Strader takes over as St. Catherine Creek wildlife manager

Published 12:44 am Sunday, June 8, 2008

NATCHEZ — There’s a new birdman in town.

Last month the St. Catherine Creek national Wildlife Refuge welcomed its newest staffer, Refuge Manager Bob Strader.

Strader comes to the refuge from Jackson, where he worked for 19 years in the division of migratory birds.

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“While I was in Jackson our job was fairly diverse,” Strader said. “We conducted surveys in Louisiana and Mississippi as well as provided technical service to refuges.”

In Jackson, the goal of his division was to “conserve, protect and enhance Federal Trust Resources and their habitats including national wildlife refuges, wetlands, endangered species and migratory birds,” as posted on its Web Site.

At the St. Catherine Creek refuge his goals won’t change as much as they will expand to encompass other wildlife and duties.

“I’m responsible for the management of the refuge,” Strader said. “We have 10 employees. I either directly or indirectly supervise the projects and budgets associated with the refuge.

“I want to get a hole lot more involved in the biological issues, but I need to get a deputy or assistant before I can do that.”

Although he wants to get involved in more hands-on aspects of his job, there’s a learning curve like with any new job.

“Right now my typical day involves learning my job,” Strader said jokingly. “Most people that take a job like this come from refuges. They start at refuges as a pup and move their way up and slowly learn the programs and the budgets.

“I came from the division of migratory birds and so now I’m having to learn budgets and numbers that I’ve never had to deal with.”

Strader said that although it’s taking some time to learn the ropes, he wants to concentrate on biological issues.

“One of the main purposes for this refuge is the management of migratory birds, especially waterfowl, and forge for enough food for ducks during migration.”

Although the refuge was traditionally a very important area for migratory birds, the refuge also is home to many more animals.

“A big part of what we do is try to manage wildlife populations for the benefit of those populations,” Strader said. “If we don’t harvest deer they’re going to get to a population level that we can no longer sustain with the amount of food we produce, and then the whole herd gets poor and sick and you have a crash in the population — so we’re trying to prevent that from happening.”

Strader said the easiest way to control a population is to monitor hunting. Although over population is too much of an issue in Mississippi right now, Strader said it is an issue up north, and specifically Pennsylvania.

Over population is one reason the number of deer being struck by cars spikes. They tend to start grazing closer to roads and wander out into the way of oncoming traffic.

“In some other parts of the country hunters are dropping off to the point to where they’re having a hard time harvesting deer,” Strader said.

One animal you might not expect to be an issue for Strader and the refuge are wild pigs.

“We had a lot of pigs here too, and we’d just rather not have any pigs because they compete directly with native wildlife for food and habitat,” Strader said. “They’re essentially wild pigs that someone let go. All the high water pushed them up into the hills, so all the local people are trapping them and shooting them, trying to knock their population down — which is a good thing.”

Strader also said they have turkey and small game as well. Despite having several different animals at the refuge, Strader’s mission is simple enough.

“The reason I’m here is for when winter and fall come and the birds start showing up, and the results of our hard work during the summer — the fruits of our labor,” Strader said.

Right now, most of the work Strader and his coworkers do at the refuge is preparing for the fall and winter.

“This is when we do our management, grow the food and provide the access to the refuge for the hunters.”