KDWP talks ducks, otters, ice

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Changes might be forthcoming in which zone Cedar Bluff Reservoir falls in for duck hunting.

But it will be a while longer before the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks knows if the suggestion has been accepted. Meeting in Norton, the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission learned about that on June 23.

They also voted to approve changes in state trapping rules defining water-set traps. The change was made to help reduce the risk of dogs being caught in traps.

The change adopted requires the gripping portion of the trap to remain at least half submerged. That's a change from the existing rule requiring traps remain in contact with water.

KDWP furbearer biologist Matt Peek said the rule changes would require foothold traps be smooth jawed and allow the use of .17-caliber weapons to kill trapped animals.

Peek's recommendation for a limited river otter harvest was approved. As is the case with bobcats and swift foxes, otters must be presented to KDWP personnel for tagging.

This year, the state will be allowing 100 river otters to be trapped, with a season bag limit of two per trapper.

The river otter is confined to the eastern third of Kansas.

Commissioners discussed and remained divided on the issue of allowing all-terrain vehicle at state-owned or Bureau of Reclamation lakes in the winter. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers doesn't allow it.

The division in the regulation fell squarely on the issue of requiring life jackets for anyone 12 and under -- a rule that is imposed on people the same age in boats.

"I'm opposed to not requiring minors to wear safety jackets, life preservers, if they're going to do something like this," said outgoing Commission Chairman Kelly Johnston, Wichita.

Commissioner Gerald Lauber, Topeka, argued against adding the rule.

"I don't see it as a very apparent need," he said, "nor do I see very many people under the age of 12 being out ice fishing anyway."

"I share the concern about not having some age requirement in not using life preservers," said Commissioner Doug Sebelius, Norton. "So it does stay consistent with boating activities."

Commissioners also agreed to start the process to raise utility fees for camping by $1 a day.

Costs have increased about $400,000 more than last year, said acting parks chief Linda Lanterman. The $1 increase would raise about $180,000.

It would be the first utility increase since 2009.