Got Nature? Blog

2017 Annual ReportPurdue Extension has posted its 2017 Annual Report online, highlighting the ways in which Extension educates empowers people throughout Indiana and promotes statewide economic vitality. The annual report includes stories regarding agricultural research in unmanned aerial vehicle use, key partnerships that return disabled farmers to their fields, enhanced economic futures in Indiana’s small towns, programs to increase health and wellness statewide, and much more.

Look to the future with Enhancing Public Spaces as this program grows and adds a health and wellness component. The Purdue University Extension program addresses public spaces and their role in enhancing the quality of place by helping regions, communities, and neighborhoods plan and prepare for a sustainable future.

Resources:
Purdue Extension Annual Report – 2016
What is Purdue Extension? – Purdue Extension Video

Purdue Extension

 


Posted on February 16th, 2018 in Natural Resource Planning, Plants, Wildlife | No Comments »

FNR-548-WA new extension publication co-authored by Purdue Extension Wildlife Specialist, Jarred Brooke, and University of Tennessee Extension Wildlife Specialist, Dr. Craig Harper, provides landowners and land managers with practical recommendations to assist in the management and renovation of existing native-warm season grass stands for wildlife. The publication provides information on how to use various habitat management tools to fix common issues in planted native grass stands. The publication was produced in partnership with University of Tennessee Extension, Indiana DNR Fish & Wildlife Division, and the Indiana State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

The electronic copy of the publication is available to download for free from the Purdue Education Store. Printed copies are also available from the Education Store for $10.

Resources:
Sericea Lespedeza, Plague on the Prairie, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR
Prescribed fire: 6 things to consider before you ignite, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR
If Your Native Grasses Look Like This, It’s Time for Management, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR

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


Posted on February 7th, 2018 in Wildlife | No Comments »

RaccoonQuestion
I have raccoons in my attic. Before I evict them, I want to provide an alternate place for them to go. There aren’t really enough trees around here anyway, so I want to make a raccoon house or two. Do you have any plans you could recommend? Also, in order to deter them from trying to get back in, is it true that they dislike wire/hardware cloth, and so I could reinforce those areas with that on the outside?

They shouldn’t be pregnant yet, should they?

Answer
Raccoons usually breed in the end of January into February, but that is not a concern for your issue. Even sows with young can move from one “den” site to another. You will need to remove the raccoon prior to repairing how the animal got in. You need to be absolutely sure that the raccoon is not in the attic before you exclude it. If you simply put up a box and fix your house, that will likely not solve your problem. The raccoon will likely try and get back in your attic, which is their “den tree” from the animal’s perspective. You can lawfully trap and relocate raccoons without a permit. Check out the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Wildlife Removal website for more information

A resident landowner or tenant can legally capture these species of wild animals listed above without a permit on the property that he/she owns or rents if the animal is:

  • causing or threatening to cause damage to property, or
  • posing a health or safety threat to people or domestic animals.

The landowner/tenant also can designate another person to take the animal for them if:

  • the landowner/tenant provides written permission (which must be on the person while taking the animal),
  • and no compensation of any kind is given to the person who takes the animal.
  • A hunting or trapping license, or a nuisance wild animal control permit, is required to take wild animals on land that you do not own or rent.

Within 24 hours of capture, the person who takes the animal must release it or euthanize it. Animals that are released must be released on land in the county where it was captured. Furthermore, the landowner or property manager must give permission for the release. These nuisance animals cannot be possessed for more than 24 hours and cannot be sold, traded, bartered or gifted.

For excluding the raccoon, or others, from your attic, you will need to use good materials. Hardware cloth or metal flashing typically work well. It isn’t that they don’t like those materials, they are sturdy enough to hold up. Also, repairing the damage to its original constructed method is good. Usually where animals enter it is either worn or damaged areas, or gaps in construction (even in new houses).

Resources:
Raccoon Box Plan – Pennsylvania Game Commission
Preventing Wildlife Damage – Do You Need a Permit?, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Selecting a Nuisance Wildlife Control Professional, The Education Store
Trapping Nuisance Wildlife, Got Nature?, Purdue FNR-Extension

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


Posted on February 1st, 2018 in Got Nature for Kids, Wildlife | No Comments »

High atop Gobbler’s Knob in western Pennsylvania, the Seer of Seers, the Prognosticator of all Prognosticators, Punxsutawney Phil will be coaxed from his hibernaculum in the old oak stump at 7:25 a.m. on February 2 to predict an early spring or six more weeks of winter. The legend shares that if it is sunny and Phil sees his shadow, the scared groundhog returns to his burrow and we will endure six more weeks of winter. As of 2017 Phil has seen his shadow 103 times predicting six more weeks of winter, and he has predicted an early spring 18 times with not seeing his shadow. How correct can a groundhog truly be at predicting the coming of spring?

The groundhog, or sometimes called the woodchuck, is Indiana’s largest member of the squirrel family. They are most active during the day from late winter through mid-fall and tend to stay close to an extensive network of underground burrows. One of these burrows has a single entrance and is used for hibernation. Timing of when groundhogs enter and emerge from hibernation depends on ambient temperatures, season and latitude. Groundhogs typically enter hibernation burrows near the autumnal equinox in October. Timing of emergence varies considerably with adult males emerging in February while females and younger males emerge in March.

The first day of spring occurs on the vernal equinox, around the 20th or 21st of March, which is approximately 47-48 days (6.7-6.9 weeks) from February 2. Given that Phil is likely yanked from his slumber before he is ready to come out, one could argue that he is fairly accurate any year he predicts six more weeks of winter when you consider the actual date of the first day of spring. Perhaps that is why Groundhog Day proponents claim he is correct 75-90% of the time! However, scientists from the National Climatic Data Center claim he is correct only 39% of the time in regards to spring-like weather patterns.

Will Phil be correct this year? Whether Phil is right or wrong, spring will come with beautiful blooms on the forest floor of trilliums and Dutchmen’s breeches. Happy Groundhog Day!

Resources
Groundhog Day, Stormfax Weather Almanac
Groundhog Day, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Climatic Data Center
Groundhog Day Forecasts and Climate History, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Climatic Data Center
Animal Damage Management: Woodchucks, The Education Store

Diana Evans, Extension and Web Communications Specialist
Purdue University, Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on February 1st, 2018 in Forestry, Timber Marketing, Wildlife, Woodlands | No Comments »

Ohio River Valley Woodland & Wildlife WorkshopThis one day workshop offers a variety of talks on natural resource based topics. Attendees can explore many different woodland and wildlife related sessions presented by speakers from Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. Topics for this workshop will include: New Herbicides; Renovating Native Ward-season Grass Stands for Wildlife; Native Bees; Bats; Tree Identification; Timber Management; Economic Outlook for Forest Products Industries and Black Vulture Damage Control; and much more.

Location: Oasis Conference Center, 902 Loveland-Miamiville Road, Loveland, Ohio 45140 USA

Date and Time: March 17th from 8:30AM to 3:30PM

Schedule: Available on Workshop’s Website

Registration: Available on Workshop’s Website or mail in Workshop Flyer
Early registration is $45 if registered before 2/28/2018.
Registration is $55 from 3/1/2018 to 3/9/2018 which is the last day to register.

Resources:
Wildlife Responses to Timber Harvesting, Video-The Education Store-Purdue Extension Resource Center
Forest Management for Reptiles and Amphibians: A Technical Guide for the Midwest, The Education Store
Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment (HEE)

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


Posted on January 31st, 2018 in Forestry, Wildlife, Woodlands | No Comments »

Harvest site at the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment.There has been much debate in the popular press lately regarding the role of timber harvesting on forest communities. A common focus of this debate is the perceived impacts to wildlife. Most believe that leaving our forests alone is best for wildlife. However, to provide habitat for all of our native forest wildlife species, forests need to be diverse in terms of age, species and area. Harvesting timber is the primary means of achieving this structural diversity. The purpose of this article is to summarize some key points regarding the effects of harvesting on reptiles and amphibians. These points are drawn mostly from the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment (HEE), an ongoing research study in southern Indiana. Its primary focus is to study forest management and its effects on plants and animals. A more detailed summary may be found in Forest Management for Reptiles and Amphibians.

There has been several large-scale studies that have investigated the effects of tree canopy removal on amphibians and reptiles. These include the HEE in Indiana, the Missouri Ozark Forest Ecosystem Project (MOFEP), and the Land-use Effects on Amphibian Populations (LEAP). Much of the work from these projects has been published in the scientific literature. All of these studies demonstrate that the response of amphibians and reptiles to timber harvesting is variable—it cannot simply be quantified as good or bad. Indeed, avoiding negative impacts to all reptiles and amphibians as a result of timber harvesting is neither possible nor desirable since disturbance-dependent wildlife species1,2 and many mature forest species3, require early successional forests.

Timber Rattlesnake

  • Timber rattlesnake in handling tube.For the focal species studied on the HEE, most exhibited moderate or no response in 1-3 years following timber harvests. The focal species I and colleagues have studied were timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus), eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina), and terrestrial salamanders. Timber harvests had no effect on the area male or female adult timber rattlesnakes used during the active season. There was no evidence that snakes changed movement behaviors to avoid clearcuts4. Indeed, several snakes were observed within clearcuts for several weeks and across multiple years. Annual survival of rattlesnakes on the HEE sites was high during the active season (72-98%) and winter (97-99%). Timber harvesting had no impact on survival. Declines in female survival was most affected by declines in prey abundance the previous year which were due to tree mast failures5. The level of acorns and nuts (i.e., mast) produced in woodlands naturally vary from year to year. When the small mammal population declined due to mast failure, these snakes were apparently impacted the following year.

Eastern Box Turtle

  • Eastern box turtleFor box turtles, there was no effect of timber harvests on home-range size, but the average daily distance traveled by turtles decreased by 30 percent following harvest, and turtles maintained 9 percent higher body temperatures6. Temperatures in harvest openings were 29 percent warmer in the summer and 31 percent colder in the winter than forested sites. Despite this change, turtles continued to use harvest openings during the active season, but tended to make shorter, more frequent movements in and out of harvests. Turtles likely used harvest edges for cover, thermoregulation and, possibly, foraging opportunities6. Harvested areas offered potential hibernation sites based on soil profile temperatures, slope aspect and depth of hibernation7. Both active and hibernal data suggest the level of harvesting on the HEE has modest effects on box turtle behavior, at least in the short term. To date, there is no evidence to support whether these changes have any impact—positive or negative—on box turtles.

Woodland Salamanders

  • Eastern red-backed salamanders.The response of woodland salamanders to harvests was species-specific8. The relative abundance of eastern red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) and northern slimy salamanders (Plethodon glutinosus) declined from pre- to post-harvest in patch cuts (1 to 3 acres) and clearcuts (10 acres). Red-backed salamanders also declined in control sites, suggesting factors other than the harvests contributed to salamander declines over the study period. However, red-backed salamander declines observed in control sites were not as severe as those seen within patch cuts and clearcuts, indicating harvests were at least partially responsible for observed declines within the harvest boundaries. The relative abundance of northern zigzag salamanders (Plethodon dorsalis) did not decline from pre- to post-harvest in any harvest type, and increased on sites adjacent to clearcuts.
  • These findings suggest canopy removal (2-10 acre gaps) has short-term local impacts on terrestrial salamanders in terms of relative abundance, but effects do not necessarily extend to the adjacent forest matrix. A caveat to these findings is that the ultimate fate of displaced individuals remains unknown. That is, changes in relative abundance does not mean declines in survival. Indeed, sites adjacent to clearcuts experienced an increase in counts of zigzag salamanders, which could reflect the evacuation of individuals from the clearcut into the intact forest. It is also important to note that other factors influence the abundance of terrestrial salamanders. For example, in addition to differences between seasons (spring versus fall), drought played a significant role in declines in salamander abundance across all study area.

Forest management sometimes leads to short-term loses for some species but is critical to the long-term sustainability of many other species. Looking at the responses of just a few species, within cutover areas for a few years paints an incomplete picture. A large-scale, long-term perspective is necessary when considering forest management. This is the true value of well-designed studies such as the HEE. With experimental control and replication, researchers can untangle the story on what are the true effects of forest management over a large area over many decades. The HEE has shed light on many answers so far. We can look forward towards many more to come.

Resources
Wildlife Responses to Timber Harvesting, Video-The Education Store-Purdue Extension Resource Center
Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment – Forest Birds, Video-The Education Store
Managing Woodlands for Birds, Video-The Education Store
Sustaining Our Oak-Hickory Forests, Video-The Education Store
Breeding Birds and Forest Management: the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment and the Central Hardwoods Region, The Education Store
Forest Management for Reptiles and Amphibians: A Technical Guide for the Midwest, The Education Store
Addressing Concerns About Management of Indiana’s Forests, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University
Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment (HEE)

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

Citations
1 Thompson, F. R., III, and D. R Dessecker. 1997. Management of early-successional communities in central hardwood forests: with special emphasis on the ecology and management of oaks, ruffed grouse, and forest songbirds. U.S. Forest Service General Technical Report NC-195, St. Paul, MN, USA.

2 Greenberg, C. H., B. Collins, F. R. Thompson, III, and McNab, W. H. 2011. “What are early successional habitats, why are they important, and how can they be sustained?” Pages 1-10 in Sustaining young forest communities: ecology and management of early successional habitats in the Central Hardwood Region, USA. C. H. Greenberg, B. Collins, and F. R. Thompson, III., editors. Springer, New York, NY, USA.

3 Chandler, C. C., D. I. King, and R. B. Chandler. 2012. Do mature birds prefer early-successional habitat during the post-fledging period? Forest Ecology and Management 264:1-9.

4 MacGowan, B.J., Currylow, A.F.T., and MacNeil, J.E. 2017. Short-term responses of Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) to even-aged timber harvests in Indiana. Forest Ecology and Management 387(1):30-36.

5 Olson, Z.H., B.J. MacGowan, M.T. Hamilton, A.F.T. Currylow, and R.N. Williams. 2015. Survival of timber rattlesnakes: Investigating individual, environmental, and ecological effects. Herpetologica 71:274-279.

6 Currylow, A.F., B.J. MacGowan, and R.N. Williams. 2012a. Hibernal thermal ecology of eastern box turtles within a managed forest landscape. Journal of Wildlife Management 77(2):326-335.

7 Currylow, A.F., B.J. MacGowan, and R.N. Williams. 2012b. Short-term forest management effects on a long-lived ectotherm. PLoS ONE 7(7):e40473.

8 MacNeil, J.E. and R.N.Williams. 2014. Effects of timber harvests and silvicultural edges on terrestrial salamanders. PLoS ONE, 9(12):e114683.


Posted on December 13th, 2017 in Forestry, How To, Natural Resource Planning, Wildlife | No Comments »

FNR-551-w CoverOutbreaks of bovine tuberculosis have occurred sporadically around the world since the 1900s. In Bovine Tuberculosis in Wild White-tailed Deer, Bovine tuberculosis transmission, hosts, current status in Indiana, clinical signs, effects on deer populations, effect on white-tailed deer meat, management, and monitoring is extensively covered. If you’re a hunter or cattle producer, the information provided within this free publication would greatly benefit you!

Resources:
Bovine Tuberculosis in wild white-tailed deer, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR
Indiana DNR Needs More Submissions from Deer Hunters for Disease Testing, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR

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

 


Posted on December 4th, 2017 in Forestry, Got Nature for Kids, Wildlife | No Comments »

The Great Clearcut Controversy, FNR-549-WTeachers, parents and outdoor enthusiasts will want to download this free new Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources publication, The Great Clearcut Controversy.  In this inquiry-based teaching unit, students use real scientific data to investigate how a bird community and individual forest animals respond to a clearcut timber harvest. In this investigation, students: use scientific inquiry to gain knowledge and answer questions; apply that knowledge to the engineering design process; and design a viable management solution given the constraints and tradeoffs they discover. All materials used in the three lessons are easily accessible and free.

Resources:
The Nature of Teaching, Purdue Extension
Got Nature? Podcast, Forestry and Natural Resources
Benefits of Connecting with Nature, The Education Store

Skye M Greenler, Graduate Research Assistant
Purdue University. Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Mike Saunders, Associate Professor of Ecology and Natural Resources
Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Hellbender Release

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

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

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

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

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

Transporting Hellbenders

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

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

For more information, please visit HelptheHellbender.org.

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

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


Posted on November 22nd, 2017 in Forestry, How To, Wildlife | No Comments »
Deer - Lesions

Lesions from bovine Tb infection in the chest cavity of a wild white-tailed deer. Photo by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR is asking deer hunters for help with a disease surveillance program in Franklin and Fayette counties.

State biologists are sampling deer harvested from portions of those two counties for bovine tuberculosis. After a slow start to the deer firearms season, however, the program is running behind. Biologists have collected just 16 percent of the samples needed to reach their surveillance goal, largely because of weather.

Firearms season started for deer this past Saturday and runs through Dec. 3. Opening weekend was affected by thunderstorms and warm temperatures, which resulted in a lower harvest compared to previous opening weekends.

For example, the combined two-day first-weekend harvest in Franklin and Fayette counties was down about 60 percent from 2016.

The DNR is asking those who hunt in the surveillance zone to help it collect samples. The preference is for bucks that are 2 years old or older, but all deer will be accepted for testing. The DNR hopes to sample between 500 and 1,200 deer, depending on age.

The surveillance zone is the area south of State Road 44 and west of State Road 1 in Fayette County, and in the northwest portion of Franklin County, west of Brookville Lake. View 2017 bTB Surveillance for map.

Surveillance involves collecting and testing lymph nodes from the head and neck of deer harvested by hunters and voluntarily submitted for evaluation.

Hunters can bring their deer to a biological check station at the Whitewater Canal State Historic Site maintenance facility in Metamora, 19083 Clayborn St., and to Mustin’s Processing in Connersville, or Hunters Choice in Brookville.

Hunters who submit a deer for testing will be entered into a drawing for 1 of 10 authorizations to take an additional buck from anywhere in Indiana (with landowner permission) during the 2018-2019 deer hunting season. Hunters who bring the DNR a buck at least 2 years old will receive 10 entries into the drawing. Hunters who bring in does that are at least 2 years old will receive three entries into the drawing. Hunters who bring in yearlings will receive one entry into the drawing. Entries are cumulative — hunters who bring in multiple deer will have an even better chance of winning.
DNR will continue to collect samples from deer harvested within this “bTB” surveillance zone through Jan. 7 (excluding Thanksgiving and several days around Christmas).

For more information view the IDNR website – Current Bovine Tuberculosis Surveillance in Indiana Deer.

Media contact: Marty Benson, DNR Communications, (317) 233-3853, mbenson@dnr.IN.gov.

Resources:
Indiana DNR
Bovine Tuberculosis in wild white-tailed deer, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR

Joe Caudell, State Deer Biologist
Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
812.334.1137



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