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Some diverse options for supporting Iowa wildlife

Todd Burras
Outdoors Editor

We’re a week into 2021, and if you’re the goal-setting type who’s looking for a resolution or two to get you more engaged in the outdoors this New Year, staff from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Diversity Program have some suggestions for you.

The WDP folks are the ones who work to conserve the numerous nongame species found in Iowa, including shorebirds, raptors, songbirds, many small mammals and bats, most amphibians, reptiles, many small fish, butterflies, dragonflies and more, according to its home page on the DNR’s website.

“With over 1,100 species in Iowa, most of the species are not the traditional game or sport fish species that may first come to mind when talking about Iowa’s fish and wildlife resources. Instead of deer, pheasants, walleye, ducks, catfish, turkeys, muskrats and crappies, the Wildlife Diversity Program focuses on bald eagles, trumpeter swans, osprey, monarch butterflies, Blanding’s turtles, cricket frogs, little brown bats and many more.”

Here are some of the many ways the public can make contributions:

  • Become a Volunteer Wildlife Monitor and help collect data on a few important and sensitive groups of wildlife, such as bald eagles, ospreys, peregrine falcons, frogs, toads and bats.
  • Create a habitat. Even if you have a small yard in an urban or suburban area you can make a difference for bees, butterflies, moths and other pollinators.
  • Buy a Natural Resources License Plate. The money from the sale of these plates supports the wildlife diversity program and the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) Program. The initial fee is $45 for your new plates with an annual renewal fee of $25.
  • Donate to the Fish and Wildlife Fund Checkoff on your state tax form.
  • Get involved with anything from bird nest monitoring and frog and turtle surveys to volunteer watering monitoring and river and stream cleanup. There are countless opportunities with training workshops offered for many of the volunteer programs.

To get involved, contact Stephanie Shepherd at (515) 230-6599 or stephanie.shepherd@dnr.iowa.gov.

Winter walk next Thursday

The Outdoor Alliance of Story County’s Thursday Winter Hikes series will continue next week at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14, at E18 Greenbelt Trail, 56342 130th St., south of Story City. The parking area is on the south side of E18 west of Interstate 35.

Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, participants should expect to wear their masks whenever a space of 6 feet might not be possible on the hikes or at the cars. The hikes are open to the public but do require registration by contacting Story County Conservation at (515) 232-2516. Space is limited.

The remaining schedule of hikes includes:

  • 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21 – Soper’s Mill, 56364 170th St., Ames. Meet on the southwest side of the river.
  • 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28 -- McFarland Park, 56461 180th St., Ames. Meet at the west end of the parking lot.

The winter hikes are led by an OASC volunteer and are cosponsored by Story County Conservation.

Ames parks presentation

The OASC will host Keith Abraham, director of Ames Parks and Recreation, for a public Zoom presentation at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20. Abraham will update participants on recent, current and upcoming parks projects and plans within the city of Ames. Those interested should contact the OASC in advance for participation instructions. Email info@oasco.org for details.

In February, Jeff Kopaska, a technology and data management researcher for the DNR’s Fisheries Research Program, will present “Gulf Hypoxia and Nutrient Reduction Strategies -- Is There Anything Fishy Going on in Iowa?” The Zoom presentation will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, and contacting the OASC will be necessary for receiving participation instructions.

Hunting, fishing licenses on sale

A reminder to hunters and anglers: your 2020 Iowa licenses expire Sunday, Jan. 10. The state’s 2021 resident hunting, fishing and other licenses are now on sale at 700 locations across the state, and on the DNR website at www.iowadnr.gov/GoOutdoorsIowa.

Bird count coming up

The upcoming 23rd annual Great Backyard Bird Count will be Feb. 12-15. Besides the Cornell Lab, the citizen-science project is organized by the National Audubon Society and Bird Studies Canada with sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited.

Last year, 268,674 participants in 194 countries counted 27,270,156 birds, including 6,942 species. It’s simple, fun and easy to report the data, and participants can count for as little or as much time as they choose. The count’s website has been updated and can be found at www.birdcount.org.

Todd Burras can be reached at outdoorstoddburras@gmail.com.

Correction:

In a story Dec. 25 about the 2020 Olav Smedal Conservation Award, the last name of Jan Beran was incorrectly spelled. The Tribune apologizes for the mistake.