(Updated October 2, 2015)
2015 Waterfowl Seasons Announced and Elk Drawing Winners Announced
The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the 2015-16 late waterfowl hunting seasons. In addition, the participants in Tennessee's 2015 elk hunt were announced.
The statewide duck season will be similar to the 2014-15 season. The statewide season opens the weekend after Thanksgiving (Nov. 28-29) for two days and resumes Dec. 5-Jan. 31, 2016. The Reelfoot Zone season opens Nov. 14-15 for two days and will resume Dec. 5-Jan. 31.
The third year of the three-year experimental sandhill crane season will be held this year. The sandhill season permit handheld drawing will be held Oct. 3 at the Birchwood Community Center. The sandhill crane season follows the statewide duck season with the exception of closing on Jan. 1, 2016.
A free permit is now required to participate in the Light Goose Conservation season held from Feb. 14-March 10, 2016. New methods and provisions will be listed on the TWRA website this winter as well as instructions on how to obtain free permits.
Tennessee and other states select their individual waterfowl seasons from within the federal frameworks that establish the earliest beginning and latest ending dates and the maximum season length and bag limits. According to the USFWS's 2015 Waterfowl Population Status Report, population estimates for most species of ducks remained strong for this breeding season. The USFWS announced earlier that the cost of Federal Duck Stamp will increase from $15 to $25.
The waterfowl hunting frameworks are set using annual results of cooperative population surveys, banding programs and harvest surveys that produce the largest data set on any wildlife species group in the world. They guide the service's waterfowl conservation programs and provide hunting opportunities while ensuring the long-term health of waterfowl populations.
The winners of the drawing for the 2015 Tennessee elk hunt were announced during Thursday's committee meeting. This included the four main drawing winners, the youth elk hunt tag winner, and the winner of the tag auctioned by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation.
Four of the sportsmen were winners selected in a computer drawing conducted by the TWRA. The four Tennessee residents selected were Trevor Childs (Knoxville), Roy Bivens (Tellico Plains), Andrew Coffey (Crossville), and Forest Landers (Afton). Chuck Yoest of the TWRA Wildlife and Forestry Division made the announcement of this year's participants.
The fifth permit was donated to a Non-Governmental Organization which was the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation. The permit was auctioned on eBay in July. Nicholas Nelson, from Fayetteville, N.C., had the high bid of $11,101 and increase from the 2014 successful bid of $9,788. Fund-raising proceeds raised from the bid are designated for the TWRA Elk Program. Jacob Parker, a 15-year old from Sparta, was selected for the youth hunt.
The commission also passed the agency's 2016-17 budget recommendations.
Mississippi Announces Record Gator Season
The 2015 Mississippi public water alligator hunting season closed on September 7; the private lands hunting season remains open until 6 a.m. on September 21. To increase participation among permitted hunters this year, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) changed the sale of public water alligator hunting permits to a first come, first served process. In 2013 and 2014, only 75 percent of eligible permit holders participated, with a harvest of 671 and 682 alligators, respectively. Preliminary harvest reports and surveys submitted for 2015 indicate a record harvest of over 960 alligators and over 90 percent participation among permitted hunters.
The online sale of public water permits was conducted on July 14 with a high volume of customers competing for one of the 920 available permits. When the permit sale goal was met, number of electronic bank transactions were still in process. This resulted in extra permits sold. After careful evaluation, the MDWFP determined that the extra permits would not negatively impact Mississippi's alligator population and decided to honor all permits that were sold.
MDWFP attributes this year's record harvest to increased hunter experience and their knowledge of good hunting areas. In addition, weather conditions were exceptionally conducive to hunting, and the moon phase became more favorable in the final days of the season.
Mountain Lion Investigation Ends
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife law enforcement officials are ending their active investigation into the circumstances surrounding the appearance last December of a 125-pound mountain lion on a Bourbon County farm.
"We've exhausted all our leads," said Major Shane Carrier. "We have conducted our investigation and worked jointly with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officers to determine how this animal arrived in Kentucky. At this time, we are unable to definitely say who brought the lion into the state."
Kentucky state law prohibits persons from possessing inherently dangerous animals, such as mountain lions, or bringing them into the state without proper transportation permits.
On Dec. 15, 2014, a conservation officer responding to a complaint found the approximately 5-year-old male mountain lion treed by a homeowner's Rhodesian ridgeback dog in a populated area about two miles northeast of Paris shortly before dark. While en route, the officer consulted with a wildlife biologist and learned tranquilizing was not a viable or an available option. Due to overwhelming public safety concerns, the officer shot the lion, which then leaped and disappeared into the underbrush. When backup officers arrived shortly thereafter, they searched in the dark and found it dead in the brush nearby.
Mountain lions, apex predators once native to Kentucky, were extirpated from the state more than 150 years ago. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared the eastern mountain lion to be extinct. "These facts figured heavily in our decision to euthanize the lion when we encountered it," said Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Biologist Steven Dobey. "A released or escaped captive lion that has lost its fear of humans is a much greater threat to public safety than a truly wild, free-ranging lion."
Necropsy results and tooth-aging analyses indicate the lion was a 5-year-old male, 125 pounds, and in good physical condition and health. DNA analyses link the genetic origin of the lion to a population in the Black Hills of South Dakota, more than 1,100 miles northwest of Paris, Kentucky. A few mountain lions in western states have moved eastward, but neither law enforcement investigators nor wildlife biologists found any evidence that suggests this mountain lion made its way to Kentucky on its own.
Fish and Wildlife Deputy Commissioner and Wildlife Biologist Dr. Karen Waldrop agreed. "There is no evidence supporting this animal traveled that distance on its own, or even spent any length of time on the ground here. This was either a released or escaped captive lion.
"Lions that become associated with people are extremely dangerous," she said. "They cannot be released. Sometimes well-meaning people do not realize that keeping wild animals almost always means condemning them to an early demise."
Waterfowl Seasons and a Possible Spinning Wing Decoy Ban Announced
Arkansas's duck season will again cover 60 days. It's the 19th consecutive year the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has approved a 60-day hunting season for waterfowl. The vote came last week during the Commission's monthly meeting.
Naylor noted that Arkansas again had the highest mallard harvest in the nation with just over 530,000 mallards harvested in the 2014-15 season. The next highest mallard harvest in the nation was in Missouri with just over 254,800. No other state in the Mississippi Flyway harvested over 200,000 mallards. During the 2013-14 waterfowl season, Arkansas hunters harvested almost 423,000 mallards.
2015-16 Duck Season Dates
Nov. 21 – Nov. 29
Dec. 10 – Dec. 23
Dec. 26 – Jan. 31
Youth Hunt: Dec. 5 and Feb. 6
Northwest Canada goose zone season
Statewide Canada goose season
Sept. 1-15, Nov. 18-Dec. 4 and Dec. 6-Jan. 31
White-fronted, snow, blue and Ross's goose seasons
Nov. 18-Dec. 4 and Dec. 6-Jan. 31 (daily bag limit increased from two to three)
Light goose conservation order
Oct. 10-Nov. 17, Feb. 1-5 and Feb. 7-April 25
The 2015-16 duck bag limits are six ducks consisting of six ducks consisting of: no more than: four mallards (two hens), three wood ducks, two pintails, two redheads, one black duck, two canvasbacks, one mottled duck or three scaup.
The Commission also heard a proposal to ban simulated wing movement decoys on Bayou Meto and Dave Donaldson Black River wildlife management areas. If approved, the ban would be in effect from the first day of regular duck season to the last day of the last segment of the regular duck season. The commission will vote on the proposed ban at its Sept. 24 meeting. Send comments on the proposed ban to AskAGFC@agfc.ar.gov