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FRANKFORT — A record wild turkey harvest, the return of the alligator gar and south-central Kentucky received two new wildlife management areas, are just some of the highlights of the past year.
Here’s a look back at some of the top outdoors stories of 2010:
Hunters took a record 36,094 wild turkeys during the state’s 23-day spring season, which closed May 9.
The record harvest was achieved despite high winds, heavy rains and extensive flooding which made the hunting difficult during the last two weeks of the season.
Steven Dobey, wild turkey biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said he believed the foul weather had an impact on the harvest. “It rained the last two weekends of the season,” he noted. “If it had been clear, I think over 40,000 birds would have been taken.”
The final tally for the 2010 spring season was an increase of 24 percent over the 29,007 taken during the 2009 spring season.
Kentucky’s wild turkey flock currently has an estimated 220,000 birds. The first statewide spring wild turkey season was held in 1996.
A restoration project hopes to bring back a native fish species absent from the sloughs, backwaters and bayous of western Kentucky waters for over 40 years — the alligator gar.
Alligator gar restoration efforts, which began last year, shifted to the Clark’s River in 2010. “We have stationary receivers to monitor the movements of tagged fish from tributary streams to the major rivers,” said Paul Rister, western fisheries district biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “We can track the gar stocked in Clark’s River as they move into the Tennessee and Ohio rivers.”
Alligator gar once swam in all the major rivers in western Kentucky. By the 1970s, the species had disappeared due to habitat loss for spawning fish and juvenile gar.
The alligator gar is listed by the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission as an endangered species.
Federal funds from the State Wildlife Grants program,
administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are being used to help fund the alligator gar restoration efforts in Kentucky, and several other neighboring states, including Missouri, Illinois and Tennessee. The restoration effort provides fisheries biologists a unique opportunity to learn about the alligator gar’s biology, movements and habitat preferences in Kentucky.
OTTER CREEK PARK
In June, the department announced plans to acquire the 2,155-acre Otter Creek Park in Meade County and operate it as an outdoor recreation area.
The park, property of the city of Louisville, was forced to close for financial reasons.
Commissioner Jon Gassett said Kentucky Fish and Wildlife plans to reopen Otter Creek in 2011 with user fees offsetting operational costs. Activities at the park will include: picnicking, hiking, bird watching, fishing, hunting, camping, horseback riding and mountain biking.
‘GET ON BOARD’
In early August, the Salato Wildlife Education Center in Frankfort unveiled its new, interactive exhibit “Get on Board.”
The entryway to the exhibit looks like the mouth of a Kentucky spotted bass. Visitors learn about the efforts of fisheries biologists to manage and maintain healthy fish populations. They also discover how fish hatcheries function, ways that fish populations are sampled and the funding for fishery management programs.
In mid-August, Gov. Steve Beshear appointed three new members to the nine-member Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission, which works with the department to establish policy and regulations.
David M. Williams II, of Reynolds Station, is an agent with Kentucky Farm Bureau. Williams will represent the Second Wildlife District. He replaces Dale Franklin, whose term expired.
Stuart N. Ray, of Louisville, is executive vice-president of Steel Technologies LLC. He will represent the Third Wildlife District. He replaces Tony Brown, whose term expired.
Norman “Joe” Fryman, of Paris, is senior vice-president of Kentucky Bank. He will represent the Eighth Wildlife District. He replaces Rick D. Storm, whose term expired.
Each term is effective through Aug. 13, 2014.
NEW HUNTING AREAS
On Aug. 21, two new state wildlife management areas opened to public hunting in south-central Kentucky – the 1,293-acre Marion County WMA and State Forest and the 859-acre Buck Creek WMA in Pulaski County.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, the Kentucky Division of Forestry and Marion County jointly own the Marion County Wildlife Management Area (WMA), which was purchased with money from the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund and the federal Wildlife Restoration program.
Buck Creek WMA was acquired through the Kentucky Wetland and Stream Mitigation Fund to protect this unique area and offer public access.