In Kentucky there are more days in which you can hunt squirrels than in which not, and today begins one of those sections in which you can.
This is the opening day of the state’s spring squirrel season. The four-week season, from May 21 to June 17, is a kind of non-traditional bonus. It comes as a sort of spring sampler for the traditional “autumn” squirrel season which actually starts in the summer and runs well into the winter.
The regular season for squirrel hunting, once the only squirrel season, begins the third Saturday in August and runs through February.
Biologists with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources suggested creating a spring squirrel hunting period as an opportunity bonus that would not have a significant impact on the squirrel population.
Spring hunting, first introduced as short trial seasons in wildlife management areas, is based on an increase in the squirrel population with the birth of new litters in early spring. One of two reproductive outpourings during the year, the spring surge creates a sudden surplus in bushytail numbers.
Regulated hunting during the period has essentially no effect on the total number of squirrels, biologists say. Rather than the hunter harvest, squirrel populations are influenced by the richness or scarcity of the annual mast (nut) harvest, especially the extent of annual acorn production.
The spring squirrel harvest by hunters is of even less importance because while small game hunting is generally in recession, an even smaller percentage of small game hunters participate in the spring squirrel season. Fishing attracts the attention of the more outdoorsy in the spring, and even many hardened hunters may reject spring squirrel season due to its lack of tradition.
One confounding factor in the spring season is that hunters lack a squirrel concentration factor that they have in the season that begins in August, early maturing hickory nuts. The hard-shelled fruits of walnut trees attract squirrels to certain trees when the first nuts begin to ripen. The first ripe hickory nuts are a favorite food and routinely attract bushy colas and hunters for bushy colas.
At this time of year, there is no reliable food source to serve as a focus for arboreal rodents. There’s a lot of food out there now, and that’s part of the problem. May squirrels could be feeding on everything from new seeds to sprouts, fungi, insects, or even bird eggs.
Forests and groves are now thick with foliage, making visibility difficult. And with no inside clue as to where the squirrels will be active, it’s up to the hunter to look and listen closely for random bushy tails. They are often spread out, so hunters can benefit from covering more territory to find “singles”.
The rules for spring hunting are the same as for the traditional season. Among them stands out a daily bag limit of six squirrels.
Bullfrog season jumps into Kentucky’s ponds, streams, and wetlands. The harvest season for long-legged amphibians began on Friday and will run through October 321.
The bullfrog harvest limit is 15 of the greenish hoppers per day, the “day” of the mostly nocturnal chase measured from noon to noon.
Frogs are usually caught at night with the use of artificial lights. A hunting license is required to hunt them with a firearm or archery equipment; a fishing license is required to fish for them with a pole and line, while a hunting or fishing license is an appropriate authorization for catching bullfrogs with home runs or simply by hand trapping.
Staff at the Land Between the Lakes Woodlands Nature Station are observing some of the rarest mammals on earth, new, in an enclosure at the wildlife center.
Nature Station naturalists are godparents to a litter of critically endangered red wolves, pups born to the adult red wolf pair residing in the Woodlands captive breeding program.
Five wolf pups were recently born to the four-year-old female housed in a WNS enclosure as part of a National Red Wolf Recovery Program. One newborn male pup did not survive, but the remaining four wolf pups, two male and two female, are reportedly healthy and gaining weight.
Nature Station staff were excitedly surprised by the birth of the rare pups. Senior Naturalist and Animal Care Specialist at WNS John Pollpeter said hopes for a new litter of red wolves from the resident pair were slim because the male is 13 years old and many thought he was too old to breed successfully.
The new wolf pups will remain in their den in Nature Station’s secure red wolf enclosure, and will not be available for WNS visitors to view until they are old enough to wander outdoors on their own. Pollpeter speculates that the cubs will be cloistered for at least six weeks, and it may be June before they are revealed to the visiting public.
A small reestablished population of red wolves still exists in eastern North Carolina, and all other known red wolves are in a captive breeding program run by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Steve Vantreese is a freelance outdoor writer. Email outdoor news to [email protected] or call 270-575-8650.