Monthly Archives: July 2013

Schaffer Named PF Youth Coordinator in Kansas‏

Pheasants Forever (PF) and Quail Forever (QF) recently hired Brian Schaffer as the organization’s new outreach coordinator in Kansas. Schaffer will work with the 40 Pheasants Forever chapters and 7 Quail Forever chapters in the state, as well as other conservation organizations, to recruit and increase youth participation in upland hunting and other outdoor activities.
Funding for the position is made possible by the collective effort of Kansas Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever chapters, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, Pass It On! Outdoor Mentors, and the National Wild Turkey Federation.
“We are excited to add Brian to the team in Kansas. His passion for our mission and sharing of our outdoor traditions will help build strong chapters that foster the next generation of land stewards and hunting conservationists,” says Rich Wissink, Pheasants Forever national youth program manager.
Schaffer is a Pennsylvania native, who has found a home in the Midwest. He recently finished his Masters of Science at South Dakota State University in Wildlife and Fisheries. The focus of his three-year research project was to investigate adult and fawn survival rates, movements and reproduction of white-tailed deer in North Dakota.
“At a very young age, I was introduced to the outdoors through hunting and fishing experiences with my family. As I matured, my passion for the outdoor lifestyle grew exponentially, leading me to pursue a career in wildlife management. However, it was only as an adult that I realized that not all children have the opportunity to spend significant amounts of time outdoors with close family and friends,” says Schaffer. “My new position as a youth coordinator is a rare opportunity to give back and make hunting and fishing a positive experience for children who may not have the chance otherwise.”
Schaffer started in his position last month and works from his home in Little River, Kansas. He can be contacted at (570) 994-7197 or email Brian at [email protected]. For all other youth inquiries, please contact Rich Wissink at (715) 722-0286 or email Rich at [email protected].

APPROPRIATIONS:Simpson makes good on threat to zero out conservation programs

Phil Taylor
E&E reporter
Last April, the chairman of the House subcommittee that funds the Interior Department and Forest Service warned outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that some of his favored conservation program might be slashed to meet draconian spending cuts.
“Do we come to the point where we say there are just some things we’re not going to do, and eliminate them, and at least concentrate on the parts that we do well?” Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson said at that hearing (E&E Daily, April 12). “That’s a tough choice.”
Now — more than three months later — the Idaho Republican has made good on that threat.
Simpson’s subcommittee yesterday approved a $24.3 billion fiscal 2014 spending bill that for the first time zeroes out the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, state wildlife grants and the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, among other programs.
“Funding reductions and, yes, even terminations of some programs are necessary in order to provide critical funding for higher-priority human health, public safety and treaty obligations and responsibilities,” an uncharacteristically somber Simpson said during a subcommittee markup of the bill Tuesday (Greenwire, July 23).
“I fully expect to take a lot of heat over these decisions, but my intent is to show what happens when Congress allows mandatory spending to grow and grow, and places the burden of cutting spending solely on the discretionary side,” Simpson said. “It’s an unsustainable pattern that must be addressed, and soon.”
Simpson told reporters in a brief interview off the House floor that his subcommittee’s work — and the appropriations process in general — was being overshadowed by the larger conflict over how to manage the federal deficit.
The cuts to programs like LWCF, which allows for the acquisition of new federal lands, conservation easements on private lands and grants for states to promote urban recreation, were particularly painful for Simpson, who has broken from Republican ranks to support the Obama administration’s call for full funding for the program.
It’s “something that I don’t particularly like, but that was necessary,” he said during the markup.
While House appropriators have cut conservation programs to bare bones in recent appropriations cycles, Democrats, environmental groups and sportsmen said the decision to zero out many of those programs sets a new precedent for the chamber.
Virginia Rep. Jim Moran, the subcommittee’s top Democrat, acknowledged that some of those cuts were unavoidable, considering that Simpson was given a funding allocation more than $5 billion beneath current spending levels.
In addition, Simpson faced pressure to significantly boost wildfire prevention and response — base and emergency wildfire funding is $559 million, or 16 percent, above the fiscal 2013 enacted level — in addition to providing close to half a billion dollars for payments in lieu of taxes, whose mandatory funding expires this year.
But Moran did not hide his frustration that the bill — by his count — eliminates funding for 20 programs while boosting funding for oil and gas development and offering regulatory relief to “the polluters, the grazers [and] the snowmobilers.”
Other programs include Fish and Wildlife Service construction, Forest Service planning, U.S. EPA brownfields and American Indian and memorials programs, according to a listcompiled by Moran’s office.
“This bill is a disgrace,” he said before leaving the markup in protest.
Simpson, who faces a tough primary challenger next year backed by the influential Club for Growth, said in a statement later that he had to distinguish “critical ‘must-do’ priorities,” such as funding American Indian programs, county payments and wildfire funding, from “those that are nice or even very important.”
The House bill, which Simpson predicted would be marked up by the full Appropriations Committee next Wednesday, is not expected to become law.
The discrepancy in overall funding levels between the House and Senate — in addition to a bevy of policy riders in Simpson’s bill — suggests the Congress will again pass a continuing resolution keeping the government funded at current levels.
‘Tough and ugly’
But sportsmen’s and conservation groups said they remained deeply troubled at the signal the House was sending in eliminating programs outright.
“It’s unprecedented,” said Paul Schmidt, chief conservation officer for Ducks Unlimited. “They’ve had some ups and downs, but never that low. You can’t get lower than zero.”
Ducks Unlimited is a leading proponent of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, a program that typically leverages $3 or $4 for every federal dollar to promote the restoration and acquisition of wetlands that provide habitat for waterfowl and flood control and erosion benefits to communities, Schmidt said.
The program is currently funded at roughly $33 million and is capped at $75 million, he said.
The bill also zeroes out funding for state and tribal wildlife grants, he noted. Currently funded at about $60 million, the grants assist states in conserving habitat in order to prevent non-game species from being listed under the Endangered Species Act, such as the wide-ranging greater sage-grouse, Schmidt said.
Miles Moretti, president of the Mule Deer Foundation, said eliminating LWCF funding will strand the $900 million that is set aside each year from offshore oil and gas drilling revenues.
“Americans expect offshore oil and gas revenues to go where they were told they would go: protecting working lands, expanding outdoor recreation opportunities, and conserving public land access for future generations,” he said in a statement.
One former House Appropriations Committee aide said he recalled only one time when Congress provided LWCF funding only for agency staff to complete existing projects and land exchanges. He said Congress has never zeroed out the program entirely.
At the end of the hearing, Simpson said critics have neglected the “tough and ugly” funding cuts state legislators have already made all over the country to balance their own budgets in slim fiscal times.
“But we act here like because we’ve got a printing press, we are exempt from making those tough decisions,” he said. “We’re not exempt. We’re $17 trillion in debt.”

Cornell Lab: 8 Great Reasons to Love the New Migratory Bird Stamp

The Birding Wire

A brand-new piece of fine art goes on June 28, and at just $15 it’s going to be hard to pass up. Its official name is the 2013-2014 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, but many people know it as the Federal Duck Stamp. Here at the Cornell Lab, we call it the Migratory Bird Stamp because it benefits many kinds of birds and is a great idea for any bird watcher or conservationist.

Buying a Migratory Bird Stamp is a simple and direct way for people to contribute to grassland and wetland conservation. The New York Times ran a piece on the annual stamp art competition; now here’s our own list of eight reasons to love the stamp:

1. $850 million for conservation and counting. The first stamp was issued in 1934. It cost $1 (about $18 in today’s dollars) and sold 635,001 copies. By law, the funds raised go directly to habitat acquisition in the lower 48 states. By now, stamp sales have surpassed $850 million and helped to protect 5.5 million acres of wetland and grassland habitat.

2. A 79-year tradition of beautiful wildlife art. The Migratory Bird Stamp is a beautiful collectible and a great artistic tradition. Since 1949, the design of each year’s duck stamp has been chosen in an open art contest. This year’s stamp, showing a Common Goldeneye, is by Robert Steiner, who also won the 1998-1999 contest with a Barrow’s Goldeneye-a stamp that sold 1,627,521 copies and raised more than $24 million on its own.

3. A bargain at $15. Ninety-eight cents of each dollar spent on a stamp goes directly to land acquisition (and immediate related expenses) for national wildlife refuges. This $15 purchase is perhaps the single simplest thing you can do to support a legacy of wetland and grassland conservation for birds.

4. It’s much more than ducks. Waterfowl hunters have long been the main supporters for the program-the stamps are a requirement for anyone over 16 who want to hunt. But the funds benefit scores of other bird species, including shorebirds, herons, raptors, and songbirds, not to mention reptiles, amphibians, fish, butterflies, native plants, and more.

5. Save wetlands; save grasslands. Since 1958, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has used stamp revenues to protect “waterfowl production areas”-to the tune of 3 million acres-within the critical Prairie Pothole Region. The same program also protects declining prairie-nesting birds in the face of increasing loss of grasslands. As a result, refuges are among the best places to find grassland specialties such as Bobolinks, Grasshopper Sparrows, Clay-colored Sparrows, Sedge Wrens, and others.

6. The benefits are gorgeous. Some of the most diverse and wildlife-rich refuges across the Lower 48 have been acquired with stamp funds. Check out this map – chances are there’s a wildlife refuge near you that has benefited:

7. It’s your free pass to refuges. A migratory bird stamp is a free pass for an entire year to all refuges that charge for admission-so your $15 could even save you money.

8. As bird watchers, let’s get in on the secret. Though it’s long been a fixture in hunting circles, the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp is one of the best-kept secrets in all of bird conservation. It’s time to buy and show your stamp!  

Wisconsin Wardens Caution on Balloon Releases, Wildlife Dangers

The Birding Wire

DNR Marine Warden Amie Egstad of Bayfield County gets how balloons add fun to parties or ignite silent heart-felt reflection when set free to dance in the sky at a friend’s memorial.

She gets it — she really does.

The other thing she really gets — on a daily basis — is the balloon in another form. And that form is litter, posing problems for marine wildlife and boats in Lake Superior when these party favors and memorials plummet to the waves and shoreline.

“It’s not unusual to pick up eight of these balloons a day,” Egstad says. Plus, she says, they come with some mystery.

Wardens are never sure what they are coming upon when they spot something floating at the water’s surface, she says. “We can see something silver from a distance, or a color reflecting off the water. We get there and find it is a balloon with a very long string still attached.”

Egstad says sometimes it is the larger balloon plastered with the big-letter party message. Or, the wardens find a batch of flattened balloons still held together by ribbon and lots of string.

“It seems to be a case where people, who have no intention of littering or causing potentially deadly consequences for our native and migratory birds or fisheries, are not stopping to think that what goes up does come down,” Egstad says. “And in this case, what’s coming down in Great Lake Superior are a lot of balloons.”

And the problem is not just with Warden Amie and Lake Superior.

DNR Marine Warden Dave Allen and Warden Lynna Gurnoe also have been picking balloons out of Lake Michigan. “After the day was done… we had about a dozen total, like bread crumbs out there!” Gurnoe said in a text message to Egstad.

Egstad says the solution to protecting the wildlife, water and shoreline quality from this party favorite is a simple one.

“Just take the balloons home with you. Please don’t release the balloons into the air because they will come down. And when they do, these once inflated balloons pose real threats to wildlife which can attempt to eat them — or even get tangled in the strings and either choke or drown,” Egstad says. “As pretty and fun as balloons are, they can become dangerous, unsightly litter if not properly disposed of by the owners.

The impacts of released balloons in Wisconsin are the same in Kansas. Don’t litter or imperil wildlife by releasing balloons.

“If the balloons are to make memories, keep them!” she says.  

Society for Ecological Restoration 5th World Conference

The Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) is building momentum for its 5th World Conference on Ecological Restoration and 21st Annual Meeting, “Reflections on the Past, Directions for the Future,” to be held October 6-11, 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin, USA.

The four-day scientific program will include over 100 concurrent sessions on a wide range of topics related to restoration, as well as pre-conference training courses, post-conference field trips, and various networking opportunities. Plenary speakers include author and environmental entrepreneur Paul Hawken; climate change and restoration researcher Margaret Palmer; the Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Luc Gnacadja; EPA Great Lakes advisor Cam Davis; and the founder of Costa Rica’s national parks system, Alvaro Ugalde.

The SER2013 conference will draw a large, diverse group of attendees that come to network and share information on the science and practice of ecological restoration. We have received nearly 1000 abstracts from the U.S,Canada, and 40 other countries. Attendees and presenters range from consulting firms, federal and state agencies, NGOS, academia and research institutions, and international organizations.

In addition to the rich scientific program, the conference will also include a volunteer restoration event on Sunday, October 6, as well as a Welcome Ceremony, special VIP reception for sponsors, and a Gala Awards Dinner.

Conference partners include: Aldo Leopold Foundation, International Crane Foundation, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

We hope you will join us in Madison for this exciting event. Early registration closes on July 15, 2013, so register now for a savings of up to $125 on the cost of registration. Sponsor and exhibitor opportunities are also available.

More information is available on the conference website.

Nests in Kansas City Area Produce 13 Peregrine Falcons

The Birding Wire

Peregrine falcons nesting high atop buildings and power plant smokestacks in the Kansas City area produced 13 offspring this spring. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and cooperating partners monitor five sites in the metro area where nest boxes are placed on structures.

A falcon pair used a nest box on a ledge at Commerce Tower in Downtown Kansas City to raise three chicks. They fledged (flew for the first time) in June. One young bird glided to the sidewalk. The falcon was found and recovered by Joe DeBold, an MDC urban wildlife biologist. DeBold banded the bird and released it again atop the skyscraper. It successfully flew on the second try.

The public was able to watch the falcon nest at Commerce Tower via a camera and web link. Viewers saw parents sheltering eggs and newborn chicks through sleet, snow and rain. Yet the chicks survived. Parents would arrive at the nest and feed the young. DeBold said plans call for the nest to be offered for web viewing again next year.

The Kansas City Power & Light Co. provides nest boxes on smokestacks at the Iatan, Hawthorne and Sibley power plants that are near the Missouri River in the metro area. Four chicks fledged at the Iatan site and three chicks fledged at Sibley. Eggs at the Hawthorne site did not hatch. But that nest has been successful in the past and DeBold expects it will be again in future years.

A video is available on You Tube of biologists removing peregrine falcon chicks from the nest at the Iatan Power Plant and placing leg bands on the young birds. It is available at The leg bands help biologists track peregrine falcon movements and survival as adults.

Falcons nesting in a box placed atop the American Century Investments building near the Country Club Plazaproduced three chicks that fledged successfully.

Ledges on cliffs and bluffs were the original nesting sites of peregrine falcons. They can dive at more than 200 mph when full grown, plucking birds from the sky or rodents from the ground for food. The high-flying raptors are endangered in Missouri. But restoration programs like the nest boxes placed on tall structures is helping them recover. The recovery program began in Kansas City in 1991.

For more information on falcons or other watchable wildlife,

Duck Breeding Population Estimates Show Promising Numbers

Duck populations are strong, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) 2013 Report on Trends in Duck Breeding Populations. The preliminary estimate of total duck populations from the traditional survey area (northcentral United States, southcentral and northern Canada, and Alaska) is 45.6 million birds­- a six percent decrease from last year’s estimate of 48.6 million birds, but a 33 percent increase from the long-term average. In addition to estimating duck populations, the survey also examines habitat conditions.

Habitat conditions during the 2013 survey were generally improved or similar to last year due to above-average precipitation, despite a delayed spring throughout most of the traditional survey area. Most of the Canadian portions of the traditional survey area were rated as good to excellent, in contrast to 2012 when drier conditions existed across northern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Although the U.S.prairies received record snowfall in April, habitat conditions were still rated only fair to poor, similar to last year. The total pond estimate (prairie Canada and the north-central United States combined) is 6.9 million, 24 percent higher than the 2012 estimate of 5.5 million ponds and 35 percent above the long-term average.

In the eastern survey area – eastern OntarioQuebec, the Maritime Provinces and Maine – estimated mallard abundance is 500,000 birds. Habitat conditions across most of the eastern survey area generally were good with the exception of Maine and the southern Maritimes, which were rated only as fair.

The report also notes:

• Estimated mallard abundance is 10.4 million birds, similar to the 2012 estimate of 10.6 million birds and 36 percent above the long-term average.

• Blue-winged teal estimated abundance is 7.7 million. Although this is 16 percent below the 2012 estimate of 9.2 million, the blue-wing population is 60 percent above the long-term average. Similarly, the green-winged teal estimate of 3.1 million is 12 percent below last year, but still 51 percent above the long-term average.

• The northern pintail estimate of 3.3 million is similar to the 2012 estimate of 3.5 million and 17 percent below the long-term average.

• Estimated abundance of American wigeon is 2.6 million and 23 percent above the 2012 estimate and similar to the long-term average.

• The combined lesser and greater scaup estimate of 4.2 million decreased 20 percent from last year and is 17 percent below the long-term average of 5 million.

• The canvasback estimate of 787,000 is similar to the 2012 estimate and 37 percent above the long-term average.

The surveys are conducted by the USFWS and Canadian Wildlife Services’ Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey, sampling more than 2 million square miles of waterfowl habitat across Alaska, the northcentral and northeastern United States and southcentral, eastern and northern Canada.

The information guides the USFWS waterfowl conservation programs under authority of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The USFWS then works in partnership with state biologists from the four flyways – the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central and Pacific – to establish regulatory frameworks for waterfowl hunting season lengths, dates and bag limits. 2013 Kansas duck hunting season dates and bag limits will be approved at the Aug. 1 commission meeting in Yates Center.

For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2013 Report on Trends in Duck Breeding Populations,

For more information on Kansas waterfowl hunting, visit and click “Hunting/Migratory Birds/Ducks.” 

USDA Group Working to Protect Native Plants

By Ciji Taylor,

NRCS Public Affairs

Native plants in many parts of the U.S. are struggling because of changes in land use and climate, posing problems for the wildlife species that depend on them for sustenance and sanctuary.

To combat this, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is working with private landowners to promote native plants on their land for conservation plantings such as in field borders, buffers and other planted areas.

“Native plants provide food and shelter for wildlife and most importantly their structure allows for better survival rates. Native warm season grasses tend to create bunches of vegetation and leave open ground between them providing breeding room and an escape from predators,” said Jason Keenan, wildlife biologist for NRCS in Mississippi.

Native plants, those that have grown in a particular area since before human settlement, provide food and habitat for native wildlife. Fewer native plants often lead to decreasing populations of native wildlife.

For example, the Southeast is home to a suite of grassland birds facing population peril, such as quail, grasshopper sparrows, lark bunting, eastern meadowlarks, dickcissels, Henslow’s sparrows and loggerhead shrikes. The decrease of these birds is attributed to the loss of their natural grassland habitat.

These birds are like the “canary in the coalmine,” serving as indicators of ecosystem health. If bird populations are declining, it signals other environmental issues.

Our ecosystem benefits from native plants – stabilizing soil, filtering water, purifying air and supporting wildlife. Using native plants on sites they are best adapted to can have significant benefits to mitigating environmental stresses, such as extreme temperatures and drought, to retain productive lands for both agriculture and wildlife.

Wildlife is also part of what defines our country.

“Many people grow up, sit outside and listen to the birds,” Kyle Brazil, National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative Agricultural Policy coordinator and liaison to USDA Farm Service Agency said. “Especially with quail, people want to hear that whistle, and it’s amazing how excited they get when they hear it.”

In addition to environmental and ecological benefits, the work of NRCS and private landowners generates outdoor recreation and economic activity, benefitting local communities and landowners. Disappearing habitats can stifle these economic benefits.

NRCS and other USDA agencies, like FSA, are helping enhance ecosystems, leading to healthier flora and fauna.

By incorporating native plants into conservation practices, a landowner can achieve their primary resource concern and provide wildlife habitat. For example, using native grasses in filter strips reduces nutrient runoff and provides habitat for several species of wildlife.

Native plants can be used in several conservation practices or planted in your home garden.

Small changes in native vegetation can cause a disproportionate positive return on wildlife, so every little bit helps, Brazil added.

For more information on selecting the right plants for your land, contact your local service center or visit the NRCS website for resources on using plants for natural resource conservation.

Toke This: The Unexpected Effect of California’s Pot Farm Explosion on Wildlife

By Tracy Ross, NatureEnvironmentCalifornia

Medical marijuana may be California’s next gold rush, with farmers tending to valuable plants worthy of sale by real-life Nancy Botwins. In just one remote 37-square-mile patch of forest in Northern California, for instance, researchers conducting aerial surveys recently counted 281 outdoor pot farms and 286 greenhouses, containing an estimated 20,000 pot plants. The crop, say proponents, helps patients suffering with everything from arthritis to leukemia (and multiple self-diagnosed ADD-sufferers this writer knows to “focus better to clean the house”).

But recently, several California wildlife researchers reported that pot farms are wreaking havoc on wildlife ranging from endangered salmon to black bears to a rare Northern California weasel called the Pacific fisher. 

“There are [growers] that care,” Scott Bauer told TakePart, “who are doing things like capturing winter flows [to offset their need for siphoned water]. But this activity is so large that it’s not enough. There are people coming from all over America to grow marijuana. They’re here to get in on the action—the so-called Green Rush. But when it’s legalized and the bottom drops out, they’ll be gone and we’ll be left with the problem.” 

In a recent L.A. Times story, scientists said that grow ops near just one small tributary of the Eel River were siphoning up to 18 million gallons of water from the river’s watershed. That water is crucial for species like the endangered Coho salmon as well as Chinook Salmon and steelhead, all of which swim up the Eel tributaries to spawn. According to Scott Bauer, the state scientist in charge of the Coho salmon recovery on California‘s North Coast for the Department of Fish and Game, both juvenile Coho and Chinook spend a year or two in a stream before beginning their long swims back to the Pacific Ocean.California is currently in a drought, says Bauer, which is already contributing to stream dry-up. Add in pot farm siphoning, and Bauer says, he is “getting reports, almost daily, that fish are dying.” 

Yet water siphoning is just one impact of the California cannabis boom. The L.A. Times also reports that growers are guilty of several other infractions normally associated with logging, mining, or drilling. “With little or no oversight, farmers have illegally mowed down timber, graded hilltops flat for sprawling greenhouses, dispersed poisons and pesticides, drained streams and polluted watersheds,” reports the paper. “Growers are pumping pollutants like fertilizers, soil amendments, miticides, rodenticides, fungicides, plant hormones, diesel fuel, and human waste into the watershed.” 

Mark Higley, a wildlife biologist on the Hoopa Indian Reservation, told the Times that growers have been using a particularly lethal form of pesticide, called Carbuforan, to kill bears and other animals that raid their camps. Deadly to humans in small doses, the pesticide requires a special permit from the EPA. “But [the growers] are mixing it up with tuna or sardines and the bears eat that and they die,” Higley said. 

TakePart was unable to find the exact number of bears that have succumbed to the poison. But we’ve learned that the Pacific fisher, a rare forest carnivore and smaller cousin of the wolverine, may have been hit even harder. 

Researchers from the University of CaliforniaDavis, told the L.A. Times that the weasel-like animals were probably eating rodenticides that marijuana growers use to keep animals from gnawing on their plants. They reported that 46 of 58 fisher carcasses they analyzed had rat poison in their systems. Mourad W. Gabriel, a scientist at the University of CaliforniaDavis, told The New York Times that the contamination began when marijuana growers in deep forests spread d-Con to protect their plants from wood rats. Scientists have also found d-Con in at least two endangered spotted owls

From the sound of it, there’s no end in sight to the assault on the environment and wildlife by the new agribusiness. Which is ironic given many pot smokers’ (and growers’) professed love of all things wild.

Lake Shawnee Angler Catches Alien Fish

KDWPT advises anglers who catch exotic fish to not return them to water

An unidentified angler landed quite a surprise at Lake Shawnee in Topeka Sunday, July 21, when he hauled in a silver arowana, a primitive freshwater fish native to the Amazon River Basin in South America. Often kept as aquarium pets, arowanas do not belong in Kansas waters. The fish was about 20 inches long and was likely released into Lake Shawnee or upstream by someone who could no longer care for it. Sold as youngsters, arowanas can grow to 2 feet long or more in captivity and can quickly outgrow their aquariums. They grow to nearly 4 feet long in the wild. Arowanas are aggressive and carnivorous, and they may eat other aquarium fish.

Jessica Howell, aquatic nuisance species coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT), cautioned that people should not release aquarium animals into the wild. “It’s against state and federal law to release any exotic species into Kansas waters, and new regulations also make it illegal to dump any fish into waters where they don’t originate,” she said. “Responsible aquarium owners never release anything, including water, plants, snails and fish into a stream, pond, lake, ditch or storm drain.”

The angler who caught the fish asked Torrey Bevans, who was fishing nearby, for help. Bevans photographed the fish so it could be identified and correctly advised the angler to not return the fish to the lake. The fish died on the bank, although it took some time, as arowanas can get oxygen by drawing air into their swim bladders. Bevans visited a KDWPT office in Topeka on Monday to report the catch and share his photos.

Howell said Bevans gave the correct advice. “If you catch an exotic fish, do not return it to the water. Instead, let it die and photograph it or put it on ice for later identification by a KDWPT biologist. If you own exotic fish, visit for suggestions on responsibly handling unwanted aquarium specimens so you don’t break the law.”

With sharply upturned lower jaws and eyes high on the sides of their heads, arowanas are specialized for feeding at the surface where they pick off insects, small fish and other animals. Two barbels (“whiskers”) on their lower jaws help arowanas sense movement and locate prey in murky water. Sometimes called monkey fish or water monkeys, they are spectacular jumpers in their native waters and can leap up to 6 feet out of the water to catch birds, snakes or frogs.

For information on aquatic nuisance species, visit