What’s Wild


For the fourth straight year, you can witness the greater sage-grouse dancing to find a mate on a live-streaming wildlife camera. Located on a breeding ground called a lek, these birds puff out their chests and fan their tan feathers every morning, and you can watch it all every day through May 15 from 6:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. MDT. Learn more about the lek cam here.

Story Series

Jane Koger on her ranch in Kansas

Fourth-generation rancher Jane Koger on her ranch in Kansas / Greg Kramos, USFWS


Starting this month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife is highlighting people across the U.S. who depend on the land as much as the land depends on them, in a series of stories titled Nature’s Good Neighbors. These modern-day stewards of the land are working with nature to make a home for people and wildlife. Explore stories around the nation and read about a rancher named Jane,
who is inspiring others and using innovative grass management techniques on her ranch in
east-central Kansas.

Did You Know?

Young girl watches large trout pass by through underwater viewing area

The D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives in South Dakota doubles as the national archive for 72 fish hatcheries across the country.

The D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives stores more than 1.7 million items, including historical records, equipment and fishery tools. The hatchery was constructed in 1896 and welcomes 160,000 visitors each year who come to see the trout, learn about the hatchery’s history and view wildlife. Learn more about the hatchery here.

A young visitor at the underwater fish viewing windows, a favorite among visitors. Photo Credit: D.C. Booth Archives / USFWS

Kansas News

Running on Inspiration

Liz Willis page

One minute you aren’t feeling well and chalking it up to being pregnant. The next you wake up in a hospital, no longer pregnant, and look down to find your leg is gone. For Liz Willis, this nightmare came true.

“Seven years ago, I lost my leg in labor and delivery due to complications of undiagnosed Crohn’s disease,” Willis said. “When I woke up, I had asked my husband, Buddy, if our son had been born. He responded, “Yes, he is okay, but you had some complications.” I asked what kind of complications and he proceeded to inform me that I had Crohn’s disease, I had been unconscious for 10 days, and my leg had been amputated. When I was told all of this at once, I was confused, but very grateful because I realized at that moment how close I was to never enjoying a day of my son’s life. So from that day on I was committed to recovering and living a life of gratitude.”

Throughout all this, with her running career looking grim, Willis stayed hopeful, and thankful to stillhave her life. Getting a prosthesis, and learning how to do daily tasks again was her next goal.

“My son was my motivation,” Willis said. “I wanted to walk before he walked and I beat him by six months. I wanted to know what it was like to walk and hold my child. Running had always been an enjoyable hobby for me and I wanted to use it as a means to get back into shape.”

After learning how to walk again, while simultaneously raising a newborn, Willis was able to start running again. Running had always held a special place in her heart, Willis dreamed of being able to go out and let loose on the track as she had many years before


“The biggest obstacle was building up muscle mass because my leg had atrophied over the 1 ½ years it wasn’t required to exercise,” Willis said. “I started off with running 1 minute and each day I made a goal to add another minute. By three months I had completed my first 5k and my first ½ marathon was completed in 1:53:22 just six months after learning how to run.”

Running was something that meant something to Willis since the age of 10, and now she is able to use her story to mentor kids who need a role model and inspiration in their lives.

“Running provides a time to meditate and focus on improving goals in my life,” Willis said. “I like the challenge it provides. More importantly, it isn’t the running aspect that I enjoy the most, the opportunities it provides for me to coach young athletes who also have physical disabilities. Running has opened doors for me to share my story worldwide and gain cultural experiences which never would have been discovered if competitions didn’t lead me to those locations.”

Just one of the doors that has opened for Willis through running was the 2016 Paralympics.

“Once I realized that I had the talent to actually go to the Paralympics, it quickly became a dream which turned into a reality,” Willis said. “I ran the 100m, 200m, and I got 6th in the 400m.”

There are so many people who helped get Willis where she is today. She credits her “village” in her success.

“My husband who was often left as a single parent while I traveled to the Olympic Training Center for weeks at a time in Chula Vista, California. My son, who sacrificed a lot of mommy time the years of 2015-2016.- My coaches TJ Harris and Roy Birch, Cathy Sellers and Jaqueam Cruz who are the head coaches for the Paralympic Team.- My nutritionist, Liz Broad, my chiropractor, Allyson Smith, Dan Whisler.- My high school coach whom I often called to bounce my ideas off of.- Scott Sabolich Prosthetics, for building my legs.- Nike and Dick’s Sporting Goods who gave me contracts.- My teammates and competitors who taught me so much about prosthetics and provided competition. As you can see it take a village to get an athlete to the Paralympics.”

After running in the paralympics in Rio De Janeiro, Willis decided to take some down time from running, and to take on a new role.

“I made the decision to slow down and we ended up expanding our family through foster care,” Willis said. “In April 2017, we gained a daughter at just 4 days old. She is still in the foster care program, but are hoping the adoption will be completed within the next three months. Because of this change, I have made the decision to retire from running and focus on my family life. Today, I am a personal trainer, coaching a track team for children with physical disabilities in the Wichita area called, “Team Lightening,” changing many diapers and driving my son to his sporting events.”

At the end of the day, helping people is Willis’ main priority. She hopes to make a difference in other’s lives, by sharing her obstacles and triumphs.

“Through my experiences I have become much more open to those who have different cultural backgrounds than myself,” Wills said. “I am understanding of circumstances and much slower to make judgments. I have been humbled and very grateful for the experiences bestowed on my life. My life has also been dedicated to foundations and helping children who could possibly be Paralympians in the future. This has become my new passion and I am excited to see how they grow in the future.”

Gilliland, Steve

What’s with these Kansas Deer?

Many wildlife studies take place behind the scenes; if you don’t happen to hear or read about them or stumble upon them in progress, you never know they occur. Such is the case with a fairly extensive deer research project underway in northwestern Kansas this year.

The project has two stages; the first stage is to capture and collar 120 deer, the second stage is to monitor those deer and their fawns to collect valuable data about Kansas deer. I spoke with Levi Jaster, Big Game Coordinator with Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism who is supervising the project. He says there has been a noticeable retraction of the KS mule deer population, slowly withdrawing westward, while at the same time the whitetail population is also spreading westward. Jaster told me “We are already on the western edge of the mule deer range and hate to see their population dwindle any more here in Kansas, and Nebraska is not seeing the same problem, so that leaves us Kansas wildlife biologists searching for answers.” Jaster says all studies about deer mortality rates, habitat use and reproduction rates have been done in either the Dakotas or Texas, neither of which have topography or conditions representative of Kansas, so everyone felt it was time for a KS study to be done.

Eight KS counties were chosen; Decatur, Norton, Sheridan and Graham in the extreme northwestern corner, and Logan, Gove, Scott and Lane a little farther south. In February, 120 deer divided evenly between each group of counties, between whitetails and mule deer, and between bucks and does were netted from a helicopter and collared. Bucks were given a quick health check including blood samples, fitted with GPS radio collars that will remain on them for their lifetime and then released. Does were airlifted to an area set up with handling facilities where they were each given an ultrasound to determine pregnancy rates and blood samples were drawn. They were then ear-tagged and fitted with a GPS radio collar that will drop off after a predetermined number of weeks. Before their release each doe was also given a small vaginal implant transmitter (VIT) that will drop out when she gives birth and help researchers attempt to locate fawns. This entire process was completed in only 4 days. To process the does, KDWPT staff was joined by Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit staff, K State graduate students, veterinarians, volunteers from the Kansas Bowhunters Assn. and landowners who allowed access to their land.

The second part of the project will begin in mid to late May when collared does begin to birth fawns. The transmitters will begin transmitting when they are expelled and are linked to each does collar, giving researchers data on when and where fawns were born. The thinking is that since fawns are hidden for the first few days of their lives, if the signal can be tracked within a few hours after birth, most fawns can be located. Each will be quickly checked, measured and fitted with a special expandable collar so it can be tracked also. The goal is to find and collar 80 – 90 fawns this spring.

Data collected during this first-of-its-kind 3 year study here in KS will help researchers learn more about Kansas deer reproductive and mortality rates and causes of mortality, deer movement, survival of different year classes of deer, and mule deer and whitetail deer interaction. This data will help provide much needed insight into deer densities, deer-human interactions, crop damage and the effects of habitat and crop changes on KS deer populations.

I asked Levi if there was anything else he wanted deer hunters to learn from this story, and he told me “We want deer hunters who see these collars to act as though the collar doesn’t exist. If they were going to harvest a collared deer before they spotted the collar, harvest it anyway. If they were going to pass on a collared deer, pass on it despite the collar. This will give us real-world, real-time data.” Fifteen years ago, my wife and I hunted for several years where she grew up in Meade County, and back then we could expect to see as many muleys’ as whitetails. Today, I know that whitetails are much more prevalent down there, so I’m anxious to see what this study turns up; a wonderful way to continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!



Steve can be contacted by email at





“Our Farms, Our Futures” Conference Explores Sustainable Ag

What’s your vision for the future of sustainable


On April 3-5, NCAT and the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program will bring the nation’s leading farmers, ranchers, researchers, and educators to St. Louis to take on that question during the Our Farms, Our Future Conference.

They will address major food sustainability trends with presentations by a diverse group of farmers and ranchers using a wide range of innovative systems to sustainably produce vegetables, grains, fruit, cattle, hogs, poultry and other livestock.

The conference will feature plenary sessions and workshops for grain, livestock and specialty crop producers, along with cutting-edge material for researchers, educators, agency leaders, and non-profit representatives.

NCAT ATTRA Veteran Networking

On Monday, April 2, the day before the conference officially begins, NCAT, through its ATTRA program, will kick things off with a special networking session from 5:30 to 7 p.m.  for military veterans. In recent years, ATTRA has offered “Armed to Farm” training for veterans around the country who are interested in sustainable agriculture as a career choice.

Veteran Success Story

The following day veteran Paul Grieve will give a presentation on the success he has enjoyed marketing pastured poultry products.

Paul is a Marine Corps officer turned certified public accountant turned pastured poultry farmer. He started farming in 2012 with 50 chicks his family ordered to satisfy a desire to eat chicken truly grown outdoors.

Since then, their farm has grown to one of the largest pastured poultry producers in the country, serving clients like Wolfgang Puck, the LA Lakers, and the LA Dodgers. They also serve more than 5,000 customers directly through their online retail business, Primal Pastures.

Other Conference Offerings

The conference also will feature sessions on Farm Policy; the First Years on the Farm or Ranch; Climate Change; Local Food Systems; and Soil Health as well as many educational sessions about a variety of production systems, including poultry, cattle, small ruminant, vegetable, grain, fruit, and others.

And participants will be able to get out and stretch their legs during  eight farm tours that will showcase sustainable models of rural and urban agricultural production within the vibrant St. Louis food system.

Register Early

Early registration ends on February 22. Register today to save your spot and receive early registration discounts. For more information, visit


Since 1976, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has been helping people by championing small-scale, local and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities and protect natural resources. More information about its programs and services is available at or by calling 1-800-ASK-NCAT.

Pitts, Lee

Visiting Dignitaries

Like chuck-line riding cowboys of yesteryear, they go from ranch to ranch, carrying the news and performing a job no one else wants, let alone can do. Other than a few cowboy poets and purebred bull auctioneers, they are the only celebrities we have in the cow business. These VIP’s rank above truck drivers, hay balers, farm advisors, and bankers in status and these coveralled celebrities play a leading role at every ranch, feedlot or auction market in the country. Of course, I’m referring to large animal veterinarians who keep our animals healthy and us informed.

When these friends come to the ranch to preg check, bangs heifers, or treat a horse for colic they receive visiting dignitary status. Life on a big ranch can get lonely, with little contact with the outside world so when a vet honors you with a visit the cow boss might even shave and the lady of the manor might bake up a batch of her delicious chocolate chip cookies.

I’ve never met a bad vet but there are degrees of greatness and there are ways to tell if you are lucky enough to have a rock star vet. The best way to tell is if they’re late. The great ones always are. If your vet is always prompt I’d be saving up to buy a backhoe to bury all his or her mistakes. And remember, good vets drive dirty trucks; the dirtier the truck, the better the vet.

I’ve found that good vets, like good welders, can be a bit on the grumpy side. I don’t know if it’s the pain from a broken knee cap a cow gave them, or if it’s genetic. Maybe they’re just mad at themselves for becoming a large animal vet instead of specializing in small animals where they could work in air conditioned comfort and the biggest danger is an ankle-biting dachshund.

Great vets are rarely closely shaven and if yours looks like he’s been up since two am, he probably has. Large animal vets vets don’t wear neckties to work and if your lady vet comes wearing freshly starched coveralls and clean rubber boots I’d start that backhoe up if I were you. Most great vets are humble folk but you’d be surprised how many have vanity license plates with self-deprecating messages like Golden Arm, Cow Doc or Horse Kilr. Good cow doctors aren’t much for small talk. Mostly they speak in grunts. They don’t take vacations, have few hobbies and they don’t team rope. Not that they can’t, it’s just that if they rope something they ALWAYS want to get paid for it, not just when they win a jackpot somewhere.

Good vets don’t bring their dog with them and don’t be surprised to see one holding their phone with one hand giving advice to another rancher while their other arm is up the rear end of one of your cows. They are great multi-taskers. One reason vets are late is because they had to fix a squeeze chute on the fly with rusty baling wire at the visit before yours. My vet was never too busy to float a horses’ teeth, rebuild part of my corrals, booster my dog or dress out a dead lamb that wasn’t all his fault.

You’ll find that not all of their methods are taught in school. When they put a prolapse back where it belongs they might also put a Mason jar filled with water inside to weigh it down so the big pink blob won’t fall out again.

Frequently the good Doctor’s team includes his wife who is holding down the fort back at the clinic. She makes all the appointments and is the real brains of the outfit.

Great vets enjoy their work, although they’d never admit it. In offering a prognosis, unlike an M.D., they are brutally honest and they don’t use a big word when a smaller one will do just fine. If you pay close attention you’ll learn more practical knowledge from your vet than you did in four years of college.

After several years in the business your vet may appear jaded and hardened, tempered like steel, and I’ll admit that not all vets have the best bedside manor. But on the other hand, they might purposely forget to send you a bill for putting your old dog to sleep.

Blogs Yield, Milo

Laugh tracks in the dust

        I usually wait until the end of the week to write my columns because I’m expecting a good story to come my way accidentally.

Well, this week I got more of an “accidental” story than I wanted when my brother-in-law, ol’ Charl Lay, ended up in the hospital after a “4-wheeler cattle drive” went south (actually end for end) and bro ended up laying on a rocky slope with a broken left leg.

The crew with him stabilized his leg and got him air-lifted to the hospital by medi-copter.

I went into the hospital to see him after he’d been admitted and he wuz in good spirits — at least as good as could be expected for a cowboy with a broken leg and various bumps, bruises and strains.

It wuz only a few months ago that Charl retired from his non-farm job to spend full time with his family, cattle, and ranch.

I laughed and told him that the accident wuz sent as a not-so-subtle message to take his foot off the accelerator of life and coast every once in a while.

That’s just the opposite situation from mine where I need to quit coasting and hit the foot-feed of work more often. But, it’s so much easier to just take a nap and think about working.


This is a story about an old shepherd who had spent the summer alone in the mountains herding a big flock of sheep.

Deep into the chilly fall, he drove the flock down the mountain and back to the ranch headquarters. When he got his part of the ranch’s sheep well situated, the old shepherd checked into the warm bunkhouse with the other ranch hands.

He immediately got the attention of their olfactory senses because the old shepherd was way past the time he needed a bath, disinfectant, and a change of clothes.

When the old feller ignored the hands’ request that he attend to his personal hygiene immediately, the crew took matters into its own hands. Some guys started preparing the bath tub while the rest mobbed the old shepherd and started stripping away his aromatically-offensive duds.

The old shepherd’s resistance wuz no match for the crew and he soon found himself stripped down to his trap-door long-johns. When the crew started stripping him down to his birthday suit, they were shocked to discover a heavy woolen sweat-encrusted sweater beneath his long-johns.

That’s when the old shepherd got wide-eyed and exclaimed, “So that’s where my sweater is. I’ve been looking for it ever since that late snowstorm last spring!”


A retired Coloradoan finished his shower, put on his robe, and started watering the house plants, which included a few cacti.

A wardrobe malfunction happened and the feller accidentally acquired a few cactus spines in a sensitive area.

He decided to keep the whole thing a secret. but that ploy got blown away with his wife came home and caught him with a magnifying glass and some tweezers carefully picking away the cactus spines.

Thankfully, his wife couldn’t (or wouldn’t) keep such an accident secret and soon all his family and friends knew what happened.

And, now so do a lot of strangers.


My friend Jay Esse from Colorado tells me that when he wuz young, he would hunt for deer a lot. Now that’s he’s old like me, he spends a lot of time hunting for bathrooms.


I can’t believe that “my” Kansas City Royals will be playing in the World Series. I didn’t think I’d life long enuf to see it happen again … after 29 long-suffering years.

Plus, they won the American League pennant by winning eight playoff games in a row.

I don’t know when the Baseball Gods will quit dealing favorably with the Royals, but I don’t care. Regardless of how the World Series turns out, ol’ Nevah and I have enjoyed the Boys in Blue this season.

The Royals play in “The K,” which is named for former owner Ewing Kaufman. Here’s a couple of interesting historical Royal facts. First, the team name came from Kansas City’s long-hosting of the American Royal Livestock Show and Exhibition.

Second, Ewing Kauffman never sold the Royals. He DONATED the club to the KC Community Foundation and the foundation ultimately sold the club to David Glass, the current owner. All the funds from the Royals sale went to the foundation for its charitable work in the community. Mr. Ewing’s focus was always on the fans and ways he could repay the community for all its support. Few professional team owners today have Mr. K’s set of values.


Hey, did you hear about the would-be terrorist who sneaked his way into the White House?

Neither did I — nor did the Secret Service! Have a good ‘un.