Pictured are members of the 4-H Poweshiek Prowlers 4-H teams who finished first at the second annual Iowa State WHEP (Wildlife Habitat Education Program) competition on Saturday, May 21 at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Prairie City. From left: William Schalmo, Frances Pederson, Ivy Kellogg, Haley Princehouse, Coach; Cora Kellogg, Lily Smith, Madeline Anderson and Wyatt Anderson. The team of fourth – tenth graders met virtually and in-person once a week since November to prepare for the competition.
By J.O. Parker
Congratulations to the Poweshiek County's Wildlife Habitat Education Program (WHEP) team for capturing a first place finish at the second annual state WHEP competition held at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Prairie City on Saturday, May 21.
This is the second year that Poweshiek has captured a first place finish at the state WHEP competition. These students are known as the Poweshiek Prowlers.
WHEP is the Wildlife Habitat Education Program who partners with 4-H. WHEP teaches youth all about different species, environment areas, and wildlife management programs. This year’s competition focused on the tallgrass prairie and urban ecoregions and species.
The Prowlers have been studying and practicing since November to compete in the competition. They put in a ton of hours with their coaches, Amy Andrews, Poweshiek County Naturalist; Signey Hilby, Poweshiek County Program Assistant; and Haley Princehouse, Poweshiek County 4-H Youth Educator, as well as on their own to prepare for this contest. The group of 4th – 10th graders met virtually and in-person once a week since November to study a 200 plus page manual that covered ecosystems, wildlife species, and concepts related to land and wildlife management.
According to Andrews and Kaycie Waters, a 4-H statewide coordinator with the WHEP program, the course work the team learned was geared more toward college students.
“It is so great to see youth outdoors and excited to be involved in conservation,” said Waters. “These youth are learning about the importance of conservation management and how to be stewards of the land. The future of conservation is bright.”
Poweshiek had two teams comprised of seven youth compete this year. Nineteen youth from five teams participated in the competition this year.
The Prowlers team 1 consisted of Cora Kellogg, Ivy Kellogg, Frances Pederson and William Schalmo. The Prowlers team 2 consisted of Madeline Anderson, Wyatt Anderson and Lily Smith.
At Saturday's competition, both teams worked together to write a three-page plan that described how they would manage a specific tract of land to meet the need of three target species - dickcissel, white-tailed deer and ring-necked pheasants.
Judges complimented them on their ability to write clearly and balance the trade-offs between the different habitats the three species required, along with their drawing skills during the map portion of their plans.
They were also graded on an individual test where they identified animal sounds, pelts, and answered questions about native prairie wildlife species. Medals were given for the top three individual test takers and William Schalmo placed second individually.
Between events, participants went on guided hikes and tours of the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge.
“If you see Cora, Ivy, Frances, William, Madie, Wyatt, Lily, or their families around, congratulate them on a job well done,” noted Princehouse. “They have been dedicated to this team and have put in a ton of hard work, and it shows. Great job representing Poweshiek County.”
Haley Princehouse, Poweshiek County youth educator (CYC) contributed to this article.