Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Great Backyard Bird Count

LITTLE ROCK – Join birders across the country Feb. 16-19, 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.

First Case of Chronic Wasting Disease Discovered in Mississippi

VICKSBURG – A tissue sample collected Jan. 25 from a free-ranging white-tailed deer in extreme southern Issaquena County, Mississippi, returned the first known positive test of chronic wasting disease in the state.

The 4½-year-old buck died about 8 miles north of Vicksburg and was reported to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. The buck was found about 45 miles south-southeast of the southeastern corner of Arkansas.

According to a Feb. 9 press release, MDWFP implemented its CWD response plan, although the release did not go into detail about specific steps. Supplemental deer feeding was immediately banned in Claiborne, Hinds, Issaquena, Sharkey, Warren and Yazoo counties.

Issaquena County is across the Mississippi River from East Carroll Parish in Louisiana. Issaquena County, East Carroll Parish and Arkansas’s Chicot County meet in the southeastern corner of Arkansas and the northeastern corner of Louisiana. The northern boundary of Issaquena County is almost directly across the Mississippi River from the Arkansas-Louisiana state line.

Cory Gray, chief of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Research Education and Compliance Division, says biologists from Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana are already planning to meet and discuss future actions so each state can be on the same page.

“The discovery came at a difficult time to gather samples, as hunting season is nearly over in Arkansas with only a few bowhunters still looking for a deer,” Gray said. “We are reaching out to hunting clubs in the southeast corner of the state to keep a sharp eye out for any deer showing signs of CWD and to report it immediately.”

Gray says the AGFC plans to collect more hunter-harvested samples from the southeast corner of the state during the 2018-19 deer season. Other samples will come from target animals from public reports and roadkills.

“We are about to enter another season of collecting roadkill samples, and have already spoken to local biologists to increase that effort as much as possible,” Gray said. “From February 19 through April 1, we ask anyone seeing a road-killed deer to report it to our hotline at 1-800-482-9262. Anyone seeing any deer that shows signs of CWD should be reported to the same number immediately, day or night.”

For details about CWD developments in Mississippi, visit

For information about CWD in Arkansas, visit

Extra step in boat registration helps prevent fraud, theft

           LITTLE ROCK – Renewing the registration for your boat or registering your boat for the first time now includes an extra step, one that’s intended to prevent fraud or theft.

The 90th General Assembly of Arkansas passed Act 694 in 2015 to comply with federal regulations mandated by the U.S. Coast Guard. The law requires all boats registered in Arkansas to have verified proof of a valid hull identification number. Verification may be a legible pencil rubbing or a legible printed photograph of the number. The law was given an effective date of Jan. 1, 2017, to allow the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration time to mail a letter explaining the process with all renewal notices issued.

The purpose of a boat’s HIN is identical to the vehicle identification number on cars and trucks – both mark the vehicle or vessel with a unique number that can help prevent fraud and theft. Unfortunately, a standardized system was not in place in Arkansas to collect these numbers, hindering that purpose.

“We have roughly 200,000 registered boats in Arkansas,” said Capt. Stephanie Weatherington, boating law administrator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “When the DFA did a search in their database before the law went into effect, nearly 116,000 of those boats had either missing or incorrect HINs.”

Weatherington has received many calls about the specifics of the law, including the seemingly outdated “pencil rubbing or printed photograph” requirement. With modern technology why wouldn’t showing a digital copy work?

“The physical image or rubbing is supposed to be attached to the file at the DFA,” Weatherington said.

Owners of boats that do not have an HIN should contact Weatherington to work through the process of getting a new one issued. Using the boat’s make and year, she can track down the manufacturer and get a new number issued. If it is a homemade boat, she can issue a HIN after proper proof of construction.

“If it’s a remodel of an old hull, it still has to be looked up by that manufacturer, but in the rare case that it was built from the ground up by hand there are added requirements to issue the HIN,” Weatherington said. “According to Coast Guard regulations, invoices of materials used and photographs of the construction must be supplied for a homemade vessel.”

Weatherington warns that in some rare cases, a new HIN cannot be given because the vessel’s origin cannot be determined. This means that a new boat owner cannot register the boat.

“Two major things to look for when buying a boat are to make sure that HIN is on the outside of the back of the boat, right of the motor, and that the seller can give you a copy of their registration,” Weatherington said. “If those two requirements can’t be met, buyer beware.”

Contact Weatherington with any questions regarding boat registration in Arkansas, 501-223-6379.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Final Youth Hunt Set for Saturday

The second of Arkansas's two Youth Hunts for waterfowl will be Saturday, Feb. 3. The regular waterfowl season ended Sunday, Jan. 28, but youths 15 and under may harvest ducks, geese, coots and mergansers Saturday as long as they are accompanied by a mentor.
Youths who have completed a hunter education course must be accompanied by a mentor 18 or older. Youths who have not completed a hunter education course must be accompanied by a mentor 21 or older. Mentors may not hunt, but may call waterfowl. Shooting hours and bag limits are the same as the regular duck and goose seasons. Youth hunters can hunt on wildlife management areas 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset. General WMA hunter use permits are not required for youth hunters.

Build a home for bluebirds

           LITTLE ROCK – Join the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center at 1 p.m., Feb. 4, and learn how you can bring some of the most colorful cast members of the outdoors to your backyard.

            Neil Curry, nature center manager for the AGFC will lead the workshop and offer some of the insights he’s learned in his 40 years teaching people about the outdoors. He says learning a little about what makes a bluebird tick is the key to getting them to come to your home.

            “Some people will put up a birdhouse but never get a bluebird because they don’t have the right type of habitat near the house,” Curry said. “We’ll go over the species we have in Arkansas, where you find them, what they eat and all their basic biology. We’ll also cover things people can do to increase bluebird habitat, like leaving low branches on trees and planting certain types of plants.”

            Of course, one of the most popular activities in attracting bluebirds is building and placing houses for them to nest in, and workshop participants will have the opportunity to build a bluebird box they can bring home with them for free.

Curry says that just as with other cavity nesters, bluebirds can definitely benefit from a little help offered by people.

            “Rotted stumps and wooden fence posts that used to be available have been cleared from the landscape and replaced by metal fencing,” Curry said. “Even that single change can make a difference in available habitat for the bluebird.”

            Participants will learn types of birdhouses that benefit bluebirds and some of the most common mistakes people make when setting up a house.

            “A lot of people think a birdhouse is supposed to have a perch on it because that’s what they see in drawings, but you don’t want that with a bluebird house,” Curry said. “They don’t need a perch and it will increase the chances of invasive English sparrows taking over the house.”

            Attracting bluebirds offers additional benefits to homeowners. Many people find it exciting to follow along as they nest, lay eggs and hatch chicks. Other people like having these natural-born insect eaters around to help with pest control near their gardens instead of insecticides.       

            All materials to build bluebird boxes will be provided, and instructors will help people one-on-one if needed to complete their project. They will also share some tips to get the birds started using the boxes.

            “Last year we had one participant in the workshop call us and tell us they had bluebirds investigating their box within two days of setting it up,” Curry said. “They ended up getting to watch the bluebirds raise two broods of chicks that summer from the house they built at the nature center.”

The class is free, but registration is required and participation is limited, so register today. If the class is full, Curry says interested people can still come by the center for free birdhouse plans and tips to get started attracting these colorful characters to their land. Call 501-907-0636 to register.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

2018 Pink Tomato Trap Shoot

The 2018 Pink Tomato Trap Shoot is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 17th.  The competition will be held at the Warren Shooting Complex located at 323 Bradley 38 off Highway 63 south of Warren. 

Two man teams may register at the Bradley County Chamber of Commerce or by contacting Seth Jolley, Trap Shoot chairman.  Registration for the competition is $80.00 per team and will include 2 rounds of trap.

The teams will be divided into two divisions, 16 years and older and 15 years and under.  Prizes will be awarded in each group.  First place winners in the 16 and older division will receive $500.00 and a trophy, second place team will receive $120.00 and $80.00 will go to the third place team.  In the 15 and under division, the winning team will receive $100.00 and a trophy with $80.00 going to 2nd  place team and $60 going to 3rd place team.  In the event of a tie, a shoot-off will be held. 

Teams may bring shells or buy at the range (12 & 20) for $8.50 per box.
Food will be available for purchase on site at noon on the day of the Shoot.

Contact the Bradley County Chamber at 870-226-5225 or Seth Jolley at 870-820-0410 for more information. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Commission allows carry of handguns for personal protection on WMAs

           LITTE ROCK – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission approved a regulation change today which will allow people to openly carry a handgun for personal protection while on any wildlife management area or Commission-controlled property or lake.

            Previously, only people with valid concealed carry permits could possess handguns while on a wildlife management area, unless there was a hunting season in which the handgun would be legal. Concealed carry permit holders may still carry a concealed handgun, and anyone legally possessing a handgun (as defined by Ark. Code Ann. §5-73-120) on Commission-owned or -controlled property or while hunting, fishing or trapping on private property as long as it is: (1) for personal protection and either is not employed for hunting or is a legal killing device for a hunting season that is open, and (2) the handgun is otherwise lawfully possessed.

            “This clarification was the result of enforcement and wildlife management staff listening to concerned citizens and working to benefit all parties,” said Col. Greg Rae, chief of the AGFC Enforcement Division.

In other business, the Commission: