Turkey Diseases, Symptoms Investigated in Mississippi

What are common diseases of wild turkey and what are the symptoms? That’s what wildlife officials were digging into in Mississippi, but now it looks like these dead turkey may be the result of accidental poisoning or foul play. The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP), in conjunction with the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and the Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) recently released findings associated with the deaths of 15 wild turkey hens in Tallahatchie County. The birds were reported by a landowner to local Conservation Officer Dale Adams, who subsequently collected the specimens for testing.

“We receive diseased turkey reports occasionally, but this case was unusual in that this entire flock had appeared to die together,” said Adam Butler, MDWFP Wild Turkey Program Coordinator. Butler immediately conferred with the Mississippi State University’s Veterinary Research and Diagnostic Laboratory, where necropsies were performed on the specimens. Each turkey had crops filled with wheat seed, along with vascular and pulmonary congestion.

“These birds showed no sign of any external abnormalities, and appeared to be in good physical condition before they died. That, in conjunction with the wheat in their crops and findings of internal hemorrhaging, made us immediately suspect poisoning,” continued Butler.

Wheat seeds from the crops were sent for testing by SCWDS, which subsequently confirmed that the wheat seed had been treated with insecticides. Seeds treated with organophosphates for pest control purposes can be harmful to a host of animals. Treated seeds are nearly always labeled to be covered by a layer of soil when planted for crops or food plots and should not be used as wildlife feed.

The MDWFP rarely recommends direct feeding of wildlife as a management practice. “There’s no legitimate reason to directly feed anything to wild turkeys,” stated Butler. “Follow the supplemental feeding law and use common sense. Definitely, always avoid placing a potentially harmful food source like treated seed on top of the ground where turkeys or other birds can find it.”

Movement of Deer in Texas: Yes/No?

Have an opinion on the movement of breeder deer in the state of Texas? The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is taking public comment on proposed rules that would implement the department’s comprehensive chronic wasting disease (CWD) management plan with respect to the artificial movement of deer under TPWD permits, including Triple T (trap, transfer and transplant), DMP (deer management permit), TTP (trap, transport and process) and deer breeder.

Current deer movement rules (proposed for repeal) were intended to function on a temporary basis for the 2015-16 deer season and the period immediately thereafter. As stated in previous rulemakings and numerous press releases, TPWD’s intent was to review the current rules following the hunting season and, based on additional information from ongoing epidemiological investigations, disease surveillance data collected from captive and free ranging deer herds, guidance from the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) and input from stakeholder groups, present proposed changes to the TPW Commission at the May 25-26 commission meeting for possible adoption.

To ensure that the concerns and interests of all stakeholders were fully understood and considered, TPWD engaged the Center for Public Policy Dispute Resolution at the University of Texas School of Law to provide facilitation services for the spectrum of interested groups, including landowners and land managers, hunters, veterinarians, wildlife enthusiasts, deer breeders, TAHC and TPWD. The facilitator’s official report is available on TPWD’s web site.

In addition to the facilitated process, the proposed new deer movement rules are also a result of extensive cooperation between TPWD and TAHC to protect susceptible species of exotic and native wildlife from CWD. TAHC is the state agency authorized to manage any disease or agent of transmission for any disease that affects livestock, exotic livestock, domestic or exotic fowl, regardless of whether the disease is communicable, even if the agent of transmission is an animal species that is not subject to the jurisdiction of TAHC.

Florida Alligator Hunting Permits

Now is the time to apply for alligator hunting permits in Florida. Since 1988, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has provided hunters the chance to participate in its annual recreational statewide alligator harvest that runs August 15 to November 1 annually. There are, however, some changes this year to the application process that hunters need to know.

Florida Alligator Permits: Phase I application period

The application period for the Phase I random drawing begins May 6 at 10 a.m. and runs through May 16. More than 5,000 alligator harvest permits will be available. Hunters can submit their application for a permit that allows the harvest of two alligators on a designated harvest unit or county. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age by Aug. 15 and have a valid credit or debit card.

Applications may be submitted at any county tax collector’s office, license agent (most retail outlets that sell hunting and fishing supplies) and at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com, and applicants must provide their credit card information when they apply. This is a new change to the process from previous years. There is also a cancellation feature, which allows applicants to update their hunt choices or credit card information during the first three application phases.

More Chances at Alligator Permits

Any alligator permits remaining after the Florida’s first phase will be offered during the Phase II random drawing May 20-30. Those who were awarded a permit in Phase I may not apply during Phase II. Remaining permits will be available in Phase III to anyone who did not draw a permit in either of the first two phases, and they may be applied for June 3-13.

If any hunting permits remain after Phase III, there will be a fourth-phase issuance period beginning at 10 a.m. on June 17 until all permits are sold. Anyone may apply during Phase IV, even if they were awarded a permit in one of the earlier phases. Customers who are able to purchase additional permits will only be charged $61.50, regardless of residency or disability.

Cost of Florida Alligator Licenses and Permits

Cost for the alligator trapping license/harvest permit and two hide validation CITES tags is $271.50 for Florida residents, $21.50 for those with a Florida Resident Persons with Disabilities Hunting and Fishing License, and $1,021.50 for nonresidents. The cost for applicants who already have an alligator trapping license is $61.50.

Things to Know About Alligator Permits in Florida

Within 3 days of an application period closing, applicants can expect to see an authorization hold on their credit card verifying there is a sufficient balance to cover the cost of the hunting permit, but this does not mean they will receive a permit. Once the credit card authorization process is complete, the lottery drawing will be held. All successful applicants will be charged, while those who were unsuccessful will have the authorization hold lifted from their credit cards.

Successful applicants should expect to receive their alligator trapping license/harvest permit and two CITES alligator tags in the mail within 6 weeks of payment. Alligator trapping licenses are nontransferable. All sales are final, and no refunds will be made. For more information on alligator hunting or the application process, see the new “2016 Guide to Alligator Hunting in Florida.”

Pond Management for Mississippi Property Owners

Many landowners have surface water and are interested in pond management on their property. The principles of managing ponds and lakes are the same whether you have a pond in Texas, Ohio or Mississippi. When it comes to manipulating the pond found on your property it is just a matter of learning the processes that effect other aspects of your water body, which can be for fish or waterfowl management.

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) Fisheries Bureau and the Mississippi State University Extension Service are hosting a pond management workshop in Claiborne County. The workshop will be held at the Claiborne County Extension Office located at 510 Main Street in Port Gibson on Tuesday, May 17 at 6:30 p.m.

An hour-long presentation will include topics on pond design, fish stocking, harvest, vegetation control, liming, and fertilization. A question-and-answer period will follow. Those interested in attending the workshop are asked to register by calling the Claiborne County Extension office at (601) 437-5011.

“This workshop will allow biologists and private pond owners the opportunity to discuss management options to improve fish populations and habitat,” says Jerry Brown, MDWFP fisheries biologist. “We talk to people each year that want to manage their ponds effectively and this is a great way for us to provide personal how-to information that can help pond owners achieve their goals.” Learning techniques that influence water parameters and fish populations is the key to sound pond management for private landowners. Interested persons need to contact the number above since this sounds like a great program.

Feeding Deer in Mississippi for Supplementation

The supplemental feeding of white-tailed deer in Mississippi is an important topic right now. Recent flooding along the Mississippi River alluvial valley caused thousands of deer to relocate to drier land. Research has proven that deer displaced by high water events will return to their normal home ranges within weeks of the flood waters receding.

As these deer return, questions exist as to the flood’s impact on available food supplies. The answer will depend on habitat conditions on each property. Portions of woody plants, called browse, should not be negatively impacted. However, lack of oxygen and sunlight will have damaged cool season forbs and native grasses and planted food plots. The full nutritional impact on returning whitetail will depend on relative amounts of each forage type available on their home ranges.

The need for artificial nutritional supplementation (feeding) should be determined by a wildlife biologist. However, if a supplemental feeding program is started, biologists with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks recommend a complete ration consisting of protein pellets. This is a feed mixture in the form of a pellet that is nutritionally adequate for deer and contains crude protein, crude fat, crude fiber, vitamins, minerals, and does not contain any animal byproducts.

Shelled corn, rice bran, soybeans, and cotton seed hulls alone do not meet the nutritional requirements of deer. However, mixing corn or feeding soybeans with protein pellets will improve acceptance by deer and will increase energy intake. Rapid changes in the types of food ingested by deer can cause the onset of digestion problems that result in the death of deer.

If a land owner chooses to feed, feed should be provided from an above ground covered feeder or a stationary spin cast feeder. It is illegal to pour, pile, or place feed directly on the ground. Additionally, it is imperative to use the correct feed. Many people feel that feeding hay to deer during times of stress would be beneficial.

However, this is not recommended because deer have a complex digestive system and cannot digest hay due to the lack of needed bacteria in their stomach. Consumption of hay can actually burn more energy than gained. Deer will not benefit from eating only hay.

When providing supplemental feed to deer impacted by the Missippi River use caution. Whitetail have specific food needs and can not digest the same materials as domestic livestock. Use pellet proteins that contain protein, fiber and a complete ration of nutrients.

NWTF: Managing Wildlife Habitat for Hunters

The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) is putting better habitat on the ground for wildlife across the US. When it comes to funding conservation and the preservation of our hunting heritage, the NWTF is a good steward of your contributions. In the latest report from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, the NWTF was found to put 89.8 cents of each dollar spent towards its mission.

“The NWTF is truly grateful for our dedicated members and volunteers. We want to ensure their contributions are used to fund projects that will preserve our hunting heritage and ensure the future of our wild places and wildlife,” said George Thornton, NWTF CEO. “Our Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative helps drive our efforts towards projects that will help make the biggest and most immediate impact to conserve the most imperiled habitats and recruit the next generation of hunters.”

The NWTF also received the highest score possible on fundraising expense and efficiency, meaning the organization spends very little on its fundraising effort, while it still has great returns.

The NWTF is a nonprofit conservation organization that works daily to further its mission of conserving the wild turkey and preserving our hunting heritage. Through dynamic partnerships with state and federal wildlife agencies, the NWTF and its members have helped restore wild turkey populations across the country, improving more than 17 million acres of wildlife habitat and introducing 100,000 people to the outdoors each year.

The NWTF was founded in 1973 and is headquartered in Edgefield, S.C. According to many state and federal agencies, the restoration of the wild turkey is arguably the greatest conservation success story in North America’s wildlife history.

To find out more about the National Wild Turkey Federation, become a member or make a charitable donation, visit www.nwtf.org or contact (800) THE-NWTF.

Transfer of Breeder Deer: Texas Movement Standards

Landowners and Texas deer breeders interested in transferring deer must heed new movement standards. White-tailed deer breeders will be able to resume animal movements under a plan finalized yesterday by staff of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). The Breeder Deer Movement Qualification Standards Plan will take effect upon the filing of Emergency Rules by TPWD and will be in place through the 2015-16 Texas hunting season. Details of the plan are available online at www.tpwd.texas.gov/cwd.

Key elements of the new deer movement plan

  • A framework giving breeders who met previous movement qualified standards an option to move and liberate deer. Movement qualification is also dependent on administrative compliance with deer breeder permit regulations and statutes.
  • Enhanced options for closely-monitored herds with a status of “fifth year” or “certified” in the TAHC Monitored Herd Program. There are no additional release site requirements for ranches that receive deer only from these herds.
  • Additional Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) testing in deer breeding facilities. Under the plan, the vast majority of the 1,300 permitted deer breeders in Texas can gain movement qualified status by testing two or fewer animals.
  • There will be CWD testing requirements for a proportion of deer that are harvested on some release sites.

The goal of the Movement Qualification Plan is to provide deer breeders with options prior to the September 22 deadline for movement and liberation of bucks and before the 2015-16 hunting season. This is just one of many steps Texas is taking to mitigate the spread of CWD after it was detected in deer from a Medina County deer breeding facility earlier this summer.

“We have received and tried to be responsive to the extensive feedback from the state’s many and varied deer management interests in developing this revised plan,” said Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director. “In the development of this framework, both agencies are balancing the need to minimize the risk of unwittingly allowing the movement or liberation of Chronic Wasting Disease-positive deer on the Texas landscape while adopting reasonable movement qualification standards that allow qualified deer breeders to begin moving and liberating captive deer. The complexity associated with the development of this framework is immense.”

A joint agency CWD Working Group will now focus efforts on developing individual herd plans for affected deer breeders and develop a plan for strategic sampling of hunter harvested deer from free-ranging populations this fall.

“Our goal was to protect the health of free-ranging and captive breeder deer, while maintaining business continuity for the breeder industry,” said Dr. Dee Ellis, TAHC Executive Director. “We believe this plan accomplishes those goals.”

Factors such as level of connectedness to the index facility, level of testing in the TAHC Monitored Herd Program, relative percentage of the overall herd that has been tested, and variable liberation criteria are all being considered in development of the herd plans.

The TAHC and TPWD are continuing the investigation of the index facility in Medina County, where 42 deer have been euthanized and tested for CWD.

“The results from the partial testing of the animals in the Index Facility, as well as samples from the CWD-exposed herds, are important to making reasonable, prudent, and responsible decisions for the remaining captive herds, neighboring landowners, and wild deer,” said Clayton Wolf, TPWD Wildlife Division director.