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Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

Game and Parks provides updates on cougar research and management

GERING, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission delivered an update of its cougar research and newly approved management plan for the species to Panhandle residents this week. The information was delivered during public meetings in Gering on Wednesday, April 4, and Chadron on Tuesday, April 3. The meetings featured a presentation by Sam Wilson, Commission carnivore and furbearer program manager, and addressed questions about the big cats, commonly referred to as mountain lions or pumas. Wilson said cougars …

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Battling the invasives

Phragmites

Those of you who have been to Smith Lake Wildlife Management Area south of Rushville lately have surely noticed the signs warning you about an invader that has taken up residence in the water. For those of you who have not, no, the Walgren Lake Monster of local legend has not moved east — as far as we know. The culprit is curly leaf pondweed – a plant that forms dense stands over large areas, crowding out other species, restricting …

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Nebraska Game and Parks to host public meetings about mountain lions

LINCOLN, Neb. – The public is encouraged to attend one of four upcoming informational meetings about mountain lions in Nebraska. The meetings are hosted by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The meetings will include an overview of what the Commission knows about mountain lions in the state. Topics will include an update on research and details of the new mountain lion management plan. Staff then will receive feedback and answer questions. All meetings will be from 7 p.m. to …

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Ponds at Fort Robinson State Park getting major improvements

Lower Ice House Pond

CRAWFORD, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is moving forward with a comprehensive plan to improve the fishing at most of the 11 ponds in Fort Robinson State Park. Joe Rydell of Alliance, Commission fisheries biologist, said the ponds provide angling opportunities to countless park visitors each year but are in need of an upgrade and have untapped potential. Fed by coldwater streams and springs, many of the ponds in the 22,000-acre park served the Crawford National Fish …

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Alliance angler is first Nebraska Trout Slam recipient

Justin Powell

ALLIANCE, Neb. — The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has its first official Trout Slam angler. Justin Powell of Alliance was the first to meet the requirements of the new program, in which successful entries catch one of each purebred species of trout found in Nebraska – rainbows, browns, cutthroats and brooks. Although Powell has caught all four species in one day in the past, it took him two this time. He caught the fish in the Pine Ridge and …

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‘Wildlife and Watercolors’ program set at Wildcat Hills

GERING, Neb. — Participants of a program at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center will express their appreciation for wildlife through the art of watercolor painting. “Wildlife and Watercolors,” the next installment of the center’s Wildcat Weekend series of events, will be Saturday, March 10, at 10 a.m. Amanda Filipi, outdoor education specialist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, said the event is designed for all ages and is especially ideal for anyone looking to start a new hobby. She …

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Nebraska bighorn sheep receive new monitoring devices

Bighorn sheep capture

CHADRON, Neb. – More than 50 bighorn sheep are carrying new equipment to help the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission track and aid their populations, some of which are struggling in areas of the state. A crew of about 50 people, consisting of Commission staff and volunteers, equipped the sheep with monitoring devices after a helicopter capture crew caught them at five locations in the Panhandle this weekend. The crew set up its mobile staging station at four locations along …

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Goosing for the future down by Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock and goose pit

The calendar tells me that today is World Wetlands Day so it seems appropriate to thank those who work to conserve the lands that waterfowl and so many other species depend upon for survival. Throughout the world, conservation-minded volunteers devote time and resources toward the preservation of wildlife and the lands they inhabit. Many of them channel their energy through conservation organizations, of which the recognized leader for wetlands is Ducks Unlimited. One such person is Larry Olson of Crawford, …

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Panhandle reports increased deer harvest

Mule Deer in the Pine Ridge

CHADRON, Neb. – Nebraska’s deer seasons wrapped up in mid-January and preliminary numbers show the harvest was up in the Panhandle. Through all seasons, hunters checked in 8,072 deer in the region compared to 7,815 the previous year — a 3.3 percent increase.  The Panhandle’s overall number of harvested deer consists of 4,717 mule deer and 3,355 whitetails. Three of the four westernmost units in the state – Pine Ridge, Plains and Sandhills — reported more deer harvested this fall …

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Badger Day in the forecast at Wildcat Hills

GERING, Neb. – The groundhog may or may not see its shadow, but the forecast says there is a highly favorable chance for people to learn about another burrowing animal next month. Badger Day will be Saturday, Feb. 3, at 10 a.m. at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center south of Gering. Amanda Filipi, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission outdoor education specialist, said that Badger Day was inspired by Groundhog Day – which was actually inspired by Badger Day. To Germans, …

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