Got Nature? Blog

Posted on July 3rd, 2020 in How To, Safety, Urban Forestry, Webinar, Wildlife | No Comments »

Across the entire United States, and into Canada and Mexico, coyotes can be found just about everywhere. But what would you do if you encountered a coyote while out all alone? Would you feel comfortable knowing how to act? How about how to keep your children or pets safe in such an encounter? 

In our June 11th Ask the Experts series, “Coexisting with Coyotes,” Purdue researchers Brian MacGowan and Bee Overbey talked about these topics and more. As a keystone species in their ecosystem, coyotes play an extremely important role in maintaining population levels of other animals, such as deer, rabbits, raccoons, and voles. By keeping these populations in check, plants and trees are better able to grow, and this creates greater biodiversity and healthier habitat. And coyotes are not going anywhere! This resilient, intelligent species has learned to adapt around humans and every change that we bring.

Check out the video below to learn more about coyotes, how important they are to the lands where they are found, and tips on how to coyote-proof your property and keep yourself and your loved ones safe in coyote encounters. By working together, we can easily and safely coexist with this vital native species.

Ask an Expert, Playlist, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources Youtube Channel
Coyote Safety, Video
Coyotes are on the Move, Got Nature? Blog, Purdue FNR Extension
Urban Coyotes – Should You Be Concerned?, Got Nature? Blog
Coyotes (PDF), Wildlife Conflicts, Department of Entomology, Purdue University
Urban Coyote Research Center, Urban Coyote Ecology & Managenet, Cook County, Illinois
Coyotes, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)-Fish and Wildlife
Coyotes a Constant Problem in Indy Suburbs, IndyStar

Brian MacGowan, Wildlife Extension Specialist
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources

Brande (Bee) Overbey, Graduate Research Assistant
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on July 2nd, 2020 in How To, Wildlife | No Comments »

Each year, the Indiana DNR conducts their Turkey Brood Survey to determine wild turkey productivity. They rely on Hoosier outdoor enthusiasts from across the state to report the number of hens and poults they see from July 1st to August 31st. This helps them calculate a Productive Index (number of poults per hen; figure 1) for counties across the state. Does this sound like something you are interested in? Here 4 simple steps to be involved!

  1. Register for the turkey brood reporting system.
  2. Spend time outdoors from July 1st to August 31st.
  3. Count the number of hens and poults you see while spending time outdoors (figure 2).
  4. Report the number of hens and poults on the DNR’s online portal.

DNR biologists can’t collect brood observations across the state alone. In order to reach the goal of 3,000 observations this year, they need our help! If you’re interested in sharing your turkey broodmobservations with DNR, visit and register after June 10. Record observations any time from July 1 to August 31, 2020. Recording observations takes less than 5 minutes.

The DNR appreciates your help to document turkey broods around the state. Sharing observations is easy and critical to the management of wild turkey.

Wild Turkey Brood Production 1993-2019

Figure 1. Wild turkey brood production from 1993 to 2019. Image is from the 2019 Wild Turkey Summer Brood Production Index (pdf).


Adult hen with one week old poults

Figure 2. Example of how to count and record turkey broods for the turkey brood survey. Image is from the Introduction to Documenting Turkey Brood Publication (pdf) from the Indiana DNR.

As you enjoy the outdoors, whether it is for recreation or managing your property, we thank you in advance for helping with wildlife conservation.

Wild Turkey Hunting, Biology and Management, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Turkey, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Truths and Myths about Wild Turkey, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Forest Improvement Handbook, The Education Store

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

Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Recently during an online program (video) I received a question about the risk of using toxicants for controlling moles in lawns. Specifically, the question was if animals (pets or wild animals) ate the moles that consumed the bromethalin “worms” or “grubs” would that harm them. I decided to do some digging (no pun intended) for more information so people can make informed decisions regarding their use.

What is bromethalin?
From the Purdue University Animal Disease and Diagnostic Laboratory:
“Bromethalin was developed and released in 1985 to combat a world-wide problem of rodent resistance to warfarin-like anticoagulant rodenticides. Bromethalin is not an anticoagulant but is a highly potent rodenticide that provides a lethal dose to rodents in a single feeding. Death occurs within 24 to 36 hours after ingestion. It is a pale, odorless, crystalline solid compound in the diphenylamine family. Its mechanism of action is to uncouple oxidativephosphorylation in the mitochondria of the central nervous system. This leads to a decreased production of ATP. Low levels of ATP inhibit the activity of the Na/K ATPase and lead to a subsequent buildup of cerebral spinal fluid and vacuolization of myelin. The increased CSF results in high intracranial pressure, causing damage to nerve axons, inhibiting neural transmission and leading to paralysis, convulsions and death. Signs of a sub-lethal dose include hind limb ataxia, depression, extensor rigidity, opisthotonus, lateral recumbency and vomiting. High doses may bring about severe muscle fasiculations, hind limb hyper-reflexia, seizures, hyperthennia, depression and death.”

From the Merk Veterinary Manual:
“Bromethalin, a nonanticoagulant, single-dose rodenticide, is a neurotoxin available as bars (blocks), pellets, seed, and worm. Mole baits are sold as worm containing 0.025% bromethalin, whereas rat and mouse baits contain 0.01% bromethalin. Bromethalin and its main metabolite desmobromethalin are strong uncouplers of oxidative phosphorylation. This results in intra-myelin fluid accumulation, leading to long nerve demyelination and intra-myelin cerebral edema. The net result is cerebral and spinal edema and increased CSF pressure, leading to neurologic dysfunction. In toxicity trials, the oral toxic dose of bromethalin when used as part of bait appears to be much lower than the dose administered as a technical grade agent. For example, in dogs, an average lethal dose of technical grade bromethalin is reported to be 4.7 mg/kg but 2.38 mg/kg in bait. Young dogs (<1 yr old) appear more sensitive; death has been reported at dosages of ~1 mg/kg in bait. Dogs are more commonly involved. Cats are 2–3 times more sensitive than dogs.”

moleDamage2 MoleDamage1









What is the risk with mole baits?
The level of risk of any pesticide depends on a combination of toxicity and exposure. Anytime you are considering using a toxicant or other pesticide, first read the label in its entirety. Labels will contain information on how to apply a product safely, under what circumstances, and any precautions you should take. However, labels also contain other information that can users determine if they should use a product. This information is key in preventing pesticide exposure to people and the environment. In fact the label is a legal document. The pesticide user is bound by law to follow all label directions. Label directions for mole baits instruct users to keep pets out of treated areas and not to use the product above ground. Bait must be applied directly into moles’ tunnel systems. Following these directions will greatly reduce, or even eliminate, the exposure risk to pets. What might be the consequences if your dog or a neighbor’s dog mistakenly entered your yard and went digging around in a treated area?

To determine this we can calculate how much bait a dog would have to consume to reach the average lethal dose. The more technical term is the LD50 dose which is the individual dose that kills 50 percent of a population of test animals. A single worm mole bait weighs approximately 5g since a package of 20 worms has a weight of 100g.  With 0.025% active ingredient, each worm would contain 1.25 mg of bromethalin. Thus, an 11lb (5kg) dog would need to consume 18 to 19 worms to reach the average lethal dose using the 4.7 mg/kg level for technical grade bromethalin, or 9 to 10 worms for the 2.38 mg/kg level in bait. Recall, these rates were listed in the Merk Veterinary Manual. The amount of bait consumption would be more for larger dogs. The average lethal dose is just that – an average. Some dogs would die with lower dosages and some with higher dosages within a specified timeframe.

It would be extremely unlikely that a dog could find, dig up, and consume the number of worms to reach or even approach the average lethal dose. Consider the following:

  • How many worm baits will you use? According to label directions, worm baits are placed underground every 5 to 10 feet in active subsurface runways. Worms may be placed in the deeper underground runways. Limiting their use to only active runways reduces the amount of product applied. The label directions outline the procedure for identifying active runways.
  • Applying the product according to label instructions (in underground active mole tunnels) helps minimize the risk of accidental ingestion. However there are additional strategies to prevent accidental ingestion of the bait, including: applying the product in areas inaccessible to pets or installing barriers, covering the application sites with pavers, and supervising the pet’s use of the yard (especially important for dogs that like to dig). Allow at least two weeks (or longer under dry conditions) for breakdown of any uneaten worms.
  • Toxic baits placed in runways breakdown over time. That is, a treated area is not treated forever. This is a direct quote from one manufacturer, “Uneaten worms typically remain intact up to 14 days in mole runs. The amount of time it takes for the Mole Killer worm to degrade depends on soil type and the weather. Frequent and heavy rain or high temperatures may accelerate worm degradation. The active ingredient takes longer to degrade.”
  • Toxic baits may be combined with other methods. For example, you may choose to limit use of toxic baits only in areas where the soil type or tunnel structure make trapping difficult.

In the end, it is up to the individual user on whether or not they choose to use toxic baits to get rid of moles in their yard. If you do choose to use them, read the label in its entirety. In the case of mole toxicants, the label clearly states that pets should not be allowed in treated areas. If you are not confident this is possible, then alternative control options are likely a better option for you.

Pesticides and personal safety (pdf), Purdue Pesticide Program
Pesticides and wildlife (pdf), Purdue Pesticide Program
Moles, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Adjuvants and the Power of the Spray Droplet: Improving the Performance of Pesticide Applications, The Education Store
Purdue Extension – FNR: Ask An Expert, Video, Purdue Extension –  Forestry and Natural Resources YouTube channel

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

Posted on June 12th, 2020 in Gardening, How To, Land Use, Wildlife | No Comments »

One of the challenges of living, even in urban areas, is dealing with white-tailed deer and browsing damage that they can cause. In this video by Purdue extension wildlife specialist Brian MacGowan, he will show you how to protect you newly planted trees and shrubs from white-tailed deer and other wildlife that can cause damage.

How to Stop Woodland Animals from Digging in Your Flower Pots, Video, Purdue Extension Youtube Channel
How to Attract “The Fascinating Hummingbirds” to Your Backyard, Video
Woodland Management Moment – Deer Fencing, Video
Tree Appraisal and the Value of Trees, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center

Brian MacGowan, Wildlife Extension Specialist
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources

Do you need to open up your woodlands in order to grow new species of trees/shrubs that need extra sunlight or to make for a better wildlife habitat? Forest openings allows us to regenerate species of trees and shrubs that demand full sunlight and also ensures good diversity of species on your property. In this Woodland Management Moment video, Purdue Extension forester Lenny Farlee talks about creating forest openings.

Woodland Management Moment – Deer Fencing, Video, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources Youtube Channel
Asian Bush Honeysuckle, Video, Purdue Extension Youtube Channel
Forest Improvement Handbook, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Woodland Stewardship for Landowners, invasive species along with timber resources, Purdue Extension-FNR YouTube Playlist
Managing Your Woods for White-Tailed Deer, The Education Store

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

Posted on June 5th, 2020 in Disease, Safety, Wildlife | No Comments »


Question: We live in eastern Tippecanoe county and have a couple of adult squirrels that seem to be sick. They act like they are drunk — falling over frequently. We have two apple trees in blossom, and they come and nibble on fallen branches/blooms. As they sit on their hind legs to eat, they fall over on the ground like they are dead. Then after a few minutes/flip around and get up again, only to fall over “dead” again. This has been going on for a few weeks. We also have a baby that is not afraid of people – does not run away from me or our dog. This baby appears to have missing hair/or possible mange? We also had a raccoon in early March that came toward my husband in the yard – was not afraid of him. It did not appear rabid, but did not run away either. We do have several bird feeders, one of which squirrels and chipmunks sit on and eat the bird food. Is what they are eating making them “sick/drunk” or is this something else? I googled and found possible raccoon roundworm? What do YOU think this is — and could these cases be related? How should I dispose of any dead animals, and should I be concerned for us or our dog?

Answer: What you describe could be a number of wildlife diseases. The clinical signs of many of these diseases are often similar and infection can only be determined through specific examinations, tests or lab work. It may be canine distemper. Both squirrels and raccoon can carry canine distemper. The disease is spread by direct contact with body fluids or droppings of an infected animal. Humans cannot get distemper. However, it may also be another disease or a separate disease for each species. Your choices are really to 1) do nothing or 2) contact a wildlife rehabilitator (see below). In Indiana, wildlife rehabilitators have necessary state and federal permits to house and care for sick or injured wild animals. No federal or state agencies will provide care for sick and injured animals.

Since wild animals can carry diseases that are dangerous to people, direct contact with wildlife is discouraged. Just as the case with people, you can’t tell if an animal is sick just by looking at them. Expression of clinical signs of diseases are not the same for every animal. It may also take a period of time for clinical signs to present themselves. An animal that appears perfectly healthy may have a disease, and may be able to transmit the disease.

I could find no specific guidelines for the disposal of dead wild animals. The Indiana State Board of Animal Health lists allowable methods of dead animal disposal, but these do not apply to wildlife, which they specify as creatures not under someone’s care. This is guidance on the DNR website for:

Dead Birds: “According to Indiana State Department of Health guidelines, if you need to dispose of a dead bird, do not handle it with your bare hands. Use gloves or a plastic bag turned inside out over your hand to pick up the bird and dispose of the bird/bag in the trash. You can follow these recommended disposal procedures regardless of the cause of death, if testing is not available.”

Dead Bats: “Do NOT pick up a bat with your bare hands. Any wild animal can carry disease, therefore precautions should be taken if an animal needs to be moved. Wear heavy-duty leather gloves and scoop up the bat with a shovel or container. If the bat is alive move it to a tree branch, away from nearby buildings if possible. To dispose of a dead bat, scoop it into a plastic bag. Place it into another plastic bag, close it securely, spray with disinfectant, and dispose of it in your trash.”

Indiana Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitators (pdf), Indiana Department of Natural Resources – Fish and Wildlife.

Other Resources
Protecting Yourself from Wildlife Diseases: Raccoon Roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis), The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory
Orphaned Wildlife, Got Nature? blog
Orphaned & Injured Animals, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Purdue Extension – FNR: Ask An Expert, Video, Purdue Extension –  Forestry and Natural Resources YouTube channel

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

Are you noticing more birds in your backyard recently since sheltering at home? Do you wish you knew how to identify what you are seeing? Do you know what kind of food to put out to attract different species?

Dr. Barny Dunning, professor of wildlife ecology, and Purdue extension wildlife specialist Brian MacGowan offer advice on birdwatching for birders of all skill levels, including how to bring species to your yard, what apps you can use to identify them and other resources to help you learn more in this Facebook LIVE Ask the Expert session from May 21, 2020.

Sibley Guide to Birds app
Merlin Bird App
Audobon Bird Guide App
Cornell University Ornithology Lab website
Migratory Bird Treaty Act
ProjectFeederWatch from The Cornell Lab
Nesting Box Information – National Wildlife Federation
Project Feeder Watch
Indiana Audobon Society
Sycamore Audubon Society
Attract Hummingbirds to Your Yard, Video, Purdue Extension YouTube Channel
Birds and residential window strikes: Tips for prevention, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
No room at the inn: suburban backyards and migratory birds, The Education Store
Size Does Matter – Nest Boxes for Wildlife, The Education Store

John B Dunning, Professor of Wildlife Ecology
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources

May IDNR Wildlife Bulletin Newsletter: Spring is here and with many of us stuck near home, we may notice new arrivals in our backyards. This time of year, many wild animals are born, including rabbits, squirrels, birds, and fawns. Other wildlife, like turtles, are on the move and more likely to be seen. While it’s easy to enjoy the great outdoors and practice social distancing from people, remember to practice social distancing from wildlife, too. Help us keep wildlife wild.

Deer• Remember that adult animals rarely abandon their young – It is common for the parent to leave them while they search for food. Do not hover to see if a parent comes back; they won’t return if a person is standing nearby. Give the animal space and only check back periodically.

• Young wildlife should not be handled. They can carry diseases or parasites and are capable of inflicting damage by biting or scratching. Human scent can also alert predators to the young animal’s presence. However, nestlings and small mammals can be safely returned to their nests if they have fallen out and are uninjured. Once the animal has been returned safely, leave the area.

• Pets should be supervised at all times when outdoors. With so many young animals in nests, this keeps both pets and wildlife safe.

• Except for properly maintained birdfeeders, do not feed wildlife. Feeding wildlife can lead to loss of fear, conflicts, and diseases spreading. Creating habitat is a healthy alternative that provides both food and shelter.Eastern box turtle

• Help turtles cross roads, don’t take them home. May marks the beginning of turtle nesting season, and some species are endangered or of special concern. Let them continue to contribute to wild populations by only helping turtles cross roads. Be sure to move them in the direction they were heading once traffic has cleared.

While rescuing young wildlife is legal, keeping them is not. Truly orphaned wild animals must be given to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator within 24 hours to maximize their chance of survival.  For more information about orphaned wildlife, visit Orphaned & Injured Animals.

Orphaned & Injured Animals, Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Resourceful Animal Relationships, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Orphaned Wildlife, Got Nature? blog
No Room at the Inn: Suburban Backyards and Migratory Birds, The Education Store
Purdue Extension – FNR: Ask The Expert, Video, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources YouTube channel

Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IN DNR)

On May 5th, we held a Facebook LIVE: Ask an Expert with several FNR specialists and one of the questions that came in is a question I receive often.

One of the many benefits of interacting with farmers and land managers is I learn about the problems you face. A question came in around the 17:30 minute mark of how to deal with vole damage problems in their 3- to 5-acre pumpkin patch.  I didn’t have an answer regarding registered pesticides (including taste repellents and toxicants) that are labeled for voles in pumpkins. Doing a broad search on the internet is helpful but it is hard to figure out what you can use in your state. Pesticides are often labeled for use in one state but not others. Luckily, anyone can search for registered pesticides online at on the National Pesticide Information Retrieval System. Most states, including Indiana, are included. You can search by EPA registration number, product name, company name, or active ingredient.  A particular search can still yield many choices but this is a helpful way of finding out what is available. Each product has a link to the EPA website that includes product labels.


Since our program last week, I did some checking and found a product registered in Indiana labeled for voles in pumpkins as well as many other crops. Millers Hot Sauce is a taste repellent with an active ingredient of capsaicin (2.5% by weight), which is an irritant to animals, but one some people enjoy in hot peppers. Per label instructions adding an anti-transpirant film former or a sticker may prolong the effectiveness of the product.  Mix the product and additives with water according to label instructions. For heavy damage, start treatment after first true leaves appear and continue treatment every 7 days.  If applying to transplants, start application one week after transplanting and continue every 7 days.

Always read the label completely before applying any pesticide. The efficacy of any repellent depends on a number of factors including animal population size and density, available food, and availability of cover. With voles, the year can be key because their populations tend to cycle. Combining other methods with repellents can often increase success. For example, soil cultivation within plant rows and in adjacent habitat can help reduce the habitat quality for voles. Cultivation can also directly kill some voles. There are of course tradeoffs and every situation is unique. Soil cultivation would not be an option in some cases (e.g., adjacent to water, steep slopes). I was unable to find a toxicant registered for voles in pumpkins. But depending on what the land cover is adjacent to the pumpkin patches, some of these may be appropriate in those areas.

With face-to-face Extension programs on hold for the foreseeable future, look for more live Q&A sessions and other programs on Facebook (PurdueFNR) or Twitter (@PurdueFNR).

National Pesticide Information Retrieval System
Midwest Fruit Pest Management Guide 2019-2020, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Hops Production in Indiana: Integrated Pest Management Guide for Hops in Indiana, The Education Store
Turfgrass Insects: Managing Black Cutworms in Turfgrass, The Education Store
Applied Research in Field Crop Pathology for Indiana – 2019, The Education Store
Managing Alfalfa Autotoxicity, The Education Store

Brian MacGowan, Wildlife Extensions Specialist
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources

FNR-578-W coverResourceful Animal Relationships is one unit in a series available from The Nature of Teaching – the place to go for teaching resources that focus on wildlife, food waste, health and wellness. In this series teachers can find free lesson plans, printables, posters, a photo library, information on upcoming workshops and more.

This lesson will teach third- through fifth-grade students about different kinds of organism interactions and how those interactions affect the ways in which organisms gain or lose resources. Students will learn how to describe the differences between mutualism, parasitism,
and competition along with how to explain the different effects that relationships have on an organism and their resources.

It meets several grade-appropriate Next Generation Science Standards, English/Language Arts Standards, and Math Standards. This 19-page pdf is written by Dr. Rod Williams.

For more resources, please check the Education Store.

Benefits of Connecting with Nature, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
The Nature of Teaching: Ecotoxicology and Environmental Health, The Education Store
The Nature of Teaching: Disease Ecology, The Education Store
The Nature of Teaching: Adaptations for Aquatic Amphibians, The Education Store
Adaptations for Aquatic Amphibians Activity 2: Water Quality Sneak Peak, Video, Purdue Extension YouTube channel

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

Got Nature?