Got Nature? Blog

With all of the recent rain we have had throughout the state,raccoon close-up I have received several inquiries about effects on wildlife and what we can expect.  While some flooding is natural in low areas and wildlife are adapted to respond, extreme flooding can impact wildlife. Flood waters can wash away nests or drown developing or very young animals for those living in low-lying areas. For example, heavy spring rains can reduce nest success of wild turkeys.

In many cases, wildlife will adapt by simply moving to higher ground. I tend to get an increase in inquiries about snakes after flooding. They begin showing up in neighborhood homes when they have never been observed in years past. Certainly our environment changes over time and wildlife can and do respond to these changes.  However, sudden changes are likely due to a response of snakes moving to drier ground. The good news is this and other similar displacement of wildlife is usually temporary.

What can we do?  I’m afraid not much for our currently flooded friends. However, in the long-term, times like this reinforce the need to create and enhance quality wildlife habitat. Providing wildlife with quality habitat that contains the necessary food, cover and water resources gives them a fighting chance to deal with issues that inevitably arise. In addition, wetlands that landowners build and restore on their properties not only enhance wildlife habitat, but also help retain moderate flood waters and recharge groundwater supplies.

If some unwanted wildlife has overstayed their welcome in and around your home, check out the Purdue Education Store publication, Considerations for Trapping Nuisance Wildlife with Box Traps. If you think you have found a sick or injured animal, you can find a list of licensed Wild Animal Rehabilitators in your area on the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Orphaned and Injured webpage. In Indiana, wildlife rehabilitators have necessary state and federal permits to house and care for sick or injured wild animals.

Additional Resources
Preventing Wildlife Damage – Do You Need a Permit? The Education Store, Purdue Extension
The Basics of Managing Wildlife on Agricultural Lands​, The Education Store, Purdue Extension

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

Northern strain largemouth bass, photo by Mitchell ZischkeFish stocking in a pond is like a retirement plan—you need to have a vision of your ultimate goal. You want to start off in the right direction or your long-term investment may not pay the dividends you had hoped for. Pond Management: Stocking Fish in Indiana Ponds is an 8-page publication written by our experts partnering together from Purdue’s Pesticide Programs, Forestry and Natural Resources and Purdue Weed Science. They share recommendations regarding fish types, numbers, and predator/prey relationships for new and renovated ponds.

Main topics include:

  • Stocking new or renovated ponds with no fish present
  • Assessment of ponds with existing fish populations
  • Northern strain largemouth bass
  • Stocking fathead minnows
  • Stocking fish to control vegetation
  • Dissolved oxygen – fish need it to live
  • Fish health

Properly stocking your pond with the correct number of the recommended species at the right size are all important steps in creating a healthy and well-balanced pond that will provide good fishing into the future. For more information on pond management go to or contact Dr. Mitchell Zischke at

Other resources:

Indiana Pond Fish, Species Identification Card Set, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center

Forestry and Water Quality: Pollution Control Practices, The Education Store

Marine Shrimp Biofloc Systems: Management Practices, The Education Store

The Nature of Teaching: Healthy Water, Happy Home – Lesson Plan, The Education Store

Aquaculture & Aquatics,Purdue Extension-Forestry & Natural Resources

Mitch Zischke, Clinical Assistant Professor
Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


When encountering turtles, it is important to leave them alone to ensure their safety in their natural habitat. Several of Indiana’s turtle species are illegal to takeEastern box turtle or possess, including the Eastern box turtle (pictured right). Unless a turtle needs assistance crossing a road, it should never be picked up or moved.

What should be kept in mind if you encounter a turtle who may need help?

People often encounter nesting females on roads during May and June. If a female is taken out of the wild, she can no longer add to the population.

Turtles are long-lived species and have significant care requirements. Captive turtles cannot be released into the wild. They can introduce diseases or parasites to the wild population, and they will likely not survive.

You can help turtles cross the road. Always move the turtle across the direction that it was heading.

Any turtle collected from the wild requires either a legal license or permit and all reptile eggs and endangered species or species of special concern are protected.

View the resources below on reptiles and amphibians along with Indiana’s regulations answering any questions you may have for collection, handling and conservation efforts.

Turtles of Indiana, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
Snakes and Lizards of Indiana, The Education Store
Reptile and Amphibian Regulations, Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Eastern Box Turtle Information, Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)

Eastern red-backed salamanders.The Purdue Extension-Nature of Teaching has recently released a new publication through The Education Store. The Nature of Teaching provides free Indiana Academic Standard-based lesson plans for students in grades second through sixth to guide them on how to help maintain a healthy environment.

Understanding adaptations for aquatic amphibians can help humans learn more about healthy ecosystems. Through this educational unit, students will be able to explain how amphibian adaptations benefit survival, describe the importance of Eastern Hellbender adaptations, and identify impacts that humans have on aquatic amphibians.

These packed lesson plans are great resources for school teachers, parents, 4-H leaders and other natural resource educators. View the Adaptations for Aquatic Amphibians for the latest installment in the Nature of Teaching resources. See below for other related publications, lesson plans and games.

Frogs and Toads of Indiana, The Education Store, Purdue Extension
Salamanders of Indiana, The Education Store
Snakes and Lizards of Indiana, The Education Store
Turtles of Indiana, The Education Store
Help the Hellbender, Purdue Extension
Hellbender Havoc Game, Google Play, Hellbender Havoc Game – Apple iTunes Store
Hellbender Decline, Purdue Extension-FNR Youtube
The Nature of Teaching, Lesson Plans K-12, Purdue Extension

Nick Burgmeier, Extension Wildlife Specialist & Research Biologist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on February 8th, 2016 in How To, Ponds, Safety, Urban Forestry, Wildlife | No Comments »

As the weather begins to warm up later this year, the sight of Canada geese returning is pleasant to some as a reminder of spring approaching. It can also be downright irritating to others who experience property damage and other conflicts as the geese concentrate on their property. There are several strategies for dealing with geese listed in further detail at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) website, ranging from mild to severe.

The first thing that is important to know regarding geese is that it is simply not a good idea to feed them. While this act is positive in intention, it is a bad thing for both people and geese. Feeding geese gives them an artificially abundant source of food, which can cause them to delay or skip their migration and instead congregate in areas where they will conflict with people. Furthermore, being fed can cause geese to lose their fear of people, giving them the confidence to stroll across roadways and runways. Finally, large amounts of geese competing over bread and other food of limited nutritional value greatly increases their chances of developing and spreading avian diseases. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service‘s free publication “Caution: Feeding Waterfowl May Be Harmful!” further explains the need to stop feeding geese.

INDNR offers a significant amount of other advice on other methods of handling goose problems. Habitat modification such as adding vegetative barriers or suspended grid systems can be a good long term solution by making your land less attractive to geese. If geese have already begun to settle in, nonlethal harassment techniques like air horns and sprayers can be used twice a day to scare geese away from your property. Nests can be legally removed as long as there are no eggs present. If the situation calls for more severe actions, a permit can be acquired to destroy nests with eggs, or another permit can be issued by a District Wildlife Biologist to capture and relocate the animals. In cases of excessive property damage, a District Wildlife Biologist can also issue an agricultural depredation permit to shoot geese outside of the normal hunting season.

There are many methods of handling nuisance Canada geese this spring, and not one solution for every problem. If there is a goose problem in your area, please view INDNR’s Nuisance Canada Goose Management page to learn more about what you can do and how to acquire permits if needed.

Nuisance Canada Goose Management – Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Solutions – INDNR
Caution: Feeding Waterfowl May Be Harmful! – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Working With Wildlife: Urban Canada Goose Management – Purdue Extension
Managing Canada Geese – Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Laboratory

Aaron Doenges, videographer & assistant web designer
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on September 15th, 2015 in Forestry, Ponds, Safety, Urban Forestry | No Comments »

Indiana DNR Indentity​This summer, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Reclamation earned the 2015 Mid-Continent Regional Award from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) for their outstanding work in eliminating the abandoned Minnehaha slurry pond in an area of abandoned mine land in Sullivan County. This reward recognizes the elimination of health, safety and environmental problems in abandoned mine lands and is rightfully deserved by this ambitious project.

This project was one of the largest and most extensive projects that the Division of Reclamation has tackled in its over 30 years of work. To begin, the team addressed a weakened levee at the abandoned mine. The levee was holding back a pond of slurry, a hazardous mix of coal and water. By repairing this levee, a disasterous blackwater flood that could harm both property and people in the Sullivan County area was avoided.

The repaired levee allowed the team to then safely work on removing this abandoned slurry pond. A large sulfate-reducing bioreactor was built at the site, which treated and released over six million gallons of water through a newly designed system of sloping hills and a stream. By removing this slurry pond, this project succeeded in eliminating some of the waste caused from coal mining that is often neglected.

For more information, please check out Indiana DNR’s page on the project and award.

DNR Reclamation Earns National Award, Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Status of Reforested Mine Sites in S.W. Indiana​, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Abandoned Mine Land Safety, Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Information for Citizens, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement

Posted on August 13th, 2015 in Aquaculture/Fish, Ponds | No Comments »

Photo credit: Dan Annarino

​Hopefully no one is reading this after a catastrophic loss of their pond. This very wet summer has tested some ponds’ ability to hold and safely release excess water. I would like to quickly review the overflow structures ponds should have and also some management necessary to ensure the safety of ponds levees/dams.

For recreational ponds, there should be one or perhaps two means of releasing water from the pond. Most of these ponds are built on sloping land in order to capture rainwater to fill the pond. In this case, it is necessary to have an emergency spillway that will divert excess water once the pond is full away from the dam to prevent erosion and save the integrity of the structure. Usually they is just an earthen channel that runs around the end of the dam with an initial elevation 1-2 feet below the top of the dam. Water only runs through the spillway when the pond is full. An emergency spillway should have vegetation to prevent erosion but not to the extent that water is blocked from passing through efficiently.

A distinct advantage can be gained by having a drain structure installed through the dam when ponds are initially constructed. Drains such as this typically have a valve or swivel pipe which can regulate water level to whatever height the owner would like. With a wet summer such as we have had, the pond water level could be proactively lowered to save massive amounts of water passing through the spillway.

Additionally you can remove stagnant low oxygen water from the bottom of the pond. If a drain structure is releasing water from the bottom of the pond, it is a good idea to flush this valve two to three times per year to remove debris from around the structure which may plug it up if used infrequently. With these structures, it is a good idea to use the 6/12 rule. Water levels are kept six inches below maximum in order to catch any rain water event without overflowing. Evaporation and seepage will reduce the level back down over time. The 12 refers to the level the inches below maximum where you would add well water if you have the capacity. Generally this is only used with aquaculture ponds.

Control structures to maintain water levels will ensure the integrity of your ponds dams and levees. By controlling the amount of water flushing through a pond, the owner can also manage the productivity of the pond ecosystem by releasing/maintaining nutrients in the pond.

Commercial Greenhouse and Nursery Production: Controlling Algae in Irrigation Ponds​, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Indiana Ponds, The Education Store
Indiana Ponds Q&A, The Education Store
Management of Ponds, Wetlands, and Other Water Reservoirs to Minimize Mosquitoes, The Education Store
Indiana Pond Management​, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Fish & Pond Management
Ponds – Planning, Design, Construction, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Bob Rode, Extension Aquaculture Specialist
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University

Purdue Boat

Photo credit: Tom Campbell

As boats enter and exit public bodies of water, they risk transferring aquatic plants, mussels or invertebrates that attach themselves to the bottom of the boat. While this might seem pretty harmless at first, this spreading of aquatic species runs the risk of introducing invasive species into new environments.

Invasive species cause harm to local ecosystems by reproducing exponentially when they are outside of their usual habitat and the organisms that keep their populations in check. They can then cause great damage by feeding on local species and the food they depend on. Once an invasive species is detected, it is oftentimes very expensive and difficult to control. For example, around 1991, the U.S. and Canada spent an estimated $20 million per year to control invasive sea lampreys and restore the trout populations that were damaged by them. In Indiana alone, we spend around $800,000 a year to attempt to control the growth of Eurasian watermilfoil, another nuisance invasive species.

In an attempt to avoid more cases like this in the future, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (INDNR) is looking for help. Volunteers can sign up to record information about boats and their potential aquatic hitchhikers entering and leaving lakes during times of heavy use. The DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife can take this data and use it for public outreach and planning species management.

Those interested are highly encouraged to sign up on INDNR’s Volunteer Program page.

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS), Indiana Department of Natural Resources
DNR Seeks Help Gathering Info on Spread of Aquatic Species, WSBT22
Indiana Invasive Species Council, Purdue Entomology Extension
Invasive Plants, Purdue Agriculture Weed Science
The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center (search “invasive”)

Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Hellbender WLFI Video​The next big step in the initiative to save the hellbenders of Indiana was completed on May 18, 2015, as three hellbenders were transferred from Purdue University’s Aquaculture Research Lab to the Columbian Park Zoo in Lafayette. This is the last of 50 hellbenders transferred from the lab to Columbian Park Zoo, Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville.

In 2013, Associate Professor of Wildlife Science Rod Williams and his team collected 300 eggs from the Blue River in Southern Indiana. These eggs grew into young hellbenders in the lab and were transferred to the three zoos to continue growing to adulthood. In the wild, hellbender mortality rate is extremely high, as high as 99%. The salamanders are at their most vulnerable state during their juvenile years, and being raised in captivity will greatly improve their chances of survival when they are released back into the wild in a couple years.

Once released, the hellbenders will be tracked via radio transmitters to monitor their movements, habitat preferences and survivorship. The last group of 18 hellbenders released into the wild had a 22.5% survival rate after one year, and Williams hopes to improve on that. A group of 80 more hellbenders will be released in 2016 with 130 in the following year. Williams’ goal of 40-50% survival rate would mark huge progress in saving the hellbenders of Indiana.

Saving a Species, Purdue Agricultures Magazine
Hellbenders Arrive at the Columbian Park Zoo, WLFI article and video
Hellbender Helped by Purdue-Zoo Partnership, WLFI article and video
Help the Hellbender, Purdue Extension
Hellbender Ecology and Genetics, Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Rod Williams, Associate Professor of Wildlife Science
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Enhancing Public Spaces, FNR-497 publicationA 20+ extension team led by ​Kara Salazar, sustainable communities extension specialist, and Michael Wilcox, assistant program leader for extension community development, have produced a new publication and curriculum titled “Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces.” This must-have spiral bound notebook and curriculum zip file download is a great resource for decision makers and local leaders developing community public spaces including park boards, planning commission members, members of organizations, public officials and staff whose missions are related to providing services, programs or management of public spaces. This program serves as a “how-to” guide for creating high-quality action plans to achieve great public spaces.

A one day workshop starts the process with collaborative activities to identify best practices for improving public spaces with emphasis on forming partnerships to achieve desired community goals. Follow-on working group meetings provide the resources and technical support needed to plan and implement projects tailored to individual communities. The completed high quality public spaces action plan can be used as part of comprehensive planning efforts, parks and recreation master plans and fundraising initiatives.

This publication and curriculum is available as a $25 digital download or a $50 digital download with print-on-demand options.

Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces, The Education Store
Sustainable Communities, Purdue Extension

Kara Salazar, Sustainable Communities Extension Specialist
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant

Michael Wilcox​
Assistant Program Leader, Extension Community Development Program
Senior Associate, Purdue Center for Regional Development

Got Nature?