Biologists studying spoonbill population

Friday, March 14th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MIAMI, Okla. (AP) _ Biologists are buzzing a helicopter over the Neosho River and interviewing fishermen as they study the area's spoonbill population.

A five-year, $200,000 study by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has begun south of Miami.

Game wardens and wildlife biologists are trying to determine whether spoonbill in the Neosho River are being overfished.

The officials intend to ask fishermen whether they are residents of Oklahoma, how long they've been fishing and how many fish they've caught and kept, said Brent Gordon, a fisheries biologist with the state Department of Wildlife Conservation. They might even ask to measure any recently caught fish.

Scientists are using a helicopter owned by the Grand River Dam Authority to spot clusters of anglers trying to snag spoonbill.

Gordon studied the spoonbill population last year in Grand Lake, one of the few areas in North America where the species still flourishes.

Spoonbill, also called paddlefish or shovelnose catfish, have disappeared in four states and are threatened or endangered in 11 of 22 states where they now exist, including Oklahoma.

The last comprehensive spoonbill study conducted in Oklahoma was 10 years ago.

About 3,000 spoonbill have been tagged as part of the study in Grand Lake.

Biologists plan to tag fish in Hudson and Ft. Gibson lakes in the next two years. They also plan to map spoonbill spawning habitat in the Neosho River, which flows from southeastern Kansas.