With winter upon us this is actually a good time to look for owls on your property. Most owls breed from January to March. You can either listen for calls in the evening, or use owl calls or recorded calls to get responses from owls in the area. We have three common species in Indiana and one rare species. All are non-migratory. However, each has different needs and habits. The following descriptions were written by Barny Dunning, professor of wildlife ecology at Purdue, and Jeff Riegel, field project supervisor at Purdue. These accounts were originally published in the Indiana Woodland Steward (www.inwoodlands.org).
Owls are among the most intriguing animals native to Indiana. They have been celebrated in story from the myths of the early Greeks to the books of Harry Potter. Owls are common across much of the state, but are relatively unknown, probably because of the nocturnal habits of these birds. But since they are efficient predators of mice and rats, among other things, owls are very useful birds to have around. Three species of owls are common year-round residents in Hoosier forests. The largest of these is the great horned owl, one of the dominant predators of our forests. Most people are surprised to learn that the great horned owl is as common as the familiar redtailed hawk even though the owl is much less likely to be seen.
Great horned owls hunt in open areas but nest in large trees, where they take over a nest abandoned by a hawk, crow or heron. They are common where both woods and fields mix. The owls start breeding in January and February, adding new sticks to an old nest and laying a clutch of three eggs. Most species of owls nest very early in the year so that there will be a lot of easily caught prey in the form of young mammals and birds when the owl chicks are learning to hunt on their own. Many nests of the great horned owl are in snags or trees with broken tops, therefore retaining some of these forest features will provide good nesting spots for this dominant bird.
A second species of large owl is found in the larger woodlands of Indiana. The barred owl is most common in the interiors of forests and spends less time along the woodland edge. One major reason for this is the presence of the great horned owls, which will kill and eat a barred owl. Barred owls usually nest in the cavities of deciduous trees, laying their eggs in deep winter. Their dependence on tree cavities means that barred owls are likely to respond well to land management activities that retain large trees on a property and increase the number of snags with cavities. They also do well when there are forest patches of a variety of ages on a property, in addition to the older trees that provide nest sites.
Eastern screech-owls are the smallest resident owl in the state. They nest in small tree cavities and readily make use of nest boxes made especially for them. More than the other two species, screech-owls are found in suburban backyards, urban parks and on college campuses – anywhere there is a variety of trees and shrubs. Screech-owls feed on small prey such as insects, songbirds and mice. They breed later than do the big owls, and have active nests in March and April. In addition to nest boxes, these owls willuse old cavities excavated by northern flickers, tree holes created by storm damage, and hollow trunksof snags. Their ready use of a wide variety of cavity types makes our screech-owls a prime beneficiaryof snag retention and other habitat improvement activities. Indiana’s smallest owl does not breed here, but its numbers during the fall migration can be in the thousands statewide. The northern saw-whet owlbreeds from the most northern states on into Canada and migrates from there when food becomes scarce. “Swets” are an irruptive species, meaning their populations rise and fall dramatically from one year to the next on a roughly four-year cycle. A group of volunteer researchers in Yellowwood State Forest began studying the movements of these owls in 2002 as part of the larger Project Owlnet (www.projectowlnet.org). Their first year produced 71 owls on just one ridge in Yellowwood. Since then, the annual numbers have averaged around 70, but nearly 200 owls were captured and banded on that same ridge in 2007. The low point in the cycle was in 2009 when only nine owls were captured. There are now eight such banding stations scattered around Indiana. Brookeville Reservoir had the largest number of captures in 2009 with 32; while an Indianapolis station tallied only six. Some northern saw-whet owls winter in Indiana where forests with an open understory provide good foraging opportunities throughout the winter months.
The rarest owl in Indiana is, paradoxically, the species with the largest geographic range. Barn owls are found across the globe, but in the Midwestern United States their populations have declined dramatically. The species is considered endangered in Indiana. Barn owls originally nested in tree cavities, but when early settlers built barns and other farm buildings, the owls were quick to adapt. They are not limited to barns however, as recent Hoosier nests have been found in old churches, silos, and within the walls of abandoned buildings. To be suitable, human structures must have openings that allow the owls to fly in and out and an interior area that is undisturbed and big enough for the nest. The biggest factor in their decline has been changing agricultural practices. Barn owls hunt in open areas such as pastures, but do not use rowcrop fields. As Hoosier farmers converted pastures to corn and soybean, the barn owl lost its hunting grounds. Farmers in the southern part of the state that still retain some open grassy fields on their land can contact the state Department of Natural Resources to have a barn owl nest box added to their outbuildings if they don’t have appropriate nest sites.
Brian MacGowan, Wildlife Specialist
Purdue University, Forestry and Natural Resources
The latest Wildlife Bulletin, provided by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources-Division of Fish and Wildlife, has all the Indiana hunting information you need to know along with upcoming events and resources. Topics include: Get your deer licenses now; Deer hunting checklist; Deer processing videos on YouTube; Hunting seasons dates; Four options to check in game; Sandhill crane migration at Jasper-Pulaski; and much more.
The Wild Bulletin is a free email newsletter offering information about Indiana’s fish and wildlife resources and recreation opportunities. Subjects covered include profiles, information about hunting and fishing season dates, regulation updates, wildlife and fisheries research status reports, tips on wildlife watching and reminders about important dates for Hoosier outdoor enthusiasts.
To subscribe to this free e-newsletter visit Wild Bulletin, Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
State Parks, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IN DNR)
Outdoor Indiana, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IN DNR)
Deer YouTube Video List, Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources and IN DNR
Hunting is an outdoor sport many enjoy while learning new skills, receiving fitness benefits and bringing healthy food options to their table. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife & Sport Fish Restoration Program, reported 36,825 licences for 2017 as hunting continues to be a recognized and respected sport.
Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources has recently increased their resources for handling harvested game. This new video series shares step by step instructions starting with field dressing and continuing all the way through to packaging.
Handling Harvested Game: Episode 1, Field Dressing
Handling Harvested Game: Episode 2, Hanging & Skinning
Handling Harvested Game: Episode 3, Deboning
Handling Harvested Game: Episode 4, Cutting, Grinding & Packaging
Free handling harvested game workshops are held every year in September by Purdue Extension. If you would like to attend any of the available workshops please contact Jonathan Ferris, Wayne County Extension Director, or Dave Osborne, Ripley County Extension Director. Feel free to view the Purdue Extension Calendar or the Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources’ Calendar for future scheduled workshops.
How to Score Your White-tailed Deer, video, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
White-Tailed Deer Post Harvest Collection, video, The Education Store
Age Determination in White-tailed Deer, video, The Education Store,
How to Build a Plastic Mesh Deer Exclusion Fence, The Education Store,
Bovine Tuberculosis in Wild White-tailed Deer, The Education Store,
Maine Hunting License and Rules, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife
Bob Cordes, Wildlife Biologist
Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
Brandon Fields, Meat Science Manager
Pig Improvement Company (PIC)
Rod N Williams, Engagement Faculty Fellow & Associate Professor of Wildlife Science
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources
Six pieces of data to collect from deer you harvest this year
Deer season is upon us in Indiana! If you are a serious hunter and deer manager, here are some things you should consider collecting from deer you harvest. This data provides valuable insights to the deer herd condition, and when combined with hunter observation data and habitat data, like browse transects, you can get a clear picture of the deer herd and habitat quality on your property. However, one year of harvest data is unlikely to be much of value, but collecting data over multiple years can help you track trends in the herd and habitat quality.
What to collect
When you harvest a deer on your property you should consider collecting the following pieces of biological information:
*Each deer you harvest should be assigned a unique ID number to be sure all the following data is assigned to the right deer.
Sex and Age
Collecting deer sex and age (based on tooth replacement and wear) can help you divide the rest of the data you collect into sex and age classes. Find out how to determine age by viewing Age Determination in White-Tailed Deer video. You do not necessarily have to age a deer to the exact year, but you should separate ages into at least 3 age classes; fawns, yearlings, and >= 2.5 years old. This can be important for tracking changes to the average weight per age class or average antler measurements per age class over time.
You can collect either live weights or dressed weights, but you should pick one or the other and collect all weights consistently. Be sure to test your scales for accuracy before weighing deer. Tracking changes to the average weight per age class can provide information about the nutritional status of the herd.
Lactation status of does is often used as an index of fawn recruitment and can help determine if a doe had a fawn the summer preceding the hunting season. Lactation status for does harvested early in the season can be checked by squeezing the teats to produce milk you may need to cut into the mammary gland on does harvested later in the season to check lactation status.
Antler measurements should be collected from bucks harvested on your property, including yearlings. Find out how to measure the antlers by viewing How to Score Your White-Tailed Deer video. At a minimum, you should collect the number of points on each antler and the basal circumference of the main beams. You may also consider collecting the inside spread of the antlers and the main beam lengths. Additionally, you can collect the gross Boone & Crockett Score.
This piece of data can be helpful from a scouting and hunting aspect. Looking into the rumen of a deer can help you determine what deer may be eating during the portion of the year the deer was harvested. You may find green material (which can be hard to identify), corn, acorns, or whatever else deer may be consuming.
Things you need to collect harvest data
Here is a list of items you might need to collect data from harvested deer.
Putting all of this data together can give you a picture into the condition of the deer herd on your property. Collecting this data only takes a small amount of time and effort and the information you gather is well worth it! For more information of how to collect biological data from harvested deer, check out this video from Purdue Extension.
Help the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) collect biological data from harvested deer
Most of the data we discussed in this blog post and that is covered in the White-Tailed Deer Post Harvest Collection video, are data the Indiana DNR is collecting through an online post-harvest survey. This is a great opportunity for hunters to help the DNR collect data that will be used to manage the deer herd throughout the state. More information about the survey can be found in the 2018 Hunting and Trapping Guide. If you are successful in harvesting a deer in Indiana this year, be sure to check your email for a link to the survey.
Age Determination in White-Tailed Deer video, Purdue Extension – FNR YouTube Playlist
How to Score Your White-Tailed Deer video, Purdue Extension – FNR YouTube Playlist
White-Tailed Deer Post Harvest Collection video, Purdue Extension – FNR YouTube Playlist
White-Tailed Deer Harvest Log (pdf), Purdue Extension-FNR
Indiana Deer Hunting, Biology and Management, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
2018 Indiana Hunting and Trapping Guide, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Managing White-Tailed Deer: Collecting Data from Harvested Deer, Alabama Cooperative Extension System
Prepare Now to Collect Deer Harvest Data, Quality Deer Management Association
Jarred Brooke, Wildlife Extension Specialist
Department of Forestry & Natural Resource, Purdue University
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Trail camera surveys are a great tool that provide a wealth of information about white-tailed deer and other wildlife on your property. You can gather information about deer population density, doe-to-buck ratio, and fawn recruitment, which may ultimately help guide management decisions on your property.
Here are a few tips when conducting a trail camera survey for deer.
Camera set-up & placement
Analyzing camera data
When analyzing camera data from a survey, based on antler characteristics you can then determine the number of unique bucks captured during the survey. You also need to determine the total number of bucks, does, and fawns in all the photos. This will help you determine density, doe-to-buck ratios, and fawn recruitment (fawn-to-doe ratio). For easy data analysis check out this Trail Camera Data Computation Form from the Quality Deer Management Association.
Trail camera surveys can be a fun activity for you and your family to do prior to or after the hunting season. They can also provide you with information about deer and other wildlife that are using your property.
*Before conducting a baited camera survey be sure to check the wildlife feeding and baiting laws in your state. For the state of Indiana you can find this information in the Indiana Hunting & Trapping Guide.
Conducting Camera Surveys to Estimate Population Characteristics of White-tailed Deer, Mississippi State University Extension
Estimating Deer Populations on Your Property: Camera Survey, University of Missouri Extension
How to Run a Trail-Camera Survey – QDMA
Handling Harvested Game: Field Dressing, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Bovine Tuberculosis in Wild White-tailed Deer, The Education Store
Jarred Brooke, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Department of Forestry & Natural Resource, Purdue University
At 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.
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