Game & Fish: Duck Hunters Could Help in Search for Rare Woodpecker

JULY 14, 2005 - Posted at 7:54 a.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Duck hunters paddling through the swamps of eastern Arkansas could help the search for more ivory-billed woodpeckers, now that the rare bird has been spotted in "The Natural State."

Scott Henderson, director of the state Game and Fish Commission, told legislators yesterday that his agency is doing its best to make sure duck hunters don't shoot any ivory-billed woodpeckers.

The large bird was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered last year in an east Arkansas marsh.  The announcement this spring prompted pledges of federal aid for efforts to protect the bird and national interest among birdwatchers.

Henderson says he's trying to minimize conflicts between hunters and conservationists.

The commission may try to find a sponsor to give free one-time use cameras to hunters to photograph possible woodpecker sightings.

With only one recognizable image recorded of the woodpecker so far, Henderson said the first high-quality photos could be sold for a good amount of money.  He said he had spoken to hunting groups, and the commission is distributing drawings of the ivory-billed woodpecker.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)