Wild Ideas

Various times, daily

Wild Ideas explores wildlife and conservation topics across Arkansas—from the Ozark Mountains to the Delta bayous. It's a production of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and KUAR and is written and hosted by Kirsten Bartlow, Watchable Wildlife Coordinator for the AGFC.

Each spring, many Arkansans stumble upon baby rabbits, a helpless looking fawn, or a baby bird hopping around the yard. What should a person do?

Don't assume that these animals have been abandoned and need to be rescued. Baby birds almost ready to fly often fall out of a tree. Parents feed these youngsters where they find them on the ground. Pets and children are the most immediate hazard to a young wild animal. Keep them away while you keep watch, and keep in mind most wild animals spend minimal time with their young. 

Wild Ideas: Coyotes

Jun 19, 2020

The yips and howls of coyotes can make your spine tingle, with excitement for some and apprehension for others.

With a Latin name that translates to "barking dog," coyotes live up to the reputation of being the most vocal of north American mammals. Coyote vocalizations are complex and include yelps, yodels and screams.

Wild Ideas: Turkeys

Jun 19, 2020

Wild turkey are talkers. Tom turkeys are known for gobbling, their way of saying, "gather round ladies, stay away boys!" But they communicate with each other in a variety of other ways.

Hens and gobblers cackle as they fly down from their treetop roosts in the morning. While contented in traveling on foot with their flock, turkeys make a soft purring call. Turkeys separated from their flock give a long series of yelps. "Here I am, where are you?" 

Wild Ideas: Osprey

Jun 12, 2020

Fish: it's what's for breakfast, lunch and dinner for this bird of prey.

Widely admired for its fishing prowess, it's the continent's only raptor that plunge dives to catch live fish as its main prey. This bird has a reversible outer toe that allows it to grasp with two toes in the front and two behind.

Velcro-like pads on the soles of its feet help grip slippery fish. Its fishing success rate is sometimes as high as 70%, and it fishes from above for an average of 12 minutes before making a catch: something to ponder the next time you wet a line. 

Wild Ideas: Bowfin

Jun 12, 2020

With a large mouth full of teeth, a slimy muscular body, and a reputation for having a voracious appetite, bowfin won't win the Miss Congeniality contest.

These primitive fish lived alongside dinosaurs. Today they lurk in Arkansas's lowland rivers, bayous and swamps. Bowfin are tenacious ambush predators and mainly hunt at night for other fish. Most people inadvertently catch bowfin while fishing for crappie or bass. They thrash and jump and their teeth often break the line.

Spotting a black bear is the stuff of bucket lists. Spying one yanking bird feeders off the deck verges into the too-close-for-comfort category.

95% of the Game and Fish Commission's nuisance bear calls come during spring and involve yearling male bears. They've been chased off by mom as it's time for her to breed again, and, like a teenage boy, finding food is top priority.

More mallards winter in Arkansas than anywhere else in the world.

Waterfowl follow ancient, aerial highways from their breeding grounds to southern wintering areas. Arkansas is at the bottom of the funnel-shaped Mississippi Flyway and is home to ideal real estate for mallards and other ducks – sloughs, swamps, flooded fields and shallow rivers.

Mallards have a bottoms-up approach to feeding – tipping forward in the water to dabble along in search of seeds, insects and aquatic vegetation.

Wild Ideas: The Cooper's Hawk

Feb 15, 2020

We were enjoying a peaceful morning with cups of coffee, watching birds flit about their feeders, when a crow-size raptor screamed onto the scene, snatched a meal and left a poof of feathers in its wake.

Cooper’s hawks are raptors that typically zipped through wooded, rural areas. In the last 30 years, the population of these little raptors has grown in urban and suburban areas. Abundant prey is the calling card and backyard bird feeding stations offer a buffet of sorts.

For such a powerful bird, this raptor emits a wimpy-sounding call.

Watch this majestic bird soaring along Arkansas lakes and rivers, especially in during winter. Pesticides such as DDT and wanton killing of birds of prey made it a rare sight, but as a protected species, it has made a comeback in Arkansas and across the nation.

Known for piracy, it will go after an osprey’s catch, harassing the bird in midair until it drops its prey for the larger bird to snatch. Fishing mammals and even people have lost their bounty to this raptor.

A toy trumpet call announces North America’s heaviest flying bird.

Common to Arkansas 150 years ago, this bird was almost eliminated from the continental U.S. by 1900. Market hunters pursued it for meat, and its feathers adorned fashionable hats.

Captive breeding and release programs restored the bird to its northern breeding grounds. But without a parent experienced in migration, very few birds developed the ability to migrate south.

Black bears disappear into Arkansas’s winter landscape.

Rock crevices, brush piles and excavated root wads are likely locales to house a bruin. Black bears are pro hibernators. They have periods of sleep and wakefulness but can go all winter without eating, drinking or using the loo.

Inactivity is a prime cause of osteoporosis in most animals, but not black bears. They recycle their calcium during winter and avoid bone loss. They also lose little muscle mass.

A beaver’s tail slapping the water was a common sound when European settlers arrived on this continent – North America was up to its ears with this mammal.

From 1550 to 1850, Europeans had a love affair with felt hats crafted from the underfur of beavers. As trappers moved west in search of more beavers to supply the demand, traders, shopkeepers and settlers followed.

Despite changing fashions and their legendary abundance, beaver populations were decimated. By 1900, beavers were largely gone from Arkansas and the rest of the Eastern United States.

Air rushing through a snipe’s tail feathers creates an otherworldly sound. And though the long tradition of “snipe hunt” pranks has convinced many people otherwise, Wilson’s snipe aren’t imaginary creatures.

Snipe are medium-size, pudgy shorebirds. Hunters with a shotgun, not a dupe with a sack, pursue them from November to mid-February. Snipe forage along wet fields, ditches, rivers and ponds. They slurp small prey such as insect larvae and worms from mud without having to remove their long bill from the soil.

This little mammal chirps and twitters like a bird and glides from tree to tree. Base jumpers and skydivers have developed special suits that mimic its abilities. What is it? The southern flying squirrel.

People rarely see these tiny, nocturnal creatures, although they’re common. They’re about five inches long and weigh only a few ounces. A loose fold of skin extends from their wrist to ankle and supports them as they glide. Their broad, flat tail works as a rudder.

The bird famous for this eerie, beautiful call migrates to The Natural State during winter to enjoy large, clear reservoirs.

Most birds have hollow bones, but this fish-eating bird’s solid bones help it dive quickly in search of prey. Awkward on land, these water lovers only hit the turf to mate and incubate eggs. They are superb swimmers and have been clocked in the air at 70 miles per hour.

Lake Maumelle in central Arkansas is a likely place to spot them. Keep your eyes and ears peeled on other large reservoirs – Beaver, Ouachita, Hamilton and Millwood.

A white-tailed deer’s snort sounds like a magnified sneeze. For an Arkansas deer hunter, this may mean the jig is up. These short, explosive snorts are released as deer sense danger and turn to run.

Deer hunting is a big deal in The Natural State. And with a white-tailed deer population about 1 million, there’s a lot to be excited about. But this was not always the case – by the 1930s, about 500 deer remained in Arkansas.

Black bears are walking stomachs – if food is scarce, they’ll go looking for it.

Autumn triggers a period of gluttony in bears. During this marathon of eating and drinking, bears forage up to 20 hours and pack on 1 to 2 pounds a day, increasing their body weight by 35 percent. They may drink several gallons of water and consume 20,000 calories in a day. The human equivalent? 80 McDonald’s hamburgers.

Wild Ideas: American White Pelican

Oct 17, 2019

The American white pelican may not have a beautiful call, but it is a spectacular sight as is soars gracefully high above on broad, white and black wings.

Fall is a great time to spot one of the world’s largest birds in The Natural State – they stand 4 feet tall and have a 9-foot wingspan. Look for white pelicans fishing in groups on reservoirs and big rivers – below the Big Dam Bridge in Little Rock and on Lake Conway are great places. Also check out Lake Dardanelle and Lake Chicot.

Wild Ideas: Tarantulas

Sep 23, 2019

Arkansas’s largest spider is on the move this time of year.

When male tarantulas are 8 to 10 years old, they leave their burrows in search of mates from August to November. People in the uplands of Arkansas – especially in dry, rocky places – often see them crossing roads.

Wild Ideas: Elk In Arkansas

Sep 23, 2019

A bull elk’s bugle in the Ozarks can put a chill down your spine – it’s among the spookiest sounds of nature. They do their thing every fall during mating season.

Bulls battle for the right to lead harems of females, known as cows. They put on amazing displays – thrashing the ground, bushes and anything else in their way before locking their huge antlers with one another in epic shoving matches. They also roll in muddy wallows, curl their lips, grind their teeth and hiss.

Some strange fish swim in The Natural State and the American Eel may be the weirdest.

American eel eggs greet the world thousands of feet deep in the Sargasso Sea between Bermuda and the Bahamas. When they hatch, larvae ride ocean currents toward North America and some spin out in the Gulf of Mexico. Female eels swim up coastal rivers and make their way to the Arkansas, White, Ouachita and Caddo rivers. These docile fish feed along river bottoms and sometimes are caught at night by anglers using live bait.