Des Moines, Iowa — A new report finds the size of Iowa’s pheasant population has fallen 83-percent since the mid-1990s due to disappearing habitat and a series of harsh winters. Kevin Baskins, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says habitat loss alone would have meant only a 26-percent drop in pheasant numbers.
(As above) “You kind of have an exponential effect when you have declining habitat combined with harsh winters because they have no cover to escape the conditions they’re facing,” Baskins says. “We’ve had several winters in a row with above-average snowfall.”
A milder winter a year ago, combined with the summer-long drought, helped the pheasant population somewhat. Baskins says the habitat loss combined with several severe winters is making it harder for pheasant chicks to survive.
(As above) “The other big influence we have weatherwise is when we get into colder and wetter springs,” he says. “The chicks, when they’re hatching, if they’re exposed to those conditions, they succumb to the elements. They don’t have as high a survival rates when we get into the colder and wetter conditions after first hatching.”
Baskins says Iowa lost more than a million acres of habitat between 1996 and 2010. He says higher corn prices prompted many farmers to plow up land that normally would serve as habitat for the birds. Bob-white quail numbers are also in decline. The numbers come from the DNR’s 2013 report on the pheasant population.
On another hunting-related note, Governor Terry Branstad was one of the sportsmen at his annual deer hunt who snagged a trophy this weekend. The governor shot an eight-point buck at about five o’clock Saturday afternoon.
UPDATE: Authorities now say 21-year-old Kirk Levin has been charged with first degree murder in the death of his mother, 45-year-old Marilyn Schmitt of Early.
Early, Iowa — Sac County authorities were investigating a kidnapping on Thursday (1/3), when they found a body in a home. Initially it was assumed the crimes were not related. Now the body found in the home near Early has been identified as the mother of the man arrested in connection with the kidnapping incident.
Sac County Sheriff Ken McClure says the woman has been identified as 45-year-old Marilyn Schmitt of Early. He says Schmitt is the mother of 21-year-old Kirk Levin and lived at the house where her body was found on Thursday morning. Law enforcement officials are awaiting autopsy results on Schmitt’s body.
Levin was arrested by the Sac County Sheriff’s Office in connection with the kidnapping case, on charges of kidnapping, assault while participating in a felony, and assault with intent to commit sexual abuse. The charges stem from the reported kidnapping of a woman from her home in Storm Lake on Thursday morning. The woman was reportedly taken by Levin to his mother’s home, about a half-mile from where the woman was found attempting to flee from a vehicle.
In the case of the found body — authorities believe Schmitt had been dead for about two days.
Until recently, Levin had been incarcerated in a state prison on a 2010 Sac County burglary conviction. He appeared in Sac County magistrate Court Friday morning where his bond was set at 200-thousand dollars. He remains in the Sac County Jail.
Hospers, Iowa — The string of northwest Iowa business burglaries continues. This time it’s two Hospers businesses that were hit.
The Sioux County Sheriff’s Office reports that on Wednesday (1/2), at 3:04 AM, their deputies responded to a burglar alarm at the Conoco Service Station, 209 Hospers Drive South. Upon further investigation, deputies discovered someone had broken a window and entered the business.
Later that morning, deputies investigated a second burglary that had occurred at Kelly’s Drive Inn and Pizza, at 100 Sunrise Drive. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that someone broke a window and entered the business in this case as well.
In both burglaries, the perpetrator(s) took cash.
Anyone with information regarding either of these crimes is asked to contact the Sioux County Sheriff’s Office. If you wish to remain anonymous you may use the Text-A-Tip Program.
Washington, DC — Iowa’s congressional delegation has officially shrunk from seven to six.
The people who were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November began their two-year terms this past week. Last year Iowa had five men representing the state in the U.S. House, but today there are just four — Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack, Tom Latham and the Congressman from our area — Steve King. Iowa lost a seat in the House, due to the redistricting that occurred after the 2010 Census.
The other two members of Iowa’s congressional delegation — U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin — were not on the ballot in November, but due to changes in Senate membership, no other state has more seniority power. Grassley, first elected in 1980, ranks sixth in seniority. Harkin, first elected to the senate in 1984, will rank seventh after Massachusetts Senator John Kerry resigns to become President Obama’s Secretary of State.
By the way, Iowa’s six-member congressional delegation now is split right down the middle, with three Republicans and three Democrats.
Le Mars, Iowa — We have a little more information about the merger of a couple of Catholic high schools in northwest Iowa. Leaders say they have agreed to merge the schools beginning next year. The unification between the Gehlen and Spalding Catholic schools was first proposed in September, but was finalized Wednesday night with unanimous votes by both school boards. Gehlen Catholic School Board President Brian Kolbeck said he understands why many people are concerned with the decision, especially considering the two schools are 25 miles apart, but the top concern should be providing students with the best education possible.
(as said) “Due to changing demographics, we must have a vision and a plan for our future that is responsive to the realities and needs of our students, parishes, parents, benefactors and communities,” Kolbeck said. “Our primary goal is to strengthen Catholic education in northwest Iowa.”
The two schools fielded one combined football team for the first time this past fall, but have shared resources in other ways for years. Spalding Catholic School Board President Jeanne Jungers said students at Spalding, located in Granville, will attend Gehlen Catholic High School, in Le Mars, starting next fall.
(as said) “As we enter this new chapter, for our future as Spalding Catholic, we want to acknowledge that there’s also a sense of loss,” Jungers said. “Even though this is an exciting decision, it’s very difficult as it’s closing a chapter for Spalding and opening a new and exciting endeavor for us as well.”
The merged Catholic schools will be called Gehlen Catholic High School. Jungers said some teachers at Spalding could move to Gehlen, but that will depend on enrollment figures. There are 72 students between 8th and 11th grade currently attending Spalding and a survey found at least 70-percent of those students are likely to attend Gehlen next year. Jungers said a festival to mark Spalding’s 50th anniversary will still take place this summer.