Catch a Fish in the Black Belt, Alabama Black Belt Adventures Will Release a Prize

Photo: Will McGraw of Camden won the 2017 Alabama Black Belt Adventures Best Black Belt Fish Photo Contest. Email entries of fish caught in the Black Belt this year for 2018’s contest to photocontest@albbaa.org.

The Alabama Black Belt is a great place to spend time wetting a hook and hauling in a nice prize. Whether it’s a big bass or catfish or a feisty little bream, the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association wants to showcase the outdoor fishing fun with its annual Best Black Belt Fish Photo Contest, starting today.

ALBBAA will reward the top vote-getter in the Facebook contest with $100 worth of fishing gear. To be eligible, the fish must be caught in the Black Belt during 2018. The photo must be emailed to photocontest@albaa.org and the entrant must like the Facebook.com/ AlabamaBlackBeltAdventures page. Photos uploaded to Facebook are not eligible and Best Black Belt Fish Photo Contest winners from 2017 and 2016 are ineligible this year. Please include the name of the angler, the county where the fish was caught and a contact phone number with the email.

“The Black Belt has so many great fishing spots, both public and private, and we love seeing the smiling faces of the folks who enter our contest,” said ALBBAA Director Pam Swanner. “This contest is not about the biggest fish, it’s about recognizing the great times that can be enjoyed in our outdoors. Fishing together as a family creates fond memories that will last a lifetime and we want to share them on our Facebook page.”

Photos will be shared on Facebook.com/AlabamaBlackBeltAdventures and the winner will be selected based on the number of “likes” each photo gets.

“We encourage people from outside the Black Belt region to come visit for an adventure in discovering your favorite ‘honey hole,’” Swanner said. “Our website – AlabamaBlackBeltAdventures.org – offers information for both public fishing spots as well as outfitters and lodges in the area that can provide a great fishing experience.”

The contest will run through August 31 with the winner to be announced the first week of September 2018.

ALBBAA promotes and encourages ethical hunting and fishing practices. These contests were created to further educate the public on the abundance of natural resources found in Alabama’s Black Belt region.

The Black Belt includes the following counties: Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Russell, Sumter, Tuscaloosa and Wilcox.

The Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association is committed to promoting and enhancing outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities in the Black Belt in a manner that provides economic and ecological benefits to the region and its citizens. For information, go to www.alabamablackbeltadventures.org.

Alligator Registration Underway; Young Has Dilemma


PHOTOS: Rodney Young shows off his 13-foot alligator taken last year in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Young to help from, left to right, Gary Goins, Brad Goins, Tommy Antoine and Ashley Wilson to subdue the 667-pound gator.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

With the application process for the 2018 Alabama alligator seasons underway, Rodney Young is now faced with a dilemma.

No, it’s not that he isn’t going to apply again. He’s already done that. His problem is how to get the monster gator he and his team bagged last year into his house.

Young tagged a 13-foot gator that registered 667 pounds on the scale last year in the Southwest Zone, the largest gator of the year.

Young decided to have a full-body mount made and plans to put it in his home in Stapleton when the taxidermist is finished later this year.

“I’m going to put him in my man cave over the garage,” he said. “I’m hoping it’ll go up the staircase. If not, I’m going to have to get a crane or lift of some kind and put him through the window. I haven’t figured that out yet.”

Young and his team faced a similar situation last August during their gator hunt in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Young admits they were lucky to find a big gator because they hadn’t done any scouting.

“We were just rolling the dice, running up and down the rivers,” Young said. “We saw a bunch of 10-footers. This was my first hunt. I was out with some buddies of mine who had been on several hunts through the years. We’d see one and my buddy Gary Goins would say, ‘Nah, ain’t big enough.’”

About 2 a.m., the team was running up the Tensaw River when one of the crew shined a light on the bank and spotted a big gator in a man cave of his own.

“All we could see was the tip of his nose and his eyes,” Young said. “But we knew right then it was a good one. We were probably 100 yards away, but we knew we were onto something.

“He was in what looked like a little cove. The way the willows were, it created a little pocket and trees had grown over the top. We were having to cast sideways. We’d hit limbs and trees, and the gator would go down. That happened four times. We’d fool with him, and he’d go down. We’d back out in the river and watch for him. About 30 minutes later, he’d pop back up.”

Then the big gator made a fatal mistake. He abandoned his cove.

“We were setting up to watch him again when one of the guys yelled, ‘He’s running,’” Young said. “He was tired of us fooling with him, and he came out into the river. We spun around and got two lines in him. That was an hour-and-a-half into the process. Of course, then the fight was on. He’d go down. We tried to keep two lines on him with treble hooks. He’d spin and pop one off. Then we’d get another one in him.”

After the team finally got the gator under the boat, Young donned a pair of gloves and grabbed the large line with a snatch hook. Young hooked the gator but it didn’t come up right away.

“When he finally got to the surface, his head came completely out of the water,” he said. “That’s the first time we got a good look at him, and we realized we had a monster.”

The team finally wore the big gator down and secured him to the side of the boat at 5 a.m. Young dispatched the gator with one shot.

“At that point, we were as worn out as he was,” Young said.

Then Young’s team was faced with another dilemma. They were in Goins’ Blazer Bay boat because of motor problems on their boat that was designated for gator hunting, and Goins didn’t want the gator messing up his almost-new boat.

“He told us, ‘We can take the Blazer Bay, but we’re not putting that gator in the boat,’” Young said. “We said, okay we’ll tie him off. Bear in mind, we shot that gator at 5 o’clock. We realized we would never make it back to the weigh station before it closed if we had to go back to the launch and then drive to the Causeway.

“Gary was sitting there with his head in his hands. Finally, he said, ‘The heck with it. Put him in the boat.’ We didn’t bat an eye. We weren’t going to give him a chance to change his mind, so we started pulling the gator in the boat. It took all five of us to get him in the boat. Then four of us had to go to the bow of the boat to get the boat up on plane. But we got to the weigh station in time.”

Although Young has applied for a tag this year, he said he knows the point system implemented in 2014 will put him at the bottom of the list for 2018.

“I’m not holding out a lot of hope,” he said. “I figure it’ll take another two or three years to get another tag. It took me seven years to get the first one.”

Chris Nix, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries’ Alligator Program Coordinator, said a preference points system was implemented for the 2014 season, and it is working as expected. For each year an applicant fails to draw a tag, the points are cubed with a point added for the current year.

“If you have applied since 2014 and haven’t been drawn, you will have 65 points now,” Nix said. “It’s not guaranteed, but those people are highly likely to get drawn now. The longer the point system is in place, the quicker the turnover for people who haven’t gotten a tag.”

To ensure that new applicants have a shot at a tag, Nix said that 85 percent of the tags are filled with applicants with preference points and the remaining 15 percent are allocated to those with no points. Once a person is drawn, the preference points are zeroed out. Preference points are also lost if the person fails to apply for a tag.

Nix said the 2018 alligator season parameters are the same as last year with 260 total tags statewide – 150 in the Southwest Zone, 50 in the West Central Zone, 40 in the Southeast Zone and 20 in the Lake Eufaula Zone. Hunting is from sunset to sunrise.

Season dates for the Southwest Zone and the West Central Zone are sunset on August 9 until sunrise on August 12 and sunset on August 16 until sunrise on August 19. The Southwest Zone includes private and public waters in Baldwin and Mobile counties and private and public waters in Washington, Clarke and Monroe counties that lie east of U.S. Highway 43 and south of U.S. Highway 84. The West Central Zone includes private and public waters in Monroe (north of U.S. Highway 84), Wilcox and Dallas counties.

The Southeast Zone season opens at sunset on August 11 and runs until sunrise on September 3. The Southeast Zone includes private and public waters in Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston and Russell counties (excluding public Alabama state waters in Walter F. George Reservoir/Lake Eufaula and its navigable tributaries).

The Lake Eufaula Zone includes public state waters only in the Walter F. George Reservoir/Lake Eufaula and its navigable tributaries south of Alabama Highway 208 at Omaha Bridge (excludes Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge). The Eufaula season dates are from sunset on August 17 through sunrise on October 1.

An 8-foot restriction on harvest is in effect for the Lake Eufaula Zone. The other zones have no size restrictions.

Registration continues until 8 a.m. on July 11. After a computer-controlled drawing, entrants can find out if they drew a tag after noon on July 11 by logging on at the same page where they registered at www.outdooralabama.com/alligators/alligator-hunt-registration. Those who are drawn will have seven days to confirm the tags and are required to attend a zone-specific training class with a couple of exceptions.

“If you’ve taken the class as a tag holder or alternate in the Southwest Zone or West Central Zone, you’re exempt from having to take it again,” Nix said. “If your tag is in the Southeast Zone or Lake Eufaula Zone, the class is mandatory every year. We do that because of the contiguous zones with Georgia and the Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge, which is off-limits.”

Nix said between 60 and 70 percent of the tags are filled annually, but it’s not because of a lack of alligators, especially in the Southwest Zone.

“We could have a 100-percent success rate in the Southwest Zone every year,” he said. “People pass up gators they wish they had tagged. It’s just like deer hunting. Most people don’t shoot the first buck that walks into the field. People usually don’t take the first alligator they see.

“But to each his own. We had a couple that brought in two 4-footers last year, and they were as happy as could be.”

Bat Blitz Highlights Role in Alabama’s Ecosystem

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

(David Rainer) Two common bat species in Alabama are the evening bat, left, and big brown bat. Vicky Smith of A-Z Animals shows off the big brown she uses during her bat presentations. Flanked by Nick Sharp and Smith, Abigail Odom of Eufaula is awarded the first-place ribbon in the youth art contest for her watercolor of a fruit bat.


Despite the stigma caused by countless Dracula movies, a dedicated group of naturalists continues to demonstrate its love for the animal with a face only a mother could love. Those enthusiasts express their devotion to the bat, nature’s only flying mammal, all the way down to the bat jewelry.

Bat lovers met recently at Lakepoint State Park near Eufaula for the annual Bat Blitz, a celebration of the small animal that can sometimes be spotted zooming around street lights at dusk, dining on a smorgasbord of insects.

Nick Sharp of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division said this year’s Blitz was a joint exercise for bat biologists and enthusiasts from Alabama and Georgia. The Blitz is a collaborative effort of all the Alabama Bat Working Group (ABWG) members. Jeff Baker from Alabama Power and Shannon Holbrook from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service served as co-chairs of the Bat Blitz committee.

Alabama State Lands Division’s Jo Lewis said the recent gathering was the 17th annual meeting of the ABWG, an informal affiliation of bat biologists and enthusiasts from many state, federal and private agencies across the state. The group holds the Bat Blitz in different areas of the state each year to sample the bat populations in those areas with mist nets deployed at night.

“We’re looking for distribution information about what bats are in what areas of the state,” Lewis said. “We have 15 species of bats that are native to Alabama. Some only occur in the more southern portions of the state, and others only occur in the more northern portions of the state because of the different habitats in Alabama and our complex ecosystems.

“In the north part of the state, bats appear to be more numerous because of the karst geology with all the caves. In the south part of the state, we have a lot of bats, but they don’t congregate as much in caves. They’re referred to as forest bats. They roost in trees. They’re actually all around us, but we’re kind of oblivious to them. A little bat hanging in a tree snuggled up against a nook or branch, you’re never going to notice.”

The southeastern myotis is one bat species found in the south part of the state but not as often in the north. The Bat Blitz researchers found 16 southeastern myotis bats in a culvert on the first night of the event.

Another bat more common in the southern part of the state is the Mexican freetail. Sharp said the fast-flying bat is now most often found in attics because most of the large, hollow trees it historically used have been cut down.

A bat that is found in the northern part of the state but not the southern part is the northern longear, a protected species. Gray bats, also protected, are found in north Alabama. The most common species throughout the state is the big brown bat.

Currently, the biggest concern for the bat enthusiasts is the condition known as white nose syndrome, a fungal infection that has killed more than six million bats in North America.

“Nobody knows right now how white nose syndrome affects the tree bats,” Lewis said. “We’re hoping it doesn’t affect them because they don’t roost together as much and are less likely to spread the infection.

“We do have confirmed cases of white nose in most of the northern counties, as far south as Bibb County near Birmingham.”

Lewis said it is very difficult to determine how much the syndrome has affected the populations in north Alabama because of the labor-extensive requirements to do those studies.

“From personal observation in a cave that I’ve been monitoring for the past 10 years, it followed the classic series of events associated with the disease, and it truly decimated the population,” she said. “A tenth of the number of bats that used to be there are there now. I used to count hundreds of tri-colored bats in there. Now, we’re counting 30. It has definitely affected that bat population.”

Sharp said data from nine caves in north Alabama monitored from 2010 to 2017 indicate a reduction of tri-colored bats by 70 to 95 percent. He said counts at two Indiana bat hibernacula over that time period are down 95 percent.

Bats are predators and eat huge numbers of insects, which can be disease vectors. They eat mosquitoes, which can carry several diseases, including Zika. Some of the insects the bats are eating are pest species that damage crops in the state.

“Their simple presence can deter pest species from infesting crops,” Lewis said. “If you have bats working a field, you’re less likely to have insects that are going to eat the corn.”

Sharp said bats provide at least $3.7 billion in pest control service to agriculture annually in the U.S., according to a 2011 scientific study.

Lewis said human-bat interaction most often occurs at dusk and dawn, especially around street lights, but bats are active all night.

“Bats will sometimes take a nap in the middle of the night,” she said. “But they’re not roosting. They’re just getting a little rest before they go back out and eat more insects. The street lights attract insects, so it’s kind of like McDonald’s for the bats.”

Another area of concern for bat researchers and the public in general is the fact that bats can be rabies vectors. Lewis said this adds to the stigma of bats but that rabies does not appear to occur at a higher rate in bats compared to other wildlife. Sharp said rabies studies in bats showed infection rates of less than one percent in wild animals.

“But there’s an extremely important distinction,” she said. “When humans encounter a bat, they are not interacting with the regular population of bats. They are interacting with a bat that is acting extremely abnormally because bats avoid us.”

Sharp said rabies can be transmitted by a bite from an infected animal or by bat saliva entering an open wound. Sharp and Lewis said to seek immediate medical advice if you suspect contact with a bat resulted in either of those situations. If the bat is incapacitated or captured, take the animal to have it tested for rabies.

“If you’ve had contact with a bat, it’s highly advisable to have that bat tested because rabies is 100-percent fatal if symptoms appear,” she said. “It’s just not worth the risk. Anybody who works with bats at the Blitz has pre-exposure vaccinations. Anybody who hasn’t had vaccinations cannot touch a bat. We’re having fun, but we have real rules that we will not bend.”

One of the presenters at the Bat Blitz was Vicky Smith of A-to-Z animals in Auburn. Smith, who has taught thousands of school kids about bats and their role in our ecosystems, dispelled several myths associated with bats.

“One is ‘blind as a bat,’” Smith said. “Bats are not blind. Bats have tiny eyes, but we’ve actually discovered something about their echolocation, the way they use sound waves to locate the insects. What we found was that once they get close, they zoom in with their eyes on the insect. When they scoop it to their mouth with a wing or their tail membrane, they use their eyes for up-close work. Another myth about their eyes is that light hurts their eyes. That’s not true.”

Another myth is that bats will get tangled in your hair, especially folks with long hair.

“Bats will come close to you,” she said. “You are not a food source, but you have attracted their food source by breathing out carbon dioxide, which attracts mosquitoes and other bugs. If the bat echolocates and sees a buffet flying around your head, he’s going to fly to that buffet. They will fly quite close to you in the dark, and that can be quite scary. We believe that’s how that myth got started.”

A misconception is that a bat, which belongs to the order Chiroptera (winged mammal), is just a mouse with wings.

“Bats are not rodents,” Smith said. “They are about the same size, but a bat typically gives birth to one pup per year. A little mouse about the same size can give birth to about 144 babies per year. Another difference is tooth structure. The teeth in a bat are more like dogs’ and cats’ with large canines to crunch the exoskeletons of the insects.”

Although outreach and education are important, Lewis said the main goal of the Blitz is to catch as many bats as possible to assess the population in that area.

For Lewis, catching bats during the Bat Blitz is just a continuation of her infatuation with the species.

“I’ve been doing this for 20-something years,” Lewis said, “and I still love it.”

Auburn University veterinarian uses acupuncture to treat horses for chronic pain, other conditions

An Auburn University equine veterinarian is having success treating horses with chronic pain and other conditions by using a form of integrative medicine—acupuncture.

Dr. Kara Lascola, an associate professor of equine internal medicine in the Department of Clinical Sciences, says acupuncture, a key component of traditional Chinese medicine, has been used in humans for over a thousand years.

“In veterinary medicine, it has become more widespread in just the last 10-15 years,” she said. “While it is probably used more commonly on dogs, I routinely use acupuncture on horses for pain management associated with musculoskeletal conditions—such as arthritis, and for treating neuropathies.”

Veterinarians must be trained and certified to practice acupuncture, and Auburn currently has small and large animal veterinary faculty certified to practice this technique: Dr. Stephanie Lindley, a clinical associate professor of medical oncology; Dr. Stuart Clark-Price, an associate professor of anesthesiology; and Dr. Amanda Taylor, an assistant professor of neurology.

“For me and some of my colleagues,” Dr. Lascola said, “our interest in acupuncture stemmed from frustration with the limited options available for treating pain in horses, particularly pain associated with chronic conditions.”

There are different approaches to explain how acupuncture works.

“According to traditional Chinese medicine, there are pathways in the body along which energy flows,” Dr. Lascola said. “As a very simplified explanation, illness results in imbalances of this flow of energy. Inserting needles into acupuncture points—which are located on or near these pathways—is believed to correct these imbalances in energy flow.

“The choice of which acupuncture points to use depends on the underlying problem as well as a variety of patient factors.”

Dr. Lascola says acupuncture can be an effective treatment method for a variety of conditions. “It has even been shown that acupuncture stimulates the body’s own release of endorphins, which are natural pain killing hormones,” she said. “Acupuncture also seems to stimulate circulation and may increase the pain threshold.”

Animals may respond differently to acupuncture therapy, and Dr. Lascola says lasting results involve a series of treatments that are typically tailored to meet the needs of the individual patient. “It is important to remember that acupuncture is not just a one-time treatment that produces long-term results,” she said. “Treatment involves a series of sessions to be effective.”

Dr. Lascola obtained her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 2003 from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, where she also achieved board certification in large animal internal medicine in 2007, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in 2008. She worked as an assistant and associate professor of equine medicine at the University of Illinois. She became certified in acupuncture in 2015 and is trained to perform acupuncture on horses as well as small animals. She joined Auburn’s equine faculty in January.

In addition to animal healthcare, Dr. Lascola and other faculty have also introduced the therapy in the classroom, lecturing on acupuncture to senior veterinary students. Written by Mitch Emmons.)

Black Bears on the Move in Alabama

By Davide Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Patrick Hill, Auburn University) Inshore fishing guide Patrick Hill found an unusual sight recently on a trip near Fort Morgan. He managed to take a couple of photos of a black bear swimming west in the south end of Mobile Bay. A trail camera captured a photo of a female bear with cubs, indicating a viable population is in that area.

When the photo popped up on my smartphone, I wasn’t sure what it was. Something was swimming in the south end of Mobile Bay, and I facetiously asked, “Killer whale?”

The reply came back, “Black bear.” I expanded the photo, and, yep, there was a telltale round, black ear. I knew this photo, taken by inshore fishing guide Patrick Hill, would go viral.

However, as rare as this sighting may be, this is not the first time it’s happened. About 20 or so years ago, a black bear swam the south end of Mobile Bay, hung out on the Eastern Shore a little while, and swam back to where he came from, probably headed toward a population of black bears in the Grand Bay area.

Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division Large Carnivore Coordinator Thomas Harms was not really surprised that a black bear took a shortcut recently, headed west from the Fort Morgan area.

“We have bear pictures from Orange Beach and Fort Morgan and the Weeks Bay area,” Harms said. “I think there is a corridor there. These bears sometimes just make a big loop.

“Bears are excellent swimmers. It was probably just a young male on the move.”

If anyone should see a bear, Harms said the main course of action is to remain calm and let the bear leave the area.

“There’s no need to freak out if you see a bear,” he said. “It’s kind of like my father taught me about chainsaws. He said don’t be scared of them but respect them. It’s the same thing with animals. If you’re scared of it, just like chainsaws, it has the potential to hurt you. With a bear, don’t fear it. When you see one, give it space and let it go away on its own.

“We’ve never had a bear attack in Alabama. It’s even rare in the states where the population densities of bears are much higher. Just give them space, and let them know you’re there. They don’t see very well and don’t hear very well. Say whatever you want to, just be loud and let them know you’re there. They will typically turn around and leave.”

Harms said the black bear males in Alabama can reach weights of 250-300 pounds and live to be 15-20 years old. Females usually weigh 150-200 pounds. Harms said the likely adult population of bears for the entire state is estimated at 300-400 animals. The population in northeast Alabama has a Georgia ancestry, while the southwest population has Florida roots.

He said a new small population has popped up in Conecuh National Forest in Escambia County.

“I’ve got pictures of a sow with cubs in Conecuh National Forest,” Harms said. “If you have a sow with cubs, you know you have a viable population of bears living there.”

Harms said the annual cycle for black bears starts in February when the sows drop their cubs. In April and May, the males start expanding their home range first, followed by the females with the yearling cubs. The year-old females will settle on the fringes of the mother’s home range, but the yearling males are run completely out of the area, which is when the bulk of the human contact occurs.

“These young males get pushed out by their mothers, and then they get pushed even farther by the adult males,” Harms said. “These males are young and dumb. If they detect a dominant male, usually by smell, they’ll keep moving until they find a place where they don’t detect any other males. These are typically the ones that get turned around and into the suburbs and cities.

“The bulk of the calls we get this time of year is these young males passing through people’s yards in downtown Birmingham. It happens every year. We had one in downtown Daphne. One went from Georgia, through Alabama, all the way to Mississippi. That bear may stay there, but it could turn around and come back.”

Right now, June and July is the breeding season for Alabama bears, which means the adult males will be on the move.

“The large adult males are looking around for receptive females this time of year,” Harms said. “June and July is when the adult males are moving the most. The home range for an adult male can be up to 59 square miles, depending on the habitat. For females, the home range is about 20 square miles.

“Habitat in the southwest part of the state is a lot better, which makes the home range smaller than in northeast Alabama. It’s just the type of habitat. You go from mountainous habitat in the northeast to bottomlands in the southwest with tons of fruits, berries and vegetation. The bears live in the bottomlands and use them for corridors. They go to the uplands to eat. But they’re never too far from water. In the southwest, they don’t have to go too far to the next drainage. In the northeast, they may have to cross a mountain. They have to go much longer distances to get the same benefits.”

Harms said the bears in Alabama have a 94-percent vegetarian diet. Because Alabama does not have harsh winters, the bears can thrive with much less protein in the diet. He said bears are opportunistic meat eaters if they stumble onto a whitetail fawn or surprise a rabbit.

“Bears can’t chase down a rabbit, and once a fawn is able to get up and run, the bear can’t chase it down,” he said. “Bears can reach speeds of 35 miles per hour, but only for very short distances. They are not very good predators. They will take advantage of any dead animals they come across, sometimes called carrion. Deer that succumb to the rigors of winter and the rut often become the main course for a lucky bear.”

Harms said bears in Alabama don’t really hibernate. During the few cold days of winter, he said bears will do like humans and stay inside, sleeping in their dens until the weather warms up again. The bears have put on the fat for the winter and rarely travel far from the den area until spring.

In areas where known bear ranges are adjacent to suburban subdivisions, Harms said homeowners need to make sure they don’t entice the bears to venture onto their property.

“In some of these subdivisions, people like to put up feeders so they can watch wildlife, like deer,” he said. “But there is a danger of bringing a bear near your house. You need to make sure that feeder is a few hundred yards away from the house. Make sure the bears can’t get to dog food or anything like that. If a bear constantly comes close to a house, it’s going to lose that fear of humans. Most bear attacks happen with bears that have lost their fear of humans. We need to avoid that.”

In instances when it’s not practical to keep food sources from the bears, Harms suggests using hot-wire fencing to deter the bears. Dogs bred to be guard dogs can also help keep bears at bay.

“But, you don’t want a dog that will chase the bear,” Harms said. “The dog will eventually catch up with the bear and may end up getting hurt when the bear turns around to defend itself.”

Harms said there is a common myth a bear will stand on its hind legs before attacking.

“The only reason bears get on their hind legs is to get their noses high in the air so they can smell you,” he said.

Harms said anyone with an interest in black bears can visit www.bearwise.org. The website is supported by the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA). The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries is a member of SEAFWA.

“The Bearwise website is a very good resource,” Harms said. “Any questions you have about black bears will be answered on that website.”

Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences research team discovers Zika-transmitting mosquito species in Alabama

Auburn University researchers have discovered the presence of Aedes aegypti—the primary mosquito that transmits Zika virus, yellow fever and other flaviviruses—in Alabama.

After a 26-year absence, Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Assistant Professor of Disease Ecology Sarah Zohdy and wildlife sciences undergraduate student Victoria Ashby have discovered the species in Mobile. Ae. aegypti was thought to have been eliminated from the state.

“Our CDC-funded research has not only allowed for the detection and molecular confirmation of the mosquito in the state, but over the last year we have documented the spread of the mosquito from central Mobile to all of Mobile County,” Zohdy said.

The study was conducted from July 2016 to September 2017. Mosquitoes were collected twice a month from the grounds of various tire shops, gas stations, abandoned buildings and open containers quantified to estimate larval abundance. A total of 1,074 mosquitoes were collected, with Ae. aegypti being detected most commonly in the 36606 area code of southwest Mobile, where there were more open containers than any other area in the city.

Since 1991, Ae. aegypti was thought to have been displaced in Alabama by another container-breeding mosquito, Ae. albopictus, because Ae. albopictus larvae are better competitors with resource-limited habitats and the males are capable of mating with Ae. aegypti and rendering the females sterile. Despite these advantages, Mobile is the ideal habitat for Ae. aegypti reintroduction or for remnant populations to persist because the city’s maritime traffic and its diverse mix of urban, suburban, rural and industrial environments allow the mosquito to find different habitats where it can either escape from Ae. albopictus or have the competitive upper hand.

The detection of Ae. aegypti confirms that Alabama residents could be at risk to contract several mosquito-transmitted diseases. “This work demonstrates that citizens of Alabama may be exposed to the mosquito vector of Zika, chikungunya and Dengue fever viruses,” Zohdy said.

Zika virus spreads to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). Female mosquitoes become infected by ingesting microbes from a person’s blood while biting them and then passing those microbes to the next person’s blood stream. Once infected, the mosquito is then thought to remain infected and able to pass on the virus throughout the remainder of its life, or about two to four weeks. During this period they may take three to four blood meals, biting up to four or five people during their lifespan. Ae. aegypti is particularly problematic because it will also bite during the day and is very adaptive to different environments.

Specific geographic areas of greatest risk are correlated to the existence of the Aedes species. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, has developed estimated-range maps using models that predict potential geographic ranges where the Zika-transmitting mosquitoes would likely survive and reproduce based on local and historical records and suitable climate variables. According to the 2017 maps, the Zika-transmitting mosquito species are very likely to exist throughout the southeastern U.S. and as far west as California and as far north as Delaware.

Despite the state of Alabama being an ideal habitat for mosquitoes that transmit Zika virus, very little mosquito surveillance data has been collected from around the state. Zohdy said that because of their research efforts and the discovery of Ae. aegypti, her team is now working with the Alabama Department of Public Health.

According to the CDC, there were 449 symptomatic Zika virus disease cases reported within the U.S. in 2017, with three reported in Alabama and two in Georgia. The majority of cases were instances of travelers contracting the disease from affected areas. Seven cases were acquired through presumed local mosquito-borne transmission, including two in Florida and five in Texas.

Zohdy’s team is now conducting research in all 67 counties in Alabama to determine how widespread Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus are across the state.

In an effort to crowd-source mosquito surveillance data around the state, Zohdy’s research team has partnered with Prakash Lab at Stanford University to develop and implement an app called “Abuzz,” which will allow Alabama citizens to record the sound of a mosquito flying. From this recording, the app can identify the species of mosquito and whether or not that species could potentially carry a disease by the sound of the buzzing of its wings.

Once deployed, the app can empower volunteer “citizen scientists” to participate in mosquito surveillance to help researchers increase the volume and locations of data collection. “Alabama has had little mosquito surveillance in the past and we hope this app can change that to make it the best sampled state in the nation,” Zohdy said.

Zohdy and her team also surveyed Mobile residents to gain insight about their perceptions of Zika virus and the best ways to target mosquito prevention. Of those responses, 70 percent reported a moderate to very high density of mosquitoes in their home and over half of those surveyed said they feel concerned to extremely concerned that they or a family member might contract Zika virus.

“To help mitigate the threat of the Zika virus it is critical to understand local knowledge and behavioral factors related to exposure to the mosquitoes,” said Wayde Morse, an Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences associate professor of human dimensions, who participated in the research efforts.

The results of the research efforts were published April 5 in the Journal of Medical Entomology, a scientific journal that historically publishes important information regarding mosquito surveillance. “Having this research published is a good way to reach people who study mosquitoes and other disease vectors,” Zohdy said.

Victoria Ashby, a sophomore studying wildlife sciences with a pre-veterinary medicine concentration, has worked with Zohdy’s research team for over a year and now leads fieldwork efforts. “My fieldwork has consisted of biweekly trips down to the Mobile Bay area in order to aspirate for adult mosquitoes and collect larvae using larval dip cups at 25 different sites in 12 zip codes,” she said.

After graduation, Ashby plans to attend graduate school to continue on the path of disease ecology research and later attend veterinary school. “I have a strong interest in veterinary epidemiology and public health and throughout my time so far at Auburn, my involvement in the disease ecology lab with Dr. Zohdy has really shaped my academic interests and ambitions,” she said.

Though Zika virus is primarily spread by infected Aedes species mosquitoes, the disease can also be transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person or from an infected pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy or at birth.

There is no vaccine to prevent Zika, but the CDC recommends the best way to avoid contracting the disease is to protect yourself from mosquito bites by these tips:

Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
Take steps to control mosquitoes inside and outside your home by minimizing standing water in containers in and around the home.
Treat your clothing and gear with permethrin or buy pre-treated items.
Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. Always follow the product label instructions. When used as directed, these insect repellents are proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Do not use insect repellents on babies younger than 2 months old. Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years old.
Mosquito netting can be used to cover babies younger than 2 months old in carriers, strollers, or cribs to protect them from mosquito bites.
Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.
Prevent sexual transmission of Zika by using condoms or not having sex.

To report suspected illness or to learn more about mosquito-borne disease prevention methods, visit https://www.cdc.gov/zika/.

To read more about Zohdy’s research findings with the Journal of Medical Entomology, visit https://academic.oup.com/jme/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jme/tjy050/4962143?searchresult=1.

To learn more about the Abuzz app, go to http://abuzz.stanford.edu/.
(Written by Maggie Smith.)
Hurricane season starts June 1; make sure you are prepared

This Friday, June 1, marks the start of the 2018 hurricane season and Alabama has already experienced an early taste of what may be in store.

Subtropical Storm Alberto brought heavy rains and gusty winds as it pushed through the state on Tuesday. The storm, which made landfall late afternoon Memorial Day on the Florida Panhandle, also caused widely scattered outages in Alabama, with winds bringing tree limbs down onto power lines. Alabama Power crews moved quickly Tuesday to restore power as soon as conditions were safe to do so.

The arrival of the season’s first named storm – before the season has officially begun – points to early predictions that suggest the number and strength of storms this year could be slightly higher than average.

The early forecast from the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State calls for 14 named storms in the Atlantic, with half reaching hurricane strength. It predicts three will become “major” hurricanes of Category 3 or higher, with sustained winds over 110 miles per hour.

After a decade of relative quiet, last year’s hurricane season closed with three devastating storms – Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria – which caused widespread damage in Texas, the Florida Keys and Puerto Rico. In all, there were 17 named storms last year. Damage estimates mark the 2017 season as the costliest in U.S. history, with more than $250 billion of losses – far surpassing 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina.

Alabama Power storm restoration experts watch the weather closely during hurricane season – and all year long – to ensure crews are ready to respond when severe weather strikes.

Alabama Power customers also should take steps to be ready for the upcoming hurricane season.

Preparing for a hurricane:

Know the hurricane evacuation routes from your home.
Determine where your family will meet, should you become separated.
Make sure you have a way to contact loved ones outside of the affected zone.
When a storm is predicted, keep cellphones and other electronic devices charged.
Stay informed with a battery-operated weather radio.* Stock an emergency kit with flashlights, batteries, first-aid supplies, prescriptions, cash and copies of critical information.
* Keep a three-day supply of water – 1 gallon per person per day – and three days’ supply of nonperishable food.
* If you live in a coastal area, cover windows and reinforce garage doors. Storm shutters are ideal but windows can be safeguarded with plywood.
* Trim shrubs and trees close to your home.
* Turn down the thermostat in your home. It can help keep your home cool for up to 48 hours during a power outage.
* Bring in outdoor items, such as patio furniture, decorations and garbage cans.

During a hurricane:
* Seek shelter in a sturdy building, away from windows and doors.
* Monitor your weather radio for updates and reports.

After a hurricane:

Stay off flooded roads.
If there is a power outage or downed line, call Alabama Power’s automated reporting system at 1-800-888-APCO (2726) or report it online at www.alabamapower.com. Stay away from downed lines and keep pets away.
Stay clear of damaged and fallen trees where a downed line may be hidden.
Check for property damage. Take photos for insurance purposes.
Check perishable foods and tap water for contamination.

For more information about storm safety, visit http://alabamanewscenter.com/storm-safety/ or the National Weather Service Hurricane Preparedness Week 2018 website, https://www.weather.gov/wrn/hurricane-preparedness.

Alabama Power, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE:SO), provides affordable, reliable electricity to more than 1.4 million customers across the state. Learn more at www.alabamapower.com.

PAIS spraying for cogon grass in Sumter: how to get help
The PAIS (Partners Against Invasive Species) Project, a collaboration between the University of West Alabama and the Sumter County Soil and Water Conservation District, is underway and they are currently spraying cogon grass. Cogon grass is spreading rapidly across Alabama and the Southeast, reducing forest productivity, destroying wildlife habitat, encroaching in pasture and hay land, and impacting rights-of way. If left unchecked, it can quickly become the dominant understory, choking out desirable vegetation. If you have cogon grass on your property, someone will spray a maximum of five, four-gallon backpacks. Please contact Mandee Carrier at 205-652-5105 to be added to the list.

Open Woods Weeks Announced for Sipsey River Recreation Area

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) State Lands Division has scheduled four Open Woods Weeks at the Forever Wild Sipsey River Complex located in Tuscaloosa County near Buhl, Ala. This outdoor recreation area features 7,155 acres of beautiful bottomland forest along the Sipsey River.

The Open Woods Weeks are scheduled for June 15-24, July 13-22, August 10-19, and September 7-16. Canoeing, birding, fishing, picnicking and wildlife photography are welcome on these dates. Those wanting to hike, bike and horseback ride during these Open Woods Weeks should be aware that there may be an increase in vehicle traffic.

During Open Woods Weeks, the public is welcome to drive into the Sipsey River complex along the main gravel road leading from the Jack’s Drive parking area to the south gate. The main gate will be open from 4 p.m. on Friday and remain open through the following week until 4 p.m. Sunday.

In the event the Sipsey River is out of its banks and flooding the roads, the dates will be rescheduled.

For more information about the Forever Wild Sipsey River Complex including directions, visit www.alabamaforeverwild.com/sipsey-river-complex.

ADCNR promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Marion 4-H
Just wanted to let you all know that these summer events are open to all youth ages 9-18. http://offices.aces.edu/marion/2018-4-h-summer-day-camps/ Submitted by Rebecca Danley

Alabama Department of Public Health issues 2018 fish consumption advisories

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) annually updates fish consumption advisories based on data collected the preceding fall by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM).

ADEM, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources collected samples of specific fish species for analysis from various waterbodies throughout the state during the fall of 2017 (421 samples; 36 collection stations). ADPH assessed the analytical results to determine whether any of the tested contaminants in the fish may give rise to potential human health effects.

Fish consumption advisories are issued for specific waterbodies and specific species taken from those areas. In reservoirs, advisories apply to waters as far as a boat can be taken upstream in a tributary, that is, to full pool elevations.

Newly issued advisories will be represented as the safe number of meals of that species of fish that can be eaten in a given period of time, such as meals per week, meals per month or do not eat any. A meal portion consists of 6 ounces of cooked fish or 8 ounces of raw fish.

New and updated consumption advisories issued for the 36 bodies of water tested can be found on the ADPH website: http://alabamapublichealth.gov/tox/fish-advisories.html

The advice contained in this release and complete listings of the posted fish consumption advisories are offered as guidance to individuals who wish to eat fish they catch from various waterbodies throughout the state. No regulations ban the consumption of any of the fish caught within the state, nor is there a risk of an acute toxic episode that could result from consuming any of the fish containing the contaminants for which the state has conducted analyses.

A fish consumption advisory can be issued for one or more specific species of fish within a waterbody or an advisory can be extended to include all fish species within that waterbody. When excess levels of a contaminant are found in a specific species of fish, an advisory is issued for that specific species. For example, if an advisory had been issued for largemouth bass and not for channel catfish, it would be advised that individuals should not eat largemouth bass, but consumption of channel catfish is permissible without endangering health.

When excess levels of a contaminant are found in multiple fish species sampled from a specific waterbody, a Do Not Eat Any advisory is issued. Consumption of any fish from a specific waterbody under a Do Not Eat Any advisory may place the consumer at risk for harm from the contaminant.

If a species is listed in the advisory, it is prudent to assume that similar species with similar feeding habits should be consumed with caution. For example, if black crappie is listed and white crappie is not, because they are in the same family, all crappie would fall under the listed advisory.

CAB Discusses Snapper, CWD and Turkeys

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Three species – red snapper, Eastern wild turkeys and white-tailed deer – dominated the discussion at the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board (CAB) Meeting last weekend in Tuscaloosa.

With the red snapper recreational season opening on June 1, Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), thanked Marine Resources and other proponents of a longer red snapper season for Alabama’s potential 47 days of fishing for the state’s most popular reef fish.

“The Gulf states were granted exempted fishing permits to be able to manage the red snapper fishery, recreationally, off our coast,” Blankenship said. “That was done primarily because of good work by Sen. (Richard) Shelby that included language in legislation that allowed the permits. The exempted fishing permits were worked on by Marine Resources Director Scott Bannon and Kevin Anson, our chief biologist at Marine Resources. Our state (private recreational) season will be Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, starting June 1 and that runs through Labor Day. It will also include the whole week of the Fourth of July. That ends up being 47 days. It could be longer if we have bad weather and the catch is reduced, or it could be shortened by a few days if our catch is above what we are projecting. I do want to commend Scott and Marine Resources for getting that done in a short period of time to be approved by NOAA Fisheries for this year. We will also manage that fishery next year.”

Alabama’s charter fleet remains under federal jurisdiction. The charter season is set for June 1 through July 21.

Bannon explained after the meeting that one of the reasons the exempted fishing permits were approved is the Alabama Red Snapper Reporting System, more commonly known as Snapper Check. The system requires anglers who land red snapper in Alabama to report their catches before the fish are removed from the vessels. Anglers have three ways to report catches: the Outdoor AL app for smartphones, online at outdooralabama.com or by paper reporting forms at select public boat ramps.

The Outdoor AL app has been totally revamped for the 2018 season. The Pocket Ranger app previously used is no longer viable. The new Outdoor AL app must be downloaded onto your smartphone.

“The new Snapper Check will have an offline function, which had been requested by the fishing community so they can submit their report even when they don’t have a cell signal,” Bannon said. “When they do get a cell signal, the system will automatically upload their snapper report. This eliminates any excuse not to report. You can report anywhere. You can report as soon as you catch your fish offshore, or you can report before you remove the snapper from your boat upon landing. We are excited about that portion of it.”

Bannon said anglers still are required to report their snapper catches even if they interacted with Marine Resources personnel.

“Being surveyed by the Marine Resources biological staff at the boat ramp is not considered reporting your fish,” he said. “Additionally, if anglers have been interviewed by enforcement, either stopped while underway or checked at the boat ramp, that is not considered reporting either. You still must report your catch.

“The new Outdoor AL app will also have a tab to review your snapper reports for the year.”

Snapper Check will require the number of red snapper caught and retained. Other questions include where the fish were landed, Mobile or Baldwin County, whether the boat landed at a private or public access point, whether the boat is a charter or private recreational vessel, how many anglers were on the boat and how many dead discards were observed during the fishing day. Dead discards are red snapper that are caught and released and do not survive.

“Dead discards are in the management plan,” Bannon said. “The feds account for that, and Marine Resources accounts for that to give us the data point for fish mortality.”

New this year is the ability for anglers to report their catches of gray triggerfish and greater amberjack.

“Triggerfish and amberjack are two hot topics,” Bannon said. “They are highly desirable species. There are pending changes in the management of amberjack, and we made some changes to triggerfish. We would like to gather more real data on what fish are being landed in Alabama.”

The gray triggerfish limit was reduced to one fish per person with a minimum size of 15 inches fork length. The amberjack limit is one per person with a minimum size of 34 inches fork length.

Amberjack and triggerfish seasons close on June 1 and are scheduled to reopen on August 1.

In wildlife news, a significant threat to Alabama’s deer hunting tradition occurred last season when a 4½-year-old buck in west-central Mississippi tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD), which is always fatal. Mississippi has tested more than 1,400 deer since October 2017 and no other animals have been detected with CWD. Louisiana has also conducted extensive testing inside the 25-mile CWD containment zone, which crosses the Mississippi River, and none of those animals have tested positive for CWD.

Since that positive test, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) officials have been working rapidly to update the plan to deal with CWD if necessary.

“I’m happy to report we have finished the revision to our surveillance and response plan for chronic wasting disease as to what we would do and how we would respond if CWD were ever discovered here,” Blankenship said. “There was a lot of great work by Keith (Gauldin, Wildlife Section Chief), other people in the Wildlife Section, along with people in our Enforcement Section. Our staff has also researched what was happening around the country to help us put a plan together to take the best and most relevant science to ensure our state is ready, one, to keep it out of our state, and two, that we are ready to respond in the unfortunate case that CWD is detected in Alabama.”

The updated response plan is available online at www.outdooralabama.com. Type chronic in the search box to pull up the link to “Chronic Wasting Disease – What You Should Know.”

Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan, who sits as an ex-officio member on the Advisory Board, said the CWD testing equipment that was recently purchased with funds provided by WFF has been certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The technician tasked with operating the equipment, which can test up to 90 samples per day, has also been certified.

“Now we are no longer dependent on anybody to get those tissue samples tested,” Blankenship said. “We are self-contained in Alabama. We don’t have to wait on anybody. We take our samples to the Department of Agriculture lab at Auburn University. We will get those test results quickly and be able to respond as soon as possible. I appreciate the partnership with the Department of Agriculture as well as the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to make sure we have a robust response plan.”

WFF Director Chuck Sykes highlighted the potential devastating effects CWD could have on Alabama. Sykes has been traveling around the state to speak at seminars hosted by ALFA (Alabama Farmer’s Federation) and the Alabama Treasure Forest Association. The next seminar is scheduled for Monroeville on May 29 and another is set for Tuscaloosa on June 7.

“We’re not trying to scare people to death,” Sykes said. “We want them to be informed that this is a serious issue. I don’t want to pour water on anybody’s issues here, but dog hunting, baiting, night hunting, poaching, all of that pales in comparison to problems we’re going to have if CWD ever gets in the state. As Commissioner McMillan says, we all need to band together. This is not a dog hunter issue or a private landowner issue. This is a hunter issue. I encourage your friends, families and hunting partners to come to one of the seminars and listen and ask questions.

“Misinformation is running rampant out there right now. We need to get the right information out there.”

CAB member Jessica Butler of Scottsboro introduced motions that would change turkey season for the 2018 fall and 2019 spring turkey seasons. Butler’s first motion proposed a change to the starting date of the spring season from March 15 to the third Saturday in March, which could range from March 15 to March 21. After discussion, the Board passed the motion.

Butler’s second motion to reduce the season bag limit from five birds to four led to considerable debate among the Board members. At the conclusion of the discussion, the Board voted down the reduced bag limit by a 7-4 margin.

US beekeepers lose four of every 10 managed colonies in 2017-18

The nation’s beekeepers lost 40 percent of their managed honey bee colonies between April 1, 2017, and March 31, 2018, an increase of almost 7 percentage points from the previous year’s total loss rate, results of an annual nationwide survey show.

Greater colony mortality during the 2017-18 winter months pushed the overall loss rate higher, with survey respondents reporting a 30.7 percent rate of loss from October to April. That is up significantly from 2016-17’s record low of 21.1 percent and is 2.8 percent higher than the 10-year average winter loss rate.

“Winter is a critical period for honey bee colonies, as production of new bees slows or stops altogether,” said Geoffrey Williams, Auburn University assistant professor of insect pollination and apiculture and 2017-18 colony loss survey coordinator in cooperation with University of Maryland researchers. “There also can be a lack of food.”

Small-scale beekeepers typically have higher winter losses than their commercial counterparts, Williams said, and such was the case in 2017-18, with backyard beekeepers losing 46.3 percent of their colonies over the six-month period compared to sideline producers’ 38 percent rate of loss and commercial beekeepers’ 26.4 percent loss rate.

The survey also tracked summer-season colony mortality in 2017-18 and found that beekeepers lost 17.9 percent of their managed colonies, on par with the 2016-17 loss rate.

Especially interesting in this year’s survey results was the rate of colony loss that beekeepers deemed acceptable. The 2017-18 data set the acceptable loss rate at 20.6 percent, up from 18.7 percent in 2016-17 and the highest percent since the survey began in 2006-07.

“We don’t have a solid explanation of why that acceptable rate continues to climb, but it could be that beekeepers are being realistic about potentially higher losses,” Williams said. “For them, it could be the new norm.”

As of May 14, some 4,794 beekeepers who collectively manage 175,923 colonies, or 6.6 percent of the nation’s 2.67 million managed honey bee colonies, had responded to the survey, representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. The federally funded survey, conducted by the nonprofit Bee Informed Partnership, is open to every beekeeper in the country, including backyard, sideline and commercial producers, defined as those managing 50 or fewer colonies, 51 to 500 colonies and 501 or more colonies, respectively.

While several parasites, pests and diseases can contribute to colony mortality, the No. 1 enemy of honey bees and beekeepers in the U.S. and around the globe is the varroa mite. The external parasite is highly reproductive and can spread easily from one colony to the next, vectoring viruses as it feeds on adult and immature bees.

Bill Evans, a veteran backyard beekeeper in central Alabama, said management is key to preventing the devastating parasites.

“Some hobbyists think they can just put a couple of boxes of bees in their yards and forget about them till it’s time to go harvest some honey, but constant monitoring and sound management practices are absolutely necessary,” said Evans, a certified master beekeeper who, in his 25 years of beekeeping, has consistently and meticulously maintained 10 healthy colonies.

This was the 12th annual national winter colony loss survey, and the eighth survey to include yearly and summer loss rates as well. Beekeepers say the survey is an important tool for the industry.

“This survey is beekeepers’ chance to share their experiences with policymakers who keep thinking the ‘bee problem’ is over,” retired Florida beekeeper David Mendes said. “They need to know that bees and beekeepers are still in jeopardy and need help.”

Evans said statistics should also be a call to action for producers, especially backyard beekeepers, to be vigilant in monitoring and inspecting their colonies and to step up their management programs.

Results of the 2017-18 survey and all past surveys can be found at beeinformed.org. State-by-state colony loss data from the latest survey will be available in the coming weeks.

The Bee Informed Partnership plans to publish a 10-year analysis of survey results from 2007-08 to 2016-17 later this year. Written by Jamie Creamer.

Take precautions to prevent tick- and mosquito-borne diseases

As the days get longer and the kids get out of school, many Alabamians will be spending a lot more time outside. Warmer weather means lots of fun outdoor activities, but it also means tick and mosquito season. While most tick and mosquito bites are only an annoyance, sometimes these bites can be dangerous.

“Ticks and mosquitoes can transmit viruses and bacteria when they bite, causing illnesses that range from mild to severe or even fatal,” according to Sherri Davidson, interim state epidemiologist. West Nile virus disease, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are a handful of diseases Alabamians can get from ticks and mosquitoes in their own backyards.

Luckily, there are several things you can do to lower the risk of disease to you and your family. Dr. Dee Jones, state public health veterinarian, says, “The best way to avoid getting a disease from a tick or mosquito is to reduce the risk of being bitten.” You can help keep ticks and mosquitoes off of your skin and out of your yard by following these recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

• When going outdoors, use EPA-registered repellents containing 20 percent DEET on skin or permethrin on clothes. Follow label instructions carefully when using any repellent. Repellents should not be used on infants less than 2 months old.

• Wear loose-fitting long sleeves and long pants.

• Install or repair screens on windows and doors. Use air-conditioning, if available.

• Empty standing water from items outside homes such as flowerpots, buckets, old tires and children’s pools.

• Clean clogged gutters and clear drainage ditches and pipes of debris.

• Remove leaf litter from yard, and mow lawn frequently.

All Alabamians deserve a healthy, fun-filled summer! You and your family can safely enjoy all the great outdoor activities our state has to offer if you take steps to avoid mosquito and tick bites.

If you would like to learn more, check out the resources below.

• For more information on repellents, visit http://cfpub.epa.gov/oppref/insect

• For more information on prevalence and prevention of tickborne diseases in Alabama, visit http://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/infectiousdiseases/tickborne-diseases.html

• For more information on prevalence and prevention of mosquito-borne diseases in Alabama, visit http://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/mosquito/index.html

Registration for 2018 Alligator Hunts Opens June 5
Alabama issuing 260 tags in four hunting zones

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) will open online registration for the state’s 13th annual regulated alligator hunts on June 5 at 8 a.m. Registration must be completed by 8 a.m., July 11. A total of 260 Alligator Possession Tags will be distributed among four hunting zones. The administrative fee to apply for an Alligator Possession Tag is $22 and individuals may register one time per zone. While the tag is free, the selected hunters and their assistants are required to have valid hunting licenses in their possession while hunting.

Only Alabama residents and Alabama lifetime license holders ages 16 years or older may apply for tags. Alabama lifetime license holders may apply for an Alligator Possession Tag even if they have moved out of the state.

To register for the 2018 alligator hunts, visit www.outdooralabama.com/alligators/alligator-hunt-registration during the registration period listed above.

Hunters will be randomly selected by computer to receive one Alligator Possession Tag each (the tags are non-transferable). The random selection process will utilize a preference point system. The system increases the likelihood of repeat registrants being selected for a hunt as long as the applicant continues to apply. The more years an applicant participates in the registration, the higher the likelihood of being selected. If an applicant does not register for the hunt in a given year or is selected and accepts a tag for a hunt, the preference point status is forfeited.

Applicants can check their selection status after 12 p.m. on July 11. Those selected to receive a tag must confirm their acceptance online by 8 a.m., July 18. After that date, alternates will be notified to fill any vacancies. Applicants drawn for the hunt must attend a mandatory, zone-specific Alligator Training Course provided by the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. If hunters have attended a previous training course for their selected zone, they may be exempted from this requirement.

If selected for an Alligator Possession Tag at two or more locations, hunters must choose which location they would like to hunt. The slot for locations not chosen will be filled from a list of randomly selected alternates.

Hunting zones, total tags issued per zone and hunt dates are as follows:

Southwest Alabama Zone – 150 Tags
Locations: Private and public waters in Baldwin and Mobile counties, and private and public waters in Washington, Clarke and Monroe counties that lie east of U.S. Highway 43 and south of U.S. Highway 84. 2018 Dates: Sunset on August 9, until sunrise on August 12. Sunset on August 16, until sunrise on August 19.

Southeast Alabama Zone – 40 Tags
Locations: Private and public waters in Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston and Russell counties (excluding public Alabama state waters in Walter F. George Reservoir/Lake Eufaula and its navigable tributaries). 2018 Dates: Sunset on August 11, until sunrise on September 3.

West Central Alabama Zone – 50 Tags
Locations: Private and public waters in Monroe (north of U.S. Highway 84), Wilcox and Dallas counties. 2018 Dates: Sunset on August 9, until sunrise on August 12. Sunset on August 16, until sunrise on August 19.

Lake Eufaula Zone – 20 Tags
Location: Public state waters only in the Walter F. George Reservoir/Lake Eufaula and its navigable tributaries, south of Alabama Highway 208 at Omaha Bridge (excludes Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge). 2018 Dates: Sunset August 17, until sunrise October 1.

An 8-foot minimum length requirement is in effect for alligators harvested in the Lake Eufaula Zone. There is no minimum length for hunts in the other zones.

Hunting hours are official sunset to official sunrise in the Southwest, Southeast and West Central Zones. For the Lake Eufaula Zone, hunting is allowed both daytime and nighttime hours. All Alabama hunting and boating regulations must be followed.

The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is the largest reptile in North America and can exceed 14 feet in length and 1,000 pounds. Known for its prized meat and leather, the species was threatened with extinction due to unregulated harvest during the 1920s, 30s and 40s. No regulations existed in those days to limit the number of alligators harvested. In 1938, it is believed that Alabama was the first state to protect alligators by outlawing these unlimited harvests. Other states soon followed and, in 1967, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed the American alligator on the Endangered Species list. By 1987, the species was removed from the Endangered Species list and the alligator population has continued to expand. Its history illustrates an excellent conservation success story.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Auburn veterinary professor says ticks, fleas and mosquitoes not just a seasonal problem

Warmer weather is upon us and pet owners tend to think about tick and flea control for their dogs and cats. But according to a veterinary parasitology expert at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, this should not be just a seasonal concern.

“A tick problem is not just a summer problem,” said Dr. Lindsay Starkey, an assistant professor in the Department of Pathobiology whose veterinary medicine subspecialty is parasitology. “That is a common misconception. Fleas and ticks can survive in winter and some even indoors. Ticks can survive a cold, damp winter better than they can a hot, dry summer. Pet and other animal owners need to protect their animals year round.”

Dr. Starkey teaches a range of parasitology courses to first-, second- and fourth-year veterinary students. She also assists with the parasitology component of veterinary student’s diagnostics rotation that is part of their four-year clinical year of veterinary education.

“Parasitology is hugely important to veterinarians and for veterinary students to learn,” Dr. Starkey said. “Unfortunately, even with the good medications that we have, parasites are going to walk into the door of a veterinarian’s practice every day. And when it is fleas and ticks—these parasites can carry a number of potential pathogens, such as the bacteria that cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and plague.”

Parasite problems are particularly prevalent in the South, Dr. Starkey says, and it’s not only ticks and fleas that are vectors, but also mosquitoes. “Heartworm is incredibly common in the Southern states, but is found throughout the U.S. Dogs, and also cats and a few other animals, are infected through the bite of a mosquito,” she said.

Veterinary researchers continually work toward the development of better drugs for parasite control, and, currently, there are very good medications available for use in pets. However, Dr. Starkey says the need for precautions extends even to large animals and humans. She offers some suggestions for year-round precautions for parasite control for pets and their owners:

For Pets:
Year-round prevention using a veterinarian-recommended medication designed for treating and controlling fleas, ticks, heartworm and other parasites;
Check the pet routinely for evidence of a flea or tick infestation;
Treat the areas indoors and outside where the pet lives and plays;
Manage the outdoor environment to make it less conducive for harboring ticks, fleas and mosquitoes;
Remove standing water which serves as a breeding ground for mosquitoes;
“Tick-scaping,” which involves such techniques as chemical treatment, mowing and minimizing leafy areas that can harbor ticks and fleas in the yard.

For Humans:
Use a good insect repellant such as DEET or permethrin;
Wear long sleeves and long pants to protect against ticks and mosquitoes;
Tuck pant legs into the tops of shoes and boots;
Tuck in shirt tails;
And always self-check the body for ticks after being in a potential tick environment.

“Sometimes ticks are so small that it is nearly impossible to find them on your body,” Dr. Starkey said. “But when one has attached itself, there are safe ways to remove them. Use forceps or fine tweezers and grab the tick as close to the attached area on the skin as you can. Gently, but steadily pull the tick away from the skin to remove it and don’t twist or bend. Squeezing the tick may actually cause the tick to inject more toxins or pathogens back into the bite area.”

The same removal techniques apply to removing ticks from a pet, Dr. Starkey adds.

Symptoms that a pet owner should be watchful for that might indicate the animal has a parasite-borne illness includes fever, loss of appetite or limping.

“Concerned animal owners can save the removed tick in a plastic bag or other container and bring it into their veterinarian to have it identified or sent out for pathogen testing,” Dr. Starkey said. “And, always check thoroughly. If you find one tick, there very well might be more.” Written by Mitch Emmons.

The PAIS (Partners Against Invasive Species) Project, a collaboration between the University of West Alabama and the Sumter County Soil and Water Conservation District, is underway and they are currently in the preliminary phases of trapping hogs and spraying cogon grass.
They have started working with one type of hog trap, the Boar Buster. Since we are still in the information gathering stage, landowners are encouraged to complete a survey to assist with this project.
To find out more about the survey, you may contact Dr. John McCall at 652-3412 or Mandee Carrier at 652-5105.
Also, there will be a demonstration of two other hog traps next Thursday, May 24, at 3:30 p.m. in front of Lyon Hall. Landowners interested in the hog trapping program are encouraged to attend.

Aquarium Animals and Plants Should Never Be Released into the Wild

Teachers and pet owners should be aware that aquarium animals and plants should never be released into the wild. Releasing aquatic animals and plants is illegal, as they pose a threat to native species and ecosystems. While the environmental damage caused by invasive species throughout the United States is devastating, Alabama is especially vulnerable due to its abundant biodiversity and aquatic habitat.

When a non-native animal or plant is introduced into an ecosystem, the results are often unpredictable. The national Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force Strategic Plan indicates that “approximately 49% of imperiled species are endangered primarily because of predation or competition with exotic species.”

For example, the Island Applesnail was likely released into waters near Mobile Bay by an aquarium or ornamental pond owner. Biologists are concerned these snails will reduce the number of native aquatic plants necessary as food and habitat for birds and other aquatic organisms. The Island Applesnail can also host a parasite that affects humans.

The Oriental Weatherfish or Pond Loach is an exotic aquarium fish that has been found in Logan Martin Reservoir and tributaries of the Coosa River. This species has been found in the same waters as the native Coldwater Darter, although the threats to this protected species are currently unknown.

Once an invasive organism has become established, it is nearly impossible to eradicate. The control of invasive species is costly, so preventive measures such as properly disposing of unwanted aquarium animals and plants is a priority in preserving native ecosystems.

A pet store may be willing to take unwanted aquarium animals or plants. If a pet store will not take the aquarium animal, it will need to be euthanized. To properly dispose of aquarium animals and plants, they should be frozen, sealed in a plastic bag, and placed in the trash.

To learn more about invasive aquatic species in Alabama, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

ADCNR promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.


Can you recognize and identify the six venomous snakes that call Alabama home? With warmer weather here, these snakes will be more active. This poster can help you learn what they look like and where they are typically found. A free download of this poster can be found on ACES online here https://store.aces.edu/ItemDetail.aspx?ProductID=17880 and don’t forget to follow them on Facebook or see their press realeases on our Facebook @Recordjournal

Alabama Hunters Report Increase in Turkey Harvest

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
PHOTOS: (Chuck Sykes) Brothers Andrew Bell, left, and John Dawson Bell show off a pair of gobblers that were called in by Chuck Sykes near the end of the season. Sykes also guided Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship on his first turkey hunt, which was obviously successful.

The Game Check numbers from the recently completed wild turkey season are in, and a slight uptick in hunter success was indicated.

According to Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Director Chuck Sykes, those numbers need to be viewed with caution. Last year, hunters reported the harvest of 9,177 turkeys through the mandatory Game Check system. This year, the harvest reported was 9,628 birds.

“Statistically, that’s not a big difference,” Sykes said. “That’s not the number of turkeys that were killed in Alabama. That’s the number that were reported. I think about three times that amount were killed both years.

“Last year, we estimated about 40-percent compliance with Game Check. This year, some of our estimates are up around 65 percent. So, it depends on which guesstimate you want to go with. If it’s 40 percent, we’ve probably got plenty of turkeys. If it’s 65 percent, then, yes, we have a problem. And we won’t know until we get better compliance. For every call I get that says we don’t have any turkeys, I get another call that says it’s the best season they’ve ever had. Until we get concrete numbers, we have to do the best we can.”

Sykes, who was a professional hunting guide early in his conservation career, said his turkey season fit into that latter category of success.

“I had the best season I’ve had since I became director,” he said. “When we talked earlier in the season, I predicted the last two weeks of the season would be good. That’s exactly what happened. We burned them up the last two weeks.”

But that didn’t mean the season was typical for Sykes and his hunting partners. He said turkeys weren’t in their usual hangouts, which meant they had to cover a great deal of territory to find the turkeys.

“Last year, the first two weeks of the season couldn’t have been any better,” he said. “The last two weeks, I couldn’t buy a turkey. This year, the first two weeks were tough, but, as predicted, the last two weeks were great. Turkeys didn’t gobble good. There were still turkey tracks, and we found turkeys in places where we hadn’t found them before. You just had to get out and hunt them.”

Sykes said his turkey season diary from last year indicated that during the 16 days he hunted in March there were nine turkeys killed and three missed. The 20 days he hunted last year in April resulted in one kill and two misses. This year, Sykes hunted 13 days in March with five turkeys killed. In April, he hunted 19 days with seven turkeys harvested and a whopping five missed. Sykes said his days hunted often included hunting from 6-7:30 in the morning before he headed to the office or 6-7:30 in the evening.

“I have averaged a turkey being shot at every 2.3 days for the past 10 to 15 years,” Sykes said. “This year, that average was 1.8. Last year, during the month of April, I hunted bits and pieces of 20 days. I had one turkey killed. This year, that last 10 days I went to the woods, we just about shot at a turkey every day.

“I know I’m not the norm. I talked to some people who killed their limit (five per person per year) in March, and I know guys who didn’t kill a bird this year. It’s all site specific.”

In the Southeast, concerns that turkey populations are declining prompted WFF to contract with Auburn University for a five-year study on turkeys. This was the fourth year of the study.

WFF also enlisted a number of dedicated turkey hunters to participate in the Avid Turkey Hunters Program to report turkey activity witnessed in the field. The results are reported annually in the “Full Fans and Sharp Spurs” publication. Go to http://www.outdooralabama.com/turkey-hunting-alabama/turkey-research to read the report.

“Looking at ‘Full Fans and Sharp Spurs,’ our recruitment is not what it should be,” Sykes said. “The number of poults per hen is not where we want it, and the number of hens with no poults at all is definitely a lot higher than we want.”

Sykes said he heard the talk that ‘turkeys were gone’ four years ago. But when he looked at his hunting records, the turkey harvest was the same that year and this year.

“Numbers may be down, but I attribute the numbers being down where I used to have turkey to habitat changes,” he said. “Places that have stayed pastures and ag fields that I hunt, nothing has really changed around it, and the turkeys are fairly constant. But on our place outside Butler, 10 years ago we’d kill a couple a year on that 200 acres. I haven’t killed a turkey off that place since you and I went because we cut a bunch of mature timber, and longleafs are in their early stages of growth. I’m not saying the turkeys disappeared. I know why the turkeys aren’t there. The habitat changed. But in a couple of years when the habitat is back right, we’ll have turkeys again.”

Factors in turkey population changes include urbanization, unmanaged timber and predator numbers as well as the number of hunters who pursue turkeys these days.

“A lot of things have changed with hunters,” Sykes said. “You’ve got shotguns now that will kill a turkey at 70 yards. You’ve got decoys and pop-up blinds.

“There’s a big difference between turkey hunters and people who hunt turkeys. Turkey hunters can kill turkeys whether they’re gobbling or not, whether weather conditions are great or not. People who hunt turkeys can’t. Therefore, there is a perceived problem. I’m not saying that’s bad. We want more hunters. But sticking a decoy and a pop-up blind up in a food plot, that’s hunting turkeys, not being a turkey hunter.”

Sykes thinks that added pressure has resulted in a decrease in gobbling. He sees the evidence in tracks that the turkeys haven’t gone anywhere, but some hunters mistakenly surmise there aren’t any turkeys around when the birds don’t gobble.

“I hunted places this year where we’d go one day and hear eight turkeys,” he said. “Then it may be two weeks before you heard a turkey gobble again. That didn’t mean all of them died. It didn’t mean all of them packed up and left. For whatever reason, they didn’t gobble. Seriously, a lot of the turkeys we killed this year didn’t gobble but two or three times.

“Or, you get an old turkey on a hunting club that’s been shot at two or three times and spooked two or three times. He’s got every turkey in the area beat down where they won’t gobble. You’re not going to kill them. You can’t kill him without basically deer-hunting him. So, if you don’t kill him, you’re not going to have gobbling turkeys on that place. It doesn’t mean they’re gone. They’re just not vocal because of the hunting pressure and one old turkey.”

Back to the Game Check numbers, Jackson County in northeast Alabama led the way again in the number of turkeys reported killed with 340. The other counties with the highest harvests reported include Barbour, Dallas, Coosa and Pickens.

“I hunted Jackson County for one day for 30 minutes and called up a big one, so I’m not surprised,” Sykes said. “I probably hunted seven or eight counties this spring. How the hunts turned out depended on the day and where we were.”

Sykes said his hunting parties took a majority of older-age-class birds this year. Out of the 12 birds that Sykes witnessed being harvested, only two were 2-year-old birds. The other birds were 3- and 4-year-olds.

“And I saw quite a few jakes (year-old gobblers) this year,” he said. “That is encouraging.”

Sykes also got to introduce a colleague to the sport of turkey hunting. He took Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship, whose background is in marine fisheries, on his first turkey hunt.

“Chris lives a charmed life,” Sykes said. “He deer-hunted one afternoon last year and killed a 200-pound, seven-point that he got mounted. He wanted to go turkey hunting. I took him to a good place, and within 45 minutes of his first hunt, he harvested a good, 3-year-old bird. Granted, he takes direction well. He listened and did everything he needed to do. He killed his first turkey with a brand-new gun he had bought just for this hunt. So, we are creating hunters and creating people who support conservation by buying guns and ammunition.

“I applaud him for taking up something new. Being a fish guy, this was completely outside his comfort zone, and he did very well.”

Auburn University named first Bee Campus USA in Alabama

Bee Campus USA recently announced Auburn University as the first university in Alabama to be certified as an affiliate of the Bee Campus USA program, designed to marshal the strengths of educational campuses for the benefit of pollinators.

The university joins a group of 39 campuses nationwide, aiming to raise awareness of pollinators, food production, native plant species and integrated pest management, all while stimulating the nation’s economy through species protection and the services that those efforts support.

“Imperiled pollinators are responsible for the reproduction of 90 percent of the world’s wild plant and tree species,” said Phyllis Stiles, Bee Campus USA director. “Auburn University is a stellar example of the influence educational institutions can have on their students and the broader community. Their talented faculty, staff and students offer an invaluable resource for Alabama residents in seeking ways to manage ornamental landscapes in more wildlife-friendly ways.”

These efforts are enabling Auburn’s faculty and staff to bridge the academic and operational divide to create new opportunities in research, instruction and extension related to pollinators and environmental health.

The Auburn Bee Campus USA Committee began as an informal working group in early 2017 focused on unifying the multi-faceted, pollinator-related efforts already under way on campus. The committee now serves as a network of representatives from the academic, extension and operational areas of the university.

“It really was a team effort and a testament to the forward, sustainable thinking of many folks on campus,” said Geoffrey Williams, assistant professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology and member of the Auburn Bee Campus USA Committee.

To receive the Bee Campus USA designation, Auburn must uphold seven commitments focused on protecting pollinators and their habitats, along with promoting awareness of the roles they play and how others can join efforts to support them.

The student organization Auburn for Bees is transforming campus awareness as the members educate the importance of bees to students and work directly with the Auburn University Laboratory of Insect Pollination and Apiculture, also known as Williams’ “Auburn Bee Lab.”

“This designation is an excellent step toward the protection and education of bees, and I’m proud to see Auburn follow in the steps of other big schools participating in Bee Campus USA,” said Kressie Kornis, president and founder of Auburn for Bees. “Spreading awareness is the easiest step a person can take if they would like to contribute to this cause.”

Auburn for Bees established Beeducation, a new program where the students travel to local elementary schools and talk to children in the Auburn community about bees.

“Seeing how passionate children are about the bees through Beeducation makes me wish older generations like mine had that positive and inquisitive attitude toward bees,” said Kornis. “I know I was never taught about bees in school, and I think this is how that begins.”

Other members in the Auburn Bee Campus USA Committee include representatives from the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture; the Department of Geosciences; the Department of Horticulture; Tiger Dining; Facilities Management; Campus Planning and Space Management; and the Office of Sustainability.

For more information, go to http://wp.auburn.edu/sustainability/practices/bee-campus-usa/. Written by Sarah Farmer.

Go Jump In A Lake … Or Walk Or Run

All Alabamians are encouraged to get outside and walk, run, hike, bike, swim, paddle, ride, or roll with family and friends at the state’s parks, nature preserves and rivers through the 100 Alabama Miles Challenge. The new statewide public program, presented by UA’s Center for Economic Development and partnering organizations, officially starts Saturday, May 12 with kick-off events in several cities and towns throughout the state and at all 17 Alabama State Parks. Watch for a news release, or contact Brian Rushing, in UA’s Center for Economic Development, brian.rushing@ua.edu or 205.915.5402. For assistance, contact Zach Thomas, at 205-348-8318 or zthomas@cba.ua.edu.

Forever Wild Field Trial Area Accepting Fishing Reservations

The M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area in Hale County will be open for fishing to families and small groups on several Saturdays in upcoming months. Two catfish and three bass and bream ponds are located on the property. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 334-624-9952, from May 15 through June 8, 2018.

“We feel like having a family or group of friends make reservations is a good way to ensure that everyone has a safe, fun outing,” said Bill Mason, property manager. “We would particularly like to see youth have the opportunity to fish in these ponds.”

When reservations are made, each group will be assigned a pond along with details such as creel limits and what kind of tackle to bring. Ponds will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no cost to anglers, but anyone between the ages of 16 and 64 is required to have a fishing license. Fishing licenses can be purchased online at www.outdooralabama.com/license-information.

Fishing will be from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the following dates: • June 9
• June 23
• July 7
• July 21

The M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trail Area consists of 3,340 acres of pasture and a mixture of pine-hardwood forest. Historically, the property was a working cattle ranch and catfish farm. Today it is a nature preserve and recreation area with scheduled field trials and opportunities for hunting and fishing. For more information, visit www.alabamaforeverwild.com/m-barnett-lawley-forever-wild-field-trial-area.

If Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations are needed, please contact Doug Deaton at 334-242-3484 or doug.deaton@dcnr.alabama.gov. Requests should be made as soon as possible, but at least 72 hours prior to the scheduled event.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more

Cooperation PAIS

Area land owners and property managers are encouraged to attend this kickoff meeting for Cooperation PAIS on Thurs., April 26, 6-7:30 p.m. in the Tutwiler Conference Center of Lyon Hall. Supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the program will focus initially on the control of feral pigs and cogongrass, both of which pose significant agricultural and ecological threats to our region. To learn more about the program, call SC Conservation 205-652-5105, Dr. John McCall 205-652-3414, jmccall@uwa.edu.

York Youth Fishing Rodeo

The York Youth Fishing Rodeo is rescheduled for Saturday, April 21 from 8-noon.

Conservation Advisory Board Meets in Tuscaloosa May 19

The Alabama Conservation Advisory Board (CAB) will hold its second scheduled meeting of 2018 on Saturday, May 19, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The meeting will take place at the Alabama Fire College Auditorium, 2501 Phoenix Dr., Tuscaloosa, Ala., 35405.

Registration for those wishing to address the board will be from 8-8:30 a.m. The meeting will begin promptly at 9 a.m. Attendees with printed information they wish to share with CAB members are encouraged to bring at least 16 copies of the material for distribution.

The CAB assists in formulating policies for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), examines all rules and regulations, and makes recommendations for their change or amendment. This includes hunting seasons and bag limits.

The board is comprised of 10 members appointed by the Governor for alternating terms of six years. Joseph Dobbs, Jr., of Birmingham currently serves as chairman. Additional CAB members include Greg Barksdale of Hanceville; Jessica Butler of Scottsboro; Patrick Cagle of Montgomery; Grady Hartzog of Eufaula; Brock Jones of Boligee; Raymond Jones, Jr., of Huntsville; Jeff Martin of Pell City; Ben C. Stimpson, Jr., of Mobile; and Gary Wolfe of Fairhope.

The three ex-officio CAB members include Gov. Kay Ivey, Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan, and Alabama Cooperative Extension System Director Dr. Gary Lemme. ADCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship serves as ex-officio secretary.

If Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations are needed, please contact Betsy Jones at 334-242-3486 or dcnr.commissioner@dcnr.alabama.gov. Requests should be made as soon as possible, but at least five days prior to the scheduled meeting.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Disease-Carrying Ticks Widespread Across Alabama

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

PHOTOS: (Micaela Finney, Emily Merritt, Sam Morris) The different age class sizes of the Lone Star tick is shown in the top photo, while the collection of ticks by the use of sticky tape shows the abundance of ticks in certain areas in Alabama. Engorged Lone Star ticks are often found on canines, including this coyote.

As a turkey hunter, I am keenly aware of the threat posed by sneaking through the Alabama woods. And I’m not talking about the danger of encountering a member of the serpent family.

I’m talking about something much, much smaller but possibly just as harmful.

It’s the family of ticks that turkey hunters dread each spring, and the prevalence of disease-carrying ticks is becoming more evident each year.

Emily Merritt, a research associate at Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, has been working on a project, with funding assistance provided from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (Pittman-Robertson) through the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF), since 2015 to determine the species of ticks in Alabama and their ranges.

Merritt said a study on ticks and tick-related illnesses hadn’t been done since the early 1990s, and it was very limited in scope.

The study that started in 2015 was to update and expand that research to include field collection sites for ticks.

“We collected ticks once a month for a year,” Merritt said. “We were all over the state. We also worked with WFF wildlife biologists to collect ticks off of deer for all three years and with the USDA (Department of Agriculture) to get ticks off of raccoons for two years.”

The most commonly collected ticks included the Lone Star tick, the Gulf Coast tick, the black-legged tick (aka deer tick) and the American dog tick.

The Lone Star tick is the most common tick in Alabama and can transmit a host of diseases, including the alpha-gal red meat allergy, Southern rash disease (a Lyme-like illness), tick paralysis and spotted fever diseases that are closely related to Rocky Mountain spotted fever. A white dot in the middle of the tick’s back is the reason for the Lone Star name.

“We found that the Lone Star tick and the Gulf Coast tick are the most aggressive,” Merritt said. “They hunt down their prey. Some ticks sit and wait, but the Lone Star and Gulf Coast ticks will actively seek out hosts. Turkey hunters complain that when they’re hunting they can actually see ticks crawling to them. Usually, that’s the Lone Star tick. I’ve also heard it called the turkey tick.”

Merritt said the Lone Star tick is found primarily in hardwood stands, while the Gulf Coast tick, which is a little larger and transmits similar diseases, is found primarily in more open areas with shrubs.

“The Gulf Coast tick likes areas like new clear-cuts, and they are found in controlled burn areas,” she said. “These are harsh, hot environments where you don’t often find ticks, but the Gulf Coast tick loves it.”

The tick that has gained the most notoriety because of its association with Lyme disease is the black-legged tick.

“It is the main culprit for spreading Lyme disease, but it also can spread other illnesses, like anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis and tularemia,” Merritt said. “We find black-legged ticks equally in pine and hardwood stands.”

Merritt said the American dog tick also can transmit all the diseases associated with the other tick species.

“As the name implies, they bite dogs a lot,” she said. “We find them in people’s backyards, especially if they’ve got a nice, green lawn and a nearby wooded area. Obviously, people’s dogs are at risk. If their kids play in the backyard or if you’re gardening or landscaping in the yard, people can come in contact with the American dog tick.”

At one time, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) insisted that Lyme disease was limited to the Northeast U.S., with a concentration of the disease around Lyme, Conn. In recent years, the presence of Lyme-like disease (Lyme borreliosis) has been acknowledged in Alabama.

“Lyme disease refers to one specific bacteria,” Merritt said. “Lyme borreliosis indicates there is a host of similarly related bacteria that cause illness in Alabama.

“Another thing we hear from doctors is there is no Rocky Mountain spotted fever here. That’s not true at all. The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) has been tracking this. The problem with the CDC and other health agencies is they don’t consider it much of an issue down here. But it definitely is an issue.”

In fact, a graphic from ADPH shows that spotted fever-type illnesses have skyrocketed in recent years compared to the other tick-related illnesses.

“People are getting sick from ticks down here,” Merritt said. “So it’s counterproductive for those agencies to say it’s rare. If you are an outdoors person your chances of coming in contact with these ticks is pretty decent. There is definitely a risk.

“One of the reasons I’m trying to get the word out, and when we publish our research (later this year), is we really need doctors to recognize that these tick-borne illnesses are here in Alabama.”

One aspect of Merritt’s research includes a survey conducted through the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The survey was sent to hunters and anglers to ask about their experiences, knowledge of and costs associated with ticks and tick-borne illnesses.

For those who spend time outdoors, Merritt said the project research found that the most effective deterrent for tick attachment is a spray that contains permethrin.

“You don’t apply it to your skin,” Merritt said. “You spray it on your clothes, boots, hats, socks, backpacks, basically any fabric. When I go camping, I spray my tents and tarps with it. Depending on what brand you get, it will last anywhere from two weeks or two washings to six weeks and six washings.

“More so than bug spray, we found that the products with permethrin significantly reduced the amount of ticks we encountered. It also works well on other biting insects like chiggers and mosquitoes.”

Although the likelihood of contact with ticks is higher during the warmer months, Merritt said the insects are active year-round in Alabama.

“Be on the lookout, not only on pets, but your children, your loved ones and yourself,” she said. “If you go outside, there is the potential to come in contact with ticks. When you come back inside, check your clothes and gear immediately to see if there are any crawling ticks on you, your pets or children. Then take it a step further and check your body thoroughly for ticks. If you need to use a mirror or a partner, do that. Ticks can hide in all sorts of areas that are hard to see.

“And the longer a tick is attached, the better the chances are to get a tick-borne illness if that tick is harboring that illness.”

If you do find a tick attached to your body, Merritt said don’t haphazardly try to remove the insect.

“Don’t try to pick it off with your fingers or burn it off with a match or anything like that,” she said. “Get tweezers and get as close to the skin as you possibly can. Firmly grasp the tick where it attached to your body and start pulling with steady, even pressure until it eventually releases. It might be uncomfortable and a little painful, but you want to get that tick off as soon as you can.”

Merritt said tick-borne illnesses may cause symptoms as early as a couple of days, but symptoms could also occur as late as a couple of months after the exposure.

“If you start to experience flu-like symptoms, like aches and pain, or you see an expanding red rash, sometimes spotted and sometimes circular, you need to see a doctor,” she said. “It’s normal for a bite to be red, but if you see an expanding rash or it seems to be spreading to other parts of your body, that’s a clear indication that you do have a tick-borne illness.”

Merritt said if the tick is found it can be saved for testing by taping it to an index card, placing it in a freezer bag and storing it in the freezer.

“But don’t wait for test results,” she said. “If you think you have a tick-borne illness, your doctor should go ahead and start treatment. For most tick-borne illnesses, that involves treatment with antibiotics. For tick paralysis, it’s removal of the tick. For the alpha-gal allergy there is no treatment. You just have to avoid eating red meat, and that’s terrible.”

For more information, go to www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-2315/ANR-2315.pdf or www.alabamalymedisease.org, the Alabama Lyme Disease Association’s website.

Alabama receives $25 Million for Sportsmen and Conservation


Bow Hunter and Fishing Reel Photos:
Excise taxes paid by the shooting and fishing industries on bows, firearms, ammunition, fishing tackle and other items are distributed back to states through Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration funding.


Microscope Photo:
Sport Fish Restoration funding allows the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to conduct valuable research on species such as the Florida Pompano.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announces the receipt of $25,511,600 to support critical state conservation and outdoor recreation projects. The announcement is part of $1.1 billion in annual national funding going to state wildlife agencies from revenues generated by the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration acts.

Alabama apportionments include $6,151,179 in Sport Fish Restoration funds and $19,360,421 in Wildlife Restoration funds. The funds, which are distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are derived from excise taxes paid by the hunting, shooting, boating and angling industries on firearms, bows, ammunition, fishing tackle, some boat engines, and small engine fuel.

“The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs are the most successful conservation programs in the United States,” said Governor Kay Ivey. “Alabama continues to benefit greatly from our annual apportionment of these funds, and our Conservation Department is a wise steward of these funds.”

According to Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship, the money received from the federal government is a match to the state’s hunting and fishing license revenues. “There is a formula used, but basically, the more licenses we sell, the more Wildlife and Sportfish funding we receive. It’s very important that hunters and anglers purchase a license every year because our department doesn’t receive money from the state’s General Fund. Our work on behalf of the hunters and fishermen is solely funded by license dollars and federal matching funds.”

Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Director Chuck Sykes says hunters and fishermen can be proud of the fact that their purchases help put active management on the ground in Alabama. “Managing public hunting land and building and maintaining boat ramps and shooting ranges are all projects funded by the allocations we receive from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Sykes adds that people who don’t hunt or fish also benefit from this funding. “Every citizen in the state receives benefits from the conservation efforts of hunters and fishermen,” he said. “The habitat that we create and manage for deer, turkey and other game species also benefits the species that non-hunters enjoy like bald eagles and bluebirds,” he said.

Alabama’s coastline profits from this funding as well. “These funds help build and maintain public boat access points, provide education to the public about the marine resources in and near Alabama and fund valuable research projects that otherwise may not be possible,” said Alabama Marine Resources Director Scott Bannon. “The return Alabama receives on the investment of these funds is priceless.”

“Alabama sportsmen and women are some of our best conservationists and they contribute billions of dollars toward wildlife conservation and sportsmen access every year through the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts,” said Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “For nearly 80 years, states have been able to fund important conservation initiatives thanks to the more than $20 billion that has generated nationwide. Every time a firearm, fishing pole, hook, bullet, motor boat or boat fuel is sold, part of that cost goes to fund conservation. The best way to increase funding for conservation and sportsmen access is to increase the number of hunters and anglers in our woods and waters. The American conservation model has been replicated all over the world because it works.”

For more information about the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program visit http://wsfrprograms.fws.gov.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Mentored Turkey Hunt Yields Unforgettable Results


(Howard O’Neal, Chuck Sykes) An unforgettable mentored turkey hunt resulted in the harvest of two mature gobblers during a recent outing on the Pine Barren SOA. The lucky hunters were Adam Arnold, left, and Charles Barrow, who were guided by Al Mattox, back left, and Chuck Sykes. The two shooters were set up on the edge of a food plot for the eventful hunt and got enjoy the results of the hunt later when Justin Gilchrist, left, and Jeff Makemson fried the cubed turkey breasts for supper.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
The fate of a turkey hunt’s outcome is indeed fickle. High-fives can be the celebratory conclusion just as easily as the dejected hunter’s incessant second-guessing of the tactics that caused the gobbler to walk away instead of strutting into range.

Chuck Sykes, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Director, has been in both situations. Sometimes that fate varies daily. Sometimes it’s different segments of the season, and sometimes, it’s different years.

With a little less than a month left in the season for most parts of the state, Sykes said hunters have had mixed results.

“Some hunters are doing well; some are not,” Sykes said. “It depends on where you are in the state. Personally, I think the turkeys are a little behind for this time of the season as compared to previous seasons. Gobbling has been very poor for me. I’ve hunted quite a few days, and I’ve seen five turkeys die, so don’t be crying for me.

“It’s substandard for me compared to what it was last year, which gives me great hope that the end of the season is going to be really good. I just think that cold snap slowed things down a little bit. I know we had some cold weather last year, but there’s something just a little bit different this year.”

Sykes said last year’s opening few days started with lows in the 30s, but the turkeys were still “gobbling their brains out.”

“We even had a couple of mornings in the upper 20s, but we were killing turkeys,” he said. “They were working right. This year, turkeys are gobbling two or three times, hitting the ground, and it’s over with.”

Sykes said it appears the 2017 and 2018 seasons will be flipped in terms of turkey activity and hunting success.

“The first few weeks of the season last year couldn’t have been any better for me,” he said. “The last two or three weeks of the season couldn’t have been any worse.

“I’m anticipating, based on past experience, that during the last few weeks of the season, the gobbling should be better and turkeys should be working better. I think we’re going to have a good closing few weeks of the season.”

Although the overall season has been a disappointment for Sykes, one magical afternoon will be forever etched in his memory, and he wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger.

That hunt occurred on one of the WFF’s Special Opportunity Areas (SOAs) during an Adult Mentored Hunting Program outing.

Sykes recruited his old hunting buddy Al Mattox to help guide during the hunt on the new Pine Barren SOA area. Charles Barrow of Ozark and Adam Arnold of Pelham were the lucky hunters who were randomly drawn for the hunt.

“Charles actually participated in one of the mentored deer hunts,” Sykes said. “He was lucky enough to get selected for the turkey hunt.”

Arnold, on the other hand, has been an avid shooter for years, including long-distance shooting and sporting clays, but had really never hunted.

“Adam is one of those guys who has been participating in the Pittman-Robertson Act program by buying guns and ammunition, but he hasn’t been buying a hunting license for us to be able to capture that money and bring it back to Alabama,” Sykes said of the excise tax levied on firearms, ammunition and hunting equipment. “So, this was a unique experience.

“His family didn’t hunt. I think he may have been dove hunting once or twice throughout his life, and that was it. His family and group of friends weren’t exposed to hunting, but he was introduced to shooting later in life.”

Sykes said Arnold is a very accomplished shot who has his own shotgun and extensive knowledge of firearms overall.

“The gun part of it was easy,” Sykes said. “The hunting portion, we had to do a lot of teaching. The way we handled it, my best hunting buddy, Al Mattox, was with me. Al got back from Afghanistan three weeks before the hunt and wanted to help. He had been serving a tour in Afghanistan for about nine or 10 months. Al and I have hunted together a long time.”

Sykes and Mattox came up with a plan to hunt as a four-man team with a primary shooter and a backup shooter.

“That way, during the heat of the action, whoever was with the secondary shooter could give them a play-by-play of what was going on, taking the pressure off of them,” Sykes said. “They weren’t worried about shooting. They were worried about learning. I could walk them through everything. I could explain what Al was doing with the primary shooter. Al could explain what I was doing with the backup shooter.”

What Sykes and Mattox didn’t anticipate was that by the end of the hunt there was a spent shell lying on the ground next to each hunter.

“It worked out really well,” Sykes said. “It just so happened, when everything came together, there were two mature birds and both were able to harvest their first birds.

“It was a once in a lifetime experience for those guys as well and Al and I as the mentors. It was a very emotional afternoon.”

Sykes said the unsuccessful morning hunt got the hunters prepared for the eventful afternoon session.

“It all worked out for the best,” he said. “During the morning hunt there was no gobbling, nothing. So, we got to teach them how to be still. We got to teach them how to pick a location when turkeys aren’t gobbling; how to look for tracks; how to look for sign. We taught them a bunch of the basics that morning.

“Right after lunch we went out, and on our first setup, I called in an extremely vocal hen. They were introduced to a live turkey at close range. They could use what we taught them that morning on camouflage and how to be still, when to move and when not to move.”

Mattox had done some scouting a few days before the hunt and found some gobblers in one area. Still, the hunters were on unfamiliar ground because WFF had just recently closed the purchase on the Pine Barren tract. Sykes and Mattox used aerial maps on their smartphones to survey for likely turkey hangouts.

“We actually found a hidden food plot and set up off the edge of it,” Sykes said. “Adam was the primary shooter. I was with Charles off to the side. We placed two hen decoys out in the field. I yelped on a box, and a turkey gobbled about 400 yards from us, kind of behind us. About 15 second later, I looked and saw two other gobblers in the hardwoods coming to us.

“Adam did really well. Al was talking him through everything. Charles and I were sitting back as spectators at that point. Adam and Al let the turkeys strut all the way by them, about 75 yards across the field at a distance of about 15 yards from the hunter.”

Al waited to give Adam the sign to shoot so that the turkeys would be in position for Charles to get a shot if the second turkey happened to hang around for a few seconds.

“When the turkeys got into a position where I knew Adam was ready, I called to them,” Sykes said. “The dominant bird gobbled. I was letting Adam and Al know it was time.”

Arnold fired and dropped his bird. Sykes then coached Barrow through the backup-shooter process.

“When turkeys are at 15 yards and there is a big boom, they don’t know where it came from,” Sykes said. “The turkey was walking in circles. I was cutting to him. The turkey didn’t know what to do. By the time the gobbler got his bearings, Charles was ready and made a good shot.

“It was an incredible hunt.”

Sykes fully expects similar scenarios to unfold on the Pine Barren SOA in Dallas County.

“It’s the most exciting piece of property I’ve been on that is public hunting,” Sykes said. “It’s part of the old Hit and Miss Lodge where Mossy Oak did a lot of their filming. The amount of game there is incredible.”

For those who haven’t had much luck this turkey season, Sykes said it’s time to regroup but never surrender.

“You’ve just got to keep going,” he said. “As my grandmother always told me, a bad beginning means it’s going to be a good ending, and I’m counting on it.”

NASP Alabama State Championship in Montgomery on April 6

The largest youth archery competition in Alabama, the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) Alabama State Championship, will be held Friday, April 6, 2018, at the Multiplex at Cramton Bowl located at 220 Hall St., Montgomery, Ala., 36104. Archers will begin shooting at 9 a.m. The awards ceremony is scheduled for 5 p.m. The media and public are invited.

This year’s event will feature more than 1,200 young archers in Grades 4-12 from schools across the state who earned a berth at the state championship after competing in one of nine regional qualifying tournaments. These students will compete for the title of state champion and the opportunity to advance to the NASP Eastern National Championship on May 10-12, 2018, in Louisville, Ky.

The NASP is a joint venture between the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) and the Alabama Department of Education. NASP instills discipline and concentration. Participants also learn a life skill as part of a school’s physical education course or after-school program. Scoring is based on Olympic-style, target archery in three divisions – elementary, middle and high school. Competition is on team and individual levels.

The state championship would not be possible without the generous sponsorships of the Alabama Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Morrell Manufacturing, the Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association, Alabama Wildlife Federation, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

For more information about the NASP in Alabama, contact WFF Hunter Education Coordinator Marisa Futral at 334-242-3620 or Marisa.Futral@dcnr.alabama.gov. Learn more about the state championship at www.outdooralabama.com/nasp-state-championship.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Alabama Leads Way with Artificial Reef Program

(Craig Newton, David Rainer) Artificial reefs, like this pyramid, attract a variety of reef fish other than red snapper, including gray triggerfish and spadefish. Marine Resources has been using the large pyramids to build a variety of reefs, which produce nice catches of red snapper.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Those who wonder why anglers off Alabama catch more than 30 percent of the red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico despite having only 53 miles of coastline should have attended the Red Snapper Conference in Mobile last week.

The key to Alabama’s phenomenal red snapper fishing is the more than 1,000 square miles just off the coast that are designated artificial reef zones.

During the day-long conference, numerous scientists and fisheries biologists discussed reef fish management, habitat requirements, red snapper and triggerfish recruitment and growth. All those components are tied to Alabama’s reef zones.

Craig Newton, Alabama Marine Resources Division’s Artificial Reefs Program Coordinator, provided those in attendance a comprehensive look at the state’s artificial reefs program, from its unofficial start to today’s highly regulated deployment protocols.

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Blankenship, formerly the Marine Resources Director, said Alabama has the largest artificial reef system in the country and has created noticeable improvements in the fishery.

“I went to work on a charter boat when I was 14 years old,” Blankenship said. “If we caught a red snapper that weighed 5 pounds, that was a big red snapper. If you caught one that weighed 10 pounds, you took a picture with it. If you caught one that weighed 20 pounds, your picture ended up in the paper and in the red snapper fishing hall of fame. That was a big fish.”

A massive reef-building program occurred after that, and anglers continue to enjoy the results of the widespread habitat enhancements.

“We build reefs with money from CIAP (Coastal Impact Assistance Program), Sport Fish Restoration and other sources,” Blankenship said. “Over the last few years, we’ve gotten money from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation from the Deepwater Horizon criminal fines, and we’ve built several hundred reefs with that money. We’ve created seven new reef zones within our 9-mile state waters boundary. We’ve built more than 30 inshore reefs. So, reef-building has been, and continues to be, extremely important to our state. Because of that, we have such a great red snapper fishery.”

Blankenship pointed out the extensive research being done in the Alabama reef zones by the University of South Alabama (USA), Dauphin Island Sea Lab and Auburn University.

“Dr. (Bob) Shipp is here today,” Blankenship said of the professor emeritus at USA’s Marine Sciences Department. “He was doing red snapper science before reef-fish research was in vogue. We’re blessed to have such great academics in the state to do this work.

“We’ve spent a lot of money and emphasis on red snapper research. We want not only to show we have the largest artificial reef system in the country. We also want to show how those reefs produce such a great fishery here in our state. Like I said, I remember what it was like to go out and catch small fish, a few fish. Now you can’t wet a hook without catching red snapper, big red snapper. The average weight of snapper in the charter fleet now is about 10 pounds. Having a robust reef fishery is extremely important to the economy of the state.”

Newton said the artificial reef story off Alabama started in 1953 when 200 car bodies were cabled together and deployed in two segments by the Orange Beach and Dauphin Island fishing communities. In 1961, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designated the “Snapper Banks” as the first artificial reef zones off Alabama.

The first deployment by the Conservation Department occurred when five 415-foot Liberty ships, known as the Ghost Fleet in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, were hauled offshore and sunk in 1974.

The Marine Resources Division (MRD) strategy then changed to creating artificial reef zones instead of individual reef sites. The Corps permitted the first reef zone of 364 square miles in 1978. This is the first area where individuals could deploy MRD-approved reef material.

“What’s unique about this is these privately deployed reefs remain unpublished,” Newton said.

The Hugh Swingle reef zone of 86 square miles followed before another expansion occurred in 1989 with another 245-square-mile reef zone. In a program called Reef-Ex, 100 M60 decommissioned battle tanks were thoroughly cleaned and deployed in the Gulf for reefs in 1993. The Corps granted another expansion in 1997 with a permit for 336 square miles for reef zones. MRD teamed with the Orange Beach Fishing Association on the Red Snapper World Championship from 2004 through 2007 to deploy about 1,000 artificial reefs.

Since then, the focus has moved to nearshore with a 1.6-square-mile zone permitted just inside the 3-mile state boundary.

The latest artificial reef zones were permitted last year. A total of 30 square miles inside the 9-mile boundary for reef fish management was approved after an arduous permitting process.

Newton said acquiring a permit for reef zones from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has grown increasingly more complex through the years.

“Historically, it was relatively easy to get a permit,” he said. “You outlined the size and goals of the reefs. Several months later you got a permit. Quite a few things have changed since then.”

Now a reef zone permit application must go to the Corps of Engineers and ADEM (Alabama Department of Environmental Management) for consideration. The application must include detailed construction techniques and methods as well as defined boundaries. A 30-day public comment period required by the Corps is followed by an additional 15-day comment period for ADEM.

Because these are federally authorized permits, they also fall under the National Historical Preservation Act, which is the costliest factor in the permitting process.

“We’re required to have a marine archeologist in all aspects of performing a Phase 1 archeological survey,” Newton said. “We have to use multiple remote sensing techniques. We have to use side-scan sonar, a magnetometer and a sub-bottom profiler to identify not only archeological resources exposed on the sea bed, but those below the sea bed as well.

“We also have to prove the project doesn’t harm threatened or endangered species or compromise the critical habitat. The entire permitting process now takes from 20 to 42 months.”

The material allowed for reef deployment has changed significantly over the years as well. White appliances, like washing machines and refrigerators, are no longer used because they do not provide long-term stable structures. Vehicles and anything fiberglass are also banned. Now, material made of concrete, steel and natural rock are allowed. Chicken transport devices are used as well as concrete pyramids and other structures constructed specifically to provide the best habitat for reef fish.

The Rigs to Reefs program takes advantage of the federal “Idle Iron” regulations, which require oil and gas structures to be removed within five years of the last date of production. The reef program takes obsolete petroleum platforms and uses the structures for reefs.

“We have a diverse assemblage of reef types in our reef zones,” Newton said. “We have 1,282 reefs deployed by the state that are published in our reef program. What makes our reef zones unique is we have the permitted authorization to authorize the public to build their own reefs and the locations remain unpublished.

“We estimate there are more than 10,000 reefs off the shore of Alabama. About 12 percent of those structures are public reefs.”

Newton said about 42 percent of the reef structures are in the zones that have depths from 60 to 120 feet. About 28 percent of the reefs are in depths of 120 to 180 feet. Only 4 percent are deeper than 180 feet.

“What’s really important, you look at relative contribution of these artificial structures in deeper water,” he said. “We have very little natural bottom, natural rock, offshore of Alabama. The natural reefs we do have occur in these deeper waters. This aligns with our goals of avoiding natural reefs when we are deploying artificial reefs.”

Newton said a downward trend in reef deployment by the public coincides with the reduction in the public’s access to the fishery with the shorter and shorter seasons.

“From the mid 90s to the mid 2000s, we permitted about 1,000 reefs per year,” he said. “Now we’re permitting a fraction of that.”

When Marine Resources developed a model to look at the future of the reef system off Alabama, it provided a stark reality.

“What we see is the existing reefs are not going to last forever,” Newton said. “The usable life is about 10 years for regular structures, about 30 for the concrete pyramids. The model shows a steady decline of available habitat into the future. That is why it is imperative that we continue to build reefs on an ongoing basis.”

However, significant progress has been made recently in ending the extremely short federal red snapper seasons. If NOAA Fisheries approves an Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) for the 2018 season, Alabama will receive just under one million pounds of red snapper allocation for a potential 47-day snapper season, which could be the catalyst to reverse the downward trend in private reef deployment. Marine Resources will host meetings in late April and early May to answer questions from the public if the EFP is approved.

Coosa River drawdowns set for fall
Alabama Power schedules dates for drawdowns on four lakes on the Coosa River to begin in September

Alabama Power has set tentative dates this fall for water-level drawdowns on Lay, Mitchell, Jordan/Bouldin and Neely Henry lakes, located on the Coosa River. Drawdowns give residents and contractors better lakebed access for permitted construction projects on the four lakes. The last drawdowns took place in 2013. Here is this year’s tentative drawdown schedule:
Lake Normal elevation Drawdown elevation Lowering dates Start refill Back to normal
Jordan/Bouldin 252 248/249 Sept. 18-20 Oct. 2 Oct. 4
Mitchell 312 308/309 Oct. 2-4 Oct. 16 Oct. 18
Lay 396 393/394 Oct. 16-18 Oct. 30 Nov. 1
Neely Henry 507.5 503/504 Oct. 30- Nov. 1 Nov. 12 Nov. 15
Because weather conditions can affect the drawdown schedule, residents and contractors are encouraged to visit Alabama Power’s automated Reservoir Information System at 1-800-LAKES11 (1-800-525-3711) or https://apcshorelines.com/ for updates. Residents and contractors considering any construction projects within Alabama Power’s reservoir boundaries should consult with the company about obtaining the proper permits before beginning any work. Permitting guidelines and contact information for permits can be found on the Shoreline Management page at www.alabamapower.com. Individuals with boats and other water-related equipment and facilities should always be alert to changing conditions on Alabama Power reservoirs and be prepared to take the necessary steps to protect their property. Alabama Power has 14 hydroelectric facilities on the Coosa, Tallapoosa and Black Warrior rivers, producing low-cost, clean energy for customers. To learn more, please visit www.alabamapower.com.

Chicks and ducklings may pose risks of illness

This month marks the beginning of spring and Easter is just around the corner. Families across the state are preparing to celebrate the anticipated holiday with fun festivities, egg hunts and more – including gifting adorable chicks and ducklings to small children. While such events create opportunities for fellowship and enjoyment, they also increase the risk of gastrointestinal illnesses, such as salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis.
Salmonellosis, caused by the bacteria Salmonella, and campylobacteriosis, caused by the bacteria Campylobacter, are often associated with live poultry contact in backyard flocks. Infection may also occur after contact with uncooked poultry products. It is common for chicks and ducklings to carry these bacteria in their droppings and on their bodies, even when they appear to be healthy. Salmonellaand Campylobacter cause gastrointestinal illness, though those at risk of severe illness include children under the age of 5 years, older adults and individuals with weakened immune systems. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps and usually last 4-7 days.

In 2017, 10 multistate outbreaks of human Salmonella infections were linked to live poultry in backyard flocks and represented the largest number of illnesses linked to contact with backyard poultry ever recorded. A total of 1,120 cases from 48 states were reported. Of those, 27 percent were children under the age of 5 years, 29 percent were hospitalized, and 1 died.

“These numbers underscore the risks that may not be readily recognized by parents when their child comes into contact with baby chicks and ducklings. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid contact when possible, and wash hands frequently and properly when contact is made,” says Sherri Davidson, Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) interim state epidemiologist.

Dr. Tony Frazier, State Veterinarian with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, adds, “Families may certainly enjoy owning live poultry, baby chicks and ducklings; however, several precautions should be taken. This includes following the guidelines provided by the ADPH when handling live poultry and only purchasing poultry from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Poultry Improvement Plan (USDA-NPIP) participants. Also, mail order hatcheries, local feed stores and those that sell baby chicks, ducklings and other poultry, should provide health-related information to owners. Local feed stores should provide hand sanitizer near poultry displays and place poultry out of reach of children.”

ADPH encourages people to take the following steps to protect against gastrointestinal illnesses resulting from live poultry contact:

· Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching live poultry or products, or cleaning equipment used for live poultry care.

· Do not snuggle or kiss baby chicks, ducklings or other live poultry.

· Do not let live poultry live inside the residence or stay where foods are prepared, served or stored.

· Do not let children under the age of 5 years handle or touch chicks, ducklings or other live poultry without adult supervision.

· Leave shoes and clothes outside after dealing with backyard flocks, especially if in contact with droppings.

· Purchase poultry from hatcheries that participate in the USDA-NPIP, a program committed to reduce Salmonella infection in baby poultry while in hatcheries.

Resources

For more information on keeping backyard poultry, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/Features/SalmonellaPoultry/index.html
For more information on flock safety, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/resources/salmonella-baby-poultry.pdf
For more information on the USDA-NPIP program, visit: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/nvap/NVAP-Reference-Guide/Poultry/National-Poultry-Improvement-Plan

UWA’s Keener wins DAR conservation award on Bigbee Valley Chapter’s nomination

Dr. Brian Keener, a biology professor and curator of the UWA Herbarium, was recognized at the Daughters of the American Revolution State Convention in Auburn for his work in conservation and environmental awareness. Pictured left to right are DAR State Regent Nancy Folk, Keener, and DAR Alabama Conservation Committee Chair Pam Spivey. Keener was nominated for the award by the Bigbee Valley Chapter of DAR.

The University of West Alabama’s (UWA) Dr. Brian Keener was presented a conservation award at the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Alabama state convention held at Auburn University on March 9.

Keener is the assistant dean of the School of Graduate Studies, professor of biology and the curator of the UWA Herbarium. He is known and respected statewide as an accomplished botanist and for his discovery of two rare species of mint in the Talladega Forrest in Talladega.

The award is presented by the DAR Conservation Committee, which is dedicated to the preservation of the natural resources of the nation, its soils, minerals, forests, waters and wildlife, and it recognizes outstanding achievement for environmental awareness.

The award recipient is chosen from nominations by local DAR chapters throughout the state. Keener was nominated by the Bigbee Valley chapter.

“Our chapter selected Dr. Keener to be our only nomination to the committee,” said Lucy Gallman, who has been a member of the Bigbee Valley Chapter since 2010. “We nominated because we’re proud of all of his research, but specifically his work with the Plant Atlas.”

The Plant Atlas is a website that documents thousands of different plant species from across America. Keener, who serves as president of the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society, directs the Alabama portion of the Atlas.

The Alabama Plant Atlas has the largest catalog of plant species on the website with 196,035 specimens on file accompanied by 4,618 images. By uploading the specimens and images that have been discovered in Alabama by the UWA Herbarium and the Alabama Herbarium Consortium, Keener and colleagues make accessible to people worldwide a wealth of information and research. It’s an accomplishment that Gallman wanted to see honored.

“I just felt that he needed to be recognized for all his hard work,” Gallman said. “His efforts in documenting Tutwiler’s Spleenwort for the Plant Atlas is particularly special to us as it honors Julia Tutwiler.”

The species, asplenium tutwilerae, is a native herbaceous evergreen fern that is known from a single site in west-central Alabama, and Tutwiler is the discoverer of the only known population of the species, dated 1873. The species is rated S1 in Alabama and G1 globally, the categories that mark such rarity. This is the type of information documented in the Plant Atlas.

The award nomination required examples of Keener’s research with conservation and recommendation letters from his peers and superiors. Gallman reached out to several faculty and staff including UWA’s Provost, Dr. Tim Edwards, and College of Natural Science and Mathematics Dean Dr. John McCall.

In their recommendation letters, Edwards and McCall praised Keener for his work in and out of the classroom saying, “Dr. Keener takes his scholarship and his passion for plant conservation out into the community… he is a hands-on instructor who urges his students to explore the natural world on their own.”

DAR is a membership service organization for women who are directly descended from a person involved in the United States’ efforts towards independence. A non-profit, they work to promote education, patriotism and historic preservation. The group was established in 1926 and provides scholarship opportunities for rising college students as well as grants for local historic projects.

Keener joined the faculty at UWA in 2003. He earned his master’s and doctorate in biological sciences from the University of Alabama. A Gallant, Ala., native, Keener teaches courses in botany, aquatic plants, plant systematics and invasive species of Alabama.

To learn more about the Alabama Plant Atlas and other research, contact Dr. Brian Keener at bkeener@uwa.edu or (205) 652-3796.
Big Gobbler Contest Aims to Find Black Belt’s Best Turkey Callers

UAB Institute for Human Rights in Birmingham, Ala.,Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. (Photo by Mark Almond)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association is calling all turkey hunters to give its annual Big Gobbler Photo Contest a spin this year with a twist. Instead of photos of turkeys taken in the Black Belt, this year the ALBBAA wants videos of hunters practicing the art of calling those big toms into range.

The winner can produce a video of actually coaxing a big turkey into camera frame or show us your technique after you’ve bagged your gobbler or during your scouting session. Just upload a short – 30 seconds to 1 minute – video of your best yelp or cluck or fly-up cackle or gobble or any combination. Shoot your video in the woods of the Alabama Black Belt and upload it via Dropbox at http://bit.ly/2IrxQth by May 7, one week after the April 30 end of turkey season.

“This year, instead of our usual photo contest on Facebook, we want to see and hear hunters showing off their turkey-calling skills,” said ALBBAA Director Pam Swanner. “Attracting a big gobbler isn’t easy, so we wanted to give hunters a chance to display their expertise. The Black Belt provides some great turkey hunting and we have great turkey hunters who live in the region or visit for a once-in-a-lifetime experience during the season.

“We are thrilled to offer two opportunities to win our Big Gobbler Contest this year, too. We will have our ‘People’s Choice’ winner based on the number of Facebook ‘likes’ for the videos and a ‘Pro’s Pick,’ judged by the ‘Turkey Man’ Eddie Salter of Evergreen and two other media professionals. Eddie is a well-known expert thanks to his seven Southeastern Open Turkey Calling Championships, six Alabama State Championships and two World Open Championships. He has almost four decades of turkey-hunting experience and is being gracious enough to provide one of our prizes, too.”

This year’s People’s Choice winner will receive a $200 cash prize donated by Southeast Land Group and the Pro’s Pick will get Turkey Man Game Calls – both a slate call and a mouth call.

All entries MUST be uploaded to http://bit.ly/2IrxQth, not to the Black Belt Facebook page. To vote for your favorite, please follow us at Facebook.com/AlabamaBlackBeltAdventures and click “like” on the video.

The Black Belt includes the following counties: Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Russell, Sumter, Tuscaloosa and Wilcox.

The Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association is committed to promoting and enhancing outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities in the Black Belt in a manner that provides economic and ecological benefits to the region and its citizens. For information, go to www.alabamablackbeltadventures.org.

Boaters urged to receive education before boating season

The temperature may be cool outside, but the Eighth Coast Guard District is joining boating safety advocates across the country to urge recreational boaters to enroll in a boating education course. The Spring Aboard – Take A Boating Education Course campaign encourages boaters to receive education prior to the kick-off of the boating season. Many education providers offer discounts or other incentives for students during the week of March 18-24, 2018, to enroll in a boating education course.

“We know that an educated boater is safer on the water,” said Tom Guess, the president of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the lead organization for the Spring Aboard campaign. “If a boater has taken a boating safety education course, the likelihood of their time spent on the water being a safe and enjoyable experience is much greater for them as well as their passengers. There’s no reason to head out on the water without knowing what you’re doing, and spring is the perfect time to take a course before the summer boating season begins.”

“U.S. Coast Guard statistics indicate that of the accidents where the level of operator education was known, 77% of boating deaths occurred on boats where the boat operator had never received boating education instruction,” said Ed Huntsman, the Eight Coast Guard District boating safety program manager.

With today’s wide variety of courses available, there’s a course for every boater’s schedule. Boaters have multiple options including classroom courses offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons and online offerings available anytime.

Education course providers and offerings will vary between states, so check with your local course provider or state boating agency to find what courses are accepted in your area. Many states require completion of a course verified by NASBLA as meeting the national boating education standard for powerboat rental or operation. To ensure a course qualifies, look for the ‘NASBLA-Approved’ logo.

The annual Spring Aboard campaign is led by the NASBLA and produced under a grant administered by the U.S. Coast Guard. It is supported by state, federal and nonprofit partners. It is open to participation by all states, territories, boating education organizations, instructors and course providers.

For more information, visit www.springaboard.org.

Auburn University researchers identify natural enemy of crop-killing kudzu bug

Auburn University entomologists have discovered and identified a tiny wasp that could provide a huge benefit to soybean producers and other farmers.

Though only about the size of a pinhead, the newly detected parasitoid wasp, Ooencyrtus nezarae, can do plenty of damage to the kudzu bug, a quarter-inch-long invasive pest of soybeans and other legume crops in the Southeast. Researchers in the lab of entomologist Henry Fadamiro, associate dean for research for the College of Agriculture and associate director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, were the first to detect the wasp’s presence in North America.

The research team published its findings in a recent article in the Journal of Insect Science. Blessing Ademokoya, an Auburn graduate researcher at the time of the study and now a doctoral student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is lead author of the article. Fadamiro and Rammohan Balusu, research fellow in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, are co-authors, as are Auburn research entomologist Charles Ray and Jason Mottern, entomologist at the USDA Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Ray and Mottern assisted in final identification of the wasp.

O. nezarae is the second kudzu bug-attacking wasp to be identified in the U.S. The first, Paratelenomus saccharalis, was discovered in Georgia in 2013.

“It is exciting to know that many natural enemies are in the field helping to keep kudzu bug populations under control,” Ademokoya said. “And, with this latest addition, we have a potential explanation for the decline observed in kudzu bug densities across several locations in the southeastern U.S.”

The kudzu bug, native to Asia, was first reported in the U.S. in 2009 in Georgia. Although it feeds on kudzu—an economically important invasive weed native to Asia and familiar to Southerners—it also devours soybeans and other legume crops, causing significant yield loss in highly infested fields.

A strong flyer and good hitchhiker, the pest rapidly expanded its numbers across many southern states, including Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Arizona, Maryland and Delaware. The population peaked in 2013.

The kudzu bug has emerged as the top yield-limiting pest of soybeans, which rank as the second most planted field crop in the United States with an estimated annual market value of approximately $39 billion.

In 2017, Alabama farmers harvested approximately 345,000 acres of soybeans with a production value of more than $150 million.

Potential long-term solution

O. nezarae, which was found during field surveys in Alabama, is reported to parasitize eggs from a variety of plant bug families in China.

“Until now, the distribution of O. nezarae has been limited to China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and Brazil,” Fadamiro said. “This is the first report of the parasitoid in North America. The high rate of parasitism—82.8 to 100 percent—recorded in our study indicates that the parasitoid may serve as a potential long-term solution for managing the kudzu bug.”

Despite O. nezarae’s high parasitism rate of kudzu bug, it has a short period of activity, and Fadamiro said continued research will be necessary to identify tactics for the use of the insect to biologically control the pest on farms.

“We need to conduct monitoring to know the distribution of the parasitoid in the United States and to determine its seasonal phenology in the field—when it is not active and when it is most active,” he said. “We also are interested in studying the nutritional ecology of this insect and strategies for its conservation in the field. We don’t want to spray toxic chemicals when it is most active.”

There are numerous ways to use natural enemies in production agriculture, Fadamiro said, including introducing them into areas where they are not already present and preserving them where they are naturally occurring. Farmers also can plant host flowering plants around a field so the nectar will attract and keep the beneficial insect in an area.

“If we conduct a survey and find the insects are only in central Alabama, then we can capture and relocate them to other areas of the state where the kudzu bug is a threat,” he said. “We want to make sure this finding is useful to the farmers who need it most.”

But there’s a risk in assuming that the known natural enemies of the kudzu bug will eliminate the threat, Fadamiro said.

“While the incidence of the kudzu bug has declined in recent years, there could be many factors involved, including weather conditions and other natural enemies, so we need to continue this work,” he said.

The research leading to the discovery of the parasitoid was supported by an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and by the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station. It’s an example of Auburn’s commitment to development science-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Written by Paul Hollis.

Wisteria is a invasive species

Chinese wisteria, (Wisteria sinensis), is beautiful to look at and just like kudzu, takes over very quickly. It’s a invasive species that kills native plants by girding and displacing them. It was brought over as a decorative garden flower in 1816 from China. Learn more about Wisteria at http://news.aces.edu/blog/2017/04/28/wisteria-invasive-vines/ By Kasey DeCastra, SCRJ & MT Community Editor

USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program Applications Being Accepted

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) is accepting grant applications for projects that enhance the competitiveness of U.S. specialty crops in foreign and domestic markets. The application deadline for these specialty crop block grants through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is April 20, 2018, 5 p.m. CST.

Specialty crops are defined by the USDA as fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, horticulture (including maple syrup and honey) and nursery crops (including floriculture).

Commodity groups, agricultural organizations, colleges and universities, municipalities, state agencies and agricultural nonprofits are all eligible for this grant program, provided their proposals meet all the program specifications. The ADAI and a review committee of industry representatives will make application evaluation reviews and award recommendations to USDA. The USDA has final approval for projects submitted.

The specialty crops block grant is a competitive grant process. The maximum award to any applicant is $25,000; the minimum, $5,000.

A conference call will be held on March 20, regarding the writing, processing and submittal of the specialty crop grant. Please contact Johnny Blackmon at 334-240-7257 or by email at johnny.blackmon@agi.alabama.gov, to RSVP and obtain the conference connection code. All prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to participate in the conference call.

Projects cannot begin until official agreements are signed, which is expected October 2018.

For more detailed information, please visit http://www.agi.alabama.gov/scbgp or contact Johnny Blackmon at 334/240-7257.

Early Bloom

With our early heat wave, many of our spring trees bloomed early (and brought their pollen with them.) The Magnolia Tulip Tree, or the Saucer Magnolia Tree is a non-native, commonly planted, garden tree and one of the first to bloom in spring. ​Saucer Magnolia is a multi-stemmed, broadly spreading tree, 25 feet tall with a 20 to 30-foot spread and bright gray bark. Our tree has deep purple petals, however, the flowers range in color from white-pink to deep pink-purple petals. By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editor

Source https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/details?plantid=3428 

Goodman bags a winner in Greene County

Hunter Goodman, 17, shows off this 17-point buck he bagged in January in Greene County, Ala. This photo won the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association Big Buck Photo Contest and earned Hunter a prize package worth more than $3,000. Hunter is a junior at Victory Christian Academy in Columbus, Miss., and the son of Dean and Shilo Goodman. Submitted by Mike Perrin

Conservation Department Marks 110 Years

For 110 years, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has been protecting the state’s natural resources. Today, Gov. Kay Ivey and department officials celebrated that service and dedicated a memorial to 12 Conservation Enforcement Officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.

“On behalf of our entire state, I thank the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for caring for our natural resources and wildlife for the past 110 years,” Governor Ivey said.

In 1907, Rep. John H. Wallace, a conservation pioneer, introduced a proposal to create Alabama’s Department of Game and Fish, now known as the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The Alabama Legislature passed this bill, which included provisions for a State Game Commissioner and many of the most fundamental hunting laws.

Great strides have been made since the early days of horseback-mounted Game Wardens to the present-day Conservation Enforcement Officers. Although today’s officers use modern vehicles and equipment, they are still the front line against poachers and others who don’t choose to lawfully follow Alabama’s hunting and fishing laws and regulations.
“I am thankful for my career with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources,” said Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship. “I know from personal experience how many dedicated employees work for this department. Some of them work non-traditional hours and are frequently in dangerous situations. I want to thank all of them for their service to the State of Alabama.”

Since the Department’s creation in 1907, 12 officers have made the ultimate sacrifice in the protection of Alabama’s natural resources.
Officers who lost their lives in the line of duty, date of death and county of residence are as follows:

George S. Wilson, October 1, 1922, Montgomery County
Bart Cauley, March 19, 1932, Baldwin County
Vernon W. Wilson, June 25, 1951, Randolph County
Loyd C. Hays, May 1, 1964, Morgan County
John Roy Beam, December 6, 1976, DeKalb County
Frank Stewart Jr., December 24, 1978, Escambia County
Cecil Craig Chatman, November 28, 1982, Lowndes County
Grady R. Jackson, February 12, 1984, Pike County
James C. Vines, January 26, 1985, Greene County
Jimmy D. Hutto, March 25, 2002, Fayette County
James Lance Horner Jr., June 22, 2003, Clarke County
Nathan B. Mims, November 11, 2008, Chilton County
The officers were recognized today through the dedication of a memorial wall in their honor at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources headquarters office in Montgomery.

“Today, I had the privilege of honoring 12 officers who died in the line of duty, making the ultimate sacrifice to protect Alabama’s natural resources. Our state remains indebted to those who preserve our beautiful, sweet home,” Ivey said.
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The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Auburn University’s Dixon Center chosen for national Wildland Firefighter Apprenticeship Program, first academy in the eastern U.S.

For the first time in its history, the national Wildland Firefighter Apprenticeship Program is providing training in the eastern U.S. at the Auburn University Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center in Andalusia, Alabama. The training course, also known as WFAP, dates back to 1989 and is traditionally held in Sacramento, California.

The WFAP has trained more than 2,000 apprentices in wildland firefighting and prepared them for a future as fire managers. Wildland firefighters are dispatched to fight wildfires in national forests throughout the nation including Alabama’s four national forests—Bankhead, Conecuh, Talladega and Tuskegee.

In early February, 48 wildland firefighter apprentices gathered for the first WFAP academy at Auburn’s Dixon Center. They attended classes about fire behavior, fire suppression tactics, weather, safety, leadership, risk management and incident command all taught by seasoned fire experts.

Firefighter apprentices also gained hands-on field experience with situational awareness and tactical decision making, while practicing safety and teamwork skills.

The next academy will be held in March.

“The Wildland Firefighter Apprenticeship Program develops our future fire and aviation managers in an innovative and unique educational experience, combining classroom and field based hands-on education at the Dixon Center,” said Heath Cota, director of WFAP.

Participating agencies include the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The Dixon Center’s 5,300-plus acres features fresh water springs, longleaf pine forests, cypress swamps, frontage along the Conecuh River and the national forest. According to Dixon Center Director Joel Martin, this mix of diverse ecosystems makes the location an excellent outdoor learning environment for forestry and natural resources management.

“At the Dixon Center, students have the unique opportunity to take what they have learned from their classroom instruction and, in the same day, put that ‘theory into practice’ within our longleaf pine forests,” said Martin.

The center was created in 1978 with an initial monetary donation and 80-acre gift of land to Auburn University by the late forestry pioneer, Solon Dixon, and his recently passed widow, Martha Dixon. This land would later combine with another larger deed of property—at the time the largest of its kind in Auburn’s history—to create the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center, a forestry and wildlife conservation education facility operated by the Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

Located only hours from numerous major cities, the center includes the 6,500-square-foot Solon and Martha Dixon Foundation Learning Center with a state-of-the-art auditorium, classroom and conference room; two large bunkhouses; five semiprivate dormitory buildings; a rec center; administrative building; classroom and computer lab building; maintenance shop; and cafeteria.

“The center is really ideal for this type of long-term immersive training,” said Janaki Alavalapati, dean of Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. “Once a group arrives, all of their needs can be met without leaving the property. This is both convenient and helps students to focus for longer periods, while reducing travel expenses—all things that ultimately lower training costs.

“The Dixons’ vision for this land was to support excellence in forestry education. We know the Dixons would be very proud the WFAP recognizes the quality of instruction and experiential learning that can be gained here.”

Auburn University is committed to educational and outreach partnerships that deliver practical, life-changing solutions to pressing regional, national and global needs.

More information about the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center can be found online at http://sdfec.auburn.edu/. More information about the WFAP and the training courses can be found online at https://www.nafri.gov/wfap/. Written by Jamie Anderson

Effective immediately: Alabama hunters MAY NOT IMPORT deer carcasses from MISSISSIPPI. Alabama regulation PROHIBITS the importation of body parts of any deer species from any CWD-positive state. Chronic Wasting Disease has now been CONFIRMED in Mississippi.

Chronic Wasting Disease Confirmed in a Mississippi White-tailed Deer

A white-tailed deer collected on January 25, 2018, in Issaquena County has tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). The deer was a 4.5-year-old male that died of natural causes and was reported to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.
This is the first time an animal in Mississippi has tested positive for the disease, which is fatal to white-tailed deer. MDWFP will immediately implement the CWD Response Plan under the auspices of the Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.
Pursuant to the Order of the Executive Director on behalf of the Commission, effectively immediately, supplemental feeding is banned in the following counties: Claiborne, Hinds, Issaquena, Sharkey, Warren, and Yazoo.
CWD was first documented among captive mule deer in Colorado in 1967, and has been confirmed in 24 states, three Canadian provinces, and two foreign countries. It has been found in the free-ranging herds in 22 states and among captive cervids in 16 states.
According to the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance, CWD affects only cervids (hoofed animals in the cervidae family such as deer, elk, and moose). CWD affects the body’s nervous system. Once in the host’s body, prions transform normal cellular protein into an abnormal shape that accumulates until the cell ceases to function. Infected animals begin to lose weight, lose their appetite, and develop an insatiable thirst. They tend to stay away from herds, walk in patterns, carry their head low, salivate, and grind their teeth.
For more information regarding CWD in Mississippi, visit our website at www.mdwfp.com or call us at (601) 432-2199. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mdwfp or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MDWFPonline

Help Prevent CWD in Alabama: Hunters should know the law, follow guidelines

Many of Alabama’s deer hunters have already spent time this season hunting the rut in several Midwestern states. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources reminds those hunters that Alabama law prohibits the importation of deer carcasses and certain deer parts from other states and Canadian provinces where Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been confirmed.

CWD is a fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of cervids (deer and other deer-like animals). The disease attacks the brain of an infected animal causing it to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose bodily functions, and eventually die. The introduction of this disease into the state could have significant impacts on Alabama’s deer herd.

Alabama hunting regulations ban the import of live deer, whole carcasses, and certain body parts of any member of the family Cervidae from CWD-positive states. This includes, but is not limited to, white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose, and caribou. Parts that may be legally imported include completely deboned meat; cleaned skull plates with attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if no root structure or other soft tissue is present; and finished taxidermy products or tanned hides.

CWD has been found in captive and/or wild deer in 24 states, two Canadian provinces, Norway, and South Korea. It is not known to be transmissible to humans or domestic livestock. To date, there have been no positive tests for CWD in Alabama.

Alabama and 36 other states ban the importation of cervid body parts from CWD affected areas. Violation of Alabama’s animal parts ban is a class C misdemeanor.

Before transporting harvested deer from CWD-positive areas, hunters should keep these facts in mind:
• The following states and Canadian provinces are currently CWD-positive: Alberta, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Saskatchewan, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Importation of certain deer body parts from these states and provinces into Alabama is illegal.
• Before returning to Alabama with a deer harvested in a CWD-affected area, hunters should completely debone the animal, remove and dispose of any brain or spinal tissue from skull plates, raw capes and hides. Root structures and other soft tissue should be removed from all teeth. Finished taxidermy products and tanned hides are not affected by the ban.
• Some states prohibit the importation of these same deer parts from any state or province, whether they are CWD positive or not.
• Alabama hunters going out of state should check the regulations of their destination states regarding handling and tagging of carcasses before preparing their deer for transport back to Alabama.

ADCNR needs everyone’s support to maintain Alabama’s CWD-free status. To report the importation of live or harvested deer, call Operation GameWatch at 1-800-272-4263. If possible, provide a name and description of any suspects including vehicle description, license plate, and the time and location of the observation. Resident deer exhibiting signs of CWD can also be reported via GameWatch.

To learn more about CWD, visit www.outdooralabama.com/chronic-wasting-disease-what-you-should-know.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

First hunt at Alamuchee hunting club
This picture is taken in 1946, First hunt at Alamuchee hunting Club in Cuba. Left to right: Tom Meadow, Bill McElroy, Will Stallings, Will McElroy, Lee McElroy, R.E. Truelove and Tom Upchurch. Photo submitted by David Hatcher
Auburn University’s Kreher Preserve and Nature Center added to Alabama Birding Trails

The Alabama Birding Trails has announced that Auburn University’s Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve, informally known as the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center, will be designated as an Alabama Birding Trail location as part of the regional Piedmont Valley Birding Trail.

The 120-acre preserve, located just north of Auburn, features five miles of well-marked trails which traverse seven natural bird habitats including pine, oak/hickory, bottomland hardwood and mixed pine/hardwood. As part of the Saugahatchee Creek Watershed, visitors will also find a stream, small waterfall, pond and wetland areas.

Approximately 80 different bird species can be found on the property throughout the year, including the belted kingfisher, Mississippi kite and indigo bunting. The preserve habitat hosts migratory birds in the spring such as warblers, vireos, tanagers and orioles. Fall and wintering birds such as nuthatches, kinglets and woodpeckers are frequently observed.

Visitors to the Kreher Preserve are also able to observe various species of raptors including hawks, owls and vultures. Nesting bald eagles are present on nearby properties and are frequently observed flying into and over the preserve.

“The Kreher Preserve and Nature Center is enjoyed by the university community as well thousands of locals and visitors every year,” said Janaki Alavalapati, dean of the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. “We hope that by adding it to the Alabama Birding Trail even more families will be exposed to the opportunity to enjoy this unique discovery center with its miles of beautiful trails, natural habitats and educational programs.”

Preliminary findings from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation estimates that in 2016, more than 101 million Americans—nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population—participates in some form of fishing, hunting or other wildlife-associated recreation such as birdwatching or outdoor photography.

“The economic impact of outdoor and wildlife-related recreation is a boom for the U.S. economy representing nearly 1 percent of the gross domestic product,” said John Wild, president of the Auburn Opelika Tourism Bureau.

“With the addition of the Kreher Preserve and the Lee County Fishing Lake to the growing list of birding sites in Lee County, including the Wood Duck Preserve and Chewacla State Park, we anticipate the new designations will draw more people to the Auburn/Opelika area who will also visit our hotels, enjoy meals in restaurants and make retail purchases while they are here.”

The Kreher Preserve and Nature Center is located at 2222 North College Street in Auburn. It is open to the public every day from sunrise to sunset and features amenities such as a picnic area, restrooms, drinking fountains, boardwalks and two improved parking areas.

The preserve was established in 1993 with a gift of land from Louise Kreher Turner and Frank Allen Turner to Auburn University and is operated by the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences as a not-for-profit outreach program.

The Alabama Birding Trails is a partnership of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development and the Birmingham Audubon Society. It highlights many of the birds found in Alabama and encourages economic development through a tourism-based model.

More information about the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center can be found online at http://wp.auburn.edu/preserve/. More information about Alabama Birding Trails can be found online at https://alabamabirdingtrails.com/. Written by Jamie Andersonau bird

Photogenic hawk on Hwy. 60


This hawk enjoyed a winter’s day in the sunshine and posed for a series of photos, including this one, on Friday, January 19 on Ala. Hwy 60 near Stewart. Photo by Tiffany Vaughn

Life Hunt Participants Complete Buck-Sweep

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources


(Ryan Noffsinger) All four hunters from Alabama who participated in the 2018 Buckmasters Life Hunt went home with bucks. From top, Abigail McHenry and her dad, Jason, bagged a big buck on the last day of the hunt. Rhae Busby and David Sullivan of the American Deer Foundation are all smiles after Busby took the first buck of the event. Buckmasters founder Jackie Bushman joins Daniel Allen and his grandfather, David Strickland, to celebrate Daniel’s success. Bushman and Taylor Watts show off his Life Hunt trophy.

Every hunter at the 2018 Buckmasters Life Hunt at Sedgefields Plantation went home with great memories. And with a snowstorm approaching, each hunter bagged a buck before the three-day event was complete.

Going into the final afternoon hunt, David Powell of South Carolina had taken a doe earlier in the hunt but was the only participant without a buck. Powell completed the buck-sweep by dropping a 10-pointer as sleet started to pelt the ground blind.

Another hunter didn’t take her buck until the final day of the event, but Abigail McHenry of Deatsville, Ala., scored on the morning hunt. Abigail was sponsored on the hunt by the Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association.

Abigail, 14, is the daughter of Jason McHenry, a conservation enforcement officer with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. Abigail was born prematurely and suffers from cerebral palsy.

When we talked about her hunt, the first thing she said was, “I was excited.” And she affirmed that her heart was really pumping.

Abigail had been practicing with her dad, and it definitely paid off. When I asked her what happened after she shot, her answer was, “He hit the ground.”

Jason said the two had been practicing with some adaptive equipment, a Caldwell Deadshot Fieldpod Max with an iPhone adapter. When they arrived at the blind, it became apparent they would have to adjust.

“We had been working a Deadshot, and typically we were using that with a Snakelook hookup for the iPhone to look through the scope,” McHenry said. “As far as the setup with the blind, the Deadshot wouldn’t fit in the blind, so I shouldered the gun for her, and she pulled the trigger.

“When she shot it, the buck mule-kicked and took one step forward. It was standing, so we put another round in it and dropped it. When we watched the video, after that first shot, you could tell he was about to fall when we took the second shot.”

The McHenrys indicated they couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

“I’m excited for Abigail,” Jason said. “It gave us a great time together. Our guide, Jeff Woods, was awesome. He really took time with Abigail and just made her laugh and enjoy the hunt.

“The experience, as a whole, has been great. Abigail has been smiling all morning since she got the deer. It gives her some bragging rights to go back home and tell her brothers and sisters (five), because she’s the only one that has been a part of killing a buck.”

Rhae Busby of Demopolis, Ala., who suffers from brittle bone disease, had to sit out the final day of hunting after fracturing her collarbone the night before. However, she already had her buck down when that happened. In fact, Rhae was the first hunter to put a buck on the ground, an eight-pointer.

Rhae’s mother, Dana Busby, shared on Facebook about the event.

“Every hunter this year was able to take a buck,” Dana posted. “Rhae killed the first buck of the hunt, so she was given a really nice Buck knife. David Robertson, pitcher with the Yankees, came out (as he does every year) and spent some time with the kids and families and gave all the hunters a jersey and hat, which he signed. You couldn’t meet a nicer guy. Rhae received several other gifts from several organizations. Buckmasters put on an amazing three-day hunt that we were blessed and grateful to be a part of. Just want to say a big thank you to David Sullivan for getting us involved and to everyone else it took to pull this event off. I tried to thank everyone I could before we left. Y’all made one little girl extremely happy.”

Daniel Allen, a 6-year-old from Coke, Ala., who has survived leukemia, took his first buck with the help of the guides and his grandfather, David Strickland, who relived the successful hunt.

“A nice buck crossed out of range so I roused Daniel up from his stool where he was napping,” Strickland posted. “Then we spotted two does headed towards the field in front of our ground blind at about 100 yards. The camera guy and guide looked at each other and told him to shoot the lead doe. I whispered, ‘Right behind the shoulder,’ and he shot. It dropped low and ran about 70 yards and hit the ground (perfect lung shot). I then noticed a buck easing across a dirt road headed the same way. We quickly extracted the spent shell and he pushed another round into the single shot. The guide stopped the trotting buck with a grunt and he stared in our direction. He aimed, shot and missed. I quickly opened the breach and slipped in another round. I whispered, ‘Slowly squeeze the trigger.’ He shot again and the buck buckled without a twitch.”

Taylor Watts of McCalla, Ala., a 16-year-old childhood cancer survivor, also bagged an eight-point during the event.

David Sullivan, who heads the Buckmasters American Deer Foundation, said hunters came from as far away as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to hunt at Sedgefields, one of the top places to hunt in the Alabama Black Belt, which is renowned for its deer and turkey hunting.

The Life Hunt has been taking place at the Hinton family property since 2000, and Sullivan lauded the time and effort that goes into the hunt each January, both from the Hinton family and the many volunteers and guides.

“I think the Life Hunt has gotten better every year,” Sullivan said. “We’ve been able to refine the way we do things, and we have a lot more help than we used to. We have a lot more resources donated, which allows us to help more people. We have more sponsorships, which allows us to buy more adaptive equipment the hunters need.”

As was mentioned by Rhae Busby’s mom, David Robertson, a relief pitcher with the New York Yankees who hails from Tuscaloosa, again joined the Life Hunt to provide encouragement as well as mementoes.

“This is something I look forward to all season long,” Robertson said. “I can’t wait to hang out with these guys and see all the new hunters coming in. I love seeing smiles on faces when they’re putting their hands on horns and taking pictures. I just hang out, drift around and talk to people. I try to make them feel happy and comfortable.

“It’s different for me to hang out in this type of environment. It’s fun to me to go around and find out how everyone’s hunt went. Most people here get their first deer. I remember how excited I was when I got my first deer. That was 24 years ago at Mike Spruill’s place near Tuscaloosa. It was a big, ol’ three-point. I had my dad with me. I will never forget it.”

 

The best-case scenario, according to Leysath, is to have access to a walk-in cooler where the skinned deer carcasses can be hung for at least a week. He hangs larger animals for up to two weeks. The failure to properly age the venison can lead to a chewy meal.

“I actually had a buddy of mine from Centre, Ala., call me and say he had done everything I told him to do to prepare the venison,” Leysath said. “He said, ‘I did not overcook the backstrap. It was 130 degrees in the center. I made that balsamic dressing to go with it. But it was really, really, really tough.’

“I asked him when he shot the deer. ‘Yesterday.’ He hadn’t given that meat a chance. It has to go through rigor for 24 hours, and then you have to let it hang or age. If that backstrap had been aged for a week, it would have been a whole different animal.”

Leysath said that venison that is frozen soon after harvest can still benefit from the aging process. If you don’t have access to a walk-in cooler but have room in a refrigerator, you can put the meat on a rack above a pan and let it age. Another option is to use a large ice chest, but don’t put the venison in the ice. Arrange some method to keep the venison elevated above the ice and ensure the temperature inside the ice chest doesn’t get above 40 degrees.

“You’re going to lose some crusty bits that aren’t going to look all that pleasant after a week or two, but the rest of it is going to be a lot more tender,” he said. “After a couple of weeks, the meat will lose about 20 to 25 percent of its weight, but what is left is good stuff. The dry-aging and hanging makes all the difference in the world.”

Leysath also has a pet peeve about trying to mask the flavor of wild game. He has a friend in Alabama who claims snow goose is by far the best-eating goose. His friend cuts the goose breasts into little strips and marinates them in teriyaki for 48 hours. Then cream cheese and jalapeno are added before being wrapped in bacon.

“That’s the universal recipe with wild game,” he said. “You marinate in who knows what, add jalapeno, some kind of cheese and bacon. Then it doesn’t taste like deer, duck or snow goose. What’s the point of that?”

Leysath said during his travels he has noticed that cooks in some parts of the country are predisposed to overcooking and are convinced wild game must be done all the way through.

“The biggest challenge I have with a lot of folks is to get them to quit cooking their deer quite so long,” he said.

Leysath gave a venison cooking demonstration at the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association conference last fall, and the venison didn’t stay long in the frying pan before he was slicing it into bite-size pieces.

“I just sort of looked at it, didn’t I,” he said with a laugh. “Had I kept cooking it, it would have been less tender. And that was a muscle from the hind quarter. That wasn’t a backstrap. The key is, before serving, cut it across the grain. If you see long lines running through it, you’re cutting it the wrong way.

“And if the internal temperature is beyond 140 degrees, it starts to get tougher. Some folks can’t get past eating medium-rare venison. If I’m doing a seminar, I’ll cover it up with a dark sauce, and they talk about how tender it is.”

Obviously, Leysath does not apply the medium-rare rule to all venison.

“Sometimes, you want to go low and slow,” he said. “If you’ve got a venison shoulder, leave the bone in. Give it a good rub with olive oil and whatever seasoning you prefer. I’m going to brown it and then braise it in a roasting pan with a can of beer, celery, onion and carrots at a low temp. I’m going to let that moist heat do the work for me. After a few hours, the meat is falling off the bone. I wish deer had more than four legs, because those shanks are some of the best eating when you cook them low and slow.”

When Leysath wants to change skeptics’ minds about the taste of venison, he uses this trusty recipe.

Backstrap and Berries
½ venison backstrap
3 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
¼ cup red wine
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp berry preserves
3 tbsp chilled butter
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup whole berries

Trim all silverskin off the backstrap and either cut into thick medallions or in chunks that will fit in the frying pan. Sear all sides of the venison in the hot oil and set aside. Add red wine, balsamic vinegar, garlic and berry preserves to pan and reduce by one-third. Add chilled butter. Slice venison across the grain. Pour balsamic-berry sauce over venison and top with your choice of whole berries.

Leysath also suggested a very simple dish of four to five ingredients with an Asian flare.

Sesame Backstrap
½ venison backstrap
¼ cup yellow mustard
½ cup sesame seeds
3 tbsp vegetable oil
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup chopped green onions
Optional: couple of shots of sriracha hot sauce

Take backstrap and cut into thick medallions or manageable chunks. Coat in mustard and then roll in sesame seeds (look in Asian section of the grocery store instead of spice aisle). Sear all sides of the venison in hot oil and set aside. Add soy sauce, vinegar and chopped green onions to pan. Reduce by one-third and then pour over sliced venison.

Black Bear Sightings Likely to Increase in Alabama

By Davide Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Interaction between humans and black bears saw an uptick last year, and that will likely be the trend for the near future, at least in one corner of the state, according to Dr. Todd Steury of Auburn University.

Funded by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resource’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division’s State Wildlife Grants Program, Professor Steury, along with graduate students John Draper and Chris Seals, recently completed a multiple-year study of the black bear population in Alabama.

The basic conclusions were that Alabama has two populations of black bears, one in northeast Alabama and one in southwest Alabama, and each population has a different legacy as well as likely future.

The population in northeast Alabama, with roots from the mountains of northeast Georgia, has the potential for significant expansion. Hence, the likelihood that black bear sightings will become more common in the future.

The population in southwest Alabama, which appears to be an encapsulated population, is relatively stagnant, but significantly more difficult to monitor.

“We think that most of Alabama, at one time, had black bears,” Steury said. “We believe two of the sub-species kind of met in Alabama, the American sub-species from the North and the Florida sub-species from the South. Of course, black bears were pretty much hunted to extinction in the state with one very small population remaining near Mobile.”

Steury said the Auburn study was prompted by the fact the black bears in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta hadn’t been studied since 1992 and by an increase in the number of bear sightings in the Little River area in northeast Alabama.

“In that study in the Delta in 1992, it was a very small population,” he said. “There was some concern about inbreeding because of how small it was. Part of our goal was to reexamine this population to see how they are doing. The other reason for the study was the increased sightings around Fort Payne, and we wanted to know if there is a viable population up there or just an occasional bear traveling through the area.”

Bear sightings in Heflin and Oxford made headlines last year and prompted residents in those areas to voice concerns about the animals being close to public recreation areas.

Steury said his team, which included Thomas Harms, WFF’s Large Carnivore Coordinator, used a variety of methods to gather bear data. The population density numbers were derived from a DNA study.

“We used two methods to gather the DNA information,” Steury said. “One was eco-dogs. These dogs are trained to find bear scat. We took them into areas where we knew there were populations of bears – Mobile, Saraland and the Celeste Road areas. The eco-dogs are expensive to run, but they can get us a lot of data. I think it was about 1,000 samples in two months of work.

“But the dogs are not cost-effective if you’re looking in areas where you’re not sure about the presence of bears. For that, we used hair snares. It’s basically a barbed-wire fence surrounding bait. The bear crosses the barbed wire to get to the bait and the barbs pull a little hair out. Then we get DNA from the hairs.”

Steury said the team erected hair snares in virtually every township in Mobile County, about half of Washington County and most of Baldwin County in the southern end of the state. In the north, hair snares were placed in almost all townships between Interstates 59 and 20. The National Park Service helped the team erect snares all over Little River National Preserve.

“We were sampling very widely,” Steury said. “We chose townships because that’s about the size of a male home range. Overall, we had about 300 hair snares in southwest Alabama and another 100-150 in northeast Alabama.”

After all the data was collected, the analysis started. The results gave researchers population numbers, genetic diversity, points of origin and connections to other bear populations.

Steury said the DNA data indicated that the population in northeast Alabama more than doubled, going from about 12 bears to 30.

“We know those bears came from north Georgia,” he said. “We originally thought they might be from central Georgia around Macon, but the DNA showed they came right down the mountain from Georgia.”

The results from southwest Alabama were not as conclusive because of the requirements to meet the DNA profiling.

“We only got a good estimate from 2015,” Steury said. “We estimated there were 85 bears, but the estimate said there could be as many as 165. So it’s still a fairly small population. Obviously, that is not a great estimate, but we’d be very surprised if there are 200 bears down there. They seem to be very localized between Wagarville and Chatom and the Celeste Road area northwest of Saraland.

“The interesting thing is Chris Seals, the graduate student working that area, said there are what he calls bear superhighways, these riparian areas, rivers and corridors where these bears move. So we can get a lot of DNA in those areas. So we’re very confident about the bears in those areas. But in those areas in between, it’s much harder for us to figure out how many bears are there.”

The story in northeast Alabama is that bears are finding suitable habitat to establish home ranges and expand the population.

“The bears are breeding,” Steury said of northeast Alabama. “We have seen numerous examples of sows with two or three cubs on our game cameras. We feel like the population there is going to grow, and there are still bears coming in from Georgia.

“We’re going to have more bears up there. There is lot of great habitat in Jackson County and Talladega National Forest. It’s just a matter of time for the population to expand.”

The prognosis for the southwest Alabama bear population is not so optimistic.

“The habitat in southwest Alabama is disappearing,” Steury said. “And, the population is not growing like it should. That is the next question we have to answer. We have some hypotheses. Those bears seem to be having good litters, but Chris is not seeing those cubs make it to adulthood. One of the aspects we’re exploring is den sites. When you think of bear dens in cold weather, what do you think about – caves or holes in the ground. In north Alabama, you’ve got bunches of caves or holes in the ground.

“In southwest Alabama, bears don’t have that. We will occasionally see denning in tree roots. What we see a lot of are nests. What we don’t know is how much protection from the elements and predators those really provide. Is the reason cubs are not making it to adulthood that they don’t have good dens?”

Another concern of the researchers is the lack of new genes in the southwest population.

“The genetic diversity in the southwest is really bad,” Steury said. “It’s worse than any bear population in the Southeast United States. Normally, to differentiate between brothers and sisters, you need eight chunks of DNA. We couldn’t tell the difference between brothers and sisters with our eight chunks of DNA. It took 14 to 15 chunks of DNA to tell the difference between brothers and sisters in that population. So they’ve got really low genetic diversity. We don’t really know how low that genetic diversity has to get to affect the population. We’ve captured a lot of bears, and we haven’t seen any deformities or other effects.”

The other conclusion derived from the DNA studies is the connection of the specific populations with other populations in the Southeast.

“The northeast population is still pretty well connected with the north Georgia population,” Steury said. “The southern population does not appear to be connected with bears from Florida or western Mississippi. The DNA suggests there is basically no movement of bears into the southwest population. Bears come from Florida. We know because we track them. But they seem to get to the rivers in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and turn around and go back.

“We do catch and collar bears. The largest bear we have caught weighed 308 pounds. Chris said he has seen one that he estimates at 400 pounds. But most of our bears average 150 pounds.”

When it comes to bear-human interactions, Steury said a mailer was sent out to judge the public perception of bears.

“What we found out is that people like bears,” he said. “They want to have bears in Alabama. Generally, they were not supportive of lethal management controls except in extreme situations, where there was clear danger to people.”

Steury said it is rare when large predators do anything other than flee when they come in contact with humans.

“They can’t risk being injured,” he said. “If they’re injured, they can’t hunt. They can’t feed themselves and they’re going to die. They have no idea how hard or easy we would be to kill. They have no idea how dangerous we are, which is what basically keeps us safe.”

Steury said the sightings that happened in Oxford and Heflin last year were young male bears that had been kicked out of the mom’s territory. Those 2-year-old males were roaming to find new home territories.

“They can cover thousands of miles,” he said. “That’s why we see bears where they’re not supposed to be. They are juvenile males that are exploring for a place to settle down. The thing is they never stay around. When I got the call from Heflin about what they should do, I told them to just leave it alone. In a day or two, it’ll be gone.

“If they get into somebody’s food or people start feeding them, that’s when they become problems.”

PHOTO: (Courtesy of Auburn University) Black bears in Alabama are being studied by using DNA collection devices, like barbed wire around a bait, as well as collaring adult bears. One question researchers hope to answer is whether bear nests in southwest Alabama provide enough protection for cubs.

Buteo Jamaicensis, or more commonly known as a Red Hawk is commonly seen in winter, spring and fall, but not so much in summer. This lovely specimen’s photo was taken by Kimberly Lester in Pelham.

Alabama “mudpuppy” to receive federal protection

 

 

The Black Warrior waterdog, a large aquatic salamander found only in the Black Warrior River Basin in Alabama, is now a federally protected species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) listed the salamander as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), meaning it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. A rigorous review of the best available science has found low and declining population numbers due to loss and fragmentation of its habitat and poor water quality in the Black Warrior River Basin. The highly permeable skin and external gills of the waterdog make it particularly sensitive to declines in water quality and oxygen concentration.

The Service is also finalizing critical habitat for the Black Warrior waterdog. We are designating 420 river miles of critical habitat in four units, including 127 miles of habitat already designated for other federally protected fish, mussels and salamanders. The designation includes only areas currently occupied by the species and will protect more than 50 percent of the waterdog’s historical habitat. The designation is comprised of five tributaries within the Black Warrior River Basin; Sipsey Fork (Lawrence and Winston Counties); Locust Fork (Blount, Etowah, Jefferson, and Marshall Counties); Blackwater Creek (Walker and Winston Counties); and Yellow Creek (Tuscaloosa County).

The critical habitat designation should have minimal or no impact on the forestry and coal mining community. Since there are already critical habitat designations for other species in this area, very little additional regulatory action will be necessary for the waterdog. The designation will also have no impact on private landowners taking actions on their land that do not require federal funding or permits.

Establishing critical habitat will raise awareness of the needs of the waterdog and other imperiled species and focus the efforts of our conservation partners. It also alerts federal agencies that they are required to make special conservation efforts when they work, fund or permit activities in those areas.

The Black Warrior waterdog, known by its nickname, the Alabama mudpuppy, is a large, night-loving salamander that maintains its larval characteristics, including retention of external gills, throughout its life. It is found in streams within the main channel of the Black Warrior River and parts of the North River, Locust Fork, Mulberry Fork and Sipsey Fork. Sources of pollution in the Black Warrior River Basin include runoff from industrial plants, landfills, sewage treatment plants, construction, and the historical impacts of surface mining.

The Black Warrior waterdog is recognized as a Priority 2/High Conservation Concern by Alabama, meaning the state has been actively engaged with local and federal partners in understanding and addressing the impacts to the waterdog and other imperiled wildlife that share its habitat. There are 26 federally protected animals found in the Black Warrior River Basin, 15 of which are aquatic, including the flattened musk turtle.
Consideration of the status of the waterdog was required under a court-approved litigation settlement agreement with two environmental groups.

The complete listing and critical habitat rule, which becomes effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, can be obtained by visiting the Federal eRulemaking Portal: regulations.gov at Docket Number FWS–R4–ES–2016–0031. A copy can also be obtained by contacting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1208-B Main Street, Daphne, Alabama, 36526.

Contacts
Denise Rowell, Public Affairs Specialist in Alabama
denise_rowell@fws.gov, (251) 441-6630

Sheriff’s Snow Hunt Bags Big One

Sumter County Sheriff Brian S. Harris killed this Sumter County 8 pointer in the snow. (weight unknown)

Sumter County’s Snow Day

Small children and adults alike were overjoyed by a surprise snow storm, the largest to hit Sumter County since the ice storm of 2014. Fluffy snow blanketed the county, perfect for playing in. Photos by Tajah Bell, Teresa Jane Seevers, LaToshia McGrew, Michele Haygood, Kim Lester, Kasey DeCastra, Rickitta Martin, Drucilla Jackson, Herman Ward, Jr.

 

A Lady Spins Her Web in the She Shed

At first we thought this lovely lady was a female Trachelas Tranquillus, “Broad-faced Sac Spider,” a wandering hunter that may be is sometimes found indoors. They like to live where they are very well camouflaged. After noting that this one was spinning a web we decided we were wrong in classification and it’s a Neoscona Crucifera, “Spotted Orbweaver,” relatively variable in color and sometimes pattern, but is most commonly seen sporting a rusty-red or golden orange color. The orb-shaped web is very large and is often constructed on buildings and other man-made structures, especially near outdoor lights. This species is most conspicuous in late summer and early fall. Donna Dial found this lovely female in her “She Shed” Tuesday, November 7. Photo by Donna Dial. Want to learn more about spiders in Alabama? Visit http://www.spiders.us/species/filter/alabama/ and start classifying your own friendly neighborhood arachnids.

Youth Season Deer Hunt

12-year-old Tabriah Harris, the daughter of Sheriff Brian S. Harris and Tina Harris took her largest buck to date when she took down this 170 lb. 9 pt. at 80 yards with her 6.5 Grendel. Photo submitted by Brian S. Harris, S. C. Sheriff.

 


Sunset November 15, 2017 Tuscaloosa, Alabama by Kasey DeCastra, Sumter County Record Journal and Moundville Times Community News Editor.
We’re looking for your outdoors stories and photos! Fall leaf views, beautiful sunset/sunrise, hiking photos, wildlife, hunting trophy, interesting vegetables and plants, big fish… You get the idea. Email it to scrjmedia@yahoo.com and not only will you get in the paper, but you’ll get spotlighted on the outdoors page too! Don’t send anything to Facebook.

 

Kalee’s Biggest Buck Award

Kalee Long’s 5th year at MWPF Super Hunt is one for the record books. Alex Taylor and Scott Parenteau where Kalee and her three friends went 8 for 8. Killing 7 bucks and 1 doe at Australia Island on Eagle Lake. The best food, hunting and fellowship around. Kalee saved her best hunt for the last when she shot a 10 point buck. Kalee was also awarded the biggest buck award for the super hunt. Email us your hunting trophy pictures to scrjmedia@yahoo.com. It’s free and a week after we run them in the paper, we’ll put them on the website. Photo submitted by Claire Smith

Tree Pumpkin?

This “Tree Pumpkin” is growing in a tree in Lucy Gallman’s yard in Livingston. The real pumpkin is about 20 feet up from the ground. The seedlings that grew the “Tree” pumpkin came from a friendly, family contest event the Gallmans have every year. Mrs. Gallman explained, “Every Thanksgiving my great nieces and nephews and grandchildren bring their Halloween pumpkins for our annual ‘punkin chunkin.’ They compete to see who can roll their pumpkin down the hill and smash it into the most pieces. This pumpkin is the result of the competition and the vine grew up the tree. I just noticed it today. I thought your readers might enjoy this photo.”

Sharks in Lake LU?

Sharks in Lake LU? That was the question the SCRJ photographer asked himself in disbelief as he traveled across the Lake LU dam Monday morning, Oct. 23 at about 9 a.m. on Country Club Rd. Upon a closer look, and after photographing and videoing the two “shark like fins” protruding above the water line, the fins seemed to be stationary for the ten to 15 minutes the reporter gazed upon the sight. The two “fins” were near the pier on the south side of the lake near the dam. A call to the University of West Alabama Campus Police revealed the fins were placed in the lake as a prank by some unknown individuals. See a video on www.recordjournal.net and on Facebook. Photo by Tommy McGraw

 

 

Giant Destroying Angel

Gloria Harrell of Daphne, sent in this photo of a “Destroying Angel” (Amanita virosa, A. verna, A. bisporigera) in her back yard “as big as a washtub and came up to my knees,” she stated. It was a foot and a half tall and eighteen inches wide. According to USDA’s Field Guide to Common Macrofungi in Eastern Forests and Their Ecosystem Functions by Michael E. Ostry, Neil A. Anderson and Joseph G. O’Brien. “Identification: Cap white, smooth; white gills free from stalk; bulbous base; white veil. Season of fruiting: Summer-Fall, Ecosystem function: Mycorrhizal with hardwoods and conifers Edibility: Highly poisonous and often fatal, Fungal note: These three mushrooms can only be distinguished from each other by their spore characteristics; collectively. They cause 95 percent of fatal mushroom poisonings. DO NOT eat any mushroom unless you are absolutely certain of its identity. Photo by Gloria Harrell, story by Kasey DeCastra, SCRJ & MVT Community News Editor

Thompson Makes Big Catch

Tony Thompson of Gainesville caught this 45 pound flathead catfish while fishing at the Gainesville Lock and Dam.

A “Luna” Legacy

Actias luna, the Luna Moth, can be found as far north as Canada and south as Florida. This lovely specimen was found above our door for a week. By Kasey DeCastra, SCRJ & MVT Community News Editor

Guard Spider

Dolomedes Tenebrosus, the dark fishing spider are another large, sprawling arachnids are most often found on vertical surfaces: tree trunks, fence posts, bridge pilings, or the exterior walls of buildings, usually at night although this friend hung out over our doorway which we were thankful for the keeping our pest population at bay. They are ambush predators who wait for large insects to come within striking distance. They do not spin webs.

Hogging the Side of the Road

Wild hogs were spotted south of Linden in Marengo County. Photo by Tiffany Vaughn

Lady of the Garden

Argiope Aurantia, more commonly known as the black and yellow garden spider, is usually seen around the end of summer and start of fall. The mature females are enormous and up to 19 to 28 mm in body length. The males are much smaller at a third of the female’s size. You’ll see them pretty much anywhere: gardens, orchards, forest edges, old fields, under lights and farms. They spin a classic round orb web with a zigzag band of silk called a “stabilimentum.” By Kasey DeCastra, Moundville Times & Sumter County Record Journal Community News Editor

Surprise! Lily

Lycoris radiata, or more commonly known in Alabama as the Red Surprise Lilly, Red Spider Lily or British Soldier, (Madoline Thurn once told me a relative liked to call them “Naked Ladies” after I asked what they were when I first came to Livingston in 2007) actually comes from Japan and came over as a garden flower in 1854. The flowers bloom after the first heavy rain in late September through mid October. In Japan the Red Spider Lily signals the arrival of fall. Many Buddhist will use it to celebrate the arrival of fall with a ceremony at the tomb of one of their ancestors. They plant them on graves as a tribute to the dead. People believe that since the Red Spider Lily is mostly associated with death that one should never give a bouquet of these flowers. By Kasey DeCastra, Sumter County Record Journal and Moundville Times Community News Editor

Hurricane Irma drains parts of Mobile Bay

A photo similar to this one posted on facebook by ABC 33/40 Meteorologist James Spann showing Mobile Bay appearing dry in places went viral over the weekend. This led some to believe that Hurricane Irma was somehow sucking water out of the bay and others to accuse Spann sharing a faked photo. This “real” photo was taken by a friend of the SCRJ, William “Billy” Harrall and shared for readers to see at Lake Forest Marina in Daphne. Spann went on to say that “this happens on shallow parts of bays and is not that unusual.” And that’s certainly true for Mobile Bay, which has expansive shallows in its northern reaches, near the Bayway and Causeway. A sustained north wind – be it from a hurricane or the regular winter pattern – will expose extensive flats in those areas, especially at low tide. Photo by William “Billy” Harrall

Trail Rider’s annual fishing derby

  Southwest Alabama and Southeast Mississippi Trail Rider’s Association held their 6th annual Fishing Derby on Aug. 19 at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives along with the Federation’s 50th anniversary. More than 50 people participated in the fishing derby. Trophies were awarded for the most fish, smallest fish, biggest fish, most excited, first time fishing and best sportsmanship. Winners for the most fish were Mike Jackson and Rodrick Epps (adult), Shemara Washington and Robert Smith (youth). Diann Ware (adult), Nicholas Jones and Jaylen Hale (youth) received awards for the smallest fish. Biggest fish winners were Jadarvion Green (youth) and Jimmy Newell (adult). AJ Hale (youth) brought home the trophy for most excited. Jeremiah Campbell and Zykirea Long received awards for first time fishing and Tommy Epps, Jr., received the best sportsmanship award. Submitted by Dorothy Burrell

 

Ben Guin Got One

Benjamin Guin with his first fish, with uncle Ryan . “I got one, I got one!” Submitted by Livingston Lines Columnist Claire Smith

Hog control is one of the top issues for Sumter County and West Alabama – ADCNR’s Matt Brock explains what to do

By Kasey DeCastra, SCRJ & MVT Community News Editor As Ward News columnists June and Jean Stephenson havebeen reporting for the last few weeks, wild hogs are a problem out here in Sumter County. Matt Brock Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources gave a presentation on wild Hog Control at the annual Area III Association of Conservation Districts meeting in Jasper at Beville State Community College July 19. They are not native to North America. Brought by the Spanish explorers as a mobile form of food back in the 1600’s, the fast repopulating, omnivors have wrecked havic ever since. They displace major game such as deer and turkey. And are known to destroy the habitat of our native amphibians and reptiles by rooting, wallowing and tree rubbing around swamps and water ways. They damage livestock, farming land, forests. Hogs can live up to 21 years, mature in 6-8 months, reproduce twice a year with 4-10 piglets. They are former domestic pigs and Eurasian wild boar that are a range of colors. They can spread disease to both animals and people. If you have shot one hunting, protect yourself when butchering the meat with rubber gloves, gogles and try not to breath the gases of the animal. Be sure to cook the meat fully as well. The two most effective ways of dealing with the animals are hunting and trapping. You will need a permit to hunt wild hogs and should contact local Conservation Enforcement Officer or local Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries District office for more information regarding this permit according to http://www.outdooralabama.com/feral-hogs. To download a free .pdf on how to take care of hogs visit https://store.aces.edu/ItemDetail.aspx?ReturnTo=0&ProductID=14291 Printed copies may also be ordered through Mississippi State University Extension Service and Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Mississippi State University Extension Service: Contact your county Extension office. Alabama Cooperative Extension System: Call (334) 844-1592 or e-mail publications@aces.edu

Not Fake Fish News

Sumter County Record Journal Publisher, Tommy McGraw went on secret assignment to the Black Warrior River near Akron recently to investigate whether the recent high water levels from the many rain storms effected the bass biting. The publisher/fisherman found some fresh water off the main channel and landed about 15 to 20 bass in the middle of a hot summer day, some in the two to three pound category like the one pictured. McGraw affirmed that this was “Real News” and not the “Fake Fish News” some fisherman occasionally spin. Photo by Tommy McGraw

Loitering Rhinobeetle

Easily recognizable by the horn on it’s head, which is used to keep other males from the females, these beetles are mostly active at night and mostly found in Eastern wooded areas of Alabama, although we found this one on the sidewalk outside of Moundville Times. They like to eat tree roots and are most active at night. By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editor

AL Gopher Tortoise Conservation Project

If you see a gopher tortoise, we’d like you to report it online through iNatural. Sign up online or download the app today.https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/al-gopher-tortoise-conservation-project

Eastern Box Turtle turns up for a visit

Ben Noppenberger found a friend wandering through his yard Saturday between storms. The eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) is a subspecies within a group of hinge-shelled turtles, normally called box turtles. It’s native to the eastern part of the United States, found as far north as Maine and West as Texas. The box turtle is largely terrestrial (they like to walk from one pond or stream to another), but are slow crawlers, extremely long lived, slow to mature, and have relatively few offspring per year. Males have red irises and females have brown. Story by By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editorand Photo by Ben Noppenberger

Rose… Jelly?

Roses have more uses than just a ornamental flower in the garden. Rose hips can be made into jam, jelly, marmalade, and soup or are brewed for tea, or filtered for syrup. Rose hips are also used to produce rose hip seed oil, which is used in skin products and some makeup products and of course perfume. They have been used in medicine for stomach issues. (See http://pfaf.org/user/ Plant.aspx?LatinName=Rosa+c hinensis) By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editor

Musical Moundville Times Visitor

We had a musical visitor hop on into our sister paper’s office, the Moundville Times office June 5th. Our lead editor, Travis Vaughn, gently helped him back outside to his home in our Tulip tree outside the office. Our best guess is he wanted to read some news on the fly. We looked him up and he is a Sedge Wren. Learn more at http://www.outdooralabama.com/sedge-wren By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editor

Color of a Rose

Roses are native to North America, Europe, Asia and North Africa. There are over a hundred pecies and thousands of cultivars (assemblage of plants selected for desirable characteristics that are maintained during propagation. Roses have acquired cultural significance in many societies. You may have heard a red rose is for true love, a yellow for friendship, or a pink for sweetness. Check out https://www.abetterflorist.com/blog/colours-rainbow-colour-bouquet-say/ to learn more about rose color meanings. By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editor

Magnolia’s are very useful

Magnolia bark has been used to treat menstrual cramps, abdominal pain, abdominal bloating and gas, nausea, and indigestion. It is also an ingredient in formulas used for treating coughs and asthma. Learn more about Magnolia uses at http://www.herbwisdom.com/ herb-magnolia.html. By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editor

Carp to the rescue! Say what?!

These grass crap are going to help rehabilitate the UWA duck pond. A small number of these fish have been stocked on campus to eat away at the invasive and overwhelming filamentous algae, Alligator weed and pond weed instead of using chemicals harmful to the creatures who make it their home. Learn more about the Black Belt Museum at https://www.facebook.com/blackbeltmuseum/

Eighteenth Annual Progressive Agriculture Safety Day

On May 11, 2017, the Eighteenth Annual Progressive Agriculture Safety Day was held at Lake LU on the University of West Alabama campus for all third graders in the county from public schools and private schools. Students rotated thorough eight, twenty-minute stations throughout the day. A large group demonstration was held at the end of the day with a power-take-off (PTO) demonstration instructed by Sid Nelson. Stations were set up to teach about all different types of safety. Instructors from different parts of the West Alabama area came to help teach on safety. The following stations and the instructor for each station is listed below: 1) Disability Awareness, David Perry, Alabama Cooperative Extension Systems; 2) Fire Safety, Livingston Fire Department; 3) Be Safe Bullying, Leigh Akins, Alabama Cooperative Extension Systems; 4) Zane Thrash, ATV Safety; 5) Firearm Safety, Jeff Shaw, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; 6) Healthy Lifestyles, Erin Reznicek, Alabama Cooperative Extension Systems; 7) Underground Utilities, McKay Levers, Alabama One Call; and 8) Tractor Safety, Donny Sanders, H&R Agri-Power. We would like to thank these people for taking time out of their busy schedules to help make this event a success. We would also like to thank the University of West Alabama, Sumter County Farmers Federation, State Farm Insurance, First South Farm Credit, and Alabama Ag Credit for their contributions to the safety day. A very special thanks to the volunteers who helped on this day. Without them, the safety day would not have been possible. For more information on this program, please call Mandee Carrier at (205) 652-5105. Photos by SCRJ Reporter Thomas Ausborn

Magnolia, our sweet smelling southern staple

Magnolia’s were one of the very first trees to evolve a flower. The petals still resemble the tree’s leaves. It’s theprized this was to encourage bees to pollintate the trees. According to “Convergent evolution and adaptive radiation of beetle-pollinated angiosperms” by Bernhardt, P. “Fossilised specimens of M. acuminata have been found dating to 20 million years ago, and of plants identifiably belonging to the Magnoliaceae date to 95 million years ago.” It’s the state flower of Mississippi and Lousiana. Alabama’s state flowers are the camelia and oak-leaf hydrangea (state wild flower). They come in both evergreen version and deciduous with a wide range of colors: white, pink, red, purple, or yellow. By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editor

When and where you least expect it…

Tiffany Vaughn escaped a snake bite Sunday afternoon in her front yard on Market Street in Moundville and dispatched the juvenile copperhead. She wrote, “It attacked me when I almost stepped on him. Thank God it was a small one and not full grown. Thank God I had long pants on because he struck my pant leg. Y’all be careful in your yards. We get complacent and forget that they are here with us.†Photo by Tiffany Vaughn

Cobbler Incoming!

Wild black berries are in season now. Blackberries are one of the two state fruits for Alabama. The other is the peach. (By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editor)

String Beaning Us Along

Wondering what kind of tree this is? It’s a Catalpa. A deciduous tree that produces long string pods in late summer (also a sap that will eat the paint off your car if you park it under it.) It’s nick names are “String Bean Tree,” the “Indian Been Tree,” and “Cigar Tree.” This one lives beside at our sister paper the Moundville Times in Moundville in Hale County and is in full bloom. (By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editor)

Big Boss Gobbler taken in “Hale”

 Sumter County Record Journal Publisher Tommy McGraw had to go through “Hale” to get this boss gobbler Saturday, April 8 deep in the Hale County woods. The 22 pound bird sported an 11.5 inch paint brush of a beard and had one inch long spurs. The bird and a companion marched within gun range at 6:50 a.m. The two birds came in after McGraw stirred the two gobblers with his irresistible cackling and yelps. The 35 yard shot was made with a “Quick Draw McGraw†move as the birds circled behind the hunter as they came in to greet their invisible mate. Photo by Jane McGraw

A useful southern plant, Kudzu

By Kasey DeCastra, Sumter County Record Journal & Moundville Times Editor Hale and Tuscaloosa Counties are extremely beautiful during the summer. One thing we see creeping over our fences and covering entire fields as most of the south is, is kudzu. Kudzu first came over to the United States in the 1800’s. It was originally a garden plant used for decoration. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Soil Conservation Service promoted kudzu for erosion control. Hundreds of young men were given work planting kudzu through

the Civilian Conservation Corps. Farmers were paid as much as eight dollars an acre as incentive to plant fields of the vines in the 1940s. The problem is that it grows too well! The climate of the south is perfect for kudzu. The vines grow as much as a foot per day during summer months. Under ideal conditions kudzu vines can grow sixty feet each year. While they help prevent erosion, the vines can also destroy valuable forests by preventing trees from getting sunlight. The USDA finally declared kudzu to be a weed in 1972.

The vines pull down telephone poles, choke crops and cover rural railroad tracks causing problems for trains. However animals, including humans, can eat kudzu! It can be used like spinach, fried like potato chips and made into tea. Make sure that the kudzu you gathered is not sprayed with chemical control agents that may be harmful to humans. Pick tender kudzu leaves in spring and early summer. Young leaves at the end of the vines may be collected at any time. Make sure it is kudzu that you have picked. It has a three leaf arrangement, but so does poison ivy and poison oak. Kudzu Fried Chicken Dredge chicken breast strips in kudzu powder; dip in lightly beaten egg, and dredge in dry Italian seasoned bread crumbs. Deep-fry in hot oil (350) for 3 to 5 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.

Kudzu root powder, also called kuzu, and capsules are available at most health food stores. Kudzu Quiche (4-6 servings) 1 cup heavy cream 3 eggs, beaten 1 cup chopped, young, tender kudzu leaves and stems 1/2 teaspoon salt ground pepper to taste 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese 1 nine-inch unbaked pie shell Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cream, eggs, kudzu, salt, pepper, and cheese. Place in pie shell. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes.

Kudzu is great for basket making and I have even seen it made into bird houses by local artists. The vine can be made into soap and candles. It has been used for clothing and rope. It is a good feed for animals and can be made into pulp for cardboard and particle board. Also it’s a great cover plant for unsightly parts of the yard. What ever you chose to use it for one thing you can be sure of, we are not lacking in kudzu.

Thompson Makes Big Catch Tony Thompson of Gainesville caught this big 45 lbs flathead catfish while fishing at the Gainesville Lock and Dam.

 

A “Luna” Legacy

Actias luna, the Luna Moth, can be found as far north as Canada and south as Florida. This lovely specimen was found above our door for a week. By Kasey DeCastra, SCRJ & MVT Community News Editor

Guard Spider

Dolomedes Tenebrosus, the dark fishing spider are another large, sprawling arachnids are most often found on vertical surfaces: tree trunks, fence posts, bridge pilings, or the exterior walls of buildings, usually at night although this friend hung out over our doorway which we were thankful for the keeping our pest population at bay. They are ambush predators who wait for large insects to come within striking distance. They do not spin webs.

 

Hogging the Side of the Road

Wild hogs were spotted south of Linden in Marengo County. Photo by Tiffany Vaughn

Lady of the Garden

Argiope Aurantia, more commonly known as the black and yellow garden spider, is usually seen around the end of summer and start of fall. The mature females are enormous and up to 19 to 28 mm in body length. The males are much smaller at a third of the female’s size. You’ll see them pretty much anywhere: gardens, orchards, forest edges, old fields, under lights and farms. They spin a classic round orb web with a zigzag band of silk called a “stabilimentum.” By Kasey DeCastra, Moundville Times & Sumter County Record Journal Community News Editor

Surprise! Lily

Lycoris radiata, or more commonly known in Alabama as the Red Surprise Lilly, Red Spider Lily or British Soldier, (Madoline Thurn once told me a relative liked to call them “Naked Ladies” after I asked what they were when I first came to Livingston in 2007) actually comes from Japan and came over as a garden flower in 1854. The flowers bloom after the first heavy rain in late September through mid October. In Japan the Red Spider Lily signals the arrival of fall. Many Buddhist will use it to celebrate the arrival of fall with a ceremony at the tomb of one of their ancestors. They plant them on graves as a tribute to the dead. People believe that since the Red Spider Lily is mostly associated with death that one should never give a bouquet of these flowers. By Kasey DeCastra, Sumter County Record Journal and Moundville Times Community News Editor