Got Nature? Blog

Posted on July 2nd, 2021 in Alert, Wildlife | No Comments »

MyDNR Newsletter, Indiana Department of Forestry and Natural Resources (IDNR): DNR biologists have confirmed a black bear sighting that occurred in northeast Vanderburgh County June 21st. The closest town to the location is Elberfeld, in Warrick County.

Biologists confirmed the bear from photos taken by the landowner.IDNR Black Bear Photo

“This is Indiana’s fourth confirmed black bear,” said Brad Westrich, DNR mammalogist. “With expanding bear populations in neighboring states, this is expected.”

“Human-bear conflicts can be avoided if you remove or secure potential food sources from your yard. Bears can smell food from more than a mile away.”

Black bears are rarely aggressive toward humans.

If you see a black bear:

  • Do not feed it.
  • Observe it from a distance.
  • Do not climb a tree.
  • Advertise your presence by shouting and waving your arms and backing slowly away.
  • Report bear sightings to the Indiana Division of Fish & Wildlife here.

Most problems that occur with bears arise when bears associate food sources with humans and lose their fear of people.

More guidelines for reducing or eliminating the potential for bear-human conflicts:

  • Remove bird feeders and bird food if a bear is reported in your area.
  • Clean and store away grills after use.
  • Eliminate food attractants by placing garbage cans inside a garage or shed.
  • Pick ripe fruits and vegetables as soon as possible or place an electric fence around them to ensure bears cannot reach them.
  • Consolidate beehives you may have and place an electric fence around them.
  • Don’t leave pet food outside overnight.
  • Don’t add meat or sweets to a compost pile.
  • Don’t climb a tree if you encounter a bear; wait in a vehicle or building for the bear to leave the area.

To view all DNR news releases, please see dnr.IN.gov.

Resources:
Wildlife, Playlist, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources YouTube Channel
Black Bears, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Report a Black Bear Sighting, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Unexpected Plants and Animals in Indiana: Black Bear, College of Agriculture – Forestry and Natural Resources

Indiana Department of Natural Resources


Posted on June 30th, 2021 in Alert, Disease, Wildlife | No Comments »

Starting in May, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) began to receive reports of sick and dying songbirds from several counties around the state. As of now, the cause of the illness remains a mystery although submitted specimens have tested negative for avian influenza and West Nile virus according to the DNR. Affected birds have white crust and discharge around the eyes and damage to their nervous system. Reports of sick birds have expanded to many more counties in Indiana.

Several diseases that affect songbirds are transmitted from one animal to another. Bird feeders can increase the likelihood of disease transmission by facilitating close contact among birds. Even though the disease and its mode of transmission in this case is unknown, the DNR is recommending all Hoosiers remove their birdfeeders.

Blue jay on bird feeder.Officials recommend the following steps:

  • Use the DNR sick/dead wildlife reporting tool at on.IN.gov/sickwildlife to alert DNR staff.
  • Stop feeding birds until the mortality event has concluded.
  • Clean feeders and baths with a 10% bleach solution.
  • Avoid handling birds. If you need to handle birds, wear disposable gloves.
  • When removing dead birds, wear disposable gloves and place birds and gloves in a sealable plastic bag to dispose with household trash.
  • Keep pets away from sick or dead birds as a precaution.
  • Proper care of bird feeders and seed is an important part of preventing disease transmission at birdfeeders.

The Audubon Society recommends the following best practices:

  • Clean feeders monthly using one part bleach to nine parts warm water. Soak the feeder in the solution for a few minutes, rinse, and air dry.
  • If uneaten food is accumulating in or under feeders, consider using less food or switch to a seed more to the birds’ liking.
  • If birds are fighting over space at a feeder, consider adding more feeders to alleviate the congestion that can potentially be responsible for the rapid spread of disease.
  • Avoid throwing large amounts of food on the ground or alternate ground feeding areas so that uneaten food does not accumulate and develop bacteria or mold.

Resources:
DNR recommends removal of birdfeeders statewide – June 25, Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Birdfeeder tips, The National Audubon Society
Birds and Residential Window Strikes: Tips for Prevention, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Breeding Birds and Forest Management: the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment and the Central Hardwoods Region, The Education Store
Managing Woodlands for Birds Video, Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources YouTube Channel

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


Curious about the upcoming cicada emergence? What is different about this species than the ones you see every summer? What effect can they have on wildlife or on your trees and shrubs? Find out from Purdue Extension wildlife specialist Jarred Brooke, forester Lenny Farlee and Purdue Entomology’s Elizabeth Barnes. Don’t miss the question and answer time with our experts discussing “all things cicadas”.

If you have any questions regarding wildlife, trees, forest management, wood products, natural resource planning or other natural resource topics, feel free to contact us by using our Ask an Expert web page.

Resources:
Billions of Cicadas Are Coming This Spring; What Does That Mean for Wildlife?, Got Nature? Blog, Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR)
17-year Cicadas Are Coming: Are You Ready?, Purdue Landscape Report
17 Ways to Make the Most of the 17-year Cicada Emergence, Purdue College of Agriculture
Periodical Cicada in Indiana, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Cicada Killers, The Education Store
Purdue Cicada Tracker, Purdue Extension-Master Gardener Program

Dr. Elizabeth Barnes, Exotic Forest Pest Educator
Purdue Department of Entomology

Lenny Farlee, Sustaining Hardwood Extension Specialist
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources

Jarred Brooke, Wildlife Extension Specialist
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on January 15th, 2021 in Alert, How To, Safety, Urban Forestry, Wildlife | No Comments »

coyotesMyDNR Newsletter, Indiana Department of Forestry and Natural Resources (IDNR): Indiana residents are more likely to see coyotes during wintertime, but sightings are no cause for alarm. Coyotes become more active during winter as young coyotes leave their families to find a new home and coyotes begin breeding. Coyotes may look larger than they are due to their thick winter coats, but the average coyote only weighs 20-30 pounds.

General characteristics

  • The coyote closely resembles a German shepherd dog in height and shape but it carries its tail below the level of its back instead of curved upward and is generally half the weight of a German shepherd.
  • Coyotes have a long slender snout and large, pointed ears.
  • The upper body is a grizzled gray or buff, with a reddish brown or gray muzzle and legs. The belly is white, cream-colored or reddish yellow.
  • The coyote has a bushy tail, which it carries below the level of its back.
  • Coyotes average 25 pounds (ranging from 20 to 50 pounds), and they measure 40 to 50 inches long from nose to tail tip.
  • Coyotes are elusive and normally avoid humans.
  • They can be active day or night, but are typically most active at dawn and dusk.
  • The coyote communicates by barking, yipping and howling.

Distribution and abundance

Coyotes are present in all sections of the state. There are records of coyotes in Indiana as early as 1816, though they likely inhabited Indiana well before that time. Bounties were in place in Indiana on coyotes from at least 1849 through the late 1960s. Despite this persecution by early European settlers, coyotes persisted in Indiana. Historically, coyote populations were limited in range to the prairie regions of the state, and expansion may have partially been limited because wolves suppress coyote populations, and both red and gray wolves were once abundant in Indiana. However, with the eradication of wolves and conversion of habitat to farmland, coyotes have been able to expand and adapt to new habitats.  Statewide coyote abundance has slowly increased as coyotes continued to expand into previously unoccupied habitat.  Today, coyotes occupy all of Indiana, no matter the habitat type or amount of development.

For more information, please visit Indiana Department of Forestry and Natural Resources (IDNR).

To subscribe for the monthly newsletter view: MyDNR Email Newsletter.

Resources
Coyotes, IN DNR
Coyotes (PDF), Wildlife Conflicts, Department of Entomology, Purdue University
 Ask the Expert: Coexisting with Coyotes, Video, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources Youtube channel
Dealing with Nuisance Coyotes, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IN DNR)-Fish and Wildlife
Urban Coyotes – Should You Be Concerned?, Got Nature? Blog
Urban Coyote Research Center, Urban Coyote Ecology & Management, Cook County, Illinois

Indiana Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


In this edition of Wildlife Habitat Hint, Purdue wildlife extension specialist Jarred Brooke shares methods to control the invasive sericea lespedeza. This plant species, though was once used for erosion control and mineland reclamation, is too invasive and of little wildlife value.

If you have any questions regarding wildlife, trees, forest management, wood products, natural resource planning or other natural resource topics, feel free to contact us by using our Ask an Expert web page.

Resources
Sericea Lespedeza: Plague on the Prairie, Purdue Extension
Wildlife Habitat Hint, Playlist, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resouces
Invasive Species, Playlist
A Woodland Management Moment, Playlist
Woodland Stewardship for Landowners, Playlist
Habitat Help LIVE Q&A – Native Grasses and Forbs for Wildlife, Video, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources Youtube channel
Renovating Native Warm-Season Grass Stands for Wildlife: A Land Manager’s Guide, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center

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


Posted on September 10th, 2020 in Alert, Forestry, Forests and Street Trees, How To, Plants, Safety | No Comments »

Purdue Landscape Report: Have you noticed large, messy webs on trees? You may have seen a colony of fall webworms. These caterpillars hatch in mid-July but tend to become more noticeable as the summer progresses. They often eat branches bare of leaves but are they a threat to tree health?

What do they look like?

Fall webworms are small, fuzzy pale-yellow caterpillars (figure 1) that build large, conspicuous white webs in trees in the late summer (figure 2). Their webs stretch over tree branches and grow over the course of the summer. When disturbed, the caterpillars will violently thrash back and forth in a bid to ward off predators.

gallagher

Fig1. A colony of fall webworm caterpillars feeding on a leaf. Note that the web covers the leaves they are currently eating. Photo by Judy Gallagher.

web_msumuh

Fig2. Trees will often have multiple fall webworm webs on them. This photo shows a typical number of webs for a large tree. Notice that the webs tend to be on the ends of branches and that the leaf damage is concentrated close to each web. Photo by Ken Gibson.

What kind of damage do they cause?
Fall webworms eat the leaves of many species of deciduous trees and bushes. This damage occurs late in the summer shortly before the trees normally drop their leaves for fall. Therefore, fall webworms very rarely do serious damage to trees. In most cases the trees will grow their leaves back the following spring. On rare occasions, a tree that is already highly stressed may be further weakened by fall webworm damage. However, most trees, even heavily infested trees, are minimally affected and show no signs of damage the following spring.

Do they need to be managed?
Fall webworm damage generally looks much worse than it is. In general, trees only need to be managed for fall webworm if the owner is concerned about aesthetics. In that case, the easiest means of management is pulling the web off the tree by hand and putting it in a bucket of soapy water or freezing it. Some people may be sensitive to the caterpillars’ hairs so gloves should be worn to prevent contact.

In cases where the webs are too high up to be reached, they can be managed through insecticides. Further instructions can be found here.

Cover image by Photo by msumuh on Flickr.

Resources
Fall Webworm Bulletin, Purdue Extension -Entomology
Which Web is Which, Purdue Landscape Report
Will My Trees Recover After Losing Their Leaves?, Purdue Landscape Report
Safe Caterpillar Control, Purdue Landscape Report
Mimosa Webworm, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Sod Webworms, Turf Science at Purdue University
Bagworm caterpillars are out feeding, be ready to spray your trees, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources

ELizabeth Barnes, Exotic Forest Pest Educator
Purdue University Department of Entomology


Posted on July 24th, 2020 in Alert, Forestry, Gardening, Plants, Safety | No Comments »

Purdue Landscape Report: Now that we’ve reach midsummer, many people tending to small plants and bushes may notice small odd round grey objects attached to their plants that are made by potter wasps. Do you need to do anything about them? Do these nests help or harm your plants? And are they dangerous to people?

What do they look like?
You are more likely to notice the nests of potter wasps than the adults. Potter wasp nests often look, like the name suggests, like a small grey pot (figure 1). They are rounded with a small opening that looks like the neck of a vase and are about the size of a cherry tomato. These wasps will attach their nests to many different surfaces but tend to prefer plant and bush stems. Potter wasp nests are often found hidden behind foliage in bushes.

Potter wasp adults come in a variety of colors but all of them look like small hornets. The most common species found in Indiana are mostly black with pale yellow bands around their abdomen (figure 2).

figure2

Figure 2. An adult potter wasp resting. This is just one of many different species of potter wasps. Photo by Fyn Kynd on flickr

figure 1

Figure 1. Close up of a potter wasp nest attached to the stem of a house plant. Photo by Elizabeth Barnes, Department of Entomology, Purdue University.

How do they help plants?
Each “pot” that the wasps build is a tiny nursery for a single wasp. Adult potter wasps lay a single egg in each “pot” and then fill it with paralyzed caterpillars and small beetle larvae. When the wasp egg hatches it has all the food it needs to develop into an adult contained in the pot. Each wasp does a small part to keep down the number of caterpillars in the landscape which can reduce the amount of leaf damage on nearby plants.

Will they hurt me?
Probably not! Potter wasps don’t defend their nests and are generally not aggressive. Unless you actively try to bother them they will probably not bother you. If you need to remove one of their nests, you can simply pull it off the plant or object that it’s attached to. However, since they help with pest control, you may want to either leave the nest be or relocate it to a different section of the landscape.

Does anything else look like the “pots”?
Although the “pots” have a very distinct shape there are a few other things that could be confused with them at first glance. Mantis egg masses (ootheca) and some types of galls are both about the same size as potter wasp nests and also often grey. However, they both lack the vase neck-like opening that potter wasp nests have.

What should I do if I see one?
Let it be! Since these wasps rarely sting and help keep caterpillar populations down leave them alone so that they can continue to act as biocontrol agents. If you think you’ve seen a potter wasp or one of their nests and would like help identifying it, take a picture and either upload it to a community science project like iNaturalist or send a picture to the author of this article.

Resources
Social Bees and Wasps, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Parasitic Wasps, The Education Store
Mud Daubers, The Education Store
Cicada Killers, The Education Store
Industrial, Institutional, Structural and Health-Related Pest Management, The Education Store

Elizabeth E Barnes, Exotic Forest Pest Educator
Purdue University Department of Entomology


Posted on January 29th, 2020 in Alert, How To, Wildlife | No Comments »

coyotesJanuary IDNR Wildlife Bulletin Newsletter: It’s that time of year again – coyotes are on the move, and Indiana residents might see them more, but this should not be a cause for alarm.

Coyotes are common everywhere in the state, even in urban areas. Coyotes become more active during winter, and the bare vegetation this time of year increases the chance of catching a glimpse. Young coyotes leave their parents to find a new home, making them more likely to be seen during winter. And in January, coyotes will be looking to breed, making them even more active. Seeing more coyotes does not mean they are increasing in number.

Where people are, coyotes follow. Coyotes like to eat animals and plants that thrive around yards and homes, including rabbits, mice, fruit and squirrels. They thrive around people because of the abundant food that comes with human development.

Coyotes are a common member of Indiana’s urban wildlife community, as are raccoons, red foxes, and opossums. Coyotes are also an important member of Indiana’s wildlife community, helping control rodent populations and cleaning up carrion.

Coyotes typically weigh between 20-30 pounds and are similar in height to a German Shepherd. Winter fur, which is thicker, makes coyotes appear bigger than they actually are, potentially causing concern.

To reduce the possibility of pets having a negative interaction with coyotes or any other wildlife, keep pets leashed, in a kennel with a secure top, or indoors.

Problems between coyotes and people are uncommon. Follow these tips for making your property less attractive to coyotes:

  • Clean up fallen fruit from trees or gardens.
  • Keep garbage secure.
  • Make sure pet food and treats are not left outside.
  • If you see a coyote around your yard, take down birdfeeders; coyotes could be attracted to the rodents eating the seeds.
  • Never intentionally feed a coyote, which could result in its losing its fear of people.

Making a coyote feel unwelcome around people can help maintain its natural fear of humans, but never corner or chase a coyote – you should always allow it to have a clear escape path to get away from you.

If you see a coyote and want it to go away, try to make it uncomfortable:

  • Yell.
  • Wave your arms.
  • Spray it with a hose.
  • Throw tennis balls or small stones at it, but don’t throw anything that could be food, like apples.
  • Carry a jar of coins to shake or a small air horn to make noise.

Learn more about coyotes at Dealing with Nuisance Coyotes
Full Article >>>

Resources
Coyotes (PDF), Wildlife Conflicts, Department of Entomology, Purdue University
Urban Coyote Research Center, Urban Coyote Ecology & Managenet, Cook County, Illinois
Dealing with Nuisance Coyotes, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)-Fish and Wildlife
Coyotes a Constant Problem in Indy Suburbs, IndyStar

Indiana Department of Natural Resources


Purdue Landscape Report: Just as sure as you try to predict the weather, it is likely to change. But going out on a limb, I predict that we will have a bit of a dud for fall color display this year. Not a very risky prediction, considering that many plants already are starting to turn color and/or drop leaves in some areas of the state.

Nyssa sylvatica

Nyssa sylvatica (black gum) showing early fall color due to drought stress. Source

So why would the colors be early and/or a bit duller than usual? Certainly, some of the reason why plants display fall colors has to do with the genetic makeup of the plant. That doesn’t change from year to year. But the timing and intensity of fall colors do vary, depending on factors such as availability of soil moisture and plant nutrients, as well as environmental signals such as temperature, sunlight, length of day, and cool nighttime temperatures.

The droughty conditions experienced during much of the second half of summer are likely to have decreased the amount of fall color pigment. Southern Indiana has been particularly parched. Despite recent rains in some areas, much of the state remains designated as abnormally dry to moderate drought. You can check your area’s conditions at the US Drought Monitor for Indiana. Additional maps and data is available at the Midwest Regional Climate Center.

Growing conditions throughout the season affect fall color as does current weather. Colors such as orange and yellow, which we see in the fall, are actually present in the leaf all summer. However, those colors are masked by the presence of chlorophyll, the substance responsible for green color in plants during the summer. Chlorophyll allows the plant to use sunlight and carbon dioxide from the air to produce carbohydrates (sugars and starch). Trees continually replenish their supply of chlorophyll during the growing season.

As the days grow shorter and (usually) temperatures cooler, the trees use chlorophyll faster than they can replace it. The green color fades as the level of chlorophyll decreases, allowing the other colored pigments to show through. Plants that are under stress–from conditions like prolonged dry spells–often will display early fall color because they are unable to produce as much chlorophyll.

Yellow, brown and orange colors, common to such trees as birch, some maples, hickory and aspen, come from pigments called carotenoids, the same pigments that are responsible for the color of carrots, corn and bananas.

Red and purple colors common to sweet gum, dogwoods and some maples and oaks are produced by another type of pigment called anthocyanin, the pigment responsible for the color of cherries, grapes, apples and blueberries. Unlike chlorophyll and carotenoids, anthocyanins are not always present in the leaf but are produced in late summer when environmental signals occur. Anthocyanins also combine with carotenoids to produce the fiery red, orange, and bronze colors found in sumac, oaks, and dogwoods.

Red colors tend to be most intense when days are warm and sunny, but nights are cool–below 45º F. The color intensifies because more sugars are produced during warm, sunny days; cool night temperatures cause the sugars to remain in the leaves. Pigments are formed from these sugars, so the more sugar in the leaf, the more pigment, and, thus, more intense colors. Warm, rainy fall weather decreases the amount of sugar and pigment production. Warm nights cause what sugars that are made to move out of the leaves, so that leaf colors are muted.

Leaf color also can vary from tree to tree and even from one side of a tree to another. Leaves that are more exposed to the sun tend to show more red coloration while those in the shade turn yellow. Stress such as drought, poor fertility, disease or insects may cause fall color to come on earlier, but usually results in less intense coloration, too. And stress or an abrupt hard freeze can cause leaves to drop before they have a chance to change color.

So far, weather conditions lead me to think this will be one of those not so showy fall color years. I hope I am proven wrong!

Resources
Why do leaves change color and why do leaves fall off in autumn?, Got Nature? Blog
Why Leaves Change Color, The Education Store, Purdue Extension
Fifty Trees of the Midwest App for the iPhone, The Education Store
Native Trees of the Midwest, The Education Store
Why Leaves Change Color, USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Area
It’s Fall, but why are the leaves still green? article and video, WLFI.com

B. Rosie Lerner, Extension Consumer Horticulturist
Purdue Horticulture and Landscape Architecture


Cities and towns in the U.S. contain more than 130 million acres of forests. These forests vary extensively in size and locale. An urban forest can describe an urban park such as Central Park in New York City, NY, street trees, nature preserves, extensive gardens, or any trees collectively growing within a suburb, city, or town. Urban forestry is the name given to the care and maintenance of those ecosystem areas that remain after urbanization. Data from the 2010 census indicated more than 80% of Americans live in urban centers with a population increase greater than 12%. The population of Indiana represents only 2.1% of the nation. In the last 8 years, IN has had an influx of 200,000 people which represents a population increase of 3.0%!

Urban forests, which help filter air and water, control storm water runoff, help conserve energy and provide shade and animal habitat must be maintained. As our nation becomes more urbanized, appreciate those urban foresters working to ensure we have save urban forest spaces to enjoy. These precious resources add more than curb appeal and economic value, they improve our quality of life.

What does an urban forester do? Here’s a quick answer:

References:
Purdue Urban Forestry & Arboriculture, Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources
USDA Forest Service Urban Forests, United States Department of Agriculture
US Census Bureau, United States Census Bureau

Interested in Purdue Urban Forestry? Contact:
Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Forestry and Natural Resources

Resources:
Tree Support Systems, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Corrective Pruning for Deciduous Trees, The Education Store
Tree Installation: Process and Practices, The Education Store
What plants can I landscape with in area that floods with hard rain?, Got Nature? Blog, Purdue University Forestry and Natural Resources Extension

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


Got Nature?

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