Waterfowl and wolves today’s topics
G. Sam Piatt
PDT Outdoors Writer
The coming of September means the going of summer.
And, in a way, to me that’s sad. I enjoy summer and its many activities, such as going to the paper box barefooted at 5:30 in the morning to get the newspaper, though I must watch the gravel right there where my driveway meets the pavement of the street.
But, in another way, the many outdoor pursuits that fall has to offer make saying good-bye to summer less difficult, even though I must put on my shoes.
Fall reminds me of my first day of college, when everything I dreamed of becoming seemed doable.
And then there’s the quickening of nature and its creatures as preparations for harsh winter are made.
Soon, down from the North come ducks and geese on the wing, looking for open water and fat fields of grain. Geese fly high in their “V” formations, honking like they’re driving down Fifth Avenue on a Friday quitting time.
There are those among us who live for the coming of waterfowl seasons. It’s traditional, this shotgunning sport handed down from one generation to the next.
They rise while it’s still dark. They’re in the blind, decoys set, watching the sun rise over the water, calling, restraining their retrievers as the ducks look down and consider their decision.
In Kentucky, which has an estimated 20,000 waterfowl hunters, they don’t have long to wait. The goose season opens Sept. 1 and runs through Sept. 15. The bag limit is three per day, one more than was allowed last year.
In the years of the two-bird bag limit, hunters in Kentucky took between 4,000 and 5,000 Canada geese during this early season, Rocky Pritchert, migratory bird program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, reported in an interview with Art Lander Jr., a staff writer with the department’s Kentucky Afield magazine.
These are mostly home geese, raised in rural areas of the state and flying short distances in search of food. There’s no severe weather during the first half of September to push these local birds farther south or bring birds to Kentucky from states to the north.
This summer, Pritchert said, volunteers working with wildlife biologists banded 1,503 Canada geese on waterways from Cave Run Lake to Paducah. This is done to gather information on how to better manage the goose population.
Hunters who take waterfowl with one of the metal bands on a leg are asked to report their band numbers by calling 1-800-327-BAND.
Pritchert said nearly all of the September season’s band recoveries and about 70 percent of the band recoveries during the traditional November through January regular season harvest are composed of locally banded geese.
Which means the Canada geese have gotten too lazy to fly north in the spring as their forefathers did. They just settle down right where they are.
Kentucky;s five-day early wood duck and teal season opens Sept. 18 and runs through Sept. 22. The daily bag limit is four ducks, but no more than two may be wood ducks.
“There’s a lot of wood ducks this year and wetlands have recovered from last year’s drought,” Pritchert said.
The wood ducks are local, too. They nest statewide, on streams, rivers and the shallow embayments of large reservoirs, especially those with flooded timber.
Hunters participating in Kentucky’s early waterfowl seasons must have a valid hunting license and a Kentucky waterfowl hunter permit and, for those over 15, a federal duck stamp. Only nontoxic shot may be used to hunt waterfowl.
Kentucky and Tennessee are the only states in the Mississippi Flyway to have an early wood duck season.
WOLVES IN KENTUCKY?
Yes. Well, at least one for sure. But was he raised and escaped, or did he make the long migration from northern climes such as Michigan’s Upper Peninsula or Wisconsin?
Federal officials just recently confirmed that an animal taken by a hunter in Hart County way back on March 16 is a gray wolf.
The wolf weighed 73 pounds, twice as much as a coyote. James Troyer, 31, took the animal with a shot at daybreak from 100 yards away while predator hunting on his family’s farm. He had taken a coyote just two weeks earlier and thought this was a coyote.
But when he approached the downed animal he noticed it was much larger than a coyote.
“I was like – wow! – that thing was big!” he said. “It looked like a wolf, but who’s gong to believe I shot a wolf?”
A free-ranging wolf had not been seen in Kentucky for more than 150 years, so biologists were skeptical at first.
Troyer convinced Kevin Raymond, a wildlife biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, to look at the animal. After seeing the size of the critter, Raymond contacted furbearer biologist Laura Patton, who submitted samples to federal officials for DNA testing.
It was sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Research Center in Colorado. There, a DNA analysis determined the animal was indeed a federally endangered gray wolf. Its genetic makeup resembled wolves native to the Great Lakes Region.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Oregon confirmed the finding.
They still don’t know how it made its way into Kentucky.
They do know that a few radio-collared northern wolves have wandered as far south as Missouri during the past 10 years.
No charges were brought against Troyer for killing the wolf, since there were no expectations for any hunter to encounter a wolf in Kentucky.
Federal officials took possession of the pelt.
G. Sam Piatt can be reached at 606-932-3619 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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