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Moundville Boy Scout Troop 26

The Moundville Boy Scout Troop 26 attended camp last week at Camp Horne. Submitted by Rita Lewis, Voice of the Ville Columnist

Not Fake Fish News

Moundville Times 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


Clemson, Auburn lead U.S. efforts in higher education to save wild tiger populations

Clemson University and Auburn University have joined forces to throw the weight of multiple academic disciplines behind efforts to save wild tiger populations worldwide. The two universities, along with Louisiana State University and the University of Missouri, are leading the efforts of the newly formed U.S. Tiger University Consortium, so named for the mascots that both institutions share.

According to Brett Wright, dean of the Clemson University College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences, the dwindling tiger populations are an issue demanding the attention of land-grant institutions such as those belonging to the consortium. For Wright, the issue should also be central to the many who cheer on their preferred team on game days.

“Students, faculty and alumni chant ‘Go Tigers’ on a daily basis, but not many know the truth about the animal we hold so dear,” Wright said. “These universities share the tiger mascot and benefit from that majestic symbol of strength, dignity and beauty, so they share a moral responsibility to apply all of our resources to save the animal that inspires that symbol.”

The consortium was initiated by Clemson University President James P. Clements, who also serves on the Global Tiger Initiative Council. This international council made up of business and conservation leaders was formed to assist the Global Tiger Forum in saving remaining populations of wild tigers, with a goal of doubling tiger numbers in the wild by 2022.

Thanks to the council’s efforts, tiger numbers in 2016 were on the rise for the first time in 100 years, but the work to restore their numbers fully is just getting started. Janaki Alavalapati, dean of the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, said that with more than one university approaching the problem, the odds of success in saving tiger populations only increases.

“Each of our institutions possess various academic disciplines important to the future of tiger conservation and protection,” Alavalapati said. “This is an obvious example of the need for multi-disciplinary contribution not just across colleges and departments but across universities.”

Wright said the consortium will focus on several avenues to achieve its goal, including research that supports evidence-based decision making by conservation professionals. Participating universities also have planned strategic communications to raise awareness of the worldwide problem with their many stakeholders.

As far as concrete action that can take place in countries where tiger populations are most affected, Wright and Alavalapati hope to create the next generation of environmental leaders through university-supported academic scholarships and assistantships. Participating universities will equip these leaders with means to make direct change where it is needed across the globe. There will also be an emphasis on the application of technology that will allow monitoring and data analysis related to wild tiger populations.

The Global Tiger Forum estimates there are only about 3,900 tigers remaining in the wild. According to Keshav Varma, chief operating office of the Global Tiger Initiative Council, the reasons for dwindling populations are varied. Major issues include deterioration of the tigers’ natural habitats and poaching, which affects the 13 countries in which tiger populations remain.

Two-thirds of the world’s tigers live in India, where numbers have increased during the past five years thanks to anti-poaching patrols and sustainable tourism initiatives. However, with other countries such as China, Vietnam and Laos reporting numbers in the single digits, the need for direct intervention is more dire than ever.

“Each of the 13 tiger range countries now has a recovery plan in place, which is a better situation than we were in even five years ago,” Wright said. “The consortium is committed to supporting these national programs through training and research, and the work is already well underway.”

UA Astronomer Offers Safety Tips for Viewing Solar Eclipse

Although the state of Alabama will not be under a total solar eclipse Aug. 21, there is still the opportunity to view a partial solar eclipse.

Astronomers at The University of Alabama urge people to view the phases of the eclipse safely by not looking directly at the sun.

“The sun light is just as dangerous during an eclipse as any other day, but we tend not to want to look directly at the sun normally,” said Dr. William C. Keel, UA professor of physics and astronomy.

For the first time in 99 years, a total solar eclipse will move from coast to coast across the continental United States Aug. 21, and all of North America will experience a partial eclipse.

Alabama, though, will be in a partial eclipse with ranges from 80 percent of the sun covered by the moon near Mobile to 98 percent coverage in the northeast corner of the state, Keel said.

The best way to view the partial solar eclipse over Alabama that day are pinhole projections, solar filters and projections from telescopes or binoculars, he said.

Pinhole projection – In this method, sunlight passing through a small hole makes an image of the sun on whatever surface is used as a screen. The image of the sun gets larger the further the screen is from the hole, and only small holes will work, Keel said. A puncture in cardboard or aluminum foil works well, but any material works, and even gaps in tree leaves can project the eclipse onto the ground, he said.
Solar filters – Solar filters are thin films in a cardboard or plastic mount. Only special-purpose solar filters, such as eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers, are sufficient to look at the sun. Several vendors can provide safe solar filters, Keel said.
Projections through lenses – Most telescopes and binoculars can focus enough to project a sharp image of the sun onto a sheet behind the eyepiece. Telescopes with eyepieces at a 90-degree angle from the tube offer easy ways to shade the image for clearer views, Keel said. Those choosing this method need to be careful to keep anyone from looking directly through the eyepiece to avoid severe damage to the eye.
For a partial eclipse, Keel said it takes about 80 percent coverage for people on the ground to notice the eclipse without one of the other three methods, Keel said.

“A partial eclipse will look like the moon is taking a bite out of the sun,” he said.

Keel, along with most of the astronomers on campus, will travel into the 70-mile wide swath of the total eclipse that will extend from Oregon to South Carolina, with parts of Tennessee the closest to Alabama. The eclipse is an opportunity to experience a rare event, he said.

“It’s just a spectacle that anyone can witness,” Keel said. “This adds to the mystique because you can go so long between events.”

The next solar eclipse across North America will be April 8, 2024, and will cross from Mexico to New England, but a total eclipse will not pass over Alabama. That will not happen in Alabama until Aug. 12, 2045, as a total eclipse encompasses Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, Dothan and all points in between, Keel said.


Caption 1: Telescopes with eyepieces at a 90-degree angle from the tube offer easy ways to shade the image for clearer views, as was the case during a partial eclipse viewing event on campus in 1991.

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.

Additional news about The University of Alabama can be found at: https://www.ua.edu/news/news-media/

Wildlife Rescue Not Required

The more time you spend outdoors, the more likely you are to eventually encounter a wild animal that appears to be in need of rescue. If you discover wildlife that seems to be in need, the first thing to remember is that, despite appearances, this is very rarely the case. Many mammals leave their young alone for the majority of the day, and fledgling birds are on the ground for a period of time being fed by their parents before they take flight. This means that a young, uninjured bird or mammal is not in need of rescuing.

The best thing to do in these instances is to leave the animal where it was found. If it has already been moved from its point of origin, it is still okay to return the youngster to its capture site, even hours later. The notion that a mother will reject babies after being touched by humans is a myth.

Many people make the mistake of monitoring the baby animal to see if mama returns. If you can see the area, this means that the parent can also see you, and will not return because of your proximity. Leave the area and keep in mind that some species are only visited by their mother twice in a 24-hour period. This is normal, and not cause for alarm. If the animal is at risk from dogs or cats, it is the responsibility of the pet owner to control domestic animals – this is not an acceptable reason to remove wildlife from nature.

If you discover injured wildlife and feel the need to assist the animal, it is important to be aware of the legal and practical issues involved in “rescuing” wildlife.

In Alabama, native wildlife cannot be held in captivity, even for the purposes of medical assistance, without proper permits. There are licensed wildlife rehabilitators throughout the state, and these individuals and facilities have the experience and enclosures necessary to tend to and house convalescing wildlife. Wounded and ailing animals must be transported as quickly as possible to those with a permit, and may not be kept in the care of the finder or even a local veterinary clinic that lacks a Wildlife Rehabilitation Permit. All native wildlife, from backyard birds to rabbits and deer, are covered by this regulation. A complete list of permitted persons and their contact information is organized by county at outdooralabama.com/current-wildlife-rehabbers.

A truly injured animal (hit by car, etc.) may be a candidate for transport to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Even then, the mortality rate for these animals is often very high. Wildlife generally birth large numbers of offspring in their lifetime to compensate for losses and for natural predation.

Leaving nature to the natural cycles of birth, growth and renewal is an appropriate way to appreciate wildlife. Allowing the natural parents of a young animal to care for their offspring is the best way to ensure its healthy development and avoid the violations and fines sometimes associated with unlawfully possessing native wildlife. If you find a fawn, rabbit or other species alone in the woods, remember that they are right where they belong. Leave them as you found them.


Auburn University scientists to release indigo snakes into Conecuh National Forest July 14

7:45 TO 8:30 a.m.—Auburn University scientists will be at Nellie Pond in Conecuh National Forest and available to media as they weigh and measure the Eastern indigo snakes prior to the release.

AT 9 a.m.—Representatives from Auburn University, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the ‎Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Birmingham Zoo will gather at Nellie Pond and hike to various, nearby locations in Conecuh National Forest to release the Eastern indigo snakes.

DIRECTIONS: To get to Nellie Pond from Andalusia, take US 29 south to AL 137; turn south on AL 137 and proceed a few miles. Watch for Co. Rd. 14 on the right, go past Co. Rd. 14 and take the next left on FS 332 (Hogfoot Rd. on Google Maps). Turn right, to the south, on the next road, which is a loop road around Nellie Pond. Follow the road around to the north side of the pond where scientists will be set up, processing snakes.

PARTICIPANTS: The release is coordinated by Auburn University and represents a collaboration among the following partners: Auburn University’s Alabama Natural Heritage Program, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; Central Florida Zoo’s Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; U.S. Forest Service. Others in attendance, including the Birmingham Zoo and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will be on hand as observers.


The Eastern indigo snake is non-venomous and has a lustrous, glossy, iridescent blue-black coloring of the head and body. It is the longest snake in North America and may reach a size of 8.5 feet and a weight of 11 lbs. for males, and 6.5 feet and 6.5 lbs. for females.

Prior to the reintroduction effort that began in 2011, there had been no confirmed sightings of the Eastern indigo snake in the wild in Alabama since the mid-1950s.

The Eastern indigo snake is listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act and is a non-game protected species in Alabama. The species disappeared from the state due to a variety of factors, including loss and degradation of their natural habitat, over collection associated with the pet trade, excessive mortality from automobiles, and gassing of their winter refuges (tortoise burrows) to catch rattlesnakes.

The Eastern indigo snake is part of the longleaf pine ecosystem, which is endangered. Once the most extensive forest system in North America representing 90 million acres, the longleaf pine forest has been reduced to an estimated 2.7 million acres. As the longleaf pine forest has dwindled, many plant and animal species associated with it have also declined, including the Eastern indigo snake. Reintroduction of the Eastern indigo snake is part of a larger conservation effort to reestablish the longleaf pine forest in the southernmost part of the state of Alabama.

Approximately 110 Eastern indigo snakes have been released in Conecuh National Forest so far. All snakes that have been released were implanted with a Passive Integrated Transponder, or PIT tag, for permanent identification. Early results indicate the snakes are quickly growing in size and breeding in the wild.

Most of the Eastern indigo snakes that have been released in Alabama, including those to be released on Friday, July 14, were raised in captivity by Central Florida Zoo’s Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation.

In Alabama, the Eastern indigo snake is closely associated with the gopher tortoise because the snakes use gopher tortoise burrows for shelter. As such, some of the release sites will be located near gopher tortoise burrows.

The harmless Eastern indigo snake likes to eat copperheads. The copperhead is a venomous snake, and it is responsible for more snake bites in the Southeastern U.S. than any other snake. Copperhead observations are increasing, and, in south Alabama, population growth of the copperhead could be due to the absence of the once-prevalent Eastern indigo snake. Researchers are currently monitoring how populations of Copperheads change after Eastern indigo snakes are reintroduced.

In addition to reintroduction efforts in the state of Alabama, Auburn University scientists are also involved in an Eastern indigo snake reintroduction effort in the state of Florida. On Monday, July 17, 2017, scientists will release 12 young Eastern indigo snakes at the Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve as part of a 10-year commitment to reintroduce the snakes to Florida’s longleaf pine forest.

Jim Godwin of the Auburn University Museum of Natural History’s Alabama Natural Heritage Program is the primary investigator for the Eastern indigo snake reestablishment project, which was made possible by a Wildlife grant from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Alabama Department of Public Health issues 2017 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 (TVA), and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) collected samples of specific fish species for analysis from various waterbodies throughout the state during the fall of 2016 (641 samples; 48 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 48 bodies of water tested can be found on the ADPH website, http://alabamapublichealth.gov/tox/assets/2017-al-fish-consumption-advisory-final-july-6-2017.pdf

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.

Avoid entering bodies of water if you have cuts or abrasions If injured, clean wound at once to reduce risk of infection

Many harmful organisms lurk in lakes, rivers, along the coast, and in other bodies of water. Some bacteria may lead to destructive soft-tissue infections and other illnesses, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) cautions.

“Most soft-tissue infections occur with either injury or with conditions such as poorly controlled diabetes or low immunity. However, sometimes otherwise healthy people can develop a skin infection after skin injury and being exposed to natural bodies of water. Some bacteria can cause more severe infections than others,” said Dr. Karen Landers, Assistant State Health Officer, ADPH.

In brackish and warm salt water such as bay or gulf waters, Vibrio bacteria occur naturally. These bacteria can cause disease in people who eat contaminated seafood and in those with open wounds that are exposed to seawater. While there are numerous infections every year, a small number of people develop serious or sometimes fatal infections.

Dr. Landers cautions the public to be aware of the risks involved in bodies of water. “If you have open wounds, cuts, abrasions and sores, stay out of the water.Persons with low immune systems, cancer, diabetes, liver disease, and other chronic conditions should avoid eating raw or undercooked seafood, especially oysters.”
Vibrio bacteria can enter the body through a break in the skin or by consuming contaminated seafood. If a person gets a cut while in the water, immediately wash the wound with soap and fresh water. If the wound shows any signs of infection (redness, pain or swelling) or if the cut is deep, get medical attention immediately.

Vibrio illness symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, chills, fever, shock, skin lesions and wound infections. In someone with a compromised immune system, the bacteria can infect the bloodstream and may result in death. With Vibrioskin infections, surgery may be necessary. For all cases of Vibrio, it is important to begin treatment immediately because early medical care and antibiotics improve survival.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year in the United States 80,000 people become sick with vibriosis, and 100 people die from their infection. During the past 12 months (as of July 6, 2017), ADPH has conducted 33 investigations and reported 30 cases of vibriosis in Alabama.

Learn more about vibrio illness at www.cdc.gov/vibrioand http://alabamapublichealth.gov/infectiousdiseases/assets/Vibrio_Flyer.pdf

Loitering Rhino Beetle

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, SCRJ and Moundville Times Community News Editor

Outdoor Alabama Weekly: Summit Celebrates Alabama Gulf Seafood

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

It seems like eons ago when Alabama and the rest of the states on the Gulf of Mexico were collectively staring at a potential apocalypse that might eternally alter the way of life along the Gulf Coast.

The wellhead at the Macondo Prospect was uncontrollably spewing barrel after barrel of crude oil into the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig was destroyed, and our economy and culture were hanging by the thinnest of threads in the summer of 2010.

Residents along the coast didn’t know if they would enjoy Gulf shrimp or sautéed red snapper filets ever again.

Fast forward to the summer of 2017: Wild Gulf shrimp are plentiful, and the waters off the Alabama coast are teeming with red snapper.

As Jim Smith, the executive chef of the State of Alabama who makes sure Gov. Kay Ivey gets plenty of Alabama seafood, put it:

“The BP oil spill is so far behind us in the rearview mirror that it doesn’t even come up anymore,” said Smith last week at the Alabama Gulf Seafood Summit in Orange Beach, where he also served as one of the judges in the Alabama Seafood Cook-Off.

After the oil spill, the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission (ASMC) was formed in March 2011 to help guide consumers and the seafood industry through the uncertain recovery process.

“A big portion of what we did after the oil spill was to ensure our seafood was safe,” said Chris Blankenship, who was Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD) Director during most of the recovery period and now serves as Acting Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). “I will say that during the spill and after the spill we never had a seafood sample that was unsafe.”

Blankenship said the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and MRD combined forces to the test the seafood, which included finfish, oysters, shrimp and blue crabs.

“We started this (ASMC) from scratch,” Blankenship said. “I think with the website (www.eatalabamaseafood.com) and the impact that the program has had, it has been good for the industry. The thing that shows me that we have value as a seafood marketing commission is that people do want to put our logo on their doors, their businesses and their menus. To me, that is the biggest compliment for the work that has been done by the commission. We have built a value with people identifying with Alabama seafood.

“When I go to a restaurant and see our logo on there, I feel like we’ve had an impact on the industry. It has been a very productive five years, but we have more work to do.”

Blankenship did say that funding for the seafood commission is far from what it once was, and he has no idea what the future holds.

“I will say we’re operating on a shoestring budget compared to what it once was,” he said. “We had initial funding from BP that lasted for three years. We were able to obtain some additional funding from the Governor’s office that we stretched for two years. We also received a grant from the Deepwater Horizon Settlement Fund that really helped keep us going. Last year, out of the blue, I got a surprise letter from the Deepwater Settlement Fund. The letter said the work the commission had done was impressive and that we followed the grant agreement and all the reporting required was done on time. The letter said they had a little money left over and asked if we could use $100,000. I could not reply fast enough that, yes, we could use it. We currently have no funding to continue the valuable work of the ASMC after 2017.

“We hope that we will gain some long-term funding through the RESTORE Act. The language in the act specifically mentions seafood marketing. It’s just taking a little longer than we would like to get the funding.”

Now that the BP oil spill is behind us, the effects of Alabama’s weather on seafood production can control the availability of seafood, especially oysters.

Byron Webb of the ADPH’s shellfish office said recent rains from Tropical Storm Cindy have caused the harvestable oyster reefs to be shut down as a precaution. Several benchmarks are used to determine if an area will be closed.

“Right now, we’re under several closures,” Webb said. “If we get five inches of local rain, that closes an area until we get to test the water again. We got 5 inches of rain one night and another 5 inches the next day. We’re also closed because of river levels. When the Mobile River at Barry Steam Plant gets above 8 feet, we close it.

“When anything like that happens, it’s a 21-day closure. That gives it enough time for the components that would cause health issues to be flushed out. After that, we test again until we get a clean sample and can reopen the reefs.”

Blankenship said the closures are to ensure that the products the public gets are safe.

“It is an inconvenience for the oystermen and oyster growers, but it’s really a protection for those businesses and consumers to make sure that no products enter the marketplace that are not safe,” he said.

Blankenship said the demand for oysters produced through aquaculture operations on the Alabama coast is through the roof.

“We are able to sell a lot more oysters than we can produce,” he said. “One thing we’re trying to do is create an opportunity for people who want to get into the oyster aquaculture business. We’re putting together a one-stop-shop website so that investors big and small can use the tools. If a husband and wife want to start an oyster farm, they can go to the website to see what permitting is required and what capital is required to grow a million oysters. A company that might want to grow 10 million oysters can use the site, too.

“This year, we are on schedule to produce about five million oysters, but I think we have a demand for about 25 million oysters. There is real growth potential for the oyster aquaculture industry.”

On an oyster-related note, the Oyster Shell Recycling Program, which cranked up last year, has been an overwhelming success. The program collects oyster shells from Alabama Gulf Coast restaurants and takes the shells to the Alabama Marine Resources Division property in Gulf Shores. After six months of seasoning, the shells are used for oyster gardening programs and to refurbish public oyster reefs. The program set a goal of two million shells collected in its first two years but has already reached that goal in just six months.

Blankenship said the blue crab industry is on the rebound but not where it should be. Proposed regulations on trap components allow small crabs to escape, and there is a nine-month closure on the harvest of egg-bearing female crabs.

As part of the seafood summit, the third annual Alabama Seafood Cook-Off was held at The Wharf, and the third time was the charm for Chef Brody Olive’s team. Although Chef Olive was out of town because of a death in the family, Chef Brad Gilstrap led the team to the championship with three Alabama seafood components. Chef Jason Ramirez of Villaggio Grille, located at The Wharf, was named runner-up.

Chef Gilstrap created Chef Olive’s “Fruitti di Alabama” recipe that featured an underutilized fish species in its dish of Pan Roasted Gulf Jolt Head Porgy that included Summer Squash Jumbo Lump Crab Caponata with a Crispy Rock Shrimp Piccatta topping.

Chef Olive and Chef Gilstrap are now set to represent Alabama at the upcoming Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans on August 6 as well as the World Food Championships at The Wharf November 8-14.

Dye Study May Turn Waters Red, Will Not Harm Ecosystem

To determine a possible relocation strategy for the Bayou La Batre wastewater treatment diffuser, scientists and engineers from several agencies will begin conducting a hydrographic dye dilution study beginning July 10, 2017. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Marine Resources Division (ADCNR-MRD), the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Shellfish Sanitation Program will simulate the flow and dispersion of wastewater by releasing a dye into the waters of Mississippi Sound and tracking it over time.

Two dye injections are scheduled during the study. Due to weather changes, each injection will have a range of start dates to allow for the best selection of weather conditions. Rhodamine Water Tracing dye will be released from two specific areas of Mississippi Sound. The first injection will have a date range of July 10 through July 14, and the second injection will have a date range of July 14 through July 17. Both injections will start near low tide in the late evening. Each injection will continue for approximately 12 hours until late morning the following day. Because of the dye injection, portions of Mississippi Sound, including Portersville Bay and Grand Bay, may turn reddish in color for a brief time. This dye is not harmful to people or the ecosystem.

Information collected during this study will be used by the FDA, ADCNR-MRD, and ADPH to evaluate the impact of potential wastewater discharges on shellfish-growing areas and will help scientists determine where shellfish may be safely harvested.

Outdoor Alabama Weekly: Guntersville Back to Normal after Glory Years

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Bass anglers who fished Lake Guntersville in the first half of the current decade enjoyed possibly the best bass fishing in the nation with phenomenal stringers anchored by 8- to 10- to 12-pound whoppers.

When those 30-pound-plus stringers of five bass started to wane the past couple of years, lake property owners and bass anglers who regularly fish the lake, affectionately known as the “Big G,” began to fret and then became downright afraid there was something significantly askew in the lake.

Property owners and anglers proclaimed their concerns at both Alabama Conservation Advisory Board meetings earlier this year, prompting the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division to take a closer look at the Tennessee River lake.

What that research revealed is that staying atop the bass-fishing mountain is not sustainable when natural cycles are in control of a reservoir the size of Guntersville at 69,000-plus acres. That stretch of phenomenal fishing was an anomaly, and the current fishing, which still is some of the best in the nation, is back to normal levels.

Even as the lake returns to “normal,” it can still produce some outstanding catches. Earlier this year, Casey Martin weighed in a five-fish limit at 40 pounds, 11 ounces. More recently, two anglers in the Alabama Bass Trail tournament had five-fish stringers that exceeded 30 pounds each.

Damon Abernethy, WFF’s Assistant Chief of Fisheries, said that ironically a drought led to the outstanding fishing that Guntersville experienced earlier this decade.

Unlike a lot of lakes and reservoirs, there’s not quite as much variability at Guntersville because of the abundant aquatic vegetation and the reduced fluctuations in lake levels.

“Guntersville is pretty resilient,” Abernethy said. “The great fishing we’ve had in recent years is not something that is normal. It was the result of an extremely large year-class that was produced during the drought years of ’07 and ’08. We saw this happen in other reservoirs, but it seemed to be more prevalent at Guntersville. It was not unique. It was related to a weather pattern that affected the whole Southeast.

“Fish have a gauntlet they have to get through. There are a lot of years when big spawns and abundant fry are produced, but that’s not always relevant. The limiting factor is how many survive that first winter. What’s really important is how many you have left the following spring. Environmental factors and species interactions, such as predation and competition, determine that. In theory, you could have a light spawn one year and a heavy spawn the next year and end up with exactly the same number of fish after one year.”

Abernethy said bass will lay thousands of eggs because most of them will not survive predation and environmental conditions.

“Then some years, the stars will align and that’s what happened in ’08,” he said. “Most bass can live about 10 years, although some can live beyond that. Speaking on population levels, 10 years out, that spawn is essentially gone. That’s what has happened at Guntersville.

“There are a few really big fish being caught now. Those are likely the remnants of that ’08 class. That 40-pound bag Casey Martin caught in March was impressive, but the two 30-pound bags at the Alabama Bass Trail were more impressive to me. You don’t see many 30-pound bags in June. There are still some big bass out there, but they will be gone soon, and we’ll be back to normal.”

Of course, normal at Guntersville still yields impressive catches of 5- to 8-pound bass.

“That ’08 class was such an unusual occurrence,” Abernethy said. “We have never documented a year-class like that. But we do have some pretty decent year-classes coming up. I don’t see the lake in decline. I see it settling back to where it ought to be.

“Even when Guntersville is normal, it’s better than most lakes by far.”

To allay some of the concerns of those affected anglers and property owners, WFF Fisheries field personnel took a minnow seine to several locations around the lake to check the success of the bass spawn this past spring.

“We do this from time to time to reassure anglers there are plenty of fish out there,” Abernethy said.

Keith Floyd, WFF Fisheries biologist, led a crew to four locations on the lake to do seine hauls to check the number of bass fingerlings in the area.

“We did 11 seine hauls and caught 221 fingerlings,” Floyd said. “That’s an average of 20 per seine haul. That’s pretty good from what we normally see. It’s hard to get an idea of what that means until next spring, but it does mean the bass have spawned and spawned pretty heavily.”

Floyd took several concerned people with him on the seine hauls, including Guntersville fishing guide Mike Carter, who had enjoyed the outstanding fishing of a few years ago.

“Mike was very surprised how many were in there,” Floyd said of the seine. “I showed Mike some of the long-term data back to the late ’80s. That cycle he had been fishing on for the last 10 years was not normal. The lake is now back to the long-term-average mode. They’re still catching nice fish, just a little smaller than what they had gotten used to.”

Carter said the seine hauls were eye-openers for him because he obviously doesn’t see the results of a spawn while fishing with a rod and reel.

“We feel a lot better about the lake now,” Carter said. “The number of fingerlings we saw was more than the biologists were expecting. It was a big shock for me. They told me to begin with that if we saw 8 or 10 fish in a seine haul, it would be good. There were times we were getting 25 or 30 fish in a seine.

“When the biologists were trying to tell us this at our previous meetings, it was hard to soak it in until you get out there and experience it firsthand. I highly commend Mr. Keith Floyd for inviting me along.”

Carter said he and his customers caught a good many small fish last fall and this spring, which gives him hope for the future.

“We were spoiled,” he said. “Everybody is looking at what we had 4-5 years ago. In my opinion, I think that’s coming back.”

Abernethy reiterated that a great spawn doesn’t necessarily translate into a great year-class.

“Fertility has a lot to do with it,” he said. “The fertility of Guntersville is just right, not too high or too low. It’s in the range where you can grow bigger bass. The vegetation contributes to it. If you have a weedy lake, you find a lot of big bream. Big bream grow big bass. That’s why fluctuation in the vegetation levels can impact your populations.

“The vegetation also makes the bass at Guntersville easier to catch. It concentrates the fish on those weed edges. The fish are sitting there ready to ambush and not having to roam around and look for food. If you were to compare the fish population in Guntersville to some of our other lakes, you might be surprised to see that they’re not all that different. But they’re a whole lot easier to catch at Guntersville.”

Although the Lake Guntersville Conservation Group has plans to stock largemouth bass in the lake, Abernethy said it will likely have no biological impact.

“If the goal is to increase abundance, it’s not going to do that,” Abernethy said. “Stocking can introduce desirable genetic traits into the population. We did that 25 years ago by introducing Florida bass into the lake. Right now we have about 30 percent Florida alleles in those bass.”

Florida bass grow fast and big, but the Florida strain is more easily affected by weather changes, especially cold fronts.

“We don’t want to go much higher than 30 percent,” Abernethy said. “Then we’ll end up with a bunch of big fish you can’t catch.”

Abernethy said other Alabama lakes that benefitted from that ’07-’08 year-class are also settling back down into traditional fishing success.

“The bump from that drought spawn is not as evident in other lakes as it was in Guntersville,” he said. “We don’t really know why we got the bump, but it was correlated with the drought and their ability to survive the winter.

“And I don’t want people to think the fishing is not good. It might seem bad when you’re coming out of those glory years. We’re settling back to regular years. We’re not concerned about the fishery. It’s just natural variation. It’s happened many, many times before and will continue to happen. It’s environmental variables that we can’t control. All we can do is control harvest, and harvest is not what’s causing the fluctuations.”

Black Belt Museum’s Field Note Friday Notes Funky Fisher

Field Note Friday (June 23) Today we focus on a common sight in ponds across the Black Belt, Fishing Spiders. A couple cool facts about these aquatic based arachnids: These spiders are covered in short velvety hairs, making them waterproof and allowing them to use surface tension to walk on water like pond skaters. The hairs also give it the ability to trap air next to the body, forming a protective air bubble around the spider as it goes underwater. Learn more about our local history and outdoors with https://www.facebook.com/blackbeltmuseum/

Alabama Outdoor Weekly: Recreational Snapper Anglers Get Additional Days

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Fishing buddy Todd Kercher posted a video last weekend that many feel justifies the significant extension of the red snapper season for private recreational anglers in federal waters.

Todd took his family out in the Gulf of Mexico to catch a limit of snapper, two per person with a 16-inch minimum. What he captured on video was what many snapper anglers have been screaming for the past few years.

As Todd tells one family member that they have a limit in the boat, they start throwing the leftover bait into the water.

A red snapper feeding frenzy ensued with 10- to 15-pound red snapper attacking the bait with such fervor that they were coming completely out of the water, skying as Todd called it.

The reason Todd and his family were able to enjoy the phenomenal red snapper fishing was the result of a unified effort by a diverse group that included the affected anglers, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, Alabama Congressmen, city councils and mayors in Gulf Coast communities and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

When NOAA Fisheries announced earlier this year that the private recreational sector would only get a three-day season, the above groups were disgusted to the point of anger.

A little more than a month ago, the groups began to come together to encourage the U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and subsequently NOAA Fisheries, to reconsider the season in federal waters.

Those efforts paid off last week when NOAA Fisheries and the Gulf states reached an agreement that if the states forego snapper seasons in state waters out to the 9-mile boundary Mondays through Thursdays, the federal private recreational season would be extended from three days for an additional 39 days. The season is set for each Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Labor Day and includes July 3-4 and Labor Day. The charter-for-hire’s 49-day season, which runs through July 19, and the commercial sector’s IFQ (Individual Fishing Quota) system are not affected.

Chris Blankenship, who has gone from Alabama Marine Resources Director to DCNR Deputy Commissioner to Acting DCNR Commissioner this year, said the negotiations have been in progress for much longer than a month.

“We started trying to work with the new administration not long after (Commerce) Secretary (Wilbur) Ross was appointed,” Blankenship said. “That has been very beneficial. Congressman (Bradley) Byrne also lined up the help from other Gulf Coast Representatives, like Steve Scalise and Garrett Graves from Louisiana, Matt Gaetz from Florida and Steve Palazzo from Mississippi. They met with the Secretary’s staff to urge them to extend the red snapper days.

“Then Governor Ivey sent a letter to the White House and actually talked to President Trump about red snapper while she was in Washington for a meeting about infrastructure. Then we had resolutions from Orange Beach, Dauphin Island and the Baldwin County Commission, along with a letter from Senator (Luther) Strange. It was a very concerted effort to get this extra time.”

Blankenship believes the main reason the Commerce Department responded to the requests of such a diverse group was the unified message.

“We were all asking for the same thing,” he said. “We wanted weekends, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. All the resolutions and letters were very similar. I think having that good community effort and single message helped this to be a success.”

Orange Beach City Councilman Jeff Boyd echoed Blankenship’s assessment of the teamwork.

“I think this is the greatest indication that the average voice was heard,” Boyd said of the extension. “It was heard all the way to the White House and Department of Commerce across many states. It showed that a team effort can absolutely be successful.

“Congressman Byrne was just by here, and we were talking about the work done by Chris Blankenship, Governor Ivey, Senator Strange’s letter and Senator (Richard) Shelby in the budget hearings. With that, we were able to gain enough momentum and energy to make it happen. I think it was wonderful.”

Boyd’s constituency includes a great number of private recreational fishermen and one of the largest charter fleets on the Gulf Coast. He said some are extremely happy and some apprehensive.

“From the private rec guys, there’s nothing but ecstatic excitement,” Boyd said. “From the charter guys, they’re worried about what it might do to them next year.”

Boyd said Blankenship was a crucial coordinator to make the snapper season extension a reality.

“Chris can’t get enough kudos,” Boyd said. “He’s the quiet hero who brought other state commissioners to the table. It’s hard enough to get a family to agree on anything, much less four different commissioners from four other states with different agendas.”

Blankenship said negotiations for the extension included several options including Saturday and Sunday, plus the holidays, but the addition of Fridays to the season prevailed.

“In order to get Fridays, the five states had to agree that they would not open a season in the fall,” Blankenship said. “Alabama and Florida felt it was more important to get the 39 days and not have a fall season. Mississippi and Louisiana agreed to do the same thing. Texas catches a very small percentage, ½ of 1 percent, of the quota during their fall season. So we were able to work out the details for 39 days, primarily through the cooperation of Alabama and Florida, which account for the majority of the red snapper catch.

“We realize not everybody is happy about giving up some of the state days. But we surrendered 23 days in state waters, where we have hundreds of (artificial) reefs, to get 39 days in federal waters, where we have thousands and thousands of reefs. We thought that was a fair trade.”

Blankenship hopes this process will reset the way the Gulf states work with the Commerce Department and NOAA Fisheries.

“All the states felt like this was a new opportunity, not just for 2017 but the future, to work with Congress and the Department of Commerce to find long-term solutions,” he said.

Blankenship said Rep. Scalise, who is recovering from a serious gunshot wound in an assassination attempt last week, was at the forefront of the negotiations.

“We pray for his speedy recovery,” Blankenship said. “This is an important issue to him. We hope he will get back to work soon. We look forward to working with him, as the Majority Whip, to pass a long-term fix in Congress.”

Blankenship said without the data gathered through the Alabama Red Snapper Reporting System, known as Snapper Check, the argument for an extension would likely have not been considered by Commerce.

“To the Commerce Department’s credit, they gave states the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “They compared the data from Snapper Check and MRIP (Marine Recreational Information Program). They were open to looking at the data. They recognized the disparity in the data and decided the private recreational fishermen needed some relief. It was a bold move on their part and very appreciated by the recreational fishermen.”

One of those private recreational anglers is Marcus Kennedy of Mobile, who made it clear he felt the private rec guys were “getting the short end of the stick” in my column a little more than a month ago. When we talked last Friday, he had just returned from a quick trip into the Gulf to catch a limit of snapper.

“It looked like a normal weekend, which is good,” Kennedy said of the number of boats in the artificial reef zones. “When you’ve got the season spread out, you won’t have everybody trying to get out at the same time.

“I think this is the best we could have hoped for. We basically traded the remaining state days for 39 days in federal waters. I’ll take the federal season every time. That’s good for Alabama.”

Kennedy agrees that the Snapper Check data is far more accurate than the federal estimate.

“The state catch surveys have consistently been two to three times less than NOAA’s catch estimate,” he said. “Therefore, this season is more in line with what the actual catches are instead of the inflated numbers NOAA has been using. Everybody I fish with is glad we got the extension, but they know it’s not a long-term solution, and we’re probably going to have to go through the same fight next year.”

To be ready for further negotiations, Blankenship said it is crucial that Alabama anglers report all their catches through Snapper Check, which offers three ways to comply. The easiest way, by far, is to use the Outdoor Alabama app for smartphones. Online reporting is available at www.outdooralabama.com, and paper reporting slips are located at select boat ramps.

Major Scott Bannon, Acting Director of the Alabama Marine Resources Division, explains Snapper Check and its importance to red snapper management in the linked video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVpiZDgkVyw or www.facebook.com/OfficialOutdoorAlabama/videos/10155510628354885/.

Kennedy said there is an abundance of large snapper, 25-plus-pounds, and plenty of 2- to 4-pound snapper on the reefs he’s fished lately. And he’s glad he doesn’t have to stay in state waters to fish for Alabama’s premier reef fish.

“It’s bad when you have to cram it all into one weekend, when the weather might be bad,” he said. “Now we can breathe a little easier and not be under the stress that you have to go. It’s supposed to be an enjoyable outing. You want to go when the weather is nice, not when the federal government says you have to go.”

National Wild Turkey Federation celebrates National Pollinator Week

The National Wild Turkey Federation works throughout the year to improve habitat not only for wild turkeys but also for some of our upland habitat’s most important visitors — pollinators. Bees, birds and butterflies are a part of the pollinator group, which has seen drastic declines over the past 20 years. This week, during National Pollinator Week, the NWTF asks you to join our celebration and help keep our pollinators protected.

According to the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, birds, bees, butterflies, beetles, bats and other small mammals that pollinate plants are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of food. An estimated one-third of all foods and beverages is delivered by pollinators, and pollination produces nearly $20 billion worth of products annually. Pollinators also provide us with one-half of the world’s oils; they prevent soil erosion and increase carbon storage.

The NAPPC raises public awareness through education and partnerships while promoting restoration of pollinator habitats.

At the NWTF headquarters, staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly to improve pollinator habitats throughout the 700-acre Hunting Heritage Center, which includes demonstration forests, food plots, observation decks, wetlands and fish habitat. Travis Sumner, NWTF Hunting Heritage and Habitat specialist, said the NWTF has taken its pollinator efforts to a new level this year.

According to Sumner, the NWTF’s managed pollinator area includes butterfly gardens, a bat house and an area for honey bees and other foraging pollinators.

In addition, pollinator plots are planted at the shooting stations of the Palmetto Shooting Complex at the NWTF. Stations include descriptive signage to explain to visitors why the chosen plants were used, he said.

Improving the habitat at the NWTF complex has included a grant for development of NWTF pollinator habitat from Bayer Crop Science as well as help from many individuals and companies. Crop Production Services, Strom Thurmond FFA, Roundstone Seed, Mossy Oak Native Nurseries and Hallman Farms have all donated resources to the endeavor.

“With just a little care, pollinators give us life sustaining foods as well as improve our world with their beauty,” said Becky Humphries, CEO of the NWTF. “We are proud of the work we have done to enhance habitat for pollinators, but there is still more to do. Join us in helping preserve pollinator habitats across the country by enhancing, restoring or establishing their habitats near you.”

Additional habitat information is available on the NWTF website, www.nwtf.org/conservation/category/habitat and seed program information is available to NWTF members, www.nwtf.org/conservation/category/seed-program.

For more information on NAPPC, visit their website, pollinator.org.

For more information on Bayer CropScience, visit their website, feedabee.com.

About the National Wild Turkey Federation
When the National Wild Turkey Federation was founded in 1973, there were about 1.5 million wild turkeys in North America. After decades of work, that number hit an historic high of almost 7 million turkeys. To succeed, the NWTF stood behind science-based conservation and hunters’ rights. Thanks to the efforts of dedicated volunteers, professional staff and committed partners, the NWTF has facilitated the investment of $488 million in wildlife conservation and the preservation of North America’s hunting heritage. The NWTF has improved more than 17 million acres of wildlife habitat and introduce 100,000 people to the outdoors each year. The NWTF Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative is a charge that mobilizes science, fundraising and devoted volunteers to raise $1.2 billion to conserve and enhance more than 4 million acres of essential wildlife habitat, recruit at least 1.5 million hunters and open access to 500,000 acres for hunting. For more information, visit NWTF.org.

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

Havana Sunset

Sunset in Havana in Hale County from Tues. June 13, 2017 by Marty Wheat


Alabama Outdoor Weekly: Conservation ID Needed For Alligator Season Registration

By David Rainer Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

If you didn’t get your Conservation ID during the 2016-2017 hunting seasons, the number is required for those who wish to apply for an alligator tag in this summer’s Alligator Limited Quota Hunt.

Registration is underway through 8 a.m. (CDT) July 11 to be eligible for the computer-generated, random drawing.

The application process started on June 2, but technical difficulties had to be resolved before the process could resume.

If you tried to register on June 2, please log in to https://publichunts.dcnr.alabama.gov/public and verify your 2017 alligator season registration is listed. If your 2017 hunt registration is not on the list, you will need to re-register. If your registration is listed, but you did not receive a receipt or confirmation number, you need to send an email to support@alabamainteractive.org. Put Alligator Hunt Registration Confirmation in the subject line of the email. In the email body, include your full name and the following statement: I completed my Alligator Hunt Registration online and did not receive a receipt or confirmation number and would like to request a copy of both.

Back to the Conservation ID, which will be required of all hunting-license holders for the 2017-2018 season, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division makes it as easy as possible to acquire the Conservation ID by providing a link on the alligator registration page at www.outdooralabama.com/registration-instructions.

Chris Nix, WFF’s Alligator Program Coordinator, said potential applicants won’t be able to proceed in the process until the Conservation ID is issued.

“The reason for the Conservation ID is there have been some issues in the past trying to track people, primarily with their points, by just having their driver’s license number,” Nix said. “I remember one person in particular last year. He had a lifetime hunting license as a resident of Alabama. Then he moved to Mississippi. He got a different driver’s license when he moved to Mississippi. He was doing everything he was supposed to as far as registering every year, but when he changed driver’s license numbers, the system did not track him. With the Conservation ID, it will prevent anything like that from happening.”

Alabama’s alligator hunt application process went to a preference-point system in 2015 to give those who apply consistently a better chance to get a tag.

Each year that you apply but don’t get a permit, you gain points. Every year you miss out, the total points are cubed. Your chances of success will increase exponentially as you continue to apply yearly. However, don’t skip a year. If you don’t apply one year, your points are erased and you start all over again.

Nix said except for date changes, the 2017 alligator season is essentially the same as 2016. The season will be open in four areas: the Southwest Zone, Southeast Zone, West Central Zone and Lake Eufaula Zone.

The Southwest Zone has 150 tags available, and the 2017 season dates are August 10-13 and August 17-20. The Southeast Zone has 40 permits with season dates of August 12 through September 4. The West Central Zone, where many of the largest gators have been tagged in recent years, has 50 permits and season dates of August 10-13 and August 17-20. The Lake Eufaula Zone has 20 permits and season dates of August 18 through October 2. Tags are not transferable.

Holders of the permits and their crews can hunt gators from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. in the Southwest, Southeast and West Central zones. Gators can be pursued during daylight and nighttime hours in the Lake Eufaula Zone. A minimum length of 8 feet, measured from tip of snout to end of tail, is in effect for the Lake Eufaula Zone.

Check your status at the same place you applied at outdooralabama.com after noon on July 12 to see if you were selected. Those chosen must affirm their selection by 8 a.m. on July 19 or the permit will go to someone on the waiting list. If you don’t respond before the deadline or if you decline a permit in a certain zone, you lose your preference points.

A mandatory training course will be scheduled for successful permit applicants. If you’ve completed the course previously, you may qualify for exemption.

Nix said the 2016 alligator season was what he considered an average season with a total of 141 gators harvested, ranging from 4 ½ feet to 13 ½ feet. Weights ranged from 16 pounds to 684 pounds.

“The total numbers were pretty close to what we’ve had in the past few years,” he said. “The numbers in the Southwest Zone were down a little, but overall it was pretty close. We seem to fall in the 65- to 70-percent success rate just about every year.”

Of course, Nix pointed out that some hunters will pass up decent gators early in the season and regret it later.

“It happens every year,” he said. “The last night, the hunters are trying to tag a gator. I think we had 30-something gators brought in the last night in the Southwest Zone. People were just filling their tags.”

Nix hopes the alligator hunters will expand their hunting range, especially in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

“The Southwest Zone is where I spend most of my time during the alligator season, and I still see people go into the heart of the Delta and stay there,” he said. “I try to encourage people to get out of their comfort zone a little bit. We expanded the zone several years ago to include all of Mobile County and all of Baldwin County, primarily because that’s where the majority of our nuisance alligator complaints come from.

“I would prefer people to harvest those gators during the alligator hunt than Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries having to take care of them. Very few people venture south of I-10. Of all the alligators that were harvested (88) in the Southwest Zone, only three came from south of I-10.”

The state record alligator was taken by Mandy Stokes and her crew in 2014 just off the Alabama River near Selma. The Stokes gator measured 15 feet, 9 inches and weighed 1,011.5 pounds. The Stokes gator replaced another gator from the West Central Zone, Keith Fancher's 14-foot, 2-inch, 838-pounder, in the record books.

The largest gator from the 2015 season, taken at Lake Eufaula by Scott Evans and crew, was 13 feet, 6 inches and 920 pounds.

Last year’s largest gator came from the Southwest Zone. Lee Wright tagged a 684-pounder that measured 12 feet, 10 inches.

“A lot of big gators have come from the West Central Zone,” Nix said. “But there have been gators just as big come from Lake Eufaula. That gator that Scott Evans harvested weighed 920 pounds and was a couple of feet shorter than the Stokes gator. Hunters have the potential to take gators that weigh 800, 900 or 1,000 pounds in any of our zones.

“The alligator population in Alabama has been gradually increasing throughout the range in the last several years.”

Visit www.outdooralabama.com/alligator-hunting-season-alabama for information on the application process, rules and regulations.

Auburn study: Fruits and vegetables have healthy impact on Alabama’s economy

By Paul Hollis
While fruits and vegetables are undeniably good for the body, they’re also a major boost for Alabama’s economy, Auburn University and Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station economists found in a recently completed analysis of the industry.

“Specialty crops is definitely a potential growth area for Alabama,” said Deacue Fields, chair of the College of Agriculture’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology and study leader.

“We grow a lot of corn, cotton, soybeans and peanuts, but in terms of profitability per acre, specialty crops rank highest,” Fields said.

The study was funded by the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. Fields’ co-investigator was postdoctoral fellow Zhimei Guo.

Six years ago, Fields and Guo completed an analysis of the impact agriculture and forestry in general have on Alabama’s statewide economy, but that focused on agriculture in general.

“The earlier study masked the specialty crop component, so we wanted to drill down and take a closer look at this important sector of the agricultural economy,” Fields said.

The latest analysis showed that the fruit, vegetable and tree nut industry has a significant impact on Alabama’s economy, with a total output of $161.5 million, value-added production of $103.6 million, creation of 1,121 jobs and indirect business taxes of $2 million.

The total economic impact captures the industry’s ripple effect, too, revealing the following:

The fruit, vegetable and tree nut industry generates additional 0.5 dollar in the state economy per dollar of output.

On average, fruit and tree nut production generates over 17 jobs per $1 million in direct sales.

On average, vegetable and melon production generates eight jobs per $1 million in direct sales.

Processed fruits and vegetables generate two additional jobs for each job within its own industry.

Production and processing of fruits, vegetables and tree nuts are important to both state and national agricultural and manufacturing industries, says Fields, who has studied the produce industry throughout his career.

Alabama ranks seventh in the U.S. in sweet potato sales, eighth in pecan sales and 12th in watermelon sales. While a portion of these fruits, vegetables and tree nuts enter fresh markets, other sales go to processors for freezing, canning, drying and pickling. Each sector, Fields says, creates economic activity and jobs within its own industry.

Small farms equal big returns

“This is by no means a small impact on the economy, but it is coming from a lot of our smaller farms in Alabama,” he said. “We have about 43,000 farms in the state, and 80 to 90 percent of those are categorized as small.”

Many fruit and vegetable producers have truck-crop operations and are extremely savvy with their marketing plans and are entrepreneurs by necessity, Fields says.

“Although small in scale, these producers have tractors and other equipment, and some of them have more capital per acre than larger row-crop farms,” he said. “A lot of capital is invested in these small farms, but there’s a higher return in terms of the market value of what they sell. They have a lot of infrastructure, such as cooling facilities and sheds.

“All farmers are entrepreneurs to an extent, but these producers have to know how to market,” he said. “The overall specialty crop industry is where you find the majority of agricultural entrepreneurs, because they have to know what the consumer wants, how the customer thinks, and they have to be able to provide a product that’s desired.”

Agritourism is another important aspect of specialty crop production.

“Specialty crop producers have you-pick operations and other things, like pumpkin patches and corn mazes, going on around the farm,” Fields said. “Fruit and vegetable growers are the largest participant in the agritourism sector, and many of these are located near large population centers like Birmingham and Huntsville.”

Value-added products also play a role in specialty crop production, such as growers selling jellies or jams made from their own strawberry harvest.

In addition, sweet potato growers in Alabama are providing products for school lunch programs and foods for daycare and summer nutrition programs, Fields says.

Opportunities for expansion

Hopefully, the analysis can help encourage investments in the state’s specialty crop infrastructure, which lags behind neighboring states.

“This could be an entirely different industry with some infrastructure investments for processing,” Fields says. “A lot of fruits and vegetables are sold directly to consumers, and a lot of products are wasted because they are highly perishable.”

The state’s fruit and vegetable industry is unique in that it is present throughout the state, with some production in almost every county, he said. It’s also very diverse, including multiple crops, from cucumbers to peaches.

While there has been a recent uptick in the demand for organic specialty crops, consumers will pay even more for local products, Fields says.

“There are opportunities for serving these local markets—selling to individuals, restaurants and others,” he said. “When the water crisis hit in California, a lot of people were looking at Alabama because of our favorable climate. We have the capacity to grow our fruit and vegetable production, and that isn’t the case with some of our row crops.”

For the nine-month analysis, Fields and Guo used IMPLAN economic impact assessment software and associated databases for Alabama to estimate the industry’s impact.

“We also were interested in multipliers—how those employed within the industry spend their money, and what producers buy to actually support the industry,” Fields said. “We worked with some of the state’s specialty crops organizations to validate what was being reported. Many times, the impact of small farms is missed in standard reporting.”

Moundville Times Musical Vistor

We had a musical visitor hop on into the Moundville Times office this morning (6-5-17). 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
Photo and story by Kasey DeCastra, Moundville Times & Sumter County Record Journal Community Editor
We want YOUR local outdoor photos and stories Hale and South Tuscaloosa residents! Email them to times@mound.net and not only will you get in the paper for free, but we'll also spotlight them on the outdoors page at http://moundvilletimes.net/Outdoors3.html

Eastern Box Turtle Travels Through Taylorville

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.
Photo by Ben Noppenberger, story by Kasey DeCastra, Moundville Times/ Sumter County Record Journal Community Editor

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 hahttp://pfaf.org/user/ Plant.aspx?LatinName=Rosa+c hinensisve been used in medicine for stomach issues. (See ) 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 species 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 http:// www.passiongrowers.com/web/ ot/colors.asp to learn more about rose color meanings. (By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editor)

Alabama Survey Finds First Southeastern Bat with White-nose Syndrome

This southeastern bat was confirmed to have white-nose syndrome. Photo by Dottie Brown.

Biologists have confirmed white-nose syndrome (WNS) in the southeastern bat (Myotis austroriparius) for the first time. The species joins eight other hibernating bat species in North America that are afflicted with the deadly bat fungal disease.

The diseased bat was found in Shelby County, Alabama, at Lake Purdy Corkscrew Cave, by surveyors from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Nongame Program; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Alabama Ecological Services Field Office; Ecological Solutions, Inc.; and the Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc.

The cave is owned by the Birmingham Water Works and managed by the Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting cave and karst environments across the Southeast through conservation, education and recreation.

WNS in the southeastern bat was confirmed in the laboratory by the U.S. Geological Survey.

A fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), causes WNS, which affects many, but not all bat species that come into contact with it. Of those affected, bat populations have declined by more than 90 percent.

“We are disappointed to find white-nose syndrome in another species, but hopeful that the southeastern bat may fare better than many of its more northern cousins based on how long it took to be diagnosed with the disease,” said Jeremy Coleman, national WNS coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This discovery, along with the continued spread of Pd this year, reinforces the need for our continued vigilance in the face of white-nose syndrome.”

First detected in New York in 2007, WNS is now in 31 states and five Canadian provinces.

Other species confirmed with WNS include little brown, northern long-eared, Indiana, Eastern small-footed, gray, tricolored, big brown and Yuma myotis. All the affected species eat insects and hibernate during the winter. The northern long-eared bat was designated as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2015 primarily due to the threat of WNS.

Bats are an important part of our nation’s ecosystems, and provide significant pest control services to American farmers. Insectivorous bats likely save the United States agricultural industry at least $3 billion dollars each year, or approximately $74 per acre for the average farmer. Alabama is home to 15 species of bats, including northern long-eared bats and federally endangered gray and Indiana bats.

Each winter the Alabama Bat Working Group (ABWG) surveys areas to inventory bat populations, discover important bat hibernation areas and document the advance of WNS. This year biologists from the ABWG surveyed 50 sites in 14 counties and found that numbers of tricolored bats and endangered Indiana bats had substantially declined.

Nick Sharp, a member of the ABWG and nongame biologist with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, says the decline of tricolored bats has experts concerned. “Tricolored bats were once common in Alabama, but now seem to be disappearing due to WNS. We are troubled by the potential loss of the important ecosystem function this species provides in Alabama,” he said.

“Ongoing surveillance for the Pd fungus and white-nose syndrome provides critical information to resource managers about the occurrence of this disease in North American bats,” said David Blehert, a scientist with the USGS National Wildlife Health Center. “This information is essential to inform future response efforts.”

WNS was first documented in Alabama in 2012 in Jackson County, and since has been confirmed in bats in Jackson, Lawrence, Limestone, Marshall, Morgan and, now, Shelby counties. In addition to finding the diseased southeastern bat this season, the ABWG swabbed more than 100 bats statewide, adding Blount, Bibb and Madison to the list of counties where WNS fungus has been documented. Calhoun, Colbert and Lauderdale tested Pd-positive in previous years.

For additional information on WNS visit www.whitenosesyndrome.org.

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 12th annual regulated alligator hunts June 2, 2017, 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 2017 alligator hunts beginning June 2 at 8 a.m., visit www.outdooralabama.com/registration-instructions during the registration period.

Hunters will be randomly selected by computer to receive one Alligator Possession Tag each, and 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 should check their selection status on July 12 after 12 p.m. Those selected to receive a tag must confirm their acceptance online by 8 a.m. July 19. 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, 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. 2017 Dates: 8 p.m. August 10 until 6 a.m. August 13, and 8 p.m. August 17 until 6 a.m. August 20 (nighttime only).

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). 2017 Dates: 8 p.m. August 12 until 6 a.m. September 4 (nighttime only).

West Central Alabama Zone – 50 Tags
Locations: Private and public waters in Monroe (north of U.S. Highway 84), Wilcox and Dallas counties. 2017 Dates: 8 p.m. August 10 until 6 a.m. August 13, and 8 p.m. August 17 until 6 a.m. August 20 (nighttime only).

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). 2017 Dates: Sunset August 18 until sunrise October 2 (day and night).

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 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. 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.

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)

Protecting Fort Tombecbee Archeological Site


Erosion can devastate archaeological sites. The Black Belt Museum is doing something about it at Fort Tombecbe. With help from members of the Birmingham Paleontological Society and friends, they decided to remove slumping soil from the top of the bluff. Museum director, James Lamb, rappelled down the face of the cliff and carefully excavated the artifact-containing soil that was about to fall into the river. Then chuted it down a large tarp and screened it all in the river. More information on this project will be posted on their blog at www.forttombecbe.org.

Outdoor Alabama Weekly: Inshore Anglers Enjoying Banner Trout Year

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

As far as Capt. Bobby Abruscato and Capt. Jay Gunn are concerned, speckled trout are almost jumping in the boat along the Alabama Gulf Coast.

A mild winter and good weather for most of the spring have created a trout bonanza that inshore anglers have been enjoying for several weeks.

Abruscato, who mostly fishes western Mobile Bay, Dauphin Island and Mississippi Sound, said trout fishing has rebounded to the glory days of several years ago.

“You know, 2014-2015 was an off year for me and some of the people I talked to,” Abruscato said. “Jay mentioned it to me, and I hadn’t realized it. That was the winter we had a really cold stretch with that sleet storm that happened the winter of ’14-’15. Some people said it was the oil spill, but those fish aren’t that old. Some people said it was the fishing pressure, but the pressure has been there for several years. Something dramatic happened, and I think it had to be the cold weather.

“Last year, we caught a lot of small fish. Fishing was pretty good last year. This year, the fishing is as good as I can remember it in a number of years.”

Abruscato said the fish are cooperating in just about every way imaginable.

“If you want to go slip-corking at the rigs or structures or reefs, that’s working,” he said. “I’ve had wading trips that have been great. I went the other morning in water so shallow that the trolling motor scrubbed the whole time, and we caught the heck out of really nice trout. It’s whatever you want to do right now. That’s when it’s really good.”

Abruscato said to try the reefs on the west end of Dauphin Island and the west-end beach, both inshore and the Gulf side, weather permitting. Fish are hanging out in the grass and on the oyster beds on the north side of Mississippi Sound, and the petroleum rigs in Mobile Bay are holding fish.

Abruscato said he hasn’t tried croakers for bait, yet, but he’s catching fish on live shrimp, Vudu shrimp and Gulp shrimp under popping corks, topwater plugs, like Skitterwalks, and Slick Lures.

He said the fishing has been so good that he can target a specific size of fish.

“Most days I can go out and make sure the charter gets their box fish,” Abruscato said of the fish that go into the ice chest. “I don’t like to keep anything over 20 inches. So, I can get a limit of 16- to 20-inch fish and then go catch some picture fish in the 3- to 5-pound range. But we’re also catching small fish mixed in with the keepers, which bodes well for the future.

“Right now, those big females are loaded with roe. I’ll clean 18-inch fish that will have roe sacks the size of a cigar. They are spawning like crazy right now. And there’s no reason that the trout fishing shouldn’t stay good. The water temperature is roughly a month ahead of a normal year. If it continues to get warm, the fish may not be in shallow water as much. But you should be able to slip out and catch fish on structure.”

For the Eastern Shore, the speckled trout report from Gunn is almost a mirror image of Abruscato’s.

“They’re biting from about Fairhope all the way to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach,” Gunn said. “You can catch them in multiple ways. It’s just that time of year. If you can’t catch trout right now, well.… It has been pretty easy catching a limit. I had a charter of three people the other day and we had a limit of trout in the box in less than an hour.”

Gunn said factors other than the number of fish available will likely define your fishing tactics.

“The tides, the wind and weather conditions determine more of whether you’re going to have a good trip and not so much about the fish being there or biting,” he said. “With the conditions lately, you just go where the water is clear enough to fish. We’ve had some windy conditions lately, so sometimes you may not get to use your A or B plan. I just have to decide where to go, depending on the current conditions.

“On my latest trip, we caught fish in 2 feet of water, 12 feet of water and 18 feet of water. There is a good year-crop of 16- to 18-inch fish, like it was several years ago.”

Gunn said the biggest mistake he sees inshore fishermen make is relying too much on patience.

“You’ve got to cover water until you find the fish,” he said. “Don’t stop until you do. I think the worst thing I see fishermen do is waiting for the fish to bite. If you haven’t caught them in 10 minutes, you’re not going to catch them. Keep going to different spots until you find them.”

Right now, Gunn is using several methods to catch fish, including live shrimp, live croakers and plastic grubs on ¼-ounce jigheads.

“I use minnow-body grubs that imitate silverside minnows, mullet or menhaden,” he said. “But the grub fishing is probably not going to last a whole lot longer. In the next week or so, the fish are going to transition to live bait. Free-lining live croakers will be the ticket for the bigger trout. Except for the morning topwater bite, you’ll have to go to live bait in the next couple of weeks. It will stay that way until the fall.”

Gunn also had some good news about a popular inshore species that has been hard to find since the oil spill in 2010.

“Flounder are on the rebound, too,” he said. “I’m catching one to four a day while I’m trout fishing. On the days I don’t catch one, it’s probably because the trout are so thick that they hit the bait before it ever gets to the bottom.”

In another bit of news for inshore anglers, the Bernie Heggeman Reef was dedicated last weekend in honor of the avid inshore angler from Mobile who drowned during a wade-fishing trip in 2014. The Heggeman Reef, a joint project funded by CCA Alabama and the Alabama Marine Resources Division, was constructed of 52 eco-reef modules placed in clusters of three to four modules. Each module consists of three concrete/limestone discs 4½ feet in diameter on a fiberglass piling extending 4 to 5 feet above the seabed. The reef is located at the old "Blue Rig" site just southwest of the Shrimpboat Reef. The coordinates are N30°16.995 W88°17.225.

Free Fishing Day is June 10

On Saturday, June 10, 2017, Alabamians and visitors alike will have the opportunity to fish for free in most public waters including both freshwater and saltwater. Free Fishing Day is part of National Fishing and Boating Week, which runs June 3-11. Approved by the Alabama Legislature, Free Fishing Day allows residents and non-residents to enjoy the outstanding fishing opportunities Alabama has to offer without having to purchase a fishing license.

The fishing license exemption on Free Fishing Day does not affect some lakes that may still require fees and permits. Fishing in a private pond requires the pond owner’s permission. Anglers can visit http://outdooralabama.com/where-fish-alabama to find a great fishing spot for Free Fishing Day.

“Free Fishing Day is the perfect opportunity for non-anglers to test the fishing waters and to remind former anglers of all the fun they’ve been missing,” said Nick Nichols, Fisheries Section Chief for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. “It’s also a great opportunity for kids to get out and learn how fun and exciting fishing is, plus the day gives families a chance to do something together outdoors.”

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (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.

4H Homegrown Steer and Heifer Show

Hale County 4-H hosted the Homegrown Steer and Heifer Show Sat., April 29 at Lion’s Park in Greensboro.
Hale County 4-H members signed up for this beef project in October. Youth selected an animal from their herd that would be designated as their show animal. With the help of their parents, youth worked to halter break the calves. They also kept feed and medical records of the animal for the seven months leading up to the show.
Van Smith of Billingsley selected showmanship and class winners of the show.
Results are as follows: Experienced Showmanship: 1st place: Shelby Marsh
Novice Showmanship: 1st place George Tucker; 2nd place Charlie Vickers; 3rd place Jordan James
Heifer Classes: Class 1 1st Place Charlie Vickers; Class 2 1st Place Shelby Marsh; Class 3 1st Place Shelby Marsh; Grand Champion Heifer Shelby Marsh; Reserve Grand Champion Heifer Shelby Marsh
Steer Class: 1st Place Jordan James; Steer Class 2nd Place George Tucker; Grand Champion Steer Jordan James; Reserve Grand Champion Steer George Tucker

Following the show, Whit Lane of Lane Cattle Company in Benton erved as auctioneer as the Grand Champion Steer was sold to the highest bidder.
Hale County 4-H would like to show appreciation to the sponsors of the Homegrown Steer and Heifer Show including the Greensboro Veterinarian Clinic, Alabama Livestock Auction, the Hale County Farmers Federation, the Hale County Cattlemen’s Association, and Deep South Livestock Equipment.
This is the first youth livestock event for Hale County in more than twenty years. For more information about 4-H programs, contact Kellee Lassiter at lassikj@auburn.edu.

Outdoor Alabama Weekly Study Affirms Forever Wild's Impact

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

When it comes to return on investment, very few programs can match the success of Alabama’s Forever Wild Land Trust.

Forever Wild was established in 1992 as a vehicle to preserve and protect important ecological and recreational tracts of land in the state. Voters approved the constitutional amendment that established Forever Wild with an overwhelming 84 percent approval.

Two years later, Forever Wild closed on its first parcel of land, and now the program owns 195,000 acres and has an additional 60,000 acres under long-term lease agreements. Forever Wild funding comes from interest earnings generated by oil and gas production royalties paid to the state and is capped at $15 million annually. Doug Deaton of the Alabama State Lands Division, which administers the program for the Forever Wild Land Trust Board, said funding to date for the current fiscal year is about $14 million.

When Forever Wild came up for renewal for another 20 years in 2012, the program maintained widespread support and passed with 75 percent of the vote.

Despite the public support, there have been attempts to divert some of the Forever Wild funding, and concerned conservation groups decided to sponsor a return-on-investment study to show how Forever Wild benefits the state in ways more than the intrinsic values of preserving sensitive habitat or providing public recreation opportunities.

At last week’s Forever Wild Land Trust Board meeting in Spanish Fort, Tammy Herrington, Executive Director of Conservation Alabama, took her turn during the public comment portion of the meeting to remind those in attendance of the enormous impact of Forever Wild and outdoors recreation on Alabama’s economy.

“We partnered with The Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy and others to do an economic impact study to show the economic value of the program so we would have the information when we were talking with legislators and voters about the actual benefits the program does bring to the state,” Herrington said. “There have been attacks in recent years on public lands. So we had an idea there would be continued threats to Forever Wild, and we wanted to bring the numbers into the conversation.”

Herrington said the economic study showed that for every $1 invested in public land through the Forever Wild Land Trust, $5 is returned in goods and services to the state.

The economic analysis, a return-on-investment study, focused on fee simple purchases made by Forever Wild using state dollars. Public lands purchased through partnerships with federal grant programs, conservation organizations or private landowners were not included to purposely highlight the benefits of Alabama’s direct investment in land conservation through Forever Wild.

Herrington said the economic study verified what the study sponsors expected from setting aside land for public access and recreational use.

“We feel it’s a conservative estimate to what public lands bring to the state,” she said. “We focused just on Forever Wild land. When you look at some of the ways the program is able to leverage funds from federal, private and nonprofit sources, it adds to the value.

“So we think it brings more economic benefits than can even be quantified through this economic report.”

The report showed that tourists and residents spend $7.5 billion annually on outdoor recreation, which generates $494 million in tax revenues and supports 86,000 jobs and $2 billion in wages in Alabama.

One of the most geographically and ecologically diverse states in the nation, Alabama’s habitat includes mountains, coastal beaches, grassland plains, forests, farmland and abundant water resources in the drainages of the Tombigbee, Tennessee and Alabama river systems.

“In addition to those concrete numbers about the economy, you have stories in local communities about how they were able to take Forever Wild lands and were able to market them to bring in people for recreational opportunities, like hunting and other outdoors activities, to their areas,” Herrington said. “Those stories are all very interesting to me.

“Not only are you looking at what happens in economic impact, you’re able to look at places like Anniston, which took their Forever Wild land and built a biking community around it. You’ve got bicyclers from all over going to Anniston for their great mountain biking.”

The area near Anniston that Herrington referred to is the Doug Ghee Nature Preserve and Recreation Area, which is comprised of four Forever Wild acquisitions on Coldwater Mountain. Named for the former Alabama legislator and Forever Wild board member, the 4,180-acre tract of mountainous forest is a combination of hardwoods and pines.

A total of 35 miles of bike trails, ranging from beginner level to expert, have been constructed on Coldwater Mountain. The trail system attracts riders from all over the U.S. and has become a mecca for mountain bikers in the Southeast. Forever Wild’s Coldwater Mountain tract has been recognized by the International Mountain Biking Association as a Bronze-Level Ride Center, one of only 37 in the world.

Forever Wild has been used to purchase land in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, Little River Canyon, Sipsey River Complex, Cathedral Caverns, Ruffner Mountain, Weeks Bay Reserve, Splinter Hill Bog and the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, to name only a few. Additions to numerous Wildlife Management Areas were created through Forever Wild purchases, as well as additions to the Alabama State Parks System.

“I think that’s what people don’t understand,” Herrington said. “Our organization, Conservation Alabama Foundation, is focused on nature but also how people interact with nature. It’s not just to protect the wildlife for nature’s sake, it’s really about how citizens of this state interact with the land and what intrinsic value that brings to us as people. That’s why we do this work. Looking at public lands and these communities that benefit from Forever Wild lands, local leaders and citizens want to take advantage of them personally but also bring tourism opportunities into their community.”

PHOTOS: (Billy Pope) From mountain biking in north Alabama’s Appalachian foothills to canoeing one of the state’s coastal rivers, Forever Wild Land Trust properties offer a wide variety of outdoors recreation.

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... a copperhead in Moundville!

Our own 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)

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/?hc_ref=NEWSFEED

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)

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 (2013-2017) indicates that “approximately 49 percent 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 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/aquatic-nuisance-species.

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.

Turkey Season Started Strong, Faded Fast at End

Chuck Sykes and his father, Willie, show off the gobbler that was fooled by Sykes’ setup in a pop-up blind inside a hay ring in Willie’s cattle pasture. Sykes had a great early season and frustrating April, which seems to be what members of the Alabama Avid Turkey Hunting Survey team have experienced in recent years.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Except for the stormy weather on the final day, the 2017 wild turkey season in Alabama went out with a whimper.

However, that wasn’t a surprise to many because of a mild winter and early spring. Many expected the turkey breeding activity to be slightly ahead of a normal schedule as well.

Some, like Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Director Chuck Sykes, didn’t expect the last half of the season to be quite so tough, especially with more favorable weather conditions than in 2016.

“It’s been mixed,” Sykes said of the reports from turkey hunters throughout the season. “It was about like it has been the last couple of years. I think it was a little better overall. The weather was better on the weekends for the most part. Last year, it seemed like every storm came through on the weekend.

“I know some people who killed their limit (5 gobblers per season). I know some who didn’t come close to a limit. For me, March couldn’t have been any better, and April couldn’t have been any worse.”

Sykes said because he hunts on numerous properties with different hunters he rarely gets to pattern specific turkeys, which means there is very little room for error.

“I seldom get to hunt the same turkeys two days in a row,” he said. “In March, I don’t know what it was. I just made the right decisions. Where I set up was in the right place, where the turkey wanted to be. And the turkeys just worked well. Early in the season I called up multiple turkeys, two or three, on a lot of the hunts.”

Sykes said his luck went south later in the season because hunting pressure had changed the gobblers’ behavior.

“Late in the season, you need to be able to hunt a piece of property repeatedly to learn what these turkeys are going to do,” he said. “They’ve been pressured. You’re going after turkeys that have been spooked three or four times or shot at.”

Sykes, who bagged three turkeys during the season, said there was one hunt where a little local knowledge would have gone a long way in outsmarting a wary gobbler.

“I went with a friend and hunted this turkey,” he said. “We fooled with him and fooled with him. We got him close and then he started going away. We circled around, but we didn’t kill the turkey. My friend said, ‘You know, he’s done that the last three times I’ve hunted him.’ That would have been good intel going into the hunt. We could have not wasted time chasing him. We could have just circled around and cut him off.

“A lot of it was just the situation. There was a lot better gobbling for me early in the year. Even on those 24- and 25-degree mornings, the turkeys gobbled good. I don’t know. I could do no wrong in March and could do no right in April. There were a bunch of days in April where I didn’t even sit down to a turkey.”

Like Sykes, the gobblers where I hunted sounded off well for the first few weeks of the season. On a couple of hunts the last week of the season in Marengo County, it looked like the turkeys had packed their bags and vacated the premises. There wasn’t a single gobble heard on those two mornings, and the turkey sign was gone. Instead of abundant sign of gobbler and hen tracks, strut marks and dusting areas, it was a turkey desert. Hunting partner Doug Shearer, a member of the Alabama Avid Turkey Hunter Survey team, said, “This report’s not going to take long.”

“At different times of the year, the hens move,” Sykes said. “Where it was good early, it may not have been good habitat for nesting or brood rearing. When the hens change locations, the gobblers are going to go with them. The gobblers may just walk up and down certain roads, waiting for the hens to come off the nest.

“A lot of times, what’s good early in the season is not good late in the season because the habitat changed.”

One of Sykes’ most memorable hunts of 2017 occurred on family property in Choctaw County. His father, Willie, raises cattle on several hundred acres that is mostly pasture. For the last couple of years, Sykes has seen several gobblers tending hens in the pasture, but there was no place to hide in that wide-open field.

“I hate hunting out of a blind,” he said. “I don’t like deer hunting out of a blind, much less turkey hunting. But it goes back to knowing a piece of property and knowing what the turkeys are going to do. The property is pastureland. There are very limited places where I can set up. Those turkeys were not in places where I had a few strips of woods where I could hunt. Those turkeys were roosting over a creek off the property. They would either pitch down in the woods and stay in the woods or they would pitch down into the pasture. We are surrounded by multiple landowners, so if you don’t get those gobblers the first few days of the season, there is so much pressure that they go somewhere else.

“As anybody who has hunted turkeys enough knows, you have to hunt where turkeys want to be. It’s extremely difficult to make them go somewhere they don’t want to go. And they liked to stay in that one pasture, which is close to where Daddy feeds his cows.”

Despite his disdain for the hunting tool, Sykes erected a pop-up blind just across the fence from where Willie feeds his Charolais cattle.

“I got one of the old hay rings and put it around the blind,” Chuck said. “A lot of times when you stick a blind in the woods, you’ll brush it up with limbs and leaves to make it blend in. But there’s nothing to blend in in the middle of a hay field. So the hay ring made it sort of blend in.

“That first day, it worked out well (longbeard down at 20 yards). I knew the turkeys. I knew what they were doing. That’s where hunting the same property year after year comes in and understanding how the turkeys utilize it. That makes all the difference in the world. Pretty calling is just pretty calling. Location is what kills turkeys. What looks good to one turkey will look good to the others. Next year, I can probably kill a turkey out of that hay ring the first week of the season. Later in the season, it’s not going to happen.”

Sykes said he did see a lot of mature turkeys taken this year, which is further evidence of tough hunting the previous two years. A good many of those turkeys made it into older age classes.

“From what I saw where I was hunting, I probably didn’t see but a couple of 2-year-olds killed, and the rest were 3- and 4-year-olds,” he said. “That was a good sign.”

Steve Barnett, WFF’s Alabama Wild Turkey Project Leader, said avid hunter survey results as reported in WFF’s Full Fans and Sharp Spurs publications for the last three years show peak gobbling activity occurs in March and early April.

“Early indications, based on a small sample size of hunters in the Avid Turkey Hunter Survey, are that the number of turkeys gobbling and the amount of gobbling heard tend to be best early in the season,” Barnett said. “There is somewhat of a correlation in harvest, based on that sample.

“But we don’t have enough data from our survey yet to talk about trends or apply the samples to what’s going on statewide. We need more folks to enlist in the survey to help guide turkey management in Alabama.”

Go to www.outdooralabama.com/wild-turkey to see the Full Fans and Sharp Spurs publications for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Do You Have Dying Trees?
You May Have Bark Beetles

Come learn how to identify the different species of bark beetles and possible control techniques. Topics: Impact of 2016 Drought and Wildfires; Ips Beetle Outbreak; Status of Current Beetle Samplings; Forecasting a Potential Southern Pine Beetle Outbreak; Control and Assistance. Lunch will be provided. Marengo County Business Development Center, 2400 E. Coats Avenue, Linden, Wed., May 17 9 a.m. - noon. To register for this free workshop, please email Marti Davis: marti.davis@forestry.alabama.gov, or call 334-240-9332. Onsite registration and sign-in will be from 8:30 – 9 a.m.


Algae solution cleanup at UWA Duck Pond

The Historic Covered Bridge that spans the Duck Pond in the middle of the University of West Alabama campus finds itself the subject of many photographs. However, what do you do, when that picturesque space becomes overrun with algae?

One solution is to dump herbicides to take care of the problem. While that will take care of the problem, it also runs the risk through runoff of harming beneficial plants such as cattails and burr marigolds, and other plants in the adjoining Black Belt Garden.

That solution was not acceptable to the staff of UWA’s Black Belt Museum. They joined forces with Department of Biological Sciences & Environmental Sciences, Beta Beta Beta Honor Society and UWA’s Physical Plant to look for an environmental friendly solution.

“We wanted a solution that cleaned up the area and also provided a learning opportunity for our students,” said Mr. James Lamb, Director of the Black Belt Museum.

According to Lamb, the algae problem stems from the warm winters experienced by our region over the last few years. “Instead of dying back as it is supposed to do in the winter,” Lamb said, “the algae have continued to spread, covering the pond in an algae blanket.”

Through team work, students, professors and professional staff of UWA, are literally pumping the algae from the Duck Pond, logging their findings, and reusing the collected algae as an organic fertilizer for the Black Belt Garden. The problem has now become a benefactor to another area of campus.

So far, more than 800 pounds of algae have been collected, and the Duck Pond and Covered Bridge are being readied for many more picture perfect moments.

Housed within the Division of Economic Development and Outreach the Black Belt Museum provides a crossroads between the University and the community a way for students to anchor academic pursuits within their immediate surroundings and to hone these pursuits toward the betterment of our region. Its mission is to collect, preserve, exhibit, interpret, and celebrate the landscape and rich history of the Black Belt of Alabama and Mississippi.

To learn more about the Black Belt Museum and its programs, contact Lamb at jlamb@uwa.edu and like the Black Belt Museum on Facebook.

Outdoor Alabama Weekly Fort Morgan bird banding project revived

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Alabama’s coastal environment along the Fort Morgan peninsula and Dauphin Island provides critical habitat for a wide variety of birds en route to their summer breeding grounds.

Some of the birds make journeys that may be more than 1,000 miles to reach their preferred nesting grounds, and the coastal areas untouched by development give the birds a place to rest and replenish their drained energy and fat reserves.

To understand how important coastal Alabama is to the migrating species, the bird banding effort championed by the late Bob Sargent and his wife, Martha, has been reborn.

Birmingham Audubon teamed with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), Mississippi State University, Alabama Gulf Coast Visitors Bureau, the Alabama Historical Commission and Mobile Bay Audubon Society to conduct a five-day banding program at historic Fort Morgan, which connects to one tract of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge on the peninsula.

The bird banding project has been dormant since Bob’s death in 2013, but Scott Rush of Mississippi State University examined Sargent’s historical data and determined it was too valuable to let the banding station remain dormant.

Rush and Eric Soehren of the ADCNR’s State Lands Division led the data-gathering effort at the banding station and paid homage to the Sargents.

Sargent was the founder of the Hummer/Bird Study Group. An electrician by trade, Sargent learned banding from renowned ornithologist Tom Imhof, who authored Alabama Birds in the ’60s and updated it in the ’70s.

When he retired in the ’80s, Sargent started banding birds on Fort Morgan at the site where the 2017 effort was located.

“Bob was a people person and could communicate effectively,” said Soehren, who manages the State Land Division’s Wehle Nature Center in Bullock County. “He had strong convictions toward bird conservation. He really got the Fort Morgan station going. He saw the value of education through science. He was banding until 2013, right up to his death.”

After his death, there was some question as to what would happen to Sargent’s data. Rush requested the data, and after analyzing it, found some interesting trends.

“What we found was that some of the birds are shifting the timing of their migration,” said Rush, an assistant professor in Wildlife Ecology and Management at MSU. “A lot of times in the spring, those long-distance migrants are arriving earlier. Depending on what’s going on in the Southern Hemisphere, where some of these birds are migrating from, that can influence when they are arriving. The concern is that if the birds arrive a few days or weeks early that there may be a mismatch of the resources they need, like the caterpillars or the fruits.

“When they fly across the Gulf of Mexico and they’re having trouble on that last leg, if they’re out of resources when they get here and can’t get any here, then it’s not good. They could starve to death.”

Soehren added, “When Dr. Rush started diving into the data, we saw some interesting trend changes and saw a need to get this station back up and add to the existing dataset.”

The research team set fine mesh nets to catch the birds, which are carefully removed and handled. The team records species, sex and weight and then applies a band.

Common species, like the gray catbird, are caught, as well as multiple species of warblers, a yellow-bellied sapsucker (not making that up), great crested flycatcher and a yellow-billed cuckoo.

“Migrants are quite diverse,” Soehren said. “All the species that are trans-Gulf migrants are expected to show up here. Those include the warblers, tanagers, buntings, cuckoos, thrushes, swallows and so forth. Because we’re collecting in a forested area, we’re getting more forest species than grass species. They’re seeking cover. They’re seeking to rest and replenish fat reserves so they can continue their migration north.”

Rush said it’s hard to know where the birds captured on Fort Morgan started their journey north.

“We have a general idea for each species,” Rush said. “Some species of birds may be leaving South America and coming all the way up into Canada. It’s not unheard of for a bird to leave South America and the first land it sees is the Fort Morgan peninsula. That’s a significant distance.”

Soehren added, “The key thing about this is places like the Fort Morgan peninsula, Dauphin Island and other coastal barrier islands are areas referred to as migrant traps. They consolidate birds. The birds see it as first land on their single flight from the Yucatan (Mexico), roughly 600 miles. These areas are just as important in the fall. It’s the last staging area before the flight back down to the tropics.

“Some of these birds will pack on twice the amount of their normal body weight just so they can metabolize that fat to make that trip across,” Soehren said. “It’s a perilous journey, and condition is everything. That ties into the quality of habitat. If you have high-quality habitat with a good diversity of plants, a good diversity of bugs and berries, then they can condition themselves better for the migration.”

One of the birds banded last week at Fort Morgan was a blackpoll warbler, which makes an epic migration, according to Rush.

“In the fall, it’s not unheard for them to leave southern Ontario (Canada) or Maine or New Hampshire and fly out to sea before heading all the way to South America,” Rush said. “Imagine a bird that weighs about 12 grams making a flight like that. I forget the exact analogy, but it’s something like us getting 500,000 miles per gallon of fuel if you convert that into energy.”

Soehren and Rush said banding is the most viable tool to track bird migrations. Whether the bird is recaptured at another banding station somewhere else in the U.S. or flies into the net again on Fort Morgan, the researchers gather important data.

“We’ve caught some birds that we banded earlier in the week, and we can look at how much their mass has changed between the time we first banded them and when they were recaptured,” Rush said. “We can see if they are building fat or whether they might be burning more energy while they’re here. Ultimately, if you collect enough of that information, you can look at differences between species and between sexes and ages.”

Rush said through work at other banding stations, scientists can determine migration routes and marvel at how the birds travel with pinpoint accuracy.

“We’ve got data on birds that travel thousands of miles and they come back to a location the size of a football field year after year after year,” he said. “Something that small flying up in the atmosphere can get buffeted by the winds. Somehow they’re correcting for that and they’re homing in on a particular location. We’re not sure how they do it. We think they are using redundant systems. They are probably navigating by the stars. When it’s cloudy, they’re using landmarks. It works a lot better than our GPS (Global Positioning System), so that’s pretty wild.”

One interesting aspect of the Fort Morgan banding program is that it is open to the public, and the interest in birding continues to thrive.

“This is the only banding program open to the public, that we’re aware of, on the Gulf Coast,” said Chandra Wright with Alabama Gulf Coast Tourism. “This is the only chance for people to see banding up close, so this is a great education event.

“With the Sargents starting this back in 1989, 25 years of doing it in the spring and fall, this was something the public looked forward to. We have tons of visitors who visit the Gulf Coast between Memorial Day and Labor Day, so the interest in the bird banding program is great for us. People are coming and spending their lodging dollars and eating in our restaurants, shopping and buying gas. And it’s very important that we educate people about the value of this habitat so we don’t lose it.”

Soehren hopes the revived Fort Morgan banding will attract other scientists and skilled bird-banders to the effort.

“That way we can get it back to what the Sargents had,” Soehren said. “They did two weeks in the spring and two weeks in the fall right here on Fort Morgan.”

Rush said the Sargents’ banding efforts have advanced the education of the public about migratory birds and inspired many to pursue the field.

“So many careers have been launched here, and so much interest has been created here that it’s great to keep it going,” Rush said.

Hunters Reminded Mechanical Turkey Decoys Illegal in Alabama

Online videos depicting the practice of using mechanically manipulated decoys while turkey hunting have prompted several inquiries to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources about the legality of using them in Alabama. Under current law, certain forms of turkey decoys are illegal in the state.

Mechanically-manipulated decoys are illegal in Alabama under hunting regulation 220-2-.11, which prohibits the use of any turkey decoy that has mechanical or electronic moving parts or is capable of producing movement and/or sound. Examples of these range from decoys mounted to radio-controlled cars to those which are mounted directly to the barrel of a shotgun and mechanically-manipulated by the hunter.

In recent years, hunters in North America have been mistaken for game while hunting with the aid of mechanically manipulated decoys. This year, two hunters were mistakenly shot in Girard, Kansas, while turkey hunting with decoys.

Conventional non-mechanical and non-electronic turkey decoys are accepted and legal in the state of Alabama.

Paying attention to coloration while turkey hunting is also of concern. Alabama’s hunter education program advises hunters to never wear red, white or blue clothing that could be visible to another turkey hunter. These are the colors of a spring gobbler’s head and neck. Observing safe hunting practices and abiding by state hunting laws benefits hunters and guarantees that the time-honored tradition of turkey hunting in Alabama will remain for future generations.

For more information about hunting wild turkey in Alabama, including sighting in a shotgun, field dressing your turkey harvest, hunter safety and more, visit www.outdooralabama.com/wild-turkey-hunting.

Alabama State Waters Close for Shrimping

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Marine Resources Division announces that at 6 a.m., Monday, May 1, 2017, all inside waters will close for commercial and recreational shrimp harvesting. This notice is pursuant to Section 9-12-46, Code of Alabama as stated by Rule 220-3-.01.

Inside waters are defined in Rule 220-3-.04 as all waters north of a line extending from the Florida-Alabama line westward along the shore to Alabama Point, thence along the Baldwin County beaches of the Gulf of Mexico to the intersection with the Territorial Sea line on Fort Morgan Peninsula, known as Mobile Point (30°-13.46’N, 088°-01.72’W), thence following the Territorial Sea Line across the mouth of Mobile Bay to Dauphin Island (30°-14.77’N, 088°-04.48’W), thence along the Dauphin Island beaches of the Gulf of Mexico to the intersection with the Territorial Sea Line on the west point of Dauphin Island (30°-13.72’N, 088°-19.81’W), thence following the Territorial Sea Line southwest to the intersection with the Alabama-Mississippi state line (30°-12.82’N, 088°-23.54’W).

Licensed live bait dealers are reminded that the taking of live bait north of a line beginning at the northern shore of East Fowl River running along the northern edge of the Fowl River Channel to Marker #2 in the Fowl River Channel then southeasterly to Middle Bay Light and then northeasterly to Great Point Clear is prohibited during this closure except by permit holders in the Special Permit Area in the Mobile Ship Channel. Recreational shrimp vessels possessing a Special Live Bait Permit may only take 1 gallon of shrimp per boat per day.

Special Live Bait Area Permits are only available at the Marine Resources Office on Dauphin Island.

All inside waters not permanently closed by law or regulation, will subsequently open to shrimp harvest at 6 a.m., Thursday, June 1, 2017.

At UWA April 15 in Livingston was the Sucarnochee Folklife Festival. Black Belt Museum staff and UWA biology class created an aluminum cast of a fire ant nest by pouring molten aluminum into an ant mound. Another live casting was done at the festival.

Big Boss Gobbler taken in “Hale”

The Moundville Times 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

Outdoor Alabama Weekly
Gulf Council Tries Different Red Snapper Approach

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

It appears the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will make at least one more attempt at regional management of the red snapper fishery.

At the Gulf Council meeting last week in Birmingham, three states petitioned the council to manage the fishery off their respective coasts out to 200 nautical miles, based on historical landings.

The council approved motions by Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi by 11-5 votes to eventually shift red snapper management to those states.

Chris Blankenship, who served as Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD) Director for almost six years before being recently promoted to Deputy Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said that motion is only the first step in the amendment process that could take at least a year to develop.

“We have a long way to go,” Blankenship said. “But the motion passed 11-5, which shows there was pretty broad support for doing that.”

The Gulf Council had previously attempted to shift management of the red snapper fishery to the five Gulf States, but after many changes, the amendment strayed so far from the original intent that it was abandoned.

“Amendment 39, the regional management amendment, was similar, but it had gotten so restrictive in what the states would be able to do that it didn’t offer us much in the way of a management opportunity,” Blankenship said. “Starting over with this amendment will hopefully give us an opportunity to craft this in a way that will give us true management flexibility.”

Blankenship said the Gulf Council will come back with an options paper to begin work on the amendment. The process will likely take a year or more before a final vote on the amendment can be held.

Kevin Anson, MRD’s council representative, said with programs like Alabama’s Red Snapper Reporting System, known as Snapper Check, and Louisiana’s LA Creel (Louisiana Recreational Creel Survey), the states will be able to more closely monitor the red snapper catch than the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) survey.

“We can track the landings much more accurately than the federal folks can and in a more timely manner so the seasons can open and close more efficiently and stay within the quotas,” Anson said. “With Snapper Check, we would base our quota on the landings provided by both the private recreational boats and the charter for-hire boats.”

One court ruling will affect the red snapper quotas as well. The commercial reef fish anglers sued NOAA Fisheries after the red snapper allocations for the commercial and recreational sectors were changed in Amendment 28. Previously, the commercial sector received about 51 percent of the allocation, while the recreational sector got 49 percent. Amendment 28 changed the allocation to 51.5 percent recreational and 48.5 percent commercial.

The judge vacated the amendment on the basis that it violated National Standard 4 (management measures must be fair and equitable). Thus, the red snapper allocations will revert to the previous ratio of 49 percent recreational and 51 percent commercial. The 2017 recreational red snapper quota is projected to be about 5.28 million pounds with a little more than 3 million pounds going to the private recreational anglers. However, because the majority of red snapper are now caught in state waters, the federal season is expected to be open for less than a week. Alabama has already announced the red snapper season in state waters out to 9 miles will open on Friday, May 26 and run through July 31, 2017.

Blankenship said during the time the regional management plan is under consideration other efforts will continue through Congress to make changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Act to remove the hard quotas that hamstring management efforts.

“As the Gulf Council is working on this amendment and our work with Congress, we hope to have something that will come together in a year-and-a-half or so that would truly give the states the ability to manage outside the box and give people more access to the fishery,” Blankenship said. “The recreational season wasn’t announced, but it alluded that it would be the shortest on record. We just can’t stand by and let it get to this point. So, we made this motion to restart the discussion about state management. I was really surprised at how well it was received by the public on social media.”

Blankenship was pleased with the attendance of the Gulf Council meeting at a venue 275 miles inland from the Alabama coast.

“I was glad we had a good turnout from local fishermen from the Birmingham area,” he said. “Well over a dozen recreational fishermen showed up to speak. It showed the value of having it in Birmingham to give people from that area an opportunity to participate. The gist of their testimony was that they thought the state could do a good job of managing the red snapper fishery. They wanted more days to be able to fish. They have to travel so far to get to the coast. And with the season so short, they can’t get there to fish. They don’t have any access to the fishery.”

As Gulf anglers already know, the gray triggerfish season is closed for all of 2017 because private recreational anglers exceeded the 2016 quota.

Anson said the Gulf Council voted to send Amendment 46 to NOAA Fisheries for approval. The amendment deals with the gray triggerfish rebuilding plan, which includes a change in the closed seasons for 2018. If approved, the triggerfish season would be closed from January 1 through February and June 1 through July 31 in 2018. The bag limit would be one triggerfish per angler with a minimum size limit of 15 inches fork length (measured from tip of the mouth to the fork in the tail).

“The goal was to be able to keep triggerfish open for the rest of the year after it opens back up on August 1,” Anson said. “There was some discussion about leaving the minimum size at 14 inches, but that would not have lengthened the season at all.”

Johnny Greene, captain of the charter boat Intimidator out of Orange Beach and Alabama’s council representative, said the charter industry has been impacted by the closure of the triggerfish and greater amberjack seasons. Amberjack season was closed in March when the quota was met.

“Not having triggerfish and amberjack for the remainder of the year is huge for the charter fleet,” Greene said. “We’re hearing we may get a few more days for red snapper for the charter fleet, which is good news for us. The charter fleet, in the three years we’ve had sector separation, has been under quota each year. It looks like we may get a few more days in an attempt to get closer to our quota.

“The bad news for the private recreational fishermen is the 2016 quota was exceeded by about 129,000 pounds. With almost 80 percent of the red snapper coming from state waters, there’s no way around a shorter federal season.”

Greene said the charter boats are catching plenty of fish but few are going into the fish box. He did say when the triggerfish season does open again, anglers won’t have any problems catching 15-inch fish.

“We’re catching a whole lot of fish, but if it’s big and tastes good, unfortunately we can’t keep most of them,” he said. “The triggerfish are huge. I don’t think anybody will have to measure when it opens back up. We’re catching beeliners and white snapper (red porgy). The king mackerel are starting to show up, and we’re catching yellowfin tuna. We’ve had an early transition to a summertime pattern, and fishing has been really good.”

Forever Wild Field Trial Area Accepting Fishing Reservations

The Forever Wild Land Trust announces that 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. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 334-624-9952 starting Monday, April 17, 2017. Two catfish and three bass and bream ponds are scattered around the property.

“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 are available online at www.outdooralabama.com/licenses.

Fishing will be from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the following dates:
June 10
June 24
July 8
July 22
August 5
August 19
The M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trail Area consists of 3,340 acres of pasture and a mixture of pine-hardwood forest purchased by the Forever Wild Land Trust in 2008. Historically, the property, known as the “State Cattle Ranch,” was a working cattle ranch and catfish farm operated by the Department of Corrections. The land is now being used as a Nature Preserve and Recreation Area with scheduled field trials and opportunities for hunting and fishing.
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 Forever Wild Land Trust was established by constitutional amendment in 1992 and reauthorized in 2012. Funding for this program is generated by the interest earned from offshore natural gas royalties deposited into the Alabama Trust Fund. For more information on Forever Wild, visit. www.alabamaforeverwild.com.
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.

Pesky Starfish Could Be Repelled With Scent

A UA researcher is part of a team that identified genes used to communicate by a starfish that preys upon coral reefs, a promising discovery that could lead to efforts to repel the aquatic pest from sensitive reefs. The findings are published in the journal Nature. For more information, contact Adam Jones, UA media relations, 205/348-4328 or adam.jones@ua.edu.

Danielle Burroughs takes gobbler

Danielle Burroughs harvested this gobbler recently in the Oakmulgee WMA. Submitted photo

Outdoor Alabama Weekly
Derelict Crab Traps Removed from Mobile Bay

(Marine Resources) Volunteers managed to pluck 84 derelict crab traps from upper Mobile Bay during the Alabama Marine Resources' removal program. The effort was concentrated on the shallow flats across from the USS Alabama battleship.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Anyone who has crossed the north end of Mobile Bay on either the Bayway or Battleship Parkway at low tide in the last few years likely would have noticed the numerous crab traps that littered the shallow water on the south side of the thoroughfares.

If you drive across that area now, very few crab traps remain on those shallow flats thanks to the Alabama Marine Resources Division’s Volunteer Derelict Crab Trap Removal Program that was conducted by volunteers and sponsors recently.

Despite poor weather conditions, the volunteers were able to remove 84 derelict traps from the northern end of Mobile Bay that could have become hazards to navigation for recreational and commercial fishermen and boaters in that area.

The Marine Resources Division (MRD) teamed up with the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program to conduct the cleanup.

Jason Herrmann, Marine Resources Biologist, said MRD personnel conduct surveys of derelict crab traps on the flats during low tide.

“We surveyed other areas in the upper bay and then decided on the sites that needed the most attention,” Herrmann said. “Some areas wouldn’t have but one or two traps. The count on the flats just south of I-10 and the Battleship Parkway was 109 traps, and about 100 of those were on the flats right across from the (U.S.S. Alabama) battleship.”

Using the Chocolotta Bay boat ramp as the staging area, a dozen volunteers with four boats showed up under less-than-ideal conditions.

The vessels made several trips into the designated area and managed to locate and retrieve 84 derelict traps.

“The wind was not on our side,” Herrmann said. “The tide was coming up and the wind was blowing from the southeast and covering up the traps. We strictly focused on the flats across from the battleship. I told them the weather was coming in and to get out and get as many traps as possible before it got here.”

When conditions are better, the volunteers who retrieve the traps record all of the retrievals before they come back to the boat ramp. Instead, the datasheets were filled out when the boats pulled into the protected landing.

Of course, any live crabs that were in the derelict traps were released immediately. Volunteers released 157 live crabs and found only one dead crab in the traps. Herrmann said there was no bycatch (fish or other aquatic species) in the traps.

Herrmann said there is really no way to tell how long the traps had been derelict.

“Some of the traps were in pretty good shape and some were torn to shreds,” he said. “The last time we had a cleanup was in 2010. We do the counts twice a year, and we apply for grants. We received a grant to cover this cleanup and two more through 2019. Based on the counts, we decided that there was enough to organize a cleanup.

“What we are looking for are crab pots that are visible and accessible to volunteers. There are more derelict traps out there, but they’re not accessible to our volunteers.”

Major Scott Bannon, Acting Director of Marine Resources, said the derelict traps can create a nightmare for anglers and boaters who are trying to navigate those shallow areas.

“With these derelict traps, there’s the potential for somebody to impact them with their propellers, especially at low tide,” Bannon said. “The prop can get wrapped up and could cost thousands of dollars in repairs. And if you get a trap wrapped in the prop, you’re stranded unless you can figure out a way to get it untangled. It’s happened to some of our (MRD) boats, and it’s tough to get it out.

“Additionally, the derelict traps ghost fish. They’re unidentified and underwater. They continue to catch crabs for a certain period of time. We don’t want traps out catching fish and crabs indiscriminately that aren’t being harvested.”

Herrmann said another group of volunteers helped ensure the cleanup day would be successful. Several kayakers volunteered to take PVC poles into the cleanup area and mark the derelict traps that might become submerged because of tidal activity or the southeast wind. The kayakers managed to mark more than 60 traps for removal.

“I think we did a good job given the conditions,” Herrmann said.

After the derelict trap cleanup ended, the volunteers and sponsors were treated to food and refreshments. Participants included Thompson Engineering, Alabama Department of Public Health, The Nature Conservancy, Lafarge/Holcim and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Holcim brought a food truck,” Herrmann said. “Normally we’ll have between 30 and 40 volunteers, so that’s what they planned for. We had food for everybody, and we had enough left over to take to the Salvation Army to distribute to the needy.”

Still in a volunteering mood, the participants decided to help with another cleanup. This time the volunteers picked up all the trash at the Chocolotta Bay boat ramp.

“We did some good for the environment,” Herrmann said. “I want to offer a great, great ‘thank you’ to all the volunteers and sponsors.”

Bannon said the derelict trap cleanup is only one of the efforts MRD has underway in the blue crab fishery, which has declined in the last decade.

Bannon said historic crab landings from 2009 through 2015 were 40 percent less than landings from 2001 through 2008. The landings from 2005 (Hurricane Katrina) and 2010 (Deepwater Horizon oil spill) were not included in the landings reports.

MRD has recommended several changes in the crab fishery in terms of equipment and a requirement to return all sponge crabs (females with eggs) immediately to the water. Bannon is meeting with representatives of the crab industry to work out the details of the equipment changes.

“The changes would include adding escape rings to allow juvenile crabs to escape,” Bannon said. “All traps would be required to have a biodegradable panel. If the trap becomes derelict or unidentified after a certain period of time, the biodegradable panel falls away and allows for free passage of crabs and fish.”

The biodegradable panel would be a 3-inch by 6-inch panel that is removed from the trap and then replaced using biodegradable material like untreated jute, natural fiber or 24-gauge or smaller uncoated wire that will rust away.

“The material for the panels must degrade over a period of time to ensure the trap will no longer hold fish or crabs,” Bannon said. “That’s especially important for traps in deeper water where we don’t have programs to recover them.”

Bannon said 192 crab fishing licenses were sold in 2016, and each crab fisherman usually sets between 200 and 400 traps, which are checked on a rotating basis.

The reason for the requirement to release sponge crabs is in response to the reduced landings over the last several years, Bannon said.

“We’re addressing some things that might be detrimental to the crab population,” he said. “Historically, the crab population has been environmentally driven. Based on reduced landings, we want to make every effort to increase the number of live crabs in the water. By releasing egg crabs, or sponge crabs as they are called, this gives us a potential population increase. That should only affect the crabbers during limited times of the year. And only about 2 to 3 percent of harvested crab would be egg-bearing crabs. That’s the reason we don’t believe it would be overly taxing on fishermen to release those sponge crabs.

“We want to increase their ability to fish, not reduce their ability to catch crabs. But we have to look at the resource over the long term and not the immediate future.”

Alabama State Waters Open for Red Snapper Fishing Memorial Day Weekend through July

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Marine Resources Division (MRD) announces that Alabama’s waters will open for the recreational harvest of red snapper from 12:01 a.m. Friday, May 26, through 11:59 p.m. Monday, July 31, 2017. Alabama state waters extend 9 nautical miles from shore. The daily bag limit will be two red snapper per person, and the minimum size will be 16 inches in total length.

The federal red snapper season has not been set by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries. For information concerning the federal red snapper season, call (727) 824-5305. NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office also indicated that they will send out a fishery bulletin once the federal season is established.

Fishermen are reminded that they are still required to report their red snapper harvest through Snapper Check to the MRD during this period as well as any other time red snapper are landed in Alabama. Only one report is required per vessel trip, and anglers can provide details via a smartphone app available under “Outdoor Alabama” in the iTunes or Google Play app stores; online at www.outdooralabama.com; or by paper forms available at select coastal public boat launches. The telephone reporting method is no longer available.

“We received positive feedback last year from the fishing public for the extension of state waters to 9 miles and the state red snapper season in 2016. The public felt that having the fishery open for Memorial Day weekend as well as the prime months of June and July allowed them to spread out their effort and have great family fishing days when the weather was most favorable,” said Conservation Commissioner N. Gunter Guy, Jr. “We feel that setting a similar season for 2017 will give people ample opportunities to access the red snapper fishery in Alabama waters.
“We will continue to work with the federal government and the other Gulf States to responsibly manage this great fishery in federal waters while also allowing proper management in Alabama waters. However, the incredibly short federal red snapper seasons are uncalled for. We have support from our Congressional delegation to make changes in federal fisheries management legislation and we hope to make progress on that front this year,” Guy said.

“The federal red snapper season this year has not been announced but it is anticipated to be very short,” said Deputy Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship “Alabama will use the landings from the Snapper Check program as well as other fisheries information before making any decision on a possible additional red snapper season later in the year.”
A list of public artificial and natural reefs located in Alabama state waters as well as recent reef-building activity by MRD can be found at www.outdooralabama.com/artificial-reefs.

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.

Photo Contest Celebrates Alabama’s Great Outdoors, Bicentennial

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) announces its photo contest will begin accepting entries on April 1, 2017. The contest is an Alabama Bicentennial joint project between the ADCNR, the Alabama Tourism Department (Tourism) and the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT). The photo contest is open to state residents and visitors alike, but qualifying photos must have been taken in Alabama.
Contest coordinator Kim Nix says the bicentennial celebration offered an avenue to partner with Tourism and ALDOT. “This partnership will allow us to reach more potential photographers and to share the winning images with more people. Our goal is to encourage residents and visitors to explore Alabama’s outdoor spaces and document them through photography.”

The contest is open to adults and youth. A total of 10 photos per person may be entered in the following categories:
Birds of a Feather
Bugs and Butterflies
Coastal Life
Cold-blooded Critters
Nature-Based Recreation
Watchable Wildlife
State Park Adventures
Sweet Home Alabama
Shoots and Roots
Water Under the Bridge
Advanced Amateur
Young Photographer

Category explanations and additional entry information may be found at www.outdooralabama.com/photo-contest. Entry is restricted to the online upload of digital images, which can be completed from a computer, tablet or mobile phone.

The deadline for entries is August. 31, 2017. First, second and third prizes will be awarded in each category, and the winning images will be featured in a traveling display across the state during 2018.

For more information, call 800-262-3151 or email Kim Nix at kim.nix@dcnr.alabama.gov.

NASP Alabama State Championship to be Held in Montgomery on April 7

The largest youth archery competition in Alabama, the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) Alabama State Championship, will be held Friday, April 7, 2017, 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 to 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 National Championship on May 11-13, n 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, concentration, and participants learn a life skill as part of a school’s physical education course or after school programs. 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, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Academy Sports + Outdoors.
To learn more about Alabama NASP, contact WFF Hunter Education Coordinator Marisa Futral at 800-245-2740 or Marisa.Futral@dcnr.alabama.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.

Additional Poultry Flocks Test Positive for Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza

State Veterinarian, Dr. Tony Frazier, confirms that a flock of chickens at a commercial poultry breeding operation located in Pickens County and a backyard flock located in Madison County have both tested positive for low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI).

During routine screening, a commercial company collected samples from their Pickens County flock and submitted them to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries State Diagnostic Laboratory located in Auburn, Alabama. These samples, suspected positive for avian influenza, were forwarded to the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa. NVSL confirmed the commercial flock is positive for LPAI. This commercial flock has been placed under quarantine. While this is different from the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus that has been found recently in the United States, control measures are under way as a precautionary measure.

In addition to the suspected case in Pickens County, a backyard flock located in Madison County has also been confirmed positive for low pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza (LPAI) by NVSL. Surveillance zones have been put in place surrounding the locations in both Pickens and Madison counties.

This suspected strain of avian influenza does not pose a risk to the food supply and no affected animals entered the food chain.

On Tuesday, March 14, 2017, Dr. Tony Frazier issued an official Order Prohibiting Poultry Exhibitions and the Assembling of Poultry to Be Sold. The order prohibits: all poultry exhibitions, sales at regional and county fairs, festivals, swap meets, live bird markets, flea markets and auctions. The order also prohibits the concentration, collection, or assembly of poultry of all types, including wild waterfowl from one or more premises for purposes of sale. This order remains in effect. Shipments of eggs or baby chicks from National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) approved facilities are not affected by this order.

“The health of our poultry is critically important at this time,” said Dr. Frazier. “With confirmed cases of low pathogenic avian influenza in Alabama in both commercial and backyard flocks, the order reducing the assembly and commingling of poultry is the most effective way to practice strict biosecurity measures in our state.”

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) continues to work closely with the ADAI on a joint incident response. The U.S. has the strongest avian influenza surveillance program in the world and USDA is working with its partners to actively look for the disease in commercial poultry operations, backyard flocks, livebird markets and in migratory wild waterfowl populations.

“The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries’ staff is working diligently to defend the health of poultry in our state,” said Commissioner John McMillan. “We are committed to protecting the livelihoods of Alabama farmers.”

Dr. Frazier reminds poultry producers and backyard flock owners to observe their birds closely and to be vigilant about practicing strict biosecurity measures. These include:

• Isolating poultry from other animals;
• Wearing clothing designated for use only at the poultry house;
• Minimizing access to people and unsanitized equipment;
• Keeping the area around the poultry buildings clean and uninviting to wild birds and animals;
• Sanitizing the facility between flocks;
• Cleaning equipment entering and leaving the farm;
• Having an all-in, all-out policy regarding the placement and removal of the poultry;
• Properly disposing of bedding material and mortalities;
• Avoiding contact with migratory waterfowl.

Dr. Frazier reminds all poultry owners and producers to strictly adhere to the biosecurity guidelines mentioned above. During this time, backyard flock owners should refrain from moving birds offsite or introducing new birds. The ADAI Poultry Division is available to answer any questions concerning movement of poultry and should be notified at 334-240-6584 and/or USDA at 1-866-536-7593 if birds show unusual signs of disease (flu-like symptoms) or flocks experience unexplained mortalities.

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries will maintain updates of suspected cases of avian influenza on our website: www.agi.alabama.gov.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has created a website to assist backyard flock owners with maintaining healthy birds and to provide answers for avian influenza control. It can be found at www.AlabamaAvianInfluenza.com.

State Parks

Offer Free Entry with Dirt Pass Donation on Second Saturdays

Dirt Pass Trail Crew memberships are available by making a $35 donation at these parks: Cheaha, Chewacla, DeSoto, Frank Jackson, Gulf, Lake Guntersville, Lake Lurleen, Monte Sano, Oak Mountain, and Wind Creek. Membership donations can also be made online at www.alapark.com/dirt-pass. A Dirt Pass wristband and trails gift will be mailed after donating.

The voluntary Dirt Pass Trail Crew Program was introduced in June of 2016 to help fund the revitalization of the state parks trail system. All funds raised through the program will be used to build new trails and maintain existing trails in Alabama’s state parks.

“Since the opening of the first state parks in Alabama, trails have been a fundamental part of the park system’s mission to provide and maintain outdoor recreational opportunities,” said Greg Lein, Alabama State Parks Director. “Setting aside the second Saturday of each month as Dirt Pass Day will hopefully encourage visitors to engage with the trails, which are some of the best in the southeast.”

As part of the Dirt Pass program Alabama State Parks has conducted several equipment training days with volunteer trail user groups, organized trail work days, surveyed the needs of trail users, purchased new trail building equipment, and is cultivating partnerships with other trail groups interested in improving the state parks trail system.

Alabama State Parks encourages new and experienced trail users to make a Dirt Pass donation and explore its existing 285-plus miles of trails highlighted on the park system’s website at www.alapark.com/trails.

To learn more about the Dirt Pass trails program, call or visit one of the 10 state parks listed above or visit www.alapark.com/dirt-pass. For State Parks contact information, visit www.alapark.com/alabama-state-parks-contacts.

The Alabama State Parks Division relies on visitor fees and the support of other partners like local communities to fund the majority of their operations. To learn more about Alabama State Parks, visit www.alapark.com.

Update on Premises Under Investigation for Avian Influenza in Alabama

Results have been received from the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa on the sample collected from a guinea fowl at the TaCo-Bet Trade Day flea market in Scottsboro, located in Jackson County, Alabama. The sample tested positive for low pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza (LPAI). The premises of origin for the guinea fowl, also located in Jackson County, Ala., is under quarantine and continued surveillance. The guinea fowl in question have been depopulated.

Testing is still ongoing of samples submitted to NVSL from the other two premises in north Alabama, the commercial breeder flock in Lauderdale County and the backyard flock in Madison County. Out of an abundance of caution, the company decided to depopulate the entire flock at the commercial breeder operation in Lauderdale County and the birds were properly buried on the farm. The depopulation was not required but a decision made by the poultry company. The entire backyard flock in Madison County was also depopulated at the owners request. According to USDA, both cases are considered presumptive low pathogenic (LPAI) avian influenza because neither flock showed signs of illness.

Today, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) confirmed a second case of highly pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza in a commercial breeder flock in Lincoln County, Tennessee. This H7N9 strain is of North American wild bird lineage and is the same strain of avian influenza that was previously confirmed in Tennessee. It is NOT the same as the China H7N9 virus that has impacted poultry and infected humans in Asia. The flock of 55,000 chickens is within three kilometers of the first Tennessee case. This second HPAI case in Tennessee does not extend the control zone in Alabama.

The official Order Prohibiting Poultry Exhibitions and the Assembling of Poultry to be Sold issued by the ADAI on Tuesday, March 14, 2017, remains in effect. All poultry exhibitions, sales at regional and county fairs, festivals, swap meets, exotic sales and live bird markets, flea markets and auctions are prohibited until the order is lifted. In addition, the concentration, collection, or assembly of poultry of all types, including waterfowl and wild and exotic birds, from one or more premises, at a private or public place, for purposes of sale is also prohibited. Shipments of baby chicks from National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) approved facilities are not affected by this order.

Alabama State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier reminds poultry owners to be vigilant about biosecurity. It is the department’s responsibility to protect backyard flock, exhibition, show and commercial poultry and reducing the assembly and commingling of poultry is the most effective way to do so.

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) continues to work closely with the ADAI on a joint incident response. The U.S. has the strongest AI surveillance program in the world and USDA is working with its partners to actively look for the disease in commercial poultry operations, backyard flocks, live bird markets and in migratory wild waterfowl populations.

This suspected strain of avian influenza does not pose a risk to the food supply. No affected animals entered the food chain. The risk of human infection with avian influenza during poultry outbreaks is very low.

“Our department staff is diligently working to protect the health of poultry in our state,” said Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan. “We are committed to protect the livelihoods of the many farmers in Alabama.”

Dr. Frazier is in constant communication with USDA APHIS, neighboring state veterinarians, ADAI staff and stakeholders. He encourages commercial poultry producers and backyard flock owners to observe their birds closely and continue to practice strict biosecurity measures. These include:

• Isolating poultry from other animals
• Wearing clothing designated for use only at the poultry house
• Minimizing access to people and unsanitized equipment
• Keeping the area around the poultry buildings clean and uninviting to wild birds and animals
• Sanitizing the facility between flocks
• Cleaning equipment entering and leaving the farm
• Having an all-in, all-out policy regarding the placement and removal of the poultry
• Properly disposing of bedding material and mortalities
• Avoiding contact with migratory waterfowl

Dr. Frazier reminds all poultry owners and producers to strictly adhere to the biosecurity guidelines mentioned above. During this time, backyard flock owners should refrain from moving birds offsite or introducing new birds. The ADAI Poultry Division is available to answer any questions concerning movement of poultry and should be notified at 334-240-6584 and/or USDA at 1-866-536-7593 if birds show unusual signs of disease (flu-like symptoms) or flocks experience unexplained mortalities.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has created a website to assist backyard flock owners with maintaining healthy birds and to provide answers for avian influenza control. It can be found at www.AlabamaAvianInfluenza.com.

Stop Movement Order Issued on Certain Poultry in Alabama

State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier in consultation with Commissioner John McMillan today has issued a stop movement order for certain poultry in Alabama. “The health of poultry is critically important at this time,” said Dr. Frazier. “With three investigations of avian influenza in north Alabama on three separate premises we feel that the stop movement order is the most effective way to implement biosecurity for all poultry in our state.”

The first two investigations were on two separate premises in north Alabama. One flock of chickens at a commercial breeder operation located in Lauderdale County, Ala. was found to be suspect for avian influenza. No significant mortality in the flock was reported. The other premise was a backyard flock in Madison County, Ala. Samples from both premises have been sent to the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa and are being tested to determine presence of the virus.

The most recent investigation began following routine surveillance while executing Alabama’s HPAI Preparedness and Response Plan. USDA poultry technicians collected samples at the TaCo-Bet Trade Day flea market in Scottsboro located in Jackson County, Ala. on Sunday, March 12. Samples collected were suspect and those samples are on the way to the USDA Lab in Ames, Iowa.

Dr. Frazier reminds poultry owners to be vigilant about biosecurity. It is the department’s responsibility to protect backyard flock, exhibition, show and commercial poultry and stopping the movement of certain poultry is the most effective way to do so.

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) on a joint incident response. The U.S. has the strongest AI surveillance program in the world and USDA is working with its partners to actively look for the disease in commercial poultry operations, backyard birds, live bird markets and in migratory waterfowl populations.

This suspected strain of avian influenza does not pose a risk to the food supply. No affected poultry entered the food chain. The risk of human infection with avian influenza during poultry outbreaks is very low.

“Following the 2015 avian influenza outbreak in the Midwest, planning, preparation, and extensive biosecurity efforts were escalated in Alabama. Industry, growers, state and federal agencies and other stakeholders have worked hard to maintain a level of readiness,” said Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan. “Our staff is committed to staying actively involved in the avian influenza situation until any threats are addressed.”

Dr. Frazier has been working closely with USDA and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture this past week. He encourages commercial poultry producers and backyard flock owners to observe their birds closely and continue to practice strict biosecurity measures. These include:

• Isolating poultry from other animals
• Wearing clothing designated for use only at the poultry house
• Minimizing access to people and unsanitized equipment
• Keeping the area around the poultry buildings clean and uninviting to wild birds and animals
• Sanitizing the facility between flocks
• Cleaning equipment entering and leaving the farm
• Having an all in, all out policy regarding the placement and removal of the poultry
• Properly disposing of bedding material and mortalities
• Avoiding contact with migratory waterfowl
Frazier reminds all poultry owners and producers to strictly adhere to the biosecurity guidelines mentioned above. During this time, backyard flock owners should refrain from moving birds offsite or introducing new birds. The ADAI Poultry Division is available to answer any questions concerning movement of poultry and should be notified at 334-240-6584 and/or USDA at 1-866-536-7593 if birds show unusual signs of disease (flu-like symptoms) or flocks experiences unexplained mortalities.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has created a website to assist backyard flock owners with maintaining healthy birds and to provide answers for avian influenza control. It can be found at www.AlabamaAvianInfluenza.com.

Remember Pets during Poison Prevention Awareness Week March 19-25

National Poison Prevention Awareness Week is March 19-25, 2017 and the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association wants to remind pet owners that pets are also in danger. This is a great time for pet owners to do a little spring cleaning and check their homes for any toxins which their pets may have access to.

Below is a list of some of the top poisons pets are most susceptible to. Some are obvious, but others may surprise you so please be sure you are familiar with all of them. They are as follows:

• Foods (chocolate, xylitol and grapes/raisins)
• Insecticides (sprays, bait, and spot-on flea/tick treatments)
• Mouse and rat poison (rodenticides)
• Human and pet medications
• Household cleaners (sprays, detergents, polishes)
• Fertilizers (bone meal, blood meal and iron based products)

Other poisons that are extremely dangerous include antifreeze and acetaminophen. Veterinarians have also seen numerous cases of xylitol poisoning (xylitol is found in many sugarless gums, candies and mints), human medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, antidepressants and flowers. Symptoms can range from digestive upset and neurological signs, to liver and/or kidney failure.

If you think your pet has come in to contact with a poison, call your veterinarian immediately. Sometimes induction of vomiting is indicated, while in other cases IV fluid therapy and oral charcoal therapy may be indicated. Poisons are fast-acting and can be fatal so do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian if you see any indications of poisoning such as vomiting, diarrhea, drooling/hypersalivating, inappetance, nausea, coughing or vomiting blood, weakness, lethargy or collapse.

The ALVMA encourages pet owners to take preventative measures to avoid poisoning accidents. This is the perfect time of year to do some spring cleaning and remove any items that could be hazardous to your pets from within their reach. Listed below are some useful preventive tips for pet owners:

• Be familiar with poisonous items by checking the list at www.petpoisonhelpline.com
• Do not leave medicine bottles within reach of pets (dogs can quickly chew through a pill bottle)
• Create a pet poison first aid kit
• Know the signs of poisoning in your pet
• Be especially careful during holidays with candy
• As spring approaches, be aware of all of the harmful plants and gardening items that could cause your pet harm
• Last, but not least - always keep the number for your veterinarian in a handy location

Visit the ALVMA website at www.alvma.com for more information on how to protect your pets from toxins.

Founded in 1907, the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association is comprised of approximately 725 veterinarians from around the state, all committed to protecting people, pets and livestock – yesterday, today and always.

Outdoor Alabama Weekly Advisory Board Approves 'Dog Encroachment' Amendment

By David Rainer
Dog deer hunters whose dogs trespass on private property will fall under a three-strike rule that was adopted at the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board meeting at Lake Guntersville State Park last weekend.

The adopted regulation will focus on the individual dog owner instead of a certain club or certain county. Certain counties and areas within counties have previously been placed on a permit system that allowed clubs with permits to hunt deer with dogs. The permits were subject to revocation if problems persisted.

The “dog encroachment” amendment states that a dog hunter whose animal has encroached on private property where no permission to hunt has been granted will receive two warnings. If another incident occurs, the dog hunter will be issued a citation.

“This is not a new regulation,” said Chuck Sykes, Director of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division. “It is an amendment to the existing dog deer-hunting regulation that requires you to put your name and information on the dog’s collar. All this does is add verbiage where if you intentionally and knowingly let your dogs run on somebody else’s property, then that’s a problem.

“You get two written warnings by one of our Conservation Enforcement Officers (CEOs) before it becomes a violation. This has nothing to do with the permit system. The permit can be taken away at any point in time by the board. These are totally separate. Some people are confused and are saying it’s double jeopardy because they’re on the permit system.”

Sykes said the encroachment amendment will be in effect statewide, no matter if the area or county is on the permit system or not. He said the permit system will remain in effect because clubs on the permit system have had issues in the past.

“What this regulation does is it penalizes the problem,” Sykes said. “It penalizes the person with the dog that is causing the issue, not the whole club or county. They should be jumping up and down for this. The good folks should be saying this is exactly what we need because the bad dog hunters are giving us a bad name.

“I don’t understand why anyone would have a problem with it. This is a compromise because the landowners are looking at me, saying, ‘You’re giving them two freebies, two written warnings before there’s a problem.’ I think that’s a pretty good compromise between those who don’t want your dog on their property and those who want to hunt deer with dogs. Just keep the dog on your property, and there’s not a problem.”

Sykes said the old excuse that “my dog can’t read ‘No Trespassing’ signs” is no longer a valid explanation with the advent of modern technology.

“Dogs can be whistle-broke; they can be tone-broke,” he said. “You can use the technology we have used for 15 years with bird dogs. You put on a hot collar and you buzz them to make them come back. I use my dog to trail deer. I’m not going to let my dog go onto somebody else’s property unless I have permission to do so.

“It’s a pretty simple concept. Your privilege to hunt with dogs ends when it infringes on someone else’s property. The Department, and me personally, are not against dog hunting. Every time I go hunting, I go hunting with a dog. But private property rights have to be defended. People are buying land, spending money and want to go sit on a food plot and enjoy hunting the way they want to hunt. If your dogs are continually running on that property, that’s a problem.”

The way the new amendment will be enforced, according to Sykes, is when a landowner observes a dog on his property, the CEO will be called. The officer will then contact the owner to come retrieve the dog and the owner will be issued a written warning. After two written warnings, on the third violation, the dog owner will be issued a citation that will carry potential penalties similar to violations like hunting over bait or hunting out of season.

“That’s very lenient,” Sykes said. “On the third incident, you get a Class C Misdemeanor, which is just like the rest of our violations. Saying my dog can’t read land lines doesn’t work anymore. Thirty years ago, everybody hunted everybody else’s property. It didn’t matter. Land leases weren’t $20 an acre, and people weren’t paying $3,000 an acre to buy a piece of property to hunt on. Times have changed. And with technology, there’s no reason not to change with the times.”

The board approved a sunset provision for the dog encroachment regulation. The board will revisit the issue in 2019 and decide whether to keep it in effect.

The other main action taken by the Conservation Advisory Board was the change in regulations concerning waterfowl hunting at several wildlife management areas (WMAs) in north Alabama after extensive discussions with the waterfowl hunters in the area.

WFF recommended several changes for the Swan Creek WMA Dewatering Unit. Hunting will be closed on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to serve as rest days for waterfowl. Hunting will be allowed from 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset.

In Jackson County, the Mud Creek and Raccoon Creek Dewatering Units will transition from a Monday-Tuesday closure to a Tuesday-through-Thursday closure. Also, gasoline-powered motors will be prohibited in the Mud Creek Dewatering Units and Raccoon Creek Dewatering Units north of Highway 117. Hunting hours are the same as Swan Creek’s.

At Crow Creek WMA, the Tuesday-through-Thursday closure will also be in effect with the same shooting hours as the other affected units.

At Swan Creek, Raccoon Creek, Mud Creek and Crow Creek WMAs, hunting will be allowed every day of the week during the last two weeks of the season. Hunters will be limited to 25 shotshells on all of the above units, and no vessels can be launched prior to 4 a.m. at any of the units.

Another WFF proposal that was approved by the board is a “bonus buck” program that will be implemented on certain WMAs to garner more awareness of the state’s public hunting opportunities. The program would allow hunters to harvest a buck on certain WMAs and specific hunt dates that will not count against their statewide three-buck limit. The hunt dates will be specified on the individual WMA map permits. The bonus bucks harvested must be brought to the check station at the WMA and validated by WFF officials to be legal.

The board also took the opportunity to honor several WFF officers who made valiant efforts to assist local law enforcement in the apprehension of two dangerous suspects.

Senior Officer Thomas Traylor was on patrol in Randolph County when he answered a call for assistance by county deputies, who were under gunfire from a suspect. One of the deputies had been wounded and the suspect was barricaded in a travel trailer. Officer Traylor returned fire and continued to fire until the wounded deputy could be rescued and transported via Life Flight helicopter. Traylor continued to provide assistance during the standoff that lasted several hours. The standoff ended when the suspect took his own life.

In an incident in Calhoun County, Lieutenant Mick Casalini, Senior Officer Adam Fuller and Officer Ben Kiser responded to a call from the Sheriff’s Office to assist in the apprehension of a suspect who allegedly torched a home, stole multiple weapons and fired on several deputies with semi-automatic weapons. The suspect fled to a wooded area that was familiar to the WFF officers, who pursued the heavily armed suspect and eventually apprehended the suspect without incident.

The board also presented Sykes with a proclamation acknowledging his extensive contribution to the implementation of the Game Check Reporting System, which became mandatory for the 2016-2017 seasons.

Second Case of Avian Influenza Found in Tennessee

March 9 the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Tennessee State Veterinarian Dr. Charles Hatcher confirmed that a flock of chickens at a commercial poultry facility tested positive for low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI).

This breeder chicken facility located in Giles County, Tenn., is operated by a different company than the one associated with the recent detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Lincoln County. At this time, there is no known connection between the two sites.

“As part of Alabama’s HPAI Preparedness and Response Plan we continue to test and monitor for avian influenza on a daily basis,” Alabama State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier stated. “The immediate response the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDAI) has taken is critical to stopping the spread of this virus into Alabama.”

As a precaution, the affected flock was depopulated immediately and has been properly disposed of. The facility is under quarantine, along with one other commercial farm and all backyard poultry flocks within a 10 kilometer (6.2 mile) radius of the site. TDAI and federal officials are working together to test and monitor other flocks within the quarantined control zone. To date, all additional samples have tested negative for avian influenza and no other flocks within the area have experienced an increase in mortality.

According to the TDAI, on March 6, officials at the commercial breeder operation in Giles County performed routine screening tests on the flock that indicated the presence of the virus. Testing at state and federal laboratories confirmed the presence of LPAI in samples from that flock.

The Lincoln County facility affected by HPAI also remains under quarantine. To date, all additional samples from the Lincoln County quarantined control zone have tested negative for avian influenza and no other flocks within the area have experienced an increase in mortality. Testing and monitoring continues.

”We are staying in constant communication with appropriate state and federal agencies as well as poultry industry stakeholders to keep a watchful eye on the situation currently unfolding,” says Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan. ”Dr. Frazier and our staff have always been focused on animal health and disease prevention. Each year, our four diagnostic labs located in Alabama test over 400,000 blood samples for avian influenza for this very purpose.” Protocols for quarantine, testing, disposal, cleaning, disinfection and monitoring are in place.

Dr. Frazier has been working closely with Tennessee State Veterinarian Dr. Hatcher and encourages commercial poultry producers and backyard flock owners to observe their birds closely and continue to practice strict biosecurity measures.

These include:
* Isolating birds from other animals
* Wearing clothing designated for use only at the poultry house
* Minimizing access to people and equipment that has not been sanitized
* Keeping the area around the poultry buildings clean and uninviting to wild birds and animals
* Sanitizing the facility between flocks
* Cleaning equipment entering and leaving the farm
* Having an all in, all out policy regarding the placement and removal of the poultry
* Properly disposing of bedding material and mortalities
* Avoiding contact with migratory waterfowl

Dr. Frazier reminds all poultry owners and producers to strictly adhere to the biosecurity guidelines listed above. During this time, backyard flock owners should refrain from moving birds offsite or introducing new birds to their flocks. The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries’ Poultry Division is available to answer any questions concerning the movement of poultry and should be notified at 334-240-6584 if birds show unusual signs of disease (flu-like symptoms) or a flock experiences inexplicable mortalities.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has created a website to assist backyard flock owners with maintaining healthy birds and to provide answers for Avian Influenza control. It can be found at www.AlabamaAvianInfluenza.com.

Townsend Kyser elected president of Catfish Farmers of America

By Debra Davis, Alabama Farmers Federation
Alabama’s Townsend Kyser hopes he and other U.S. catfish farmers can get more consumers hooked on the fish they grow. Kyser, 40, was elected Catfish Farmers of America (CFA) president during the group’s annual meeting in Orange Beach, Ala., Feb. 17. He will serve a two-year term.
Kyser is a third-generation catfish farmer in Hale County near Greensboro where he works with his father and brother. Their family has raised catfish for 50 years.
“I’m honored and excited to have been elected to this position by my peers,” said Kyser, a former state and national Young Farmers Committee Chairman for the Alabama Farmers Federation (AFF) and American Farm Bureau Federation. “I look forward to representing our industry and promoting U.S. farm-raised catfish.”
As CFA president, Kyser will serve as a national spokesman for the group whose headquarters are in Indianola, Miss. For more information about CFA, visit USCatfish.com.

FISH TALES: Spotlight on Mary Quitman Holmes, Alabama’s Farmer of the Year


Farmers of the Year are chosen annually from a large field of many deserving catfish growers in the U. S. Farm-Raised Catfish industry. Although it is a difficult task to select just one farmer from each of the top three catfish-producing states, those who are selected embody the spirit of the American farmer. All have made significant contributions to the U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish industry.
Every year, The Catfish Institute utilizes these individuals in various advertising campaigns. Each farmer is an important part of promoting U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish and raising public awareness of the quality and benefits of eating U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish. Roger Barlow, President of The Catfish Institute said, “We want to provide a connection between the farm-raised catfish that people know and love, and the hundreds of family farms that dot the southern United States where these fish are grown. The Catfish Farmers of the Year are the face of the American Farmer producing an American Product for the American Consumer.”
Alabama’s 2017 Catfish Farmer of the Year Award belongs to… our industry’s first FEMALE farmer of the Year… Mary Quitman Holmes. And we here at Harvest Select could not be more proud.
Mary Quitman, like many previous generations of her family, was born and raised in Hale County, Alabama. Read the whole story a www.harvestselect.com/fish-tales-spotlight-mary-quitman-holmes-alabamas-farmer-year.

Joint Forestry Meeting Held to Address Dying Trees Across State

Forestry professionals from several natural resource agencies and organizations met on Friday in Montgomery to address the large number of trees dying in Alabama’s forests and what can be done about it. Because the potential exists for the situation to worsen in the coming months, the group met to develop a strategy for control measures and explore available resources. While exact economic impacts of this state-wide tree mortality to landowners are unknown at this time, the losses may be significant.

Both hardwood and pine trees of various ages and sizes are dying as a direct result of the recent drought. Many more pines are being killed due to bark beetle infestations, also a complication associated with the drought of last fall. According to officials with the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC), eight counties have been surveyed over the past couple months revealing 187 insect spots with approximately 14,262 infested trees, a significant increase over previous years. Ground inspection by AFC foresters indicates that the trees are dying from a range of pests including Ips engraver beetle and southern pine beetle. Drought-stressed trees can be weakened, causing them to be more susceptible to damage from insects and diseases.
The Alabama Forestry Commission will continue to conduct aerial and ground detection surveys to assess beetle activity in all counties. Landowners are advised to monitor their property for signs of damage and contact their local AFC office or a registered forester for management recommendations before taking any action. To learn more about bark beetles or locate AFC county offices, visit the agency’s website at www.forestry.alabama.gov.

This joint meeting was hosted by the Alabama Forestry Commission and the Alabama Forestry Association. Attendees included representatives from Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, Auburn University School of Forestry & Wildlife Sciences, the USDA Forest Service, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, ALFA, and forest industry.

Avian Influenza Detected near Alabama Border

On Sunday, March 5, 2017, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza (HPAI) in a commercial chicken breeder flock in Lincoln County, Tennessee. This is the first confirmed case of HPAI in commercial poultry in the United States this year. Samples from the affected flock, which experienced increased mortality, were tested at Tennessee’s Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory and confirmed at the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa. Virus isolation is ongoing and a control zone has been established.

Since Lincoln County, Tennessee borders Alabama, portions of Alabama are within the control zone which includes one commercial Tyson farm. Tyson collected samples from the farm and they have tested negative for avian influenza. The department is adhering to Alabama’s HPAI Preparedness and Response Plan. The first priority is to test commercial poultry, but backyard flocks are also included. State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier dispatched staff professionals to go into the communities (door-to-door) within the control zone on Sunday, March 5 to collect samples from backyard flocks. Roughly 14-15 premises have been inspected and it is estimated that this surveillance is 95% complete. This surveillance should be completed by noon today.

Commissioner John McMillan has spoken directly with Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture Jai Templeton and assured him that our department staff will continue to work closely with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. “I want to assure all Alabamians that our department will continue our surveillance for avian influenza and approach this incident with an abundance of caution. Every flock of chickens in Alabama is tested for avian influenza before being processed for human consumption,” said Commissioner McMillan.
The facility in Tennessee is under quarantine, along with approximately 30 other poultry farms within a 10 kilometer radius (6.2 miles) of the site. The affected flock has been depopulated to stop potential spread of the illness and officials are testing and monitoring other flocks within the control zone. No other flocks in the control zone have experienced an increase in mortality and the first round of testing has all been negative for avian influenza.

HPAI DOES NOT pose a risk to the food supply. No affected animals entered the food chain. The risk of human infection with avian influenza during poultry outbreaks is very low. In fact, no transmission to humans was reported during the outbreak that affected commercial poultry farms in the Midwestern United States in 2015. Also, this is not the same strain identified in that outbreak. However, out of an abundance of caution, officials with the Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee Department of Agriculture are working together to address concerns about the health of individuals who are working on site or had contact with affected birds.

Alabama State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier has been working closely with Tennessee State Veterinarian Dr. Charlie Hatcher and encourages commercial poultry producers and backyard flock owners to observe their birds closely and continue to practice strict biosecurity measures. These include:
• Isolating birds from other animals

• Wearing clothing designated for use only at the poultry house

• Minimizing access to people and unsanitized equipment

• Keeping the area around the poultry buildings clean and uninviting to wild birds and animals

• Sanitizing the facility between flocks

• Cleaning equipment entering and leaving the farm

• Having an all in, all out policy regarding the placement and removal of the poultry

• Properly disposing of bedding material and mortalities

• Avoiding contact with migratory waterfowl

Frazier reminds all poultry owners and producers to strictly adhere to the biosecurity guidelines mentioned above. During this time, backyard flock owners should refrain from moving birds offsite or introducing new birds. The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Poultry Division is available to answer any questions concerning movement of poultry and should be notified at 334-240-6584 if birds show unusual signs of disease (flu-like symptoms) or flocks experiences unexplained mortalities.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has created a website to assist backyard flock owners with maintaining healthy birds and to provide answers for Avian Influenza control. It can be found at www.AlabamaAvianInfluenza.com.

Hunters Encouraged to Participate in Avid Turkey Hunter Survey

Do you spend 10 or more days each spring turkey hunting in Alabama? If so, your observations in the field can provide valuable information toward the conservation and management of Eastern wild turkey.

The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) is asking turkey hunters who hunt for at least 10 days during turkey season to participate in the Avid Turkey Hunter Survey. Participants will receive a copy of the state’s annual turkey report, Full Fans & Sharp Spurs, and will be automatically entered to win a new shotgun donated by the Alabama Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). To be eligible for the NWTF shotgun drawing, survey participants must provide their season hunting information by May 10, 2017.

“This survey offers hunters a unique opportunity to contribute directly to the conservation and management of wild turkeys in Alabama,” said Steve Barnett, leader of the WFF Alabama Turkey Project. “The more hunters who participate, the better. The more days spent hunting, the more useful the information will be.”

Participation in the Avid Turkey Hunter Survey provides WFF biologists with valuable information on statewide and regional trends in gobbling activity, hunter effort, harvest rates, age structure and sex ratios. This knowledge ultimately helps WFF make management decisions that link the interests of sportsmen with the wise use of the state’s turkey resource.

To participate in the Avid Turkey Hunter Survey, contact WFF at 334-242-3469. WFF staff will provide hunters with information about how to complete the survey. Hunters may also contact Steve Barnett by email at steve.barnett@dcnr.alabama.gov for more information about the survey.

Hunters who participated in last year’s survey and do not receive instructions for the 2017 spring season should contact WFF via the phone number or email listed above. For information about Alabama’s spring turkey hunting season, visit www.outdooralabama.com/wild-turkey.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (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.

Rooster Wrangler Clee Compton

By Jan McDonald
Postcard used to promote the Rooster Auction showing "Bob Jones" being held by Clee Compton. Picture of the young Compton taken about the time of the auction

As roosters arrived in Demopolis for the famous Rooster Auction in 1919, organizers realized they had to have someplace to put them and someone to care for them.

They thought immediately of Clee Compton.

Compton had his own roosters that he kept on his property near the Public Square, the site of the two-day auction. In fact it was his rooster “Bob Jones” that became the symbol not only for the auction but for the celebration of the event almost 100 years later.

The second annual Rooster Day will be held in Demopolis April 8. Sponsored by the Marengo County Historical Society (MCHS), Rooster Day will start off with a 5K run, offer booths featuring the works of artists and craftsmen, provide entertainment and demonstrations on the event stage and feature a section for children’s games and activities.

The day will continue into the evening with a silent and live auction at Lyon Hall, one of the historic homes maintained by the MCHS.

Funds raised at Rooster Day will be used for the upkeep of the group’s two historic homes and for its other activities during the year.

The Rooster Auction, the brainchild of Frank I. Derby of Sumter County, was held to raise money to build a bridge across the Tombigbee River. The lack of a bridge was the only thing holding up a cross-country highway between Savannah and San Diego, what is now U.S. Highway 80.

Compton’s own roosters took part in cock-fighting, which was then both popular and legal, said his daughter, Putt Perry. An abandoned cock pit, what Perry calls a chicken house, still sits on the Compton Family property.

Perry relishes her father’s stories of the auction, “the biggest thing that ever happened around Demopolis,” he told her. “It was one thing the whole city could enjoy.”

The same can be said of the modern event commemorating the auction.

At the time of the auction, Perry said, her father was a popular 35-year-old bachelor in town. He didn’t marry for another seven years. His wife, Margarete Pritchett, was 22 years his junior. Perry was the youngest of their children and named for her mother. An uncle gave her the nickname.

As Perry recalls, her dad said he didn’t have a lot of time to attend the auction. He was busy feeding and watering the eight or 10 roosters. Since they were sold more than once at the fund-raiser, he had to tote them back and forth from his home to the site of the auction.

His own Bob Jones, the rooster officially donated by President Woodrow Wilson, was chosen because of its brilliant black and red plumage, said Perry. The postcards and buttons advertising the auction were printed in black and white, but Compton said the full color photo was used on banners and other displays.

It is Compton’s hand holding Bob Jones in the photo on the postcard taken by Demopolis photographer Sixty Williamson.

Compton also was one of the small army of men who prepared what at that time was the largest barbecue in Alabama, Perry continued. Although he exaggerated, he told his daughter the barbecue pit was “a quarter mile long.”

The men dug the pit, lined the sides of it with coals, places rods and chicken wire across it and laid whole hogs on top. It took all night and half the next day to barbecue the meat. The men constantly basted the hogs with a mixture of salt, pepper and vinegar and fed the coals.

Another group prepared the gallons of barbecue sauce to serve with the meat.

Thousands of people flooded into the city for the auction. Most came by boat and by train since the roads at that time weren’t kind to cars. Even the state legislature moved to Demopolis for the event.

All those people had to sleep somewhere, and the city had only one hotel. Compton told his daughter that many residents took people into their homes, and other visitors slept on sofas or in their cars.

For more information on events or how to participate in Rooster Day activities, visit <roosterdaydemopolis.com>.

Coosa Riverkeeper Launches New Fish Guide Program For Alabama

Coosa Riverkeeper has developed a new program, FISH GUIDE, as a response to surveys conducted with more than 125+ fishermen on the Coosa River. In addition to providing fishermen with supplementary information about the fish consumption advisories, the new program also features a toll-free hotline for fishermen to immediately hear the advisories throughout the State.

In 2016, there were 34 fish consumption advisories on the Coosa River and its tributaries for polychlorinated biphynels (PCBs) and methylmercury. The advisories are recommendations made by the Alabama Department of Public Health concerning the portion size and frequency of fish consumed in specific waterbodies throughout Alabama. According to Coosa Riverkeeper’s surveys conducted with more than 125 fisherman on the Coosa River, nearly half of the fishermen were unaware of these advisories, and what it means for the health of themselves and their families.

Coosa Riverkeeper’s FISH GUIDE program was created to educate fishermen throughout the state and alert them to the fish consumption advisories in their watershed. FISH GUIDE also offers multiple videos with alternatives to traditional preparations of the fish that reduce the risk of the dangerous toxins.
“In Alabama, our state motto is “We Dare to Defend Our Rights” but our fishermen and their families don’t have a right to know where fish consumption advisories are in their local waterways. Nearly every river in Alabama -- The River State -- has fish consumption advisories,” Justinn Overton, Executive Director of Coosa Riverkeeper said. “We saw a need for a better way to alert citizens of these advisories and were excited to tackle the challenge. We are confident our new toll-free hotline will be make these advisories more accessible and easier to understand for the hundreds of subsistence fishermen throughout the Coosa River and the entire state.”

The program includes three main components. First, a toll-free hotline lists all advisories throughout the state, by watershed. Fisherman can simply call 1 844-219-RISK to hear the current fish consumption advisories throughout Alabama. Second, an interactive map of the Coosa River shows where to find all 34 fish consumption advisories, local marinas and bait shop, and public access points like boat ramps and canoe launches. Third, short videos demonstrate alternative ways to filet a fish and recipes that reduce exposure to dangerous legacy toxins like PCBs.

Several of Coosa Riverkeeper’s partners across Alabama are sponsors of this free public service, including Alabama Rivers Alliance, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Cahaba Riverkeeper, Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper, and Mobile Baykeeper.

“Alabamians have a right to eat the fish they catch, but if those fish aren’t safe to eat they deserve to know that, said Nelson Brooke, Black Warrior Riverkeeper. “Every fisherman on Smith lake and Lake Tuscaloosa needs to know there are mercury fish consumption advisories on these lakes, so they can make informed decisions about where to fish and which fish are unsafe to eat -- that is the purpose of FISH GUIDE.”

To learn more about the toxins in our fish and rivers, and for more information about FISH GUIDE, please visit CoosaRiver.org/FishGuide

Outdoor Alabama Weekly: Advisory Board Updated on Game Check, Snapper Check

PHOTO: (David Rainer) Chauncey Wood, second from right, was presented the Ducks Unlimited Conservation Leader award at the end of the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board, held recently in Montgomery. Presenting the award were, from left, DU’s Shawn Battison, Board members Dr. Warren Strickland and Raymond Jones Jr., WFF Director Chuck Sykes and Conservation Commissioner N. Gunter Guy Jr.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The initial 2017 meeting of the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board focused on how well Alabama’s hunters and saltwater anglers complied with reporting regulations, and the assessment definitely showed mixed results.

At the meeting last weekend in Montgomery, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division Director Chuck Sykes and Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD) Director Chris Blankenship provided an overview of the two reporting systems they oversee.

With the end of deer season fresh on the attendees’ minds, Sykes shared the results of the first season under a mandatory Game Check system, where hunters are now required to report their deer and turkey harvests. During the three years that Game Check was voluntary, the number of deer reported dwindled from 19,000 to 15,000.

Sykes was happy to report that as of February 9, about 81,000 deer harvests had been reported through Game Check for the 2016-2017 season. The WFF staff estimated the rate of compliance at about 35 percent.

“I was cautiously optimistic that our hunters were going to buy into the program,” said Sykes, who personally conducted 44 of the 50 Game Check seminars held last year. “We’re not 100 percent, but it’s lot better than where we were.

“Our staff has conducted some informal surveys. We were betting we would have 20- to 25-percent compliance. It’s looking like it’s better than that. It’s about 35 percent. Thirty-five percent for Alabama in the first year, I think is a monumental success.”

Game Check data showed that there were slightly more bucks than does harvested. With that compliance figure, Sykes said the estimated deer harvest for the just-finished season was about 122,350 bucks and 101,000 does harvested for a total of 223,350 animals.

Sykes would like to see hunters increase the use of the Outdoor Alabama app on their smartphones. About 46 percent of the hunters used the app. About 30 percent used the telephone system, and 24 percent used the Outdoor Alabama website.

Conservation Commissioner N. Gunter Guy Jr. applauded the efforts of WFF and Alabama Interactive on the implementation of the Game Check portion of the Outdoor Alabama app.

“Once you get your personal information entered, I don’t think you’ll find an easier reporting system in the nation,” Guy said. “And I want to thank Alabama Interactive. They worked very hard to get what we wanted.”

Guy commended the work done by the directors and staff of the four divisions, WFF, MRD, State Lands and State Parks.

“They create a large economic impact in Alabama. According to recent data, residents and tourists spend $7.5 billion on outdoors-related recreation in Alabama,” Guy said. “That creates $494 million in tax revenue and about 86,000 jobs. It provides more than $2 billion in wages. And none of your tax dollars go to what we do. That is something to be proud of for the hunters and fishermen of our state as well as our agency.

“And I want to thank the (Conservation Advisory) Board for the work they do. Change is always difficult, and I want to thank the Board for their leadership with Game Check.”

The Alabama Mandatory Red Snapper Reporting Program, known as Snapper Check, showed once again that the harvest of red snapper has been significantly overestimated by the federal government, according to Blankenship.

Combining the reporting of Alabama’s charter fleet and private recreational anglers for both the federal and state seasons, the Alabama Snapper Check data estimated that a little more than 1.5 million pounds of snapper were landed in 2016.

The federal estimate through NOAA Fisheries’ survey program indicated that more than 2.7 million pounds were landed in Alabama.

Blankenship pointed out that in the three years the Alabama Snapper Check has been in existence the discrepancy between the estimates has been dramatic. The federal survey has overestimated harvest numbers by 81 percent in 2014, 68 percent in 2015 and 79 percent in 2016. One aspect that should be noted for the 2016 season is that Alabama state waters were extended to 9 miles for the state season. Alabama Senator Richard Shelby has that extension in the budget bill for 2017 as well.

“We are much more confident in our 1.5-million-pound estimate, when you look at the statistics, than their 2.7 million pounds,” Blankenship said. “We feel our estimate is more accurate.

“We needed three years of data to have the (Snapper Check) program certified. We finished our third year in 2016. We have been diligently working with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) to have them use Snapper Check to account for the 2016 Alabama landings, and to use it in 2017 to estimate the landings for Alabama to set the season dates.”

Blankenship said of the three methods used by anglers to report their snapper catch, the touch-tone phone method accounted for only 8 percent, and the data gathered over the phone was not reliable. MRD proposed to the Board that the phone reporting method be deleted for 2017. Blankenship said reporting compliance was about 70 percent for the charter fleet but a disappointing 25 percent from private recreational anglers.

In other news, Blankenship said MRD received $12.5 million from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for a three-year artificial reef program.

“We just used $2.1 million to refurbish some of our inshore reefs that had been built 20-25 years ago,” he said. “We put new material on those reefs. We built a new 9-acre reef just off of the Grand Hotel at Point Clear.

“Just this week, we partnered with the CCA (Coastal Conservation Association) to build a memorial reef to Bernie Heggeman, a Mobile fisherman who drowned a couple of years ago while on a fishing trip. The CCA and other groups, like the Mobile Big Game Fishing Club, donated $137,000 to help build the reef, and it was just completed this week south of Bayou La Batre.”

Blankenship said an additional $2 million would be spent in 2017 and 2018 on inshore reefs, and work would also be done on offshore reefs, with several 25-foot-tall pyramid reefs scheduled for deployment. MRD will also take bids soon to sink two ships as artificial reefs. He said the division also continues to work with the Army Corps of Engineers on a new artificial reef zone in state waters from 6 to 9 miles offshore. Money has already been set aside to deploy 600 reefs in that zone when the Corps permit is approved.

Blankenship proposed a change in the blue crab fishery because of a decline in the annual harvest in the last several years. The changes would require that all egg-bearing crabs (known as sponge crabs) be immediately returned to the water. The addition of escape rings to the traps would allow undersized crabs to get out of the traps. Another change would require a biodegradable panel on the traps to disable traps that are lost or not checked in 90 days. Also, the king mackerel recreational daily limit would increase to three per person for 2017.

WFF proposed only a few changes for hunting seasons. Calendar dates were the biggest changes, while the regulations for the feral hog special nighttime season from May 1 through August 31 have been clarified. Sykes said no firearms will be allowed during that hog special season unless the hunters or landowners acquire a special permit from the WFF district offices.

Sykes said changes are ahead for the depredation permits for deer, which will now be handled by the WFF Technical Assistance staff instead of Conservation Enforcement Officers. Waterfowl hunters will see a reduction in the pintail bag limit from two birds to one. Also, no changes are proposed for the waterfowl hunting on Swan Creek Wildlife Management Area at the present time, Sykes said.

Crapemyrtles and the Promise of Good Pruning

The promise of pruning is a healthier and more productive tree. Gardeners want to do what is best for their plants, but sometimes do not know how.

Gardeners know that pruning needs to happen, but often do not know how or when. Sadly, this happens all too often with crapemyrtles. Take a Saturday afternoon drive in late February, and you will find dozens of cases of “crape murder.” Professionals with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System say too many gardeners do not know how to properly prune their crapemyrtles and end up doing what everyone else in the neighborhood is doing. The result–stunting the growth and beauty the tree has to offer.

Crapemyrtles are found at homes and gardens across the South. They are loved for their bright bloom colors of red, white or purple and trunks with sheets of bark in hues of brown and gray. Crapemyrtles must be pruned correctly in order for these qualities to flourish in the tree.

Alabama Extension provides resources so gardeners grow healthy plants and prune their crapemyrtles correctly. Alabama Extension’s horticulture agents are ready to help with any pruning question sent their way.

Pruning with Purpose
“Always prune with a purpose,” Dani Carroll, an Extension regional home grounds agent says. “Never prune just because it is the ‘right time of year’.”

The right time is late winter, according to Carroll. She says pruning should only be done if the tree is in need of reshaping, branches are rubbing against each other creating wounds, or parts of the tree are dead or diseased. In the case that there is dead or diseased wood, the limbs can be pruned at any time of year

Crapemyrtles come in all different sizes ranging from four feet to 40 feet. A common mistake made by gardeners is planting large crapemyrtles in flower beds.

“What people don’t realize is that crapemyrtles are trees, not shrubs,” says Carroll, “They must be planted and pruned according to their size.”

Pruning Tips
Prune with purpose: reshape and revive
Prune for reshaping in late winter
Prune away dead and diseased limbs at any time
Remember crapemyrtles are trees, not shrubs
Use hand pruners for pruning limbs less than one inch in diameter
Use lopping pruners for pruning limbs two inches in diameter
Use pruning saw for anything more than 2 inches in diameter
There is still hope to curing crape murder. Now is the time to correct past hurts done to crapemyrtles and prune them for what they have to offer. This year, prune with a purpose and don’t take a chain saw to your beautiful trees.

Have a gardening question? Call the Master Gardener Helpline. To reach the helpline, dial 1-877-252-GROW (4769). From the Alabama Extension service http://news.aces.edu/blog/2015/03/05/promise-of-pruning/

Alabama Outdoor Weekly: Modern Trapping More About Predator Control Than Furs

Sometimes the trapper gets rewarded with a traps set in close proximity when the coyotes are traveling in pairs or in a pack. Photo by Chuck Sykes

By David Rainer
At one time trapping was almost as common in the Alabama outdoors as hunting deer, turkeys and quail. Through the years, as fur prices declined and the animal rights movement grew, trapping became stigmatized. The result was the number of trappers dwindled to almost nothing.

Lately, there has been an uptick in trapping participation but not for the same reasons our fathers and grandfathers did it. The trapping market is now driven more by wildlife management rather than fur production.

“When the animal rights movement had a major campaign against wearing fur, people quit trapping,” said Chuck Sykes, Director of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division. “Let’s face it. It’s hard work, too. People were trapping for subsistence. That’s how they made their living. Like hunters, they’re dwindling away. The numbers of trappers are not out there like in the ’50s, ’60s through the early ’80s.

“It’s that way with most outdoor recreational activities.”

Changes in the fur market certainly contributed to the demise of trapping, some of it driven by the lack of demand caused by the fur-shaming campaign.

“The market has changed a bunch,” Sykes said. “Even 10 to 15 years ago, you could make enough money off the furs to make it worth your while. The market fluctuates so much now that most of the quality trappers I know have to actually charge a fee on a per-day basis to justify them coming in and trapping. It has shifted from subsistence and making a little money to doing it strictly for wildlife management purposes, like reducing nest predators so that turkeys and quail can raise a clutch of eggs to limiting the number of bobcats and coyotes in anticipation of improving the fawn recruitment each year.”

Sykes said the use of trapping in wildlife management strategy has been increasing the last few years. The number of fur catchers’ licenses sold the past three years has been consistent at a little more than 1,000 annually.

“I think it’s pretty widespread,” he said. “It’s happening all over the country. Emphasis on deer management and turkey and quail management is a big thing. For people who own or manage property who are putting in the time through habitat work to produce food plots, supplemental feeding programs and herd management through selective harvest, trapping is just another tool in their arsenal of managing their property with predator control.”

Sykes said the raccoon, in particular, provides a double threat for those who are trying to supplemental feed and provide protection for ground-nesting birds.

“You can look at raccoons on a couple of different levels,” he said. “If you’re on a supplemental feeding program, you’re putting a bunch of feed into non-target animals instead of your deer. Raccoons are also out there raiding quail and turkey nests. It’s a double whammy when you’re looking at deer management and turkey management. This small predator can have a drain on your wildlife population as well as your budget when it comes to habitat management work.

“If I had to pick one animal that I would like to lower the numbers on property I manage, it would be the raccoon.”

In the hierarchy of animals that wildlife managers target, next up would be the coyote, an animal that is fairly new on the scene in the South. When I was growing up, we never encountered a coyote and never saw evidence of tracks or scat. Now, coyotes can be found from the densest thickets to big-city urban settings.

However, Sykes cautions against tunnel vision when it comes to coyotes.

“I think coyotes have become the scapegoat of the world right now,” he said. “Everything is caused by coyotes. In some places that I have managed, every fawn that a coyote took was one less that we had to kill during hunting season to deal with overpopulation.

“On the flip side, there are some places where I do think they are having a very adverse effect on deer numbers. If people have reduced the number of deer on their property through hunting, and then you have a high predation rate, you can get into a trap that’s hard to get out of.

“If your deer numbers are already low because of your management practices or it’s just the part of the world you’re in, coyotes can have a significant impact. And the impact of coyotes has really just happened in the last decade or so where the coyote numbers have become significant in this part of the world.”

Sykes also cautions that trapping to remove predators is not a “one and done” proposition. It takes vigilance, and timing also makes a difference.

“The biggest thing people need to know is that predator control is just like yard maintenance,” he said. “You cut your grass every two weeks even though you know it’s going to grow back. When you remove predators, you’re not eliminating them. You’re creating a void at strategic times of the year. For your ground-nesting birds, you want to remove the predators in February and March. For your fawn recruitment, you want to remove the predators in August and September in most of Alabama. You’re creating a void to give those little critters an opportunity to get on their feet. Predators are going to come back. If you’ve got quality habitat and you’ve got food, they‘re going to come back.

“It’s the predator-prey cycle that we studied in college. If you go in and eliminate raccoons and coyotes on a 1,000-acre piece of land, the food source is going to go up. There are going to be more rabbits. There are going to be more rats. There is going to be more forage for the raccoons. So the next pair of predators that wanders in, their reproductive rate is going to go up because they are in such good shape and there’s so much food. It’s a constant cycle.”

Sykes said landowners and leaseholders who are considering adding trapping to their wildlife management repertoire should consider starting right away. But he cautions that plunging haphazardly into the practice, especially for the wily coyotes, could be more detrimental than helpful.

“Now is the prime time to be knocking the raccoon numbers down,” he said. “Raccoon trapping is easy with the dog-proof designed traps (requires raccoon to reach into cylinder to trigger trap). Several manufacturers now produce this style trap that’s really made it quite easy to control raccoon numbers

“Coyote trapping is more labor intensive. It’s takes a better skill set. It’s an art as much as it is a science. And you can do as much damage as you do good. I know everybody’s got to learn. But if you create trap-shy animals, they’re going to be a lot harder to catch, and they’re going to train their little ones, too.”

Sykes suggests watching YouTube videos on trapping techniques, reading books on trapping and going to trapping workshops conducted by Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries to learn how to reduce predator numbers.

“Learn as much as you can so you can be effective when you go out,” he said.

Speaking of trapping education, trapping expert and former WFF biologist Mike Sievering will hold a youth trapping workshop Feb. 17-19 in Spanish Fort and an adult trapping workshop Feb. 25-26 in Lowndesboro. A fee will apply for participation.

Visit www.outdooralabama.com/trapping for more information on trapping with the workshop schedule and information on a fur catcher’s license if you participate in commercial trade.


Effects of Drought Continue to Plague Trees across State

Trees are dying. The question is, why? Although the rainfall during December and January relieved much of the drought and related wildfire issues in Alabama, the harmful effects and complications associated with drought continue to plague the state’s forestlands. While exact economic impacts are unknown at this time, the losses may be significant according to forestry professionals with the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC).

“Some trees typically die immediately following an extended period of drought such as we experienced last fall, particularly smaller seedlings and saplings,” said AFC Forester/Forest Health Coordinator Dana Stone. “The most damaging results, however, may take longer to emerge,” she continued. “Drought-stressed trees can be weakened, causing them to be more susceptible to insects and diseases. These symptoms of long-term injury are just now appearing, especially in our state’s pine forests.”

Forest landowners began reporting the decline of hardwood trees as a direct result of the drought as early as late summer. Recently, calls to the agency have increased regarding pine trees. Pines of various ages and sizes are dying, from seedlings to mature trees. Most of the affected pines have brown needles and pitch tubes, indicating bark beetle infestation. AFC foresters have inspected numerous spots, and the trees appear to be dying from a range of pests, including Southern pine beetle, Ips engraver beetle, and black turpentine beetle, or a combination of all three. In some instances, the deodar weevil was also present in beetle-infested pines. These insects generally infect the pines with associated fungi causing the trees to die more quickly.

“The Alabama Forestry Commission continues to conduct aerial surveys to assess beetle activity across the state,” said Interim State Forester Gary Cole, “but landowners need to understand the seriousness of this situation. To ensure the overall health of their forest stand, they should monitor their property for signs of damage and contact their local AFC office or registered forester for management recommendations before taking any action.”

The Alabama Forestry Commission is the state agency charged with protecting and sustaining Alabama’s forest resources using professionally applied stewardship principals and education, ensuring that the state’s forests contribute to abundant timber and wildlife, clean air and water, and a healthy economy. To learn more about drought-related pests or to locate the nearest AFC office, visit www.forestry.alabama.gov.

Most State Public Fishing Lakes Reopen in February

The first week of February marks the beginning of the fishing season schedule for 21 of Alabama’s 23 state-owned public fishing lakes. Commonly known as state lakes or county lakes, these waters are noted for their quality fishing for bream, largemouth bass, channel catfish and crappie (most lakes).

Because these smaller lakes warm more quickly than larger bodies of water, early spring fishing can be excellent. Anglers may fish from the pier, bank, rental boat or personal boat. Before traveling to a particular lake, anglers should call ahead to determine the lake’s operational schedule.

“State public fishing lakes are the ultimate family fishing destination,” said Matthew Marshall, State Lakes Supervisor for the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF). “All lakes that are opening have a concession building with snacks, drinks, restrooms and personnel who can provide fishing advice. The concessionaires have mowed areas along the shoreline for fishing. Grills are available for picnicking and children have room to play if they tire of catching fish.”

DeKalb and Pike County Lakes reopened in June of 2016. These lakes were renovated and restocked and should be easy fishing for anglers this spring. Fayette County Lake is currently closed and restocking efforts are underway. In addition, Chambers County Lake will be temporarily closed until a new lake manager is appointed.

Fishing is an affordable and easily accessible recreational opportunity for all Alabamians. Each state lake offers boats for rent and launching of private fishing boats. No General Fund money is used to operate these lakes. Anglers pay for the management of the lakes with license fees, excise taxes and daily permits. A daily permit is required at all lakes, and state fishing license requirements apply. Fishing licenses are available at most of the lakes or online at www.outdooralabama.com/alabama-license-information.

The WFF Fisheries Section carefully stocks and manages the lakes for optimum fishing. The lakes are fertilized for maximum fish production and fishing piers allow anglers to fish deeper water in a comfortable environment. The lakes are located throughout Alabama, mostly in rural areas. A complete list of state lakes can be found in the fishing section of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website, www.outdooralabama.com.

To contact a WFF fisheries biologist about what types of fish and the average sizes that are caught at specific lakes, anglers may call the appropriate district fisheries offices: Decatur, (256) 353-2634; Eastaboga, (256) 831-6860; Northport, (205) 339-5716; Spanish Fort, (251) 626-5153; or Enterprise, (334) 347-9467.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (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.

Hillcrest High Benefit Bass Tournament

Sat., Feb. 18 at Lake Tuscaloosa (Binion Creek) Safelight - 3 p.m. Half of the proceeds go to entry fee payout, and the other half to HHS Fishing Team. $10 Big Fish Pot. Open Tournament: $1,000 1st place guaranteed, $100 entry fee (team tournament). High School Tournament: $500 1st place guaranteed, $50 entry fee (Boat captain and two student. Boat captains are allowed to fish with students.)

UWA’s Keener discovers new, rare species of mint in Talladega Mountains of Alabama

Dr. Brian R. Keener, professor of Biology at the University of West Alabama, and Samford University Professor Lawrence J. Davenport have discovered and named two new species of hedge-nettles from Alabama. Their findings have now been published in the Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, an international botanical journal specializing in taxonomy, systematics, and floristics primarily in the Western Hemisphere.

Hedge-nettles are a large group of plants in the mint family that are classified in the genus Stachys [stay-keez]. The two new species, Alabama Hedge-Nettle (Stachys alabamica [al-uh-bam-i-ka]) and Nelson's Hedge-Nettle (Stachys nelsonii [nel-sone-eee-eye]), appear to be extremely rare Alabama endemics both occurring only in the Talladega Mountains of east central Alabama in the Talladega National Forest.

Alabama Hedge-Nettle (named after the state of Alabama) occurs in the sandy alluvium of a half mile stretch of Cheaha Creek in Clay County. Nelsons's Hedge-Nettle (named after hedge-nettle expert John Nelson, botanst at The University of South Carolina) is only known from a single population in rocky woods on Horn Mountain in Talladega County.

"Alabama's biodiversity is full of surprises,” Keener explained. “Not just in plants, but new, never-before-named species among unrelated groups continue to be discovered. It is amazing what is still out there just waiting to be found.” In addition to his faculty role at UWA, Keener is also a research associate at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, located in Fort Worth.

Representative specimens of the two new species will be curated in the University of West Alabama Herbarium. Images and data will also be available on the Alabama Plant Atlas (floraofalabama.org).

The Alabama Plant Atlas is a joint effort by the Alabama Herbarium Consortium (AHC) and UWA, established to provide users with a comprehensive searchable database of plants that occur in the state of Alabama.

With more than 3,000 species of native pteridophytes and seed plants, Alabama is the ninth most floristically diverse state in the United States. The flora of Alabama contains more than 4,000 taxa when native and naturalized species are considered. The Alabama Plant Atlas provides a source of information for each species including the distribution within the state using historical and recent data.

For more information on Keener’s research or the Alabama Plant Atlas, contact him at bkeener@uwa.edu or by phone at 205-652-3796.

Your Donations Help Support Alabama’s Wildlife

You might not associate wildlife with doing your state income taxes, but there is a connection. The Alabama Nongame Wildlife Fund check-off box on the state income tax form provides citizens a way to donate all or a portion of their state tax refunds for the benefit of nongame wildlife.

Alabama is home to more than 1,000 species of animals that are categorized as nongame – species that are not hunted, fished or trapped. The Nongame Wildlife Program, administered by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), is responsible for many programs including conducting wintering surveys of bald eagles, shorebird surveys on the coast, and research on threatened and endangered species such as wood storks and red-cockaded woodpeckers.

The Nongame Wildlife Program does not receive any state tax dollars. It is partially funded by the citizens of Alabama through tax-deductible donations. In 1982, the Alabama Legislature enacted a law providing for the Alabama Nongame Wildlife Fund check-off box on the state income tax form. These donations are matched with federal funds, so even the smallest donation is valuable. The federal funds come from the Pittman-Robertson Act, a federal excise tax on sporting firearms, ammunition and archery equipment. Those funds are set aside for wildlife restoration and management.

Past donations to the Nongame Wildlife Program helped bring back bald eagles, ospreys and bluebirds to Alabama, but many other nongame wildlife species still need help. If you enjoy watching wildlife, here is your chance to lend it a helping hand. Make a donation to the Alabama Nongame Wildlife Fund on your state income tax form.

For those not receiving a state income tax refund, tax-deductible donations can be made to Alabama’s Nongame Wildlife Program, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, 64 North Union St., Montgomery, AL 36130. For more information, call 334-242-3469 or email Mark Sasser at Mark.Sasser@dcnr.alabama.gov.

For more information about Alabama’s Nongame Wildlife Program, visit www.outdooralabama.com/non-game-wildlife.

Look who’s enjoying the warm weather...

This non-poisonous snake was enjoying the warm weather on Monday, January 16, at Moundville Archaeological Park. Temperatures were in the 70s over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend in the region. Photo by Travis Vaughn

Hale County Extension Coordinator: Fairy ring spotted in Hale County

Photo by Kasey DeCastra, Moundville Times Community News Editor

Submitted by Tyrone D. Smith, Hale County Extension Coordinator Several mushroom- or puffball producing soil fungi are known to cause fairy ring on both cool and warm season turfgrasses. Although fairy ring damage is rarely serious, the disease is often unsightly, especially on a well managed lawn, green, or fairway. The typical ring patterns will develop over a wide range of soil types, fertility levels, and climatic conditions. Poorly maintained, drought-stressed turf on light, sandy soils often suffers most. Heavily thatched lawns are particularly susceptible to injury by fairy ring. When a ring pattern first appears, apply ProStar 70WP in 10 to 50 gallons of water per 1,000 square feet or Heritage 50W in 4 gallons of water per 1,000 square feet. Since disease suppression may be temporary, a second application may be made no earlier than 21 to 30 days after the first. For additional information contact your Hale County Extension Office.



Monstrous Catch in Gainesville

Jeremiah Washington of Bellamy, landed his first 55 lb. catfish from the Gainesville Lock and Dam while fishing with his father on Sat., May 9. Jeremiah is a 10 year old student at Livingston Junior High School and is the son of George and Natasha Washington.

Hale County Extension Coordinator
Where are Hale County blackberries?

Submitted by Tyrone D. Smith, Hale County Extension Coordinator
Did you know that the blackberries you see growing on the side of the highway are actually Alabama’s official state fruit? That’s right, the blackberry is Alabama’s state fruit. Nearly all blackberry cultivars are self-fruitful, and therefore self-pollination or pollination by the same cultivar will result in fruit development.

Honeybees usually transfer pollen from one flower to another. Bees are strongly attracted to bramble blossoms by the copious amounts of nectar. However, wild bees are not a reliable source of pollination, especially during bad weather. Commercial growers should consider placing one or two hives per acre grouped into units of five or ten per location.

As the fruit ripens, it grows in size and weight. Color changes from green to red to black. Blackberries take 35 to 45 days to mature once they are pollinated. Flavor and sugars increase as the fruit grows, and the fruit will soften and loosen from the receptacle when ripe.

Blackberries are nutritious. One serving of blackberries (one cup) provides 50 percent of the vitamin C and 22 percent of the fiber required daily. Blackberries are also a good source of potassium, calcium, and iron. In addition, the compound ellagic acid (anti-cancer properties especially against prostate cancer) identified as an anticarcinogen, is found in blackberries.

Mississippi men win 5th Annual Southern Academy Bass Tournament

Brent Fortenberry of Meridian, Miss. and Drew Covington of Daleville, Miss. partnered to win the 5th Annual Open Bass Tournament of the Southern Academy Booster Club. The tournament was held on April 23, on Demopolis Lake. They won $2000 with five bass weighing a total of 18.48 pounds. Second place and $1000 was won by Will Ayres of Forkland and the tournament’s youngest fisherman, Foster Hinton of Newbern. Their catch weighed a total of 17.62 pounds. Ayres also won $340 for having the “Big Fish” weighing 5.56 pounds. Third place and $500 went to Wes Wiggins and Josh Weeks, both of Demopolis with a weight of 16.59 pounds. Fourth place and $300 went to Chase Schroeder of Livingston and Gregg McPherson of Demopolis with a weight of 15.10 pounds. Fifth place and $200 went to Tyler Guin of York and Lee Bracknell of Livingston with a weight of 14.52 pounds.


Cornelius Joe gets a big gobbler

Cornelius Joe of Greensboro took this big gobbler around 5 p.m. opening day of turkey season, March 15, 2016. His son, Christopher Joe, helped him with the correct decoy set-up that brought the turkey in for a good shot. The bird has a 10 inch beard, 1/2 inch spurs, and was close to 25 pounds. Mr. Joe is the owner/operator of the Joes’ Black Angus Farm in Newbern where the gobbler was killed. For more information on his farm operation, check out this website: http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/csp-stories-cornelius-joe/ . In the above right picture, Jackie Joe fans out the turkey wings. Information and photos submitted by Leola Joe

Mac McKinney of Greensboro, took this huge turkey, 23.5 lbs.

It had a 10.25 in. beard and 1 in. spurs. One year old son, Huck, was ecstatic about his dad's kill. Mac has Moundville connections. He is the grandson of the late Dora Jean Lewis Singleton and the son of Sara Singleton McKinney and the late George McKinney of Greensboro.

Hale County Extension Coordinator Poke Salad in Hale County pastures

Submitted by Tyrone D. Smith, Hale County Extension Coordinator
Common poke salad, a native of North America, is a perennial weed often found in pastures as well as fence-rows, rights-of-way, reduced-tillage row crop fields, and wooded areas. Other names include: poke berry, pigeon berry, inkberry coakun, pocan bush, scoke, and American nightshade. Although pokeweed can cause severe poisoning in humans, Native Americans once used this plant as a heart stimulant and as a narcotic. The plant also contains a protein that has been shown to have a positive impact on HIV, a precursor to the AIDS virus. Additionally, many people cut young shoots and leaves and eat the plant as one would eat asparagus, thus the name poke salad. For human consumption, the plant must be boiled at least two times in water and the water must be removed before eating. Some say that an additional boiling will essentially remove all toxins in the plant material. Control of common poke salad is typically not easy because of the large fleshy crown and associated taproot. Except in some row-crop situations, pokeweed rarely infests large areas and is usually found in isolated instances. Removal of individual plants is accomplished by wholly removing the crown and a major portion of the associated taproot. Alternatively, spot applications of glyphosate (3% volume/ volume) or products containing 2,4-D or dicamba can severely injure or kill the plant. For additional information please contact your Hale County Extension Office.



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