Got Nature? Blog

Posted on March 21st, 2018 in Forestry, How To, Wildlife, Woodlands | No Comments »

Handling Harvested Game, FNR-555-WV, videoIn this new video series Handling Harvested Game: Field Dressing, wildlife biologist Bob Cordes with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife shows how to properly treat and handle deer in order to receive the best results for your venison. This video shares step by step safe handling techniques to reach your goals in providing a wholesome organic source of meat for you and your family.

More resources:
Handling Harvested Game – Episode 2, Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources YouTube Playlist
How to Score Your White-tailed Deer, video, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Age Determination in White-tailed Deer, video, The Education Store,
How to Build a Plastic Mesh Deer Exclusion Fence, The Education Store,
Bovine Tuberculosis in Wild White-tailed Deer, The Education Store,
Indiana Deer Hunting, Biology and Management, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)

Rod Williams, Associate Professor of Wildlife Science/Engagement Faculty Fellow
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

2017 Annual ReportPurdue Extension has posted its 2017 Annual Report online, highlighting the ways in which Extension educates empowers people throughout Indiana and promotes statewide economic vitality. The annual report includes stories regarding agricultural research in unmanned aerial vehicle use, key partnerships that return disabled farmers to their fields, enhanced economic futures in Indiana’s small towns, programs to increase health and wellness statewide, and much more.

Look to the future with Enhancing Public Spaces as this program grows and adds a health and wellness component. The Purdue University Extension program addresses public spaces and their role in enhancing the quality of place by helping regions, communities, and neighborhoods plan and prepare for a sustainable future.

Purdue Extension Annual Report – 2016
What is Purdue Extension? – Purdue Extension Video

Purdue Extension


Posted on February 16th, 2018 in Natural Resource Planning, Plants, Wildlife | No Comments »

FNR-548-WA new extension publication co-authored by Purdue Extension Wildlife Specialist, Jarred Brooke, and University of Tennessee Extension Wildlife Specialist, Dr. Craig Harper, provides landowners and land managers with practical recommendations to assist in the management and renovation of existing native-warm season grass stands for wildlife. The publication provides information on how to use various habitat management tools to fix common issues in planted native grass stands. The publication was produced in partnership with University of Tennessee Extension, Indiana DNR Fish & Wildlife Division, and the Indiana State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

The electronic copy of the publication is available to download for free from the Purdue Education Store. Printed copies are also available from the Education Store for $10.

Sericea Lespedeza, Plague on the Prairie, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR
Prescribed fire: 6 things to consider before you ignite, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR
If Your Native Grasses Look Like This, It’s Time for Management, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR

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

FNR-226-WSuccessfully starting a tree plantation involves several steps, ideally starting with preparation a year or more before the seedlings are planted. This updated publication with current resources titled Resources and Assistance Available for Planting Hardwood Seedlings, landowners can find valuable information about planting trees for conservation, such as resources, contact information, tools, professional advice and assistance and financial incentives.

Ordering Seedlings from the State Forest Nursery System, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR
Instructions for Ordering Tree Seedlings – Indiana DNR Division of Forestry
Importance of Hardwood Tree Planting – The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Forest Improvement Handbook – The Education Store
Designing Hardwood Tree Plantings for Wildlife – The Education Store

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

Posted on February 7th, 2018 in Wildlife | No Comments »

I have raccoons in my attic. Before I evict them, I want to provide an alternate place for them to go. There aren’t really enough trees around here anyway, so I want to make a raccoon house or two. Do you have any plans you could recommend? Also, in order to deter them from trying to get back in, is it true that they dislike wire/hardware cloth, and so I could reinforce those areas with that on the outside?

They shouldn’t be pregnant yet, should they?

Raccoons usually breed in the end of January into February, but that is not a concern for your issue. Even sows with young can move from one “den” site to another. You will need to remove the raccoon prior to repairing how the animal got in. You need to be absolutely sure that the raccoon is not in the attic before you exclude it. If you simply put up a box and fix your house, that will likely not solve your problem. The raccoon will likely try and get back in your attic, which is their “den tree” from the animal’s perspective. You can lawfully trap and relocate raccoons without a permit. Check out the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Wildlife Removal website for more information

A resident landowner or tenant can legally capture these species of wild animals listed above without a permit on the property that he/she owns or rents if the animal is:

  • causing or threatening to cause damage to property, or
  • posing a health or safety threat to people or domestic animals.

The landowner/tenant also can designate another person to take the animal for them if:

  • the landowner/tenant provides written permission (which must be on the person while taking the animal),
  • and no compensation of any kind is given to the person who takes the animal.
  • A hunting or trapping license, or a nuisance wild animal control permit, is required to take wild animals on land that you do not own or rent.

Within 24 hours of capture, the person who takes the animal must release it or euthanize it. Animals that are released must be released on land in the county where it was captured. Furthermore, the landowner or property manager must give permission for the release. These nuisance animals cannot be possessed for more than 24 hours and cannot be sold, traded, bartered or gifted.

For excluding the raccoon, or others, from your attic, you will need to use good materials. Hardware cloth or metal flashing typically work well. It isn’t that they don’t like those materials, they are sturdy enough to hold up. Also, repairing the damage to its original constructed method is good. Usually where animals enter it is either worn or damaged areas, or gaps in construction (even in new houses).

Raccoon Box Plan – Pennsylvania Game Commission
Preventing Wildlife Damage – Do You Need a Permit?, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Selecting a Nuisance Wildlife Control Professional, The Education Store
Trapping Nuisance Wildlife, Got Nature?, Purdue FNR-Extension

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

Posted on February 1st, 2018 in Got Nature for Kids, Wildlife | No Comments »

High atop Gobbler’s Knob in western Pennsylvania, the Seer of Seers, the Prognosticator of all Prognosticators, Punxsutawney Phil will be coaxed from his hibernaculum in the old oak stump at 7:25 a.m. on February 2 to predict an early spring or six more weeks of winter. The legend shares that if it is sunny and Phil sees his shadow, the scared groundhog returns to his burrow and we will endure six more weeks of winter. As of 2017 Phil has seen his shadow 103 times predicting six more weeks of winter, and he has predicted an early spring 18 times with not seeing his shadow. How correct can a groundhog truly be at predicting the coming of spring?

The groundhog, or sometimes called the woodchuck, is Indiana’s largest member of the squirrel family. They are most active during the day from late winter through mid-fall and tend to stay close to an extensive network of underground burrows. One of these burrows has a single entrance and is used for hibernation. Timing of when groundhogs enter and emerge from hibernation depends on ambient temperatures, season and latitude. Groundhogs typically enter hibernation burrows near the autumnal equinox in October. Timing of emergence varies considerably with adult males emerging in February while females and younger males emerge in March.

The first day of spring occurs on the vernal equinox, around the 20th or 21st of March, which is approximately 47-48 days (6.7-6.9 weeks) from February 2. Given that Phil is likely yanked from his slumber before he is ready to come out, one could argue that he is fairly accurate any year he predicts six more weeks of winter when you consider the actual date of the first day of spring. Perhaps that is why Groundhog Day proponents claim he is correct 75-90% of the time! However, scientists from the National Climatic Data Center claim he is correct only 39% of the time in regards to spring-like weather patterns.

Will Phil be correct this year? Whether Phil is right or wrong, spring will come with beautiful blooms on the forest floor of trilliums and Dutchmen’s breeches. Happy Groundhog Day!

Groundhog Day, Stormfax Weather Almanac
Groundhog Day, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Climatic Data Center
Groundhog Day Forecasts and Climate History, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Climatic Data Center
Animal Damage Management: Woodchucks, The Education Store

Diana Evans, Extension and Web Communications Specialist
Purdue University, Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on January 31st, 2018 in Forestry, Wildlife, Woodlands | No Comments »

Harvest site at the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment.There has been much debate in the popular press lately regarding the role of timber harvesting on forest communities. A common focus of this debate is the perceived impacts to wildlife. Most believe that leaving our forests alone is best for wildlife. However, to provide habitat for all of our native forest wildlife species, forests need to be diverse in terms of age, species and area. Harvesting timber is the primary means of achieving this structural diversity. The purpose of this article is to summarize some key points regarding the effects of harvesting on reptiles and amphibians. These points are drawn mostly from the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment (HEE), an ongoing research study in southern Indiana. Its primary focus is to study forest management and its effects on plants and animals. A more detailed summary may be found in Forest Management for Reptiles and Amphibians.

There has been several large-scale studies that have investigated the effects of tree canopy removal on amphibians and reptiles. These include the HEE in Indiana, the Missouri Ozark Forest Ecosystem Project (MOFEP), and the Land-use Effects on Amphibian Populations (LEAP). Much of the work from these projects has been published in the scientific literature. All of these studies demonstrate that the response of amphibians and reptiles to timber harvesting is variable—it cannot simply be quantified as good or bad. Indeed, avoiding negative impacts to all reptiles and amphibians as a result of timber harvesting is neither possible nor desirable since disturbance-dependent wildlife species1,2 and many mature forest species3, require early successional forests.

Timber Rattlesnake

  • Timber rattlesnake in handling tube.For the focal species studied on the HEE, most exhibited moderate or no response in 1-3 years following timber harvests. The focal species I and colleagues have studied were timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus), eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina), and terrestrial salamanders. Timber harvests had no effect on the area male or female adult timber rattlesnakes used during the active season. There was no evidence that snakes changed movement behaviors to avoid clearcuts4. Indeed, several snakes were observed within clearcuts for several weeks and across multiple years. Annual survival of rattlesnakes on the HEE sites was high during the active season (72-98%) and winter (97-99%). Timber harvesting had no impact on survival. Declines in female survival was most affected by declines in prey abundance the previous year which were due to tree mast failures5. The level of acorns and nuts (i.e., mast) produced in woodlands naturally vary from year to year. When the small mammal population declined due to mast failure, these snakes were apparently impacted the following year.

Eastern Box Turtle

  • Eastern box turtleFor box turtles, there was no effect of timber harvests on home-range size, but the average daily distance traveled by turtles decreased by 30 percent following harvest, and turtles maintained 9 percent higher body temperatures6. Temperatures in harvest openings were 29 percent warmer in the summer and 31 percent colder in the winter than forested sites. Despite this change, turtles continued to use harvest openings during the active season, but tended to make shorter, more frequent movements in and out of harvests. Turtles likely used harvest edges for cover, thermoregulation and, possibly, foraging opportunities6. Harvested areas offered potential hibernation sites based on soil profile temperatures, slope aspect and depth of hibernation7. Both active and hibernal data suggest the level of harvesting on the HEE has modest effects on box turtle behavior, at least in the short term. To date, there is no evidence to support whether these changes have any impact—positive or negative—on box turtles.

Woodland Salamanders

  • Eastern red-backed salamanders.The response of woodland salamanders to harvests was species-specific8. The relative abundance of eastern red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) and northern slimy salamanders (Plethodon glutinosus) declined from pre- to post-harvest in patch cuts (1 to 3 acres) and clearcuts (10 acres). Red-backed salamanders also declined in control sites, suggesting factors other than the harvests contributed to salamander declines over the study period. However, red-backed salamander declines observed in control sites were not as severe as those seen within patch cuts and clearcuts, indicating harvests were at least partially responsible for observed declines within the harvest boundaries. The relative abundance of northern zigzag salamanders (Plethodon dorsalis) did not decline from pre- to post-harvest in any harvest type, and increased on sites adjacent to clearcuts.
  • These findings suggest canopy removal (2-10 acre gaps) has short-term local impacts on terrestrial salamanders in terms of relative abundance, but effects do not necessarily extend to the adjacent forest matrix. A caveat to these findings is that the ultimate fate of displaced individuals remains unknown. That is, changes in relative abundance does not mean declines in survival. Indeed, sites adjacent to clearcuts experienced an increase in counts of zigzag salamanders, which could reflect the evacuation of individuals from the clearcut into the intact forest. It is also important to note that other factors influence the abundance of terrestrial salamanders. For example, in addition to differences between seasons (spring versus fall), drought played a significant role in declines in salamander abundance across all study area.

Forest management sometimes leads to short-term loses for some species but is critical to the long-term sustainability of many other species. Looking at the responses of just a few species, within cutover areas for a few years paints an incomplete picture. A large-scale, long-term perspective is necessary when considering forest management. This is the true value of well-designed studies such as the HEE. With experimental control and replication, researchers can untangle the story on what are the true effects of forest management over a large area over many decades. The HEE has shed light on many answers so far. We can look forward towards many more to come.

Wildlife Responses to Timber Harvesting, Video-The Education Store-Purdue Extension Resource Center
Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment – Forest Birds, Video-The Education Store
Managing Woodlands for Birds, Video-The Education Store
Sustaining Our Oak-Hickory Forests, Video-The Education Store
Breeding Birds and Forest Management: the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment and the Central Hardwoods Region, The Education Store
Forest Management for Reptiles and Amphibians: A Technical Guide for the Midwest, The Education Store
Addressing Concerns About Management of Indiana’s Forests, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University
Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment (HEE)

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

1 Thompson, F. R., III, and D. R Dessecker. 1997. Management of early-successional communities in central hardwood forests: with special emphasis on the ecology and management of oaks, ruffed grouse, and forest songbirds. U.S. Forest Service General Technical Report NC-195, St. Paul, MN, USA.

2 Greenberg, C. H., B. Collins, F. R. Thompson, III, and McNab, W. H. 2011. “What are early successional habitats, why are they important, and how can they be sustained?” Pages 1-10 in Sustaining young forest communities: ecology and management of early successional habitats in the Central Hardwood Region, USA. C. H. Greenberg, B. Collins, and F. R. Thompson, III., editors. Springer, New York, NY, USA.

3 Chandler, C. C., D. I. King, and R. B. Chandler. 2012. Do mature birds prefer early-successional habitat during the post-fledging period? Forest Ecology and Management 264:1-9.

4 MacGowan, B.J., Currylow, A.F.T., and MacNeil, J.E. 2017. Short-term responses of Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) to even-aged timber harvests in Indiana. Forest Ecology and Management 387(1):30-36.

5 Olson, Z.H., B.J. MacGowan, M.T. Hamilton, A.F.T. Currylow, and R.N. Williams. 2015. Survival of timber rattlesnakes: Investigating individual, environmental, and ecological effects. Herpetologica 71:274-279.

6 Currylow, A.F., B.J. MacGowan, and R.N. Williams. 2012a. Hibernal thermal ecology of eastern box turtles within a managed forest landscape. Journal of Wildlife Management 77(2):326-335.

7 Currylow, A.F., B.J. MacGowan, and R.N. Williams. 2012b. Short-term forest management effects on a long-lived ectotherm. PLoS ONE 7(7):e40473.

8 MacNeil, J.E. and R.N.Williams. 2014. Effects of timber harvests and silvicultural edges on terrestrial salamanders. PLoS ONE, 9(12):e114683.

Posted on December 13th, 2017 in Forestry, How To, Natural Resource Planning, Wildlife | No Comments »

FNR-551-w CoverOutbreaks of bovine tuberculosis have occurred sporadically around the world since the 1900s. In Bovine Tuberculosis in Wild White-tailed Deer, Bovine tuberculosis transmission, hosts, current status in Indiana, clinical signs, effects on deer populations, effect on white-tailed deer meat, management, and monitoring is extensively covered. If you’re a hunter or cattle producer, the information provided within this free publication would greatly benefit you!

Bovine Tuberculosis in wild white-tailed deer, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR
Indiana DNR Needs More Submissions from Deer Hunters for Disease Testing, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR

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


It’s that time of year again. The desperate rush to find the ‘perfect’ tree for your annual year-end celebration is very real. Unfortunately, you chose a tree last year that died within a month and was disappointingly dull. This year, you are going to do your homework to find the best tree available.

Home preparations:

  1. Tree Location: Select an area out of direct sunlight and away from the heating vents in your house for the tree. Excessive sunlight and heat will cause your tree to fade and dry out more quickly.
  2. Ceiling height: Measure your ceiling heights and take into account the height of your tree stand and the tree topper or you’ll have to make excessive cuts in your tree to adjust for the differences. Write down these measurements.
  3. Tree shape: Visualize the shape of the tree that best fits the space you have available (tall and thin, short and broad) and keep that in mind. Certain tree types are more expensive therefore knowing your budget will help ensure you purchase the perfect tree for your household. Measure the width of the space and write down these measurements.
  4. Tree stand: Anticipate needing to support your tree stand and acquire a piece of plywood that you can bolt the stand to keep it level. Measure the inside diameter of the tree stand and write down the measurements.

Choosing a tree farm:

  1. Buy from a local farm if at all possible. These trees are bred to be hardy and to remain fresh longer.

Bring to the farm:

  1. List of required measurements for your perfect tree.
  2. A large unbreakable ornament to view branch spacing (ensures your ornaments will hang straight).
  3. Measuring tape to measure prospective trees before getting them home.
  4. Thick gloves for handling your tree as the needles may be sharp and the bark rough on your bare hands.
  5. An old blanket that can cover the truck bed or car roof to protect it from sap.
  6. Rope, twine, bungee cords, and twist ties to secure the tree to the car if these items are not provided by the tree farm.

Species selection:

  1. Each tree species is different so careful selection is important: Soft needle species (pines, firs) are best for homes with small children while hard needle species (spruce) are the adult choice.
  2. Firs often have shorter needles, strong stems, and well-spaced branches making it easier to hang lights and decorations.Needle Charcteristics Table*click image to enlarge

At the tree farm:

  1. Check freshness: Bend a needle with your fingers (firs snap, pines ben).
  2. Gentle run your hand over the branch from inside to out or if possible, gently bounce the tree on the cut end. If a few interior needles come off, it is probably fresh; if many exterior needles fall off, choose a different tree.
  3. Remove and crush a few needles in your hand, if there is little scent choose another tree.
  4. The tree should have even coloration 360° around and needles should be fresh (shiny, green) and not old (dried out, brown).

When you and your tree get home:

  1. Protect Your Floor– Place a plastic or other waterproof covering on the floor where your tree will stand so you don’t ruin the carpet or get watermarks on hardwood flooring.
  2. Put down waterproof coverings or plastic sheeting under the tree skirt to prevent ruining the carpet or hardwood floor if water is spilled.
  3. Make a fresh cut at the base of the tree, take off ½” from the base so that tree can absorb more water (slows needle drop and helps maintain tree color) and immediately place the tree upright in the stand with lukewarm water.
  4. Trim any low-hanging branches that hit furniture or are too thin for ornaments parallel to the floor. Keep them in a bucket of water before using as decorations.
  5. Secure your tree to the wall or heavy furniture if you have pets and children that could knock it over or heavy ornaments that may sway the tree.
  6. Ensure that your tree stand always has water in it.
  7. Take a photo of your tree when set up and secured as a reminder for the following year.

After the holidays:

  1. Recycle your tree through your local waste management company.
  2. Trees can also be chipped for mulch. Never burn your tree because of the likelihood of starting a fire.

Examples of holiday tree types:

Examples of holiday tree types*click image to enlarge

Which Real Indiana Christmas Tree Will You Select? – Got Nature?, Purdue FNR-Extension
Living Christmas Trees For The Holidays and Beyond, The Education Store
Tips for First-Time Buyers of Real Christmas Trees, The Education Store
Growing Christmas Trees, The Education Store

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

Posted on December 4th, 2017 in Forestry, Got Nature for Kids, Wildlife | No Comments »

The Great Clearcut Controversy, FNR-549-WTeachers, parents and outdoor enthusiasts will want to download this free new Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources publication, The Great Clearcut Controversy.  In this inquiry-based teaching unit, students use real scientific data to investigate how a bird community and individual forest animals respond to a clearcut timber harvest. In this investigation, students: use scientific inquiry to gain knowledge and answer questions; apply that knowledge to the engineering design process; and design a viable management solution given the constraints and tradeoffs they discover. All materials used in the three lessons are easily accessible and free.

The Nature of Teaching, Purdue Extension
Got Nature? Podcast, Forestry and Natural Resources
Benefits of Connecting with Nature, The Education Store

Skye M Greenler, Graduate Research Assistant
Purdue University. Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Mike Saunders, Associate Professor of Ecology and Natural Resources
Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Got Nature?