Weekly news, tips, trivia, fun facts and wild tales from the outdoors
Dec. 9, 2015
Beginning this week, people from around the world can take part in a “virtual” online hunt for an invasive species of snake as part of Florida’s Python Challenge, to raise awareness of the problematic species in The Sunshine State. Also this week, you’ll read about the 30th anniversary of the county’s most successful private lands conservation program, and much more!
Florida Agency “Releasing” Snakes
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is conducting a Virtual Snake Finding Mission, “releasing” toy snakes near popular Florida landmarks in an effort to raise awareness about non-native species in Florida. The search for the toy snakes is part of the 2016 Python Challenge™ and allows people from around the world to be part of this effort to reduce the negative impacts of invasive species.
Beginning on December 8, visitors to Facebook.com/MyFWC could find clues to the location of one of the brightly-colored toy snakes in virtually hiding. The first person to match the FWC’s answer will win a Python Challenge™ Prize Pack, which will include a mixture of Python Challenge™ items such as a T-shirt, tumbler, sticker hat, and bag – and the toy snake.
“The search for these snakes is designed to remind people that they can get involved and help be a part of the solution to invasive species in Florida,” said Kristen Sommers, Wildlife Impacts Management section leader for the FWC. “The FWC hopes that the 2016 Python Challenge™ activates more people to go out, look for and either properly report or (when possible) remove Burmese pythons (pictured at top) from the wild.”
The 2016 Python Challenge™ is a conservation effort that includes an awareness event, social media contest and a month-long competition to remove Burmese pythons from public lands in Florida. The python removal competition in south Florida kicks off on Jan. 16, 2016, and ends February 14. Click here for more information and to register for the challenge!
The aim of the 2016 Python Challenge™ is to promote Everglades conservation through invasive species removal.
Bald Eagle-Watching Time is Approaching
Now that it’s beginning to feel like winter in most parts of the country, that means lakes, ponds and others bodies of water will soon be covered with ice. And in places where the water remains open and flowing, hundreds of magnificent bald eagles will soon begin congregating, offering exceptional opportunities for viewing and photography.
Few places are more popular for eagle viewing in the Midwest than the area known as the Quad Cities along the upper Mississippi River. The Quad Cities is comprised of the riverfront cities of Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa, and Moline, East Moline and Rock Island in Illinois. The area is just a 2-½ hour drive from Des Moines, Iowa, and Chicago, Illinois. It is easily accessible via I-80, I-74, I-88, and several major state highways.
Each winter when the weather turns cold, the Quad Cities area serves as host to a large majority of bald eagles making their annual southern migration from Canada to the unfrozen waters of the Mississippi River. The Quad Cities celebrates more than 40 years of bald eagle education in the area.
Just down the river from Locks and Dams 14 and 15, eagles gather along the wooded bluffs to spend the winter in the Quad Cities. The waters of the river remain unfrozen, fish are plentiful and old-growth forests provide prime sites for perching and roosting.
Bald Eagle Days is the feature celebration on Jan. 8-10, 2016, at the QCCA Expo Center located in Rock Island, Ill. It is the largest event in the Midwest dedicated to the United States’ national symbol of freedom.
Alabama High Court Shoots Down Open-Carry Prohibition
The Alabama Supreme Court in November rejected an appeal of its earlier 2015 ruling in which it found a law prohibiting the open carry of a firearm onto someone else’s property unconstitutional. On November 20, the Court rejected a petition from the city of Jacksonville, ending an open-carry advocate’s four-year legal battle.
The ruling overturned the Jacksonville City Court conviction of Jason Dean Tulley, 38, for openly carrying a handgun while doing business inside the First Educators Credit Union on March 31, 2011. Tulley was prosecuted for violating state law 13A-11-52, which prohibited “carrying a pistol on premises not one’s own or under his control.” Tulley unsuccessfully appealed his conviction to the Circuit Court of Calhoun County.
Tulley subsequently took his appeal to the state supreme court, which ruled 5-3 in mid-2015 that the city’s enforcement of the state law was “unconstitutional on its face in that it cannot be enforced under any circumstances.”
“At the heart of the case was their (the supreme court’s) determination that the statute is unconstitutionally vague because it doesn’t possess a punishment provision and the Code of Alabama doesn’t supply a ‘catch-all’ punishment provision for the offense,” J.D. Lloyd, one of Tulley’s appellate lawyers told Al.com.
CRP Marks 30th Anniversary
Starting December 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) began conducting its general signup for the longstanding Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), generally considered the most successful private lands conservation program in the country, and currently celebrating its 30th anniversary. Signup will extend through Feb. 26, 2016.
Created in the 1985 Farm Bill, CRP was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on Dec. 23, 1985.
Participants in CRP establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees (known as “covers”) to control soil erosion, improve water quality and develop wildlife habitat on marginally productive agricultural lands. In return, the program provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance.
At times when commodity prices are low, enrolling sensitive lands in CRP can be especially attractive to farmers and ranchers, as it softens the economic hardship for landowners at the same time that it provides ecological benefits. Contract duration is between 10- and 15 years. The long-term goal of the program is to re-establish native plant species on marginal agricultural lands for the primary purpose of preventing soil erosion and improving water quality and related benefits of reducing loss of wildlife habitat.
“Over the past 30 years, farmers, ranchers, conservationists, hunters, fishermen, and other outdoor enthusiasts have made CRP one of the most successful conservation programs in the history of the country,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a news release. “Today, CRP continues to make major environmental improvements to water and air quality. This is another longstanding example of how agricultural production can work hand in hand with efforts to improve the environment and increase wildlife habitat.”
The program reached peak enrollment in 2007 with 36.8 million acres; high commodity prices in recent years provided economic incentive for producers to allow their CRP contracts to expire and put the ground back into crop production. In response, Congress lowered the cap on the program in the 2014 Farm Bill to 24 million acres. More recent record harvests and a decrease in demand have driven current crop prices lower, likely resulting in increased interest in CRP.
Quote of The Week
“The hunter crouches in his blind
Neath camouflage of every kind.
He conjures up a quacking noise
To lend allure to his decoys.
This grown-up man, with pluck and luck,
Is hoping to outwit a duck.”
– Ogden Nash,
“The Hunter,” 1957
J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for sportsmansguide.com. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.