Critical Habitat Assessment Tool for Lesser Prairie Chickens

lesser prairie chickenFrom a press release issued by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Kansas Biological Survey:

In cooperation with the five state fish and wildlife agencies that fall within the range of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken (LEPC), and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA), the KARS program has launched version 2.0 of the Southern Great Plains Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (SGP CHAT). The online map viewer hosts the SGP CHAT, which is the spatial representation of the LEPC range-wide conservation plan, and a tool that prioritizes conservation actions while assisting with the siting of industry development.

For the press release, click here.
For the tool itself, go here.

Photo: courtesy of the NRCS USDA

3rd Draft for Prairie Chickens

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAFive states submitted a plan for conserving lesser prairie chickens to the US Fish and Wildlife Service last week. It is the third draft for the plan, Lone Star Outdoor News reports. The five states are Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. The multi-state conservation plan is a bid to keep the bird of the federal endangered species list.

The planning process began a year ago, in April 2012. The USFWS will make its final ruling on September 30, 2013.

Read the press release from the Kansas Department of Parks, Tourism and Wildlife here.
Read the same press release from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department here.
Lone Star Outdoor News adds a headline that mentions the third draft, here.

Photo: © Gerard Bertrand, courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Kansas Kicks Off 5 Year Review

kansas piping ploverThe Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) has begun a review of threatened, endangered, or species-in-need-of-conservation (SINC) species, a department press release says. The review is required every five years by state law.

The last time Kansas reviewed its lists, in 2008, it added the shoal chub, plains minnow, and delta hydrobe snail to the threatened list and removed the bald eagle and peregrine falcon.

The KDWPT relies on a task force, which includes members from universities and federal agencies, to make suggestions for changes to the list. The task force’s recommendations are presented to the KDWPT Secretary and the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission.

The public can petition the task force to include (or remove) a species. The form (a PDF) is available on-line, here.

Read the KDWPT press release here.
Read more information about the state’s endangered and threatened species list here.

Photo: Piping plovers are threatened in Kansas. Courtesy KDWPT.

Kansas Trumpets Swan Sightings

MIGRATING-TRUMPETER-SWANS-IMPRESSIVE-SIGHT_frontimagecrop“These birds are an excellent conservation success story,” said Ed Miller, nongame biologist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism in a department press release trumpeting recent trumpeter swan sightings in the state. “They have rebounded from a population low of 73 birds in the U.S.”

Trumpeter swans are the largest members of the swan family, and can be up to sixty inches long with an eight-foot wingspan. They are one of two swan species native to North America, the release says. (The other, the tundra swan is similar looking, but has a yellow spot on its bill, the release notes. Also, tundra swans aren’t usually seen in Kansas.)

Read the press release here.Learn more about trumpeter swans at All About Birds, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
And see this year’s trumpeter swan reports on eBird, here.

Photo by Kali Kostelac, courtesy of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism

Prairie Chicken and Sage Grouse Reintroductions

Male greater prairie chickenGreater prairie chickens are booming again this spring in Wah-Kon-Tah Prairie, Missouri. The species had been extirpated from the area until five years ago when the Missouri Department of Conservation translocated some greater prairie chickens from Kansas.

State biologists studying the birds have learned a lot about their habitat needs and have been surprised by the interplay between the donor population back in Kansas and the newly-established Missouri population.

The restoration offers hope to other states and regions trying to restore the greater prairie chicken, which is an endangered species in Missouri, when there is limited habitat available.

Read more in the Missouri Department of Conservation press release, here.

In Alberta, Canada, a two-year project to relocate some 40 sage grouse from Montana appears to be successful, says an article in the Calgary Herald. Human development, including oil drilling, had nearly wiped the species out in the province. Last year, poor weather hurt the reproduction of the introduced birds, but this year biologists believe the birds are nesting.

Read more in the Calgary Herald.

The key word mentioned in both reintroduction stories: “hopeful.”

Photo: Male greater prairie chicken courtship display, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

March Roundup of New Research

Spring is here and a bunch of wildlife surveys are underway around the country.

In Delaware:
-It’s the fifth and final year of the Delaware Breeding Bird Atlas.
-A special effort is being made in 2012 to tally owls as part of the atlas.
Horseshoe crabs are being tallied again, and volunteers are being trained.
-The annual osprey count is offering a volunteer training for the first time since 2007.

Maryland is two years in to four years of surveys for an amphibian and reptile atlas and is looking for volunteers.

In Kansas, they are searching for lesser prairie chicken breeding areas, or leks, from the air with helicopters. Field crews will train on March 29-31 and conduct official survey work across all of western Kansas until the middle of May. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism is also asking people to report leks. The survey is part of a five-state effort, and the survey technique will be evaluated.

In North Dakota, the Game and Fish Department has launched a two-year study of white-tailed deer in intensely farmed agricultural areas.

In Maine, biologists at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife have visited up to 100 dens each winter for 37 years, making the survey in the nation’s oldest radio-collar monitoring program for bears. This year the Maine Sunday Telegram wrote a story about it, with lots of pics. Read it here.

And in Washington, commuters have been reporting wildlife sightings for over a year on the I-90 corridor in anticipation of road improvements. The project’s first annual report was released recently, generating articles in the Everett Herald  and The Seattle Times, and coverage other media.

Photo of I-90 Wildlife Watch billboard by Paula MacKay/Western Transportation Institute, used by permission.

Oh, Deer. Disease

chronic wasting disease, epizootic hemorrhagic diseaseThere’s been no shortage of deer disease news recently.

In Kansas, three white-tailed bucks taken during the hunting season have tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD), the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism announced in a press release yesterday. Kansas has had 43 confirmed cases of CWD since 2005.

Read the Kansas Dept. of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism press release, here.
Read the Wichita Eagle outdoor writer’s blog, here.

In Missouri, the CWD news came at the end of January.  Two adult bucks shot in Macon County were found to have CWD. They first free ranging deer in the state to be found with the disease, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. Missouri saw its first CWD case, in captive deer, in 2010, according to the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance website.

Read the Missouri Department of Conservation press release, here.

In Michigan, the problem is epizootic hemorrhagic disease. Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials say it may take five years for the deer herd to recover from this summer’s bout of the disease, according to an article in the Lenawee Daily Telegram. If the disease strikes again this summer, they hope to hear about it sooner.

Read the article in the Daily Telegram, here.

In Pennsylvania, a game farm elk that wandered into neighboring West Virginia won’t be allowed back in the state in an effort to protect Pennsylvania wildlife from CWD. (CWD has been found in West Virginia, but not Pennsylvania.) Read the story in the magazine OutdoorLife, here.

Photo of white-tailed buck by John Stehn, courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service

Charity Permit Raffles

Does setting aside big game permits for conservation organizations to raffle off:
(a) Give state wildlife agencies a way to support their conservation partners at no cost, or
(b) Give away an important public resource to favored groups, going against principles of fair government?

In Kansas, local nonprofit conservation organizations or Kansas chapters of national organizations based or operating in Kansas that actively promote wildlife conservation and the hunting and fishing heritage apply to receive one of seven big game permits to be raffled off. This year 98 organizations applied, according to a Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism press release.

The release says: “After a permit is sold by an organization, the amount of the permit is subtracted, and 85 percent of the proceeds are sent to KDWPT to be used on approved projects. After the projects are approved, the money is sent back to the organization for the project. The other 15 percent may be spent at the organization’s discretion.”

In Arizona, the Game and Fish Department opposes a house bill in the state legislature that would reserve a “large number” (50 antlerless elk permits are just one item on a long list of permits) of big game tags for qualified organizations to resell at auction. The legislature has put a hearing on the bill on hold.

Read the Arizona Game and Fish Department press release, here.

Read Arizona House Bill 2072, here. (PDF)

Cougars on the Move

Cougars, also known as mountain lions, pumas and by several other names, have been in the news in Kansas and Wisconsin.

In Wisconsin and young mountain has been photographed by trail cameras three times in recent weeks. A press release from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reminds deer hunters that they can only shoot the animal in self-defense or in the defense of another human.

A TMJ 4 news report couches the news as a warning: hunters should stay in groups if a cougar has been spotted, and be aware that they have been known to steal deer carcasses. That may be because it was couched as a warning in an earlier Associated Press report.

In Kansas, a mountain lion was photographed on a game camera. Footprints confirmed that it was indeed a mountain lion, the sixth confirmed in the state since 2007. Read the Kansas Department of Parks, Wildlife and Tourism press release here.

Photo: Mountain lion in Wisconsin, courtesy of the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease – Update

It is the season of biting midges, and therefore the season for epizootic hemorrhagic disease in deer.

In Kansas, there have been several reports of dead or dieing deer. Two of those cases have been confirmed as epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), or EH, as this article in InfoZine that reported the outbreak calls it. Read the story here.

EHD is cited as the likely source of dead and dieing deer in Montana, in this article from the Liberty County Times.

Read the ProMed entries on both these events for background, wise commentary and corrections to the articles. The comments are at the bottom of the page in [brackets]. Read it here.

There is a possible outbreak in North Dakota. It is still being investigated. Read the story in the Bismark Tribune.

And finally, two weeks ago New Jersey announced a possible outbreak of EHD. We posted that as an addition to that week’s wildlife disease update, but in case you missed it, here’s the press release.

Late addition: On Sept. 7, 2011, New York State has announced that the death of 100 deer in Rockland County two weeks ago was caused by EHD. Read the press release here.

Photo: A healthy deer. Photo credit: Steve Hillebrand, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife