Got Nature? Blog

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 Hope to see you there!

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.

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
  • 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

​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

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

Posted on February 25th, 2014 in Aquaculture/Fish, Invasive Animal Species | No Comments »

A recent discussion about Asian carp as a food source has generated some concerns about the level of contamination in their fillets, and thus, whether or not they are safe to eat. Several Indiana agencies cooperate to evaluate the risks of fish consumption to the public; the agencies include the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (INDNR), Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) and Purdue University. Most of the fish assessed for contaminants are those that are regularly caught by anglers. Numerous catfish, bass, sunfish and sucker species are commonly included in tissue surveys (see links below for more info). Indiana then divides people into two risk groups: 1) men (over 15 years) and women beyond childbearing age (typically 45 years or older) and 2) women pregnant or capable of becoming pregnant and children under 15. The second group is considered the sensitive group, and allowable contaminant levels (that is, the amount of fish that is safe to consume) are set significantly lower.

It is important to recognize that there are differences in allowable contaminants among population groups mentioned above, and it is equally important to recognize that the same fish species can have different amounts of contaminants in different water bodies. Asian carp are a riverine species that frequently travel long distances, and as such, they are exposed to varying levels of contaminants. Indiana and many other states try to minimize the effects of variation in individual fish fillet by combining tissue from multiple individual fish and analyzing it as a composite. Sampling the tissue as a composite reduces the risk of a heavily contaminated fish or a fish with little contamination, giving a false impression of the risk. By combining the fillets, Indiana also saves money by not analyzing large amounts of single fillets. Indiana does divide the fish into a couple of size classes for each composite because contamination increases significantly as fish size increases. They have yet to begin testing Asian carp fillets, at least partially because of their difficulty to capture using traditional fish survey techniques.

Although most states have not started regularly testing Asian carp, there has been some published research evaluating Asian carp fillets and comparing their contaminants to other species caught in the same location. Not surprisingly, the results of the research found that Asian carp have different concentrations of contaminants depending on where they are found, and they have different levels than other species of fish including common carp. Common carp have a completely different diet than Asian carp, so it is not surprising that contamination levels are different. Like most other fish, the most common problems associated with Asian carp are Mercury and PCBs. However, where the research was conducted in Illinois and Missouri, the recommended restriction on consumption was typically one meal per week for the most sensitive groups. Most studies have demonstrated that larger fish tend to have higher concentrations in their tissues than smaller fish found in the same environments. This relates to the way Mercury and PCBs bioaccumulate in tissues – the longer a fish is around, the more contaminants per gram we would expect them to contain. This is not to say that Asian carp in Indiana is safe for that level of consumption or that it even contains the same amount of contaminants as in other states. It still needs to be evaluated by the state, but studies cited below have shown that for the most part, Asian carp are likely no riskier to consume than most of the fish species that Indiana currently evaluates.

Fish Consumption Advisory
Indiana State Department of Health

Angling Indiana/Consumption Advisory by County
Purdue University

Asian Carp Solutions: Take Them to Market
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) Newsroom

No Bones AboutIt: New Video Lays Out Easy Steps For Filleting Tasty Asian Carp
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) Newsroom

Published Papers
Levengood, J.M., D.J. Soucek, G.G. Sass, A. Dickinson, and J.M. Epifanio. In press. Elements of Concern in Fillets of Bighead and Silver Carp From the Illinois River, Illinois. Chemosphere 2013.

Rogowski, D.L., D.J. Soucek, J.M. Levengood, S.R. Johnson, J.H. Chick, J.M. Dettmers, M.A. Pegg, and J.M. Epifanio. 2009. Contaminant Concentrations in Asian Carps, Invasive Species in the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

Jay Beugly, Aquatics Ecology Specialist
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR)
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)
Purdue University

Posted on January 27th, 2014 in Aquaculture/Fish, Invasive Animal Species | No Comments »

​Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) Lakeside Views blog shares an article titled, “Clearing up Asian carp misconceptions.” Other articles have missed some important facts about this “filter-feeding” fish and have missed studies showing Asian carp to be better quality fish for consumers compared to tuna.

More . . .

​Since the Polar Vortex subsided, there has been quite a bit of buzz about the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), an exotic beetle that is killing ash trees across Indiana and the U.S., being killed by the multi-day sub-zero temperatures we experienced here in Indiana and elsewhere. Some recent research (the full paper can be accessed here) predicts that when EAB larvae reach 0°F, 5% will die; at -10°F, 34% will die; at -20°F, 79% will die; and at -30°F, 98% will die. Based on some -15°F temperatures here at the Purdue West Lafayette campus, we might expect around 50% of the EAB will die, but some additional points need to be considered.

EAB larvae are located overwinter under the bark in infested ash trees, so the bark may offer some insulation. Snow is also an excellent insulator, so the lower trunk of ash trees in deep snow or drifts may not get as cold as ambient air temperatures. Some trees in town or near structures may remain warmer due to heat radiating or escaping from buildings. The message is, unfortunately, that the cold weather we experienced was probably not enough to solve our EAB problems.

It is good news that some of the population was probably killed by the cold weather, leaving fewer larvae to damage ash trees next spring. This will be a temporary setback for the borer, since one of the biological strengths of insects is their capacity to reproduce and grow populations quickly. Further north in places like Minnesota, the news for the ash trees may be better where temperatures below -30°F may have killed most of the larvae, providing some additional time to prepare for the EAB onslaught. Here in Indiana, we need to continue to monitor, prepare and act to limit the damage EAB will do. Some basic steps include:

Don’t move firewood – Firewood can harbor EAB and several other serious tree pests and spread them to new areas.

Learn to identify ash trees, EAB and the symptoms of EAB damage.

Learn about EAB control techniques.

Learn how to decide if your ash tree should be treated with insecticide to protect it from EAB or removed and possibly replaced with another tree species.

Work with your neighbors to monitor and manage the ash trees in your area.

Purdue Extension offers science-based recommendations to help you manage the EAB threat at

Lenny Farlee, Sustaining Hardwood Extension Specialist
Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center (HTIRC)
Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University

Posted on October 7th, 2013 in Aquaculture/Fish, Invasive Animal Species | No Comments »

Asian carp are adapting to river conditions in Indiana in alarming ways, and experts believe one solution to the problem may create money and jobs in the state.

More . . .​

Asian Carp Adaptations in Indiana Are Scary, Expert Says
The Journal Gazette
Lauri Harvey Keagle/The Times
September 19, 2013

Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

Dr. Reuben Goforth, aquatic ecosystems
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University

Asian Carp Invading Wabash River by Leaps and Bounds
The Lafayette Journal & Courier

Video: Asian carp invasion

Posted on September 19th, 2013 in Invasive Animal Species, Wildlife | No Comments »

Determining what causes holes in lawn and landscaping can be a challenging endeavor for any homeowner. The size of the hole, the presence of excavated dirt and the timing of activity are all good clues to consider. Recently, I had several holes along my driveway and sidewalk that perplexed me. I’m no stranger to holes in my yard. I’ve been combating moles in my yard (we will save that for another post) and had recently observed dead mice and shrews in my driveway. I also have many chipmunks and ​gray squirrels around the yard.cicada_killer.JPG All of these can make holes of one type or another. However, these new holes looked different. They were clearly a tunnel/burrow with an entrance of 1.5 inches. Squirrels dig holes to bury/dig nuts or to feed on small plants. Chipmunks make 1.5 inch holes, but they carry the cast soil away in their mouths which results in a less conspicuous hole. Shrews and voles will excavate holes and tunnels, but these looked different. Voles usually are found in areas with overhead cover such as densely planted landscaping beds, areas with ground ivy or similar plants and beds with think mulch. These holes were exposed far from cover. So what were they?

It just so happens I was at a colleague’s house recently, and he mentioned all the cicada killers he has around the house. He literally had dozens of holes in areas with exposed soil just like the ones I observed at home. To my delight, I finally had the answer to my question.

Cicada killers are large wasps but unlikely to sting. Purdue’s Department of Entomology has more on cicada killers here.

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

Got Nature?

Recent Posts