Monthly Archives: February 2013

Steve Harper Scholarship renewed, to help Kansas students

The Outdoors Writers of Kansas and Kansas Wildscape are renewing the Scholarship.

A scholarship for Kansas students is named after Steve Harper, a longtime photo editor and outdoors writer/photographer for the Wichita Eagle, who died in 2000 from cancer at the age of 55. A scholarship in his name was suggested by Gov. Bill Graves and others. The $1,000 scholarship program was funded by donations. Funds expired after about 10 years. The Outdoors Writers of Kansas and Kansas Wildscape are joining to renew the Scholarship.

Applications may be made by students graduating from a Kansas high school planning on attending a Kansas four-year college, with a nature/wildlife-based major. The student must also have career goals of staying in Kansas. College students with a similar major and goals may also apply.

The program will issue one $1,000 scholarship annually, directly to the student’s college.

Harper was known for his deep love of Kansas and published hundreds of articles and photos about enjoying his native state. He also rated Kansans as some of the finest people in America, especially those that possessed great deals of commitment and motivation.

Scholarship applicants will be judged by members of the Outdoor Writers of Kansas and Kansas Wildscape. Selection criteria will include past and current involvement in nature/wildlife-related projects, scholastic achievement and projected potential.

The deadline to apply is late March. For information on applying, contact Debbie Brandt at Kansas Wildscape at 785-843-9453 or [email protected].

NWRA and Friends of Alaska Refuges Hail Decision to Kill the "Road to Nowhere" at Izembek NWR

Victory for Wildlife, Wilderness & the American Taxpayer

The National Wildlife Refuge Association and the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges hailed a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) decision February 5th to oppose a land transfer that would have allowed for construction of a 30-mile, $30-million gravel road through the heart of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). The decision comes 15 years after a similar rejection resulted in a $37.5-million taxpayer-funded payout to King Cove, a community of 800 that has nevertheless continued to support the road’s construction.

“This “road to nowhere” is a bad deal for wildlife and taxpayers,” said NWRA Vice-President of Government Affairs Desiree Sorenson-Groves. “Building and maintaining a road through this biologically sensitive area would have set a dangerous precedent for the other wild lands in National Wildlife Refuges, National Parks and National Forests designated to be part of America’s Wilderness Preservation System – the world’s highest level of conservation protection.”

In its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) examining the consequences of the land transfer and resulting road, the FWS selected a “no action” alternative. The decision followed a lengthy public process mandated by 2009 legislation directing the FWS to conduct a study on the land exchange and proposed road and thus provide the background the Secretary of the Department of the Interior would need to determine whether the road was in the public interest.

“Sound science wins the day, as it always should,” said Wendy Loya, President of the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges.  “The final decision reconfirms our long-held position that the proposed road pretends to solve a problem already solved 15 years ago at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars.”

In 1998 Congress provided $37.5 million to King Cove, including funds used to purchase of a state-of-the-art hovercraft to connect their community to the village of Cold Bay (pop. 75) and address transportation and safety issues.

Izembek NWR is located on a remote and sparsely populated stretch of Alaska’s Aleutian Peninsula. Ninety-eight percent of the world’s Pacific black brant population depends on this one location as a critical stopover and nesting site. After gorging on the eelgrass beds of Izembek Lagoon, these medium-size geese fly non-stop between Izembek and their wintering grounds in Mexico. Road construction could jeopardize their feeding, their migration – and their survival. In addition, the road’s route would disrupt an important isthmus corridor and foraging area for caribou and Alaska brown bear.

NWRA and the Friends of Alaska Refuges have long fought to protect Izembek’s pristine wilderness and urged the FWS to use sound science as their guide and to adopt a “no action” alternative.

The final EIS triggers a 30-day review period, which will be followed by a Record of Decision from the FWS and a Public Interest Determination from the Secretary of the Department of the Interior.

For more information about the Izembek NWR “Road to Nowhere”

Kansas Wildlife Federation Annual Meeting

The Annual Meeting of the Kansas Wildlife Federation will be February 23rd at the Best Western in Emporia, Kansas. (3021 W. Highway 50). The highlight of the meeting is the 2012 Conservation Achievement Program Awards Banquet. It will be preceded by a social hour at 5:30 pm and Silent Auction. The banquet will feature speaker Bob Gress, former Director of the Great Plains Nature Center. The detailed meeting agenda will be posted soon. Look forward to seeing you there.

Trappers Reach Season Quota on Otters

Second modern otter trapping season similar to first

Kansas furharvesters have taken the season quota on river otters before the official end of the otter trapping season. The quota for 2012-2013 was met on Jan. 25. Trappers were allowed a grace period for notification that the quota was met, so all otters taken on or before Jan. 28 may be kept by furharvesters.

The 2012-2013 season was set for Nov. 14, 2012-March 31, 2013, or until 100 otters were taken. Trappers are limited to two otters per season and are required to report otters taken to KDWPT within 24 hours through a toll-free number. The pelt and skinned carcasses must be brought to KDWPT for tagging within four days of harvest. Skinned carcasses, including skulls, are retained by KDWPT so that age, reproductive output and other biological information can be determined.

Otters, once common along Kansas waterways, were extirpated by the turn of the century due to unregulated trapping and development. A modest reintroduction program relocated wild otters into Kansas in the early 1980s, and the population began recovering slowly. In recent years, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) biologists have monitored a healthy and growing population, so much so that a limited-quota trapping season was implemented in 2011-2012.

During the first otter trapping season in modern history, which ran Nov. 16, 2011-March 31, 2012, trappers were limited to two otters each, or until the statewide trapping quota of 100 otters was met. Last season, that quota was met on February 2.

Otters accidentally taken while trapping for other species after Jan. 28 must be reported to KDPWT prior to removal from the trap site. They may be reported to the toll free hotline at (855) 778-6887 (RPT-OTTR) or to a local KDWPT natural resource officer or biologist. Inadvertent capture of otters shall not be deemed illegal if the capture is reported or if the animal is released unharmed. For more information, phone Matt Peek at 620-342-0658.

Wolf Found in Kansas

Animal killed by coyote hunters verified as wolf

In December, coyote hunters in southwest Kansas killed an animal they thought was too big to be a coyote. The large male canine weighed more than 80 pounds, more than twice as much as a large coyote. The hunters called the local Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) game warden, who contacted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) agents. The USFWS confirmed through tissue testing that the animal was a full-blooded Great Lakes gray wolf.

Because wolves are still on the Threatened Species list for Kansas, the matter was turned over to the USFWS. Agents then took tissue samples for testing. While uncommon, there are wolf-dog hybrids available through the pet trade, and many of those hybrids are indistinguishable from full-blooded wolves by appearance.

This is the first documented wolf in Kansas since 1905. There have been several wolves killed inMissouri, most recently this past November when a deer hunter shot what he thought was a coyote. That animal, which tested as a full-blooded wolf, weighed 81 pounds.

Officials would still like to know how this wolf ended up in Kansas. However, questions about its origin may be difficult to answer.

Outdoor cats kill between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds a year

By Juliet Eilperin

The Washington Post

Outdoor cats account for the leading cause of death among both birds and mammals in the United States, according to a new study, killing anywhere between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds each year.

The mammalian toll is even higher, concluded researchers from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ranging between 6.9 billion and 20.7 billion annually.

The analysis, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, suggests feral and owned cats pose a far greater threat than previously thought. One study in 2011 estimated cats in the United States kill roughly half a billion birds annually.

Peter Marra, the paper’s senior author and a research scientist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, said he and his colleagues “pulled together all the best estimates” from 90 different studies to reach their estimate, taking into account the difference in behavior between owned and unowned cats.

“I don’t think there’s ever been an attempt like this,” Marra said in a telephone interview, adding the new estimate is “conservative.”

Researchers estimate one pet cat kills between one and 34 birds a year, while a feral cat kills between 23 and 46 birds a year. As a result, the new study provides a wide range of the total bird death count. “It’s not a single number,” Marra said.

George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy, said in a statement that the findings should serve as “a wake-up call for cat owners and communities to get serious about this problem before even more ecological damage occurs.”

“The very high credibility of this study should finally put to rest the misguided notions that outdoor cats represent some harmless, new component to the natural environment,” Fenwick said. “The carnage that outdoor cats inflict is staggering and can no longer be ignored or dismissed.”

Cats pose the greatest danger to birds and mammals living on islands, because there are fewer opportunities for these animals to escape. Cats are responsible for helping drive 33 species of birds, mammals and reptiles to extinction on islands, including the Stephens Island wren from New Zealand in the late 1800s, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Scientists have a hard time measuring the impact of cats on small mammals in the United States because they lack precise population counts for these species, Marra said.

“We don’t know how many Eastern cottontail rabbits are out there, and we don’t know how many chipmunks are out there,” he said.

By contrast, researchers estimate the United States is home to between 15 billion and 20 billion adult land birds. Cats kill about 10 percent of them each year, according to the analysis.

Marra and two other scientists, the Smithsonian Institute’s Scott R. Loss and Tom Will from Fish and Wildlife, conducted their analysis as part of a broader study of humans’ impact on bird mortality. Roughly 150,000 to 400,000 birds in the United States die in wind turbines, according to recent estimates, while between 10  million and 1 billon birds die annually after colliding into glass.

The fact that humans can take action to prevent some of these deaths — such as adopting policies to reduce feral cat populations and altering how wind turbines are designed — should provide some hope, Marra said.

“These are things that are reversible once we understand them,” he said. “That’s the important thing here.”