Got Nature? Blog

Posted on April 30th, 2018 in Forestry, Safety, Urban Forestry, Woodlands | No Comments »

Person raking the firebreak where fire did creep away from the burn area.

This annual membership meeting is designed to bring together individuals, organizations, land managers, private landowners, contractors, and agencies that have an interest in ensuring the safety and effectiveness of prescribed fires in Indiana. The purpose of the annual meeting is to develop synergy within the prescribed fire community.

Location: IN-DNR Fire Headquarters, 6220 Forest Road, Martinsville, IN 46151

Date and Time: May 30th, 2018 from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM EST

Free Registration: Indiana Prescribed Fire Council Annual Meeting Registration link

Resources:
Prescribed fire: 6 things to consider before you ignite, Got Nature?, Purdue-FNR Extension
Indiana DNR Prescribed Fire Factsheet (pdf), Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Indiana DNR State Parks Prescribed Fire, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Indiana Woodland Steward Fire and Woodlands, Indiana Woodland Steward

Chad Bladow, Indiana Fire Program
The National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Jarred Brooke, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and 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:
Indiana DNR
Field Season Upon Us! Be Prepared, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR

Jason Wade, North Region Landscape Biologist
DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife
260-468-2515,  jwade@dnr.IN.gov

Erin Basiger, South Landscape Biologist
DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife
812-822-3302, ebasiger@dnr.IN.gov


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.

References:
Article: 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. https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.12688
Online article: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171215135122.htm

Resources:
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


Prescribed fire is a great tool to improve the food and cover for a variety of wildlife species on your property. One of the most important aspects of using prescribed fire is making sure the fire is conducted safely. This point cannot be overstated, safe use of prescribed fire is paramount. Beyond taking the appropriate training courses or seeking help from a professional, one the most important aspects of safely conducting a prescribed fire is ensuring you have adequate firebreaks.

Firebreaks can serve multiple purposes related to the safe use of prescribed fire, and can provide additional food and cover for wildlife. The main purpose of firebreaks is to stop the fire from escaping the burn unit, but they also can provide quick and easy movement around the burn unit, help reduce the amount of people required for the burn, and can make igniting the fire safer. Here are a few examples of different types of firebreaks.

Logging Road

This logging road is a good example of an exisitng road that can be used as a firebreak.

Existing roads
Existing roads, whether they are paved, gravel, dirt, or logging roads, can serve as outstanding firebreaks, plus they require very little work to prepare prior to a burn. These are also one of the cheapest options for firebreaks. If you are using gravel, dirt, or logging roads as firebreaks, you need to make sure there is not excessive vegetation or leaf litter in the road. Too much vegetation
on the firebreak could lead to an escape.

Streams, creeks, or other bodies of water
Another cheap and easy option for firebreaks is to use existing streams, river, or bodies of water. If you are using water features as a firebreak, here are some things to consider: is the stream or river wide enough to stop the fire from escaping and can people helping with the fire move easily around, across, or through the stream or river to access various part of the burn unit or to stop an escaped fire?

Crop fields
Crop fields with cool-season grains (wheat, oats, rye) or cover crops can serve as a great firebreak. Crop fields with only soybean or corn stubble should be used with caution, as fire may creep through a field with excessive stubble. For fields with crop stubble, planting the edge of the field in a cool-season crop (wheat, clover, oats, etc.), disking the edge of the field, or wetting the crop stubble are all steps that can used to improve the field as a firebreak

Leaf-Blown Firebreak

This leaf-blown firebreak was only 3-4 feet wide, but it easily stopped the fire in this situation.

Leaf-blown firebreaks
If you are burning in the woods, using a leaf blower to remove leaf litter and expose bare mineral soil is a quick and easy way to create a firebreak. These firebreaks do not need to be as wide as those in an old field or native grass stand because the flame length when burning in the woods is typically much shorter than burning in a field.

Disked firebreaks for multiple purposes
Disking or tilling to expose bare mineral soil is an extremely effective method of creating a firebreak. These breaks can also provide food and/or cover for various wildlife species if managed correctly. Disking the firebreak and then letting the firebreak remain fallow during the growing season creates outstanding cover for brooding turkeys, pheasants, and quail.

You can also plant the firebreaks after disking to create a food plot for various wildlife species. If you disk the firebreaks in the fall and plan to burn in the spring, you can plant the firebreaks with a mix of wheat and crimson clover or a mix of perennial clovers to create a great food plot for deer and turkey. You can also plant the firebreaks with millet, grain sorghum, or sunflowers after you have burned the field in the spring.

Fire creeping

If you use mowed firebreaks you run the risk of fire creeping across the firebreak and escaping, especially if there is too much thatch in the firebreak.

My absolute favorite multiple purpose firebreak is one that is disked in Aug-Sep, planted to winter wheat (40-60 lbs/ac), and then left to remain fallow after the wheat has produced seed. This firebreak effectively stops fire, provide green browse from the fall through the spring, provides seed during the early summer, and provides excellent brood cover throughout the summer and early fall. This is truly an all-in-one firebreak.

Mowed grass firebreak
Mowed grass firebreaks are not ideal, but they can be used in certain situations. If mowed firebreaks are used, you must be sure that there is not excessive thatch built up in the break. Too much thatch will allow the fire to creep across the break and potentially escape. Even on firebreaks without excessive thatch, using water to create a “wet” firebreak is recommended.

No matter which type of firebreak you choose to use, taking the time to make sure the firebreak is adequately installed and is sufficient to stop the fire from escaping will help make the burn safer and will create less headaches for you when conducting the burn.

Additional Resources:
Firebreaks for Prescribed Burning, Oklahoma State University Extension
Prescribed fire: 6 things to consider before you ignite, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR,
On-line Basic Prescribed Fire Training, Extension, USDA and NIFA
Publications Focus on Plan, Safety of Prescribed Burns, Iowa State Extension,
eFIRE, North Carolina State Extension
Renovating native warm-season grass stands for wildlife: A Land Manager’s Guide, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Calibrating a No-Till Drill for Conservation Plantings and Wildlife Food Plots, The Education Store

Jarred Brooke, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Planting at the proper seeding rate is an important step to ensure a successful native warm-season grass and forb planting or a wildlife food plot. This video will discuss how to properly calibrate the seeding rate for a Truax No-Till Seed Drill. The video will also discuss a calibration method that can be used with multiple different types of seed drills.

Check out these detailed resources that are referenced in the video:
Seed Fillers and Carriers for Planting Native Warm-Season Grasses and Forbs
Pure Live Seed: Calculations and Considerations for Wildlife Food Plots

Resources:
Renovating Native Warm-Season Grass Stands for Wildlife: A Land Manager’s Guide, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Food Plots, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR
Food Plots for White-Tailed Deer, The Education Store

Jarred Brooke, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue 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


Posted on October 6th, 2017 in Alert, Forestry, Safety, Timber Marketing, Woodlands | No Comments »

Indiana DNR IndentityThe Indiana DNR bovine tuberculosis surveillance team earned the Excellence in Conservation Award from the Midwest Fish and Wildlife Agency for their bovine tuberculosis surveillance and monitoring efforts in 2016.

In 2016, a wild white-tailed deer tested positive for bovine tuberculosis in Franklin County, Indiana. Bovine tuberculosis is a bacterial disease most often found in cattle and captive cervids, but can be transmitted to wild white-tailed deer and other wild mammals. The DNR tested more than 2,000 hunter-harvested deer in 2016 and did not find another bovine tuberculosis positive deer. For more information on bovine tuberculosis in wild white-tailed deer check out our Purdue Extension-FNR webpage: Bovine Tb in wild white-tailed deer: background and frequently asked questions.

Resources:
Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Bovine Tb resources
Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) Bovine Tb resources
USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Bovine Tb disease information
Michigan DNR Bovine Tb information
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Bovine Tb resources
Center for Disease Control Bovine Tb factsheet

Jarred Brooke, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


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