Taxidermists shows their best

IOWA TAXIDERMIST ASSOCIATION’s members did an excellent job of bringing their best works for show and friendly competition last weekend. Today’s image of the interaction between two top predator species helps tell a story of hostile intent between between wolf and coyote. The display was created by Dawne Stacks who has a taxidermy studio located at Eldon, Missouri. She has won numerous awards for her wildlife creations such as Best Life-sized Mammal, the Brian Harness Award, Matuska Competitors Award and recognition from Safari Club International and Pheasants Forever.

This mount illustrates a typical response for these animals that tend to share many of the same prey base. And it illustrates the desire of both species to protect land and territory where food can be found. Wolves and coyote ranges overlap in western states, in addition to parts of northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. The best defense for a coyote is to give up, out run or evade the wolf or wolf pack at all costs. The alternative for a coyote that does not escape, or cannot escape, is find death by the fangs of the larger stronger predator.

The wolf was a native Iowa predator found occasionally on the prairie lands during the active settlement time of mid 1800s. As a large predator, it had a price on its head during those early years. It’s presence was not tolerated. But the bigger issues of extensive land use changes from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s meant that lots of native birds and mammals found existing harder and harder as habitat degradations ensued. Changes to the landscape were more lethal in the long run than any bullets from settler’s rifles.

Coyotes are the adaptable species that may be winning the large predator game in many locations where wolves do not live anymore. The amount of territory needed for coyotes is much smaller. Small rodents and birds are what it specializes in for capturing food. Wolves need a much larger territory, roam farther to find food, and cooperate as a pack to take on larger species such as moose, elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer.

The true wolf was extirpated from Iowa by 1910. Historical notes from Dr. James Dinsmore’s book “A Country So Full of Game” tells of wolves being taken in Madison County in 1862 and Sac County in 1868. Another report that seems valid is from Butler County during the winter of 1884-85 in which a farmer held off a wolf with his pitchfork. Wolves during severe winter blizzards of the 1800s could and did find elk floundering in deep snow in woodlands and forests. The wolf was not as heavy and could kill the larger ungulates easily in these crusty snowy circumstances.

There are no documented instances of wild wolf populations in Iowa at this time. The closest wolf packs are in central Wisconsin and northern Minnesota. The southern range of Minnesota wolves is 175 miles north of the Iowa border. The southern border of Wisconsin wolves is just 50 miles from Iowa’s northeast corner. However, in December of 2015, a coyote hunter in northwest Iowa saw what he honestly thought was a coyote at long range. He shot it. It was a very big animal so he contacted his local game warden. The animal was tested by DNA authorities and the results were that this animal was a wolf. DNA composition must show 98 percent or higher to come under the protection of federal and state law. Iowa hunters are continually urged to make detailed observations of and note the distinct differences between wolves and coyotes.

Out-of-state populations offer the potential for occasional visits from wandering animals. Long distance forays by an individual wolf do happen. Whether just passing through or wandering in search of a new territory is the mystery. Iowa’s present day landscapes does not have enough of the right ingredients of habitat like northern Minnesota or central Wisconsin to support wolves.

Marshalltown will be the host again in 2018 when the members of the Iowa Taxidermy Association come together for another excellent show of talent.

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RAIN fell this week, a much needed addition to our soils breaking out of winter’s grip. Water is life to everything. For any area landowner that has a pond or small lake, fertility of run off water may induce a growth of submergent or emergent pond weeds. People may call these aquatic plants ‘weeds’ as if they all are unwanted pests getting in the way. It is typical for man-kind to call any plant out-of-place a weed. Along with the name ‘weed’ comes our desire to control the weeds. It is one thing to pull true undesired plants out of a garden plot so that vegetables we do want can grow with less competition.

Farm pond waters are a different situation. The growth of underwater plants is not entirely a bad thing. But like anything else, too much of something may turn out to be a less than desirable. If a farm pond has too many underwater plants choking the water column, it becomes hard to fish it, hard to row a boat through it, or just unsightly. There needs to be a balance between desired aquatic plants so that fish can benefit. If the pond had too much plant growth last year, the probability of it returning to the same condition in 2017 is very high.

Specialized treatments for ponds is available from companies with trained personnel on how to clean out, retard, or manage pond vegetation. Mechanical underwater cutting machines exist. Chemical controls are offered also. In any case, starting early is essential before aquatic plants reach maximum. It can be a lot of work and expensive to manage a pond to the ultimate degree. Peruse the ads in a magazine like The Iowa Sportsman to review pond management strategies. Or one can also consult with Iowa DNR fisheries personnel. For starters, use this website: www.iowadnr.gov/ponds.

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TROUT are scheduled to be stocked at Sand Lake on April 8 at 11 a.m. There will be some tagged trout and for those lucky enough to catch one, prizes will be given away. In fact, 200 or the 2,000 rainbow trout will have special tags in the adipose fin. Come the the event with your kids or grandkids. Admission is free. Adult fishermen/women must be properly licensed and have paid the trout fee in order to posses trout. This is a simple and obvious requirement of existing law.

If you have the desire to fish for trout in the cold waters of northeast Iowa, here is a list of the top nine trout streams. Within these waters DNR fisheries personnel will stock this year more than 300,000 catchable sized rainbow and brook trout, and 110,000 fingerling brown trout. Stocking runs will start on April 3 and run through October. On the list of nine streams are Clayton County’s Bloody Run Creek located two miles west of Marquette. Look for brown trout of 10-12 inch lengths. Joy Springs is three miles north of Strawberry Point. Brook and rainbows are in these waters.

Delaware County had Bailey’s Ford and Fountain Springs. The former is three miles southeast of Manchester, the latter is 2.5 miles northeast of Greeley. Dubuque County has Swiss Valley found three miles south of Dubuque. Fayette County is home to Glovers Creek and Otter Creek that come together in Echo Valley State Park. Jackson County is home to Big Mill Creek which is five miles west of Bellevue. And lastly, Winneshiek County sports Coldwater Creek three miles north of Bluffton and Trout River five miles southeast of Decorah.

To learn more about Iowa trout and trout fishing, start with the Iowa Fishing Report for weekly recorded messages at the 24-hour hotline by calling 563-927-5736.

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Advice from a Lake: Be clear, make positive ripples, look beneath the surface, stay calm, shore up friendships, take time to reflect, be full of life.

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Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at P.O. Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.