Iowa wildlife sightings flourish

contributed photos — Spring finds wildlife stocking up on food wherever they can find it. As for the black squirrel, opportunity was found at a backyard bird feeding station at the Sand Road home of Dan Brandt. And a few miles away, a small group of adult snow geese, and young from last year, and other adult “blue phase” snow geese, rest and feed in last year’s corn field. Wild critters have to eat. Iowa corn is just one item on the menu.

SPRING WILDLIFE SIGHTINGS continue as the month of March marches onward toward April. Skies overhead may be filled with birds of all different sizes, calling to each other as big skeins of geese move north. Sandhill Cranes voice their throaty twitter that resonates long distances. Red-winged blackbirds sound off in wetlands or from roadside cattails. Robins hop across grassy lawns, and now due to recent rains, are having great success finding and pulling nightcrawler earthworms into their beaks. Turkey vultures are back and they are also plying the airwaves with their long out-stretched wings, as the glide across the landscape. Bald eagles are sitting on nests. Great horned owls and barn owls are also on nests, each species now keeping newly hatched owlets warm and dry. As this new spring season wakes up the land and its critters, food for all kinds of wildlife will become more available. It is a great time for wildlife watching humans to keep guide books handy, binoculars close by, and your hiking shoes and jackets at the ready-set-go stage.

BLACK SQUIRRELS are not that common locally. However, as this image provided by Dan Brandt shows, they periodically show up where we may see them. Many years ago while hunting deer on private land that is now the Iowa River Wildlife Area, I spotted an all black squirrel. I did have a 35mm film camera with me, but no long lens. My image was still proof of what I saw.

Then in November 2016, I was at the right place, right time situation, with my digital camera and long lens, to capture images of our common fox squirrel in its unusual all black pelage. And now Dan Brandt has proof for us to enjoy of his black squirrel. A common note for each of these sightings….all took place within and close to the Iowa River Wildlife Area and the forested lands along the east bluffs of the Iowa River adjacent to the Sand Road.

If one travels to other specific locations, the genetic abundance for black squirrels is common – Detroit, Mich.; Middletown, Con.; Marysville, Kan.; Council Bluffs; London, Ontario, Canada; Kent, Ohio; and Charleston, W.V. All white, but not albino, squirrels occur with regularity in locations like Marionville, Mo.; Olney, Ill. and Kenton, Ten.

WILD TURKEY HUNTING SEASONS will begin next month. For youth, they get an early start opportunity on April 9, 10 and 11. For the rest of us, the start date can be as early as April 12 – 15 for season one, April 16 – 20 for second season, followed by the thi rd season April 21 – 27. Fourth season is April 28 through May 16. These dates pertain to gun hunters going after wild turkeys. Iowa resident bow and arrow turkey hunters may purchase up to two licenses valid from April 12 – May 16.

Wild turkey hunting is an excellent time to get outside, hike deep into a forest, sit quietly, make a few soft turkey calls, and just let spring fever surround you. You may or may not see turkeys. However, that time spent outside surrounded by nature waking up from a long winter is invigorating. On average, only one in five turkey hunters will bring dinner home with them.

POACH and PAY PROJECT is a cooperative venture partnership with Media Partnership and International Wildlife Crimestoppers. Together with the Boone and Crockett Club, a more coordinated effort is being pursued against poaching. Poaching is the illegal taking of native plants or wild animals.

For more than 100 years, conservation of our natural resources has come through the dedication of ethical hunters abiding by the regulations put in place to maintain sustainable populations of wildlife. Conservation officers have been essential to that model to identify and arrest poachers. Their job is incredibly hard. To help educate the public about wildlife crimes, the B&C Club is assisting with the set up of traveling exhibits, a trailer, that is filled with examples of wildlife crimes and the penalties poachers had to pay for their illegal acts.

Iowa has a similar program. It is called TIP, Inc. This acronym stands for Turn-In-Poachers. A 24 hour, seven day per week hot line phone, or email, or texting, is available to report suspicious activities to conservation officers. The number is 800 532-2020 or one can use www.iowadnr.gov/tip. Good information may lead to uncovering more than was anticipated. Examples happen every year where a simple TIP call exposes way more bad deeds, some of which become multi-state and multi-year investigations.

EARTH NOTES: A review of natural history that our earth has endured is how I will finish today’s field notes. Iowa’s 55,857.13 square miles of land is where we live today. That lands supports our agricultural base and industries associated with it. Long term diligent conservation of soils, maintaining clean water and air, are all part of everyone’s mission. We all depend upon natural resources to live.

Of note today are the geological underpinnings that happened eons ago and are still essential to our life today. Our earth is pegged at 4.567 billion years old. Earth has endured enormous changes that cycle through geologic time. So, way before people entered into the equation, ever changing plate tectonics built and destroyed and rebuilt land masses of the continents. Subsiding crustal plates spawned volcanoes hundreds of miles inland or at hot spots in mid ocean. Mountain ranges were born and eroded away back to the land and into the oceans. Ocean waters shrank as glaciers grew. When glaciers melted back, ocean levels returned to former elevations. Fossils are the evidence for life long ago, in the oceans or upon the land.

Iowa as we know today is a product of its own geological events. These forces are and remain huge, powerful and unstoppable. Gravitational mechanisms within our solar system, and the powerful mood swings of our Sun, have caused glacial systems to dominate numerous times and take numerous pauses as our earth rewarmed from the cold of glacial maximums. These cycles took thousands of years to develop and thousands of years to recoup.

The problem with human life spans is that they are extremely tiny in comparison to geologic time scales that are very very long. Good choices involving natural resource protection will remain our human short term goal as we adapt. Just remember there is no ‘climate controlling thermostat’ that humans have any control over regarding whether the earth will get warmer or colder. If only politicians knew that simple fact, I can only wish.

“Nature brings to every time and season some beauties of its own.”

— Charles Dickens

Garry Brandenburg is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology.

Contact him at:

P.O. Box 96

Albion, IA 50005


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