By Laura Burford, Wildlife Program Coordinator, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife
Think of a special moment you’ve had in the great outdoors—maybe reeling in a big fish, hearing an owl deep in the woods, or catching a glimpse of a shooting star. Chances are your memory includes the company of a family member or friend.
One of my best memories is hiking Yellowstone National Park with my father, searching for a great gray owl. While we didn’t really expect to see one, we were hopeful. As we turned a bend on DeLacy Creek Trail, perched low in a cedar tree right before us was a massive great gray owl- complete with puffy head and bright yellow eyes. It stared at us briefly, then lifted in flight and flew right in front of us to a nearby meadow. I was so excited I could hardly speak…. I remember reaching out for my Dad’s arm as we both just stood in amazement, smiling and taking it all in. I’ll never forget that day. There’s just something about sharing an experience with someone else that makes it more meaningful.
Great Gray Owl photo by Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
We all appreciate the outdoors differently. While many enjoy the thrill of hunting and angling, the majority of Kentuckians experience nature by hiking, camping, photography, and wildlife watching. With Kentucky’s diverse landscape, there is no shortage of wildlife to watch! Wetlands, limestone caverns, streams, grasslands and rich deciduous forests are home to nearly 1,000 species of animals—most of which are not hunted or fished.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife (KDFWR) recently launched a new program called Kentucky Wild—designed for Kentuckians interested in supporting conservation efforts for ‘non-game’ animals like songbirds, birds of prey, lizards, salamanders, freshwater mollusks, frogs, and bats. All the money contributed to Kentucky Wild goes directly to fund survey, monitoring, research and habitat improvement projects for these important ‘nongame’ species.
Many aren’t aware that KDFWR has a team of biologists devoted entirely to the study of animals that are not hunted, fished, or trapped. These biologists’ work is NOT always glamorous, but hands on work with animals is definitely a great part of the job. Kentucky Wild membership is exciting because it includes the chance for some members to accompany our biologists in the field—helping with habitat building, surveys and monitoring, or other research projects. Offering this chance to share an experience with members is one way that we can highlight the important work we do on behalf of Kentucky’s wildlife.
Kentucky Wild Goose banders following the first Kentucky Wild experience. Photo by KDFWR
Kentucky Wild’s very first wildlife experience was a Canada goose roundup held on June 30th in Louisville. Catching and banding birds allows biologists to track populations over time. Every time a banded bird is seen we get new information. Through band recaptures and recoveries, biologists learn about bird movements, migration, behavior, and survivorship. Five lucky members and their guests assisted migratory bird biologists with catching, aging, sexing and banding geese. By the end of the day, our group had handled 123 birds and recorded valuable data for the migratory bird program. One goose was wearing a band at least 20 years old, with a couple of numbers worn thin. The team replaced the band and sent the old one off for processing to recover the original banding information.
Among our most enthusiastic participants were Parklands employee and Kentucky Wild member Rebecca Grau and her co-worker Kayla Frank. These ladies came ready to work! They jumped right in and helped herd, corral, handle, and band geese. Judging from the smiles on their faces, sharing in the experience was worth the effort and, hopefully, will make their list of happy memories.
Parklands Membership & Volunteer Coordinator Rebecca Grau and Zone Gardener Kayla Franck help out with the Canada goose roundup. Photo by KDFWR.
If you’d like to learn more about Kentucky Wild membership, please visit our website at fw.ky.gov/kywild.
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