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Transcript for March 23, 2019

Transcript to come.

This week on SUNUP,  we take a look back at some of our favorite outdoor stories.


(soft country music)

>>> Hello everyone, and welcome to SUNUP.

I'm Lyndall Stout.

Warmer temperatures are making their way into Oklahoma,

just in time for the arrival of spring.

To celebrate the much welcome change of season,

we are focusing on some of our favorite stories

that celebrate all things outdoors.

We begin today with a story from 2014,

that looks at how fire impacts

a very interesting type of bird.


>>> The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve

that Nature Conservancy manages

is a wonderful outdoor laboratory.

There's questions we can ask here

that we can't ask anywhere else in Oklahoma.

>>> They try to mimic what we think happened

in Tallgrass Prairie pre-settlement

or pre-urbanization and agriculture.

And that's that fire and grazing are allowed to interact.

So they randomly burn areas, and after they burn them,

as you can see, grazers are drawn to that burn area.

It's got lush regrowth, it's got high protein,

and as one of my colleagues put it,

it's kind of like comparing a salad to a 2x4.

So they're gonna select this lush regrowth as opposed to

areas that haven't been burned in a couple of years.

>>> [Dwayne] These shorter sections of prairie grass,

have another use as well. (birds calling)

This is where greater prairie chickens come to mate.

>>> Prairie chickens are a good indicator

of the overall health, so to speak, of the prairie,

since they need all the different times since fires,

or all the different plant structures.

If you've got them on the landscape, it's a good indication

that all the other wildlife species

are gonna have the right habitat components as well.

So they're kind of a good canary in the coal mine,

so to speak, for other wildlife species.

>>> [Austin] That's why this team of scientists

from Oklahoma State University

comes to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.

Over the first three years of this study,

they looked into nesting ecology.

But now in their fourth year ...

>>> Basically what we do is

capture these birds in the spring,

when they're on the lek, which is where the males

congregate to breed, (wings flapping)

and we fit them with transmitters

that allows us to see where the birds go,

what kinds of plant communities they use,

what their home range, and what their survival is.

So, what we're interested in,

is being able to provide livestock producers

and land managers with some guidance,

on things that they can do

that not only benefit livestock production,

but also will keep prairie grouse, prairie chickens

and other wildlife species on the landscape.

>>> While the birds prefer shorter,

more recently burned grasses for booming,

they need the taller, unburned grasses like this,

for nesting cover.

>>> [Torre] Birds typically lek in areas

that have been recently disturbed.

So, areas that don't have a lot of vegetation,

presumably so they can see predators

as they approach lek sites,

but then birds also need other parts

of the landscape that are unburned.

So the majority of the nests that I've monitored,

have been in areas that haven't been burned

in greater than two years.

So areas with taller vegetation, more litter accumulations,

presumably so they can seal the nest from predators,

but also, through my research,

we've found that those areas tend to be cooler.

And then on top of that, they also have a life cycle

where they have their chicks when they're brooding,

and they seem to take birds out in areas

that have been burned about a year ago,

maybe up to two years ago,

that have more forbs, kind of a canopy.

If you think of it like a forest,

it has kind of a canopy of forbs,

but it has less litter so they're able to move

their brood through there and forage on insects.

So they really require varying times

post fire and grazing, for all the life cycles,

or all their life history traits

throughout their life cycle.

>>> The other thing we've seen is they avoid tree cover.

So, having fire on the landscape is critical

to keep prairies open and woody cover out.

But, having some areas unburned in a given year,

are really important for nesting.

So it just really points to the fact that

everything shouldn't look the same.

We need burned areas.

We need some unburned areas.

>>> [Austin] That knowledge should give Oklahoma's

greater prairie chickens something to boom about.

(birds calling)

For SUNUP, I'm Austin Moore.

(lively western music)


>>> [Sue] There are black bears in Oklahoma

but it wasn't until the late 1990's and early 2000's

that the black bears started to expand

from Arkansas into Oklahoma.

So they're relatively newly returned to Oklahoma

but they were native here.

>>> [Narrator] It's been a long road

for black bears in Oklahoma,

but Oklahoma State University researchers,

in collaboration with the

Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

were conducting den-site checks

while the collared female black bears

were hibernating earlier this spring.

>>> [Erica] And then they decided to open

up a hunting season in 2009,

but after several years of harvest

they decided to initiate a reassessment

of the population to see how hunting has

affected their numbers,

and also just to understand how they've continued

to expand throughout the four southeastern counties

that have an open hunting season.

So I'm just continuing with the data set,

trying to get a more robust assessment

of what's going on,

'cause with a long-lived mammal species like black bears,

two sampling seasons is really just a snapshot.

>>> [Sara] We're finding that our research

has been extremely helpful to the wildlife department

for them making their management decisions

about hunting seasons and

how many bears we have in each area

and whether those populations are stable.

It's great to work with the ODWC

and it's gratifying to know that the stuff

we're doing on the ground is actually

helping them make their decisions.

>>> [Sue] The really interesting thing about bears

coming into Oklahoma is

that they've been gone

for over 80, 90 years from the state

and now they're moving back in,

but it's completely different than it was,

because now they're moving back in

to a human dominated landscape.

The bears in Oklahoma and in Arkansas

are predominately vegetarians.

So the acorns in particular in the winter

they get very,

they go into a situation where

they're trying to put on weight,

as fast as they can and as much as they can,

and those acorns are a great food source for doing that.

There's no instance of the bears

attacking any livestock at all,

and they're just not focusing on meat.

>>> [Interviewer] In your data what are you looking for?

>>> So we are, well the data that we're collecting

we're collecting, you know reproductive data.

This is why we do our den checks

to determine how many cubs they're having,

how many females,

and then we're also looking at survival rates.

We have about 26 bears collared right now

and so we can monitor their survival

and know how many are getting harvested.

Population growth for black bears

is most sensitive to adult female survival.

So this is why we primarily collar females

and also that's how we get the reproductive data.

And so we can kind of get an idea

of how they're surviving in each,

within each age class,

yearlings, sub-adult, adults.

From there deduce if the population is

growing, or expanding, or declining.

>>> It's a much larger population

and even with the hunting season this population

is actually growing.

It's doing well.

It's more than stable and it's got room to grow here.

We'd prefer for them not to harvest our collared bears

(chuckles) because it takes a lot of time and effort

to get those collars on

and the grand scheme of what we're working on,

that's just a success story really.

>>> Since our story first aired,

there's been a milestone for the bear research team.

For the first time in 18 years,

one of the collared females gave birth

to four bear cubs in February.

We certainly wish them all the best

as they continue their work.

Now to a story from last spring,

about a popular festival,

that really rattles the town of Okeene each year.


>>> [Narrator] Silence mixed with brief sounds of wind gusts.

Quintessential western Oklahoma.

But take a wrong step out in these gypsum hills,

and you may hear nature's most iconic warning.

(snake rattling)

In Blaine and surrounding counties,

the western diamondback rattlesnake is an abundant predator.

But today this species is the one being hunted.

>>> [Todd] We get calls almost all year long.

We go out quite often.

>>> [Narrator] Todd Felder is a member of the Okeene

Diamondback Club,

a club established to help landowners manage rattlesnakes,

and he's out on a call to help a producer,

with two snake dens on his property.

>>> Their home is right over this hill.

This is the snake den that first time we hunted it,

we found almost 20 snakes three foot or bigger,

(snake rattling) most of 'em pushing 5 foot.

>>> [Narrator] While the diamondback club's main objective

is thinning out rattlesnakes,

today's hunt is a little different.

Todd and several other hunters

are catching snakes as part of the

79th Okeene Rattlesnake Hunt.

>>> [Todd] Okeene is the proud owner of

the title of the oldest original rattlesnake roundup.

(snakes hissing)

>>> [Kurtis] In the early days of settlement,

Todd says folks would kill the snakes

and display the carcasses in town.

It became a huge draw for crowds,

and it quickly turned into an event

with a surprising mission.

>>> Evolved into, well, if so many people

are coming from town, and this town,

and the other town to see these dead snakes,

why don't we go catch them live,

make an educational type festival out of it,

we're still gonna clean up these community grounds

around us, do the good favor for the land owners

that we're doing, but also educate the masses

on the critical needs for these snakes.

>>> [Dwayne] Rattlesnakes are still quite common,

most notably the timber rattlesnake in the east,

and the western diamondback and the prairie rattlesnake

in the western part of the state.

>>> Extension wildlife specialist Dwayne Elmore says

education is extremely important,

because there's a lot of paranoia when it comes to snakes,

both venomous and nonvenomous.

>>> It's very rare for someone to get bit

by any venomous snake, almost all the bites

you hear about are when someone was

trying to kill the snake, trying to handle the snake,

if you happen to get bit, most of the things

you hear about to do are wrong.

You don't wanna cut the wound,

you don't wanna try to suck out the venom.

Elevate the wound above your heart,

and quickly, within an hour or two, get to a hospital.

We actually can legally harvest rattlesnakes

if you have the appropriate license in Oklahoma,

if you have a rattlesnake that you've killed

for consumption or for the hide,

be really careful with that snake,

even if it's dead, it can still potentially bite you.

A lot of snakes that are nonvenomous

are confused with venomous snakes,

but what you wanna look for is

whether or not it's a pit viper.

And there are a couple of snakes

that sometimes will flatten their head,

and appear to be a pit viper.

The one that's probably most commonly confused

with venomous snakes are the hognose snakes.

>>> [Kurtis] Although they may give you the creeps,

both nonvenomous and venomous snakes serve a purpose,

and it's best to just leave them alone,

or call an experienced snake handler like Todd

to remove them from your property.

>>> These are very beneficial animals,

they control rodents, just like nonvenomous snakes do.

>>> They're such a benefit, or they wouldn't be here.

We want the kids safe, we want you all safe,

we want dogs and cats and the cattle,

all the livestock safe, and then,

they're going to have their place anyway.

>>> [Kurtis] Thousands of spectators

will flow through the festival over the weekend,

and you can bet Todd will be there, ready to educate them.

In Blaine County, I'm Kurtis Hair.

(upbeat music)


>>> [Kurtis] From afar, they may look like normal

Oklahoma birds, but look a little closer,

and you'll notice these birds are quite different.

This spring, shorebirds are flocking up to the Arctic,

and making pit stops on the wetlands of Oklahoma.

Oklahoma State University wildlife researcher

Craig Davis says thousands of shorebirds

are migrating through the state.

About 30 species in all, and our wetlands

are essential to their journey.

>>> Wetland habitats are critical for these birds

to continue their migration, with many

of these birds migrating all the way from South America

to the Arctic where they will then nest,

and bring off some young, and then

starting in July, they actually start migrating

back through to head to their wintering grounds.

The other thing that's really cool

about the wetlands we have in the state

is that you can kind of think of them

as little gas stations that the shorebirds

rely on to continue migrating.

And so without those little gas stations,

it makes it much more difficult

for these birds to continue migrating.

>>> [Kurtis] Throughout the spring

and over the next few months, bird watchers

will get a chance to see diverse groups,

including American avocets, and long-billed dowitchers.

>>> Large majority of these birds

are migrating through the central part of the state.

Great places to go see shorebirds,

the Salt Plains Refuge, that's a great place

to see shorebirds, we have wildlife management areas

like Drummond Flats, which is near Drummond Oklahoma.

>>> [Kurtis] Experts say the rains in the recent months

have given this season's shorebirds more resources.

But over the years, they've been suffering.

>>> Big picture we see with shorebirds

is just the overall loss of wetlands

that's happened over the last 100 years.

And so we've seen shorebird numbers decline,

some species have probably declined

50 to 70% in their population.

>>> Craig says that wetlands across the country

have disappeared, and in Oklahoma alone,

about 60% have vanished, mainly due

to people filling in or draining the land.

And the depletion has affected

shorebirds and the environment.

>>> When we think about, you know, wetlands,

often times we think of wetlands as just

being sort of just mud holes, but in reality,

wetlands are critically important

to shorebirds for migration, they provide

a host of services that many people don't think about.

Filtrating water, recharging groundwater,

protecting against floods.

>>> [Kurtis] Moving forward, researchers will use methods

to revive wetlands and educate landowners on the importance

of these natural resources. (easy carefree music)

For SUNUP, I'm Kurtis Hair.


>>> Birds are certainly not alone

in migrating through Oklahoma.

Here's a story from a few years ago

about a research program on a favorite of mine,

butterflies, and the fuel that they need

to make the journey all the way north.

>>> [Kristen] There's been a lotta concern

about monarchs and habitat availability.

They're being considered for listing as threatened

under the Endangered Species Act.

>>> [Kurtis] Roadside management might be the key

to breathe life into the monarch population.

Researchers from Oklahoma State University

and the Department of Transportation

are looking for solutions.

Kristen Baum is an associate professor

in the Department of Integrative Biology at OSU.

>>> I'm working with Dennis Martin, who's with the

Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture,

looking at mowing regimes, and so we're interested in

what the timing and frequency of mowing

does to milkweed availability for monarchs.

>>> [Kurtis] Monarch butterflies love milkweed.

They lay their eggs in the plant

and the caterpillars then feed off of it.

Milkweed is abundant in pastures and along roadsides,

but is typically mowed over,

consequently leaving a void for monarchs.

>>> So certainly there's aspects of mowing in roadsides

that are extremely necessary.

So for example, mowing the safety zone.

And so that would be from the roadside over a distance

so that way, when motorists need to pull over,

or if you think around turns

and at interchanges and things like that.

So there's some parts of the roadside mowing

that are not being considered for change.

>>> [Kurtis] While safety zones need mowing, a common practice

is to mow beyond the safety zone and wider roadsides.

Extension Turfgrass Specialist Dennis Martin

has worked with ODOT in vegetation research

and extension initiatives for 26 years.

Two years ago, Martin put in a proposal to ODOT

to see if it could alter its mowing practices

outside the safety zones.

>>> Outside that clear zone or safety zone,

they can try to improve habitat

for pollinators such as the monarch.

Not all of that area outside of there

is suitable for use in habitat.

Some of it contains a lot of invasive species,

but some areas are quite high quality

and can be worked with.

>>> Well, ODOT has an interest in the monarch butterfly

in that we don't want to see it

become an endangered species.

Just from a practical highway business standpoint,

that would impact our highway programs because,

like any time we impact habitat for an endangered species,

environmental issues come up with our projects

and we could perhaps have to start buying habitat

or creating habitat if it were to become a listed species.

>>> Mirth says ODOT jumped at Martin's proposal,

and workers delayed mowing this summer

when the monarchs moved through

and set aside these plots near the university

for Baum and Martin's research.

It turns out, other pollinators may also benefit.

>>> So it's hard to put a value

on one particular species,

and so the monarch is a very iconic insect.

It's one that's very well-known and, you know,

pretty much everybody you talk to has a monarch story

about how they used to see tons or they saw a roosting site

where they kind of aggregate in the trees during migration,

and so it's a species that a lotta people can relate to

and some of the practices and changes in management

that we can do that would benefit monarchs

could benefit a lot of other species as well.

>>> But it's also an opportunity

for improving things for posterity.

It's a species that we can save, and it just requires

a few tweaks of our management practices and habitat.

Not only improvement of habitat

but also habitat maintenance, and we can fix this problem.

>>> [Kurtis] The Monarch Research Project

is a multiyear study that is just getting started,

(relaxing music) and though there are still

a ton of questions left up in the air,

scientists hope the results

will keep the monarchs up there too.

In Payne County, I'm Kurtis Hair.


>>> I mean, I learned to fish in the farm pond.

And the majority of kids do,

that's where they learn to fish.

'Cause it's kinda hard for people

to go fishing in a lake and have much success

unless they know how the lake works out.

We're one of only just a few states

that still have this program.

Most of 'em have went private.

If you wanna stock your farm ponds in other states,

you have to purchase them.

>>> Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

has a program set up for landowners in Oklahoma

to help them stock ponds that are either new or reclaimed.

>>> When I say reclaimed,

I either mean they've been cleaned out;

we've had a big drought, and the fish have died,

or they have killed all the fish in the pond.

>>> It's really a great program.

It's really easy.

I mean, these fish, if you tried to buy 'em,

you're looking at several hundred dollars

just to stock the pond.

You're getting them for the cost of a fishing license,

which is one of the qualifications.

You have to have a fishing license

to apply for the fish.

>>> We have three different types of fish

that we will give to you.

You can have channel catfish.

You can have bluegill, sunfish,

or you can have largemouth bass.

You can choose one; you can choose two;

or you can choose all three

just kind of depending on what you want.

If you want a new pond,

I would suggest just all three to establish

a new fish population into your pond.

>>> Before you think about stocking your farm pond,

you really should take the time to read all you can

about general pond management for good fishing.

If you simply start by stocking the farm pond,

you may be wasting your time and effort.

The biggest mistake we see

are people stocking fingerlings,

these are small, little guys,

son top of a bass population.

Even larger than that.

They're going to be eaten by the bass.

We don't recommend that.

Wishful thinking does not accomplish good results.

(pond water splashes noisily)

>>> The Farm Pond Program (mumbles).

All these fish are surplus.

We're already raising these fish for the public waters.

We put a few aside for a Farm Pond Program.

Then the catfish,

we have the brood stock here.

We let them spawn.

We have kegs that we put out there.

We gather the eggs and bring 'em in and hatch them.

>>> I come out;

I make sure that you're the land owner.

The pond has to be at least half a surface acre in size.

>>> [Man] Basically the Farm Pond Program was started

because where do kids learn to fish?

They learn to fish in farm ponds.

They are the future of the Wildlife Department

because we are dependent upon license sales.

>>> If by buying your fishing license,

you're helping the Wildlife Department

with future conservation efforts

and restocking and helping

other farmers utilize this program

by buying your $25 fishing license through us,

and then you get free fish.

I mean, nothing's better than free.

(upbeat guitar riffs)


>>> Finally today, we revisit the veterinarian

who has a pretty special side job

using a live visual aid to teach children about agriculture.

>>> It's me, okay, sweetie.

Hey, hey.

So, what are we doing with Nala today?

>>> We're just doing a checkup.

>>> Okay, has she been doing okay?

>>> [Narrator] If you could sum up in one word

what it's like to be a small and large animal veterinarian,

it would easily be busy.

(tap water rapidly rushes)

Stepping inside Cushing Veterinary Clinic,

it only takes about 15 seconds to realize that,

(people chatting and laughing)

an environment Dr. Rebekah Hartfield thrives in.

>>> So, my favorite part about this job,

especially working with large animals,

would be I see so many different things

at the clinic every single day.

Today I might be looking at a bull

and later be looking at a pig or a goat.

(loud clanging)

>>> [Narrator] Veterinary medicine is a field

Rebekah sort of fell into.

>>> He's got a clean bill of health...

>>> [Narrator] After taking a job as a vet technician,

she found a purpose in working with animals

and went back to school at Oklahoma State University

and became a doctor of veterinary medicine.

She graduated in 2016 and joined the clinic shortly after.

>>> You don't have to.

Heartworm test is $15.

>>> [Narrator] With all the wonderful chaos

Dr. Hartfield deals with every day,

she still finds time to help communities

through her part-time job,

>>> Thank you.

>>> Hi, everybody.

>>> [Narrator] Children's author.

>>> Anyone know what kind of doctor I am?

>>> [Narrator] The book is called Rosie the Pig,

a story about a girl, Abby,

who takes her sick pig to the veterinarian.

>>> [Rebekah] Rosie, you look sick.

Abby's gonna call Dr. H.

>>> [Narrator] She based the story off an experience

she had with her niece.

>>> My niece Abby had actually come over to the ranch.

My pig Rosie was really sick,

so we went out; we examined her.

I taught her about what we were looking for,

exactly what's in the book.

"Medicine to make her feel better."

>>> While helping people and animals

through her clinic is rewarding,

Rebekah wanted to expand her reach in other ways.

She just didn't have an avenue to achieve it.

>>> I wanted to do more and make a difference.

I've always been that way.

A friend had called around the same time and said,

hey, my daughter wants to go to veterinary school.

She's young, and we want a good book

for her to start on now.

So, I got to doing some research,

and I really didn't find anything that I just loved.

>>> [Narrator] The light bulb flashed,

and Rebekah and her sister, who's a graphic designer

decided to start a children's book series.

She travels around the state

and visits daycares and schools to do readings.

Her mission with the book is to expose kids

to both veterinary medicine and agriculture.

>>> [Rebekah] What did we say this was again?

>>> Temperature!

>>> I want kids to be interested in agriculture.

There is a shortage of rural veterinarians,

especially in Oklahoma,

and so we need more veterinarians to go out

and work in these rural areas with the large animals.

That's what I hope that my book will also inspire.

>>> What Dr. Hartfield is doing

is a great asset to the community of agriculture

because she's delivering a message

on agricultural literacy,

developing and educating on a very true level.

>>> [Narrator] To reinforce her mission,

Dr. Hartfield enlisted the help of a friend

to further engage the little minds.

>>> Here comes Rosie.

(happy chattering)

>>> Today was unique for them.

I don't know anybody that has a pig in their house

and also get to pet the pig, watch the pig eat,

see what Rosie feels like, things like that.

Those are definitely experiences

that they wouldn't normally get to have

unless they go to a farm.

>>> When you bring a live animal in here,

and they get to pet the pig and get a picture with that pig,

they're gonna be talking about it for several days.

>>> [Narrator] Rebekah plans to have six books in the series.

The next book will be about a horse,

appropriately named Pistol,

due out this June.

Imagine the kids' faces when a horse trots

into their school.

For SUNUP, I'm Kurtis Hair.

>>> You wanna pet Rosie?

You can give her a little pet.

There you go. (gentle guitar strumming)


>>> Thanks for joining us as we look back

at some of our favorite stories

celebrating the outdoors.

I'm Lyndall Stout.

Have a great week, everyone, and remember

Oklahoma agriculture starts at SUNUP.

(cheerful instrumental country music)

(upbeat guitar riffs)

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