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Low prices make for slow alligator season in Louisiana

The Free Press WV

Here’s a fashion trend that’s good news, if you’re an alligator in Louisiana: Prices for skins are down to less than half what they were just five years ago, making for a slow wild harvest.

The director of the state’s alligator program estimates that about 18,000 were taken from the wild this year.

Jeb Linscombe of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says low demand has cut prices to between $7 and $8 a foot for the past two years. That’s the lowest since the recession cut prices to $7.50 a foot in 2009.

“Nobody really wanted to buy them,” said John Currier, a hunters’ representative on the Louisiana Alligator Advisory Council. “By the time you figured the gasoline and the other expenses, the price they were offering wasn’t worth it.”

Currier said he gets tags for 22 alligators, but only hunted one during the September season — and that was because a friend of his daughter’s wanted to bag one.

In general, Linscombe said, an average of $20 a foot is needed for hunters to make a profit.

Prices after the recession rose to an average $29 a foot in 2013 and 2014, then fell to $23.50 and, in 2016, $17.

Last year, Linscombe said, about 15,000 gators were taken from the wild.

The low demand is just fashion’s fickleness, said Clint Hebert, sales and marketing manager for the Mark Staton Co. of Lafayette, which deals largely in alligator leather goods.

“The market is typically driven by the overseas fashion houses,” he said, but he’s philosophical: “For the most part, the economy and the fashion industry will turn around and the fashion will spring back.”

Louisiana’s alligator farms typically harvest about 300,000 or more a year, Linscombe said. He didn’t expect that to change. Most farmed skins are on the smaller side, used for watch bands rather than for handbags or boots.

He said there’s no danger that slow hunting seasons will lead to alligator overpopulation in the swamps.

Unregulated hunting made the alligator one of the first species on the list when the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973. Louisiana had ended all hunting 11 years before that, and allowed its first small, highly regulated hunts in 1972 and 1973. The season became statewide in 1981; two years later, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruled that the species had recovered over most of its range.

An average of 33,500 wild alligators a year were taken from 2010 to 2016. Even the highest modern wild harvest is only a tiny percentage of the total, now estimated at nearly 2 million just in Louisiana.

“Alligators are cannibalistic. The population will control itself,” Linscombe said.

West Virginia’s muzzleloader deer season opens December 10, 2018

The Free Press WV

West Virginia’s muzzleloader deer hunting season will open December 10 and run through December 16, 2018.

During muzzleloader season, antlered deer are legal in all counties that have a buck firearms season, and deer of either sex are legal in all counties or parts thereof that have an antlerless season.

Logan, McDowell, Mingo and Wyoming counties are closed to all firearms deer hunting, including the muzzleloader deer season.

The season bag limit is one deer on a base license and one additional deer with the purchase of a class RM or class RRM stamp.

The additional muzzleloader stamps must be purchased before the start of muzzleloader season.

RM is the stamp designated for residents and RRM is the stamp designated for nonresidents.

Crossbows can be substituted for a muzzleloader firearm during the muzzleloader deer season; however, bows cannot be substituted for a muzzleloader.

Concurrent archery hunting is legal during the muzzleloader season, subject to all archery deer hunting regulations.

Concurrent waterfowl hunting is also legal.

No more than three bucks can be harvested in a calendar year (all seasons combined).

All hunters afield during this week are required to wear blaze orange.

For more information, hunters should read the 2018-2019 West Virginia Hunting and Trapping Regulations Summary or visit the DNR website at www.wvdnr.gov.

To register for your DNR ID number, buy a license or to electronically check game, go to www.wvhunt.gov.

WVDNR awaits CWD test results

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources collected data from 865 deer during mandatory biological collections in the eastern panhandle last week. Hunters were required to bring their deer to nine locations in Berkeley and Mineral Counties as biologists tested most of the animals for chronic wasting disease.

“Those samples will be shipped off in the next few days to the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in Madison,” said Dr. Jim Crum, Deer Project Leader for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “We may start getting results by the end of the week or maybe next week.”

Not all of the 865 deer were sampled. Biologists did not collect data on fawns or mature bucks.

The sampling technique would be damaging to a buck hunters might want to take to the taxidermist.

It’s unclear at this point how many samples will be shipped off to the lab.

All samples will be tested and those which show the conditions of CWD will be put through a second test to confirm. Hunters who brought their animals to those check stations in Berkeley, Mineral, and to the DNR District office in Romney for sampling were issued a number on their check tag. The number will enable them to learn the test results of their specific deer once the testing is complete.

“That number is specific for that deer,” said Crum. “They can go onto our website, once the data is in, and they can click on ‘Check CWD’ and enter that number to see their results.”

Crum anticipated those results probably wouldn’t be available until next week. He said it was tough to know what they have found until the tests were complete, but seemed encouraged by what he saw at the one station in Berkeley County where he was posted.

“Most of the animals I looked at were healthy and I think most of the hunters were proud of their harvest,” he said. ‘There were several 10 pointers and a lot of 8 pointers.”

~~  Chris Lawrence ~~

Unicorns Existed, But Climate Change Killed Them

The Free Press WV

New research in Nature Ecology & Evolution reveals the 7,700-pound hairy rhino, also known as the “Siberian unicorn,” was still stomping around Eurasia 39,000 years ago.

Paleontologists previously believed the animal, which sported a single three-foot-long horn, died out around 200,000 years ago.

But an amino acid-extracting procedure confirmed Elasmotherium sibiricum lived much later, and that plummeting temperatures during the Pleistocene ice age — not proto-human hunters — were to blame for its demise.

Only five out of 250 known rhino species still exist.


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