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Wildlife management needs never end

January 30, 2010
By Garry Brandenburg

More EAGLE stories for you this week. This one turned out A-OK. As you will note in the caption to today's photo, this adult eagle had an attitude and a penchant for freedom. And freedom is what it got.

Burt Walters, State Conservation Officer, may be a familiar face to Marshall Countians. He was assigned to this territory about 10 years ago before transferring to Jackson County. After being at Jackson for a couple of years, he transferred again to Clayton County near his home town of McGregor. Walters is a well seasoned game warden with a wealth of knowledge about the Mississippi and the northeast Iowa country in general.

The eagle had no apparent injuries at all when given a quick review by the medical team. Their best option was the advice of Walters to have him take the bird to the raptor center near Cedar Rapids the next day. So the bird went home with him and was locked inside the garage.

Article Photos

Burt Walters, Iowa DNR Conservation Officer at McGregor, holds a bald eagle just prior to its release. The adult eagle was reported to him by a veterinarian at Postville. Two men had found the eagle lying in a road ditch earlier that day, January 22nd, and brought it to the vet. Walters took the bird home with intentions to take it to Cedar Rapids, IA to a raptor rehab center. The bird had other plans. It revived on its own overnight inside Walter's garage. When Walters opened the garage door the next morning, the eagle was ready to escape captivity. It took a couple of hops to the outside and flew away. Its flight path took it over McGregor and off into the skies until it was no longer visible.

Overnight the bird recovered on its own. When I asked Burt what the original cause might have been that allowed the lethargic eagle to be picked up by the passers by, Walters could only speculate that the bird may have been temporarily stunned by some unknown impact while it was hunting. The overnight 'hotel' in the garage allowed the bird to wake up, apparently uninjured and ready to get going.

Once the garage door opened, the bird was quick to note the escape route and took full advantage of the opportunity. Its flight over the valley and the City was noted for as long as it could be kept in sight.

Thanks Burt for assisting in just one of the many tasks conservation officers are asked to do. It is good that this eagle's close encounter with man-kind turned out well.


The DEER TASK FORCE for Marshalltown met last Wednesday afternoon to listen to progress reports relative to Marshalltown's first urban archery deer hunt. DNR deer depredation biologist Bill Bunger was present to answer questions and note the overall reported deer take within the City. Terry Gray of the Parks and Recreation Department also noted the number of calls to her office for reported deer harvests.

Here is the summary of the meeting comments. Overall, there were 13 archers that were certified through the Iowa DNR's bowhunter education program and who had met all the requirements for obtaining City licenses. Out of a potential 75 licenses allocated, 41 were sold. Twenty one deer have been taken so far comprised of 15 female deer, 4 button bucks and two shed antlered bucks.

In the perimeter zone around the City, 38 of the 100 licenses were sold but only 8 deer taken on those tags. One was a button buck and the other seven were female deer. It must be noted that the perimeter zone licenses were above and beyond any other county-wide antlerless licenses that hunters may have used within the perimeter zone. With all 650 county- wide antlerless licenses selling out in only a few days, it is apparent that the perimeter zone option licenses, available to any deer hunter, were not taken advantage of.

Overall for the first year, the task force thought the learning curve for qualifying archers worked pretty well. It was noted that specific landowners who had left their names and addresses with park and Recreation department personnel did get hunters to attempt to take deer in those areas. Success in hunting is never guaranteed as the 13 urban archers can attest to. Seeing deer and having deer walk to within 25 yards are two completely different things.

Winter extreme cold weather, early December flooding, and lots of deep snow, strong winds and ice storms were all factors that impeded urban archers this past season. In spite of these obstacles, a good first year attempt was made. For each of the 15 female deer taken, this roughly translates into 45 fewer deer going into next spring. This assumes that each doe would have had twin fawns in late May or early June 2010.

As for the future, the task force will study and recommend the City continue with the hunt in 2010-11. The group will also work with hunter safety instructors to qualify more archers, line up more matches of landowners with hunters, publicize the bowhunter safety course and subsequent field day training and proficiency testing. Bunger of the DNR stressed how important it is for hunters to gain access to those areas or corridors that deer move through on the way to resident backyards.

The task force will also gather information on buck incentive programs other cities have in place. Whether to take on this plan is yet to be determined. All the archers in attendance at the meeting were agreeable to the first priority, namely to take out doe deer. Potential buck permits may be nice but not necessarily a big factor at all in getting more certified city bowhunters.

Stay tuned for more information in the weeks and months to come. The City bowhunt in Marshalltown continues today and through Sunday the 31st, the last day of the urban season.


Statewide deer harvest numbers tally a bit fewer than 133,000 animals for 2009-10 seasons. Doe deer are reported at 68,560. Antlered bucks are pegged at 47,373. Young of the year bucks, button bucks, at 15,110 and shed-antlered bucks numbered 1,847. Overall, there will probably be more counties at or near management goals. Once all the statistics are compiled, biologists will be able to evaluate trend lines for the overall deer population in all areas of Iowa.


Keeping wildlife populations in close balance with the plant life that sustains them is a conservation management objective. It is much easier to accomplish these goals in the United States where an educated public, strong conservation laws and good biologically based science combine to get things pretty close to right.

Here is what biologists see as a critical need for elephant control in Africa. I provide this example just to allow you the reader to see how the impact of too many plant eaters adversely affects all other wildlife within an ecosystem. The carrying capacity for land can be drastically upset if too many plant eaters are allowed to live. There are many well respected advocates calling for culling elephants in Botswana from 150,000 to just 5,000. In Kruger National Park South, Africa, culling should take the present 16,000 down to 4,000. And in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park, from 60,000 to 2,500.

Now before any armchair 'biologists' in the USA cast condemnation on these drastic steps, keep in mind that Africa has a host of problems to deal with that are enormous compared to what we deal with in America. Still the fact remains, that too many elephants are virtually ruining the habitat for themselves and other wildlife.

But elephants are big and charismatic which tourists like to see. Yet the average tourist with a camera has no idea what the habitat should look like in a well balanced system. Even if the elephants could be methodically and legally culled, what will happen to the ivory tusks? They could be salvaged and sold legally, if such a system were to be put in place, to satisfy a huge demand for ivory in Asian markets. The money from the sale could be plowed right back into long term habitat management programs to maintain a more healthy environment for all wildlife.

Add to this situation political factions in one country which are adverse to selling ivory at all, and a real mess in the making. Now enter the poachers who take elephant illegally and take the tusks for smuggling. The only beneficiaries in this system are corrupt people all along the line. No benefit comes back to the land at all for any long term scientifically controlled hunting and culling needs. Everyone and everything losses in this case.

Feel very fortunate that the USA system for wildlife management, based on well grounded science based factors, is a very good thing indeed. We have it good. It takes eternal vigilance, good management, reasonable regulations, game law enforcement and public cooperation to make it all work. Just something to think about on a cold winter day.


A reminder that the deadline to enter the Marshall County Conservation Board annual photo contest is February 5. Your entries must be turned in to the MCCB offices at the GrimesFarm & Conservation Center by then. The chili supper and awards presentation will be Thursday, February 18 from 6 7 p.m. Each entry receives a chili supper ticket with the $3 entry fee. Tickets can also be purchased for $3 in advance. At the door the cost is $5.

The Amateur Astronomers of Central Iowa invite the public to attend their meeting on Friday, February 12 at 7:00 p.m. at the GrimesFarm Conservation Center. Elwynn Taylor, Biological Meteorologist at Iowa State University, will present a program entitled "Messenger Mission to Mercury, It's Really Cool."


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 PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.



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