Madison team wins Kansas Wildlife Habitat Education contest

A team of youth from Madison, Kansas, took top honors in the recent Wildlife Habitat Education Program state contest.

They beat a field of 13 teams and 51 participants to win the annual competition, which is sponsored by K-State Research and Extension to encourage youth to be wise stewards of wildlife and fisheries resources.

“The kids are given real-world situations and work together to provide solutions to natural resource problems that managers face,” said Charlie Lee, extension wildlife specialist at Kansas State University and chair of this year’s event.

WHEP is a 4-H and FFA youth natural resource program dedicated to teaching wildlife and fisheries habitat management to junior- and senior-level youth (ages 8-19) in the United States. WHEP won the 1996 Wildlife Society’s Conservation Education Award.

The state contest requires youth to judge the suitability of habitat for wildlife species through on-site evaluation, as well as sections on general wildlife knowledge and wildlife identification.

Teams were required to write a rural wildlife management plan for four different wildlife species and each team member was then quizzed orally about the logic of that plan. Participants judged wildlife habitat using habitat evaluation skills they learned through their local WHEP training.

Madison’s team members were Colton Ballard, Marlea Harlan, Casey Helm and Josie Reed. The second and third place teams in this year’s senior competition were Olathe North A and Riverton FFA Seniors.

Hunter Mericle of Cowley County took first place in the senior individual competition. Amanda Bannon, also from Cowley County, took second and Halle Jones from Olathe North B took third.

Cowley County teams swept the junior division in this year’s contest. Hunting, Fishing and Living took first place, followed by second place team Country Boys took second and Earth Wind and Fire. Members of the winning junior division team were Luke Brown, Ty Henderson, Wyatt Martin and Titus Mill.

Mill also took the high individual honors in the junior division with Austin Henderson from Cowley County taking second place and Luke Brown in third.

This year’s participants also took a tour of the Mined Lands Wildlife Management Area, where they discussed the unique challenges faced when transforming land destroyed by strip mining into productive wildlife and fisheries habitat.

Members of the student chapter of The Wildlife Society at Kansas State University helped develop questions and served as judges for the contest. The Wildlife Society is the professional organization that certifies wildlife biologists worldwide.