Each week, former K-State Research and Extension wildlife specialist Charlie Lee joins Eric Atkinson, agriculture director for the K-State Radio Network, to discuss a wide variety of wildlife issues of interest to farmers, ranchers, hunters and wildlife enthusiasts of all kinds. Each feature is approximately 5-minutes in length.
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COYOTE SOCIAL BEHAVIOR– Coyote predation on livestock remains a perpetual concern for producers. Taking out an entire pack of coyotes is impractical, as is modifying their habitat to deter their predatory ways. The best avenue for damage control is by utilizing the social behavior of coyotes to one’s advantage.
PRAIRIE CHICKEN HABITAT– The results of a recent study conducted in south-central Kansas now have added relevance, in light of the proposed listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened or endangered species. Researchers evaluated how the use of the pasture management tactic called patch-burn grazing might actually improve the habitat for lesser prairie chicken -- and the results were highly encouraging.
WIND TURBINES AND WILDLIFE– As wind energy continues to grow, the interest in its impact on wildlife does likewise. There have been long-time concerns about bird and bat collisions with turbines, and significant losses have been documented. A new study explored the idea of shutting down turbines at designated times, to see if that helped to reduce these collisions.
FERAL HOG HUNTING– The feral hog population keeps growing in several regions of the country…less so in Kansas than elsewhere, where recreational hunting of wild pigs is prohibited. A new research review took a look at numerous studies of how hunting impacts feral hog behavior.
LESSER PRAIRIE CHICKEN LISTING– Following several years of assessment, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing that the lesser prairie chicken be listed as a threatened and endangered species. This upland bird resides in the grasslands of the Great Plains and is most numerous in Kansas. The proposal offers different sets of guidelines to be applied to the two segments of the lesser prairie chicken’s range.
DRONE DEER COUNTS– Whether for purposes of deer damage control or for managing a local deer population for hunting opportunities, having a reasonably accurate inventory of deer has value. According to new research, the capabilities of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, can be superior to other commonly-used methods.
POND AERATION OPTIONS– Here in the dog days of summer is when the merits of farm pond aeration are often most evident. That’s according to former K-State wildlife specialist Charlie Lee. He talks about why a landowner would want to look into aerating a pond, as well as the options for getting that done. It starts, he says, with a full evaluation of the state of the pond itself.
BENEFITS OF BATS– For years, wildlife experts have touted the natural insect control that common bats offer. Their consumption of mosquitos often comes to mind…but new research shows that bat populations can put a significant dent in one of the more prominent insect pest problems for corn producers.
PHEASANT NESTING COVER– Pheasant numbers in Kansas have been declining for a number of years. Contributing to that is a falloff in adequate nesting habitat for pheasants. Former K-State wildlife specialist Charlie Lee reviews a new study that documented the kinds of plant cover that pheasants prefer for their nesting sites…which is useful information for those looking to conserve this game bird.
BEAVER ECOLOGICAL BENEFITS– Landowners occasionally have a conflict with beavers and the damage they can inflict on trees and water structures. Often, control measures are necessary…but at the same time, the beaver’s contributions to the local ecosystem should be considered before acting.
HOG-NOSED SNAKES– They’re among the more interesting snake species found in Kansas, according to former Kansas State University wildlife specialist Charlie Lee…hog-nosed snakes. And there are two different lines of these found in the state. These are rather benign, and are in need of conservation.
PURPLE MARTIN HOUSING– For generations upon generations, people have made efforts to attract purple martins to their home settings. These birds consume large volumes of insect pests, and are a welcome addition to all kinds of locations. But their numbers are slowly declining, mostly because there are fewer man-made nesting structures available to them. A recent study out of Canada looked at the characteristics they prefer in their nesting sites, which is helpful information in encouraging more to establish purple martin houses.
OWL RODENT CONTROL– Using birds of prey for rodent control is hardly a new idea. But it gained attention in a recent research project in California, which evaluated the effectiveness of barn owls in controlling damaging rodents in vineyard settings. Former K-State wildlife specialist Charlie Lee says barn owls can be part of the solution for a rodent problem, but probably not the entire answer.
BOATING SAFETY GUIDELINES– Those spending time out on the water fishing this summer should always be mindful of safe watercraft operation. Unfortunately, mishaps occur far too often, as we’re reminded by former Kansas State University wildlife specialist Charlie Lee. This week, he goes over the standard boating safety practices that all should follow.
PRAIRIE DOGS AND GRAZING– The impact of prairie dog colonies on grazing areas is a much-studied area of interest. And new research out of South Dakota adds still more to that body of knowledge. This project focused on the quantity and quality of plant material consumed by cattle, and how prairie dog activity influenced both.
SAFER RODENTICIDE PRODUCT– A long-time control product for getting rid of rats is getting a second look. Norbormide has been around for decades, and is specific to rat control…it is essentially harmless to other off-target species. But its weakness lies in its lack of palatability…rats don’t like its taste, and therefore the level of control has been sub-par. Now, researchers are working to correct that, and the outlook is favorable.
OFF-TARGET RODENTICIDE STUDY– A new study has contributed more to the understanding of rodenticide use and its impact on non-target wildlife species. In this case, the researchers wanted to know which species tend to consume rodent carcasses containing rodenticide residue. So, what did they discover?
SNAKE REPELLANT TRIAL– Many, if not most, people prefer to keep a healthy distance from snakes…that’s why there’s such a great interest in snake repellant products. Often, those don’t work as well as folks would like. A new commercial product was recently put through an independent performance trial, and it shows some promise.
RATS AND CATS– A team of researchers in New York City set out on a study of a particular population of rats, hoping to gather information on rat behavior. As it turned out, a pack of feral cats was also residing at the study site, so the project leaders decided to take advantage of the situation, and measured cat predation tendencies on rats as well. However, the findings didn’t exactly endorse cats as a means of rat control.
RODENTICIDES AND EAGLES– Eagles…bald eagles, in particular…have made a remarkable comeback over the last decade or so. Still, there are concerns about things that can be detrimental to eagle populations. One of those was the basis of a recent study which looked at what happens when eagles consume a rodent which has consumed a rodenticide product…and how often that occurs.
THE CLIFF SWALLOW– Most people around Kansas are familiar with the barn swallow and its nature. It has a lesser-known cousin, which turns out to be a quite beneficial insect feeder. It’s called the cliff swallow, and it builds its ultra-durable nests around bridges and underpasses.
FARM POND BLUEGILL– Bluegill are a favored forage fish for stocking a farm pond…they support predatory sport fish like bass. The kind of bluegill makes a difference in how well bass and other species do in a pond.
PASTURE BURNING AND SNAKES– Prescribed burning is an essential management tool for pastureland in much of Kansas. Studies have been done on the impact of pasture burning on wildlife…one such research project, conducted in the Flint Hills region just outside of Manhattan, took a look at how the practice affects grassland snake activity post-burning.
INVASIVE SPECIES STUDY– It’s generally understood that invasive wildlife species—those which venture away from their native habitat—can cause problems to the point where they become costly economically. A new analysis set out to actually pin down those costs, and its findings could serve as a guide for addressing those invasive species problems more efficiently and effectively.
BLACK BEARS IN KANSAS– Kansas is not normally thought of as prime habitat for black bears. However, in recent years, there have been quite a few black bear sightings scattered around the state. And there’s a likely reason for that, according to former K-State wildlife specialist Charlie Lee…who adds that these bears generally pose very little threat to livestock.
PRAIRIE DOG STUDY– When conducting a field study of predation on prairie dog colonies, wildlife scientists discovered something fully unanticipated. They observed that a badger will prey aggressively on prairie dogs, at a rather stunning pace. This brings to light another possibility for biological control of prairie dog populations on rangeland.
BIRD REPELLANT TRIAL– Nuisance bird infestations are often a pain to deal with. Over time, people have tried various repellant products to rid themselves of unwanted bird roosts or other unfavorable activity. Recently, a specific commercial bird repellant product was evaluated for its efficacy.
DOMESTIC CAT STUDY– Domesticated cats that are allowed to roam outdoors often display their predatory nature. Wildlife losses to cat predation are substantial, and the impact on backyard bird populations is the most prolific. A new study may have uncovered a few measures for discouraging that kind of predation.
URBAN COYOTES AND FOXES– Red foxes have inhabited urban settings for several decades. More recently, coyotes have taken to urban areas in increasing numbers. This has raised questions about how these two carnivores get along in a shared habitat. A new study came up with unexpected findings.
GRASSLAND BIRD NESTING– Invasive woody species continue to become established in grassland areas. Compounding that problem from a wildlife standpoint is the impact on nesting grassland birds. According to the results of a new study out of Texas, that woody cover promotes predator activity. Those findings also directly apply to Kansas grasslands.
FARM POND WINTERKILL– Coming out of a cold winter, it’s not uncommon to see dead fish on farm ponds. There are several factors that contribute to this kind of fish winterkill. And, a lot of it has to do with the overall condition and ecological balance of a pond.
DEER FOOD PLOTS– Over the many years, longtime K-State wildlife specialist Charlie Lee has been frequently asked about preferred food plots for attracting deer. He says there’s no one stock answer to that question. But there is new information from a study out of Mississippi State University that does offer some guidance on which cool-season crop plots deer like to graze.
BIRD COLLISION STUDY– A new USDA Wildlife Services analysis illustrates the ongoing problem with bird-aircraft collisions. This study looked at 30 years of collision data to determine which bird species are most prone to colliding with planes in flight. This information could be beneficial as wildlife ecologists and others try to find a solution to this concern.
WOLF REINTRODUCTION STUDY– The coming reintroduction of wolves in parts of Colorado is casting a stronger light on research into the impacts of this form of wildlife management. One long-term study looked at how wolf reintroduction affected the population of another predatory species, mountain lions, as well as a primary prey species, elk -- and it showed some important things about wildlife movement.
FLEAS AND PRAIRIE DOGS– Certain flea infestations are more than just an irritant to prairie dog populations. They actually pose a major threat to prairie dogs, in that they can vector a deadly plague. And that, in turn, can disrupt an entire prairie ecosystem.
DEER ANTLER SHED– Buck antler sheds can tell a landowner quite a bit about the makeup and balance of their deer populations. Some use “antler traps” to collect antlers for this purpose. But there are numerous reasons why that’s not a good idea. Instead, landowners and hunters are encouraged to use trail cameras to gather that information.
WINTER ICE SAFETY– There’s a lot of winter left, allowing for ice to re-form on Kansas ponds and streams. Conducting hunting or fishing activities on thin ice too often results in tragedy, as a recent study highlights. K-State wildlife specialist Charlie Lee takes a look at that topic, offering guidelines on ice thickness that everyone should know.