Whipsnake Survey

Yesterday, biologist Mandy Murphy allowed me to tag along with her while she ran her string of snake traps in search of Alameda whipsnakes and other reptiles.

We found a whipsnake in the third trap we checked. It was a recapture as she had caught it once before and left it with an identifying mark.

The snake was a large one, about four and a half feet long. She also caught a gopher snake.

IMG_3199 trapped gopher snake

The trap consists of vertical boards which guide the target species towards four wire cages that are similar to minnow traps. Once the snake or other critter enters the trap, it cannot find a way out. In this photo there are four separate wire mesh cages underneath the foam boards which protect the caught snakes from overheating.

The traps are monitored closely so that snakes will not be injured.

Trap

Snakes that are caught provide samples for DNA testing to determine their genetic makeup. According to Mandy, researchers have determined that two California racer species, the Alameda whipsnake and the California racer, are closely related. It is anticipated that the snakes captured on our ranch will share the genetic makeup of both species.

California Red-Legged Frog Egg Mass

California red-legged frogs are listed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as threatened where ever they are found.

california-red-leg-frog-cropped

This is an adult California Red-legged frog.

Around March 1 is the time of year when we see California red-legged frog egg masses in our ponds. Here is an egg mass photographed on February 26.

IMG_2877 CRF egg mass

This red-legged frog egg mass stands out because it is covered with silt from the murky pond water. The egg mass was photographed on February 26, 2017.

These eggs will produce larva (tad poles) which will eventually morph into frogs by July or August. We see the juvenile frogs in the ponds into late September. During the fall they will disappear from the ponds and move into underground burrows or other hiding places to endure the winter months.

juvenile red leg frog cropped

Juvenile red-legged frogs live in the ponds until fall when they will depart for underground burrows which provide winter security.

Western Hunting and Conservation Expo 2017

 The Salt Palace was full of conservationists from all over the country last week. I was witness to the event, which was impressive in size and quality.
Spent time with many friends including  Colter, Rocky and Lorell Heckman of Montana Safaris who joined MDF Director Emeritus, Alden Glidden and I for dinner at both of the banquets.
Also notable was a visit with six-time Olympic medal winner, Kim Rhode (who also visited  MDF members  in 1997 at the Sacramento Expo and MDF Convention). As we waited for the shuttle to the airport on Sunday morning, she told us the story of her first dove hunt which took place in Arizona when she was seven years old.
When a warden approached her and asked if she had shot the doves  that were laying at her feet, she replied. “yes.”
Unbelieving, he asked her a second time and she responded by swinging on a flock of doves overhead and dropping a double.
He turned and walked away. Even a warden would be impressed by that.
Also spent some time with familiar faces from outdoor TV, Dan Harrison (Remmington Country and formerly Tred Barta’s frequent guide, currently an MDF Director) and Freddy Harteis (the Hollywood Hunter) whose Colorado archery mule deer hunt donation sold at the auction for $19,000. They were friendly, very approachable and a kick in the pants to hang out with.
Here’s a copy of the post-event news release from The Mule Deer Foundation and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.
WHCE Logo 2017_news
 NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: February 22, 2017

Contact:  Miles Moretti, (801) 230-2207, miles@muledeer.org
Troy Justensen, (801) 557-3352, troy@sfw.net

 2017 WESTERN HUNTING & CONSERVATION EXPO CONTINUES TO BREAK RECORDS

Salt Lake City, Utah: After four days of a busy show floor and successful evening auctions, the 2017 Western Hunting & Conservation Expo (WHCE) closed its doors on Sunday afternoon. The show, hosted by the Mule Deer Foundation and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and sponsored by Ammo & More and ACI, has become the biggest consumer sport show designed for the western big game hunter. Now in its 11th year, the WHCE has continued to exceed expectations with 46,000 attendees walking the exhibit halls and raising over $6 million for wildlife conservation efforts.“The Western Hunting & Conservation Expo continues to grow every year, and this year was no exception,” said Mule Deer Foundation President/CEO, Miles Moretti. “We had 46,000 attendees come through the show which is great for our exhibitors who were busy the whole show. Exhibitors frequently told us this was their best show of the year. With many of them already signed up for booth space in the 2018 show, we can unequivocally say that Hunt Expo is a resounding success.”

The evening events drew large crowds who took part in the banquets and auctions as well as listened to keynote speakers John Wayne Walding and Kim Rhode; Saturday night’s banquet was sold out with more than 1,700 people in attendance. The auctions featured over 140 items up for bid including governor’s tags, limited edition firearms and artwork, and much more. Top auction items this year included the Antelope Island mule deer tag that sold for $250,000 and the Arizona statewide mule deer tag that sold for $280,000. Combined with other incredible once-in-a-lifetime hunts, the auctions raised more than $4 million and 93 percent of those funds will be dedicated to habitat and conservation programs on the ground. In addition, attendees had the opportunity to enter drawings for 200 special big game tags offered by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources for just $5 a tag. Those funds quickly add up, and are dedicated toward conservation and mission accomplishment for Utah Division of Wildlife Resources as well as MDF and SFW.

The traffic through the show floor was steady and broke records each day throughout the four-day show. The 2017 WHCE boasted an exhibit hall of over 400,000 square feet, an increase of 70,000 square feet from the previous year. The show featured top-quality outdoor manufacturers and retailers, incredible taxidermy, and first-rate guides and outfitters. Throughout the course of the weekend, attendees browsed some of the latest gear available on the market and could book their dream hunting experience. The WHCE is a family-friendly event and that was obvious with the many children of all ages walking the show floor proudly sporting their M.U.L.E.Y. antlers. Every child had the opportunity to participate in the Youth Wildlife Conservation Experience (YWCE), trying their hand at shooting, archery, fly tying, wildlife identification, and much more. Throughout the course of the weekend over 5,000 youth went through the YWCE and had a chance to enter their names into a drawing for either a hunting gear package or a guided Utah deer hunt donated by Majestic Valley Outfitters.

“Once again, the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo is proving that there are many hard-core western sportsmen and women who appreciate coming to a show to book hunts and buy gear,” commented Troy Justensen, president of Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife. “We are proud of how this show has grown over the last decade and hunters can rest assured that we will continue to build and improve the event.”

The 2018 Western Hunting & Conservation Expo will run from February 8-11, 2018 and it is expected to be even larger than this year’s event. Mark your calendar for next year’s event and stay up to date on planning through the WHCE website at www.huntexpo.com.

###
About MDF 
The Mule Deer Foundation is the only conservation group in North America dedicated to restoring, improving and protecting mule deer, black-tailed deer and their habitat, with a focus on science and program efficiency. MDF is a strong voice for hunters in access, wildlife management and conservation policy issues. MDF acknowledges regulated hunting as a viable management component and is committed to recruitment and retention of youth into the shooting sports and conservation. Get involved at www.muledeer.org or call 1-888-375-3337.About SFW
Headquartered in North Salt Lake, Utah, Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife is a charitable, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. The mission of SFW is to promote the protection and enhancement of wildlife habitat, assist in providing quality wildlife management programs, educating the public about the role hunters play in wildlife conservation, and perpetuating the family tradition of hunting and fishing. Visit www.sfw.net or call 801-936-1386.

Follow-up on Golden Eagle Band

The area near our ranch has a large concentration of eagles, both golden and bald. These eagles have been closely monitored for many years.

The individual who captured golden eagle 629-41062 was Daniel Driscoll. When contacted by my friend Joe DiDonato (Joe has a long history of working with golden eagles), Driscoll had the following comment.

“We captured 629-41062 as a breeding female at the Lower Indian Creek breeding area on 5-30-1996. Since she was at least 4 years old (adult) when captured, the eagle would be at least 25 years old this year.”

The Lower Indian Creek breeding area is located on the south side of San Antonio Reservoir in Alameda County. It is approximately a mile from the location where the carcass of a banded golden eagle was found yesterday. (See previous post)

Golden Eagle Band #629-41062

Over the years I’ve collected the bands of waterfowl, mostly mallards, but also a greater Canada goose, greater snow goose, one sprig and a greater white-front goose.

Once upon a time I actually participated in banding raptors at the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory as a beginner at the Marin headlands. And, the band of a sharp-shinned hawk (one of the few I personally banded), was recovered and reported. It was surprising to read the report in the Raptor Observatory newsletter.

Today, Rob and I recovered a band from a non-waterfowl bird. It was the band of a golden eagle, probably one the eagles we have often observed and maybe even photographed.

The carcass of the bird was found along side the road to our ranch. It was deteriorated and rotten, but there was a band on its leg – a band that led to a great deal of interesting information about the bird.

The band report said that the bird was banded in 1996 near the Arroyo Sanitorium (about four miles south of Livermore California) and that it was hatched in 1993 or earlier. It was female. Now, over 20 years later, and at the age of 24 years or greater, the bird is dead, a testimony to the ability of eagles to survive in our modern world full of obstacles and danger.

After 20+ years, the dead bird was found only about five miles from where it was banded. Based upon a quick internet search, it appears that this bird lived to be quite old for a wild North American golden eagle.

bird-band-3-img_2849

The 20-year-old band was scratched and scared. The diameter of the band is approximately equal to the diameter of a quarter.

White-Front Goose Band #2197-76506

The band was on the right leg of the third bird from the left in the photo above. I reported it to http://www.reportband.gov this morning.

The information provided: This is a greater white-front goose banded on 7/24/2016 near Chevak Alaska in the Wade Hampton census area. It was too young to fly at the time of the banding. The bird is male.

You can see that the third bird from the left’s breast is cream-colored while the other three are speckled.There were the beginnings of specs on the young bird. The other three birds are mature adult coloration.

Chevak is located on the coast at the far western tip of Alaska. 90% of the population is native American. Native Americans have had a large impact upon the recovery of white-front geese. When I first hunting these geese over 25 years ago, their population was so low that the limit was set at one bird.

About that time, employees of the California Department of Fish and Game asked me to join a group of hunters that would accompany visiting native Americans from Alaska on a California refuge waterfowl hunt. The gentleman who joined me could only observe.

We hunted from a blind at Sacramento Wildlife Refuge. I do not recall his name, but we had a good day together. I learned from him that historically the native Americans hunted goose eggs for food. One of the reasons for the population decline of white-front geese was over-harvesting of the eggs.

The purpose of the trip was to provide more information about the life cycle of the white-front geese to these Alaskans and to provide an incentive for conservation of the species. One of the results of that conservation effort was to limit the number of goose eggs that the native Americans would harvest.

Over the years since that trip, white-front goose numbers have risen tremendously. So much so that the limit on these geese in California is now quite liberal.

Open Zone Tag in Retrospect

Here are some questions you may have about the Open Zone Tag. Of course I am biased, as I’ve coveted this tag for years.

Question #1. How much did your Open Zone (OZ) tag cost?

A: $10,500. When considering price, the purchaser may want to take into consideration the fact that most of the tag cost is a donation. It is a donation because the proceeds go to the CDFW for project funding.

Since I have a lifetime deer tag, I will write off the entire cost of the tag as a donation. I’d recommend you run this by your accountant before you spend the money.

Question #2. Where did you purchase your OZ tag?

A: Santa Rosa Chapter of MDF Banquet.

Question #3. Did the OZ tag live up to expectations?

A: Yes. For a trophy hunter, having the opportunity to hunt in Zones that have a significantly high rate of success on big bucks is always expensive. An added bonus is that, unlike a lot of week-long trophy hunts, an OZ tag holder has the entire season to work with. However for some people, hunting any legal buck gives them as much excitement. If that is the case, the OZ tag is worth little more than any general season tag.

If there is a great tag that you’d like to draw, having an OZ tag solves the problem. After spending half a lifetime wishing, I decided to take things into my own hands.

Question #4. Is there a down side to holding an OZ tag?

Yes. It’s difficult to quit hunting. It was especially painful for my wife who wanted me to stay home. For that reason, I tried to be judicious in the number of days I hunted.

Question #5. Of the zones you hunted, which was your favorite?

The Devil’s Garden hunt (M9).

Question #6. Did you hire a guide?

Not exactly, but I did pay almost $1,000 for information such as maps and other written material. When friends helped me I tried to cover their expenses, like gas money or lunch.

Question #7. Who helped you?

Several friends provided assistance. Rick Bullock was especially helpful regarding the Devil’s Garden hunt.He spent of day of his valuable time showing me around. He drove me around for an afternoon and morning. We counted 199 deer during that period. After that, he traveled to Colorado and bagged a 29 inch typical.

Susanville MDF Chapter Chair, Pete Holmen allowed me to stay in his spare bedroom for several nights and drove me to some of his favorite hunting areas. Pete’s girlfriend, Tara, provided amazing hopitality.

Local guide, John Simpson, provided access to some places where I wouldn’t have been able to hunt and he also had an impressive ability to spot deer.

My long-time friend and former MDF Director, Jerry Lowery drove over from Reno to help find the buck. He was also invaluable in taking care of my buck after it was down.

These four hunters are on the short list of the most knowledgable people on earth when it comes to mule deer hunting in California and Nevada. They also have great credentials. I’ve seen them.

Question #8. What size buck were you looking for?

The buck I shot was exactly what I was looking for. If he had been larger, I would have shot him anyway. He’s (by far) the largest buck I’ve killed.

Question #9. Will you purchase an OZ tag again?

A: I’m not totally in control, and I cannot guarantee that I’ll be able to afford one again. However, now that I’ve done it once, I can’t help but believe that there is another OZ tag in my future. In the meantime, I also enjoy hunting forked horn bucks and maybe I’ll stumble on another great buck. Killing a great buck is not impossible, but it is very difficult.

The process also enlightened me about some hunts that are underrated and achievable in the general draw, but you’ve got to have at least a few preference points – or be extremely lucky.