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Archive for the ‘Watchable Wildlife’ Category

The climb into the treestand can tax any hunter who's out of shape. Photo by Cara Holland

The climb into the treestand can tax any hunter who’s out of shape. Photo by Cara Holland

Hunters are beginning to scout, prepare food plots and set trail cameras to pattern the biggest buck in the area as summer wanes and the thrill of the next deer season builds. That same effort should be used to prepare their body for the stresses of the coming season. Nutrition and physical conditioning are keystones for success in the field, but often are overlooked.

Hunting situations provide many intense physical demands. Even hunters who do not travel far on foot still must climb in tree stands and hopefully drag out a downed deer. The real work starts after taking a game animal, and it’s a hunter’s responsibility to recover their harvest no matter the situation. Hauling a 100+ pound deer up a ridge will cause anyone to break a sweat.

Sportsmen should be aware of their limitations to ensure they do not over-exhaust themselves while pursuing game. This concept is discussed in the National Bowhunter Education Foundation’s guide, Today’s Bowhunter:

“Conditions that hamper your physical ability to perform safely and responsibly while
hunting include: asthma, a heart condition, excess weight and poor physical conditioning.”

Hunters should stay hydrated and fuel their body with nutrient-rich foods. These are the fundamental steps in staying healthy. Kathleen Robinson, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America-certified personal trainer and personal training manager at 10 Fitness Maumelle, explains, “Dehydration causes fatigue and cravings for sugar and carbohydrates as energy sources.” Robinson continues, “More serious issues like certain infections can come from long-term dehydration, so drink to your health.”

Add a couple slices of lemon or cucumber for flavor, and keep a full cup of water nearby to stay hydrated all day.

Add a couple slices of lemon or cucumber for flavor, and keep a full cup of water nearby to stay hydrated all day.

Put in the work now to improve abilities during the season. Some simple changes in daily habits can yield good long-term results in the field:

1. Take the longer route when possible.
Parking further away forces you to be more active during daily tasks such as visiting the local outdoors shop or walking in to work every morning. These extra steps add up over time to help hike extra miles in the deer woods.

2. Skip the elevator.
Elevators are overrated. Opt for the stairs to add even more steps. Stairs also simulate inclines you’ll find in the field. Those hills aren’t going to climb themselves come hunting season.

3. Join a gym.
Gym memberships can be as cheap as $10 a month and offer a variety of machines for anyone to hop on and bust out an extra 20-30 minutes of heart-pumping cardio. Increase the incline on the machine to get your heartrate up and ready for climbing treestands.

4. Cut carbonation.
There is nothing healthy about a drink containing 30+ grams of sugar. Avoid “zero calorie” drinks also. They contain artificial sweeteners that have a worse effect on the body’s blood sugar levels. A sugar rush only leads to a crash and no one wants to be snoozing on the job or in the stand.

5. Avoid vending machines.
Bring homemade snacks to work or on the go. Snack bags packed with vegetables, fruit or even slices of deer jerky from last season will curb hunger longer than sugar-filled candy. Other snacks could include a handful of mixed nuts or two tablespoons of peanut butter.

6. Drink more water.
Robinson further explains why drinking water is important to everyone, “Staying hydrated is how the body cools itself, removes toxins and waste and helps to lubricate joints.” Add a couple slices of lemon or cucumber for flavor and keep a full cup nearby to stay hydrated all day.

Don’t try to do everything all at once. Take it one step at a time turning these simple daily tasks into habits. Overall, keep active in everyday life to be able to take the next step in your hunting adventures.

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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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More than 100,000 people participate in The Great Backyard Bird Count each year.

More than 100,000 people participate in The Great Backyard Bird Count each year.

Join birders across the country Feb. 12-15, 2016, and record your birdwatching results to help scientists discover trends and changes in migrations and populations of birds in the Great Backyard Bird Count.
Founded in 1998 by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the count was the first project to use non-biologists to collect massive amounts of data on wild birds and display the results in near real-time. Scientists combine the data from this count with other citizen-based counting projects, such as the Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch and the eBird program to get a big picture of what is happening to bird populations across the nation. It’s an excellent way to be involved in conservation without ever leaving the comfort of your own backyard.

Birders can choose to participate for 15 minutes up to a full four-day count.

Birders can choose to participate for 15 minutes up to a full four-day count.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission nature centers also are great locations to enjoy this citizen-scientist activity. Each of the AGFC’s four nature centers has a birdwatching station with maintained feeders near an indoor viewing area. Field guides are available to help identify birds at the feeder, and staff are always nearby to answer questions about the birds you see.

Kirsten Bartlow, watchable wildlife coordinator for the AGFC, says the Wings Over Arkansas is another great way to get excited about birding.

“With Wings Over Arkansas, you record the bird species you see or hear on a checklist,” Bartlow said, “Once you reach certain levels, you are awarded a certificate and pin to show your accomplishment.”

Bartlow says Wings Over Arkansas is very popular with school groups and scouts, but has just as many adult participants who enjoy creating a life list of birds they’ve seen.

“Birding is something that anyone can enjoy, no matter what age they are,” Bartlow said. “And because birds can be attracted to practically any location using feeders, you don’t have to make special plans for a weekend getaway to a far off destination to enjoy the hobby.”

Visit http://gbbc.birdcount.org/ for more information about the Great Backyard Bird Count. To learn more about the Wings Over Arkansas Program or visit one of the AGFC’s four nature centers, visit http://www.agfc.com.

Click here for details about the AGFC's Wings Over Arkansas program.

Click here for details about the AGFC’s Wings Over Arkansas program.

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Feeders are an excellent way to enjoy backyard birds, but they need to be kept clean.

Feeders are an excellent way to enjoy backyard birds, but they need to be kept clean.

Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction of an early spring require a few extra preparations are needed by people who enjoy feeding songbirds.

Many avian diseases can spread through a crowded feeder if it is not kept clean, especially in warm, wet weather. Karen Rowe, Nongame Migratory Bird Program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, says the situation is similar to a cold spreading quickly at a school or office.

“Birds are flocking to feeders, and are in close contact with each other,” Rowe said. “This makes it easy for a virus or bacterial infection to be spread. Many highly contagious, naturally occurring diseases within bird populations also can remain on the feeder itself if it isn’t cleaned properly.”

Concentrations of birds at a feeder can make it easier for diseases to spread if you don't keep the area sanitary.

Concentrations of birds at a feeder can make it easier for diseases to spread if you don’t keep the area sanitary.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center, feeders should be washed once to twice a month using a 10 percent bleach solution and room-temperature water. It’s also important to check the birdseed to make sure it is dry and doesn’t contain any mold or mildew. Placing multiple feeders with different types of seeds in the yard also can prevent crowding.

Even the cleanest and most well-maintained feeders can transmit infections from bird-to-bird. According to Rowe, finding a few dead or lethargic songbirds near a feeder within a week shouldn’t be a cause for panic, but it is time to take action. All feeders should be taken down and disinfected with a 10 percent bleach solution. Bird baths also should be emptied and disinfected. The seeds and hulls on the ground also should be raked up, bagged and thrown away.
After disinfection, new food or water shouldn’t be placed in the area for at least 10 to 14 days, so birds will disperse and those that have already been infected won’t continue to spread the disease so rapidly.

“Not feeding the birds for up to two weeks during winter can seem like a drastic step,” Rowe said. “But it is the only way you can be a responsible bird conservationist and prevent the disease from lingering and continuing to infect birds your feeders attract.”

Visit the USGS National Wildlife Health Center’s web page to learn more about feeder-transmitted diseases and how you can prevent them.

Wet, warm springs can cause birdseed to mold and can stress backyard birds, making them more susceptible to disease.

Wet, warm springs can cause birdseed to mold and can stress backyard birds, making them more susceptible to disease.

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The AGFC will host a series of free landowner workshops to teach people how to conduct prescribed burns this February and March.

The AGFC will host a series of free landowner workshops to teach people how to conduct prescribed burns this February and March.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists will host a series of free workshops to teach landowners how to increase wildlife habitat on their property using prescribed fire this February and March.

The workshops are part of the AGFC’s Private Lands Program, a special section of the AGFC Wildlife Management Division focused on helping landowners achieve their wildlife goals at the lowest possible cost.

“When done properly, introducing fire on the landscape is one of the best and most economical ways to promote new browse and herbaceous growth for wildlife,” said Ted Zawislak, AGFC Private Lands Program coordinator. “While a lot of landowners realize the value of burning, they tend to be a little afraid of prescribed fire. Our hope is to increase their comfort level with this practice.”

Northern bobwhite are one of the many species that benefit from the grasses and plants prescribed fire stimulates.

Northern bobwhite are one of the many species that benefit from the grasses and plants prescribed fire stimulates.

“In one Saturday, no landowner can be an expert,” Zawislak said. “But they can have a greater appreciation of the art and science behind prescribed fire. If they choose to hire a prescribed burn contractor to burn their property, they will be a more informed consumer.”

Prescribed fire is one of the least expensive and most efficient tools a landowner can use to increase wildlife habitat.

Prescribed fire is one of the least expensive and most efficient tools a landowner can use to increase wildlife habitat.

Prescribed burns are much different than the wildfires often seen in the news. In fact, many wildfires occur because of the absence of fire on the landscape. Leaves, limbs and other debris build up on the forest floor, creating abundant fuel for a catastrophic fire. Smaller fires at the right time of year eliminate this fuel load gradually and create clearings where seed-bearing grasses and leafy vegetation can grow and provide abundant food for wildlife.

Four six-hour workshops are scheduled during February and March. Space in each of these free workshops is limited to 30 participants, and registration is required at least one week before each workshop date. Lunch will be provided. Workshop locations and times are:

Contact Clint Johnson at 877-470-3650 or email clint.johnson@agfc.ar.gov for more information on these workshops and other Private Lands Program events.

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The ringed crayfish is moving into areas along the south branch of the White River, and is pushing out the rare coldwater crayfish.

The ringed crayfish is moving into areas along the south branch of the White River, and is pushing out the rare coldwater crayfish.

Rare crayfish being displaced by ringed crayfish

The coldwater crayfish is a rare species found only in parts of the Arkansas and Missouri Ozarks. It inhabits big, spring-fed streams – namely the Eleven Point, Strawberry, Spring and South Fork Spring rivers. Several years ago, ringed crayfish from the North Fork White River basin, turned up in the South Fork.

University of Arkansas professor Dan Magoulick and his students have been studying this invasion where the coldwater crayfish has been displaced from much of the South Fork. The current theory is that ringed crayfish are more tolerant of low, summer water conditions, allowing them to out-compete the coldwater crayfish.

The coldwater crayish has a few color variations, depending on the stream system it inhabits.

The coldwater crayish has a few color variations, depending on the stream system it inhabits.

This ringed crayfish invasion is an example of a short-range introduction. A study published by the Missouri Department of Conservation found that short-range introductions of crayfish are more common than previously thought. Since several of Arkansas’s nearly 60 crayfish species are found in only a small portion of the state, this highlights the need to avoid moving crayfish around from one place to another.

Nongame aquatics biologist and former University of Arkansas student Matthew Nolen dislodge rocks in a stream along the Norht Fork River to find the rare coldwater crayfish.

Nongame aquatics biologist and former University of Arkansas student Matthew Nolen dislodge rocks in a stream along the North Fork River to find the rare coldwater crayfish.

The story of the coldwater crayfish is not all bad. Recent surveys by the University of Arkansas, Missouri Department of Conservation and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission have sought to better understand where coldwater crayfish are found. While they are mostly gone from the South Fork, coldwater crayfish populations are in fairly good shape in the Eleven Point and Spring rivers. A few also were found in sections of the Strawberry River.

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Photo courtesy Dan Scheiman, Audubon Arkansas.

Photo courtesy Dan Scheiman, Audubon Arkansas.

 

A bird never before seen in Arkansas was found helpless near Oil Trough in Independence County. It was captured and taken to a rehabilitation center for treatment.

The crested caracara is a large raptor that lives in Mexico, southern Texas, Arizona, the southern tip of Florida, Cuba and South America. It is kind to vultures and feeds on carrion as well as some live small animals.

Dan Scheiman of the Arkansas Audubon Society said the bird found near Oil Trough is the first on record for Arkansas. It was on land of Craig Shirley.

Wildlife officer Roger Tate with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and volunteer birders were able to capture the crested caracara which appeared emaciated and with a possible eye injury. It was taken to Raptor Rehabilitation of Central Arkansas at El Paso for treatment.

crested caracara

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