APRIL 2009 NEWS RELEASES 

WEEK OF APRIL 30, 2009

WEEK OF APRIL 23, 2009

WEEK OF APRIL 16, 2009

 

WEEK OF APRIL 9, 2009

 

WEEK OF APRIL 2, 2009

Wildlife Commission accepts $3.75 million for conservation; sets seasons for big game
            The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission recently voted to secure millions of dollars for conservation projects with OG&E and Tulsa-based NatureWorks as well as set important hunting regulations and dates for new seasons on black bear, antelope, elk and others.
            At its April meeting, the Commission approved a memorandum of agreement with OG&E. Through the agreement, OG&E will invest $3.75 million to help offset the impact of the “OU Spirit” wind farm on lesser prairie chickens and other wildlife in northwest Oklahoma.
             The prairie of northwest Oklahoma is home to both the state's most abundant wind resources and the lesser prairie chicken, identified as a species of greatest conservation need.
            “We are pleased with OG&E's offer to help balance the effects of this wind power project on wildlife habitat,” said Greg Duffy, director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “The sand shinnery habitat where these wind towers are being built is widely recognized as biologically unique and it is limited to only a few counties in Oklahoma. This is a high priority landscape for us.”
            Funds will be used by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to protect, enhance and restore sand shinnery habitat through acquisition and conservation agreements. The contributions will be leveraged with additional federal grants and private donations.
            “We will continue to be a leader in drawing on Oklahoma's valuable wind resources for the benefit of our customers. But, as we do so, we also will deal responsibly with concerns about the environment and wildlife,” said Brian Alford, OG&E director of corporate communications and community relations. “We expect to work closely with the Wildlife Department as we pursue our plans for more wind generation and additional transmission projects.”
            OG&E announced plans in September 2008 to build the 100-megawatt wind farm near Woodward. The project, already under construction, is part of a renewable energy partnership with the University of Oklahoma. Researchers have found that lesser prairie chickens avoid tall structures, such as wind turbines, because they see the towers as perches for predators such as hawks, eagles and owls.
            The agreement also has been endorsed by the State Secretary of Energy, Bobby Wegener, and the State Secretary of Environment, J.D. Strong.
            “I appreciate OG&E's willingness to reopen a project that was well underway and not only consider its potential impact on one of our most important prairie species, but also contribute capital to establish a badly needed habitat protection and restoration fund for the lesser prairie chicken,” Secretary Strong said. “Today's announcement is the beginning of a great partnership between the public and private sector to deliver a workable plan that provides clean energy in a manner that recognizes the value of Oklahoma's precious wildlife.”
            The Commission also accepted $79,200 in donations at its meeting from NatureWorks, Inc., a Tulsa-based conservation group that has supported the Department in the past through funds raised at its annual wildlife art show.
            The donation consists of a $1,200 stipend for the winning artist of the 2009-10 Oklahoma Duck Stamp design contest; $10,000 to fund one-year subscriptions to Outdoor Oklahoma magazine for every school and public library in the state, among others; $10,000 to help fund the Wildlife Department's Hunters Against Hunger program; $18,000 for wildlife habitat improvements at Spavinaw Wildlife Management Area; $15,000 for developing hunter openings at the Deep Fork Wetland Development Unit of Eufaula WMA; and $25,000 to expand the water supply system at Choteau Wetland Development Unit of the McClellan-Kerr WMA.
            NatureWorks is a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting in wildlife conservation efforts and wildlife education opportunities. The NatureWorks Wildlife Art Show and Sale has generated matching grants to assist a variety of state wildlife conservation projects. According to Vic Bailey, president of NatureWorks, the show is the preeminent wildlife art show in the country.
            “But it's all to generate revenue so that we can support worthwhile projects like the ones that we are supporting with this check,” Bailey said about the art show.
            Also at its April meeting, the Commission approved regulations for an archery and muzzleloader black bear season in Latimer, LeFlore, McCurtain and Pushmataha counties in southeast Oklahoma. If pending legislation to establish the bear hunting license is approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor, Oklahoma will become the 29th state to have a bear season. Archery bear season has been set to coincide with deer archery season, opening Oct. 1, 2009, and continuing through the Friday before deer muzzleloader season. If the season harvest quota of 20 bear has not been met by that time, bear muzzleloader season will open to coincide with deer muzzleloader season. The season limit is one bear per hunter, and hunters will be required to report harvested bears. The use of dogs is prohibited, and baiting is prohibited on wildlife management areas. Additionally, the harvest of black bear cubs or female bears with cubs is prohibited, as is the harvest of bears in dens. The Commission approved a proposal to establish a black bear season at its March meeting.
            According to Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Department has collected more than 15 years of biological data and information from responding to nuisance bear calls. Additional research projects were conducted by the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit with Oklahoma State University.
            “The presence of bears is viewed by wildlife biologists as an indicator of good habitat and wildlife management practices, so it's great to see that wildlife conservation efforts have been this successful in Oklahoma,” Peoples said. “We're looking forward to seeing some successful bear hunters this fall.”
            In addition to bear season regulations, the Commission also approved regulations for a September archery antelope season in the Panhandle. The season will open the day following the close of Oklahoma's controlled antelope hunts and will run 14 consecutive days. This year those dates will be Sept. 14-27, 2009. The season limit will be two antelope, which may include no more than one buck.
            “This is an open season, and you do not have to draw out for this opportunity through the Department's controlled hunts program. However, hunters must secure written landowner permission prior to going afield,” Peoples said. “We are confident this will provide an opportunity to hunters who otherwise may never get a chance to hunt antelope.”
            The Commission also set dates for the new northeast elk zone that it approved at its March meeting. The dates will be the same as statewide season dates for deer archery, deer youth gun, muzzleloader deer and deer gun seasons. The combined season limit for the northeast elk zone will be one elk per hunter, regardless of sex and method of taking. The same equipment that is legal for the respective deer season will be legal for harvesting elk in the zone.
            The Commission also increased the daily limit of pheasant for the 2009-10 season to three cocks daily, with six in possession after the second day.
            Antlerless deer hunting dates for 2009-10 muzzleloader and modern gun seasons also were set by the Commission at its recent meeting. Zone 1 will be open Nov. 21 and Dec. 6, 2009, of the deer gun season and the limit will be one antlerless deer. Zones 2, 7 and 8 will be open Oct. 24 to Nov. 1 (all of muzzleloader) and Nov. 21 to Dec. 6, 2009 (all of gun). The limit will be two antlerless deer during muzzleloader and two antlerless deer during gun season. Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, and 9 will be open to antlerless hunting Oct. 24 – Nov. 1 (all of muzzleloader) and Nov. 21 – Dec. 6, 2009 (all of gun). The limit will be one antlerless deer during muzzleloader season and one antlerless deer during gun season. Zone 10 will be open Oct. 24-26 and Oct. 30 – Nov. 1, 2009 (muzzleloader) and Nov. 21, 28 and Dec. 6, 2009 (gun). The limit will be one antlerless deer during muzzleloader season and one antlerless deer during gun season.
            Holiday antlerless deer season in zones 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 will be Dec. 18-20 and Dec. 25-27, 2009.
            In other business, the Commission heard a presentation by Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who presented the Regional Director's Conservation Award to Greg Duffy, director of the Wildlife Department. The award has only been presented to two other individuals.
            “Greg has fostered a great working relationship with USFWS,” Dr. Tuggle said.
            The Commission also recognized J.D. Ridge, senior wildlife biologist for the Wildlife Department at Eufaula and McClellan Kerr WMAs and the Lower Illinois River PFHA, for 20 years of service.
            The Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Wildlife Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.
            The next scheduled Commission meeting is set for 9 a.m. May 4 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), located at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City.
 
-30-
 
 
Gobbler season opens April 6; biologists report current turkey activity
            April 6 marks the first day of spring turkey season in Oklahoma, and biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation say Oklahoma is on course for a good hunting season.
            The season runs through May 6 and is open to shotgun and archery equipment. For regulations, specific firearms and archery requirements and a state map showing individual county bag limits, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”
            According to biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, hunters should be successful during turkey season in areas across the state.
            According to Rod Smith, southwest region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department, hunters can expect a good season but might want to double-check their favorite places to hunt if they have not found birds in those places yet.
            “It seems like the birds have broken up from their flocks a bit later than normal,” Smith said. “So if you scouted an area a few weeks ago and did not find any birds in places where there are normally birds, it might be worth a second look because they might be there now. Most birds should be hanging out where they are going to be opening day. The birds have done a fair amount of breeding already, and nesting has started.”
            Rio Grande turkey hunting can get increasingly better as the season progresses, according to Smith.
            “If at the first of the season you have trouble calling a bird, remember that toms may still have quite a few hens with them early on in the season,” Smith said. “But as the season continues and hens begin to nest more, toms may become more receptive to new hens. In other words, turkey hunting can actually get better as the season progresses.”
            In the northwest region of the state, recent snowstorms may have been a temporary setback for spring wild turkey activity, but according to Wade Free, northwest region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department, turkeys had already begun breaking up prior to the snowstorms.
            “It's still a little early for gobbling activity,” Free said, “but if we get the predicted warmer temperatures, I think we're on track to have a good opener.”
            Free said cold temperatures may have slowed the normal progression of the breeding season in northwest Oklahoma, but that any setback should not be noticeable by the time spring turkey season arrives April 6. One positive brought on by recent snow is that it provided badly needed moisture in the region, according to Free.
            For hunting northwest and western Oklahoma, Free recommends using a quality set of field optics. He also suggests setting up to watch birds and learning their behaviors and patterns for those times when calling may be difficult.
            Jack Waymire, southeast region senior biologist for the Department, said a good approach for hunters in southeast Oklahoma is to look for turkeys in the same places they saw them last spring.
            “The birds just started breaking up last week,” Waymire said regarding turkeys in the southeast part of the state. “Recent storms will not be a problem for hunters, and if anything the storms were a positive thing, as they have helped bring about greener conditions.”
            Waymire said turkey hunting in southeast Oklahoma this year should be better than it has been the past four years as the area recovers from drought conditions. Waymire said there is a “major hole” in the age structure of turkeys in the southeast region of the state, and that hunters may not find many two-year-old toms, which often provide the most gobbling activity during the spring. As a result, Waymire said hunters should watch for older toms that may “sneak in” on them without much gobbling.
            Waymire said one thing is for sure.
            “There's no reason not to go,” Waymire said.
            In the northeast, biologists agree that hunters should start where they found birds last spring.
            Craig Endicott, northeast region wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department said turkey hunters may find that the woods in the region could be difficult to navigate in places due to recent ice storm damage, but that should not affect turkeys as much as it could affect hunters' travel in the woods. Endicott said cool weather may be causing a setback in the progression of the breeding season, but that hunting success should be good as the season progresses. Endicott did say hunters could see fewer jakes this year because of heavy rainfall last summer that affected the hatch in the region.
            “The most important piece of advice I could give to hunters is to get out there and scout,” Endicott said. “Look for tracks, feathers and droppings, and listen for birds. There are birds out there, you've just got to locate them.”
            The wild turkey in Oklahoma is part of an enormous conservation success story. In the 1920s, wild turkeys were very rare in Oklahoma and all across the nation. Overharvest from market hunting, timbering for construction of homesteads, land use changes and market logging in Oklahoma's early years took a toll on the wild turkey, but a stocking program by the Wildlife Department in the late 1940s helped re-establish the wild turkey to its former range across the state.
            Today, turkeys are so plentiful that huntable populations exist in all 77 counties. Every county in Oklahoma has either a one- or two-tom season limit, and an eight-county region in southeast Oklahoma has a combined two-tom season limit. However, persistent hunters can harvest up to their season limit of three tom turkeys in one day, but individual county limits still apply. No more than one tom may be taken in any county with a one-tom limit and no more than two toms may be taken from any county with a two-tom limit. No more than two toms may be taken from Atoka, Choctaw, Coal, Latimer, LeFlore, McCurtain, Pittsburg and Pushmataha counties combined.
            To hunt turkeys, sportsmen need an appropriate state hunting license and fishing and hunting legacy permit as well as a turkey license, unless exempt. Upon harvesting a turkey, all annual license holders are required to complete the “Record of Game” section on the license form, and all hunters, even lifetime license holders, must attach their name and hunting license number to their turkey as soon as it is harvested. Only toms, or bearded turkeys, may be taken during the spring season.
For license information and regulations for spring turkey hunting, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
-30-
 
 
Oklahoma Archery in the Schools state shoot continues drawing record numbers
            A total of 1,085 students from across the state shot 43,745 arrows April 1 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Archery in the Schools annual state shoot at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.
            Students at the state shoot came from 93 schools and competed in archery after a season of practice and competition in their respective schools as part of the Oklahoma Archery in the Schools (OAIS) program.
            The number of students at the state shoot reflects the growth of the OAIS program during its five years of existence. This year's state shoot saw an increase of more than 300 students over last year's shoot and almost 600 more students than were present in 2007. The state shoot also has grown so much that the Wildlife Department was forced to move it from the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond to the Cox Center to accommodate more shooters.
            The state shoot is the season finale for the OAIS program, currently about 160 schools participate throughout the year. Coordinated by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Oklahoma Archery in the Schools is part of the National Archery in the Schools program. The program partners state wildlife agencies, schools and the nation's archery industry to introduce students to the sport of archery. The Archery in the Schools curriculum is designed for 4th-12th graders and covers archery history, safety, techniques, equipment, mental concentration and self-improvement.
            The top three shooters in each category at the state shoot received medals and prizes. First place winners received a new Genesis bow, second place winners received a new set of Alpen binoculars and third place winners took home a new bow carrying case. In addition, the top five shooters in each category and first place teams automatically qualified for the national shoot to be held May 8-9 in Louisville, Ky.
            The top three shooters in each age category, as well as the top three team schools in each category, include:
 
High school boys
Casey Taylor, Keys, Score 380
Cole Thompson, Keys, score 379
Blake Blakely, Keys, score 376
 
High school girls
Amanda Mixon, Chandler, score 369
Korrie Gee, Coweta, score 354
Kayla Replogle, Coweta, score 352
 
High school top three teams
Coweta High School, score 3,171
Keys High School, score 3,148
Chandler High School, score 3,122
 
Middle school boys
Hunter Ginn, Coweta, score 379
Danny Phillips, Maryetta, score 369
Ryan Kelley, Coweta, score 366
 
Middle school girls
Abigail Unruh, Morris, Score 348
Hannah Lawhorn, Keystone, Score 346,
Dakota Provence, Wister, Score 343
 
Middle school top three teams
Coweta Middle School, score 3,147
Shawnee Middle School, score 2,936
Wister Middle School, score 2,909
 
Elementary school boys
Kolt Perkins, Zaneis, score 358
Chase Stocker, Garfield, score 347
Grayson Shockley, Cherokee, score 345
 
Elementary school girls
Hunter Tolliver, Zaneis, score 406
Hailey Pilkenton, Greenville, score 404
Hadlie Barnes, Greenville, score 392
 
Elementary school top three teams
Zaneis Elementary, score 3,018
Chickasha Elementary, score 2,969
Coweta Elementary, score 2,921
 
            In addition to the top three teams, several more schools scored high enough to compete as teams at the national tournament. In addition to the top three teams in each category, qualifying teams include:
 
High schools
Shawnee
Beggs
Carney
Crowder
Tecumseh
 
Middle schools
Maryetta
Morris
Zaneis
Cimarron
South Rock Creek
Keystone
Moss
 
Elementary schools
Wayland Bonds
Greenville
Cherokee
Houchin
Shawnee
Sperry
Moss
South Rock Creek
Morris
Beggs
 
            According to Lance Meek, OAIS coordinator, the state shoot was made possible by the efforts of hardworking people involved with the OAIS program.
            “The success of the OAIS program and state shoot is only possible because of the efforts of Wildlife Department employees and our partners such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Morrell Targets, participating schools and coaches, and volunteers from the archery community,” said Lance Meek, OAIS coordinator for the Wildlife Department.
            About 160 schools across the state have enrolled in the Oklahoma Archery in the Schools program, which offers archery to students, and grant money can make it easy for other schools to join up as well.
            “Thanks to a Wildlife Department grant, schools can now get involved in the program for a fraction of the cost of the equipment,” Meek said.
            Partial grants are available for schools to acquire all the equipment, including bows, arrows, targets, safety nets, curriculum and training necessary to begin an OAIS  program in their communities at little cost.
            In order to be eligible for a grant, the school must send a teacher to an eight-hour workshop where they will learn how to conduct the program at their school and instruct students in archery.
            For more information on the Archery in the Schools program, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
 
-30-

Paddlefish angling is red hot; free permit available online
            Hundreds of paddlefish have been caught and processed this spring as anglers take advantage of services provided by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Paddlefish Research and Processing Center (RPC).
            Located along the Neosho River near Twin Bridges State Park, the Paddlefish RPC is open for anglers to bring in their paddlefish to be processed into neatly packaged fillets ready for the frying pan, barbecue grill or smoker. By processing the fish, the Department salvages the eggs from female paddlefish and also collects valuable biological data about the Neosho River-Grand Lake population; arguably one of the healthiest paddlefish populations in the world.
Fishing for paddlefish began heating up around the third week in March, and biologists believe there is still time to catch the fish making their spring spawning run. Additionally, biologists want to remind anglers who would like to try their hand at catching a paddlefish, to obtain the free paddlefish permit which is available online from wildlifedepartment.com.
            “We processed over 1,650 fish at the Center this last Thursday through Sunday, and it looks like this coming weekend will be just as good,” said Keith Green, paddlefish program coordinator for the Wildlife Department. Before the permit, it was a challenge to determine the true numbers of paddlefish anglers, and therefore it was more difficult to manage this important fish. But now with the permit system, we are learning valuable information which will greatly benefit our future management efforts.”
            The free paddlefish permit also makes the tagging process easier for anglers. Under the permit system each angler that obtains a paddlefish permit is assigned a number that must be attached to all paddlefish that are caught and kept.
            “The permit simplifies the tagging process for the angler while also making mistakes less likely to occur,” Green said. “Each angler's permit is good for the entire calendar year and can be used for multiple paddlefish tagged during that year.”
            As long as the paddlefish spawning run continues, the Paddlefish RPC will remain open for anglers to bring in their fish. Paddlefish, which date back to the Jurassic Period, regularly weigh over 50 pounds, and anglers who have caught them say the action rivals catching a saltwater game fish such as a marlin or shark. Because paddlefish feed exclusively on microscopic plankton, they will not bite a lure. Instead, they are snagged by dragging a large treble hook and a weight through the water.
            To obtain a free paddlefish permit, or for other useful information about paddlefish angling in Oklahoma, log on to wildlifedepartment.com. The Web site provides paddlefish angling hotspots, photo galleries, paddlefish regulations and instructions on how to fish for paddlefish in Oklahoma as well as more information about the Department's Paddlefish Research and Processing Center.
 
-30-
 
 
Youth discover wildlife-related careers at summer camp
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will be accepting applications for its annual Wildlife Youth Camp through April 17.
            The youth camp, slated for June 15-19, will be held at OU Biological Station at Lake Texoma and will introduce youth age 14-16 to careers in wildlife-related fields while increasing awareness of conserving and managing Oklahoma's wildlife resources. The free camp allows youth to gain first-hand knowledge of careers in wildlife and fisheries management as well as law enforcement.
            “Given the subject matter, it's easy for kids to enjoy themselves and have a great time at the Wildlife Department Youth Camp,” said Wade Farrar, game warden stationed in Logan County. “We cover all things outdoors and send youth home with a better understanding of what wildlife conservation and management is all about. In fact, some campers even move on to eventually become employees at the Wildlife Department and say their time at youth camp helped them choose their career.”
            Courses planned for the week include rifle and shotgun training, muzzleloading, wildlife identification, wildlife law enforcement, fishing, fisheries management, ropes and rappelling, swimming, and turkey and waterfowl hunting, management and enforcement.
            To attend youth camp, applicants must turn 14 prior to June 15, 2009, and be no older than 16. Applicants must write a 75-word essay describing why they want to attend the camp, why they should be selected and what they expect to learn. Additionally, they must provide a letter of recommendation by someone outside their family and a photograph from a recent outdoor-related event or activity.
            The camp will be open to a maximum of 35 youth, and applications will be accepted through April 17, 2009. More information and applications, as well as photographs from previous youth camps are available by logging on to
http://www.wildlifedepartment.com.
 
-30-
 
 
Birding and Heritage Festival offers outdoor fun in Alfalfa County
            If you are looking for a reason to get your family outdoors in Oklahoma, the annual Cherokee Birding and Heritage Festival is the opportunity.
            The Annual Birding and Heritage Festival will be held April 24-26 throughout Alfalfa County in northwest Oklahoma.
            For more than 10 years, this event has drawn crowds of people.  The list of activities taking place range from the tame to the wild: stargazing at the Great Salt Plains State Park, trapshooting with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, wildlife photography with a native Oklahoma photographers, reptile rehabilitation with live snakes and lizards, birdwatching around the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, owl prowling at night and more.  And the best part about the whole festival is the family atmosphere.
            “The Birding and Heritage Festival is one for all ages.  We try to ensure that it is for families and not geared for just one age group,” Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge Naturalist Becky Wolff said.  “Since there are so many different activities to pick from on all three days, you can be sure to find something for everyone.”
            One other activity that you are sure to enjoy during the event is the Oklahoma City Zoo's Zoomobile Program.  Staff from the zoo will be on hand to present live animals at the refuge.
            New this year is the opportunity to make a bluebird house and take it home at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Byron Watchable Wildlife Area.  This will be a first come- first served event, so participants will want to arrive early.
            Sponsors include the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Byron State Fish Hatchery, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Great Salt Plains Association, the Cherokee Mainstreet Association and Great Salt Plains State Park.
            In 2008, there were 171 species of birds observed during the event as well as other wildlife. Some of the more interesting wildlife species viewed during in previous years include gray fox, summer tanager, red-spotted toad, badger, whooping crane, Texas horned lizard, snowy plover, least tern, Western massasauga and red-eyed vireo.
            For more information about the Festival call (580) 626-4794 or log on to travelok.com.
 
-30-
 
 
Birding Tour offered at Watchable Wildlife Weekend
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Alabaster Caverns and Boiling Springs State Parks are partnering to bring both avid and novice birders a wildlife watching weekend.
            Alabaster Caverns State Park's Annual Watchable Wildlife Weekend will take place April 30 through May 2 in northwest Oklahoma.
            All activities during the weekend are free and included a variety of opportunities to learn about the outdoors and wildlife. Activities available during the weekend include a skins and skulls presentation presented by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation that teaches wildlife identification. Additionally, seminars also will include topics such as geology, cave formation, wildlife rehabilitation, firearm safety, sessions and even lessons on identifying various wildlife tracks and more.
            Another popular event featured during the weekend is the Early Morning Birding Tour on Friday, May 1 at Boiling Springs State Park. Boiling Springs offers diverse habitat for western bird species. The tour will run from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and will include a tour through the park to view various bird species and other wildlife. There also will be a morning birding walking tour on Saturday, May 2 at 6:30 a.m. through beautiful Alabaster Caverns.
            “This event is popular due to the family atmosphere,” said Tandy Keenan, Alabaster Caverns State Park naturalist. “Being able to see the animals in their natural setting is one thrill the entire family can enjoy together.”
            Pre-registration for the Early Morning Birding Tour is required and limited to 25 guests.  To pre-register for the tour, or for more information about the Watchable Wildlife Weekend, contact Tandy Keenan at (580) 621-3381.
 
-30-

Controlled Hunts applications online now
            Hunters hoping to draw out for a bull elk, whitetail deer, antelope or other controlled hunt through the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Controlled Hunts Program can now submit applications over the Internet by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com.
            Administered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Controlled Hunts Program offers a wide variety of highly desirable hunts through a random drawing. Controlled hunting opportunities offered through the program include hunts on Department or other government-owned or managed lands where unrestricted hunting would pose safety concerns or where overharvest might occur.
            “Sportsmen have over 140 different quality hunts to choose from including elk, antelope, deer, turkey, and quail hunts,” said Melinda Sturgess-Streich, assistant director of administration for the Wildlife Department. “Thirty-two of these hunts are designed specifically for youth ages 14-16. You don't want to miss out on these hunting opportunities, so mark your calendars to apply before the deadline of May 15.”
            All applicants, including lifetime license holders, must pay a $5 application fee to enter the Controlled Hunts drawings. The fee is paid only once per person per year regardless of the number of categories entered.
            “A single $5 fee for an opportunity to hunt elk, antelope, or deer alone is minor in comparison to the thousands of dollars that some sportsmen pay to attend similar hunts,” Sturgess-Streich said. “Plus, it's all done online through a secure application process that only accepts applications once they have been filed correctly, which means you can't mess up your application or your chance to be drawn for a hunt.”
            Applicants have until May 15 to apply online.
             For complete application instructions, including tips on enhancing your chances of being selected as well as a full listing of available hunts for elk, deer, antelope, turkey, quail and raccoon, log on to
http://www.wildlifedepartment.com.
 
-30-
 
 
Outdoor Marketplace returning to 2009 Oklahoma Wildlife Expo
            For the third year in a row, vendors at the Oklahoma Wildlife Expo will be offering their outdoor goods and services to sportsmen interested in the outdoors through its Outdoor Marketplace.
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's fifth annual Oklahoma Wildlife Expo is slated for September 25-27 at the Lazy E Arena, just north of Oklahoma City. The Wildlife Department will be working with a range of organizations, individuals and outdoor-related companies to host the event —  intended to promote and develop appreciation for Oklahoma's wildlife and natural resources. Last year's Expo drew nearly 40,000 visitors to the Lazy E Arena over the course of three days.
            “The Expo is an event that draws tens of thousands of outdoor-minded individuals who want to learn about the outdoors and try their hand at a number of outdoor activities,” said Rhonda Hurst, Wildlife Expo coordinator for the Wildlife Department. “The Wildlife Department is pleased to offer to Expo visitors a chance to stroll through the Outdoor Marketplace to see the latest in outdoor merchandise. I'm confident this year's Outdoor Marketplace will be well worth checking out.”
            The Outdoor Marketplace is a large area where commercial vendors will be selling their hunting and fishing-related merchandise and services. The Marketplace features vendors under a large tent, but outdoor open-air spaces also are available for displaying larger items such as ATVs and hunting blinds. A 10' x 10' booth space under the tent or a 20' x 20' outside space costs $300. Both include electricity. Nonprofit conservation organizations also will be able to sign up for free booth spaces to promote membership and educate sportsmen about their organizations.
            Along with shopping at the Outdoor Marketplace, Expo visitors will be able to fish, shoot shotguns, kayak, ride mountain bikes, see and touch wildlife, attend dog training seminars and learn about recreation in the great outdoors. They will also be able to win a variety of free prizes thanks to the Expo's generous sponsors.
            “Vendors who want to reach outdoor enthusiasts with their products and services need to be part of the Wildlife Expo's Outdoor Marketplace,” Hurst said. “Don't miss out on this opportunity to participate in the largest outdoor recreational event in the state of Oklahoma.”
            Log on to wildlifedepartment.com regularly to stay up to date on the upcoming Oklahoma Wildlife Expo.
For more information about obtaining a booth in the Outdoor Marketplace or to obtain an application for a booth, contact Rhonda Hurst, Wildlife Expo Coordinator at (405) 522-6279.
 
-30-
 
 
53rd annual Forestry and Wildlife Camp provides outdoor learning experience for youth
            It is not too early to think about enrolling your child in summer camp and what could be better than a week in the woods of beautiful Beavers Bend State Park? The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry will host its 53rd annual Oklahoma Youth Forestry and Wildlife Camp June 8-13, 2009.
            “One of the longest running summer camps in Oklahoma is gearing up for another action-filled summer camp experience,” said Christina Stallings Roberson, educational coordinator for Oklahoma Forestry Services regarding the youth camp. “It's a great opportunity to get kids in the woods to learn about forestry and wildlife as part of an exciting outdoor adventure!”
            The camp is for boys and girls aged 13 to 15 years old that want to learn more about forestry, wildlife and conservation and that enjoy learning in the outdoors. As one of Oklahoma's premier summer camps, students attend from across the state — many following the tradition of their parents and grandparents who are camp alumni. Field trips, Native American crafts, educational sessions and recreation programs are the heart of the weeklong camp.
            Older youth, ages 18 to 22, can also participate in the weeklong learning experience as camp counselors. Applicants should be mature, responsible young adults with an interest in outdoor careers such as forestry or wildlife, or in education, and have the ability to guide younger youth throughout the camp. Volunteer adult leaders also are needed.
            Camper, counselor and adult applications will be accepted until May 1, 2009 and can be obtained by logging on to
http://www.forestry.ok.gov  or by calling (405) 522-6158. The fee for campers is $175, which covers all costs including meals, transportation at camp, field trips, and workshops. A limited number of partial scholarships are available.
            Only 40 campers will be accepted, and applications must be accompanied by a letter of reference from a teacher, counselor, principal, or club leader that has personal knowledge of the camper's interest and conduct.
 
-30-

Hackberry Flat Center to host outdoor fun for the family
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Friends of Hackberry Flat are partnering to host a free family-oriented day of outdoor fun Saturday, May 9 at the Hackberry Flat Center near Frederick in southwest Oklahoma.
            The Family Fun Day will offer activities ranging from birding tours and wetland hayrides to archery, shotgun shooting, and building birdhouses for guests to take home with them, among others.
            “This will be a chance for the public to tour the new Hackberry Flat Center,” said Melynda Hickman, wildlife diversity biologist for the Wildlife Department. “We've got a bunch of great activities planned for the Family Fun Day, and I am really looking forward to meeting young and old alike and showing them around Hackberry Flat.”
            Along with outdoor activities, inside the Center visitors will be able to view wetland wildlife in the wetland classroom, make an edible wetland, and experience an interactive exhibit about bats in Oklahoma. Additionally, children's book author Desiree Webber will be on hand teaching youngsters how the bison was reintroduced at the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in her children's book, The Buffalo Train.
            Birding tours will begin at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. The Friends of Hackberry Flat will offer the birdhouse “make-n-take programs” at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to the first 10 families at each of the programs.
            The Family Fun Day is free, and no registration is required. The event will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 9 and will run until 4 p.m.
            All activities will begin at the new Hackberry Flat Center, a facility that provides wetland classroom experiences for school groups, programs on wildlife and wildlife-related activities as well as meeting facilities for resource-oriented programs, workshops and meetings.
            Hackberry Flat WMA covers 7,120 acres of Tillman County in southwest Oklahoma. Located southeast of the town of Frederick, Hackberry Flat WMA is a combination of upland and wetland habitats. Approximately 99 water control structures, 35 miles of dikes, four miles of water distribution canals and 35 wetland units have been constructed to provide wetland wildlife habitat.
            For more information or to receive a booklet about the Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area call the Frederick Chamber of Commerce at (580) 335-2126 or call Hickman at (405) 990-4977.
 
-30-
 
 
Report reveals record success for bass tournament anglers
            The average winning weight at Oklahoma bass fishing tournaments in 2008 reached its highest point since the Department began compiling the statewide statistics in 1994, according to the most recent Oklahoma Bass Tournaments Report from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The report is now available at wildlifedepartment.com.
            According to biologists with the Wildlife Department, the success of competitive bass fishermen offers important information about the quality of angling opportunities across the state
            “The Department has been gathering data on bass fishing tournaments across the state for the last 15 years, and the information we collect helps us manage bass populations,” said Gene Gilliland, central region fisheries supervisor for the Wildlife Department.
            Though the 405 tournament reports submitted in 2008 was down from 457 the previous year, it did show the average winning weight at tournaments reached 12.93 lbs. The heaviest one-day five-bass limit weighed 28.73 lbs. from Arbuckle Lake, and the largest bass reported from tournaments was 11.55 lbs from Arbuckle. Arbuckle also produced seven other bass over eight pounds in 2008.
            Total numbers of bass over five pounds increased over last year, and bass over eight pounds made a huge jump from 19 in 2007 to 35 in 2008.
            Tournament entries included in the report total 18,134, and data shows that tournament activity was down in 2008. Reports were submitted from tournaments at 45 lakes compared to 49 in 2007 and 61 lakes in 2006. According to the report, a total of 21,530 bass were weighed at tournaments in 2008, weighing a total of 44,440 lbs. This was a decrease from 2007.
            Tournaments averaged weighting 53 bass per event for a total weight of 110 lbs. per tournament, which is equal to or above long term averages.
            Hudson Lake claimed the number one spot on the list of top tournament lakes, followed by Wes Watkins, Sooner and Eucha (tied). Only lakes that the Department received at least eight reports from were considered in the rankings. According to Gilliland, information from lakes with fewer reports may not convey their actual fishing quality. To see further lake rankings as well as other tournament results, download and print the 14-page report for free by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com.
            Because biologists cannot conduct electrofishing surveys on every lake each year, tournament anglers are an important part of the Department's fisheries management team. In the course of their pursuits, they provide biologists with hundreds of thousands of hours of fishing data every year.
            The Department collects the data on “tournament report cards” that are submitted by tournament directors or through the Internet.
            For more tournament information or to learn more about submitting tournament reports, log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com


-30-
 
 
Lone zebra mussel found in Lake Texoma
            For the second time in three years, an alert citizen has assisted the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) in their efforts to keep zebra mussels from invading Lake Texoma.
            On April 3 Brent Taylor, an employee of a private landowner on the south shore of Lake Texoma, reported to TPWD Inland Fisheries biologist Bruce Hysmith that he had found a suspected zebra mussel on a boathouse communication line.
            The identification was confirmed, and though the boathouse was inspected, no additional specimens were found.
            In 2006 Tim Ray, an employee of a marina in Pottsboro, found zebra mussels on a boat that had been brought from Wisconsin. The boat was decontaminated before being put into the water.
            In both instances the individuals stated that they were previously aware of the threat from zebra mussels and made a practice of watching out for them.
            Hysmith immediately notified the local U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Tishomingo, Oklahoma; local game wardens and area marinas to be on the alert.
            Zebra mussels are native to Asia and were first found in the United States in 1988. They have since spread to 24 states, including Oklahoma.
            The aquatic invaders are about 5/8-inch long and usually have striped shells. They can live for several days out of water and can be dispersed overland by trailered boats, though their main method of spread is by free-floating larvae. Zebra mussels can multiply rapidly to the point of clogging water treatment plant intake pipes, fouling boat bottoms and possibly depleting food sources relied on by fish and other aquatic species.
            The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
nonindigenous aquatic species Web site calls zebra mussels “one of the most important biological invasions into North America.” The site contains photographs and information that can be used to identify the organisms. To access the site, log on to http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.asp?speciesID=5
            “We depend on our anglers and boaters to help us stop the spread of aquatic nuisance species like zebra mussels,” said Barry Bolton, fisheries chief for the Wildlife Department. “We need all anglers, boaters and other recreational users of our lakes to take some simple steps to help us ensure that zebra mussels don't spread further. Oklahoma and Texas are working jointly on this issue because of the danger these invaders could spread to other water bodies. We are asking our recreational users to be vigilant not just on Lake Texoma but on other lakes in Oklahoma and Texas as well.”
            Because microscopic zebra mussel larvae can be unknowingly transported in bilges, engine cooling systems, minnow buckets, live wells and anywhere water is trapped, the following precautions should be taken to help slow their spread
* Drain the bilge water, live wells and bait buckets before leaving.
* Inspect the boat and trailer immediately upon leaving the water.
* Scrape off any zebra mussels or aquatic vegetation found. Do not return them to the water.
* If possible, dry the boat and trailer for at least a week before entering another waterway.
* Wash boat parts and accessories that contact the water using hot water (at least 140 degrees F.), or spray with high-pressure water.
 
-30-

Hackberry Flat Center to host outdoor fun for the family
            The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Friends of Hackberry Flat are partnering to host a free family-oriented day of outdoor fun Saturday, May 9 at the Hackberry Flat Center near Frederick in southwest Oklahoma.
            The Family Fun Day will offer activities ranging from birding tours and wetland hayrides to archery, shotgun shooting, and building birdhouses for guests to take home with them, among others.
            “This will be a chance for the public to tour the new Hackberry Flat Center,” said Melynda Hickman, wildlife diversity biologist for the Wildlife Department. “We've got a bunch of great activities planned for the Family Fun Day, and I am really looking forward to meeting young and old alike and showing them around Hackberry Flat.”
            Along with outdoor activities, inside the Center visitors will be able to view wetland wildlife in the wetland classroom, make an edible wetland, and experience an interactive exhibit about bats in Oklahoma. Additionally, children's book author Desiree Webber will be on hand teaching youngsters how the bison was reintroduced at the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in her children's book, The Buffalo Train.
            Birding tours will begin at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. The Friends of Hackberry Flat will offer the birdhouse “make-n-take programs” at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to the first 10 families at each of the programs.
            The Family Fun Day is free, and no registration is required. The event will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 9 and will run until 4 p.m.
            All activities will begin at the new Hackberry Flat Center, a facility that provides wetland classroom experiences for school groups, programs on wildlife and wildlife-related activities as well as meeting facilities for resource-oriented programs, workshops and meetings.
            Hackberry Flat WMA covers 7,120 acres of Tillman County in southwest Oklahoma. Located southeast of the town of Frederick, Hackberry Flat WMA is a combination of upland and wetland habitats. Approximately 99 water control structures, 35 miles of dikes, four miles of water distribution canals and 35 wetland units have been constructed to provide wetland wildlife habitat.
            For more information or to receive a booklet about the Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area call the Frederick Chamber of Commerce at (580) 335-2126 or call Hickman at (405) 990-4977. To view more information online, including a 16-page informational guide on Hackberry Flat, log on to
http://www.wildlifedepartment.com
 
-30-
 
 
Free family fishing clinics slated throughout summer
            Families looking to enjoy the approaching summer outdoors should learn about the sport of fishing at one of many free clinics hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
            Through the Wildlife Department's Aquatic Resources Education Program (AREP), kids and adults can choose from courses held near urban areas throughout the state this summer to learn about fishing, an activity that has remained popular throughout history.
            Oklahoma has thousands of miles of shoreline along its many lakes, rivers, streams and ponds, and many of them are close to urban areas and open to the public for angling. The AREP program is designed to help people get a start in the sport so they can take advantage of the many fishing opportunities available to them.
            According to Damon Springer, aquatic education coordinator for the Wildlife Department, the free clinics will benefit families trying to learn about the sport as well as those looking for easy and affordable opportunities to spend time with family.
            “The family fishing clinics are a great opportunity for families to have an activity they can all do together,” Springer said.
            The Aquatic Resource Education Program will hold classes starting in May and running through August, many of which will be held at the Wildlife Department's Arcadia Conservation Education Area in Edmond or the Zebco Pond in Tulsa. Others will be held at local ponds in Oklahoma City and in Jenks. A full course listing is available on the Wildlife Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com. Pre-registration for each course is required and can be done by calling the phone number listed with each course.
            The Aquatic Resources Education Program is the Department's means to promote the sport of fishing and aquatic resource awareness as well as a way to give youth, regardless of family situation, an opportunity to learn about Oklahoma's aquatic environments and how to fish.
            Developed in 1988, the program's objectives are to increase the understanding, appreciation, and awareness of Oklahoma's aquatic resources; facilitate the learning of angling skills, outdoor ethics, and sportfishing opportunities in the state; enhance urban fishing opportunities; develop adult fishing clinics and provide information on specialized fishing techniques.
            These one-day events present information on such topics as fish identification, knot-tying, fish cleaning and cooking, fishing tackle selection and use, water safety, outdoor ethics and more.
            Most clinics, including Lake Arcadia family fishing clinics, include fishing at a nearby pond or lake.
            According to Springer, the fishing clinics will benefit youth as well as play an important role of the future of Oklahoma's outdoor heritage.
            “Children are the future of fishing,” Springer said. “We need to get them involved any chance we get. These clinics give us the chance to introduce those young and old to the sport.”
            For more information about the Aquatic Resources Education Program, log on to the Department's Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
 
-30-
 
 
Controlled Hunts applications available through May 15
            Hunters hoping to draw out for a bull elk, whitetail deer, antelope or other controlled hunt through the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Controlled Hunts Program can now submit applications over the Internet by logging on to wildlifedepartment.com.
            Administered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Controlled Hunts Program offers a wide variety of highly desirable hunts through a random drawing. Controlled hunting opportunities offered through the program include hunts on Department or other government-owned or managed lands where unrestricted hunting would pose safety concerns or where overharvest might occur.
            “Sportsmen have over 140 different quality hunts to choose from including elk, antelope, deer, turkey, and quail hunts,” said Melinda Sturgess-Streich, assistant director of administration for the Wildlife Department. “Thirty-two of these hunts are designed specifically for youth ages 14-16. You don't want to miss out on these hunting opportunities, so mark your calendars to apply before the deadline of May 15.”
            All applicants, including lifetime license holders, must pay a $5 application fee to enter the Controlled Hunts drawings. The fee is paid only once per person per year regardless of the number of categories entered.
            “A single $5 fee for an opportunity to hunt elk, antelope, or deer alone is minor in comparison to the thousands of dollars that some sportsmen pay to attend similar hunts,” Sturgess-Streich said. “Plus, it's all done online through a secure application process that only accepts applications once they have been filed correctly, which means you can't mess up your application or your chance to be drawn for a hunt.”
            Applicants have until May 15 to apply online.
             For complete application instructions, including tips on enhancing your chances of being selected as well as a full listing of available hunts for elk, deer, antelope, turkey, quail and raccoon, log on to
http://www.wildlifedepartment.com.
 
-30-