Volume 2 • Issue 2 • February 2008

Mammals of Special Concern at WMAs in Western Oklahoma

A Survey

Relatively little is known about the status and habitats of small mammals in western Oklahoma and this lack of information hampers planning for the revision of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy.  The most complete record of mammalian distributions in Oklahoma was compiled using historic surveys that occurred up to 100 years ago or examination of collections at various natural history museums.  Due to the lack of thorough mammalian surveys, there is little known about the presence, distribution and abundance of many non-game mammals in the state.  The objective of this three year study was to conduct a survey of mammals on 14 Wildlife Management Areas in western Oklahoma, documenting their presence and habitat affinities.

The Hispid Pocket Mouse is the most widespread of the four types of pocket mice in Oklahoma and are found in most native grassland habitats.
Each wildlife management area was surveyed for three consecutive nights with 400 traps per night, each of the three years.  Based on this survey and 50,400 trap nights, we collected 6,893 non-game mammals but more importantly, we documented new county records for 24 species of mammals represented by 96 specimens collected from 12 counties in western Oklahoma.  These data increase substantially our knowledge on the distribution of small, non-game mammals in western Oklahoma.  Moreover, several of the new county records represent westward increases of small mammals historically found in central and eastern Oklahoma.

These findings will help further the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's efforts to document the ranges and habitats of the species of special concern throughout the state.

This project is funded by the State Wildlife Grants Program.  The State Wildlife Grants Program provides federal money to every state and territory for cost-effective conservation aimed at preventing wildlife from becoming endangered. This program is administered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and continues the long history of cooperation between the federal government and the states for managing and conserving wildlife species.  For more information, visit www.teaming.com.

Written by Dr. Ron Van Den Bussche. Dr. Van Den Bussche is the Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Zoology at Oklahoma State University.

Canton Lake and Wildlife Management Area

A Haven for Many Species

The Canton WMA is located northwest of Canton, Oklahoma and encompasses almost 15,000 acres around Canton Lake. The habitat in the WMA is quite diverse ranging from oak cross timbers to sandsage grassland with sandplum thickets. Many species can be seen on the WMA including white-tailed deer, painted bunting, northern bobwhite, osprey, and the bald eagle. The wetland portions of the WMA provide the opportunity to view pelicans, wading birds and waterfowl as well.

Black-tailed prairie dogs are considered an important species because they maintain habitats for other animals of the short and mixed-grass prairie.
Adjacent to the WMA on Corps of Engineers property is a refuge for the black-tailed prairie dog, a species of special concern in Oklahoma. The black-tailed prairie dog is interesting in that it is diurnal and does not hibernate like some other prairie dog species. The prairie dog is important in the short and mixed-grass prairies because it provides habitat for many other animals found only there. Being such an important species, it aerates the soil and maintains the prairie (mostly shortgrass), providing food and shelter for more than 170 different animals.

Also a destination on Loop 9 of the Great Plains Trail of Oklahoma, birders have the opportunity to observe several eastern and western bird species as well as bald eagles, American white pelicans, and several waterfowl species during the winter.

For more information on the Canton WMA please contact Senior Biologist Steve Conrady at (580) 541-5346.

Written by Brett Cooper. Brett is a graduate student at Oklahoma State University studying Wildlife Ecology.

Purple Martins

Our neighbors from the South

February is upon us, which means neighbors will soon be arriving from the south. These “neighbors” are Neotropical migrant birds who typically winter in Central and South America before returning in mid-February to Oklahoma for the summer months. One of the loveliest Neotropical migrants is the purple martin. With a little planning and effort, Okie residents can make sure these colorful neighbors enjoy the area enough to stay long-term—by building a purple martin house.

Martins are members of the swallow family that nest in colonies often near human buildings. Since martins like people, it is safe to place houses close to human activity. Martins feed on insects, so they need a clear view of open space in which to feed. Keep houses at least 40 feet away from buildings, trees and other obstructions. Houses should be placed between 12 to 14 feet off the ground.

American Indians used to attract purple martins to their villages by hanging gourds. All these years later, gourds are still a great way to provide shelter for martins. Well-maintained gourds can last up to 30 years. To prepare gourds, soak them for 15 minutes in a copper sulfate solution (one pound copper sulfate dissolved in five gallons of water). After they are dried, paint them with white oil-based paint to minimize heat. The entrance hole should be 2-1/4 inches in diameter, and three to six quarter-inch drainage holes should be drilled into the bottom.

Houses made from PVC pipe material and masonite also are available. PVC structures are inexpensive to construct and very durable but can be difficult to clean. Wood houses should be 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick to insulate against heat and cold.

Several boxes may be set up in the same yard. When "fully" occupied, a house will have a percentage of compartments vacant. The occupancy rate can be increased by using porch dividers between "apartments."

Martin houses should maintain a relatively cool temperature. Since martins prefer to nest in open areas where they are exposed to direct sunlight, painting houses white to reflect heat and providing proper ventilation will help prevent excessive heat build-up. Ventilation is also important, so make sure the structure has small holes drilled in each compartment.

It sometimes takes several years to attract martins to a new site. If the house is not used in the spring, just leave it up until after fall migration. Young birds may discover it as they head south. And once they discover it, more martins will follow. With just a little work, your own home will soon be part of a thriving community of lovely purple martins.

For more information about purple martins, click here.

Written by Ben Davis. Ben is an Information Specialist with the Department of Wildlife.

Our Mission:

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