El Dorado Wildlife Area News
Are Our Outdoor Traditions Being Threatened by Exotic Species?
Imagine if you will, the excitement of a young angler being dashed as his efforts to pitch a bait into a favored locale go unnoticed. Or imagine if you will, a seasoned hunter, traversing across familiar habitats that in years past produced abundant game. Recent outings however have yielded little. All of us in the outdoor fraternity experience outings that bear less fruit. The harvest of fish and game should not always be the purpose for our time outdoors, but occasionally productive trips afield are needed by most of us to further our interest. Why, in the examples above, did these individuals conclude their day in our outdoors with an empty bag or creel? Public opinions to address the answer to such a question vary widely and often stimulate lively debate. One possible explanation that has garnered the attention of natural resource professionals, sportsmen, and the media, is the threat posed by exotic species.
Biologists recognize that modern declines of wildlife populations are often attributed to changes in habitat, and that many habitats, including those around us, are under siege by exotic species. Exotic species often become dominant within an area. They can out-compete native species for food or space and can reduce biological diversity or the assemblage of plants and animals within our native habitats. Exotic species such as zebra mussels (mollusk), asian carp (fish), white perch (fish), Eurasian watermilfoil (plant), sericea lespedeza (plant), purple loosestrife (plant), and emerald ash borer (insect), threaten to alter aquatic, grassland, wetland, and woodland habitats of which our wildlife species depend, including those species sought by anglers and hunters in Kansas.
Have you heard of these species? How is it that they can impact our outdoor traditions such as angling and hunting? Many of these species originated on other continents. Within their “home” environments they have natural controls such as disease, predation, and competition to keep them in check. When exposed to new environments where these controls do not exist, populations have the potential to expand rapidly, choking out other native species, offering less food and cover choices for other wildlife. Zebra mussels, asian carp, and white perch threaten to out-compete native fish within our states waters impacting recreationists and industry reliant on their activities. Plant species such as Eurasian watermilfoil forms thick, dense mats within aquatic systems threatening water recreation and aquatic habitats. Sericea lespedeza threaten native grasslands such as our beloved flint hills, while purple loosestrife threatens critically important and declining wetland habitats. Emerald ash borer has recently been discovered in Kansas and poses a genuine threat to all species of ash trees within our state. Natural resource managers charged with the control of such species must devote limited human and financial resources for control efforts thus reducing time and money that could be used to enhance other wildlife populations and recreational facilities for public enjoyment.
Our human society has become nationally and globally connected. The mobility of our society is unprecedented. As our population grows, as our economies improve, and as technology advances, we as a people will move about more. When we do, we run the risk of introducing exotic species, whether intentional or not, into areas where natural controls do not exist. Once an exotic is introduced it becomes everyone’s responsibility to limit its spread. As our knowledge of these species is enhanced and as their populations expand, regulations may be enacted to assist with control. These regulations may often become controversial because they may change long standing traditions or impact how, when, or where we recreate. Regulations that impact cherished traditions are not enacted easily. They require input from many natural resource professionals including fisheries biologists, wildlife biologists, law enforcement officers, and park managers, as well as from a diverse group of resource consumers including anglers, hunters, boaters, and the industry that provides goods and services to serve that constituency. Regulations often reach beyond the need to control a single species, by regulating activities to control several or even a group of exotic species. Communities faced with one highly publicized exotic species may not currently understand the reason for a regulatory change designed to control the spread of additional species. A lack of understanding can then lead to noncompliance, which leads to the continuation of a potentially harmful practice, which can then lead to the ultimate spread of additional species and further harm. By following a few simple steps each of us can do our part to protect our cherished outdoor traditions from the threat of exotic species. Isn’t a little extra planning, or investment in time, or even expense, worth it?
To protect our aquatic habitats, follow these simple steps at every lake, wetland, and river, every time:
- CLEAN: Inspect and clean anything that came in contact with the water, including boats, trailers, equipment, clothing, dogs, boots and waders, etc. Remove any zebra mussels, other animals, mud, plants and other debris before leaving the area.
- DRAIN: Empty all water from engines, livewells, bilges, bait buckets, and every other conceivable space or item that can hold water before leaving the area. Dump live bait on dry land or at bait disposal sites, not into the lake or stream. Never move live fish between bodies of water or up streams.
- DRY: All equipment for 5 days before using it again. If you need to use it sooner, Wash It with 140 degree water (retail car washes are OK; so is a 10% water/chlorine solution or hot saltwater) before using your equipment in another body of water.
To protect our grassland habitats, follow this simple step:
- Utilize native plant species when planting mixtures of seeds for erosion control and for wildlife habitat. Ensure that noxious weeds are not included in the mix.
To protect our woodland habitats, follow this simple step:
- Don’t move firewood. When buying wood for your home, buy only locally grown and harvested firewood. When camping, buy your firewood near your destination and burn all that you bring.
Hunters Reminded of New Public Lands Regulations:
In June of 2012 the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission approved new regulations relating to hunting on public lands. Designed to provide hunters with equal opportunities on limited public lands, the following regulations have been enacted:
- Baiting is illegal on public lands. Bait is considered any grain, fruit, vegetable, nut, hay, salt, sorghum, feed, or other food or mineral capable of attracting wildlife. Liquid scents and sprays are not considered bait.
- Only two portable blinds or tree stands are allowed per hunter on public lands.
- Portable blinds and tree stands must be marked with the owner’s name and address or KDWPT number. Portable blinds may not be left unattended overnight on public lands.
- Decoys may not be left unattended overnight on public lands.
- Commercial guides must have a permit to guide on public lands. The permit is free and must be specific to the land where guiding takes place.