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Flora & Fauna

Turtles: Slowing Down for Winter

Some of Nebraska’s most common wildlife have the most magnificent survival abilities. A blast of below-zero temperatures got me thinking about a species I often catch sight of while casting a fishing rod over the soft water, but is nowhere to be seen around my holes in the ice. Painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) basking on a partially submerged log is a familiar scene at ponds throughout Nebraska, and much of the United States for that matter, during summer months. It …

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Eastern Redcedar Threatens Bird Habitats

Eastern redcedar invasion is the single largest threat to native grasslands across the Midwest, including the biologically unique Sandhills of Nebraska. This hardy, fast-growing species has long been appreciated for its use as an effective shelterbelt or natural snowfence; wildlife management agencies, including the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, have planted eastern redcedar to provide habitat and winter cover for wildlife. In retrospect, that wasn’t such a good idea. Eastern redcedar grows quickly and is extremely adaptable to a wide …

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Firearm Deer Season: Enjoying the Experience

Nebraska’s most popular hunt is the 9-day firearm deer season (Nov. 14 through Nov. 22). This is one of the absolute best times of year to be outside and participate in it with the deer rut happening. My lovely wife of more than 33 years, Polly Wagner, says that everything comes to a grinding halt in the Wagner family with the opening of “rifle deer season.” It’s a wonderful event, though. For many of us in the hunting lifestyle, the …

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Lake Minatare opening to birdwatchers Dec. 7

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MINATARE, Neb. — The public will have a special opportunity for viewing birds during an event at Lake Minatare State Recreation Area on Saturday, Dec. 7. The day marks the only opportunity for the public to access the 2,158-acre reservoir on the North Platte National Wildlife Refuge for its annual closure between Oct. 15 and Jan. 14. Birdwatchers who want to participate may arrive at Scout’s Rest Cabin at the lake’s northwest corner any time from 10 a.m. to noon …

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Find Does, Find Bucks

“I wish more deer hunters would forget about all the stuff they have read or heard over the years and focus their deer hunting on the does in order to be more successful in the field,” says Jeff Rawlinson, longtime deer hunter and outdoor educator at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. And he’s right! Far too many of us who hunt bucks get wrapped in a rub and scrape lines, grunt calls, rattling antlers, decoys and a multitude of …

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Lessons from Cat Country

Thanks to research in the Pine Ridge, we are gaining knowledge about one of Nebraska’s most criticized, treasured and, of course, misunderstood repatriates – the cougar. Referred to as mountain lion, cougar and several other names, Puma concolor has become one of the most discussed wildlife species in the state. For all of that talking, though, it seems there is always a need to dispel a few myths and provide accurate information to the public regarding the species. Historical accounts …

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Walk This Way

Just like the shape of its bill, a bird’s feet can tell us a lot about its ecology and the habitat in which it lives. Birds do a lot with their feet – they can perch, walk, preen, feed, carry/hold objects and even swim. These animals are considered digitigrade, meaning they generally walk on their toes, not their entire foot like people do. Most birds have four toes, or digits, while some species only have three. These digits are arranged …

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Don’t Mess with Oil Beetles

Among all the crazy life stories of all the crazy insects in the world, the oil beetle ranks as an elite. The oil beetle is a plant-feeding insect in the blister beetle family. As with other blister beetles, the oil beetle produces a toxic compound called cantharidin that is used to protect its eggs from predation. In addition, when an oil beetle feels threatened, it secretes a yellow substance from its leg joints (of all places) that contains enough cantharidin …

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Expose Your Kids To Agriculture

Let’s face it. We are living in an era where people do not fully understand where their food originates. We are living in an era where urbanization is spreading like wildfire. We are living in an era where there is a decline in rural populations. Yes, we are living in an era where for the first time in history most of the world’s population lives in a city. Enter agriculture (ag). Enter youth. Enter my nearly 4-year old grandson – …

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Thoughts on Waterfowl

It’s just my humble opinion, but I believe those of us involved in fish and wildlife conservation on a professional level are “wired” a bit differently than the rest of society. There’s some innate draw or attraction to wild and natural things and places that is difficult to explain, let alone understand. That attraction has led us down a path of life that isn’t just a job or a career, but a vocation that is inexplicably intertwined with our lives, …

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