W.Va. DNR to announce elk stocking effort Sept. 11

August 28, 2015 by John McCoy
(National Park Service photo) Once West Virginia gets its elk-stocking program started, large bulls like this might become commonplace sightings in the state's southwestern coalfields.

(National Park Service photo)
Once West Virginia gets its elk-stocking program started, large bulls like this might become commonplace sightings in the state’s southwestern coalfields.

West Virginia’s Division of Natural Resources and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation apparently have finalized plans for the state’s elk restoration (read: stocking) plan.

They’ve sent out invitations to government and media types for a Sept. 11 shindig at the Chief Logan Conference Center, at which a formal announcement will be made. According to the invitation, the creation of a new wildlife management area will also be announced. My guess is that the new area will be rather large. Elk are big critters that require lots of room, and if the new area will be used to launch the elk-stocking program, it stands to reason that the area would be several thousand acres in size.

An announcement also would seem to indicate that DNR officials have found a source for the elk they plan to import. That’s interesting, because Kentucky — the most likely source — is currently sending its surplus elk to Wisconsin. There had been talk of asking Kentucky’s Fish and Wildlife Commission to allocate some animals to West Virginia, and perhaps that’s what has happened.

I guess we’ll all find out on the evening of Sept. 11.

 

Rare W.Va. crayfish found in another stream

August 27, 2015 by John McCoy
(Photo courtesy Zach Loughman)

(Photo courtesy Zac Loughman)

From the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

A West Liberty University researcher conducting crayfish surveys for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has discovered a new location where Guyandotte River crayfish live within that species’ historical range in Wyoming County, West Virginia. The researcher located the crayfish in the Clear Fork watershed and reconfirmed the species in its presumed last known location in Pinnacle Creek. However, the species was not found at any other historical locations in the Upper Guyandotte River basin.

The researcher, Zac Loughman of West Liberty University, rediscovered Guyandotte River  crayfish in 2009. Up until then, biologists believed the species had gone extinct. The Fish and Wildlife Service funded further surveys this summer to firm up the picture as to whether rare crustacean should be placed on the Endangered Species List.

Finding the crayfish in two locations removes a little of the pressure to put it on the list, but only a little. Under the law, Fish and Wildlife Service officials have until next April to make their decision. If the crayfish qualifies for endangered or threatened status (either of which seems likely), the service will have to identify its critical habitat and put in place measures to protect that habitat from being degraded.

That could place additional restrictions on coal and timber operators in the Pinnacle Creek and Clear Creek watersheds. Fish and Wildlife Service officials have already identified sedimentation from “fossil energy development, road construction and forestry operations” as the primary threat to the species’ continued survival.

California’s ‘lone wolf’ has a family

August 21, 2015 by John McCoy
(Photo courtesy California Department of Fish & Wildlife)  One of the photos released Aug. 20 by California officials shows wolf pups roaming about the countryside not far from Mt. Shasta.

(Photo courtesy California Department of Fish & Wildlife) One of the photos released Aug. 20 by California officials shows wolf pups roaming about the countryside not far from Mt. Shasta.

Trail cameras deployed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have confirmed the presence of a wolf pack in northern California.

A lone male wolf had been observed in the region earlier in the year, and biologists put out trail cameras to try to gather more evidence on its comings and goings. On Thursday, DF&W officials announced they had photos of the wolf, its mate and five pups.

The “Shasta Pack,” so named because their proximity to Mt. Shasta, has wildlife officials and conservationists all a-twitter. Biologists believe the predators are the descendants of wolves originally stocked in Idaho. The Idaho pack eventually spread into Oregon, and from there apparently into California.

Now that’s what I call a nose job!

August 17, 2015 by John McCoy
In this hand out photo supplied by Saving The Survivors, a rhino recovers in an enclosure after being treated by Dr. Johan Marais, an equine and wildlife surgeon, at the Pongola Game Reserve South Africa Friday Aug. 14, 2015. Veterinarians have treated the injured rhino, whose face was mutilated by poachers, by fitting it with a bandage made of elephant hide obtained from a taxidermist  (Johan Marais/  Saving-The-Survivors via AP)

In this hand out photo supplied by Saving The Survivors, a rhino recovers in an enclosure after being treated by Dr. Johan Marais, an equine and wildlife surgeon, at the Pongola Game Reserve South Africa Friday Aug. 14, 2015. Veterinarians have treated the injured rhino, whose face was mutilated by poachers, by fitting it with a bandage made of elephant hide obtained from a taxidermist (Johan Marais/ Saving-The-Survivors via AP)

Wow. Talk about your marvels of modern veterinary science! From the Associated Press:

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Veterinarians in South Africa have treated an injured rhino whose face was mutilated by poachers last week by fitting it with a bandage made of elephant leather.
Dr. Johan Marais, an equine and wildlife surgeon at the University of Pretoria, said Friday that he is experimenting with the elephant skin cover because plastic or fiberglass shields have proven too rigid to fit the contours of an injured rhino’s face.
“We’re looking for a material that’s strong, lightweight but pliable,” Marais said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
Marais, who got the elephant leather from a taxidermist, said it was “ironic” to use a part from one threatened species to treat an animal from another threatened species.
Marais belongs to Saving the Survivors, a group that treats rhinos with poaching injuries. Group spokeswoman Suzanne Boswell Rudham said the hide bandage was obtained by “ethical” means from a dead elephant that had not been poached or shot.
The 12-year-old female rhino with the elephant skin bandage was shot Aug. 5 in Pongola wildlife park in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province and poachers cut off one horn after the rhino collapsed, according to Saving the Survivors.
The poachers apparently fled before cutting the second horn, possibly because the rhino got to its feet. They killed the rhino’s 5-year-old calf and removed its horns.
Marais previously considered a shield made from the leather of a kudu antelope (not strong enough) or a hippo hide (too thick). He installed the elephant skin bandage with steel sutures Monday and hopes it will last four to five weeks until a new bandage is needed.
Marais said he is also considering an elephant hide shield for a rhino named Hope, which survived a similar poaching attack in May.

Florida officials want relief from federal panther oversight

August 15, 2015 by John McCoy
Road-killed panthers have become more frequent as the cats' population has climbed from a low of 30 to approximately 180 animals.

Road-killed panthers have become more frequent as the cats’ population has climbed from a low of 30 to approximately 180 animals.

There aren’t many Florida panthers roaming the swamps and scrub lands of the Sunshine State, but apparently there are enough that state wildlife officials think they’re due some relief from federal oversight. From the Associated Press:

ORLANDO (AP) – Florida wildlife officials say the growth of Florida’s panther population in the past two decades should be enough for its designation as endangered to be reconsidered.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said in a draft position paper released today that federal officials should rethink the criteria they’ve set for Florida officials about what it will take to get the panther off the federal Endangered Species list. Florida officials say some of those goals are impossible to reach, such as adding populations of panthers outside southwest Florida.
Florida wildlife officials say Florida’s panther population has been growing during the past 20 years and stands at around 180 adults.
The Florida panther was listed as endangered in 1967 when the population was as low as 30 animals.

Drones cause stress to wildlife, study says

August 13, 2015 by John McCoy
A study performed on black bears shows that their heart rates increase when drones fly nearby. Maybe when Amazon starts delivering via drone, they'll change their minds.

A study performed on black bears shows that their heart rates increase when drones fly nearby. Maybe when Amazon starts delivering via drone, they’ll change their minds.

A new study in the journal Current Biology says that people who buzz wildlife with drones might very well cause stress to the animals, even though the critters being buzzed might not show overt signs of being agitated.

Scientists who conducted the study monitored the heart rates of black bears as a drone flew near the bears. Though the animals appeared impassive, their heart rates spiked whenever the drones approached.

On a related note, not all animals are content to sit (or fly) idly by when a drone approaches. In Australia, a wedge-tailed eagle became a You Tube sensation when it attacked a flying drone and knocked the contraption plumb out of the sky.

Apparently drones irk wildlife as much as they do some people.

A new beginning…

August 13, 2015 by John McCoy

Hi, Folks!

Just a quick note to announce the re-launch of the Gazette-Mail’s Woods & Waters Blog! Tune in regularly to catch my posts on hunting-, fishing- and nature-related stories here in West Virginia and beyond!

The blog is just one of the ways we folks here at the Gazette-Mail are planning to enhance your enjoyment of our outdoors coverage. Look for my tweets on Twitter, too, and don’t be surprised if you see some outdoors video pop up from time to time on the Gazette-Mail website!

All the best,
John

Braxton County’s weird-eared deer

January 2, 2014 by John McCoy
The ear-tufted deer, as seen in Braxton County. (Photo by Bob Dawson)

The ear-tufted deer, as seen in Braxton County. (Photo by Bob Dawson)

I guess it’s possible to see just about anything in nature, even a white-tailed deer with long tufts of hair growing out from its ears.

Reader Bob Dawson sent in the accompanying photo, which he took when he saw the deer in his back yard near the Gilmer County line. Dawson said he sent the photo to a Division of Natural Resources biologist who told him he’d never seen anything quite like it. The biologist suspected the deer might have some piebald (white-splotched deer) genes. Dawson acknowledged there is at least one piebald deer in his area, but added that the piebald is too young to have borne the whitetail with the ear tufts. He believes the pictured animal survived the recent hunting season.

 

 

 

Bad weather is putting W.Va. deer hunters behind

December 9, 2013 by John McCoy
Mountain State hunters are 'weathering' a poor whitetail season

Mountain State hunters are ‘weathering’ a poor whitetail season

By now, West Virginia’s deer hunters must be shaking their heads.

Weather for the state’s whitetail seasons has hovered somewhere between rotten and atrocious. Wildlife officials haven’t yet collected and counted game-check tags, but when they do, expect the tally to turn out equally rotten and atrocious.

Paul Johansen, assistant wildlife chief for the Division of Natural Resources, said heavy rains on the second day of the buck firearm season and snow on the third day has hunters playing catch-up.

“The first three days of the season are historically when the bulk of the buck and antlerless-deer harvests take place,” he said. “We had nice weather on opening day, but after that it got bad in a hurry.”

Many hunters head home after three days to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families. After that, weather on the season’s two Saturdays usually determines how many more deer get killed. This year’s weather was far from good enough to bring hunters out in droves.

And now the muzzleloader season has started with snow on the ground, rain in the air, flooding in rivers and streams, and more snow on the way.

Can’t a hunter catch a break around here?

OK, this is just plain funny!

October 14, 2013 by John McCoy
Hoops, anyone? Photo credit: Andy Kovac

Hoops, anyone? Photo credit: Andy Kovac

Here in West Virginia, we often talk of white-tailed bucks that have “basket” racks of antlers.

In Bethel Park, Pa., a fellow named Andy Kovac spotted a basket-racked buck that had a basketball stuck in its basket! Kovac grabbed his camera and snapped a photo of the would-be point guard. Uh, let’s make that a “six-point” guard.

Here’s the story, from KDKA-TV.

Hat tip: J.R. Absher in The Outdoor Pressroom.