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.

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 3rd, 2018 in Forestry, Plants, Woodlands | No Comments »
Home Tree

Review trees on a regular basis for health and safety.

Trees provide many benefits for our homes with shade, beauty and improved air quality as just a few, however, if a tree has defects which could lead to a failure, your shade tree could become a liability. It is important to understand that tree owners have a legal duty to inspect and maintain their trees. All property owners should take reasonable steps to protect themselves and others by taking a look at trees around the property on a regular basis.  Here are some suggestions to consider in making your trees safer for everyone.

Reduce Tree Liabilities: In general, the law obligates tree owners to periodically inspect their property and take reasonable care to maintain it and this includes trees. Routine inspections also exhibit that the tree owner is actively managing their property and trees and thereby reduces their liability if a failure does occur.

When it comes to trees, it’s best to have a professional conduct risk and tree health assessments if there is any uncertainty.  However, Homeowners can look for tree defects, including dead branches, broken limbs, decay pockets or other conditions that reduce a tree’s strength. Review the tree from the top, down. Look at the tree’s crown, main branches, trunk and root area to see if there is anything abnormal. If you find easily recognizable defects like dead and falling branches, cavities, fungal fruiting bodies or newly-formed leans on a tree, consider having the tree examined by a certified arborist. This is especially important after a severe storm. Trees can easily survive normal weather conditions for many years, however, excessive winds can have a real impact.  Make certain trees aren’t removed prematurely out of fear without making an informed decision along with the arborist.

Tree Inspections

Understanding tree health and risk is challenging for tree owners. It is best to find a ISA Certified Arborist to help with identifying tree issues.

Tree leans

Recent leans developing on trees may be corrected, however, they do pose a risk and should be inspected by an arborist.

Tree fungus

Look for unusual fungal growths on you trees. This indicates decay which can lead to a higher risk of failure.

 

 

Schedule Tree Work: If risk or health issues are found during the inspection, schedule the tree work with a qualified arborist. Be sure to find a tree care company in the area that is reputable and can provide references. Also, being fully insured is another important item to be aware when choosing an arborist.  To find an arborist in your area, go to the website, www.treesaregood.org.

Inspection on a regular basis: Trees should be inspected regularly. These inspections should occur during the growing season and dormancy. Further inspections should be conducted after major weather occurrences. At a minimum, trees should be inspected every five years by an arborist, especially if there is decline and dieback present in your trees.

Resources:
Trees and Storms, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
Tree Risk Management, The Education Store

Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources
Why Tree Inspections?, The Landscape Report


Posted on August 16th, 2018 in Forestry, Wildlife, Woodlands | No Comments »

Deer camera captureTrail 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.

Survey design

  • Place cameras at a density of 1 camera per 100 acres of property
  • Run cameras for 10-14 days
  • Check cameras every 4-5 days
  • Conduct surveys in the late summer before hunting season or late winter after hunting season

Camera set-up & placement

  • Set the camera to the correct date and time
  • Turn the burst mode to off
  • Set camera to a 5-10 minute delay (the delay can be shorter, but it will result in more pictures that will take longer to analyze)
  • Place the camera about waist height (2.5 – 3 feet) above the ground
  • Place the bait 10-15 feet from the camera
  • Face the camera north or south to avoid over-exposure from the sun
  • Place a ID tag on a tree in the view of the camera to differentiate camera locations

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.

Resources:
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, Wildlife Extension Specialist
Department of Forestry & Natural Resource, Purdue University


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


Staked Tree

Figure 1. Properly staked tree adds support.

Stake or not to stake, that is the question!?

“No,” is the likely answer to these common questions about post-planting tree care. Trees establish themselves quite well in normal situations. Support systems such as staking and guying are, in most cases, unnecessary and can even be detrimental. Movement caused by the wind is crucial to help saplings develop into strong, structurally balanced trees.

However, in unusual conditions, staking, guying, or a similar system may be needed to hold tress upright until adequate root growth anchors them firmly in the soil. When necessary, the support system must be installed properly and removed at the appropriate time to prevent damage.

Guyed Tree

Figure 2. Guy wires can provide stability in harsh, windy conditions.

When to Stake Trees

When stakes are needed, timing depends on the environment and the type of tree.

  • Bare-root trees and container-grown trees
  • Large evergreen trees with high wind exposure
  • Open sites exposed to strong winds
  • Taller trees with undersized root balls
  • Trees in areas with high rates of vandalism
  • Threat of mechanical damage

Improperly staked trees suffer from poor development such as decreased truck diameters and smaller root systems – and may be unable to stay upright after you take the supports away. Often trunk tissue suffers from rubbing and may even be girdled by support materials. Also, due to poor development and taper, previously supported trunks are more likely to break off in high winds or blow over after stakes are removed.

Girdling wires

Figure 3. Support materials left too long can damage trees.

Proper Methods and Materials of Guying and Staking

Staking and guying a tree trunk to keep it upright can be a necessary, temporary support system, but does not compensate for poor root development and establishment long-term.

  • Guying is temporary and typically used on larger trees that are transplanted balled-and-burlapped. Three points of attachment provide the best support for these large-trees.
  • Staking connects the trunk to a nearby steel or wooden post. This is a common approach on smaller trees or containerized tree stock.
  • Underground stabilizing systems are also effective and economical for stabilizing the root balls on larger balled-and-burlapped trees. There are several commercial anchor systems available.

The cardinal sins of support include: staking trees too high, too tightly, and for too long which all cause tree damage. Improper staking can cause stem abrasions and trunk girdling. Review the anchor, attachment point, and tension on a regular basis, adjusting as needed to make certain the supports are effective and not damaging the tree. If a tree is supported, the ties and guys should be removed as soon as feasible, usually no later than after one growing season or one year. For more information see Purdue extension publication, Tree Support Systems.

Related Sources:
Stake or not to stake, that is the question?!, The Landscape Report
Tree Support Systems, The Education Store
Planting and Transplanting Landscape Trees and Shrubs, The Education Store
Latest Issue of the Purdue Landscape Report, Got Nature Post
Plant for the Sun!, Got Nature Post

Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on July 20th, 2018 in Alert, Forestry, Woodlands | No Comments »
Purple Paint Law, Purple paint on this tree marks "No Trespassing". Image courtesy of Creative Commons (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Robert Burns)

Purple paint on this tree marks “No Trespassing”. Image courtesy of creativecommons.org (Photo by: Robert Burns, Texas A&M AgriLife Communications.)

A new Indiana law went into effect on July 1st, that may help you mark your property boundaries more efficiently to prevent trespassing. The “purple paint law” is found in Indiana Code IC 35-43-2-2 and stipulates that appropriately applied purple paint can be used to mark your property with the same legal effect as using a No Trespassing sign. Landowners attempting to protect their property from trespassing have often been frustrated by the need to post signs and replace signs torn down, vandalized, or rendered unreadable by the elements. Marking boundaries with purple paint should provide a more efficient and inexpensive option, as well as eliminating placing nails in your trees.

Below are the guidelines for applying the paint marks to indicate a No Trespassing area.

  1.  Each purple mark must be readily visible to any person approaching the property and must be placed on:
    1.  a tree:
      1. as a vertical line of at least eight (8) inches in length and with the bottom of the mark at least three (3) feet and not more than five (5) feet from the ground; and
      2. not more than one hundred (100) feet from the nearest other marked tree; or
    2.  a post:
      1.  with the mark covering at least the top two (2) inches of the post, and with the bottom or the mark at least (3) feet and not more than five (5) feet six (6) inches from the ground; and
      2.  not more than thirty-six (36) feet from the nearest other marked post; and
  2. before a purple mark that would be visible from both sides of a fence shared by different property owners or lessees may be applied, all of the owners or lessees of the properties must agree to post the properties with purple marks under subsection (c)(4).

You can view the code at: Indiana General Assembly.

Consider using a high quality boundary marking paint to extend the lifespan of your paint applications.

Resources:
Indiana General Assembly, Private Property and Trespassing Code of Indiana
Private Property Rights: Rights, Responsibilities & Limitations, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center

Lenny D Farlee, Sustaining Hardwood Extension Specialist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


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


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, Bugwood.org

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, Bugwood.org

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, Bugwood.org

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, Bugwood.org

Resources:
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 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


Two important holidays that celebration our connection to nature fall in April. The first, Earth Day, falls on April 21st and marks the 48th anniversary of the day when millions of people initiated a peaceful protest to voice their views of the negative impacts of industrial development. Worldwide air pollution had led to birth defects in children and overuse of pesticides and other pollutants was causing catastrophic declines in biodiversity.earth day

The movement was quickly supported by Congress and President Nixon worked to create the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) along with many other environmentally friendly initiatives. Now a global holiday, billions of people across 192 countries take part in Earth Day showing their love of the planet by planting trees and flowers, contacting their congressperson and pledging to uphold more Eco-friendly practices.

On January 4, 1872, J. Sterling Morton, a journalist and later editor of a Nebraska newspaper was a great supporter of the environment with a healthy love of trees in arbor day foundationparticular. In a meeting with the state board of Agriculture J. Sterling Morton, proposed a tree-planting holiday to be called “Arbor Day” for April 10, 1872. Estimates state that greater than one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the inaugural date. The success of the effort led the Nebraska governor (Robert W. Furnas) to make an official proclamation of the holiday on March 12, 1874. In 1885, Arbor Day was named a legal holiday and April 22 (J. Sterling Morton’s birthday) was deemed the permanent observance date. The success of the holiday spread nationwide as other states began holding their own Arbor Day celebrations and is now a well-celebrated holiday.

References:
Earth Day, PDF
‘Twas the Day Before Arbor Day, Got Nature?, Purdue FNR-Extension
Tree Planting Part 1: Choosing a Tree, The Education Store, Purdue Extension

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


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