As expected, there's a new black bear harvest record in the Volunteer State and what a year it's been.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) Tennessee bear hunters had the most successful year since records have been kept, starting in 1951. That year hunters harvested twenty-nine bears. This season, hunters harvested at least 581 bears (a few tags are expected to come in later). In 2009, hunters harvested a then record, 573 bears.
Two record harvests in three seasons have TWRA biologists very optimistic about the future of this valued game animal. The records indicate a very healthy bear population that is continuing to expand.
Sevier County led the way with 126 bears followed by Monroe County with a harvest of 90 bears.
2012 SPRING TURKEY QUOTA HUNTS
Applications for the 2012 Spring Turkey Quota Hunts will be accepted Dec. 14, 2011, through Feb. 8, 2012, the TWRA has announced.
Applications are available and will be accepted at any TWRA license agent, TWRA regional office, or online at the TWRA website at http://www.tnwildlife.org. Applications will not be accepted after 11:59 p.m. (CST) on Feb. 8, 2012. Mailed applications will not be accepted.
The areas available for the hunts are listed on the instruction sheets. Hunters have up to 12 choices, but will be drawn for only one. Applicants may not use the same hunt code more than once. There are a total of 19 hunts listed. No person may apply more than once.
A permit fee will not be charged to Annual Sportsman (Type 004), Lifetime Sportsman (Types 401-406) license holders or Senior Citizen Hunters (Type 166) with an Annual Senior Citizen Permit (Type 167). TWRA will pay the agent fee for these transactions. For all other license holders, the cost is $10 per permit, plus the agent fee.
When applying at a license agent, hunters must remain at the location while the application is processed. Hunters will receive a receipt with a confirmation number when the application is complete.
Hunters with Internet access may apply beginning Dec. 14 for a spring quota turkey hunt. Hunters can click on Buy a License On-Line. Once the Internet site has been accessed, hunters can follow the on-screen directions.
INCENTIVES FOR BOBWHITE HABITAT
Here's an opportunity for landowners to help out the Bobwhite quail and pocket some money in the meantime. The TWRA is offering one-time incentive payments for high value habitat practices in several USDA programs in targeted bobwhite restoration counties in 2012.
Bobwhite quail, along with other wildlife that depend on the same habitats, such as field sparrows, Bachman's sparrows and cottontail rabbits, have been suffering from long-term population declines.
The Agency incentives are in addition to the regular cost-share and other payments in the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
Practices for which TWRA incentive payments will be offered include:
*Conversion of at least 5 acres cropland or grassland to native grassland with native shrub thicket and/or hedgerows
*Establishment of at least 5 acres of pollinator habitat (wildflowers with some native grasses and shrubs) in blocks and/or field buffers
*Performing prescribed burning, strip disking, strip herbicide application, and/or shrubby cover development on at least 5 acres of existing native grasses not currently under an active USDA contract
*Prescribed burning of thinned woodlands
*Development of shrubby cover by thinning the edges of woodlands adjacent to fields and/or renovation of existing hedgerows
*Establishment of wide (over 50 foot average width) native grass buffers in the Conservation Reserve Program
Counties in which the incentives will be offered in East Tennessee include McMinn, Meigs, Rhea, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins.
In these programs, a TWRA or USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) biologist will develop a management plan for your property to address the priority wildlife and other resource needs. In the WHIP and EQIP programs, your plans will be scored and ranked against other contracts for acceptance. Offers that include the identified practices are awarded additional ranking points. The CRP practices are available on a noncompetitive continuous signup basis, and will be automatically approved if the land and landowners meet eligibility requirements.
In Tennessee, the CRP now also offers, in addition to the CP33-Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds practice (typically established on crop field edges), the CP29-Marginal Pastureland Wildlife Habitat Buffers and CP30-Marginal Pastureland Wetland Buffers. These can be applied on marginal pasturelands adjacent to sinkholes and degraded stream banks.
The TWRA incentives are paid after the eligible practices are applied to the land. TWRA funds are limited, and will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis while funding lasts.
"We are offering the TWRA incentive payment to highlight and increase enrollment in practices that provide the best habitat for bobwhites and associated native grassland wildlife," said Mark Gudlin, TWRA Private Lands Liaison. "Several of the program opportunities are relatively new, such as the CP29 and CP30 practices and the edge feathering and hedgerow renovation practices in WHIP and EQIP. Furthermore, we are trying to increase participation in counties that have the best chance for bobwhite recovery."
For more information, contact your local USDA Service Center or your local TWRA or NRCS Wildlife Biologist. Contact information for these offices and biologists, along with information on conservation programs and practices, is available at http://www.twraprivatelands.org.
WILDLIFE BELONGS IN THE WILD
Here's something that needs your attention and reading it twice won't hurt either. The TWRA said two recent cases in East Tennessee have renewed concerns about the dangers of possessing captive wildlife.
A case in Heiskell, Tennessee, involved illegally possessing a spotted skunk, several rattlesnakes and various animal parts from endangered sea turtles. A case in Scott County, involved a couple who were in possession of rattlesnakes. They were charged with illegal possession of wildlife, harvesting wildlife in closed season, acquiring wildlife from illegal sources, housing and transporting illegal wildlife and holding wildlife in unauthorized containers.
The dangers of possessing poisonous snakes are obvious. The dangers associated with possessing animals such as raccoons, deer, squirrels, turtles and birds are not so obvious. Any of the aforementioned animals may seem cute and, even cuddly, when they are caught. People try to domesticate these animals, and given the time of year, they may seem friendly but, they are wild animals and they sometimes carry diseases and bacteria that can be transmitted to humans and domestic pets.
Wildlife also have breeding seasons where their actions change drastically and sometimes violently. The Agency asks if anyone knows of someone in possession of illegal captive wildlife, they should call The Region IV poaching hotline at 1 (800) 831-1174
SEASONAL ROADS CLOSED
Sooner than normal, the TWRA said the United States Forest Services (USFS) has closed the seasonal roads on the North Cherokee Wildlife Management Area in an effort to prevent continued additional maintenance costs that have resulted in recent years due to late December and January weather. The closing comes 30 days earlier this year than in the past few winters. The closing is expected to substantially decrease the maintenance costs to roads in the area.
The TWRA has a cooperative agreement with the USFS to utilize the area as a WMA. The USFS announced a potential change in the seasonal road closure dates in September. At the time, a comment period concerning the proposal of the earlier closure was presented by the USFS. The North Cherokee WMA is located north of the Great Smoky Mountains Nation Park.