Moderating Between Mississippi’s Wildlife and People
November 14 — Beavers, buzzards, geese and hogs, oh my! The interaction of people and wildlife in Mississippi requires the attention of 33 staffers of the USDA APHIS Wildlife Services.
Kris Godwin, the program’s director, is headquartered in MSU’s Thompson Hall.
“I got into wildlife thinking I was going to work with the animals,” said the New York native. “But, it’s the people side of it that’s most challenging.”
The service’s mission is to “provide leadership in wildlife damage management to protect agriculture, industry and natural resources and to safeguard public health and safety.”
Godwin’s areas of responsibility include training and education, technical assistance, human health and safety, the national rabies surveillance program, airport/airplane protection, and wildlife disease surveillance.
“We have no regulatory authority,” she said. “Our primary focus is education where we try to resolve conflicts between humans and wildlife.”
Among the crazy calls she has gotten are an alligator caught in a beaver snare, a young owl that blocked the door to a house being shown for sale and a beaver in the MSU football stadium near the Bulldog Club.
Normally, she would have killed the beaver. However, she had to live capture it because an audience had gathered.
“We always try to use non-lethal methods, but some populations grow so big that a lot would die from starvation or disease without management,” she said.
Top among the populations that must be depredated are beavers, feral swine and geese.
The service has 17 trappers working statewide in fulltime beaver control. They must protect county roads, highways, railroads and private lands. Among the examples of beaver damage are utility poles cut down and culverts blocked.
“We remove beaver dams with explosives and by hand,” Godwin said. “And, it can be a regulatory nightmare.”
Slip, trip and fall hazards, and disease caused by bird and bat guano are major human health challenges.
“We’ve done such a great job protecting Canada geese that they have found every homeowners association in the state for a place to live,” she said with a nod to Roy Ruby.
Noting the birds are starting to nest in crazy places such as flower boxes, Godwin said the best control is to make as unfriendly an environment as possible. One also can get a nest and egg depredation permit from the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Airports, birds and mammals do not mix. So, nationwide and internationally near military bases, the Wildlife Services has a strong presence. In Mississippi, there are fulltime biologists at both Columbus and Meridian Air Force bases.
A major aquacultural threat is the double-crested cormorant that can eat about one-and-a-half pounds of catfish in a day. Multiplying that by 80,000 birds in the Delta and a fish market value of $1.77 a pound results in significant economic impact.
Feral swine have surpassed beaver as the state’s most destructive pest. They tear up everything from golf greens to corn fields.
Godwin said thermal game cameras are a wildlife biologist’s best friend for nocturnal tracking. Control includes lots of aerial work with three specially trained gunners. Last February they took 800 pigs from a helicopter.
Black vultures, or buzzards, have an affinity for rubber and will rip apart coax cables on communication towers as well as roofing from houses. Using a project at the Golden Moon Casino as an example of buzzard roosting problems, she said, “It came to my attention that people who gamble are superstitious. So, when vultures are sitting on top of the casino, it’s not good.”
As a final note, Godwin reported that her daughter who is doing a year’s study abroad in Paris will be spending time with former Rotary Youth Exchange students she got to know at Starkville High. She will see Marie, Phillipa and Benedetta.
For the Record—November 14
Invocation and Pledge: Heath Barret
Present — 99 (39 exempt)
Absent — 81 (22 exempt, 12 honorary)
Guests: Visiting Rotarian was Jimmy McCluskey. Guests of the club were Niki, Pete, John Alex and McKee Mulrooney; John Robert and Cat Walker; Laura Brian; Charlie, Chuck and Elaine Schimpf; Julie Kennedy; Joanne Grossi; and Elisa Malzanni, RYE student.
Public Service Commission
Sam Britton is the Public Service commissioner for the Southern District of Mississippi. John Forde will introduce him.
Next Week: Cyber-Security
Wes McGrew of HORNE Cyber will speak on cyber-security. Marc McGee will introduce him.
- President Briar expressed get-well wishes to Peggy Buckley who was recovering from a stint procedure.
- He reminded members to sign up for ringing the Salvation Army Christmas bell on December 7 and 13.
Teacher and Students of the Month—Niki Mulrooney, Overstreet teacher of the month, presents her honor students John Robert Walker and Charlie Schimpf. Katherine Little, Student Teacher Recognition Committee member, presented the fifth grade Viva Art teacher with a gift card for classroom supplies.
The national board certified teacher said, “You never do this job by yourself. I’m very blessed that every day I wake up excited to go to work, because that’s my happy place and I love my job.”
11/22, 9:00, First Presbyterian, Briar Jones
11/24, 9:15, Emerson, NO READING
11/25, 10:00, First Baptist CLC, NO READING
The Nominating Committee is accepting recommendations for 2017-2018 officers including: president-elect, treasurer, secretary-elect, town more than five years, town less than five years, university over five years and university under five years.