North Carolina Outdoor Heritage Act

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission recently adopted a resolution supporting a bill that would promote wildlife-related recreation and youth involvement in outdoor activities across the state. Wildlife Commissioners took the action in support of House Bill 640, known as the Outdoor Heritage Act.

The resolution cites the importance of provisions in the bill that focus on private property rights, increased access to public land, additional hunting opportunities and promotion of a wide range of outdoor recreation, including horseback riding, hiking, bird watching, hunting, fishing and boating.

The provisions include creation of a trust fund to engage youth in outdoor activities. The fund would be made possible by $2 donations made during transactions with the Wildlife Commission, such as purchasing hunting and fishing licenses.

The bill would increase hunting opportunities on Sunday on private lands. Currently, only archery and falconry are allowed for hunting on Sunday on private lands. Hunting on Sunday on public lands is limited to military installations under federal jurisdiction.

The resolution states House Bill 640 aligns seamlessly with the goals of the Wildlife Commission’s Strategic Plan, particularly in regard to youth, access and expanded opportunity.

source: North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

North American Avian Flu Study

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 viruses of Eurasian origin continue to circulate and evolve in North American wild birds, according to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published in the journal Genome Announcements, the report summarizes a genetic analysis of a mixed-origin HPAI H5N1 avian flu virus.

The virus was discovered in a green-winged teal in Washington State that was sampled at the end of 2014. It is a mixed-origin virus containing genes from the Eurasian HPAI H5N8 and genes from North American low pathogenic avian influenza from wild birds. This H5N1 virus is different from the well-known Asian H5N1 HPAI virus that emerged in 1996.

The publication follows a recent article describing the introduction of Eurasian HPAI H5N8 into North America at the end of 2014 and the detection of a different mixed-origin virus (HPAI H5N2) in wild birds.

In March 2015, the HPAI H5N2 virus was detected in commercial turkey flocks in Minnesota, Missouri and Arkansas, in a backyard flock of mixed poultry in Kansas and in a wild bird in Wyoming.

The term ‘highly pathogenic’ refers to the ability of an avian influenza virus strain to produce disease in chickens. The population-level impact of these viruses on free-living wild bird species is currently unknown.

As with the parental Eurasian H5N8 virus, no human infections with this H5N1 virus have been detected. However, similar viruses have infected people in other countries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More information on avian influenza is available at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center website or the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service avian influenza page.

source: U.S. Geological Survey

Idaho Snow Goose Deaths

In March, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) reported that staff and volunteers collected the carcasses of approximately 2,000 migrating snow geese that appeared to have succumbed to avian cholera and died while stopping at Mud Lake and Market Lake Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs).

The carcasses were collected to be incinerated so that other predatory and scavenger birds do not ingest the deadly bacteria. Samples from the die-off were sent to the IDFG Wildlife Laboratory in order to definitively confirm avian cholera.

The carcasses of a small number of snow geese were first reported at Camas National Wildlife Refuge near Dubois, Idaho. Subsequent inspections by biologists indicated higher numbers of dead birds at the Mud Lake WMA Area near Terreton, Idaho and a lesser amount at Market Lake WMA near Roberts, Idaho.

The migratory birds were on the return leg of their migration from the southwestern United States and Mexico to their breeding grounds on the northern coast of Alaska. It is unknown at this time where the geese may have picked up the suspected bacteria. “Outbreaks of avian cholera have occurred sporadically in the region over the past few decades,” said Upper Snake Regional Supervisor Steve Schmidt.

According to Schmidt, “The important thing is to quickly collect as many of the carcasses as possible, to prevent other birds from feeding on the infected birds.” In the case of Mud Lake WMA, biologists observed about twenty eagles in the vicinity of some of the carcasses. Because of a delayed incubation period it is uncertain where these eagles might be located, if and when the avian cholera affects them.

IDFG urges the public to not handle dead birds because of the potential for unintentionally distributing the disease to other wildlife.

source: Idaho Department of Fish and Game

USFWS State Wildlife Grants

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced over $45 million in funding provided through the State Wildlife Grant (SWG) program.

The SWG program awards grants for projects that implement strategies to conserve priority species contained in approved State Wildlife Action Plans. All 50 states and territorial wildlife agencies have such plans, which collectively provide a nationwide blueprint for actions to conserve rare species, such as the monarch butterfly, for future generations.

Conserving these species through direct actions such as reintroduction and habitat enhancement can help prevent listing under the Endangered Species Act. Proactively conserving and restoring valued species helps local communities, agencies and taxpayers avoid potentially greater conservation costs when species become rare.

The grants are distributed through an apportionment formula in accordance with the Appropriations Act. These funds are allocated to states and territories based on population and geographic area.

Grant funds must be used to address conservation needs, such as research, wildlife surveys, species and habitat management, and monitoring, identified within a State’s Wildlife Action Plan. Funds may also be used to update, revise or modify a state’s plan.

For more information, visit: http://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/Subpages/GrantPrograms/SWG/SWG.htm.

source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

2015 Atlantic Midwinter Waterfowl Survey

In January of each year, with assistance from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Atlantic states from Maine to Florida conduct mid-winter waterfowl surveys of the Atlantic Flyway.

Results from state surveys are combined and used to help determine population trends of wintering waterfowl and their distribution. The mid-winter waterfowl survey is a nationwide effort to survey waterfowl in major winter concentration areas, and occurs in all 4 flyways.

Midwinter Waterfowl Survey Facts:

The survey counts waterfowl on open-water and coastal areas. Wooded habitats (beaver ponds and swamps) are not surveyed well.

The survey occurs only once per year in a relatively short time period.

Estimates can be inflated by icing which can force waterfowl out of small, isolated wetlands into larger water bodies.

2015 Midwinter Waterfowl Survey Highlights:

Maryland

During the course of the 2015 Maryland Midwinter Waterfowl Survey, research teams counted more than 855,500 waterfowl. The total was slightly lower than the 905,000 birds observed during 2014, but higher than the five year average of 757,000.

Two of Maryland’s most iconic ducks were present in large numbers. The total for redhead ducks (32,200) was the highest since the mid-1970s. The canvasback count (64,200) was one of the highest since the mid-1960s. Large numbers of wintering Canada geese (504,700) were also counted in Maryland.

Biologists attribute this year’s count to the fact large areas of the Bay’s tributaries were ice covered during the survey period, concentrating waterfowl where they were more easily counted.

West Virginia

Fewer ducks and geese were observed during the 2015 West Virginia mid-winter waterfowl survey compared to 2014. DNR wildlife biologists and wildlife managers completed the survey Jan. 8 and 9. Observers counted 7,844 ducks and 6,390 geese during the survey.

Ducks were down 11 percent and geese declined four percent from the previous survey. Duck numbers remain 87 percent above the 10-year average, however, and goose numbers are 20 percent above their long-term average.

Canada geese, mallards and American black ducks were the most common species seen, with lesser numbers of snow geese, buffleheads, redheads, goldeneyes, American widgeon, ruddy, ring-necked, canvasbacks, scaup, wood ducks, common mergansers, and hooded mergansers.

North Carolina

The 2015 North Carolina mid-winter waterfowl survey was conducted from January 6th – January 22nd. During the aerial survey, all waterfowl were counted in 38 discrete geographic units.

The survey covered all major water bodies from approximately Mackay Island to the New River. Several inland lakes as well as a portion of the Yadkin/Pee Dee River system were also surveyed.

When compared to the 2014 survey, nearly all duck species were counted at lower levels. However, 2014 counts were very high due to extremely cold weather and icing experienced during the 2013-14 fall/winter period.

Most species were well above their long-term average. Notable observations included large numbers of redheads in the Core Sound area and increasing numbers of tundra swans in Northampton, Halifax and Edgecombe counties. Gadwall populations were 445% above the long-term average. Ducks that were below average included mallards, black ducks, and canvasbacks.

Lake Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding private areas continues to be the core area for concentrations of dabbling ducks in North Carolina.

news, articles, photography, artwork, and more