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PRATT ó With Kansas annually ranking in the top three states in the nation for pheasant hunting, hunters often ask why this popular game bird cannot be found in southeast Kansas. Like all wildlife, pheasants need four things to survive: food, water, cover, and space. If these things are not present in the proper mix for an individual species, it will not thrive. But sometimes it can be more complicated than that.
"The most obvious reason pheasants don't occupy southeast Kansas is inadequate habitat caused by too many trees, too little high-quality nesting or brood-rearing habitat, intensive agriculture, and urbanization," says Jim Pitman, small game coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP). "These problems have worsened over the last 30 years in southeast Kansas and have also been detrimental to pheasants in other parts of the country. However, even before these problems intensified in southeast Kansas, pheasants were mostly absent. Some areas in southeast Kansas and other places outside the pheasant range seem to have suitable habitat, so habitat inadequacy probably isn't the sole explanation."
Pitman believes that soil-mineral deficiency may be another factor that influences pheasant distribution.
"Calcium, which is important for eggshell development and adult survival, may be deficient in non-range areas," he explains. "Soils in the central, northeast, and western portions of the state are naturally high in calcium. Southeast Kansas soils are naturally low in calcium. While the exact mechanism by which this may limit pheasant distribution is complicated and not entirely clear, mineral deficiencies may play a role in explaining why pheasants are absent."
Another possibility is higher spring temperatures and humidity in the southeast.
"Research has shown that egg hatchability declines with increasing temperature and humidity," say Pitman. "When the temperature holds at 85 degrees and humidity at 80 percent for extended periods, hatchability drops to around 40 percent. Southeast Kansas certainly has much higher springtime temperatures and humidity than parts of the state where pheasants are common."
So while food, water, cover, and space are critical for wildlife survival, other factors such as mineral deficiencies and weather have combined to prevent pheasants from establishing in southeast Kansas. But hunters need not worry; pheasant hunting should be excellent in other parts of the Sunflower State, and the winter of 2009-2010 promises many good days afield for the avid bird hunter.
2009 KDWP LAKE SAMPLING COMPLETE
PRATT ó To monitor the health of fisheries and help anglers find the best places to fish, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) fisheries biologists spend most of each fall sampling lakes throughout the state. In addition, the agency raises and stocks millions of fish throughout the state annually, providing anglers with special opportunities to catch a wide variety of species. Sampling lakes is the best way to determine what fish need to be stocked in which lakes, and fall is the best time to sample fish because itís the end of the growing season.
Although KDWP biologists can't sample every lake in the state every year, periodic sampling results are assembled to show trends and multi-year averages for some lakes. This information is posted online with the KDWP Fishing Forecast, available on the KDWP website (www.kdwp.state.ks.us) in January. In this way, lakes that have not been sampled the previous year still have valuable data to help anglers decide where to fish.
Across the state, 18 district fisheries biologists are responsible for 26 large reservoirs, 40 state fishing lakes, and more than 230 community lakes. KDWP biologists have completed the 2009 sampling and are in the process of compiling results. This data will be used for next year's stocking requests, recommendations for future length and creel limit regulations, other management recommendations, as well as the annual Fishing Forecast.
In September, fisheries biologists may use electroshocking for bass, and in October and November, gill-nets and traps are used to sample all sportfish. The nets are pulled onto a boat and the fish removed. Biologists then count, weigh, and measure each fish and record this information, taking care to get the fish back in the water quickly. Netting results are recorded on waterproof paper or a laptop computer.
With a laptop, biologists can enter data on the water, then enter it directly into the department's Aquatic Data Analysis System (ADAS) when they get back to the office, eliminating paperwork. ADAS also allows biologists to enter paper-recorded testing data into the system through a desktop computer. They can then compare results with past years' data, which lets them know the population dynamics of the lake tested and make management decisions, from stocking plans to length and creel limits.
Biologists also use Fisheries Analysis and Simulation Tools (FAST) software program, developed in conjunction with 20 other states. This computer application allows the field biologist to use data from the ADAS system and separate age and growth testing to predict what would happen if certain length or creel limits were imposed on a given lake. Tools such as this allow biologists to better manage fish populations and enhance angling opportunities.
Now that sampling is complete, anglers across Kansas can look forward to the 2010 Kansas Fishing Forecast, which will be available on the KDWP website, www.kdwp.state.ks.us, in early 2010.
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