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Arkansas Outdoors

Changes to fishing regulations take effect Jan. 1
Today’s topics:
 
·Extra step in boat registration helps prevent fraud, theft
·Mississippi discovers first case of chronic wasting disease
·The Great Backyard Bird Count begins Feb. 16
·Archers take aim at state championship through regional tournaments
 
Extra step in boat registration helps prevent fraud, theft
            LITTLE ROCK – Renewing the registration for your boat or registering your boat for the first time now includes an extra step, one that’s intended to prevent fraud or theft.
The 90th General Assembly of Arkansas passed Act 694 in 2015 to comply with federal regulations mandated by the U.S. Coast Guard. The law requires all boats registered in Arkansas to have verified proof of a valid hull identification number. Verification may be a legible pencil rubbing or a legible printed photograph of the number. The law was given an effective date of Jan. 1, 2017, to allow the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration time to mail a letter explaining the process with all renewal notices issued.
The purpose of a boat’s HIN is identical to the vehicle identification number on cars and trucks – both mark the vehicle or vessel with a unique number that can help prevent fraud and theft. Unfortunately, a standardized system was not in place in Arkansas to collect these numbers, hindering that purpose.
“We have roughly 200,000 registered boats in Arkansas,” said Capt. Stephanie Weatherington, boating law administrator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “When the DFA did a search in their database before the law went into effect, nearly 116,000 of those boats had either missing or incorrect HINs.”
Weatherington has received many calls about the specifics of the law, including the seemingly outdated “pencil rubbing or printed photograph” requirement. With modern technology why wouldn’t showing a digital copy work?
“The physical image or rubbing is supposed to be attached to the file at the DFA,” Weatherington said.
Owners of boats that do not have an HIN should contact Weatherington to work through the process of getting a new one issued. Using the boat’s make and year, she can track down the manufacturer and get a new number issued. If it is a homemade boat, she can issue a HIN after proper proof of construction.
“If it’s a remodel of an old hull, it still has to be looked up by that manufacturer, but in the rare case that it was built from the ground up by hand there are added requirements to issue the HIN,” Weatherington said. “According to Coast Guard regulations, invoices of materials used and photographs of the construction must be supplied for a homemade vessel.”
Weatherington warns that in some rare cases, a new HIN cannot be given because the vessel’s origin cannot be determined. This means that a new boat owner cannot register the boat.
“Two major things to look for when buying a boat are to make sure that HIN is on the outside of the back of the boat, right of the motor, and that the seller can give you a copy of their registration,” Weatherington said. “If those two requirements can’t be met, buyer beware.” 
Contact Weatherington with any questions regarding boat registration in Arkansas, 501-223-6379.
 
 
Mississippi discovers first case of chronic wasting disease
VICKSBURG – A tissue sample collected Jan. 25 from a free-ranging white-tailed deer in extreme southern Issaquena County, Mississippi, returned the first known positive test of chronic wasting disease in the state.
The 4½-year-old buck died about 8 miles north of Vicksburg and was reported to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. The buck was found about 45 miles south-southeast of the southeastern corner of Arkansas.
According to a Feb. 9 press release, MDWFP implemented its CWD response plan, although the release did not go into detail about specific steps. Supplemental deer feeding was immediately banned in Claiborne, Hinds, Issaquena, Sharkey, Warren and Yazoo counties.
Issaquena County is across the Mississippi River from East Carroll Parish in Louisiana. Issaquena County, East Carroll Parish and Arkansas’s Chicot County meet in the southeastern corner of Arkansas and the northeastern corner of Louisiana. The northern boundary of Issaquena County is almost directly across the Mississippi River from the Arkansas-Louisiana state line.
Cory Gray, chief of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Research Education and Compliance Division, says biologists from Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana are already planning to meet and discuss future actions so each state can be on the same page.
“The discovery came at a difficult time to gather samples, as hunting season is nearly over in Arkansas with only a few bowhunters still looking for a deer,” Gray said. “We are reaching out to hunting clubs in the southeast corner of the state to keep a sharp eye out for any deer showing signs of CWD and to report it immediately.”
Gray says the AGFC plans to collect more hunter-harvested samples from the southeast corner of the state during the 2018-19 deer season. Other samples will come from target animals from public reports and roadkills.
“We are about to enter another season of collecting roadkill samples, and have already spoken to local biologists to increase that effort as much as possible,” Gray said.
For details about CWD developments in Mississippi, visit mdwfp.com.
For information about CWD in Arkansas, visit www.agfc.com/cwd.
 
 
The Great Backyard Bird Count begins Feb. 16
            LITTLE ROCK – Join birders across the country Feb. 16-19, and record your birdwatching results to help scientists discover trends and changes in migrations and populations of birds in the Great Backyard Bird Count.
            Founded in 1998 by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the count was the first project to use non-biologists to collect massive amounts of data on wild birds and display the results in near real-time. Scientists combine the data from this count with other citizen-based counting projects, such as the Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch and the eBird program to get a big picture of what is happening to bird populations across the nation. It’s an excellent way to be involved in conservation without ever leaving the comfort of your own backyard.
            Arkansas Game and Fish Commission nature centers also are great locations to enjoy this citizen-scientist activity. Each of the AGFC’s four nature centers has a birdwatching station with maintained feeders near an indoor viewing area. Field guides are available to help identify birds at the feeder, and staff are always nearby to answer questions about the birds you see.
            Kirsten Bartlow, watchable wildlife coordinator for the AGFC, says another great way to enjoy nature is through watchable wildlife trails, including the AGFC’s Arkansas Water Trails program.
            “Water trails are designated routes people can paddle using a canoe or kayak,” Bartlow said. “It’s a great way to get out and enjoy nature, especially birdwatching. You can glide along silently and get really close to many birds. Some wading birds like herons and egrets also are much easier to find from the water.”
            Bartlow says another great way to keep tabs on the species you’ve seen is the AGFC’s Wings Over Arkansas program.
            “With Wings Over Arkansas, you record the bird species you see or hear on a checklist,” Bartlow said, “Once you reach certain levels, you are awarded a certificate and pin to show your accomplishment.”
            Bartlow says Wings Over Arkansas is very popular with school groups and scouts, but has just as many adult participants who enjoy creating a life list of birds they’ve seen.
            “Birding is something that anyone can enjoy, no matter what age they are,” Bartlow said. “And because birds can be attracted to practically any location using feeders, you don’t have to make special plans for a weekend getaway to a far off destination to enjoy the hobby.”
            Visit http://gbbc.birdcount.org/ for more information about the Great Backyard Bird Count. To learn more about the Wings Over Arkansas Program or visit one of the AGFC’s four nature centers, visit www.agfc.com.
 
 
Archers take aim at state championship through regional tournaments
            LITTLE ROCK – Close to 4,200 students filed into middle and high school gymnasiums across The Natural State last weekend to take their shot at qualifying for the Arkansas National Archery in the Schools Program State Championship. Regional shoots were held in 12 locations, covering every region of the state.
            “We’ve had tremendous success with the regionals since we moved to this format,” said Curtis Gray statewide ANASP coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “It really gives more teams an opportunity to participate without having to drive across the state. If they qualify for the championship, they gain some momentum to make that trip and enjoy the experience even more.”
            The top three teams from each division at each qualifier will move on to the state championship at Bank of the Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs, March 2-3. Elementary and middle school divisions will shoot on March 2, and the high school competition will be held March 3.
In addition to team competition, the top shooters at each regional tournament will be invited to compete at the state championship individually for additional awards.
“Most of the top shooters are usually on qualifying teams, but there are some outstanding shooters we want to make sure have a chance to compete on an individual basis,” Gray said. “Individual awards are available during the state competition for these young men and women as well.”
Admission to the state tournament is free.
“We always try to have a variety of things for students to do at the state tournament while they are waiting for their turn to shoot,” Gray said. “We’ll have a few special challenge shots for archers to try, and a 3D archery course to give them a little more feel for where to aim at wild game.”
Visit https://www.agfc.com/en/anasp-app/ for complete team and individual scores for each region.
 
 
 
For the latest in Arkansas Game and Fish Commission information go to www.agfc.com or call the Wildlife Information Hotline, 800-440-1477.