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Wildlife Commission approves waterfowl season dates

Populations of most duck and goose species are high, and waterfowl hunters are looking forward to another rewarding season this fall and winter.

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved waterfowl hunting regulations for the 2003-2004 season. Duck and goose seasons and bag limits will remain essentially the same as last year with a few notable exceptions. A shortened pintail and canvasback season will take place as part of the established duck seasons. For complete details pick up a copy of the "2003 Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Guide" available at hunting license vendors around Oct. 1, or log onto www.wildlifedepartment.com.

Also at their September meeting, the Commission accepted a donation of a portable blind tower from the Paralyzed Veterans of America. The innovative blind allows hunters with disabilities to enter the blind from the ground and then raise it up to 20 feet in the air. The solar-powered blind will be used primarily on the Departmentís non-ambulatory controlled hunts.

The Commission also accepted a donation of $3,000 from the Mid-America Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America and a donation of $1,000 from the Oklahoma City Sportsmanís Club. Both donations will go toward the purchase of a second portable blind tower.

In other business, the Commission approved increasing the Lake Texoma license fee from $7.75 to $12. The license allows anglers to fish both the Oklahoma and Texas portions of the lake with only one license. Last year approximately 45,000 Lake Texoma licenses were sold. Texas has already approved the fee increase which goes into effect January 1, 2004.

A proposal to sell approximately 100 surplus firearms to dealers who possess Federal Firearms Licenses was approved by the Commission. The firearms were either seized pursuant to wildlife violations and forfeited to the Department, or are old firearms that were donated and previously used for demonstration purposes in hunter education classes. Details about the sale will be announced at a later date.

The Commission approved a proposal by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) to auction the 2004 elk auction hunt permit. The RMEF will auction off the permit at their annual convention in February. Funds raised by the auction will go to support the Hunters Against Hunger program. The hunt will take place at the Cookson Hills Wildlife Management Area.

The Commission took action to increase the Wildlife Divisionís budget by $33,595. The funds, obtained through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will be used to continue the Departmentís Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Monitoring Program. The monitoring program has been in place for five years and last year 1,000 deer and elk were tested for the disease. All results were negative and the disease has not been found in the stateís wild deer or elk herds. CWD is a fatal brain disease that affects deer and elk and has been found in Colorado, New Mexico and several other states.

The Commission recognized 140 years of faithful service from six Department employees.

ďOne of the biggest strengths of the Department is its outstanding employees,Ē said Greg Duffy, director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The following employees were recognized for their service to the Department: Paul Moore, information specialist, for 25 years of service; Rod Smith, southwest region wildlife supervisor, for 25 years of service; Craig Endicott, northeast region wildlife supervisor, for 20 years of service; Jon Cunningham, state game warden stationed in Payne County, for 20 years of service; John Stahl, northwest region fisheries supervisor, for 25 years of service and Bill Wentroth, northwest region fisheries biologist (Ponca City) for 25 years of service.

The commission also recognized personnel from the license section for their outstanding service to Oklahoma sportsmen. During the months of June and July, over 17,000 lifetime hunting and fishing licenses were issued. The following employees were recognized by the Commission: Michelle Imel, license supervisor, Linda Fergason, cashier and license assistants Shana Cagle, Kathy Radford, Leslie Estrada-Shaw, and Kristi Keeling.

The Commission also recognized Melinda Sturgess-Streich, chief of administration for the Department, for her outstanding service over the past several months.

In other business, a revised Wildlife Department employee handbook was approved by the Commission.

The Commission also voted to accept a high bid of $141 an acre from Black Cat Properties for a three-year lease to the mineral rights on approximately 6,800 acres of Department-owned property in Atoka County.

The Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Wildlife Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department, and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.

The next scheduled Commission meeting is October 6 at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters (auditorium), at the southwest corner of 18th and North Lincoln, Oklahoma City at 9:00 a.m.

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