, 2008.

Watchable Wildlife Species

The Longnose Darter

If you were poking around in a clear stream in the Ozark region and saw a tiny fish with an elongated snout and orange-yellow sides, this could be the find of a lifetime. This two-and-a-half inch long fish called the longnose darter, Percina nasuta, is one of Oklahoma's rarest species. It occurs in very few streams such as the Poteau River and Lee Creek in eastern Oklahoma and it prefers upland stream habitats that are free of silt and plentiful in gravel and cobble beds.

Lee Creek is home to one of Oklahoma's rarest species of fish.
The colorful longnose darter has a slender but short body with an orange band and an overall dull yellowish color.   In the spring months of April and May, the darters move into the riffle areas of the stream and get ready to spawn.  After spawning, the fish move out into the deeper pools of the cool water throughout the summer.

Since the longnose darter is the state's only endangered fish species, it faces many challenges. It is thought to be mostly affected by the construction of impoundments and the alteration of particular habitats.  Impoundments alter the natural flow of the river or stream and can drastically affect downstream habitat. The streams where the darters reside are in poor and declining condition therefore making it more difficult for this fish to rebound. There is very little knowledge available on the current status of longnose darters and it is listed in the Oklahoma Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy as a Tier I species of greatest conservation need.  Current research efforts are in process to further assess the needs of this endangered but special species.

Written by Curtis Tackett. Curtis is the aquatic nuisance species biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Lions and Bears and Wolves! Oh My!

Oklahoma Trails

Did you know that you can see mountain lions, black bear and wolves in Oklahoma?  Did you know you could see them all in one location?  Come and explore 8-acres of the state's natural beauty as you experience Oklahoma Trails, one of the newest additions to the Oklahoma City Zoo! This naturalistic habitat showcases over 800 animals native to the state while allowing visitors to enjoy distinct landscapes unique to Oklahoma! While walking the suspended boardwalk explore the grassy terrain of Black Mesa, the rolling hills of the Ozark Highlands and feel the mist from the Zoo's 25-ft. replica of Turner Falls located at Big Rivers!

Oklahoma Trails demonstrates the state's diverse collection of animals and plants, allowing visitors to get nose-to-nose with black bears, cougars, bobcats, river otters, southern flying squirrels, turkey vultures, western diamondback rattlesnakes, roadrunners, Mexican grey wolves and many more! Plus, visit Zoo favorites Will and Wiley as these two grizzly bears enjoy their home in the Cross Timbers section of Oklahoma Trails!

In addition to offering the public the opportunity to learn more about native animals and plants of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma City Zoo is a special partner to the OK Wildlife Department. The OKC Zoo provides offices for eight Wildlife Dept. biologists and Zoo staff help with several conservation projects including conducting winter bird surveys on the Cimarron Bluff and Cimarron Hills WMAs and bat inventories on several Wildlife Management Areas.

For more information about the Oklahoma Trails Exhibit and the Oklahoma City Zoo go to:  www.okczoo.com.

Written by Melynda Hickman. Melynda is a wildlife diversity biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Our Mission:

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