Got Nature? Blog

Posted on April 13th, 2018 in Invasive Animal Species, Safety, Wildlife | No Comments »

As climate change and habitat destruction become more of a public concern, the popularity the Animal Planet channel has grown as it seeks to educate viewers about the importance of wildlife preservation and the role human interaction has in these habitats. The network now shows a variety of programming ranging from survival shows to conservation and management of wildlife.

Wildlife ShowsWildlife shows such as ‘The Crocodile Hunter’, ‘River Monsters’, and ‘The Zoo’ emphasize the efforts of biologists, wildlife researchers, and zookeepers involved with wildlife to the general public. More recent shows such as ‘Lone Starr Law’, ‘North Wood Law’, and ‘Rugged Justice’ show how Fish and Wildlife Game Wardens enforce laws (Federal and State) that protect aquatic, avian and terrestrial life.

The National Park Service mission, as directed by the Organic Act of 1916 is “to conserve the scenery, natural and historic objects, and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Wildlife biologists/researchers and park managers require extensive information on the species within a habitat to best protect and conserve native wildlife. These data can then be used by managers to devise and implement strategies that will provide future protection of wildlife from invasive species as well as human-induced stresses (air and water pollution, deforestation and habitat encroachment).

Several methods for monitoring wildlife are employed by wildlife researchers in order to track animal movements and determine home range size within a particular habitat. For herding populations such as elk and deer, aircraft are used. For solitary animals such as bears and mountain lions, radio-telemetry can be used. A remote/trail camera (the most non-invasive tool for wildlife research) allows wildlife researchers to observe these animals in their natural habitat without disturbing them (our presence modifies the behavior of many species), answering the question of “What’s present when we are not there?” As an efficient and cost-effective way to supplement or replace human observers, remote wildlife viewing camera systems are used worldwide to document species presence and distribution addressing a variety of research and management objectives.

One of the most promising times to observe trail cameras is during the spring when many species have their young. A popular viewing request is to watch raptors, hummingbirds, and songbirds raise their young. Indiana and other nearby states have erected several high-definition cameras that allow real-time observations of some of these and other native species.

Bird Cams

These cameras typically run 24/7 and allow viewers to see eggs hatching and parents feeding their young. There are also cameras within zoos nationwide, along waterways, and in fields to catch glimpses of other animals. If you are unable to venture into the field and want close-up views of some of our majestic wildlife. A host of different online sources are available for you to view animals in their natural habitat or those animals that may be housed in sanctuaries or zoos. Check out the cameras below to start or go to https://explore.org for more great species to watch.

As technology improves and operation costs decrease, use of trail cameras is becoming an increasingly more valuable tool as it gives a more definitive view of the pressures (both natural and human-induced) that wildlife face in their natural habitat. Information collected about wildlife in parks can be as simple as confirmation of the presence of a species or as detailed as the average number of young produced per female per year. If you come across a trail camera in a park or anywhere on public land, recognize the potential for sensitive wildlife habitat in the area and leave them undisturbed.

References:
Wildlife Monitoring and Wildlife Viewing Camera Systems, National Park Service

Resources:
Zoos Work with Purdue University for Hellbender Conservation Efforts, Got Nature?, Purdue FNR-Extension

Shaneka Lawson, USDA Forest Service/HTIRC Research Plant Physiologist/Adjunct Assistant Professor
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Hellbender Release

Hellbender release – Purdue biologists help a release attendee place a Hellbender in its temporary holding pen. Photo credit: Marci Skelton.

HellbenderThe Hellbender salamander is North America’s largest salamander. It is fully aquatic, living its entire life in rivers and streams throughout the midwest and southeast. Hellbenders require cool, clean rivers and streams with rocky substrates to thrive and reproduce. Unfortunately, over the past several decades the species has declined or disappeared from many of these areas. In Indiana, the species can only be found in the Blue River in south-central Indiana where there remains only a very small, geriatric population incapable of sustaining itself. In order to save the species in the state, Purdue University and its many partners have joined together to reverse the decline.

On November 1st and 2nd of this year, Purdue FNR’s Williams lab released 80, 4-year old Hellbenders into a site chosen as the best Hellbender habitat in the Blue River. Members from Purdue University, Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden, Columbian Park Zoo, Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, Indianapolis Zoo, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Duke Energy, and more all helped in the task of releasing the individuals into their new homes.

The chosen Hellbenders had been raised in captivity at Purdue University. Unfortunately, captive-raised animals are often times not equipped with the necessary set of skills to survive life outside of an aquarium. However, these were not all aquarium-raised individuals more akin to pets than wild animals. Forty of the individuals were raised in specially designed tanks called raceways that incorporated water flow to mimic that found in a natural river setting. The remaining forty individuals were raised in standard, low-flow conditions. The idea behind raising the animals in these differing conditions is to compare whether or not the individuals raised in conditions that are more natural (i.e., higher flow rates) will be better able to survive the varying water levels they will encounter in the wild than those that are raised without flow.

In order to document success, all 80 Hellbenders were implanted with radio-transmitters. These transmitters emit a signal that allows biologists to detect them with antennae and locate the exact location an individual is hiding. For the next six to ten months, through rain, snow, and shine, Purdue biologists will follow these animals to document their behavior, habitat preferences, and whether or not they survive life in the wild.

Transporting Hellbenders

Transporting Hellbenders – Release attendees work together to transport Hellbenders across the river to be processed before release. Photo credit: Marci Skelton.

The outcomes of this study could help solve two major problems facing Hellbender conservation. The first is that the addition of Hellbenders into the system could help spur natural reproduction and help to start stabilizing the system. This small step is important towards our eventual goal of repopulating the Blue River and other former Hellbender streams. The second problem this study will hopefully address is the issue of poor survival of captive-reared animals when released into the wild. If we find that raising animals in more natural conditions improves survival over those raised in the more common no-flow conditions, this technique could be easily adopted at captive-rearing facilities throughout the nation and help increase the overall success of Hellbender conservation in the United States.

For more information, please visit HelptheHellbender.org.

Resources:
Hellbender ID, The Education Store
HelptheHellbender.org, Purdue Extension
Help the Hellbender: North America’s Giant Salamander, The Education Store
How Our Zoos Help Hellbenders, The Education Store

Nick Burgmeier, Research Biologist and Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Once aquatic invasive species (AIS) are established in a new environment, typically, they are difficult or impossible to remove. Even if they are removed, their impacts are often irreversible. It is much more environmentally and economically sound to prevent the introduction of new AIS through thoughtful purchasing and proper care of organisms. Check out this article titled Aquatic Invasive Species – Organisms in Trade for a list of webinars bringing resources to teachers, water garden hobbyists, aquatic landscaping designers and to aquatic enthusiasts.  The video titled Beauty Contained: Preventing Invasive Species from Escaping Water Gardens is also available in the article which contains guidelines that were adopted from the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force along with addressing the care and selection of plants and animals for water gardens.

Resources:
Aquatic Invaders in the Marketplace, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)
Great Lakes Sea Grant Network (GLERL), NOAA – Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory
Indiana Bans 28 Invasive Aquatic Plants, The Helm – Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)
A Field Guide to Fish Invaders of the Great Lake Regions, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)
Purdue Researchers Get to the Bottom of Another Quagga Mussel Impact, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)
Lady Quagga Announces Latest Tour, llinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)
Protect Your Waters, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service & U.S. Coast Guard

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)
University of Illinois Extension and Purdue University Extension


Quagga mussels, which arrived in Lake Michigan in the 1990s via ballast water discharged from ships, have colonized vast expanses of the Lake Michigan bottom, reaching densities as high as roughly 35,000 quagga mussels per square meter. The invasive species that can have major economic impacts filters up to 4 liters of water per day, and so far seems unaffected by any means of population control. It is also a constant threat to other systems, as it is readily transported between water bodies.

Researchers have long known that these voracious filter feeders impact water quality in the lake, but their influence on water movement had remained largely a mystery.

“Although Lake Michigan is already infested with these mussels, an accurate filtration model would be imperative for determining the fate of substances like nutrients and plankton in the water,” Purdue University PhD candidate David Cannon said. “In other quagga mussel-threatened systems, like Lake Mead, this could be used to determine the potential impact of mussels on the lake, which could in turn be used to develop policy and push for funding to keep mussels out of the lakes.”

For full article and video view Purdue Researchers Get to the Bottom of Another Quagga Mussel Impact.

Resources:
A Field Guide to Fish Invaders of the Great Lake Regions, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)
Lady Quagga Announces Latest Tour, llinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)
Protect Your Waters, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service & U.S. Coast Guard

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)
University of Illinois Extension and Purdue University Extension


Program Impacts identity

Issue

Woodlands provide a multitude of environmental (e.g., carbon sequestration, enhance water quality, wildlife habitat), economic (e.g., timber, wood products manufacturing, tourism), and social (e.g., recreation, aesthetics) benefits to Indiana residents. The sustainability of these benefits is strongly tied to stability of the resource. In Indiana, 75 percent of the 4.65 million acres of forestland is owned by families. Actions they take on their property can impact the benefits woodlands provide all Indiana residents. However, many do not understand available options or sources of assistance.

What Has Been Done

Indiana Woodland StewardThe Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, in partnership with many other organizations, helps produce and mail over 31,000 copies of the Indiana Woodland Steward to woodland owners three times each year. This 16-page, two-color publication includes in-depth articles on forest stewardship and health, invasive species and pests, wildlife habitat management, economics, and more.

Results

Subscribers owned more woods (71.6 ac) for a longer tenure (33 years) than the average woodland owner in Indiana based on data from the National Woodland Owner Survey. As a group, they were also more active managers based on the proportion enrolled in assistance programs and who had a written stewardship plan. Fifty-four percent regularly utilized information from the Woodland Steward. In addition, 51 percent of respondents have implemented at least one practice they read about from The Woodland Steward, potentially impacting an estimated 1.2 million acres of forestland. His use of print media to communicate with woodland owners could be considered expensive, but clearly a large number of woodland owners regularly read and utilize the information making the average investment per landowner much lower.


Images from Conference FlyerOn March 1st and 2nd, the Indiana chapters of The Wildlife Society, American Fisheries Society, and Society of American Foresters are coming together for their annual joint spring conference at the Four Winds Resorts & Marina on Lake Monroe in Bloomington, Indiana. This year’s conference is called Indiana Species On the Edge: Management Issues and Implications and will cover topics such as Indiana species living on the edge of their ranges, challenges researchers face, and solutions being proposed.

Pre-registration is required by February 25th in order to plan meals and breaks. For those interested in Continuing Education, attending this conference qualifies as contact hours and The Wildlife Society, American Fisheries Society, and Society of American Foresters‘ Continuing Education pages can provide you with more information. To learn more about the conference, please check out the Indiana Species on the Edge flyer. Further questions can be directed to Sally Weeks at 765.404.2947 or weeksss@purdue.edu. Hope to see you there!

Resources:
Indiana Species On the Edge Flyer
Indiana Species On the Edge Registration
The Wildlife Society – Continuing Education
American Fisheries Society – Continuing Education
Society of American Foresters – Continuing Education

Sally Weeks, Dendrology Instructor and Laboratory Manager
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Purdue Boat

Photo credit: Tom Campbell

As boats enter and exit public bodies of water, they risk transferring aquatic plants, mussels or invertebrates that attach themselves to the bottom of the boat. While this might seem pretty harmless at first, this spreading of aquatic species runs the risk of introducing invasive species into new environments.

Invasive species cause harm to local ecosystems by reproducing exponentially when they are outside of their usual habitat and the organisms that keep their populations in check. They can then cause great damage by feeding on local species and the food they depend on. Once an invasive species is detected, it is oftentimes very expensive and difficult to control. For example, around 1991, the U.S. and Canada spent an estimated $20 million per year to control invasive sea lampreys and restore the trout populations that were damaged by them. In Indiana alone, we spend around $800,000 a year to attempt to control the growth of Eurasian watermilfoil, another nuisance invasive species.

In an attempt to avoid more cases like this in the future, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (INDNR) is looking for help. Volunteers can sign up to record information about boats and their potential aquatic hitchhikers entering and leaving lakes during times of heavy use. The DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife can take this data and use it for public outreach and planning species management.

Those interested are highly encouraged to sign up on INDNR’s Volunteer Program page.

Resources
Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS), Indiana Department of Natural Resources
DNR Seeks Help Gathering Info on Spread of Aquatic Species, WSBT22
Indiana Invasive Species Council, Purdue Entomology Extension
Invasive Plants, Purdue Agriculture Weed Science
The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center (search “invasive”)

Indiana Department of Natural Resources


Providing timely information to woodland owners and other rural landowners can be a challenging task. Developing partnerships is an important way that Purdue helps meet this challenge. One of our best steward.JPGexamples is the Woodland Steward Institute, a 23-year partnership among many member organizations, whose purpose is to promote the wise use of Indiana’s forest resources. The primary way the Institute achieves its mission is through The WOODland Steward, a 16-page, two-color publication that includes information on forest stewardship and health, wildlife habitat and management, invasive species, forest policy, pests and diseases, and much more. Three issues are printed and mailed to about 32,000 forest owners throughout the state each year.

The latest issue is now available online. Visitors can also browse or search for past articles and issues. Articles in the current issue include:

  • 2014 Timber Price Report
  • Calendar of Events
  • Regeneration Cutting on Private Woodlands
  • MyLandPlan.org
  • Water Bar for Continuous Road Use
  • Forestry Best Management Practices
  • Invasive Species: Best Management Practices – Part 1
  • Ask the Steward
  • Days Gone By

The WOODland Steward is a unique and high-quality resource for Indiana. Subscribers think enough of it that they donate money to the Institute which pays for the printing and mailing of one issue each year. In a recent survey of readers, 54 percent regularly utilize information from the Steward, and 51 percent, who own an estimated 1.2 million acres of woodlands, have implemented at least one practice they learned from The WOODland Steward.

Anyone can subscribe to the electronic version of the newsletter here. If you wish, you may also sign up to receive a printed version by sending your name and mailing address to me at macgowan@purdue.edu.

​Brian MacGowan, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University


Posted on October 23rd, 2014 in Aquaculture/Fish, Invasive Animal Species, Ponds | No Comments »

​The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (INDR) has proposed an idea to the state of Indiana to begin work on a two-mile-long berm in northeast Indiana. The berm will restrict Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes. It will prevent voracious invasive species from jumping from the Mississippi River watershed during floods to a Great Lakes tributary in Eagle Marsh southeast of Fort Wayne. INDR hopes that work will begin this fall and be completed by September 15, 2015.

View the full article, Work Near on Indiana Berm to Block Asian Carp, from greenbaypressgazette.com.

Resources
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Asian Carp Movements Project, INDR
Eagle Marsh, Little River Wetlands Project
Invasive Asian Carp May Be Able To Spread Further Than Once Thought, Purdue News
Shocking Asian Carp Out of Midwest Rivers Not a Viable Option, Purdue News
Purdue Agriculture Research: Asian Carp, YouTube video
iTunes-Got Nature?
Got Nature? Podcasts


Posted on May 14th, 2014 in Invasive Animal Species, Wildlife | No Comments »

One of the best parts of spring is seeing all of the wildlife seemingly come to life around us. Unfortunately, that activity can also bring new challenges to homeowners. One of the most common and widespread problems is lawn damage caused by moles.

Surface tunnels of eastern moles in a lawn.

In Indiana, eastern moles cause significant lawn damage. Characteristic signs of damage are the raised surface tunnels (these make your lawn uneven and feel “spongy” when you walk across it) and the dirt mounds created when moles dig deeper tunnels. A single mole can dig many feet of tunnels; one study found a single mole constructed 31 m of surface tunnels in a day.

Biologists actually know very little about moles compared to many species. It is assumed they are territorial and solitary (except during the breeding season), but that has yet to be determined. The only home range study of eastern moles was published in 1976. That study found that the average home range size of male moles was just over 2.5 acres; females had an average home range size of two-thirds of an acre. In reality, there is likely much variation across habitat types and season. Clearly, small yards in urban areas are capable of sustaining many moles.

One of the most effective ways to control moles in the yard is by trapping. It just so happens that the best time to trap them is right now. In May, moles are actively looking for food (mostly earthworms and insects) in the top layer of the soil profile; however, they have not yet had their litter of up to four young. Thus, a little trapping effort now can save you more effort, and less damage, later.

There are a lot of different kinds of mole traps on the market. Which do you choose? Regardless of the type of trap, it should be in good working order. Poorly kept traps that are rusty with loose or broken parts are not worth setting out. In terms of the specific type of trap that you use, it’s really up to you. With types of traps, I use the analogy of computer programs. There are advantages and limitations to most computer programs, but they all get the job done they were intended to do. Different people seem to find different programs easier to work with than others. Perhaps most often, we simply use the first program we learned to use, and as long as it works, there’s not much point in learning another. I think the same is true of traps. We tend to have success with the ones that we first learned or have some experience with using.

The main point is to start trapping now – don’t wait for the damage to get worse. Select relatively straight surface tunnels for trap locations. If you only have one trap at your disposal, you may want to also mark a couple other potential trapping locations. Collapse these locations by stepping on them and marking them with a pin flag. If you aren’t having success catching a mole in your initial location, you can try moving to one of these if the tunnels are repaired. It may be that you initially chose a tunnel that was not a primary tunnel. However, it also may mean that your trap was not set properly.

Finally, you may come across some references that will direct you to check the traps frequently. While this is absolutely critical for live traps, it is not for mole traps since they are kill traps. There is no requirement to check them regularly other than to see if you have a mole. However, a trap with a dead mole won’t catch anything else. This is one reason why setting several traps is better if you have access to them. If you don’t catch a mole within two days, then you should consider moving locations or resetting the trap. When you catch a mole, keep setting traps until you don’t catch them. Most homeowners have problems with several moles and not simply one mole.

For more detailed information about controlling moles, see Wildlife Conflict Management – Moles.

​Brian MacGowan, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University


Got Nature?

Recent Posts

Archives