Got Nature? Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted on July 18th, 2018 in Forestry, Wildlife, Woodlands | No Comments »

Do you want to know how Food Plots fit into wildlife habitat management?
At this Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources Field Day experts will be discussing cool-season food plot strategies and visit some of these cool-season food plot demos.

Want to learn Forest Management tips for both Bucks and $$$?
The experts will also be sharing how to blend forest management for the benefits of timber and wildlife, as well as visiting a few of these forest management demo areas.

Come out and learn about forest management and food plots for wildlife:
August 18, 2018
9:00am to 2:00pm EST

Deer eating on tree.

Register by contacting:
Cody Widner
Extension Wildlife Intern, Purdue
widnerc@purdue.edu
(574) 571-0090

Please Register by August 13th!
*All Activities are outside, please dress accordingly

For more details view: Forest Management and Food Plots for Wildlife Field Day Flyer.

Resources:
Calibrating a No-Till Drill for Conservation Plantings and Wildlife Food Plots, Purdue Extension, Education Store
Food Plots for White-Tailed Deer, Purdue Extension, Education Store
The Basics of Managing Wildlife on Agricultural Lands, Purdue Extension, Education Store

Jarred Brooke, Wildlife Extension Specialist
Forestry and Natural Resources

Cody Widner, Purdue Extension Wildlife Intern
Forestry and Natural Resources


NatureOfTeaching_FNR_Pub552Conservation biology is considered by some to be a “crisis discipline.” Decisions within the field must often be made quickly, sometimes without enough time to gather all of the data one would ideally have, and they can decide the fate of a species. This Nature of Teaching unit titled “the Scientific Process of Conservation Biology: Analyze, Design, Debate,” introduces students to the field of conservation biology and the process of conserving a species. It includes 4 lessons and 4 case studies as well as a teacher information section and list of sources.  Students will learn how to: analyze literature, graphs, and figures to discern factors threatening a species; identify different careers involved in conservation biology; learn how to edit, revise an original management plan to better comprehend the iterative process of science; and much more.

To view this free complete unit see: The Scientific Process of Conservation Biology: Analyze, Design, Debate, The Education Store, Purdue Extension.

Resources:
Health & Wellness Lesson Plans, Nature of Teaching
Wildlife Lesson Plans, Nature of Teaching
Food Waste Lesson Plans, Nature of Teaching

Briana Widner, student
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Rod N Williams, Engagement Faculty Fellow & Associate Professor of Wildlife Science
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

 


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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted on May 30th, 2018 in Got Nature for Kids, Wildlife, Woodlands | No Comments »

Question: This little guy lives around our house. We see him almost daily. Do you know what he is? Salamander? Skink? Lizard?

The animal pictured is both a lizard and a skink – specifically, a Common Five-lined Skink. More than 1,200 species of skinks are distributed worldwide. Most are medium-sized lizards with body lengths typically ranging 4-12 centimeters. Skinks are active and alert lizards covered with smooth overlapping scales on the sides and back.

Common Five-lined Skinks are usually 5-7 centimeters in body length(12-21 cm total length) and have smooth overlapping scales. Their heads are distinct from their necks and ear openings are smaller than the eyes. Physical characteristics of Common Five-lined Skinks vary by sex and age.  Juveniles have bright blue tails and shiny black bodies marked with five yellow longitudinal stripes. Adult males are uniformly brown and develop wider heads, with red to orange coloration on the snout and jaws. Very faint stripes also might be visible on some adult males. Adult females have brownish bodies marked with five yellowish to cream longitudinal stripes and sometimes have a hint of bluish tail.

Throughout most of Indiana, Common Five-lined Skinks are a common species of open woodlands and edges where stumps, logs, woody debris, and rock piles are present.  Porches and rock cover around homes and driveways offer good habitat for these lizards. Areas like these offer hiding places, areas to bask in the sun, and food. Most activity occurs on or near the ground, although they occasionally will climb trees. Their active season extends from April to October. Five-lined Skinks actively pursue a variety of invertebrates including insects, spiders and millipedes.

Resources:
Snakes and Lizards of Indiana, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
How can I tell if a snake is venomous,  Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources

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


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


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

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

white nose uv diagram

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

bats and uv light

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

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

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

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


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

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

Hermit Warbler and Wilson Warbler

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

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

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

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


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


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