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
It all starts with providing some supplemental nutrition for small to medium-aged trees in the late fall when trees go into a state of dormancy. This is when trees stop active growth and begin to form terminal buds, drop leaves and develop cold resistance. Adding fertilizer to trees too early in the season can push new growth which will be prone to winter damage.
A fertilization program is used to maintain trees in a vigorous condition and to improve their immune system against pests. Fertilizing trees refers to the practice of adding supplemental nutrients (chemical elements) required for normal growth and development. However, you really can’t “feed” a tree, since trees are autotrophs. They use nutrients to feed themselves by making sugar in the leaves through photosynthesis.
Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) are plant nutrients needed in the largest quantity and these are most commonly applied as a complete fertilizer. However, the addition of any soil nutrient is recommended only if soil or plant foliage tests indicate a deficiency. For trees and shrubs in most of Indiana, the two most common causes of nutrient problems are high pH (alkaline) soils, which can lead to chronic deficiencies of nutrients in some tree species, such as red maple and pin oak, and nitrogen-deficient soils. Typical symptoms include yellowing chlorotic leaves and reduced growth and smaller leaf size.
Trees in natural settings get nutrients from the air, organic matter, nutrient cycling, and microbial activity. In many cases, supplemental nutrition is not necessary in fertile soils which have enough nutrients in the proper amounts to support healthy growth, especially on established trees, but in the urban and suburban environment, often a little assistance is needed. The more challenging urban environment provides less opportunity for healthy growth due to poor, fragmented soils, reduced microbial activity and compaction. Trees needing fertilization to stimulate growth include those exhibiting the symptoms of pale green, undersized leaves, chlorosis, reduced growth rates and those in decline resulting from insect attacks or disease problems. Also, turf can be a serious contender for nutrients and trees surround by turf benefit from additional nitrogen applications every couple of years.
Trees which should not be fertilized include newly planted trees in the current year and those with root damage from recent trenching, construction or other disturbance. The root systems of these plants will need to re-establish before fertilizers are applied with cultural practices such as supplemental moisture and mulch. Older, established trees do not need to be fertilized every year and may never need supplemental feeding. In fact, serious pest problems can result on over-fertilized trees. Research indicates that young deciduous trees benefit from additional nitrogen in low-analysis, slow release forms. Conifers require less fertilization and are genetically adapted to low-nutrient soils.
For more information on how and when to fertilize trees, refer to HO-140-W, Fertilizing Woody Plants from the Purdue Extension Education Store.
Article shared by: The Landscape Report, Start Preparing Trees for Winter and Next Year.
Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue 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
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
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.
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.
Article shared by: The Landscape Report, Why Tree Inspections?.
Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue Forestry and 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
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.
When to Stake Trees
When stakes are needed, timing depends on the environment and the type of tree.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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-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