Got Nature? Blog

Posted on September 28th, 2018 in Safety, Wildlife | No Comments »

Deer crossing road sign.As a child growing up in rural St. Joe County, I can vividly recall the feeling of excitement when the occasional deer visited our backyard. It’s hard to believe now, but we actually placed salt licks out to attract deer for viewing. I still enjoy the sight of a white-tailed deer, but things are a lot different today – the Internet, iPods, and yes, more deer. Estimating the size of wildlife populations is a difficult task in most cases. Currently, experts estimate about 30 million white-tailed deer throughout its range. There are probably more white-tailed deer in North America today than at the time of European settlement. In Indiana, the total deer harvested today exceeds by many times the numbers harvested during my days of youth in the 1970s.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are approximately one and a half million deer-vehicle collisions in the United States each year, resulting in about 150 deaths and over $1 billion in vehicle damage. The average claim of these deer-collisions is $3,995.

While deer-vehicle collisions can happen any time of year, October to December is the peak. Most collisions occur from dusk to dawn on high speed rural roads. In Indiana, if a deer dies following a collision with a motor vehicle, a conservation officer, DNR property manager or other law enforcement officer may issue a permit to an individual to possess the deer.

Don’t Waste Your Money
Many tactics have been tried over the years to reduce collisions. Most of these have proved ineffective or at least need more investigation. One common approach that does not work is the deer whistle. Deer whistles are attached to vehicles and emit noises at moderate to fast speeds. The noise presumably warns deer of approaching vehicles, thereby reducing collisions. While manufacturers contend that deer can hear the whistles up to a quarter mile away, published studies have not verified their effectiveness or whether or not deer can even hear them. The lack of deer response to deer whistles may be because deer don’t recognize the sounds as threatening or they have too little time to react.

What can I do?
There is no foolproof way to prevent deer-vehicle collisions. Hunting is the most biologically and economically effective method of maintaining Indiana’s deer herd at an optimal level – all else being equal, less deer translates to reduced probability of hitting a deer. Fencing deer from roadways has been proven most effective at reducing accidents at specific locations, but it is very costly to construct and maintain.

So what do you do? There are some common-sense precautions all drivers can take to reduce the risk of deer-vehicle collisions. The Insurance Information Institute recommends the following driving tips.

  • Be vigilant in early morning and evening hours, the most active time for deer.
  • Use your high-beam headlights.
  • Slow down and blow your horn with one long blast to frighten the deer away.
  • Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path. Do not swerve. It can confuse the deer as to where to run. It can also cause you to lose control and hit a tree or another car.
  • Be alert and drive with caution when you are moving through a deer crossing zone.
  • Obey posted speed limits and always wear your seatbelt. Most people injured in car/deer crashes were not wearing their seatbelt.
  • Look for other deer after one has crossed the road. Deer seldom run alone.

Got Nature? Blog post was also published in the IndyStar, How to avoid hitting a deer with your car, and what to do when you can’t.

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


Posted on September 5th, 2018 in Aquaculture/Fish, Safety, Wildlife | No Comments »

box turle

People have been catching wild turtles and selling them as pets, leading to many species becoming endangered.  This is very dangerous for the health and survival of the turtle as well as being highly illegal in Indiana. We highly discourage you from taking turtles from their natural habitat and turning them into pets (or any animal for that matter). Here’s a list of reasons why it is not good to make a pet out of a wild turtle and what you can do if you see any turtle miss handling and turtle wrong doing.

Turtles DO NOT make good pets!

Reasons why turtles aren’t good pets:
  • Turtles require time and money for proper care, and some species can live up to 50 years.
  • Pet turtles do not like to be held and are loners; therefore, they can become boring pets for children.
  • Turtles are cold-blooded and need a source of heat. They also require an ultraviolet light for proper growth and health.
    • Without this special light, many health issues arise such as metabolic bone disease.
  • It is very important to know what kind of species you want and the care it needs before you acquire a pet turtle. Many need special food and tanks.
    • Each species has different feeding requirements, with some being strictly carnivores or herbivores. Map turtles, for example, have restricted diets that must include snails, aquatic insects and crayfish. Some species of aquatic turtles, such as the red-eared slider, map turtle and soft-shell, grow up to 12 inches long, requiring a large tank for swimming and basking.
  • Land turtles need a large pen, with sufficient substrate, properly sized water bowl, a hide area, as well as heat. Some require more humidity than others.
  • If you no longer want your pet turtle, you cannot release into the wild because it is not likely to survive.
    • It will have to find its own food, deal with the elements and deal with predators.
    • These once-captive turtles are also likely to transmit diseases to wild turtle populations.
  • Turtles can carry salmonella bacteria.
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that children, pregnant women, and persons with compromised immune systems avoid contact with reptiles to avoid getting Salmonella.
    • The DNR does not encourage the keeping of turtles as pets, but does allow it if the turtle species is obtained legally with a hunting or fishing license.

 

It is illegal to sell wild turtles

Many native, wild-caught turtles are still sold as pets, even though this practice is illegal in Indiana. The collection of wild turtles has caused many species to become endangered, especially when combined with habitat loss, water pollution and predators. Predators such as raccoons eat a large number of turtle eggs each year, and some species do not even breed until they are several years old, meaning that it can take many years for a population to become established. You can help protect Indiana’s turtles by helping to preserve turtle habitat, especially wetlands, through local conservation organizations or the Indiana Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program.

Help our endangered turtle species and report any wrong handling, contact DNR Customer Service Center.

For the full article, see Turtles As Pets, Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Resources:
Turtles of Indiana, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
Reptile and Amphibian Regulations, Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Eastern Box Turtle Information, Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)


Indiana batAt different times of the year, I get questions about bats in structures.  Bats are a timely issue towards the end of summer because young bats will soon be able to fly.  Excluding bats from structures is limited to this time.  This process is typically called “venting” where access points (both in use and potential) are identified, most are sealed off, and the remaining points are fitted with one-way doors that allow bats to leave but not reenter. If only the opening they use is sealed off, they will simply use another entry point. Think of it this way – our houses have multiple points of entry, but you may only use one. You will use another if necessary.

Bats can make their way into a house in a number of ways – gaps between siding and chimney, gaps between roof sheathing and fascia board, etc.  New and old construction alike. Eliminating access to all of these small, potential points of access can be a challenge. The bodies of some bat species are as small as your thumb. Even though you don’t have an attic, there are still spaces inside a structure where bats can live.

Bats are one of the most difficult wildlife conflicts to deal with because of the nature of their habits. They can pass through extremely small openings, move throughout the inside of a structure, and often entre/occupy hard to reach areas. Bat exclusion is not an activity I recommend for most homeowners.  There is a skill necessary to find and seal all possible access points. Since most of these are located high above ground and accessing these points can require special ladders, lifts and other safety equipment.

Having bats in the attic isn’t simply a nuisance issue, but also can be a safety issue. Like Most wildlife carry diseases. With bats, histoplasmosis and rabies are the two that are the ones most concern for people with bats in their homes.  The Center of Disease Control (CDC) has good information on these and other diseases. Fleas that live on bats can also be vectors for disease. It is always a good idea to limit exposure to wildlife animals as much as possible. For bats, venting in the end of summer and fall and preventing reentry is a logical first step.

If you have bats and want to solve the problem now is the time to contact professionals who can help. Unfortunately, most nuisance wildlife control operators don’t do bat work because it requires specialized equipment and the difficulty of it.  Because of that, control will not be cheap for the customer.  Many people construct bat houses to attract bats. While beneficial, artificial bat houses will not attract bats from an attic.

Resources:
Selecting a Nuisance Wildlife Control Professional, The Education Store-Purdue Extension’s resource center
Bats in Indiana, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Bat Houses, Bat Conservation International

Brian J. MacGowan, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University


Posted on July 1st, 2018 in Plants, Safety | No Comments »

Most terrestrial plants are sessile. This inability to move forces has brought alternative methods to defend themselves. Typically, plants use three basic mechanisms of defense: avoidance, escape or tolerance. A recent work notes that plants may have evolved a fourth method; where healthy tissue is sacrificed in an effort to confine harmful bacteria to a small portion of the leaf.

SOBER1 in plantsBrown spots, if observed on previously unmarred leaves, may result from the plant employing this technique to slow or prevent bacterial spread. Scientists at the Salk Institute have identified a plant enzyme denoted SOBER1 that plants use to seemingly lower their resistance to infection. Future study on the gene may lead to ways to boost natural immunity or contain infections that would otherwise decimate entire agricultural crops and biofuel resources.

Additional experiments involved several model plant species (Arabidopsis, oilseed rape, and tobacco) and evaluated the structure and function of SOBER1 and an immune protein known as AvrBst. The ultimate goal of this work is to understand how bacterial resistance works in plants. The information gained may help identify new methods of improving agricultural and biofuel crop resistance to harmful bacterial infections.

References
A hydrophobic anchor mechanism defines a deacetylase family that suppresses host response against YopJ effectors, Nature Communications, 2017; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-02347-w, Marco Bürger, Björn C. Willige, Joanne Chory.
Unusual plant immune response to bacterial infection characterized, ScienceDaily, 8 January 2018, Salk Institute.

Resources
Consumer Horticulture: Fertilizing Woody Plants, The Education Store, Purdue Extension
Shrubs and Woody Vines of Indiana and the Midwest: Identification, Wildlife Values, and Landscaping Use, The Education Store, Purdue Extension

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


Posted on June 11th, 2018 in Alert, Got Nature for Kids, How To, Safety, Wildlife | No Comments »

If you care about wild animals, let them be wild. Most young wild animals you encounter are not orphaned. What may seem like an abandoned animal is normal behavior for most wildlife, to avoid predators. Picking up a wild animal you think is orphaned or abandoned is unnecessary and can be harmful to the animal or you.

DeerIf you find a wild animal that is truly abandoned, sick or injured, here is what you can do:

  • Leave it alone, in its natural environment. Don’t turn wildlife into pets.
  • Call a licensed wild animal rehabilitator who is trained in caring for wild animals.
  • If the animal is sick or severely injured, call a licensed veterinarian.

Resources:
Mammals of Indiana, J.O. Whitker and R.E. Mumford
Common Indiana Mammals, The Nature of Teaching, The Education Store-Purdue Extension’s resource center
Orphaned and Injured Animals, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)

MyDNR Indiana’s Outdoor News, Indiana Department of Natural Resources


Posted on April 24th, 2018 in How To, Safety, Wildlife | No Comments »
ACCESS PROGRAM PROVIDING LAND EASEMENTS (APPLE)

Source: http://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/9572.htm

The DNR is seeking private landowners to allow limited public gamebird hunting opportunities on their properties in exchange for financial incentives and technical assistance through a program called APPLE.

APPLE stands for Access Program Providing Land Easements. In its second year, APPLE provides hunters with an opportunity to hunt ring-necked pheasant, bobwhite quail, and American woodcock, while also providing landowners with significant benefits.

With nearly 96 percent of Indiana privately owned, public gamebird hunting opportunities are limited.

Participating landowners are eligible for incentives of up to $25 per acre. Additional financial assistance is also available for creating or improving habitat.

DNR biologists will work closely with each landowner to develop a wildlife habitat management plan. Biologists will also help landowners plan the number and timing of hunts on their land.

The DNR is targeting landowners of 20 acres or more within five focal regions across the state. For more information, including a description of the five focal regions, visit wildlife.IN.gov/9572.htm.

Hunters will be selected for the program using Indiana’s online reserved hunt draw system.

Landowners can continue to hunt all other species on their land during the duration of the APPLE hunts, and may hunt gamebirds after the APPLE hunts.

Resources:
Field Season Upon Us! Be Prepared, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR

Jason Wade, North Region Landscape Biologist
DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife

Erin Basiger, South Landscape Biologist
DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife


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


Two important holidays that celebration our connection to nature fall in April. The first, Earth Day, falls on April 21st and marks the 48th anniversary of the day when millions of people initiated a peaceful protest to voice their views of the negative impacts of industrial development. Worldwide air pollution had led to birth defects in children and overuse of pesticides and other pollutants was causing catastrophic declines in biodiversity.earth day

The movement was quickly supported by Congress and President Nixon worked to create the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) along with many other environmentally friendly initiatives. Now a global holiday, billions of people across 192 countries take part in Earth Day showing their love of the planet by planting trees and flowers, contacting their congressperson and pledging to uphold more Eco-friendly practices.

On January 4, 1872, J. Sterling Morton, a journalist and later editor of a Nebraska newspaper was a great supporter of the environment with a healthy love of trees in arbor day foundationparticular. In a meeting with the state board of Agriculture J. Sterling Morton, proposed a tree-planting holiday to be called “Arbor Day” for April 10, 1872. Estimates state that greater than one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the inaugural date. The success of the effort led the Nebraska governor (Robert W. Furnas) to make an official proclamation of the holiday on March 12, 1874. In 1885, Arbor Day was named a legal holiday and April 22 (J. Sterling Morton’s birthday) was deemed the permanent observance date. The success of the holiday spread nationwide as other states began holding their own Arbor Day celebrations and is now a well-celebrated holiday.

References:
Earth Day, PDF
‘Twas the Day Before Arbor Day, Got Nature?, Purdue FNR-Extension
Tree Planting Part 1: Choosing a Tree, The Education Store, Purdue Extension

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


Posted on April 4th, 2018 in Safety, Wildlife | No Comments »

White-nose syndrome is a fatal disease that has devastated bat populations in parts of the United States and Canada. In a recent study published by the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, a surprising result regarding treatment and eradication of Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the psychrophilic fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, was obtained. When exploring the disease using genetic methods, it was noted that exposure to UV-light kills Pseudogymnoascus destructans.

white nose uv diagram

The primary scientists involved in these studies are USDA scientists Jon Palmer (Research Botanist based in Madison, WI) and Daniel Lindner (Research Plant Pathologist based in Madison, WI) and University of New Hampshire scientists Kevin P. Drees and Jeffery T. Foster. These scientists initially noted P. destructans only infected bats during hibernation because the fungus has rigid temperature requirements for growth 39-68 °F. It was later noted that the fungus is unable to repair DNA damage done by UV light. This early study was funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and published in Nature Communications. It went on to explain that the fungus likely evolved with bat species in Europe and Asia allowing them to evolve defenses against the fungus while American bats have no defense. However, a moderate dose of UV-C light for a few seconds results in <1% survival of the fungus.

bats and uv light

Research on this topic is ongoing, with additional funds provided by Bats for the Future to examine survival of little brown bat colonies exposed to UV-C light during hibernation compared to unexposed colonies. The study will also examine potential non-target effects such as changes in bat skin microbes and bacteria. This breakthrough could lead to the long-term survival of our bat colonies.

References
Online article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180102153209.htm
Publication: Jonathan M. Palmer, Kevin P. Drees, Jeffrey T. Foster, Daniel L. Lindner. Extreme sensitivity to ultraviolet light in the fungal pathogen causing white-nose syndrome of bats. Nature Communications, 2018; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-02441-z
Previous GotNature article: https://ag.purdue.edu/fnr/GotNature/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=238.

Resources:
Night Time is the Right Time to Look for Bats, Research on White Nose Syndrome – Dr. Pat Zollner

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


Posted on April 3rd, 2018 in Forestry, Safety, Wildlife | No Comments »

A new study published in Diversity and Distributions noted old-growth forests, with their diverse tree sizes and species may provide refuge for bird species in population decline resulting from climate shifts. Researchers at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry noted over the last 30 years that temperature increases during the breeding season limited population growth for two tracked species; Wilson’s warbler (Cardellina pusilla) and the hermit warbler (Setophaga occidentalis). These effects were mitigated in areas containing significant proportions of old-growth forest.

Hermit Warbler and Wilson Warbler

Using satellite imagery of the research areas allowed the research team, led by Matthew Betts, to calculate approximate distances to old-growth forests along each 25mi survey route. Their findings provide support for the importance of old-growth forest conservation in our current changing climate. Researchers on this project admit that more research is needed to identify specific qualities of old-growth forests that provide a buffer for these bird species however, they have stated that it could be that the trees are able to moderate temperatures by functioning as heat sinks with multiple canopy layers as climate buffers.

Reference:
Betts MG, Phalan B, Frey SJK, Rousseau JS, Yang Z. Old-growth forests buffer climate-sensitive bird populations from warming. Divers Distrib. 2017;00:1–9.

Resources:
Complex, old growth forests may protect some bird species in a warming climate, ScienceDaily.com
Forest Birds, The Education Store
Breeding Birds and Forest Management: the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment and the Central Hardwoods Region, The Education Store
Forest Improvement Handbook, The Education Store

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


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