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The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will hold special public meetings during March to introduce proposed changes to management practices on many popular wildlife management areas for waterfowl habitat.

The meetings are part of the AGFC’s ongoing effort to keep the public informed about habitat degradation in many wetland areas, particularly artificially flooded bottomland hardwood forests known as greentree reservoirs that produce the finest duck hunting experience in the United States.

“Hunting on greentree reservoirs draws duck hunters from all over the country to The Natural State,” said Luke Naylor, waterfowl program coordinator for the AGFC. “But over decades, those forests have slowly changed, and our management must change with them if we are to continue this great tradition of hunting flooded timber and providing waterfowl with the habitat they need.”

Many hunters have become accustomed to constant high water being available near the opening day of waterfowl season, but according to growing scientific research in Arkansas and other states with greentree reservoirs, the practice has damaged many of the trees that produce the acorns ducks need.

“Flooding before a tree is dormant, and doing so consistently, causes damage,” Naylor said. “And most hunters will tell you there often are plenty of green leaves on the trees during the opening weekend of duck season. We need to begin managing our greentree reservoirs to follow more natural flooding patterns, which typically occur later and fluctuate from year to year.”

The AGFC also has produced a mailing, which describes the situation in detail. It will be delivered to each Arkansas resident who has purchased a waterfowl stamp in the last three years and each non-resident who has purchased a non-resident waterfowl WMA permit in the last three years. A digital version of that mailing is available at http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Documents/GTR.pdf.

“There has been a lot of talk lately about many other aspects of duck hunting on Arkansas’s famous public WMAs,” Naylor said. “But this change is much more important. This is to protect and re-establish the habitat that originally drew ducks to these areas. Without that, Arkansas’s famous green timber duck hunting could very well become a thing of the past.”

Public meetings will be held at the following dates and locations:

Stuttgart
6-8 p.m., March 9
Grand Prairie Center, Salon B
2807 Highway 165 South
Stuttgart, AR 72160

Searcy
6-8p.m., March 14
Searcy High School Cafeteria
301 N Ella,
Searcy, AR 72143

Little Rock
6-8 p.m., March 16
AGFC Headquarters Auditorium
2 Natural Resources Drive
Little Rock, AR 72205

Jonesboro
6-8 p.m., March 28
Nettleton High School Fine Arts Center
4201 Chieftan Lane
Jonesboro, AR 72401

Russellville
6-8 p.m., March 30
Doc Bryan Lecture Hall, Arkansas Tech University
1605 N. Coliseum Drive
Russellville, AR 72801

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AGFC nature centers are full of great gifts for outdoors enthusiasts.

AGFC nature centers are full of great gifts for outdoors enthusiasts.

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are all behind us, but that doesn’t mean the opportunity to grab some gifts for your holiday shopping. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has some of the best gifts for that hard-to-buy outdoors enthusiast on your list, and you’ll be contributing to the state’s wildlife resources at the same time.

Sounds like a deal

Every 3-year subscription to Arkansas Wildlife between now and January 1, 2017, will include a free wireless bluetooth speaker.

Every 3-year subscription to Arkansas Wildlife between now and January 1, 2017, will include a free wireless bluetooth speaker.

What’s even better than a year’s worth of award-winning stories and photography delivered to your door? How about three years’ of entertainment with an added special gift to boot? From now until Jan. 1, every three-year subscription to Arkansas Wildlife magazine will come with a free Bluetooth-enabled wireless speaker sporting the magazine’s title on one side and the AGFC logo on the other. The speaker hooks up wirelessly to any phone or tablet with Bluetooth capability to provide excellent sound-quality to your favorite music and includes a microphone to be able to talk back through it when taking a phone call. One surface of the speaker has a special coating that allows it to cling to glass and other smooth surfaces while playing to keep it out of harm’s way. Just purchase a three-year subscription or three-year gift subscription to Arkansas Wildlife magazine and we’ll ship the speaker to the subscriber’s address.

Click here to order gift certificates for the AGFC's Conservation License Plate.

Click here to order gift certificates for the AGFC’s Conservation License Plate.

Plate up some conservation

It doesn’t matter if your secret Santa is a birdwatcher, bowhunter or both, a gift certificate for an AGFC conservation license plate is the perfect gift to show their love of the outdoors. License plates featuring northern cardinals, black crappie, deer, squirrels and a host of other wildlife species are available at Department of Finance and Administration offices all over the state. Just visit http://www.agfc.com/aboutagfc/Pages/AboutConservationLicensePlates.aspx to purchase as many gift certificates as you need to outfit your friends and family with plates of their choosing. The certificate costs $35, $25 of which is placed into the AGFC Conservation Scholarship Fund to help Arkansas students become the next generation of biologists and conservationists.

Two books for $10

Buy the AGFC's 180-page photo history book and cookbook together for an incredible savings.

Buy the AGFC’s 180-page photo history book and cookbook together for an incredible savings.

While supplies last, the AGFC will be offering it’s 180-page hardcover photo history book, “A Century of Conservation,” and it’s Centennial Cookbook, “A Celebration of Conservation,” together for $10 at AGFC nature centers and the Little Rock Headquarters. You can also cash in on a great deal if you order online at http://www.agfc.com, to get both great books delivered to your door for $13. Act quickly and we’ll throw a 100-year Anniversary Baseball Hat in your order for free.

“A Century of Conservation” is the story of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s first 100 years. Read along and discover how the state went from scarcely more than a few hundred deer to a booming population approaching the million-deer mark, not to mention the comeback of Arkansas black bears, turkeys and elk. Stunning photographs and a few stories you probably haven’t heard make this journal a must-have for anyone interested in the outdoors, hunting, fishing or Arkansas history.

“A Celebration of Conservation” includes some of the AGFC employees’ favorite concoctions of everything from wild game to fancy desserts. Mouth-watering recipes will have your taste buds working overtime and make this cookbook a weekly go-to for your kitchen reading. Visit http://www.agfc.com/store/Pages/Merchandise.aspx to order both books.

Bring the outdoors inside

In addition to the gifts above, the AGFC’s four nature centers throughout the state each have a gift shop full of outdoors-oriented items for the nature lover and die-hard outdoorsperson on your list. Shirts, hats, coffee mugs and a variety of smaller gifts are available at reasonable prices in each center, as well as books and other educational material on the outdoors. While you’re there, take in some of the sights and sounds of the center and ask the staff about some of their excellent programs available to the public throughout the year for free. Everything from photography to nighttime “owl prowls” are possible. Click http://www.agfc.com/education/Pages/EducationNatureCenters.aspx to get started finding a nature center near you.

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Youth hunters harvested nearly 9,500 during the two-day 2016 youth hunt.

Youth hunters harvested nearly 9,500 during the two-day 2016 youth hunt.

Cooler temperatures and the first good signs of rutting activity beckoned well for the first youth hunt of the 2016-17 deer season last weekend, and Arkansas’s young guns did not disappoint. Hunters harvested 9,429 deer during the two-day season.
According to Cory Gray, deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the harvest is lower than last year’s 12,000-deer youth hunt, but is very similar to the 2014 season, in which youth hunters took just over 9,700 deer.
Since the development of internet and telephone checking, biologists and the public can see the harvest in real time by visiting https://www.ark.org/agfc/gamecheck/reports.php. According to checked numbers, Arkansas’s deer harvest is at about 51,000 deer statewide. Again, this is below last year’s harvest of 64,000, but on track with the year before, which had 53,000 deer checked by this point in the season.
The slow start to this season has had a few hunters concerned. But Gray says things should balance out as cooler weather sets in and more hunters enter the woods.

Cooler weather had deer moving for the morning of the hunt.

Cooler weather had deer moving for the morning of the hunt.

“We often see hunting seasons start off slowly, but quickly catch-up as the season progresses,” Gray said. “The opening weekend of modern gun season and the week of Thanksgiving will be crucial periods for state harvest.”
The AGFC will be continuing to monitor for the spread of chronic wasting disease during opening weekend of modern gun season by manning 25 biological sampling sites within 10 counties in northern Arkansas. Biologists ask all hunters who wish to voluntarily submit their deer for sampling on Nov. 12-13 to bring any checked deer from Boone, Carroll, Johnson, Logan, Madison, Marion, Newton, Pope, Searcy and Yell counties to one of the following sites:

Boone County

  • Alpena Community Building, 107 Highway 62 E., Alpena
  • Anderson’s Propane, 8563 Highway 7 N., Harrison
  • Anderson’s Store, 12181 Highway 62 E., Harrison

Carroll County

  • Carroll County Fairgrounds, 104 County Road 401, Berryville

Johnson County

  • Haggarville Grocery, 11925 SR 123, Lamar
  • McCormick’s One Stop, 7823 Highway 103, Clarksville
  • Oark General Store and Café, 10360 County Road 5440, Oark

Logan County

  • New Blaine Fire Dept., 9 Highway 197 Loop, New Blaine

Madison County

  • Combs Store and Café, 10342 Highway 16, Combs
  • McIlroy Madison County WMA headquarters, Highway 23

Marion County

  • Pyatt, Crooked Creek Access, Highway 62 W., Pyatt
  • Yellville City Park, Highway 14, Yellville

Newton County

  • Arkansas Forestry Commission Office, Route 1, Box 275, Western Grove
  • National Park Service Maintenance Shop, HCR 73 Box 176B, Marble Falls
  • Ponca Elk Education Center, Highway 43, Ponca
  • USFS Office, 18360 Highway 16 W., Deer

Pope County

  • Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department Storage Facility, Sand Gap (1 mile south of Highway 7/16/123 intersection)
  • City of London Maintenance Shop, 3731 SR 333, London
  • Downtown Mini-Mart, 102 W. Main St. (Highway 64/105 intersection), Atkins
  • Fountain’s Grocery, 36386 Highway 27, Tilly
  • USFS Big Piney Ranger District Office, 12000 SR 27, Hector

Searcy County

  • Arkansas Forestry Commission, 602 Highway 65 N., Marshall
  • Misty’s Conoco, 6542 Highway 65 N., Leslie

Yell County

  • Ouachita Livestock Market, 12115 N. State Highway 7, Danville
  • Yell County Wildlife Federation, 10035 Wildlife Lane, Dardanelle

Hunters outside of these 10 counties may contact a veterinarian from the list provided at http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Documents/CWD/CWDVets.pdf if they wish to learn the CWD-status of deer they have harvested. However, the hunter will be responsible for the cost of these tests outside of the 10-county CWD Management Zone.

Hunters must be 6 years old to legally tag and check deer in Arkansas.

Hunters must be 6 years old to legally tag and check deer in Arkansas.

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Hunters are advised to report any deer that looks sick to the AGFC at 1-800-482-9262. AGFC photo.

Hunters are advised to report any deer that looks sick to the AGFC at 1-800-482-9262. AGFC photo.

A list of veterinarians who have expressed interest in collecting samples and testing hunter-harvested deer for chronic wasting disease has been published on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s website at http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Documents/CWD/CWDVets.pdf.

All results from the tests will be shared with the AGFC, but it is the responsibility of the hunter to pay any fees associated with using one of the listed veterinarians to process samples.

The AGFC will test hunter-harvested deer taken from the CWD Management Zone (Boone, Carroll, Johnson, Logan, Madison, Marion, Newton, Pope, Searcy and Yell counties) on a voluntary basis during opening weekend of deer season (Nov. 12-13).

AGFC staff will be collecting CWD samples from hunter-harvested elk Nov. 12-13 in the CWD Management Zone. AGFC Photo.

AGFC staff will be collecting CWD samples from hunter-harvested elk Nov. 12-13 in the CWD Management Zone. AGFC Photo.

According to Cory Gray, AGFC deer program coordinator, the AGFC’s deer team developed the list of vets to offer hunters outside of those counties or those who harvest deer outside of opening weekend the opportunity to test their deer if they wished.

“We can’t test every deer harvested in the state, but we do want to offer an option for hunters who are concerned with the possibility of the deer they harvested having CWD,” Gray said. “While a CWD test is not a food safety test, it may put some hunters’ minds at ease about serving it to their family.”

The recent detection of chronic wasting disease has many hunters concerned about the safety of eating venison, but there shouldn’t be any reason to worry. Hunter-harvested venison is still one of the healthiest forms of protein you can find, free of preservatives, steroids and other chemicals that can be found in some farm-raised foods.

“There isn’t any confirmed case of CWD spreading to any species outside of the cervid family (deer, elk, moose and caribou),” said Cory Gray, deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “But the World Health Organization and Arkansas Department of Health both advise against eating any animal known to have CWD.”

Hunters shouldn’t eat any animal showing obvious signs of any illness.

“Any hunter anywhere in the state who sees a deer showing symptoms of CWD should report it to 1-800-482-9262,” Gray said. “We can dispatch someone to collect samples from that animal and will let the person reporting know the outcome of the tests.”
Gray says biologists have collected thousands of samples during summer throughout the state, and the extended search for CWD will begin to slow once the first week of modern gun season has ended.

“We anticipate reigning back on our sampling beginning Nov. 18,” Gray said. “We’ll still be collecting samples from sick deer, but road kill samples will drop to weekdays during normal business hours.”

Hunters may voluntarily submit their deer for CWD testing to a list of veterinarians available at www.agfc.com/cwd. AGFC photo.

Hunters may voluntarily submit their deer for CWD testing to a list of veterinarians available at http://www.agfc.com/cwd. AGFC photo.

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Paddlewheel and fountain aerators help add oxygen to small ponds during extremely hot periods.

Paddlewheel and fountain aerators help add oxygen to small ponds during extremely hot periods.

Anyone who has ever had their breath taken away after sitting in a car that’s been parked in the summer sun will tell you that even a momentary drop in oxygen can turn things upside down. The same holds true for fish if the dissolved oxygen in a pond or lake crashes.
According to Eric Brinkman, district fisheries supervisor for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission in Hope, fish kills associated with low oxygen levels can be common in many small bodies of water during late summer.

“It can happen on any body of water or a section of a body of water, but the most common places we get fish kills like this are smaller ponds on people’s property,” Brinkman said.

Brinkman says the factors leading up to a fish kill because of low oxygen are more complex than the simple fact that hot water holds less oxygen.

“There’s a lot going on in summer,” Brinkman said. “Fish are cold-blooded creatures, so their metabolism rises with the temperature. A higher metabolism means more activity and more oxygen demand.”

The amount of fish in the system also is at its peak during the summer. Fish and insects that hatched all spring add more demand for the dissolved oxygen available.

“Summer also brings an abundance of vegetation, phytoplankton and zooplankton,” Brinkman said. “Which all use oxygen as well.”

Everyone who’s had third-grade science learned plants provide oxygen when they create sugars through photosynthesis, but plants also use part of that oxygen when they burn those sugars to survive.

“An abundance of fish, insects and plankton can consume a lot of dissolved oxygen, especially at night or during prolonged periods of cloudy weather, when photosynthesis slows due to lack of sunlight,” Brinkman said. “Typically fish kills from depleted oxygen will occur in the very early morning, just before sunup oxygen levels are at their lowest.”

Fish kills resulting from low oxygen also can happen during sudden events called “turnover.” During the hottest part of summer, water will separate, or stratify, into two distinct layers. The upper layer will be warmer and contain most of the oxygen. The bottom layer will be cold, and contains little or no oxygen. Most fish will be in the upper layer of the water column, often very close to where the two sections meet – called the thermocline. However, a cool rain or extreme cold front can cool the surface layer rapidly, which causes it to drop to the bottom of the pond, forcing the oxygen-poor layer to the surface zone holding the fish. The rapid drop in oxygen causes large fish kills, including all species present.

No matter the cause of oxygen loss, the best solution is aeration.

“Oxygen diffuses into the water from the surface quicker if there’s a lot of splashing and wave action,” Brinkman said. “On our hatcheries and on many farms with the proper equipment, a paddle-wheel aerator will get oxygen back into the system efficiently. A lower-cost option for ponds and small lakes is an aeration fountain to cause an adequate disturbance.”

Brinkman says once fish begin to go belly up, there’s not much that can be done, but investing in a fountain aerator definitely guards against oxygen loss and helps prevent the water from stratifying.
Another piece of advice for would-be pond owners is to limit the maximum depth of any small pond you build to less than 10 to 12 feet. Shallower systems do not stratify or turnover as easily.

“Many people think you should have some deeper water for fish to use as refuge during the hot summer months, but it’s actually a bad idea when you’re talking about smaller ponds,” Brinkman said.

Anything that adds nutrients to the system during summer also can increase the demand for oxygen. Overabundant fertilization, runoff from agriculture or sewage treatment areas and livestock waste all can increase the fertility of the system too much and eventually lead to a crash.

Telltale indicators that you may have a turnover occurring on a pond are an overnight change in the water color from relatively clear to a “chocolate milk” appearance, a foul, rotting smell and fish opening their mouths, or “piping,” at the surface of the water. These symptoms are much more prevalent in the morning just as the sun rises.

If a person sees a fish kill, they can call their local AGFC office and ask to speak to a fisheries biologist. They can walk you through a series of questions to determine whether the kill is due to oxygen depletion or if other factors are at play. A list of regional offices is available at http://www.agfc.com/aboutagfc/Pages/AboutRegionalOffices.aspx

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AGFC employees and inmates from the Cummins Prison harvesting largemouth bass fingerlings.

Hundreds of thousands of largemouth bass fingerlings will be paroled from Cummins Correctional Facility at this year’s Big Bass Bonanza, June 24-26.

The fingerlings are the result of an ongoing partnership between the Arkansas Department of Corrections, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas anglers.
Each year, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission works with tournament anglers to collect mature largemouth bass from the Dumas pool of the river during spring tournament weigh-ins.

“This year we collected our brood fish from a weigh-in of the Dumas Bass Club,” said JJ Gladden, biologist at the AGFC’s Joe Hogan State Fish Hatchery. “In some years we may work with a few clubs to get the fish we need because of weather or poor fishing conditions, but we got enough at the first tournament this year to supply what we needed. The bass are transported to the Cummins Unit of the Arkansas Department of Corrections and placed in ponds once planned for raising catfish.

Largemouth bass receive an early release from Cummins Correctional Facility.

More than 1 million largemouth bass have been released from Cummins Correctional Facility since 2001.

“Roughly 200 bass are stocked into the ponds,” said JJ Gladden, biologist at the AGFC’s Joe Hogan State Fish Hatchery in Lonoke. “Our goal is to get about 200,000 fingerlings out of that.”
Colton Dennis, Black Bass Program coordinator for the AGFC says the partnership has produced more than 1 million largemouth fingerlings for the Arkansas River since its creation in 2001.

“Five of the 15 years suffered no measurable production because the river rose into the ponds before we could get the fingerlings out,” Dennis said.

Once ready, 100,000 fingerlings are seined from the ponds using inmate labor supervised by AGFC hatchery crews. The fish are loaded onto hatchery trucks and delivered to weigh-in sites for the Arkansas Big Bass Bonanza.

“20,000 fingerlings go to each weigh-in location,” Gladden said. “As anglers come in to weigh their fish hourly, we give them bags of fingerlings to stock on their return trip.”
Dennis says the boat-side releases by anglers not only allows them to be part of the process, but increases the effectiveness of the stocking effort.

AGFC Hatchery Manager Jason Miller readies a bag of fingerlings at the Little Rock pool weigh-in site of the Big Bass Bonanza for anglers to take with them.

AGFC Hatchery Manager Jason Miller readies a bag of fingerlings at the Little Rock pool weigh-in site of the Big Bass Bonanza for anglers to take with them.

“They’re spreading out and placing the fingerlings in the backwaters and areas they fish,” Dennis said. “It’s going to be more favorable habitat than if we backed up a truck at a ramp and released thousands into an area with less complex habitat, less vegetation and more current to fight.”

Dennis says the last four years the ponds could be harvested have resulted in nearly 373,000 bass fingerlings stocked by volunteer anglers through the tournament. The additional fingerlings left in the ponds after seining are released directly into the Dumas pool of the river through the pond’s drainage pipe.

“There are usually 100,000 or more fingerlings left in the pond that go right back into the pool of river the brood stock came from,” said Gladden.

Stocking bass is not always the answer to improving a fishery, but in the case of the Arkansas River, Dennis says the stockings do make an impact.

“The river has seen a dramatic decline in backwater spawning and nursery habitat the last few decades because of siltation,” Dennis said. “That, coupled with years when the river experiences high flows and flooding during spring when bass are trying to spawn, make programs such as this very important. A study conducted for us by the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff showed that stocked fingerlings contributed between 10 and 15 percent to the wild population in the river.”

Stocking through anglers directly into good habitat shows much better survival than dumping huge quantities of fingerlings at one site.

Stocking through anglers directly into good habitat shows much better survival than dumping huge quantities of fingerlings at one site.

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Public meetings are scheduled throughout the state to discuss CWD and proposed regulations to combat the disease.

Public meetings are scheduled throughout the state to discuss CWD and proposed regulations to combat the disease.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists plan to deliver information about chronic wasting disease and proposed regulations changes to combat its spread at meetings throughout the state, beginning Thursday. All regulations proposals will be voted on at the June 16 Commission meeting.

In addition to 11 public meetings scheduled throughout the state on May 24 and 26, a special public meeting will be held Thursday, May 19, in Jasper to discuss the proposed regulations.

The AGFC also will host a special show on the Arkansas Education Television Network at 8 p.m., Monday, May 23. The show will include a panel of experts from the AGFC, Arkansas Department of Health and the University of Arkansas at Monticello. Viewers may submit comments and questions via phone at 1-800-662-2386, email at paffairs@aetn.org or on Twitter with #ARAsk.

CWD is a fatal disease that affects only deer, elk and other cervids. AGFC photo.

CWD is a fatal disease that affects only deer, elk and other cervids. AGFC photo.

The discovery of chronic wasting disease has been the hot topic in the Arkansas deer-hunting community since it was first found in the northwest portion of the state. Many questions about how deer and elk hunting in Arkansas will be affected have been asked, and many answers are left to be determined.

“The first step in our response was to gauge how prevalent the disease was in Arkansas,” said Cory Gray, deer program coordinator for the AGFC. “Then we took on statewide sampling to find out how far the disease has spread. Now we’re ready to begin taking measures to combat the spread of the disease.”

Gray and the rest of the AGFC’s deer team have worked tirelessly since CWD was first reported in the state to gather as much information as possible from other states who have dealt with the disease.

“This doesn’t mean the end of deer hunting in Arkansas, and it’s not a panic-button situation, but it is serious and will change how we can manage our deer herd,” Gray said.

According to Gray, the ongoing statewide roadkill survey has identified CWD-positive deer in five counties: Newton, Boone, Madison, Pope and Carroll.

“The most recent addition was a deer found dead slightly over the border in Carroll County,” Gray said.

Through all phases of testing, 89 total animals have been found with CWD in Arkansas, 85 deer and four elk.

PUBLIC MEETING LOCATIONS

May 24, 6-8 p.m.

Nettleton Public School
Nettleton Performing Arts Center
4201 Chieftan Lane
Jonesboro

University of Arkansas at Monticello
Fine Arts Center
University Drive
Monticello

National Park College
Fredrick Dierks Center for Nursing and Health Sciences
Eisele Auditorium
101 College Drive
Hot Springs

Arkansas Tech University
Doc Bryan Student Services Center
1605 Coliseum Drive
Lecture Hall
Russellville

University of Arkansas
Pauline Whitaker Animal Science Center
1335 West Knapp
Fayetteville

AGFC Headquarters
2 Natural Resources Drive
Little Rock
May 26, 6-8 p.m.
Camden Fairview High School
Little Theater Auditorium
1750 Cash Road
Camden

Brinkley Convention Center
1501 Weatherby Drive
Brinkley

Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center
8300 Wells Lake Road
Fort Smith

Hope Fair Park Community Center
800 South Mockingbird Lane
Hope

Mountain Home High School
Dunbar Auditorium
500 Bomber Boulevard
Mountain Home

20160511_CWD Public Meetings_HR

 

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