COMMENTARY BY DR. DAVE SAMUEL
After several weeks of serious columns about chronic wasting disease, coronavirus and armyworms, let’s take a break and go to wildlife things that you won’t hear about in the news. Some of these are just fun, and some are of interest to hunters.
Oklahoma adjusts turkey seasons
After years of growing turkey populations most everywhere, turkey harvests have leveled off and in some states, they are declining. No one is positive about why this decline is happening, but there are things related to harvest that state wildlife agencies can do. In southwest Oklahoma turkey numbers have dropped by 67 percent in the past three years. In northwest Oklahoma those numbers are down by 55 percent. Because of that Oklahoma is now limiting fall and spring hunting seasons to help the species rebound. The spring season will be shortened by 10 days and the spring harvest has been lowered from three toms to one. Fall bow season is now restricted to one gobbler and the fall rifle season has been eliminated.
Kenya holds first wildlife census
You would think that a country where wildlife is so important for tourism that they’d have good numbers on what’s out there. However, that isn’t true. Last year Kenya held it first-ever national wildlife census, a $2.3 million national survey to provide them with a baseline on wildlife populations across the country. Probably something that should have been done years ago.
Nevada drought is impacting wildlife
How dry is it in some western states? Dry enough in Nevada that wildlife managers are airdropping water for bighorn sheep. These wild sheep usually get water from artificial water structures called guzzlers during the summer and during droughts. Guzzlers gather rain water and store it in tanks for sheep and other wildlife. But a drought in the Mohave Desert of Nevada has been going on since 2019 and the guzzlers are dry. So the wildlife officials are using helicopters to drop water into the guzzlers. Sounds crazy, but it works. Hopefully the November rains that usually take place will resolve this issue.
North Carolina black bear harvest sets record
One doesn’t normally think of North Carolina as a black bear state. But in 2020 hunters took 3,738 bears, an 8% increase over 2019. Officials believe the increase reflects an upswing in bear numbers as well as an upswing in interest in bear hunting. In fact there was an 8 percent increase in the number of bear stamps sold to hunters. The agency is keeping a close eye on bear numbers as most states do.
Wild wolf pups born in Colorado
There hasn’t been a recorded wild wolf born in Colorado for 80 years. Just last year the citizens of Colorado voted on a referendum that would reintroduce wolves to the state. The vote was close as agriculture interests opposed bringing wolves in. The vote was contentious, but nature seems to have beaten the voters to it. In July 2019 what was believed to be a male wolf with a radio collar crossed into Colorado from Wyoming. In February 2021 a second wolf without a collar, was seen and it was believed to have been a male. It was captured, collared and followed. It was then that biologists began to believe the initial wolf was actually a female. The two wolves travelled together and a den was located, and six pups were soon found there. The state still plans to bring other wolves in.
How far should recreationists be from wildlife?
A Clemson graduate student recently published a paper to that reported how close humans could get to birds and mammals before their behavior was modified. The answer is “not very close.” It turns out that the smaller the birds were, the closer people could approach. Songbirds responded at about 109 yards. Eagles and hawks reacted at about 547 yards. Smaller mammals reacted at 55 yards and larger species such as elk or moose reacted to people who were 547 yards away on average. The researcher noted that when planning trails one should have a balance that encourages visitors to get out there, but not influence wildlife to the point of being destructive.