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November 19, 2004
Press Release

Iowa DNR News

Test Results Show Iowa Fish Below Level for Mercury Advisory

DES MOINES - Fish caught from Iowa waters is an excellent source of protein and part of a healthful diet. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), in conjunction with the Iowa Department of Public Health, can conclusively make this statement based on testing more than 485 fish samples over 30 years from Iowa streams and public lakes.

The Iowa DNR bases its fish consumption advisory on the same U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standard used by grocery stores and fish markets. Using this standard, the Iowa DNR recommends that no fish caught from Cedar Lake in Cedar Rapids be eaten due to high levels of chlordane. The Iowa DNR also recommends that no channel catfish caught from the Ottumwa Lagoon in Ottumwa be eaten because of high levels of chlordane.

Lately, there has been a national push to limit consumption of certain fish species because of the presence of mercury. Mercury is a naturally occurring element and is found in higher levels in states with a history in the logging industry. Mercury is also associated with emissions at coal burning energy plants. Mercury from the energy plants can drift hundreds or thousands of miles before returning to earth and entering a lake or river.

There are steps being taken by the DNR and other businesses to reduce the amount of additional mercury from entering the environment from energy production. An example is the new MidAmerican Energy station at Council Bluffs. This facility received the first ever air permit that controls mercury emissions. The plant is scheduled to begin operating in 2007. Iowa is also the national leader in non-polluting wind energy with more than 400 wind turbines producing 423 megawatts of energy, which is enough electricity to power 130,000 homes.

So far, Iowa fish have tested below the FDA consumption advisory levels for mercury. But mercury levels in fish is an issue for certain groups, like women who are pregnant or who are planning to become pregnant, women who are nursing and for children 12 years of age and younger. So, the Iowa DNR and the Iowa Department of Public Health advise that anyone who falls into one of those categories should eat no more than one meal per week of fish that could be a source of mercury. Those fish include smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, sauger, northern pike and muskie. More specifically, the larger fish among those listed would be the most likely to have higher levels of mercury.

“Fish in general is a smart choice of a healthful diet,” said Chuck Barton, state toxicologist with the Iowa Department of Public Health. “With the increase in the occurrence of obesity in our society, the last thing we want to do is to drive our citizens away from the health benefits of eating fish. By following these recommendations, Iowans can continue to include fish as part of a healthful diet.”

DNR Investigates Second Fish Kill in Carroll County

LIDDERDALE -The DNR is investigating a second fish kill in Elk Run Creek, a tributary of the North Raccoon River in northern Carroll County. This is a separate incident then one investigated a week ago by the DNR.

The latest fish kill was discovered Tuesday by the Iowa DNR while investigating the previous fish kill. Approximately four miles of stream have been affected by a total fish kill, although obtaining an accurate fish count is hampered by the extremely turbid water of the creek along the affected area from the pollution. The water does have a manure odor.

The portion of stream affected is about a mile and a half above the confluence with the Raccoon River. The water in the creek and the Raccoon River are still clear below the affected part of Elk Run.

Rain is the in forecast and it is hard to predict what impact weather might have, according to Alison Manz, a DNR investigator.

“Rain would push the pollution downstream, but it also may provide some dilution. We will have to wait and see what the ultimate impact is from the weather,” Manz said.

While the investigation is still being conducted, the initial evidence suggests that the fish kill may have been caused by manure entering the stream from an open feedlot and that there may be several livestock operations that could have contributed to the problem.

The DNR will continue to investigate on Wednesday. The downstream water supply at Des Moines was notified.

For more information, contact Kevin Baskins at 515-249-2814.

Iowa Pheasant Opener Review
by Joe Wilkinson
Posted: November 9, 2004

Some hunters got birds. Some hunters got blown over.

Many wind-whipped pheasant hunters called it quits early on opening day, with sustained 30 mile an hour blasts common across all of Iowa. That had pheasants sitting tight, or rocketing out of shotgun range when they did flush. Sunday was a little more hospitable, with some of the hunters back out in the field.

"The groups I checked might have no birds, or maybe one on Saturday," relays Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Erika Anderson, who patrolled Johnson County in eastern Iowa over the weekend. "Sunday, though, I don't know where the hunters went. I did see some roosters; also a couple rabbits, even a partridge." A similar outlook comes from neighboring Cedar and Muscatine Counties. "I talked with 30 hunters and saw (only) four dead birds," reports officer Shawn Meier.

Those assessments seem fairly typical from officers and biologists working the opener. With an ocean of standing corn still out there and with a subdued pheasant outlook this year, hunters weren't expecting a 'hunt for the ages.' In areas with decent habitat, though, those who persevered got some birds.

"Success was mixed," agrees Rod Slings, who checked hunters in Jasper and Polk counties in central Iowa. "I talked with a group of eight hunters with 12 birds by about 11 in the morning. The wind made it difficult. Some roosters got up ahead of the group and sailed away. Others sat tight with dogs working right past them; then got up behind everybody." Slings points to all the corn standing (Only 62 percent was reported harvested by Monday of last week) and foresees better hunting in the weeks ahead, as that early season crop cover is transformed to stubble.

In Iowa and Keokuk counties, law enforcement supervisor Craig Jackson went against the grain somewhat, saying hunters there did surprisingly well, even with the wind. "There were fewer hunters on Sunday, but they were still getting some birds," offers Jackson.

Slings, who heads the DNR's recreation safety programs, was cautiously optimistic about another weekend fact. "There were no accidents reported. That's a first since I've been around." While the wind and standing corn might have reduced some activity, he assigns some of the credit to Iowa's new 'blaze orange' requirement. Upland bird hunters must now wear at least one item of external clothing which is at least 50 percent blaze orange, to improve their visibility. Comments over opening weekend were all positive, from hunters in the field. "Compliance was very good," stresses Slings. "I had one guy (whose hat was questionable). The rest of his party had a vest on him in no time."

He says the first two weeks of the pheasant season are when most hunting incidents are investigated. "We understand the number of hunters was down slightly, but not having any accidents during the opening weekend is great news," says Slings. Last year, the DNR investigated 15 pheasant hunting injuries. Two years ago, with the bird forecast similar to this season, there were five.

"I saw no violations of the new regulation," notes DNR wildlife biologist Tim Thompson, checking hunters around the Hawkeye Wildlife Area near the Johnson/Iowa County line. "I did see a lot of young roosters; maybe three-fourths of them. That's a pretty normal ratio of adults to young birds taken." He, too, heard hunters say they were practically stepping on hunkered-down birds before they would take off in the heavy winds. "Hunters had some birds. No (three rooster) limits, but they had some," says Thompson.

New Regulation Clarified:

Upland game bird hunters need to be decked out in some blaze orange this season. Those pursuing cottontail and jackrabbits need not.

New legislation requires upland bird (pheasant, quail, partridge, ruffed grouse and woodcock) hunters to wear at least one article of external clothing (cap, vest, jacket, etc) that is at least 50 percent blaze orange. An earlier news release referred to upland game, including cottontail and jackrabbits. While many rabbit-only hunters do wear orange--and while it is a great safety tool for the hunt--it is not required.

Deer Rut Peaks, Motorists On Guard

It's getting dark earlier, the crops are coming out....and Iowa whitetails are in the peak of their annual breeding period. Those three factors add up to more deer on the move. Drivers are warned to keep their eyes on the road...and on the road shoulders.

During the first two weeks of November, bucks pursue does, even those not quite ready to breed. That day-and-night pursuit pushes deer into the open, often heading across roadways they might otherwise avoid. Antlered bucks, rarely seen through most of the year, are more frequently seen dead on the roadside, having wandered into a car's path.

Motorists are advised to reduce their speeds in areas of known deer traffic; especially in the hours around sunset and sunrise; peak deer-movement periods. Another advisory is for drivers to avoid leaving the road or going into the oncoming traffic lane to avoid striking a deer. The potential for damage or injury is greater if that occurs.

Trout Headed for Banner Lakes Wednesday

DES MOINES - The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will stock an estimated 1,400 catchable sized trout at Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park, north of Indianola, around 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17.

The newly created trout fishery has been received well by central Iowa anglers, said Marion Conover, chief of the Iowa DNR's fisheries bureau. "It is nice to feel a buzz among the local anglers, especially when someone hooks on to one of the trophy-sized trout we released," Conover said. "This is a really unique opportunity and the people have turned out."

Anglers who want to fish for the trout are required to purchase the trout privilege for $11 in addition to an Iowa fishing license. The daily bag limit for trout is five and the possession limit is 10.

The trout are from the Big Springs hatchery near Elkader. This is the second of three fall and winter trout stockings at the 59-acre lake. The DNR will stock the lake again in January.

Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park is the only central Iowa trout fishery.

Weekend Program Introduces Deer Hunting to Iowa Teens

GUTHRIE CENTER - The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is hosting 20, 12 to 15 year old novice hunters for a deer hunt at Springbrook State Park, Nov. 19 to 21. This is the first time for this type of event in Iowa.

"The weekend will be as hands on as possible for these new hunters so they can get the total experience," said A.Jay Winter, who is coordinating the event for the Iowa DNR. "We found a need for this type of experience because the number of Iowa hunters is decreasing and the deer herd has increased."

Each of the youth hunters will have a mentor for the entire weekend. The mentor can be a parent, relative or friend or, if a mentor was not available, Winter provided one.

The weekend begins with a program Friday evening that covers whitetail deer biology and continues through deer management, hunting equipment, methods, scouting and laws, a safety trail, how to sight in a firearm, field dressing, photography and processing.

"The education session will wrap up Saturday morning and the hunt will follow to allow these young hunters a chance to apply the skills they just learned," Winter said. Hunters will be assigned to specific units in the park and allowed to harvest one deer. They will be paired with their mentors at all times.

"This weekend is going to be as much for the mentors as it is for the students," Winter said. "With this program we can give young hunters a positive first experience that they can carry the rest of their lives and allow the mentors to share the experience with the youth. Everyone wins."

For more information contact Winter at (641) 747-8383 ext.11 or ajay.winter@dnr.state.ia.us.

Big, Bold, and Beautiful - Iowa's Monster Whitetails are
Legends of the Fall

by Lowell Washburn

CLEAR LAKE -- It is by no mistake that November is called the Hunter's Moon. Monster white-tailed bucks are on the prowl. And for the state's 30,000 archery deer hunters, November simply offers the best of the best.

In most Iowa counties the fall breeding season, or rut, usually reaches its peak about mid-month. By then most bucks, including the real bruisers, have forsaken their totally nocturnal lifestyles. Those magnificent trophy stags that have somehow managed to remain virtually invisible during the other 11 months of the year will appear, suddenly and boldly, in broad daylight. Locked into a perpetual search mode, they relentlessly cruise ridge tops, river bottoms and brushy draws in hope of finding a doe.

Sometimes, these wandering bucks find rival males instead. When that happens, the Iowa timbers resound with the deadly clash of dueling antlers. Most fights are brief and non-lethal. The exceptions usually occur when two real monsters accidentally cross trails. For white-tailed deer, the rut is extremely serious business, and mature bucks are literally out to kill the competition. In most cases, the loser is driven away -- bloody and bruised, perhaps, but able to fight another day. In some cases, however, the battles take on a more sinister tone. If the antlers of the animals are evenly matched and become hopelessly locked, both contestants may face a bleak future.

As the rut reaches its crescendo, bow hunting is no longer an hour after daybreak or hour before sunset proposition. Bucks, and plenty of them, are on the move 24/7. During the Hunter's Moon there is no such thing as a bad time for hunters to sit in a tree. Seasoned archers will tell you that noon can be as productive as sunrise.

But even now, the big bucks don't come easy. Tagging one still requires ample amounts of scouting, woodsmanship, and above all -- patience. Tagging a monster generally means passing up numerous six and eight pointers. That's tough. For many hunters the temptation of seeing those lesser bucks is just too great.

When the Big Buck finally does arrive, many hunters simply crack under the strain. After the drilling the Bull's Eye on plastic deer targets all summer, a hunter may easily miss the entire animal once the moment of truth arrives. It's called Buck Fever, and it is the only explanation as to why so many new broadheads end up in the ground or imbedded in tree trunks instead of in deer.


Songbird Feast

Songbird lovers can supercharge their songbird-feeding program by planting beautiful trees and shrubs to provide food and year around shelter for their feathered friends.

"Urban and rural yards can provide important habitat for many species of songbirds, and greatly strengthen your bird feeding program," said Stan Tate, forester with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, in Wapello.

"Now is the time to order songbird packets to plant in your yard next spring. It will make the birds happy and your yard more beautiful," said Tate. For only $20 and a few hours work, "you can plant trees and shrubs that will help feed and shelter your songbirds for your entire lifetime. Plant only once, but enjoy for many years."

The songbird packet is grown by the DNR forestry bureau and contains 16 favorite shrubs and 4 trees proven to attract songbirds year around. These are all grown from seed collected in Iowa.

The packet contains two bur oak trees, two white pine trees, four wild plum bushes, four chokecherry bushes, four gray dogwood bushes, and four serviceberry bushes. This planting can be easily fit into a small lot or backyard in town and will help beautify the neighborhood.

"Songbird packets make great gifts for the holidays," Tate said. The State Forest Nursery provides gift certificates for those receiving the gift this spring. The packet will arrive between mid-March and the end of May along with planting instructions.

To order, call 1-800-865-2477 and ask for the Songbird Packet. Checks, VISA or Master Card are accepted. Shipping is free. For more information, log on to www.iowadnr.com/forestry/.


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