MAY 2001 NEWS
WEEK OF MAY 31
WEEK OF MAY 24
WEEK OF MAY 17
WEEK OF MAY 10
WEEK OF MAY 2
Fishing close to home provides great option
Those trying to plan an early summer vacation may want to remember that there are some excellent fishing destinations close to most of the states metro areas.
Oklahoma has a tremendous number of lakes, and they not only provide great places to camp or relax, but they also can provide some great family fishing as well. Right now is an excellent time to be fishing for bluegill and black bass, so plan an outing to a local lake and get in on some of the action.
"Bluegill and other sunfish should be active all across the state right now," said Barry Bolton, assistant chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Sunfish usually begin spawning in mid-to-late-May and will continue to spawn into June. When they are on their spawning beds, it is hard to beat the action they can provide for the entire family.
"Sunfish often spawn on shallow gravel or vegetated banks, and it doesn't take very sophisticated equipment to fish for bluegill. In fact, a cane pole with a little line on it will do. The feisty fighters will strike about any small lure or bait while they are spawning so you can enjoy a good outing for just a small amount of money."
Bolton added that sunfish are common in every lake in the state. Many lakes also have bank access so anglers don't have to worry about fitting the entire family in a boat for an enjoyable outing. Another species that can be caught from the bank at many lakes across the state is the largemouth bass.
There is excellent bass fishing all across the state. The Wildlife Department does electrofishing surveys at many of the lakes every year and compiles the data from their surveys into an anglers guide. The anglers guide is available in the March/April issue of Outdoor Oklahoma and can be purchased at any Department installation.
"It is very common to find largemouth bass feeding in shallow water during the early morning or evening hours, and you will often catch them while you are fishing for sunfish," Bolton said. "Anglers may enjoy good action on a variety of top water lures, shallow running crankbaits and on spinner baits. It may be a little more expensive to fish for bass, but you don't have to spend a lot to catch a good mess of fish.
"The best places to fish this time of year is around structure and off shallow points. Anglers may also have good luck around structure in a little deeper water during the heat of the day."
Fishing with the family and friends can be a great way to spend a vacation. It is fun and relaxing and allows every one the opportunity to connect to each other. Many lakes are located in the most scenic areas the state has to offer, so there isn't any reason not to get out and enjoy them.
To get a jump on the action for both species, be sure to get a copy of the 2001 Anglers Guide, as well as a copy of the 2001 Fishing Guide for information on statewide and area regulations. The regulations are also available on the Department's Web site. To download them or to find out more about fishing in Oklahoma, go to www.wildlifedepartment.com.
Oklahoma's Top Five Sunfish Hotspots: Eucha, Greenleaf (northeast), American Horse (northwest), Holdenville (southeast), Elmer Thomas (southwest)
Oklahoma's Top Ten Largemouth Bass Best Bets: Grand, Eucha (northeast), American Horse, Etling (northwest), Broken Bow, Raymond Gary (southeast), Ellsworth, Taylor (southwest), Konawa, McGee Creek (central).
Oklahoma Aquarium construction begins
Construction should begin soon for the Oklahoma Aquarium, which will be opening on the banks of the Arkansas River in Jenks during the summer of 2002.
The aquarium will be located on 34 acres and will display and provide education about thousands of aquatic animals, as well as opportunities for hands-on aquatic education at facility wet labs.
"We're moving along," said Doug Kemper, director of the Aquarium. "Everything is going well. It is exciting."
Kemper added that the site has been cleared and workers will be pouring the concrete slab for the $15 million nonprofit aquarium in early June. The 60,000 square foot facility will feature more than 200 exhibits including the Karl and Beverly White National Fishing Museum. The Museum will house one of the most comprehensive antique tackle collections in the world. The collection is worth about $4 million and is comprised by about 30,000 artifacts.
Other exhibits will showcase both fresh water and salt water animals including turtles, sharks, piranhas and Oklahoma's 240 native fish. Several piranha and other salt water fish species have already arrived in Oklahoma and are becoming acclimated in a holding facility.
The majority of the funding for the aquarium will come from revenue bonds with the remainder coming from loans, grants and donations. The aquarium recently received its first "giant" donation of $1 million from the families of brothers Ray and Robin Siegfried. Ray is the chief executive officer of the NORDAM Group, and Robin is president for the enterprise group for NORDAM, a Tulsa-based aerospace company.
"I think it's significant," Kemper said. "It paves the way for others to follow. I think other donors will jump on the bandwagon when they have leadership like that."
For more information about the Oklahoma Aquarium go to www.okaquarium.org
Maguire confirmed as commissioner
Mac Maguire, an avid quail hunter and angler from Oklahoma City, was recently confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate as the Wildlife Conservation Commission's District 5 representative. Maguire will serve an eight-year term beginning July 1, 2001.
Gov. Frank Keating appointed Maguire to replace Commissioner Mark Patton for the Commission district that includes Logan, Oklahoma, Cleveland, McClain, Garvin, Murray and Payne counties. Founder and current president/CEO of Maguire Brothers, Inc., he is a lifelong Oklahoma City resident who graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with an economics degree. Primarily a construction company involved in commercial and residential reconstruction for insurance companies, Maguire Brothers, Inc., was founded in 1964 and has expanded to include divisions involved in both construction and repair of transmitter towers throughout the nation.
Maguire enjoys both hunting and fishing, but said that he is especially fond of hunting upland game. He owns a small hunting and fishing retreat near Chandler, but has traveled all over North and South America pursuing his passion for the outdoors.
"I love it all, but quail hunting is my first passion," Maguire said. "Oklahoma is blessed with some great outdoor recreation, and I will endeavor to see that these opportunities continue in the future."
In addition to his outdoor experience and interest, Maguire has extensive financial experience, serving on numerous bank boards and related posts. He has served as past chairman of the Oklahoma County Finance Board, treasurer for the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce and Oklahoma Academy for State Goals, and while mayor of Nichols Hills he chaired the Nichols Hills Municipal Authority.
The Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). The Wildlife Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the ODWC, and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the Governor, and confirmed by the Senate.
New wildlife laws enacted
Several new wildlife laws were passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, but the biggest news of this year's legislative session was that for the third straight year, no additional fish and wildlife funding was approved.
House Joint Resolution 1008, which started in the House as a bill calling for a vote of the people to earmark some of the state sales tax revenues paid on hunting and fishing gear to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, was held over in a joint House/Senate conference committee. The Senate version also called for a vote of the people, but it specified establishing a one-and-a-half cent sales tax increase on hunting and fishing gear, with those proceeds going to the Wildlife Department. Similar funding bills have met similar fates over the last three legislative sessions.
"Without new funds, we simply cannot offer wildlife enthusiasts the services we think they deserve," said Richard Hatcher, the Wildlife Department's assistant director. "Ultimately, inflation and rising operating costs will further erode current programs and services. We will do everything we can to ensure the best service possible, but we also have to maintain our fiscal integrity."
Hatcher said that one minor measure relating to the Departments finances did pass, that being Senate Bill 480 by Frank Shurden of the Senate and Dale Smith of the House. The bill authorizes the Department to charge a $5 per person, per year, application fee for anyone applying for the agency's controlled hunts. The controlled hunts program, which allows hunters to apply for unique, controlled access hunts on select Department-owned or managed areas, is popular among hunters but costly to administer.
The $5 application fee could raise funds that will help ensure these hunting opportunities continue to be available through a drawing system. The Department also will be looking at modifying the system to improve applicants' opportunities to be drawn. Public hearings will be held later this year to explain how the system works, and discuss possible future improvements.
House Bill 1375 by Bob Plunk of the House and Shurden of the Senate sends to a vote of the people a provision to require initiative petitions prosing a legislative measure to abolish any method, practice or procedure for hunting, fishing, trapping, or to abolish any occupation or sporting or other entertainment event involving livestock, fowl, fish or other animal contain signatures of 15 percent of registered voters, rather than the eight-percent requirement currently in place. This measure is slated to be on the November 2002 statewide ballot.
Other new laws enacted include:
Senate Bill 477 by Shurden and Smith (Dale). The law requires the Wildlife Conservation Commission to promulgate rules to sell hunting and fishing licenses via the Internet. Bill is effective Nov. 1, 2001.
House Bill 1262 also by Smith and Shurden. It adds the Wildlife Department to the state's Geographic Information System (GIS) Council. Bill is effective immediately. GIS is a computer-based system that will better allow wildlife professionals to use spatial data such as maps of rivers, habitat types, roads, etc. Through GIS technology, a biologist can plot habitat changes, evaluate management techniques before undertaking them, and identify areas needing management attention.
Several bills pertaining to outdoor recreation were not passed in the final days of the session, but could be considered when the Legislature reconvenes next year. They include:
House Bill 1382 by Terry Matlock of the House and Jeff Rabon of the Senate. This bill would have changed quail season to Dec. 1 through Feb. 28 for all areas east of the Indian Nation Turnpike and south of I-40, and west of I-35 and south of I-40.
Several bills relating to limiting landowner liability as it pertains to outdoor recreation were not adopted, including SB 543 by Brad Henry.
When the Legislature is in session, log on to www.wildlifedepartment.com for an up-to-date bill tracking summary. The page also provides links to the State Legislature's Web site.
Conservation groups help fund elk project
Two conservation groups, NatureWorks, Inc. of Tulsa and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, have pledged nearly $40,000 to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) to conduct broad-based research on elk in southwest Oklahoma. Beginning this fall and winter, ODWC biologists and the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Oklahoma State University will begin capturing elk and affixing radio-telemetry collars to track their movements. The research area includes portions of Comanche, Caddo and Kiowa counties on lands adjacent to the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge.
It is believed that some 150 to 250 elk inhabit private lands near the Wichita Mountains refuge, figures which the study hopes to confirm. Although the Oklahoma prairies were once home to extensive herds of elk, they, along with the buffalo were eliminated by market and subsistence hunting by the 1880s. In 1907, restoration efforts began with the relocation of four elk from Yellowstone National Park to the Wichita Mountains Refuge. Today, the Refuge is home to some 700 elk. Biologists hope to capture up to 20 elk, primarily females, beginning this fall or winter. Each elk will then be fitted with a radio collar which does not affect the elk's ability to survive, but allows biologists to track it's daily movements.
Over the years, elk have left the Wichita Mountains Refuge and have established small populations on adjacent private lands. According to Rod Smith, southwest regional wildlife supervisor for the Wildlife Department, research is needed to answer several questions.
"We really know very little about the elk herd on private lands near the Wichita Mountains refuge, " he said. "This research is going to give us not only an accurate measure of how many elk live on private lands, but it's going to tell us how much the elk move and what kinds of habitat they are using. We're also going to learn how many elk are migrating back and forth from the refuge and other aspects such as calf production and the age structure of the population."
Smith explained that the research project is needed to better manage the elk population on a sustained basis. This philosophy represents a shift in the Department's previous strategy of eliminating or significantly reducing the elk population outside of the Wichita Mountains Refuge.
"Attitudes toward elk have really changed in recent years among private land owners," Smith said. "Back in the 1970s and 80s, most private landowners considered elk a nuisance and feared they would depredate crops or carry diseases to cattle. While this still concerns a few people, most landowners have not seen any significant problems as the result of elk on their property.
"Whether they enjoy the opportunity to harvest an elk during some of the private lands hunts that have been authorized, or just because they enjoy watching them on their property, the majority of landowners around the refuge have embraced the idea that elk are okay," Smith added.
Since 1977, the Department has authorized periodic hunting seasons for elk outside of the refuge. The hunts were authorized in order to reduce landowner complaints of crop depredation. However, officials with the Department say that any future hunting of elk on private lands will be to maintain the elk population on a sustained basis. According to Alan Peoples, chief of Wildlife Division with the Department, public sentiment and the difficulties of totally eliminating the non-refuge population led to a shift in philosophy.
"The area outside of the refuge is extremely rough and brushy," he said. "Despite authorizing hunts to eliminate the population, there was always plenty of hiding places for elk to evade hunters. Also, there is a growing number of landowners who either did not hunt the elk on their property or didn't harvest as many animals as they could have. These two factors along with a growing appreciation for elk has led us to manage them on a sustainable basis. Elk, after all, are a native Oklahoma species, and the fact that they inhabit private lands shouldn't change our management philosophies any more than it does for other species such as white-tailed deer or quail."
NatureWorks, Inc., a Tulsa based conservation group has contributed $10,000 to the project from funds generated through their very popular Wildlife Art Show held each March in Tulsa. Additionally, nearly $30,000 has been pledged through the national headquarters and Tulsa chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. The Elk Foundation, based in Missoula, Montana, is devoted to elk restoration and habitat conservation in North America.
"Research projects of this scope can be quite expensive, in fact this four-year study is expected to cost upwards of $158,000," said Peoples. "With the gracious donations made by these two groups however, we will be able to match their seed money with federal matching grants through the Wildlife Restoration Program. Without valuable partners like NatureWorks and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, there would be no financial means for the Department to accomplish such an ambitious project."
Conoco donates printing to ODWC
They are coming soon to a Conoco store near you.
"They" are the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's newly-updated Outdoor Store Brochures, and thanks to a generous donation of printing services from Conoco, they will be available from Department installations and Conoco stores across Oklahoma.
Conoco Inc., recently agreed to donate $25,000 to the Wildlife Department in printing and materials for the brochure and four other Department products.
"We are very happy to continue this excellent relationship with Conoco," said Nels Rodefeld, information and education assistant chief for the Department. "They have helped us produce several products over the past few years, and have made a significant donation for printing products this year. The Department would have a very hard time producing these products without their donation."
Conoco is donating $7,000 in printing to produce the Outdoor Store brochures. It will also donate printing and materials for a winter bird poster, a hunting season poster, a hunting season wallet card and a Wildlife Activity Book for children. The Outdoor Store Brochure contains any product that may be purchased from the Wildlife Department as well as an order form for purchases.
"The most significant contribution is printing support for the Wildlife Activity Books," Rodefeld said. Conoco is donating about $11,000 toward a product that many kids will be able to enjoy and they'll learn about fish and wildlife conservation in the process."
Rodefeld added that the hunting season poster is also very popular and has become a collector's item for some. The hunting season wallet card is a handy reminder of hunting season dates for the state's sportsmen.
To find out more information about the Wildlife Department or about products available through the Department's Outdoor Store, log onto the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com
Scissortail Celebration a Success
Planning and coordination efforts paid off on May 12th for the organizers of the Scissortail Celebration - a migratory bird extravaganza honoring the 50th anniversary of our state bird, the scissor-tailed flycatcher.
Representatives from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the American Association of Zookeepers (AAZK), and the staff of the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden gathered at the Zoo to honor the scissortail and other migratory birds as part of this year's International Migratory Bird Day.
"The Scissortail Celebration was a real hit, and an overall great day," said Melynda Hickman, biologist with the Department's Natural Resources Section. "Perhaps the highlight of the day was the scissortail kite design contest, and 68 kites were entered from all over the state. There were 15 winning kites and they will be displayed this summer at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman."
Winners in the kite design contest received gift certificates donated by Wild Birds Unlimited or received a bird-related gift from the Wildlife Department. The grand prize was a signed and numbered print of a pair of scissortails dueling for a moth, donated by artist John Boutwell.
In addition to the kite design contest, a "migration station" was set-up, where kids could learn how to eat like a bird, how to fold origami scissortails, and how to make their own miniature kites. The migration station was a fun and very successful way of reaching a lot of people, added Hickman. In all, about 5,000 kids and adults visited the area and learned about migratory birds.
To further commemorate the 50th anniversary of the scissortail, an official governor's proclamation recognizing May 12th as "Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Day" was signed prior to the event and was on display at the migration station for all to see. Other events surrounding International Migratory Bird Day at the Oklahoma City Zoo were the annual "Ostrich egg breakfast" sponsored by the Oklahoma Zoological Society (OZS), and the OKC Zoo's own annual "Zoolympics" - a fun and educational exploration of the animal world for kids.
Two new products have been produced by the Wildlife Department to help celebrants remember the Scissortail Celebration for years to come. They are an attractive blue and white ceramic mug and a vehicle decal, both of which display the distinctive logo created for the event. These products are still available while supplies last through the ODWC Wildlife Diversity Program - 405/521-4616. More information about these products and photos of the Scissortail Kite winning designs are available on the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com
Scissortail Kite Winners:
Grand Prize: Wellston Elementary Mrs. Buckley's 2nd Grade Class, Wellston
1st & 2nd Grade Category:
1st Place: Wellston Elementary Mrs. Buckley's 2nd Grade Class, Wellston
2nd Place: Paige Shelby, Oklahoma City
3rd Place: Kristella Sallee, Norman
3rd & 4th Grade Category:
1st Place: Payne County Audubon Society Youth Group, Stillwater
5th & 6th Grade Category:
1st Place: Kyle Currey, Norman
9th & 10th Grade Category:
1st Place: Troy Freeborn, Guthrie
2nd Place: Ashley Herrera, Guthrie
3rd Place: Sandie Spradling, Guthrie
11th & 12th Grade Category:
1st Place: Dietrich Hayes, Guthrie
2nd Place: Callie Eiegelgruber, Guthrie
3rd Place: Jamie Spradling, Guthrie
1st Place: E.W. Redman, Tulsa
2nd Place: Dave Young, Owasso
3rd Place: Richard Dermer, Stillwater
All Recycled Materials:
1st Place: Michael Miles, Guthrie
Some categories had a limited number of entries. 1, 2, and 3 place finishes were awarded when number of entries allowed.
Plan an outing during free fishing days
Fishing across the Sooner State has never been better and the places to fish are endless, so state officials are encouraging everyone to plan an outing to the lake for June 2 and 3 - free fishing days in Oklahoma.
"We want everyone to have an opportunity to go fishing," said Kim Erickson, fisheries chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "It is a great activity for families and friends because it allows people to connect to one another. One of the reasons we offer free fishing days is to allow the entire family to get out for a fishing trip together."
During the June 2 and 3 free fishing days, a regular state fishing license is not required. The days occur during National Fishing and Boating Week, June 1 - 10, and it should be a great time to get out because many species are very active in early June, Erickson added. Crappie, bass, catfish and bluegill are just a few of the species that can be found across the state and may provide great family fishing fun.
Those headed out for a trip will want to pick up a copy of the 2001 Oklahoma Fishing Guide because all other statewide regulations apply and local permits will still be required. Fishing Guides are available at Department installations and hunting and fishing license dealers across the state. The regulations are also available on the Department's Web site as well as information about fishing in Oklahoma and fishing reports from across the state. To log onto the Wildlife Department's Web site, go to www.wildlifedepartment.com.
Go fishing and boating this summer
Summer is here and there is no better way to take advantage of the warmer weather and longer days than to take a trip to the lake.
That is why the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) are celebrating National Fishing and Boating Week during the first week in June.
"National Fishing and Boating Week will start June 1 and will run through June 10," said Barry Bolton, assistant chief of fisheries for the Department. "We have a tremendous amount of water in Oklahoma and we want to remind everyone that time spent on the water can connect people. What better way to spend a nice summer day than to spend it fishing and boating with family and friends.
"We also want to remind everyone that Oklahoma will have free fishing days June 2 and 3. During those two days, a regular state fishing license is not required to fish in Oklahoma. This should give families a great opportunity to get out and fish together."
To help promote National Fishing and Boating week, the RBFF is running a "Water Works Wonders" campaign. The national campaign is designed to raise awareness about fishing and boating and locations where such activities can occur.
As part of that campaign, fishing and boating events and activities available in the Norman and Muskogee areas are being highlighted through local media outlets and on the Department's Web site. But opportunities for fishing and boating are abundant statewide, Bolton said.
Oklahoma has an endless supply of water for families to enjoy, whether they are headed fishing, skiing or just out for an evening cruise around the lake. To find out more about fishing and boating opportunities in Oklahoma or more about National Fishing and Boating Week, go to the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com . Information is also available at www.nationalfishingandboatingweek.com and the RBFF Web site at www.waterworkswonders.org.
Look for an aquatic event near you
Want to learn how to fish? Want to learn about Oklahoma's aquatic resources?
Now is the perfect time to do so and there are a number of events happening this summer to help you out.
The events are scheduled across Oklahoma beginning with National Fishing and Boating Week, June 1 through June 10. Oklahoma's free fishing days are June 2 and 3, and during those two days a regular state fishing license is not required. Other events include fishing clinics sponsored by various groups and agencies including the Wildlife Department.
"There are a lot of fishing clinics and derbies scheduled throughout the summer," said Damon Springer, aquatic resources coordinator for the Wildlife Department. "There are some age restrictions on some of the clinics and pre-registration is often required. But, all the clinics are free, open to the public and are conducted under adult supervision.
"The clinics are a lot of fun for the kids and are a valuable tool for teaching youth about our aquatic resources. Information about the clinics is available on our Web site, and we will be updating the site as we gain information about additional clinics that aren't on the schedule right now."
Springer said fish Identification, angler ethics, water safety, casting and knot tying are just a few activities kids can learn at fishing clinics. Another way to learn about aquatic resources is to get out and enjoy them. Oklahoma is blessed with a tremendous amount of aquatic resources, and no matter where one lives in the state, fishing fun is always close at hand.
To find out more about fishing opportunities in Oklahoma, Oklahoma's free fishing days, or more information about fishing clinics and other events happening across the state, log on to the Department's Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.
June 2 Fishing Clinic Lake Thunderbird Julie Tarver 405/321-4633
June 2 Fishing Derby Tishomingo NFH USFWS 580/383-5463
June 9 Fishing Clinic Spring Lake,OKC Bob Martin 405/755-4014
June 16 Fishing Clinic Dolese Park, OKC Bob Martin 405/755-4014
June 16 Kids We Care Arcadia Kids Pond Rusty Minnick 405/844-2273
June 16 Fishing Clinic Greenleaf State Park Steve Evans 918/487-7125
June 26 Honor Heights Muskogee Kim Unger 918/684-6395
June 29 Cane Pole Fishing Lake Thunderbird Julie Tarver 405/321-4633
June 30 Fishing Clinic Spring Lake, OKC Bob Martin 405/755-4014
July 10 Honor Heights Clinic Muskogee Kim Unger 918/684-6395
July 14 Fishing Clinic Dolese Park, OKC Bob Martin 405/755-4014
July 14 Catfishin' at night Lake Thunderbird Julie Tarver 405/321-4633
July 21 Fishing Clinic Spring Lake, OKC Bob Martin 405/755-4014
Check out www.wildlifedepartment.com for more information and updated events.
Governor's Proclamation designates celebration
The scissortailed flycatcher was designated Oklahoma's state bird 50 years ago.
A Governor's Proclamation, declaring May 12 as Scissortailed Flycatcher Day, was presented to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission as part of the anniversary celebration.
A Scissortail Celebration is scheduled for May 12 at the Oklahoma City Zoo to commemorate the 50 anniversary of the designation. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will join in the celebration, which will begin with an early morning bird count and will continue with various activities throughout the day.
The scissortailed flycatcher is a neotropical migrant, which means it resides in Mexico or Central America but migrates to the United States to nest. The Sooner State is in the center of the birds breeding range, which covers Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Scissortailed flycatchers arrive in Oklahoma every year in April and will reside and raise young in the state until September or October before migrating south for the winter months.
The scissortail is one of only two neo-tropical migrants to be designated as a state bird. There are approximately 74 neo-tropical migrants in Oklahoma, but without a doubt, the scissortail is the most recognizable.
Hunters set new on-line record
The May 4 application deadline for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's controlled hunt drawing has passed, leaving a new record for the number of hunters applying on-line in its wake.
"As of midnight Friday, when we stopped accepting applications, more than 37,000 applications had been submitted over the Internet," said Melinda Sturgess, chief of administration for the Wildlife Department. "That will probably equate to around 60 percent of the total applications submitted. The popularity and success of this service is incredible. It's a real testament to the functionality and convenience of the Internet."
Sturgess said that by allowing hunters to apply for the controlled hunts through the Department's web site, the agency has saved about $20,000 in data entry costs. Wildlife officials implemented the on-line service last year, believed to be the first of its kind in the country. Almost 45 percent of the applications were registered through the Internet during the inaugural year.
"Because it's so easy and is virtually foolproof, we believe the Internet may all but eliminate traditional hardcopy applications," she said.
The Wildlife Department's web site, which can be accessed by logging on to www.wildlifedeparment.com, is updated daily and offers outdoor enthusiasts almost unlimited information on hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and current conservation news from around the state. In addition, the site offers numerous links to other outdoors-related sites.
Commission looks for one-time appropriation
At its regular May meeting, held May 7 in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission discussed the status of House Joint Resolution 1008, a bill designed to provide additional funding for fish and wildlife conservation, and without voting, decided to pursue a one-time Legislative appropriation to address funding of capitol needs such as vehicles and equipment, rather than push for the passage of HJR 1008.
The bill, which is now in a joint House/Senate conference committee, originally called for earmarking 25 percent of the current state sales tax paid on outdoor recreation equipment. In the Senate, however, the bill was re-written to call for a one-and-a-half cent sales tax increase on outdoor recreation equipment, with those funds earmarked for wildlife conservation. Both versions of the bill would require passage of a state question in the 2002 general election.
Commission Chairman Harland Stonecipher said the Senate leadership remains resolved not to earmark existing sales tax revenue, and a recent survey by the Department showed only a little more than half of the hunters and anglers questioned supported an increase in the current tax.
"I think we could assume there would be even less support among the general public for the new tax," Stonecipher said.
With the general concurrence of other Commission members, Stonecipher encouraged Commissioners and Department officials to express a desire for a one-time appropriation from the Legislature, and to ask Legislators not to send the version calling for a tax increase to a vote of the people. Commissioners Bill Crawford and Vyrl Keeter echoed Stonecipher's comments, saying they did not think the tax increase would pass either, and that the Department would be better off seeking a one-time appropriation so the agency wouldn't have to cut services in the short term, and could fund needed equipment purchases.
Stonecipher also encouraged fellow Commission members to visit with Legislators regarding House Bill 1382, a measure that calls for a Dec. 1 to Feb. 28 quail season over most of southern Oklahoma. No public hearings have explored the general sentiment for such a change, he said, and he encouraged the Legislature to hold on a final decision for a year, during which time hearings could be undertaken to determine support or opposition to the concept.
In other business, the Commission learned that the Wildlife Department's Web site has received more than one million hits in the last year. According to some methods for measuring Internet traffic, the number could be as high as six million, said a Department representative.
"The opportunities are infinite, and we believe we can be the number one source of hunting and fishing information for our constituents," said David Warren, information and education chief for the agency. "There will be challenges, but we are very excited about this new and developing method of communicating."
Warren told Commission members that although the Internet can be intimidating, the Department's position will be one that endeavors to best serve constituents through an open, inclusive approach. He added that key features to be added to the Department Web site include on-line license and product purchasing, a chat room and bulletin board, photo galleries, maps of lakes and public hunting areas, plus links to outdoors-related sites of interest to Oklahoma sportspeople.
Also at the May meeting, a representative of the Governor's office presented the Commission with a proclamation designating May 12 as Scissortailed Flycatcher Day in Oklahoma. The scissortail was designated the official state bird of Oklahoma 50 years ago, and is one of only two state birds that are neotropical migrants. A neotropical migrant is a bird that lives in Mexico or Central America, but travels to the U.S. to breed.
In other business Harold Namminga, federal aid coordinator for the Department, told the Commission about a one-time federal grant of $736,095 that will be used to undertake conservation efforts, conduct education and outreach, and develop recreational opportunities. A focus of the funds, said Namminga, will be a high-profile conservation and education project involving all of the wildlife species in the short- and mixed-grass prairie regions of western Oklahoma. The funds, which will require a state match of almost $250,000, were part of a $50 million one-time appropriation by Congress, to be used by state fish and wildlife agencies for a diverse array of wildlife initiatives, including those targeting nongame species.
Also at the May meeting:
Commissioners voted to accept a bid of $1,015 for leasing 10 acres of mineral rights on Department-owned property in Beaver County; and
Approved an emergency housekeeping measure designed to bring previously adopted rules governing noxious aquatic plants into compliance with state statutes.
Two Wildlife Department employees were recognized at the May meeting for their outstanding tenure with the agency. Game Warden Supervisor Dick James, from Woodward, was recognized for his 35 years of service to the Department, while Mackie Fairfield, an information and education clerk, was acknowledged for her 20 years of service.
The Commission's regular June meeting will be held Monday, June 4, at 9 a.m. at the Wildlife Department's headquarters in Oklahoma City.
Hunters set new on-line record
The May 4 application deadline for the Oklahoma Department of
Wildlife Conservations controlled hunt drawing has passed,
leaving a new record for the number of hunters applying on-line
in its wake.
As of midnight Friday, when we stopped accepting applications, more than 37,000 applications had been submitted over the Internet, said Melinda Sturgess, chief of administration for the Wildlife Department. That will probably equate to around 60 percent of the total applications submitted. The popularity and success of this service is incredible. Its a real testament to the functionality and convenience of the Internet.
Sturgess said that by allowing hunters to apply for the controlled hunts through the Departments web site, the agency has saved several thousand dollars in data entry costs. Wildlife officials implemented the on-line service last year, believed to be the first of its kind in the country. Almost 45 percent of the applications were registered through the Internet during the inaugural year.
Because its so easy and is virtually foolproof, we believe the Internet may all but eliminate traditional hardcopy applications, she said.
The Wildlife Departments web site, which can be accessed by logging on to www. wildlifedepartment.com, is updated daily and offers outdoor enthusiasts almost unlimited information on hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and current conservation news from around the state. In addition, the site offers numerous links to other outdoors-related sites.
Department monitoring largemouth bass virus
Fisheries biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will actively monitor lakes known to have the largemouth bass virus (LMBV) this summer, the time when the disease has occurred most frequently in the past.
"We want to reassure anglers that while we are concerned about the LMBV and will continue to monitor the situation, there are no bass virus fish kills occurring now and the virus is not a reason to cancel any fishing trips," said Kim Erickson, fisheries chief for the Wildlife Department. "Although some of the bass in certain Oklahoma lakes are carrying the virus, populations are in good shape overall, and fishing is good to excellent in most places. Additionally, the presence of the virus poses no threat to human health if fish are properly prepared and consumed."
Erickson noted that based on previous experiences fisheries professionals believe the LMBV will not cause long-term damage to bass populations. To date, LMBV has been found in Lakes Tenkiller, Grand, Ft. Gibson, Hudson, and most recently, Lake Texoma. In the case of Texoma, Texas Parks and Wildlife fisheries biologists recently sampled largemouth bass in the 89,000-acre border lake and determined that eight percent carried the LMBV.
"What we now know is that this virus is not always a major problem and that it's not always lethal to fish," Erickson said. "It's just out there in the environment, and when conditions get right we may have some fish die. We're not certain, though, what it is that actually triggers the virus into becoming the disease. It some cases it may be so minor that anglers don't even notice, but when it impacts a fishery like Lake Tenkiller, it gets noticed."
According to Auburn University scientist John Grizzle, LMBV is one of more than 100 naturally occurring viruses that affect fish but not warm-blooded animals. Its origin is unknown, but it is related to a virus found in frogs and other amphibians and almost identical to a virus isolated in fish imported to the United States for the aquarium trade.
Although the virus apparently can be carried by other fish species, to date it has produced small numbers of deaths only in largemouth bass. Researchers have discovered that LMBV can stay alive in water for at least three to four hours. This suggests that anglers could unknowingly transport the virus in a livewell, bait bucket or in bilges. Bass can contract the virus from contact with other fish, but it is still not known how the virus is activated into a fatal disease. Most importantly, there is no known cure or prevention for LMBV.
The disease first gained attention in 1995, when it was implicated in a fish kill on Santee-Cooper Reservoir in South Carolina. Since then, the virus has been found in water impoundments throughout the South and portions of the Midwest. The virus has been detected in bass that show no signs of illness, which suggests that some fish might be infected but not ever become sick.
Biologists are uncertain about how long the virus has been present in Oklahoma waters, but the pattern suggests that unusually hot summer temperatures were a catalyst in the die-offs. The good news, Erickson noted, is that although angler catch rates, particularly for large fish, decline for a short period of time following an LMBV-related fish kill, they usually recover within a year or two.
"Because the virus appears to strike a fishery and move on, answers to the LMBV mystery have been hard to find," he said.
For more information on largemouth bass population surveys conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, or for a weekly fishing report, log on to the Department's website at www.wildlifedepartment.com.
LMBV questions and answers
Question: Where did LMBV come from?
Answer: LMBV is one of more than 100 naturally occurring viruses that affect fish, but not warm blooded animals. The origin is unknown, but it is related to a virus found in frogs and other amphibians and nearly identical to a virus isolated in fish imported to the U.S. for the aquarium trade.
Question: When was LMBV first discovered?
Answer: LMBV first gained attention in 1995, when it was implicated in a fish kill on Santee-Cooper Reservoir in South Carolina.
Question: Where has LMBV been found?
Answer: LMBV has been found in 15 states. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
Question: How many lakes have experienced fish kills due to LMBV?
Answer: Fish kills attributed to LMBV have been confirmed in nearly 20 locations since 1995.
Question: How do you test for LMBV?
Answer: Testing for LMBV is very difficult because the fish must still be alive when a sample is taken. Anglers who see fish dying are asked to contact the regional fisheries office near them.
Question: Are infected fish safe to handle and eat?
Answer: They are safe to eat. LMBV is not known to infect any warm-blooded animals, including humans. Thoroughly cook fish that you intend to eat. Fish that are dead or dying should not be used for human food, regardless of the cause of the illness.
Department's Web page provides wealth of info
Oklahoma is blessed with thousands of surface acres of water and amazing angling opportunities.
Whether fishing alone or with family or friends, no matter where one is located in the Sooner State, good fishing can be found close by, and anglers can get a jump on the action by checking out the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's website at www.wildlifedepartment.com.
"This is a great time to be outdoors and enjoy a fishing trip," said Nels Rodefeld, Information and Education Division assistant chief. "We hope sportsmen everywhere can get out for their own fishing expedition. We also want our anglers to know that there is some great information at their disposal on the Department's website.
"We provide anglers fishing regulations, a weekly fishing report and answers to frequently asked questions about fishing and license requirements. There are also fishing facts and information available on record fish."
The website offers other valuable information as well, Rodefeld added. The site offers substantial information about fisheries management in Oklahoma, including biologist tips and best bets for many species.
Trout anglers can use the site to gain information on the Department's trout areas and regulations. Information about trout fishing includes descriptions on how to reach trout areas and stocking information for each area.
Those interested in planning an outing to area lakes will want to check out the site before heading out. There they will find links that provide current weather forecast and the most up-to-date information on lake levels and conditions.
Other items of interest currently available on the site include links to information about the Largemouth Bass Virus, the West Nile Virus and to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation's "Water Works Wonders" campaign.
"We believe the site offers something for every angler," said Rodefeld. "We are always working to improve the site, and we hope that every sportsman will take advantage of the information we can offer them through it."
Don't try to save young wildlife
Many of Oklahoma's wildlife species have young during the late spring and early summer, and those spending time outdoors will probably encounter some young wildlife that appears alone or abandoned.
The best action to take in that situation is to keep your distance and leave these young creatures alone.
Birds and squirrels can be blown out of their nest in storms, and although they appear alone and helpless, the parents will often find these youngsters and care for them wherever they might be. It is very common for small wildlife to become separated from their nest and siblings, but probably the most common wildlife found alone is white-tailed deer fawns.
"If you see a fawn without its mother, don't worry," said Mike Shaw, Wildlife research supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "The parent is nearby. She's just waiting for you to leave so she can move her fawn off to safety.
"Attempting to "save" the fawn can actually compromise the fawn's ability to survive in the wild by separating it from its mother. Don't be tempted to rescue a newborn fawn because you think it's abandoned. Take photographs, if you wish, but don't linger too long, and do not touch or attempt to touch the animal."
In Oklahoma, most fawns are born in May and June, and start becoming visible in mid to late June. They are born in a relatively short time frame as part of a phenomenon called, "predator swamping." By birthing most of their fawns in a narrow time window, white-tailed deer ensure their overall survival by "swamping" the woods with more fawns than predators could possibly consume.
Predators will eliminate some deer, of course, but the overwhelming majority will survive until they are able to fend for themselves. While coyotes do not kill a significant number of adult deer, they will consume fawns whenever possible. This is especially true during the first few weeks of a fawn's life when it is unable to travel with its mother. But, does are very protective of their fawns and will often try to distract predators from their fawns.
"When a doe senses danger, she will hide the fawn and then travel a short distance to attract attention away from the fawn," Shaw said. "The doe will usually keep the fawn within sight and will gather the fawn up once the danger has passed. The fawn may appear to be alone during this time but it really isn't, so, if you see a fawn that appears to be alone, leave it alone, because nature is always an animal's best defense."
For more information about wildlife or about wildlife watching opportunities, log onto the Department's website at www.wildlifedepartment.com.
Committee hopes to increase quail populations
Oklahomans love quail hunting, and Oklahoma has traditionally had some of the best quail hunting in the country. That is why the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation as well as hunters are concerned about decreasing quail populations.
Quail experts from across the state are joining together to address those concerns through a long-term management plan.
The "Oklahoma Quail Initiative" is a plan being devised by a committee made up of several different agencies and conservation groups. The committee members are from the Wildlife Department, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Oklahoma State University, OSU Extension Service, the Noble Foundation and Quail Unlimited.
"We wanted to assemble the best and brightest quail minds to develop a plan of action to head off the quail decline and to restore quail numbers to a more appropriate level," said Mike Sams, upland game biologist with the Wildlife Department. "We have some of the top respected quail experts in the nation right here in Oklahoma. We are calling on their knowledge and experience to guide this initiative in the right direction."
The first action for the group was to meet and discuss what quail programs and projects already exist here in the state. That list was surprisingly large. Overall, these programs have seen varying success due to funding and publicity.
The goal of the Oklahoma Quail Initiative is to make a difference statewide. That is a large goal, especially since Oklahoma is so diverse. The state has more eco-regions than nearly any other state. That means lots of different habitats and lots of different management strategies to consider.
But all the experts agree, that in order to increase quail populations across the state there has to be a restoration of natural habitats.
"Habitat is the key," added Sams. "If the components of habitat - food, water and cover are abundant then Mother Nature will take care of the rest. Quality habitat will also help decrease the affects of predation on quail populations."
"The research is overwhelming. Populations can not increase if there isn't enough quality habitat for them to disperse into. Stocking captive raised birds does not help either. It is very simple, you have to have good habitat before you can have quail."
One problem facing biologists is that for habitat restoration to be effective in the long term, large tracts of habitat must be restored. Research shows that restoration on small, separated acreages by themselves, has little effect on quail populations. If you can tie these small tracts together into tracts of thousands of acres, then you stand a good chance in a substantial increase in populations.
Funding the initiative is another dilemma. There has to be enough funding available for the effort to occur statewide. In this time of downsizing and budget restraints, finding the necessary funding for such a project has to be considered in the plan.
Time is of the essence. Present populations could be in better shape if the plan would have been initiated several years ago. But it is hard to see a problem developing when pockets of great quail hunting still exist. The group realizes this urgency and hopes to have a plan finalized this year.
Oklahoma is not the only state facing a dwindling quail crop. Several other states have developed similar plans to deal with the downward spiral of bobwhite quail. Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia, just to name a few, have all started similar Initiatives to confront the problem.
Fortunately, Oklahoma still has decent populations of bobwhite quail, and with the development of this plan, our hunters will hopefully enjoy the thrill of a covey rise well into the future. Those interested in learning more about Oklahoma's quail can log onto the Department's website at www.wildlifedepartment.com.