Got Nature? Blog

Posted on September 14th, 2018 in Forestry, Uncategorized, Wildlife, Woodlands | No Comments »

Snake fungal disease (SFD), caused by the fungus Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, is an emerging pathogen of snakes identified in more than 15 genera of captive and free-ranging snakes in 21 states.Snake Fungal Disease

SFD is not considered a risk to people.

Some infected snakes show no symptoms. Others develop facial swelling and disfigurement, skin and scale lesions and internal lesions. For some snakes, the disease is fatal.

The fungus can persist in the soil. The route of transmission is unknown, but may occur through contact with soil, other infected snakes, or from mother to offspring.

SFD in Indiana
Researchers from the University of Illinois first identified SFD in Indiana in late 2017 during a surveillance project for the disease.

The researchers swabbed the skin of 53 snakes from 10 Indiana counties. Of those, 13 tested positive for the fungus. Two of those 13 snakes had visible lesions. Species that tested positive included the northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon), racer (Coluber constrictor), milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum) and queen snake (Regina septemvittata).

The surveillance project was funded by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources State Wildlife Grant T7R22.

Why monitoring SFD is important
Snakes are important predators and play a critical role in maintaining a balanced ecosystem. Having healthy snake populations in Indiana is necessary to keep rodent populations in check.

Documenting the distribution of this disease will help us develop conservation and management plans.

Snake fungal disease may cause high mortality rates in eastern massasauga rattlesnakes (Sistrurus catenatus), a federally threatened and state-endangered species in parts of northern Indiana. The potential long-term effect on populations of massasaugas and other snakes remains uncertain.

Contact an Indiana DNR wildlife biologist if you have any information you would like to share.

For full article view Snake Fungal Disease, Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Snakes and Lizards of Indiana, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
Snakes of the Central and Northeastern United States, The Education Store

Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)

Posted on September 13th, 2018 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

This summer the Nature of Teaching team partnered with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) to host teacher workshops at the Maine IFW headquarters in Gray and the Fields Audubon Center in Holden, ME. The team worked together to organize and facilitate these two two-day workshops to bring Nature of Teaching educational resources to 47 K-12 public and private school educators, administrators, and environmental center staff.

Nature of Teaching Main Gray Group

During these workshops, funded by an FNR small grant and an IBAT grant, the Purdue/Maine team, as well as guest speakers from Project Wild, took turns presenting information on wildlife, health and wellness, and food waste. After each presentation, teachers walked through corresponding lesson activities that they could use with their students. Then they were given the opportunity to collaborate with other educators in their grade levels. Workshop participants walked away with a binder of resources and were given the opportunity to pursue stipends by completing a post-workshop survey and submitting student pre/post assessment data.

Nature of Teaching Holden Group


The Purdue/Maine partnership has been beneficial in bringing the Nature of Teaching resources to Maine educators while incorporating local knowledge and expertise and increasing awareness of resources provided by the Maine IFW. The team is currently developing a Mammals of Maine publication to accompany the Mammals of Indiana publication on the Nature of Teaching website, and planning for at least one workshop in Maine next year.

To learn more about the Nature of Teaching, visit our website at, connect with us on Facebook at, or contact Rebecca Busse at

Nature of Teaching Lesson Plan: Conservation Biology, Got Nature? Blog
The Nature of Teaching – Purdue Extension

Rebecca Busse, Nature of Teaching Program Coordinator
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on August 27th, 2018 in Forestry, Uncategorized, Wildlife | No Comments »

A color-banded loggerhead shrike found south of Goose Pond FWA in July 2017 successfully raised six young in Davies County this summer. Fledging six young is exceptional for shrikes, which on average fledge 2.6 per nesting attempt.

Loggerhead photo from IDNR

Loggerhead photo from IDNR

This female is even more special because she is the only one of 12 banded shrikes that hatched last year to be sighted back in Indiana this year. This summer she paired with a male shrike that did not nest in 2017, likely because there were no female shrikes left in his area after steep declines in this songbird’s population.

For more information view the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, Loggerhead Shrike.

Birds and Residential Window Strikes: Tips for Prevention, Got Nature? blog post, Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR)
Learn How Forests are used by Birds, Got Nature? blog post, FNR
Managing Woodlands for Birds, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
Breeding Birds and Forest Management: the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment and the Central Hardwoods Region, The Education Store

Article from MYDNR Email Newsletter, Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Posted on August 5th, 2018 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Birds and Residential Window Strikes: Tips for Prevention

Collisions with man-made structures are one of the primary causes of bird mortality. In fact, up to a billion birds are killed each year in the United States due to window strikes. Approximately 50% of the time, these strikes result in death.

This publication offers practical, researched, do-it-yourself tips to limit bird collisions at your residence – many of which can be implemented at little or no cost. It also outlines best practices for what to do if and when a bird strike occurs.

To view this full publication please go to Birds and Residential Window Strikes: Tips for Prevention at The Education Store.

Learn how forests are used by birds new videos, Got Nature? Blog
Managing Woodlands for Birds, The Education Store-Purdue Extension resource center
Climate Change + Birds, Purdue Climate Change Research Center

Jennifer Antonides, Graduate Research Assistant
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources

Mile-a-minute vine covering trees

(Figure 1) Mile-a-minute vine grows more than 25 feet in height in one growing season, overtopping shrubs, small trees and growing up forest edges.  Image by: USDA APHIS PPQ Archive, USDA APHIS PPQ,

Preventing the establishment of new invasive species is priority number one and the best expenditure of limited resources in an invasive species management program. Next in priority is early detection of and rapid response (EDRR) to the first report of a new invasion. Stopping invasive species from entering or, next best, at their initial point of introduction saves the incalculable costs later-on associated with rapidly spreading, all-consuming invasive species populations. The verification of a report of mile-a-minute vine (Persicaria perfoliata) on a property in Monroe County, Indiana on May 14, 2018 sets a historical prescedence demonstrating a growing capability of detecting and reporting new invaders. The population was very small at this spot and had apparently been sprayed by a homeowner with herbicide, not necessarily to kill the mile-a-minute, but likely to kill the companion multiflora rose.

Our hope is that this is the only instance of mile-a-minute vine in Indiana. There is a significant probability that it is not! In the coming months, a more thorough survey of this property and surrounding area will be conducted to look for more of the vine. But now Indiana stands on high alert as natural resource professionals keep a look out for more of this highly-invasive pest. However, there are too few professionals with eyes on the landscape. The more eyes trained to identify the very distinct characteristics of mile-a-minute, the higher the chance of us catching it before it explodes across the landscape, wreaking havoc and mayhem in our forests and fields, wildlife habitat and mushroom hunting and birding grounds.

Mile-a-minute leaves

(Figure 2) The leaves are simple, alternate, light green and a nearly perfect triangle shape.  Image by: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,

All landowners, land stewards, and nature lovers are needed to be additional eyes looking for this insidious threat this summer and in coming years. Please take a moment to learn its identifying characteristics. If you think you have found it, please report it on EDDMapS (Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System) or from your smart phone on the GLEDN (Great Lakes Early Detection Network) app. If you are unsure if you are correctly identifying it, please contact a forester or other natural resource professional for confirmation or just report it in EDDMapS or the GLEDN app, along with photos, and a professional in your area will verify its identification before it actually gets posted.

Mile-a-minute identification:

Mile-a-minute vine is a member of the buckwheat family, Polygonaceae. Although its common name exaggerates its growth potential, this annual vine can grow as much as 6 inches a day and can reach heights of more than 25 feet within the growing season. It forms very dense, tangled mats, growing over shrubs, small trees and up the sides of forest edges (Fig. 1). The leaves are simple, alternate, light green and a nearly perfect triangle shape (Fig. 2). The delicately narrow, green to red-tinted stems, and the petiole (leaf stem) and midrib on the underside of the leaves are armed with small, stiff, recurved barbs (Fig. 3). Small, cup- or saucer-shaped leaf structures, called ocreae, encircle the stem at each node (Fig. 4). Clusters of small white, rather inconspicuous, flowers emerge from the ocreae. Flowers develop into clusters of deep, iridescent blue berry-like fruits, approximately 5 mm in diameter, each fruit containing a single black or reddish-black hard seed, called an achene. Seeds are dispersed by birds and mammals, including chipmunks, squirrels and deer, which eat the fruit. Floodwaters facilitate long distance dispersal of seed.

Mile-a-minute fruit berries

(Figure 4) Small, cup- or saucer-shaped leaf structures, called ocreae, encircle the stem at each node. Flowers emerge from the ocreae and develop into clusters of deep, iridescent blueberry like fruits.  Image by: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,

Mile-a-minute thorns

(Figure 3) The delicately narrow, green to red-tinted stems, and the petiole (leaf stem) and midrib on the underside of the leaves are armed with small, stiff, recurved barbs.  Image by: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,

Mile-a-MinuteVine, FNR-481-W, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
Mile-a-minute vine: What you need to know about the plant that can grow 6 inches a day, Indianapolis Star
Invasive Species – Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Ask an Expert – Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources
Indiana Invasive Species Council – Includes: IDNR, Purdue Department of Entomology and Professional Partners
Great Lakes Early Detection Network App (GLEDN) – The Center for Invasive Species & Ecosystem Health

Ron Rathfon, Regional Extension Forester SIPAC
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on February 25th, 2017 in Forestry, How To, Uncategorized, Urban Forestry, Wildlife | No Comments »

Take a look at the Indiana Woodland Steward Winter 2016 Issue, a resource that’s full of a variety of valuable information to foresters. The issue includes topics such as a forest products price report and trend analysis, current events on managing forests for birds in Indiana, the state forest timber sale process, as well as much more.

Check out the Winter 2016 Issue  to stay current in the world of forestry, and feel free to browse archived articles dating back to 1992 for more information.

Indiana Woodland Steward Winter 2016 Issue, IWS
Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment,Purdue University FNR
Fertilizing, Pruning, and Thinning Hardwood Plantations, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Indiana Infomation, Thousand Cankers Disease
Environmental and Management Injury in Hardwood Tree Plantations, The Education Store

The Indiana Woodland Steward Insititute is an entity made from 11 organizations within the state including Purdue University, Indiana DNR, and Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Association that works to promote best usage practices of Indiana’s woodland resources through their Woodland Steward publication.

Posted on February 23rd, 2017 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

People need trees. When over 80% of the US population lives in the urban forest, it becomes increasingly more important for us to take positive action in protecting our trees. Read up on the New Year’s Resolutions for Community Tree Advocates to see how you can make a difference in your community to improve our urban forest and our quality of life.

Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces, The Education Store
Defining Rural Indiana – The First Step, The Education Store
Indiana Woodland Steward Winter 2016 Issue, IWS
Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment, Purdue University FNR
Indiana Infomation, Thousand Cankers Disease

Washington DNR Urban & Community Forestry News


Posted on October 10th, 2016 in Forestry, How To, Uncategorized, Wildlife | No Comments »

Every hunter knows the importance of acorns for game and non-game species alike. When acorns are plentiful it can alter the movements and patterns of game species and when acorns are absent wildlife must rely on alternative food sources to meet their nutritional needs during the fall, winter, and early spring. Knowing the importance of acorns to many wildlife species, it is beneficial to identify which trees are the most reliable and best producing in the woods.

Intro to oaks

White oak acorns

White oak acorns are clustered at the end of the branch – this year’s growth, like on this swamp white oak on the left. Whereas, red oak acorns are farther down the branch at the end of last year’s growth, like the northern red oak acorns on the right. (Photo by Brian MacGowan)

Oak trees in Indiana fall into 1 of 2 groups, white oak (e.g., white, swamp white, and chinkapin) or red oak (e.g., northern red, black, and pin). White oaks produce acorns in 1 growing season (acorns falling in 2016 are from flowers that were pollinated in the spring of 2016) and red oaks produce acorns in 2 growing seasons (acorns falling in 2016 are from flowers that were pollinated in the spring of 2015). This means a late frost in the spring may result in poor acorn production in white oaks in the fall of the same year, but will not influence red oak acorn production the same fall. However, a late frost in back-to-back years may result in a mast failure from both groups.

White oak acorns tend to be selected by wildlife more than red oak acorns because they contain less tannins resulting in a less bitter and more digestible acorn. Check out the Native Trees of the Midwest to learn more about oaks, their value for wildlife, and help you learn to identify different species.

Oak trees can be split into production groups based on their relative acorn production capabilities. Some individual oak trees are inherently poor producers and rarely produce acorns even in a bumper crop. Whereas other individuals are excellent producers and may produce acorns even in the poorest year. Research from the University of Tennessee reported poor mast producing trees represented 50% of white oaks in a stand and produced only 15% of the white oak acorn crop in a given year, whereas excellent producing trees represented 13% of white oaks, but produced 40% of the total white oak acorn production. When you included excellent and good producing white oaks together (31% of trees), they accounted for 67% of the total white oak acorn crop in a stand. This means a minority of the white oaks in a stand may produce a majority of the acorns!

Scouting oak trees
Understanding that some individual oak trees are poor producers, some are excellent, and some fall between poor and excellent, surveying oak trees can help identify important mast producing individuals. The late summer and early fall, just prior to or at the beginning of acorn drop, are perfect times to identify the best and worst producing oaks in your stand of timber. Scouting can be as formal as conducting a mast survey or as informal as taking mental notes of oak trees with heavy crops of acorns on the ground while you are walking to and from your tree stands in the fall. Either way, scouting oaks for acorn production capability can provide more information when determining where to hunt in the fall or which trees to retain and which trees to remove during a timber harvest. If wildlife management is an objective on your property, trees that you identify as the best acorn producers in the woods can be retained during a timber harvest, while poor producing trees can be removed with little detriment to overall acorn production. It is important to remember to retain a balance of oaks from both the red and white oak group, favoring red oak, to help safeguard against complete mast failures.

Forest management is insurance for mast failure

Poorly managed forest vs. managed forest with forage for wildlife.

The top photo is of a mature forest with very few canopy gaps resulting in very little cover or food for wildlife. The bottom picture is of a forest stand where undesirable trees have been girdled (tree on the right-hand side of picture) to increase light to the forest floor and where multiple prescribed fire have been conducted to increase forage production and cover.

Annual acorn production in a stand of oaks is highly variably and can be dependent on environmental conditions. For example, late frosts, poor pollination, and insect infestations all can be culprits for poor mast production across a stand of oaks. Because of these factors, white oaks tend to only produce reliably 2 out of every 5 years, meaning 3 out of 5 years (60%) there is poor mast production or a failed mast crop in white oaks. Red oaks may produce a good crop as frequently as 2 to 5 years, but only produce a bumper crop an average every 5 to 7 years.

The extreme variability in acorn production underscores the importance in considering alternative food sources for fall, winter, and early spring for wildlife. In most mature forests with few canopy gaps there could be as little as 50-100 lbs of deer selected forage per acre in the understory. However, with some management, like thinning and prescribed fire the amount of deer selected forage can be increased to almost 1000 lbs/ac! Additionally, forest management also increases the amount cover throughout the year for species like white-tailed deer, wild turkey, ruffed grouse, woodcock, and many forest songbirds. Contrary to popular belief, cover can be more of a limiting factor for many wildlife species compared to food availability. Forest management could include girdling undesirable trees to expand growing space for mast producing trees or conducting a timber harvest removing undesirable trees and poor producing oak trees while retaining good producing trees. For more information on conducting a timber harvest for wildlife on your property contact a professional wildlife biologist or professional forester in your area.

When spending time in the woods this fall, take the time to look up and down to see which oaks in your woods are the best producers.

Native Trees of the Midwest, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Masting Characteristics of White Oaks: Implications for Management, University of Tennessee
Survey Acorns Now to Improve Production, Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA)
Wildlife Biologists, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Find a Forester, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Enrichment Planting of Oaks, The Education Store
Forest Improvement Handbook, The Education Store
The Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment: Indiana Forestry and Wildlife, The Education Store

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

Posted on October 5th, 2016 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Choosing and planting a tree should be a well-informed and planned decision. Proper selection and planting can provide years of enjoyment for you and future generations as well as increased property value, improved environmental quality, and economic benefits. On the other hand, an inappropriate tree for your site or location can be a continual challenge and maintenance problem, or even a potential hazard, especially when there are utilities or other infrastructure nearby. This informative video will describe everything needed to know about choosing the right tree.

Financial and Tax Aspect of Tree Planting, The Education Store
Tree Risk Management, The Education Store
Designing Hardwood Tree Plantings for Wildlife, The Education Store
Importance of Hardwood Tree Planting, The Education Store
Planning the Tree Planting Operation, The Education Store

Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist,
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Tree Selection Pub 2 300It’s a tough neighborhood for trees in the built environment. It is an ecosystem unlike any other, because it is dynamic, fragmented, high-pressure, and constantly under siege. There are continual extremes and challenges in this “un-natural” area as opposed to the environment in a more natural woodland. It’s a place where trees die young, without proper selection, planting, and care. Successful tree selection requires us to think backwards—beginning with the end in mind— to get the right tree in the right place…in the right way. This publication, Tree Selection for the “Un-natural” Environment, takes a look at some important components of the decision-making process for tree selection. There is both a publication and a video resource on this topic, both of which can be found below.

The video can be watched here:
Planting Your Tree Part 1: Choosing Your Tree

Tree Selection for the “Un-natural” Environment, The Education Store
Tree Installation: Process and Practices, The Education Store
Construction and Trees: Guidelines for Protection, The Education Store
Common Tree and Shrub Pests of Indiana, The Education Store
Diseases in Hardwood Tree Plantings, The Education Store

Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Got Nature?