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Four states partner in Operation Early Birds waterfowl hunting enforcement project

  • 11/22/2022 11:36:00 AM
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The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) joined its fellow agencies in Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska on a joint project to check waterfowl regulations compliance over a 36-hour period from the evening on Nov. 4 to the morning on Nov. 6.

In Iowa, the project, named Operation Early Birds, focused on the public wetland complexes of Forney Lake and the Riverton area, as well as the private marshes surrounding the public areas in Fremont County.

“I don’t know how we could have hit the timing any better,” said Captain Brian Smith, southwest district supervisor for the Iowa DNR’s Law Enforcement Bureau. “It was a big migration day with high hunter participation. We brought in additional conservation officers and two federal fish and wildlife agents and that allowed us to cover a lot of ground in a short time.”

He said Iowa was approached late in the planning process and that Iowa’s success was due in part to the local insights from the conservation officer assigned to Fremont County.

Smith said Iowa officers made 136 contacts, issued 48 warnings and 23 citations in 36 hours. While the majority of hunters were in compliance, common issues were failure to register with the Harvest Information Program, not leaving either the head or a fully feathered wing on the dressed-out birds, and not signing or physically possessing the federal migratory stamp. 

“This project had a waterfowl focus but we also checked pheasant and deer hunters,” Smith said. “The officers were out there early and out there late. We made a lot of contacts and provided some education which hopefully prevents any future violations.”

He said this time of year, there are a lot of different seasons open pulling conservation officers in many different directions and a project like this shows the demand placed on officers to be everywhere at all times.

As for the other states, in Kansas, officers made 93 contacts, issued six warnings and 14 citations; in Missouri, officers made 311 contacts, issued 80 warnings and 28 citations; and in Nebraska, officers made 20 contacts, issued one warning and no citations.

“It was a good project, and there was good cooperation between the four states and the Fish and Wildlife Service,” Smith said.