Monthly Archives: April 2016

Hunt safely for turkeys and mushrooms

 

The Kansas Spring Turkey Season opened April 12 and is in full swing through May 31. Reports from the field indicate that birds are plentiful and responding to hunters’ calls. However, the tradition of spring turkey hunting, where the hunter hides in full camouflage while imitating the call of a hen, requires special safety consideration.

 

Turkey hunting can be excellent on state wildlife areas, as well as the nearly 250,000 acres of private land  enrolled in the Spring Walk-In Hunting Access Program. Hunters on public land must always assume other hunters are there, too. Although hunting in Kansas is safer than playing golf, when you consider injuries per 100,000 participants, one tragic hunting-related accident is too many. A few simple precautions can help ensure you or another hunter don’t become a statistic.

 

First, never wear the colors black, blue or red, the colors prominent on a tom turkey as it displays for a hen. Set up to call with a good view in front and a tree wider than your shoulders at your back. A shoulder-width tree to lean against will protect you if another hunter stalks in from behind. If you see another hunter, whistle or call out; never wave or move, which could draw fire. Always assume a sound you hear is another hunter, and act accordingly. Many hunters will wear a fluorescent orange hat or vest when they walk out after hunting, or if they are successful, they may wrap an orange vest around their bird as they carry it out. Hunting-related accidents during the spring turkey season are rare, but let’s keep it that way.

 

Another kind of hunter in the woods this time of year is hunting morel mushrooms, and reports from the field indicate that hunters are finding them now. It is legal to pick morels on state and federal public hunting land as long as they are kept for personal consumption. Mushrooms collected on state and federal lands may not be sold commercially. Spring Walk-In Hunting Access land is leased for hunting access only. Morels found incidentally by turkey hunters on WIHA lands may be collected for personal use. Mushroom hunters should assume they will encounter turkey hunters on public lands, but potential conflict can be minimized by hunting mushrooms mid-day. Most turkey hunters prefer to be in the woods at daybreak and are often calling it a day by mid-morning.

Free entrance at Kansas State Parks April 23

 

Soak up the sun, hike a trail, build a craft, enter a 5K, shoot some archery – whatever floats your boat, chances are you’ll be able to enjoy it at a Kansas state park on April 23 during the 2016 Open House event and the best part is, it may only cost you the gas it takes to get there.

 

In an effort to showcase the many exciting and fun times that can be had at Kansas state parks, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) will host a free entrance day and open houses at all state parks on April 23. Visitors do not need to pay to enter the park on that day, and staff will be available to answer questions and give tours.

 

For details on what will be offered at each park, visit ksoutdoors.com and click “State Parks,” then “State Park’s Open House.”

 

Events are still being added, so be sure to check www.ksoutdoors.com  again at a later time for the most up-to-date information.

Kansas Bowhunters Association seeking volunteers for Conservation Day

 

Hunters understand the vital role quality habitat plays in the conservation of Kansas’ wildlife, and while Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism staff work diligently to provide the best habitat possible, partners are always appreciated. That’s why members of the Kansas Bowhunters Association invite anyone with an interest in improving our wildlife areas to join them for a Conservation Day at Milford State Park, Saturday, April 16. Volunteers from across the state will work together to complete a variety of outdoor projects to benefit wildlife, sportsmen and outdoor recreationalists, alike.

 

Volunteers are asked to wear clothing appropriate for working outdoors, bring food and drinks, and pack any garden tools or equipment they feel might be helpful.

The group will be camping near the Eagle Ridge Shelter. For information on camping, contact the Milford State Park office at (785) 238-3014.

 

If event is cancelled due to weather, it will be rescheduled for Saturday, April 23.

 

For more information, contact Greg Babcock at (785) 531-1829 or [email protected]

Volunteers do not have to pay a state park entry fee to participate.

Kansas Herpetological Society to host field trip at Clark State Fishing Lake

 

Members of the Kansas Herpetological Society (KHS) will be spending a weekend at Clark State Fishing Lake and Wildlife Area, 8 miles south of Kingsdown, to conduct a hands-on survey of reptiles and amphibians. Anyone interested is invited to participate in this fun and educational event. The field trip will take place from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 30 and pick back up from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on Sunday, May 1. While some KHS members may gather as early as Friday evening, participants are welcome to stay for as much or as little as they desire. KHS membership is not required to participate.

 

Everyone attending should meet at the Clark State Fishing Lake group campsite (signs will be posted) at 9 a.m. While most specimens observed and counted during the KHS field trip will be released, select specimens will be collected by individuals with current Kansas Scientific Collecting Permits and kept for deposition in research collections at accredited institutions. Field trip participants wishing to assist in this research effort are encouraged to donate their specimens to those individuals qualified to receive them.

 

For more information on this event, visit the KHS Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/ksherp/, or contact Travis Taggart at (785) 650-2445 or [email protected]

 

Have fun, learn, and win at Great Migration Rally

 

Fly over to the Kansas Wetlands Education Center’s (KWEC)Great Migration Rallyfrom 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 30 to learn about migratory birds. Oh yeah, there will be prizes and food, too. Starting at KWEC, visitors will choose a card featuring a migratory bird worth points for prizes. They will then set off on their “migration,” driving through Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area and Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve, visiting various stations. At stops along the way, participants will receive situational cards, describing hazards or advantages encountered by “their” bird that subtract or add points. Several area businesses, artists and organizations have generously donated great prizes for those who migrate the most successfully with the highest point totals.

 

“It’s an event to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day,” said Curtis Wolf, KWEC manager. “The concept is to provide information about hazards birds face during migration with a fun and entertaining approach.”

 

This year’s Rally features Falconer Nate Mathews and his golden eagle, Isaiah. Mathews, currently the only falconer in Kansas hunting with an eagle, will share the remarkable story of Isaiah’s capture, training, loss and recovery.

 

Top prizes for adults are a WASPcam action-sport camera, Jansport backpack and binoculars and for the kids, a two-person tent, a pair of binoculars and fishing kit. Additional prizes include, sleeping bags, tent chairs, fishing poles, artwork, lanterns, head lamps and gift certificates from restaurants, hotels and other businesses.

 

Attendees will also be treated to a research drone demonstration, see Kansas birds of prey up close, make crafts, get a bird tattoo and learn about bird banding.

 

At two stops in Cheyenne Bottoms, visitors may use binoculars and spotting scopes to view migrating birds and discover the food they eat at a sampling station. Saints Peter and Paul Church will open for tours as the third stop on the “migration.”

 

At the migration destination, Camp Aldrich, Mathews and Isaiah provide their presentation, and dinner will be served before prizes are awarded.

 

Tickets are $5.50 for adults, $3 for children ages 5-12 and free for children under age 5. Pre-register online at wetlandscenter.fhsu.edu or by calling the KWEC, 1-877-243-9268, by April 22.

Blue Ribbon Panel: How to increase funds for State Fish & Wildlife Agencies

 

By Mike Toth

Field and Stream

 

For Dave Chanda, the bald eagle that he saw soaring over Pennsylvania Avenue when he arrived in Washington D.C. last week was symbolic of what he was in town to do.

 

And, he hoped, a good omen.

 

Chanda is the director of the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife. He’s also the current president of the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, which works to collaboratively advance sound, science-based management on a national level. That objective includes working with legislators to enact conservation and management policies that benefit fish, wildlife, and habitat, and get funding to make that happen.

 

It all sounds a bit wonkish until you realize just how much of a conservation crisis the agencies are in, because of an acute lack of the funds they need to put toward the protection of fish, wildlife, and habitat. There’s nothing wonkish about watching a species of woodpecker or tortoise or trout disappear for good because you couldn’t afford to actively manage a species in decline.

 

That’s why Chanda’s bald eagle—a species that was brought back from near-extinction throughout much of its range—gave him hope.

 

Chanda was in D.C. to introduce the findings of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish & Wildlife Resources. The panel, formed by AFWA and composed of 28 national business and conservation leaders who represented interests from Hess and Toyota to the National Wildlife Federation and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, met three times over the past year to figure out “a more sustainable funding approach to avert a fish and wildlife conservation crisis.”

 

In other words: How can we get more money to states so that they can pay for the programs that will save fish and wildlife for future generations?

 

The Third Part of the Triangle

State fish and wildlife agencies get some of their funding from the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts, those well-known excise taxes on hunting arms and ammo (P-R) and fishing tackle (D-J). What’s unique about these taxes is that they are self-imposed: hunters and anglers deliberately paying part of the cost to maintain the fish, wildlife, and habitat that are necessary to their sports.

 

But, as David Freudenthal, former Governor of Wyoming and National Co-Chair of the Blue Ribbon Panel, pointed out, “Money from the hook-and-bullet crowd is not enough anymore.”

 

The list of federally endangered and threatened species is at 1600 today, and many expect it to increase to thousands in the near future. When a species becomes listed, the financial impact to businesses, along with the cost of regulatory compliance, runs into the millions—and that’s not to mention yet another blow to our ecosystem.

 

“There are expectations by the public to look after non-game animals, but hunters and fishermen can’t pay for it all,” Freudenthal said. “Hunters tell me, ‘I’m buying a hunting tag for elk, but my money is going toward grizzly bears—a species that’s trying to eat the elk I want to hunt!’”

 

America has something to treasure, Freudenthal noted, and we need a way to protect it. “For example, the meadowlark is not a game species in Wyoming, but it’s the state bird, and people care about it,” he pointed out. “But nobody is paying a penny for the non-consumptive use of wildlife.”

 

According to the Blue Ribbon panel, the solution is this: Dedicate up to $1.3 billion every year from existing energy and mineral resource development revenues to funding for state fish and wildlife departments. That equates to 10 percent of the total $13 billion that is already collected from the sale of these non-renewable resources. The fund would be a permanent authorization, not an annual appropriation. Half would come from royalties and lease revenues collected on onshore energy and mineral development, the other half from offshore.

 

“In 1937, sportsmen said, ‘Let’s tax ourselves to save game,’” pointed out Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “The P-R Act and D-J Act resulted.

 

“This funding is the third piece of the triangle.”

 

An Investment for the Future

 

It’s well documented that the outdoor industry, which is directly reliant on healthy fish and wildlife populations to succeed, generates $646 billion annually and supports more than 6 million jobs. At the same time, children are becoming increasingly disconnected from the outdoors, losing out on life-improving experiences and negatively impacting their well-being. And it’s largely up to the state agencies to provide that nature…which they increasingly can’t afford to do.

 

John Morris, Founder of Bass Pro Shops and Co-Chair of the Blue Ribbon Panel with Freudenthal, bluntly pointed this out. “I jumped at the chance to participate on the panel, because agencies are at a crossroads,” he said. “State agencies have an unbelievably important role. They’re being asked to do more and more, but they can’t rob from game species to maintain non-game species.”

 

Dave Chanda mentioned the recent successful attempt to keep greater sage-grouse off of the endangered species list. “The money raised for landscape-level conservation resulted in no SA listing for the sage-grouse,” he said, which prevented a tremendous loss of revenue resulting from a listing.

 

That’s why the bald eagle soaring over the nation’s capitol filled Chanda with such hope. Twenty years ago, there was one nesting pair left in New Jersey. Now there are 190 pairs and the species is no longer endangered—another example that on-the-ground conservation efforts and investments pay off.Learn more about the Blue Ribbon Panel report here and stay tuned for developments

Ducks nesting in your backyard?

From Ducks Unlimited

 

After the courtship flights and mating rituals are complete, the end result of course is nesting hens. Every apartment complex pond, golf course, park and even some swimming pools can become targeted nesting areas for hens looking to raise ducklings. Ducks and geese have been known to think outside the box when it comes to finding a safe place for a nest, while others seem to not be thinking at all.

 

Soon, people all over the country will begin finding nesting birds. Knowing what to do, and most importantly what not to do, with and around the nest is very important.

 

There are many laws and treaties that protect migratory birds. It is ILLEGAL to take or possess eggs of nesting migratory birds without the proper permits!

Things to know about a mallard nest

The nest bowl is 7-8 inches in diameter and 1-2 inches deep.

Once the nest is built, egg laying will begin from 1-3 days.

Nest cover can be any form of vegetation available within the area. Preferably dense vegetation 24 inches high, such as native grasslands and CRP fields.

The hen will lay an average of 9 eggs which will hatch within 28 days once incubation begins.

What to do when you’ve found a nest on your property

DU conservation biologists highly recommend that you leave the nest undisturbed and try to avoid walking in its area.

Too many ducks and geese on your property? Contact the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism at 620-672-5911.

Problems with nesting Canada Geese?

Stories will soon begin to spread about the goose that chased the jogger through the local park, or tried to attack someone who was trying to hit a golf shot. A Canada goose can be very hostile toward anything that approaches its nest. Learning how to recognize nests, how long they will be on the nest, and how to avoid provoking nesting geese will help you steer clear of goose/human conflicts this spring.

Identifying a nest

Canada geese have a diverse approach toward nesting. They will nest almost anywhere; bushes, fairways, cliffs, muskrat houses and small islands.

Canada geese exhibit very strong family and pair bonds, and tend to return to their natal homes to nest.

Artificial structures such as tires, washtubs, and boat docks will attract a goose searching for a nest.

Generally, the goose will sit on the nest and the gander will stand guard nearby.

They will lay a range of 4-8 eggs per clutch and the eggs will hatch within 25-30 days.

Canada geese will renest if a nest is destroyed.

What to do if you find a nest on your property?

Again, it is highly recommended that you leave the nest undisturbed and try to avoid walking in its area.

Having problems with resident Canada geese on your property?

Most state agencies provide information on controlling nuisance Canada geese.

Too many geese on your property? Contact the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism at 620-672-5911.

Winner, winner turkey dinner

 

When the cluck of a box call or the purr of slate inspires a gobble in the distance, a turkey hunter can’t help but smile. But when a plate of sizzling, fried turkey meat coated in a golden crust hits the dinner table, everyone has a reason to grin. Spring turkey season in Kansas is here and as the action heats up, so can your frying pan, with the help of these simple season reminders.

 

The 2016 Youth/Disabled spring turkey season is April 1-12, followed by the Archery season April 4-12, and the Regular season April 13-May 31. Youth and disabled hunters may use all legal equipment during the Youth/Disabled season: shotguns using shot size 2-9 and archery equipment, including long, recurve and compound bows and crossbows. Only archery equipment may be used during the Archery season. All legal equipment may be used during the Regular season.

 

Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. Hunters who have purchased a spring turkey permit are eligible for one second turkey game tag, valid for Units 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6. The bag limit is one turkey with a visible beard per permit or game tag.

 

Dogs may not be used during the spring season.

 

To locate turkey hunting ground near you, consult the 2016 Kansas Spring Turkey Hunting Atlas or visit www.ksoutdoors.com/Hunting/Where-to-Hunt.

Explore the world of Kansas Hummingbirds April 17

 

Hummingbirds may be the most attractive and anticipated visitors to backyards each year and anyone who has been entertained by these tiny darters knows just how mesmerizing they can be. Don Kazmaier, Larned, is a hummingbird enthusiast and has photographed and studied these birds’ habits extensively. On Sunday, April 17, Kazmaier will share his knowledge about Kansas hummingbirds in a presentation during the Friends of Cheyenne Bottoms (FOCB) annual meeting at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center (KWEC), 592 NE K-156 Highway, Great Bend.

 

Come out for a free barbeque sponsored by FOCB from 5-6 p.m. and stay for the annual meeting and hummingbird presentation. Attendees are encouraged to sign up for or renew their annual FOCB membership, which is $25 for individuals or families; however anyone may attend the programs free of charge.

 

For more information, call KWEC at (877) 243-9268.

Do your part for the birds and bees: Go native in your garden this spring

 

Native plants provide high-quality nourishment for birds, butterflies, bees

 

By Jill Draper

The Kansas City Star

 

Do you live in a food desert? Not for you, with your grocery stores and farmers markets, but for the bugs, birds and butterflies that surround you as part of nature’s complex and mysterious web of life.

 

If your house is flanked by wide areas of lawn dotted with common Asian imports — Bradford pear trees, Japanese maples, burning bush, crape myrtle, day lilies, spirea, hostas, bush honeysuckle and such (there are thousands of introduced species like these in North America) — then the answer is probably yes.

 

That’s bad news for wildlife. The good news is you can improve the situation by simply adding more native plants to your landscaping.

 

What’s so important about planting things that naturally grow here? Consider this: One spring morning Doug Tallamy set up a camera in his yard full of native plants and trees near a chickadee nest and watched the parents feed their babies 30 caterpillars in a 27-minute period.

 

Other scientists have conducted all-day counts in similar environments and come up with equally astonishing numbers. After their eggs hatch, one single pair of chickadees, robins, bluebirds or cardinals will feed their clutch thousands of caterpillars over a two-week span, most of these gathered from less than 200 feet — or a few city blocks — of the nest. Like babies everywhere, young birds eat soft, squishy things and cannot digest hard seeds and insects.

 

“These common birds require a mind-boggling number of caterpillars,” says Tallamy, an entomologist and ecology expert who traveled to Kansas City a few months ago to speak to horticulture industry leaders at the Western Nursery trade show. “But there’s not enough nature anymore, and their numbers are dwindling. Homeowners play a huge role in all this, but most of them don’t know it.”

 

The problem is that local songbirds, butterflies and bees — things we like to see in our neighborhoods — co-evolved with local plants. When the landscape is full of non-natives, there’s not enough high-quality nourishment to go around. Sure, some species like pigeons or starlings will eat dropped French fries from a parking lot and survive. But many beneficial forms of life are going hungry and beginning to fade away.

 

Leaders of a new movement called the Kansas City Native Plant Initiative hope to change that predicament. For the first time more than 30 local wildlife organizations have joined together to win a $230,000 National Wildlife Federation grant to pay for workshops, demonstration plots and educational resources to encourage residents to plant more natives. Their message is not just for homeowners, though. They say that business sites, schools, churches, condo associations and even apartment dwellers with potted plants on a balcony can join in.

 

A parallel effort called the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge is a nationwide call to action that promotes planting sources of nectar and pollen and registering your yard at MillionPollinatorGardens.org.

 

Tom Schroeder, a south Kansas City homeowner, heard the call years ago. Half of his backyard is planted with trees, bushes and flowers that attract native bees and other pollinators. He says there are 4,000 species of native bees in the U.S., not including wasps. Some are black and yellow bumblebees, but others range from a brilliant metallic green to dark brown, and from one-eighth-inch to over an inch long.

 

“I never realized the diversity of bees that were here all along,” says Schroeder, who notes his 50-by-70-foot pollinator patch changes every month from March to November and requires little maintenance after early June. He grows perennials like anise hyssop, spiderwort and bee balm in 3-foot blocks so the bees and butterflies can forage more easily.

 

When he walks through his yard, it reminds him of wandering onto a prairie. “There’s so much motion and color — a vast, huge array of interest and beauty. I’m entertained by it all. I’m always surprised because something new is always showing up.”

 

Native bees live in solitary tunnels in bare spots of ground (the openings sometimes look like small ant hills) or in cavities like the stems of dead plants. Unlike yellow jackets, they rarely sting.

 

“I’ve probably spent a hundred hours with my head down in flowers with a camera, and I’ve never been bothered,” Schroeder says.

 

If the fate of native bees is a lesser known problem (conservation biologists believe dozens of species are going extinct every year), monarch butterflies are the poster children for troubled pollinators.

 

Even pristine lawn lovers are starting to pay attention. Mary Nemecek recalls growing up in the Northland with “sacred” grass.

 

“We didn’t walk on it after rain, frost or when it was just mowed,” she says. But not long ago her father asked about the monarchs: “If I wanted to help, what would I do?”

 

Eventually he volunteered a low spot along his fence line and allowed her to plant three kinds of milkweed along with asters, coreopsis, sneezeweed, liatris and coneflowers. As soon as the plants bloomed, he called her with exciting news: “I’ve got caterpillars! I’ve got butterflies!”

 

Nemecek, a member of the local Audubon Society and a spokeswoman for the KC Native Plant Initiative, says there’s no need to be fanatical. It’s OK to garden with beautiful non-natives, but think of them as sculptures: You need only a few.

 

This idea is echoed by Alan Branhagen, director of horticulture at Powell Gardens, who points out that some non-natives such as the Asian crabapple tree are actually beneficial for wildlife. But he shakes his head with disbelief that municipal arborists named the Japanese zelkova as the 2016 urban tree of the year.

 

“This tree is becoming a horrible invasive. And how many things feed on it? Zero! It’s like you’re planting something plastic,” he says. By contrast, some of the most helpful native trees he recommends for our area — oaks, willows, hackberries, wild plums and cherries, and roughleaf dogwood — provide food and shelter for hundreds of types of caterpillars and birds.

 

Branhagen is designing a bed at Loose Park as part of the native plant initiative. Other new native plantings will include 100 acres along Mill Creek in Shawnee Mission Park, various schoolyards and along Missouri state highways.

 

With all this activity planned, you might be wondering why your yard matters. Aren’t there plenty of places for nature to be happy somewhere else? Not so, says Nemecek, who points out that we’re losing 2.2 million acres of habitat a year in the U.S. to development or cropland.

 

And many of the natural areas that remain are being taken over by imported plants that have escaped from our gardens and are crowding out the natives almost like a form of biological pollution. They’re green, but they’re not supporting wildlife.

 

Tallamy puts forth a solution: If we reduce the nation’s 40 million acres of lawn by half and plant it with native flowers, grasses, bushes and trees, it would create a natural area larger than a dozen of our most famous parks combined, including the Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Denali and Yosemite.

 

“We could call it the Homegrown National Park,” he suggests with a smile. But he’s not really joking.

 

“Our little piece of the world plays a critical role in all this,” he says. “We’re saving ourselves here. That sounds dramatic, but that’s exactly what it is. Homeowners are living with a very powerful conservation tool, if they will use it.”

 

How you can help

▪ Reduce or eliminate applications of weed suppressants and just mow what grows (these chemicals are not only bad for pollinators — they’re bad for kids, pets and the watershed)

▪ Reduce the size of your lawn by enlarging existing beds or creating new plantings along the edges

▪ Begin transitioning your non-native ornamentals to native species

▪ Leave some dead leaves in planted areas as mulch (beneficial things live there over winter)

▪ Don’t kill wild violets — that’s what caterpillars eat to become fritillary butterflies

▪ Keep a few small piles of dead hollow stems as homes for native bees

▪ Grow a succession of native plants for each season: spring, summer and fall

 

Resources

▪ www.grownative.org

 

Native plants will be available at most garden centers and the following spring sales:

April 16: Gorman Discovery Center, 4750 Troost Ave. (plus freebies while supplies last)

April 16: Backyard Bird Center, 6212 N.W. Barry Road

April 23 and April 30: City Market, 20 E. Fifth St.

April 30: John Wornall House, 61st Terrace and Wornall Road

May 7: Powell Gardens, 1609 N.W. U.S. 50, outside Kingsville, Mo.

May 6-7: Overland Park Arboretum, 8909 W. 179th St.

May 13-14: Weston Bend State Park, Bee Creek Shelter, 16600 Missouri 45 N.