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Enhancing habitat purpose of Perry Wildlife Area

Perry Wildlife

Photo by Clarke Davis
Andrew Page and Hunter Baillie are busy this spring farming for the animals. Their job is to provide the best environment along with a variety of food to make the Perry Wildlife Area home to an abundance of game.

 

by Clarke Davis
Andrew Page has been planting sunflowers next to strips of wheat in eight or nine fields that adds up to over 100 acres. This will attract the migrating dove population in late summer and in turn attract some avid hunters.
Page manages the 11,000-acre Perry Wildlife Area on the headwaters of Perry Lake for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
About three weeks prior to the Sept. 1 opening of dove season he will burn the wheat and mow down half the sunflowers to create open, barren fields filled with small seeds—the most desirous conditions for doves.
The wildlife area is flood control acres owned by the Corps of Engineers and leased to the state. It straddles the Delaware River and stretches from Half Mound, about five miles north of Valley Falls, to approximately five miles south of Valley Falls.
Assisting Page is Hunter Baillie, a full-time employee of Pheasants Forever, one of four assigned to projects in Kansas.
They work together in managing a dozen marshes on 1,400 acres of wetlands, 3,000 acres of woodlands, and 4,000 acres of grassland. Page is also in charge of 2,100 acres of agricultural leases working with about a dozen farmers.
Page also has oversight responsibilites for Nebo State fishing lake and the Noe Wildlife Area, a 160-acre special-hunts area, both in Jackson County.
Of the dozen marshes, 10 can be managed by raising or lowering the water levels and most of them are now being lowered for the purpose of generating new vegetation growth.
Left alone they will be overtaken by one or two plants that crowd out the other vegetation, such as lily pads and cottontails, he said.
“We want a high diversity — a buffet of food — for the ducks and geese,” Page said.
That can usually be accomplished by lowering the water levels, but sometimes they simply drain a wetland area and put it to corn for a year and then start over.
The wetlands create a great environment for nongame species as well, he said. They attract shore birds and a variety of other migratory birds along with insects, various invertebrates, and reptiles.
Most of the grassland management involves enhancing native grasses and wildflowers and working to stop woody encroachment. This is managed for pheasant and quail habitat. Page is equipped with a grass drill and what he needs to clear brush.
Burning is also used to enhance grasslands and is done at all times of the year.
“We are used to most grassland burning in March and April, but burning can be done during the summer and fall as well,” Page said.
He has a chart showing when the most effective times to burn are, depending on what one wants to accomplish.
The entire area is open to the public year-round to fish, birdwatch, and hunt during the proper seasons with two exceptions. There are two refuges—about 800 acres—that are marked as reserved. One is for special deer hunts, which allows off-road vehicle hunts for handicapped, and the other is for youth, mentors, and the handicapped.
The agricultural leases serve two important functions. Under the agreement with farmers, a certain percent of the crop must remain in the field as food for wildlife and the income from the leases support the  management operation, from salaries to the cost of maintaining equipment.
A couple of big projects underway are the building of a new shop at the headquarters area and the construction of three more marshes that will require a pumping station near the Delaware River.
The 60- by 80-foot shop will be heated and provide a place to do maintenance work on equipment. Page and Baillie service all their tractors and vehicles and can do most of the repairs from welding to a brake job.
Page, 25, holds a bachelor’s degree in ecology and biodiversity from Emporia State University. He and his wife, Courtney, have a 2 1/2-month-old son, Calvin. Both are natives of Atchison where they still live. Courtney is an X-ray technician.
He first came to the wildlife area as an employee of Pheasants Forever, the same job Baillie now has, and became manager last October.
Baillie, 25, is a native of Sargent, Neb., and has a degree in wildlife management from Chadron (Neb.) State University.

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Posted by on May 20 2015. Filed under Featured, The Independent, The Vindicator. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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