We want your critter, hunting, and fishing photos! We’re looking to post them on our new Outdoors, Hunting and Fishing page on www.moundvilletimes.net. Found a enormous turtle? A funky bug? Want to show off that fish, deer, turkey, rabbit or squirrel? We want to show them off for you!

Email us your photo and a short who, what, when and where to times@mound.net. We know Outdoors men and women don’t like to give away their secret hunting and fishing spots, so you can tell us generic places like town/area or just Hale or Tuscaloosa County if you would like.

PLEASE DO NOT SEND THEM TO FACEBOOK. We delete those emails/messages automatically, because of the high volume of spam

Cheaha Hosts Conservation Festival Nov. 18

Cheaha State Park is hosting “Bigfoot BioBash,” a conservation festival this Saturday, November 18, from 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. Highlights of the festival include a 5K trail race and 1-mile fun run, conservation exhibits, and storytelling by some of the best “tellers” in the Southeast.
The festival will have something for all ages and includes exhibitors, demonstrations, vendors, guided hikes, archery instruction and live birds of prey.

The 5k trail run will begin at 8:30 a.m. All skill levels are welcome, and dressing up as Bigfoot is highly encouraged. Race day registration begins at 7 a.m. at Bald Rock Lodge. A registration fee is required for the 5K and 1-mile fun run, but all other events are free with park admission. Food vendors will be on-site and Cheaha’s Vista Cliffside restaurant will be open as well.

Alabama’s Tenth Annual Tellabration on the Bigfoot Stage begins at 11 a.m. Alabama’s best storytellers will entertain with humorous, thought-provoking, and just plain fun stories. Each story will incorporate a hands-on craft activity for children, such as mask-making and clay art. This event is part of the International Tellabration, a worldwide event devoted to storytelling that always takes place the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

Bigfoot BioBash is presented in cooperation with the Cleburne County Chamber of Commerce. Visit http://www.alapark.com/bigfoot-bio-bash for additional details about the event.
Location:
Cheaha State Park, 19644 Hwy 281 Delta, Ala., 36258
Contact Email:
cheaha.naturalist@dcnr.alabama.gov
Contact Phone:
256-488-5115 ext. 2814
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.

Sunset November 15, 2017 Tuscaloosa, Alabama

by Kasey DeCastra, Sumter County Record Journal and Moundville Times Community News Editor. We’re looking for your outdoors stories and photos! Beautiful sunset/sunrise, Fall leaf views, hiking photos, wildlife, hunting trophy, interesting vegetables and plants, big fish… You get the idea. Email it to times@mound.net and not only will you get in the paper, but you’ll get spotlighted on the outdoors page too!

Lifetime Heritage Hunting License Awaits Alabama Black Belt Adventures Contest Winner

A free lifetime Alabama hunting license is up for grabs for deer hunters in Alabama’s Black Belt this season as they head into the woods for the opening of gun season on Saturday.
The prize for the winner of the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association’s sixth Big Buck Photo Contest is a Lifetime Alabama Wildlife Heritage License, valued at more than $200. The winner is selected based on the number of “likes” of photos shared with the ALBBAA and posted on its Facebook page.
This license allows the holder to hunt all small game – except waterfowl – on any of Alabama’s 35 Wildlife Management Areas, Waterfowl Refuges and Community Hunting Areas; shoot on any of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ 13 public shooting ranges or archery parks; fish at any of the 20 state-owned public fishing lakes (with a daily permit); and freshwater fish with a hook-and-line from the bank in public waters in all 67 counties.
Wildlife Heritage Licenses are only available to Alabama residents and the money from the purchase is matched at a 3-to-1 level by the federal government with the funds going toward conservation efforts in the state. For more information on the Wildlife Heritage License, visit outdooralabama.com/wildlife-heritage-license.
“With the opening of gun season on Saturday, we can’t wait to see some of the excited faces of the hunters in the Black Belt in their trophy photos,” said Pam Swanner, executive director of the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association. “We usually get a lot of entries from young people and it’s wonderful to see our great hunting tradition being carried forward and passed down from generation to generation. Teens have won our contest the past two seasons!”
To enter, photos must be emailed to photocontest@albbaa.org and the deer must be taken
in one of the 23 Black Belt counties during the 2017-18 season. The contest ends on Feb. 14,
2018. Winners of the 2015-16 and 2016-17 Big Buck Photo Contest are ineligible.
The Black Belt includes the following counties: Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke,
Conecuh, Crenshaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe,
Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Russell, Sumter, Tuscaloosa and Wilcox.
The Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association is committed to promoting and
enhancing outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities in the Black Belt in a manner
that provides economic and ecological benefits to the region and its citizens. For
information, go to www.alabamablackbeltadventures.org.

Kalee’s Biggest Buck Award

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

Auburn University study shows growing bear population in northeast Alabama and distinct genetic group near Mobile

An Auburn University study on the black bear population in Alabama shows a growing number of bears in northeast Alabama and a distinct genetic group in southwest Alabama.

The state has two areas with bear populations: one with an estimated 30 bears centered around Little River Canyon near Fort Payne and another with an estimated 85 bears in Mobile and Washington counties north of Mobile. The latter number could be as high as 165, though.

Professor Todd Steury of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and graduate students Christopher Seals and John Draper conducted the multiyear study and recently published the results in the Nov. 8 edition of the scientific journal, PLOS One. Their article, “Genetic health and population monitoring of two small black bear populations in Alabama, with a regional perspective of genetic diversity and exchange,” is online at http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0186701.

The researchers collected DNA samples from hair left on more than 300 hair snares placed in bear habitats; finding and collecting bear scat using Auburn’s EcoDogs program; using game cameras; and tracking bears with radio collars.

“We got over 1,000 DNA samples,” Steury said. “Several groups around the state helped us collect data.”

Munford High School students helped gather information in Talladega National Forest; the National Park Service assisted in Little River Canyon National Preserve; and the Birmingham Zoo helped with the capture of bears in north Alabama. The study was funded primarily by the State Wildlife Grants program from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which also helped with fieldwork.

The north Alabama black bear population, which originally migrated from north Georgia, has more than doubled in the past four years. “One interesting aspect we observed is that mother bears in north Alabama often have three or four cubs in a litter,” he said. “Normally a mother bear has only two cubs.”

The bears north of Mobile seem to be their own distinct group without any genetic connection to other bear populations. “We found high inbreeding in those bears,” Steury said. “They have the lowest genetic diversity of any comparison population in Southeast.”

Previous studies conducted in lab settings have shown low genetic diversity can lead to lower survival rates and lower reproduction rates, according to Draper. However, he says those lab results are very difficult to prove in a wild population.

“We look at low genetic diversity as a proxy of likely harmful changes at the genetic level,” Draper said. “Long-term studies are needed to determine the effect on the population.”

Steury says the Mobile bear population’s growth rate is unknown at this time and that the population is continuous with bears in eastern Mississippi.

The research team put radio collars on a total of 20 bears in the two populations and received location information via the internet every hour for a year. The location data was superimposed over Google Earth map images so the locations of individual bears could be mapped. He also used a phone app that would let him monitor the locations and even remotely remove the collar if it got too tight or began rubbing the bear.

“Male bears roam widely,” Steury said. “At two years old, they leave their mother and find a new place to live. Females settle close to the mother bear and expand their range slowly, thus the area occupied by the breeding population is slow to expand. A lot of females don’t cross roads or powerline right-of-ways. Males will cross them as well as rivers.”

He says bears in the South are active in the winter, too, because they don’t really hibernate, but will take what could be considered long naps at times. They will build nests on the ground that resemble a bird’s nest.

The researchers also aged the 20 collared bears by pulling a tiny back tooth, finding an average age of 6 years old and the oldest one being 12 years old. Bears generally live an estimated 18-20 years in the wild and can live 20-30 years in captivity.

“The biggest one we trapped and collared weighed 318 pounds,” he said. “Most were around 150 to 250 pounds.”

While technically a game species, there is no hunting season for bears in Alabama because the population numbers are too low. It is illegal to kill a bear in the state.

“If you encounter a black bear, you should stay calm, make yourself big and loud, and back away slowly,” Steury said. “A black bear will almost always run away, but, if you are attacked, you should fight back. That differs from a grizzly bear, which, in that case, you should play dead if attacked.”

He also recommends steps to discourage bears from roaming into populated areas, such as not feeding bears and not leaving trash and pet food outside. If a person sees a bear, he or she should contact a local conservation officer or the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

(Written by Charles Martin.)Auburn University study shows growing bear population in northeast Alabama and distinct genetic group near Mobile

AUBURN, Ala. – An Auburn University study on the black bear population in Alabama shows a growing number of bears in northeast Alabama and a distinct genetic group in southwest Alabama.

The state has two areas with bear populations: one with an estimated 30 bears centered around Little River Canyon near Fort Payne and another with an estimated 85 bears in Mobile and Washington counties north of Mobile. The latter number could be as high as 165, though.

Professor Todd Steury of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and graduate students Christopher Seals and John Draper conducted the multiyear study and recently published the results in the Nov. 8 edition of the scientific journal, PLOS One. Their article, “Genetic health and population monitoring of two small black bear populations in Alabama, with a regional perspective of genetic diversity and exchange,” is online at http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0186701.

The researchers collected DNA samples from hair left on more than 300 hair snares placed in bear habitats; finding and collecting bear scat using Auburn’s EcoDogs program; using game cameras; and tracking bears with radio collars.

“We got over 1,000 DNA samples,” Steury said. “Several groups around the state helped us collect data.”

Munford High School students helped gather information in Talladega National Forest; the National Park Service assisted in Little River Canyon National Preserve; and the Birmingham Zoo helped with the capture of bears in north Alabama. The study was funded primarily by the State Wildlife Grants program from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which also helped with fieldwork.

The north Alabama black bear population, which originally migrated from north Georgia, has more than doubled in the past four years. “One interesting aspect we observed is that mother bears in north Alabama often have three or four cubs in a litter,” he said. “Normally a mother bear has only two cubs.”

The bears north of Mobile seem to be their own distinct group without any genetic connection to other bear populations. “We found high inbreeding in those bears,” Steury said. “They have the lowest genetic diversity of any comparison population in Southeast.”

Previous studies conducted in lab settings have shown low genetic diversity can lead to lower survival rates and lower reproduction rates, according to Draper. However, he says those lab results are very difficult to prove in a wild population.

“We look at low genetic diversity as a proxy of likely harmful changes at the genetic level,” Draper said. “Long-term studies are needed to determine the effect on the population.”

Steury says the Mobile bear population’s growth rate is unknown at this time and that the population is continuous with bears in eastern Mississippi.

The research team put radio collars on a total of 20 bears in the two populations and received location information via the internet every hour for a year. The location data was superimposed over Google Earth map images so the locations of individual bears could be mapped. He also used a phone app that would let him monitor the locations and even remotely remove the collar if it got too tight or began rubbing the bear.

“Male bears roam widely,” Steury said. “At two years old, they leave their mother and find a new place to live. Females settle close to the mother bear and expand their range slowly, thus the area occupied by the breeding population is slow to expand. A lot of females don’t cross roads or powerline right-of-ways. Males will cross them as well as rivers.”

He says bears in the South are active in the winter, too, because they don’t really hibernate, but will take what could be considered long naps at times. They will build nests on the ground that resemble a bird’s nest.

The researchers also aged the 20 collared bears by pulling a tiny back tooth, finding an average age of 6 years old and the oldest one being 12 years old. Bears generally live an estimated 18-20 years in the wild and can live 20-30 years in captivity.

“The biggest one we trapped and collared weighed 318 pounds,” he said. “Most were around 150 to 250 pounds.”

While technically a game species, there is no hunting season for bears in Alabama because the population numbers are too low. It is illegal to kill a bear in the state.

“If you encounter a black bear, you should stay calm, make yourself big and loud, and back away slowly,” Steury said. “A black bear will almost always run away, but, if you are attacked, you should fight back. That differs from a grizzly bear, which, in that case, you should play dead if attacked.”

He also recommends steps to discourage bears from roaming into populated areas, such as not feeding bears and not leaving trash and pet food outside. If a person sees a bear, he or she should contact a local conservation officer or the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Written by Charles Martin.

Tree Pumpkin?

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

Sharks in Lake LU?

Sharks in Lake LU? That was the question the SCRJ photographer asked himself in disbelief as he traveled across the Lake LU dam Monday morning, Oct. 23 at about 9 a.m. on Country Club Rd. Upon a closer look, and after photographing and videoing the two “shark like fins” protruding above the water line, the fins seemed to be stationary for the ten to 15 minutes the reporter gazed upon the sight. The two “fins” were near the pier on the south side of the lake near the dam. A call to the University of West Alabama Campus Police revealed the fins were placed in the lake as a prank by some unknown individuals. See more photos on Page 2-A and video on www.recordjournal.net and on Facebook. Photo by Tommy McGraw

Auburn scientist part of international research team that identifies impacts of deforestation on global biodiversity; results published in Nature journal

AUBURN, Ala. – An Auburn University scientist is part of an international research team that has identified the impacts of deforestation on global biodiversity. Breaking up the rainforest into small, isolated patches is forcing more species to live at the forest edge and putting those that are dependent on the forest core at risk, according to the team’s study.

The research article, “Creation of forest edges has a global impact on forest vertebrates,” published today in the prestigious scientific journal, Nature, highlights how biodiversity is changing as a result of deforestation—forcing some species to the brink of extinction while others flourish in the changing environment.

The team includes Auburn University postdoctoral fellow Brian Klingbeil of Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and was led by Newcastle University, United Kingdom, and Imperial College London. The scientists collected data for over 1,500 forest vertebrates and found that 85 percent of species are now being impacted by this forest fragmentation.

The winners are those that seek out the forest edge while the losers are those that rely on the forest core and whose habitat is being constantly squeezed.

“Tropical forest loss and fragmentation is a global threat to biodiversity and many vertebrate species are at risk of extinction from human activities,” said Klingbeil. “An important step to protect these species, is to know exactly how human-induced fragmentation of the land is impacting the animals that live there.”

Marion Pfeifer, lead author now based at Newcastle University, said, “This is critical for the hundreds of species that we identified as being clearly dependent on intact forest core areas—that is forest which is at least 200-400 meters from the edge. These include species such as the Sunda pangolin [Manis javanica], the Bahia Tapaculo [Eleoscytalopus psychopompus], the Long-billed Black Cockatoo [Zanda baudinii] and Baird’s tapir [Tapirus bairdii].

“These species were highly sensitive to the changing habitat and therefore more likely to disappear in landscapes that encompass only a small proportion of intact forest.”

Winners and losers: 85 percent of species affected

Half the world’s forest habitat is now within 500 meters of a “forest edge” due to the expansion of road networks, logging, agriculture and other human activity. These edges look different to the rest of the forest: with more light, less moisture and generally higher temperatures.

Using species’ abundance data collected from fragmented landscapes worldwide, the team analysed 1,673 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians to see how they respond to edges.

Using new spatial and statistical analyses developed at Imperial College London, they were able to show that 85 percent of species’ abundances are affected, either positively or negatively, by forest edges.

More importantly, edge effects create species communities near edges that bear little resemblance to the communities of forest interiors, and this species turnover likely reflects dramatic changes to the ecological functioning of modified forest habitats.

Robert Ewers, professor of ecology at Imperial College London, said, “About half of species win from the forest change; they like the edges and so avoid the deep forest, preferring instead to live near forest edges.

“The other half lose; they don’t like the edges and instead hide away in the deep forest. The winners and losers aren’t equal though. Some of the species that like edges are invasive like the boa constrictor, while the ones huddled into the deep forest are more likely to be threatened with extinction—like the Sunda pangolin.”

“Our analysis allows us to track species’ abundances in response to edge effects to predict the impact on biodiversity caused by forest loss and fragmentation,” added Pfeifer.

“This is useful for land management and as a tool to help guide our conservation efforts. The next step is to use this data and our software to allow managers to create ‘optimal landscapes’ that combine forest use with biodiversity conservation.” Written by Louella Houldcroft and Jamie Anderson.


Giant Destroying Angel

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

Hunting Works For Alabama’s Economy

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
There’s an old saying that to find a person’s passion, follow the money. That apparently is true for Alabama’s hunters, who fuel the economies in many parts of the state that need it the most.

To ensure the citizens of the state understand how important hunting is to the state’s well-being, both economically and culturally, Hunting Works for Alabama was formed last year to enlist the aid of the  business community to spread this important message.

“Hunting Works for Alabama is basically a grass-roots group of people who want to make sure we inform the public about the enormous impact hunters have on our economy,” said Tim Wood, one of the four co-chairs of Hunting Works for Alabama. “You’re talking about a $1.8 billion industry in the state. You’re talking about $375 million that people spend on just hunting-related equipment. Travel expenses, hunters are spending about $405 million a year. That’s travel, fuel, food and lodging.

“In the rural part of the state, that is extremely important. The tax dollars and economic benefits in these rural areas, it would be devastating if they didn’t have it. You could look at Demopolis, Selma, Camden and Faunsdale and look at the effects on these areas. It would be absolutely devastating.”

Wood, the general manager of Central Alabama Farmers Co-Ops in Selma, said the co-ops he manages cover the Alabama Black Belt, which is known for its rich soil, great hunting and fragile economy. Wood said the importance of hunting is reflected in their business model.

“Our business has changed,” said Wood at the second annual Hunting Works for Alabama meeting at the Civilian Marksmanship Program Talladega range last week. “We used to make money three months out of the year, March, April and May, from selling fertilizer, chemicals and seeds. Now we make our money in September, October and November. The paradigm has absolutely swapped. We’re also a sporting goods company that sells firearms. You don’t see that at farm stores. We sell hunting apparel. Our focus is on the hunting industry.”

According to the latest figures, about 44,000 non-residents hunt in Alabama annually. Because the costs of non-resident licenses are significantly higher than resident licenses, those non-resident sales provide a significant funding source for the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. The economic impact from non-resident hunters also ripples throughout the state.

“What I think is so important is the out-of-state dollars coming into the state,” Wood said. “You’re talking about some of the poorest areas in Alabama in the Black Belt. People travel from all over the United States to go deer hunting in Alabama. These people are paying lodging taxes, buying food and gas, and buying hunting licenses, which supports the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. These tax dollars are not just being used by people in the hunting industry. It affects everybody in Alabama. Even the birders benefit from hunting in Alabama because the habitat enhancement made for hunting benefits all wildlife.”

Wood also outlines the importance of more hunting opportunities for the general public.

“Hunting leases have become so expensive,” he said. “People are having to pay $15 to $20 an acre for a place to hunt. The everyday hunter back in the old days didn’t pay anything. If you wanted to go hunting, you could go up the road and some farmer or landowner would let you hunt. Those days aren’t here anymore.
“That is why it is absolutely critical that programs like Forever Wild and the Wildlife Management Areas from Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries provide the everyday citizen places to hunt and give them a reason to buy hunting licenses. It is crucial that this Division is properly funded.”

Chuck Sykes, Director of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, said that proper funding Wood mentioned can only be realized when people buy hunting licenses.

“We rank seventh in the nation on hunting-related expenditures,” Sykes said. “If you’re not familiar with the Pittman-Robertson Act, it levies a tax on firearms, ammunition and other hunting equipment. That money goes to Washington, and it’s divvied back out to the state wildlife agencies, based on states’ hunting license sales, so they have a constant source of funding. For every dollar of hunting licenses sold, Pittman-Robertson matches that with 3 federal dollars, which is a great return on our investment.

“When I first started in 2012, our apportionment was $8 million. Last year, it was $18 million. How did that happen? During the previous administration in Washington, people were buying firearms and stocking up on ammunition because they were scared of potential gun legislation. The problem was those same people weren’t buying hunting licenses. We can’t get to that money unless people buy hunting licenses. So the money that hunters pay into that fund, if we can’t sell enough hunting licenses, that money will go to another state. For us to be able to provide goods and services for the people of the state and to help support the economics, we have to have hunting license sales that will allow us to put conservation officers and biologists in the field.”

Sykes offered a statistic that stuns just about everybody who hears it. Sykes asks for an estimate on the percentage of Alabama’s almost 5 million citizens who buy hunting licenses. The estimate normally ranges from 15 to 50 percent.
“We receive not one penny from the State General Fund. Not one tax dollar goes to provide goods and services,” Sykes said. “It’s all hunting and fishing licenses. Most people have no idea that only 3.8 percent of Alabama citizens buy hunting licenses. We’ve got to get that number up if we’re going to be competitive. We have to have licenses sold and the dollars from those sales to get to the federal money from Pittman-Robertson.”

Wood said anybody or any business that wants to become a member of Hunting Works for Alabama can sign up and it won’t cost a dime. Go to www.huntingworksforal.com for information or to join the organization.
“When you become a member, you’re able to come to our meetings and meet with other people in the industry,” he said. “You learn the facts and figures about the economic importance of hunting in the state. We are fortunate to be in Alabama, where we are a hunting and gun-friendly state. It’s a luxury, and we want to keep it that way.

“We’re trying to build a network of support. Eventually, we’re going to have to talk to our legislators, because there will be issues that come up that will end up in the Legislature. We need to have voices in the different districts who will contact these legislators to express how important hunting is to the state.”
After one year, Hunting Works for Alabama has 107 members with a goal of reaching at least 150 by the end of the year. Pam Swanner of Alabama Black Belt Adventures, David Dexter of Mobile and Grant Lynch, chairman of the Talladega Superspeedway, serve as the other co-chairs for the organization.
“We’re looking for slow growth,” Wood said. “When you have an all-volunteer staff, we have paying jobs we have to tend to. But for many of us, this does affect our paying jobs. And it also affects our way of life, which I think is more important.”

Big Buck Facebook Photo Contest launches

With the opening of deer archery season on Oct. 14, the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association is launching its sixth annual Big Buck Photo Contest on Facebook. The contest runs through the entire 2017-18 deer season. This year’s winner will receive a lifetime Alabama Wildlife Heritage license, which offers great benefits to Alabama hunters and helps manage lands and sustain habitats for the many species in our state.

“We are incredibly honored to sponsor such a fun contest again this year,” said Pam Swanner, executive director of the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association. “We love seeing people who are encouraged to venture outdoors for hunting – especially those who may not have hunted in the Black Belt before. We usually get a lot of entries from young people on our Facebook page and it’s exciting to see our great hunting tradition being carried forward and passed down from generation to generation.”

Entries will be accepted ONLY via email to photocontest@albbaa.org from the opening of the bow season until Feb. 14, 2018. Photos uploaded to Facebook are NOT eligible. Include the name of the hunter, where and when the deer was taken. As a reminder, deer must be taken in the Black Belt to be eligible. Those counties are Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Russell, Sumter, Tuscaloosa and Wilcox.

Wildlife Heritage License holders enjoy the following benefits: hunting of all small game (except waterfowl) on any of Alabama’s 35 Wildlife Management Areas and Community Hunting Areas (free WMA permit is required); shoot at any of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ 12 public shooting ranges or archery parks; fish at any of the 20 state-owned public fishing lakes (daily permit required); and freshwater fish with a hook-and-line from the bank in public waters in all 67 counties.

Lovely Lunar Visitor

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

Roadside Hogs in Marengo

A couple of hogs were spotted standing beside Highway 43, south of Linden, a couple of weeks ago. As many landowners know too well, wild hogs can devastate crops, pastures, and forests. Photo by Tiffany Vaughn, Moundville Times Reporter

Auburn scientists identify factors contributing to West Nile virus outbreaks

Texas health officials have reported 89 cases of West Nile virus in the state and three deaths as of late September, with 49 deaths reported nationwide so far in 2017. It is expected by the Center for Disease Control that this number will likely increase as the floodwaters continue to recede from Hurricane Harvey, leaving standing pockets of organically rich water pooling among storm debris that acts as a breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes.

In a study published in the Journal of Vector Ecology, Auburn researchers have identified climatic, ecological and socioeconomic factors contributing to the incidence of West Nile virus, with further studies underway to refine risk predictions that could help public officials save lives during West Nile virus outbreaks within flood-prone or hurricane impacted areas.

Graeme Lockaby, professor and associate dean of research in Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, is the lead author of “Climatic, ecological, and socioeconomic factors associated with West Nile virus incidence in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.” His Auburn colleagues, Associate Professor Wayde Morse, Professor Latif Kalin and researchers Robin Governo and Rajesh Sawant, served as co-authors among the multi-agency research team that included scientists from the University of Georgia and Pennsylvania and the USDA Forest Service.

“Our research indicates that climate and meteorological conditions, vegetation characteristics, land use and land cover type and socioeconomic factors directly contribute to the presence of West Nile Virus,” Lockaby said. “More specifically, soil moisture and temperature, as well as forest size and pine composition of forests were significantly correlated to the vector index.”

Forest size and composition is believed to be correlated with the presence of Corvidae, the family of birds which includes such common species as crows, ravens, jays and nutcrackers. Corvids are a reservoir of West Nile virus and can carry the disease. When mosquitoes bite one of the birds, the mosquitoes then infect themselves and transmit the virus to their next victim.

Corvids prefer open areas with scattered tree cover. Researchers found that the presence of West Nile virus decreased with larger forest patch size and increased percentage of pines. This may be due to increased diversity of bird species. This phenomenon is referred to as the “dilution effect” which infers that with increased species diversity, the probability of a mosquito biting an infected Corvid decreases.

It is important to understand both what influences the presence of the Corvids who infect mosquitoes, and what areas are ideal breading grounds for the Culex sp. mosquitoes which transmit the disease to other species.

“The initial run of mosquitoes is not too much of a disease threat although a huge nuisance to people but it’s the next run we really need to be concerned about,” said Sonja Swiger, Texas AgriLife Extension medical/veterinary entomologist, in a recent statement.

“As conditions dry up, we will cycle out of those weeks of floodwater mosquitoes, and then begin cycling into a period of time where the disease-transmitting mosquitoes will emerge and build up,” Swiger said.

Lockaby is heading a new two-year study with graduate student Nicole Castaneda, in conjunction with the Audubon Society and U.S. Forest Service, to further refine our ability to determine locations of highest or lowest risk for West Nile virus based on the presence of specific risk factors.

Castaneda will characterize bird species diversity, soil wetness, age and species of trees and socioeconomic factors near mosquito sampling sites across Atlanta. Her data will clarify the mechanisms behind some of the first study’s findings and improve the accuracy of risk predictions.

“Significant flood events like those experienced in Houston are predicted to drive an increase in the number of cases of West Nile virus,” said Lockaby. “Our goal is to refine our ability to estimate degree of risk based on the presence of risk factors that help to drive the disease vectors, which will be very useful for protecting human life in areas most vulnerable to hurricanes.” Written by Jamie Anderson.

Alabama Game Breeder Receives $750,000 Fine for Illegally Importing Deer

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Birmingham have charged two Northport men with knowingly transporting and receiving white-tailed deer into the state – a violation of state law and the federal Lacey Act, which prohibits trade in wildlife, fish and plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported, or sold.

In November 2016, Conservation Enforcement Officers with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) arrested deer breeder Lewis H. “Sonny” Skinner and his associate Franklin Banks Loden for knowingly importing six live white-tailed deer into Alabama from a farm in Indiana.

Federal and state charges against the men were announced in Birmingham on Monday, October 2, 2017.

As part of a plea agreement announced Monday, Skinner’s privilege to possess an Alabama Game Breeder License or be associated with a game breeder operation has been revoked. Skinner has also agreed to pay a $100,000 fine to the federal Lacey Act Reward Fund, and $650,000 in fines and restitution to the State of Alabama, which will be used to further WFF Law Enforcement activities and continue disease testing on wild deer within the state.

According to the plea agreement, Skinner owned and controlled all activities occurring on Skinner Farms, a private deer breeding business located in Sumter County, Ala. Skinner had obtained a game breeder license from the state of Alabama and knew it is a “closed border” state that prohibits the importation of deer.

In November 2016, Skinner arranged for Loden to covertly move the deer from Indiana to Skinner Farms in Alabama. Loden was stopped by WFF Enforcement Officers in Tuscaloosa, at which time the deer were seized. The seized deer and all captive deer held in Skinner’s facility will be tested for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

Comparable to mad cow disease, CWD is a fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of deer. The disease attacks the brain of an infected animal causing it to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose bodily functions and die. Once CWD is introduced into the environment, it is impossible to eradicate.

“Over the last 15 years, we have watched this disease insidiously spread across the country,” said Capt. Carter Hendrix with the WFF Law Enforcement Section. “In fact, it has spread much faster than it naturally should have. This is due largely to human transportation across state lines of infected, harvested animal parts or live animals.”

In 2016, Alabama enacted a ban on the import of deer carcasses from states where CWD has been confirmed. CWD has been found in captive and/or wild deer in 24 states, two Canadian provinces, Norway, and South Korea. It is not known to be transmissible to humans or domestic livestock. For a map of CWD states, visit www.outdooralabama.com/map-cwd-north-america.

Additionally, CWD has devastating economic effects on deer hunting. The deer hunting industry results in $1.8 billion in annual revenues for the State of Alabama. States where CWD occurs have experienced a 10-40 percent decrease in license sales. Those states also experience a decrease in hunting opportunities through the loss of access to public and/or leased land if they fall within a CWD management zone.

“Not only is deer hunting in Alabama a $1 billion industry, more importantly it is an integral part of the lifestyle and heritage of many residents and non-residents who enjoy our abundant natural resources,” said Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

There have been no known cases of CWD in Alabama.
Currently, Alabama has 231 licensed game breeders, which primarily raise white-tailed deer for sale to hunting-enclosure operators throughout the state.

“The arrests and prosecutions of Skinner and Loden are examples of an approach to the enforcement of statutes already in place to protect the resource,” said Michael Weathers, WFF Chief of Law Enforcement. “The most effective way to keep Alabama CWD-free was to prohibit the importation of members of the deer family that are known to be susceptible to the disease.”

The importation of deer from other states to Alabama has been prohibited by regulation since 1973. Violations of this regulation are actively investigated by WFF Law Enforcement.

“We’ve focused on preventing the spread of CWD by introducing regulations that place restrictions on certain activities within the commercial industry, of which Skinner was a member,” Weathers said. “The illegal transport of deer from outside the state by a licensed deer breeder, who is motivated solely by profit, places our entire white-tailed deer herd at risk of this fatal disease.”

The traceability of animals in the breeder industry is vastly important to protection of a state’s wildlife populations. The spread of CWD in Texas in 2015, which was discovered in a captive herd, was mitigated by utilizing a deer breeder electronic database that had been in place since 2009.

“Implementing an electronic database to track animals transported by breeders within Alabama would allow an animal’s location history to be immediately determined,” Weathers said. “It would reduce the number of animals and locations put at risk by an infected animal. It would also allow game breeders not linked to a breeding facility affected by CWD to continue business as usual.”

WFF Law Enforcement continues a 110-year commitment to protect the state’s resources for the benefit of all Alabamians. WFF needs your help in maintaining Alabama’s CWD-free status. To report the importation of live or harvested deer from out-of-state, or resident deer exhibiting signs of CWD, call the Operation Game Watch line at 1-800-272 4263 (GAME).

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

Auburn animal science researcher aims to determine fertility in heifers

The seeds for Paul Dyce’s animal science research were planted early in his life, while working on the family farm in Ontario, Canada.

“I was raised on a beef cattle farm and was directly involved with developing our heifers,” said the assistant professor in the College of Agriculture’s Department of Animal Sciences. “It was always in the back of my mind that there had to be a better way of distinguishing between fertile and nonfertile heifers. I kept thinking about this even as I went away to school and completed a degree in molecular biology.”

Fast-forward to Auburn University, where Dyce is conducting the research he envisioned, working to develop a relatively noninvasive test that can be used early in the production process to distinguish a fertile heifer from an infertile heifer. Heifers are young female cows that have not borne a calf.

His is one of 15 research projects that have been awarded grants through the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station’s new Production Agriculture Research program, one that’s focused on finding timely solutions to current production problems that are limiting farmers’ profitability.

Once Dyce develops and releases the testing tool, it could save cow-calf producers millions of dollars a year in a $2.5 billion industry that ranks second statewide only to broilers in cash receipts.

A key to Dyce’s work has been recognizing the applicability of an emerging new technology—metabolomics—to the field of animal science. Metabolomics is the large-scale study of small molecules, commonly known as metabolites, found within cells, biofluids or tissues. Collectively, these small molecules and their interactions within a biological system are known as the metabolome.

“Within the medical field, they’ve made great progress on identifying a lot of difficult-to-identify human disorders using metabolomics,” he said. “One of those disorders is male infertility, which has always been a difficult one to pin down because so many factors play a role in it. It’s not an easily definable disorder, but the information coming from these medical studies is amazing.”

In his newly funded research project, Dyce will use metabolomics to develop a screening method that can identify highly reproductive heifers before they enter the breeding colony.

“This technology could lead to a noninvasive blood test for heifer fertility and has the potential to improve production efficiencies for cow-calf producers,” he said.

The ability to identify heifers with a high reproductive potential for recruitment into the breeding stock is one of the keys to profitable cattle production, he said. Due to a lack of informative biomarkers, replacement heifers are selected today based on observable physical characteristics or traits along with their genetic background. But these methods can be inefficient.

“A significant proportion of our heifers remain ‘open,’ or not bred, contributing to a loss in production efficiency,” Dyce said. “For producers, heifers represent a major investment, with some requiring financial support for up to three years prior to contributing to the herd.”

There is also the lost opportunity cost of not selling heifers at weaning, along with the feed costs prior to breeding. The added wintering cost to bring a heifer into the breeding season is estimated at $321 per head, with an additional $129 required to get from breeding to pregnancy check.

Assuming most of the heifers are being retained and half the calves are heifers—with 15 percent remaining not bred—the cost to Alabama cattle producers is estimated at more than $20 million annually in lost productivity, not counting lost time and associated labor costs.

Through his work at outlying AAES research centers, Dyce has been able to clearly identify heifers that are not going to get pregnant under traditional means and compare them with animals that easily become pregnant.

“We’re looking at the two extremes, and now I want to find out if there’s something in the metabolome of the blood that can distinguish them,” he said. “If there is a way to identify in the blood which animal has good fertility and which one has poor fertility, it would save all of the inputs required to get animals up to speed.”

His next step is to determine whether there is a molecular marker at weaning that will foretell a heifer’s reproductive performance at breeding. The goal at the completion of the project, Dyce said, will be to produce databases of metabolites in heifer blood plasma.

“These metabolomes can be compared between heifers that are impregnated through artificial insemination and those failing to become pregnant,” he said. “Significant differences in specific metabolites between the two groups will allow the production of bioassays or metabolomic profiles identifying heifers with high reproductive potential.”

“Ultimately, we would like to identify several biomarkers that can be readily measured with a single blood sample taken by the producer at the time of weaning,” Dyce said. “The ability to minimize the input costs associated with breeder replacements and improve cattle productivity will provide a significant competitive advantage to the Alabama cattle industry.” Written by Paul Hollis

Guard Spider

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

For Safe Hunting, Remember the Obvious

(Left) When using a treestand like this climber, always have your body harness connected to the tree.

When hunters take to the woods Oct. 14 for the start of archery deer season in Alabama, Hunter Education Coordinator Marisa Futral hopes that those using treestands will remember to wear and use a vital piece of equipment, the full-body harness.
“It sounds obvious, but wearing your harness and not attaching it to the tree will not save you if you fall,” said Futral. “Most falls occur while ascending and descending, or stepping into and out of the tree stand, so it is extremely important to be attached to the tree at all times.”

Futral says hunters should attach their full-body harness to the tree the moment they leave the ground, and it should stay attached until they are safely back on the ground. “Many hunters are diligent about wearing a harness,” she said, “but they don’t attach it to the tree until they have already climbed up and are seated. You are more likely to fall when you are moving, so attaching the harness before you start climbing is vital.”

Once at the desired height, hunters should keep a short tether between them and the tree with no slack when sitting. The tether should be fastened to the tree at eye level or above. This will allow an easier recovery if a fall happens. Never allow the tether strap to get under your chin or around your neck.

Hunting bows should be pulled up and lowered with a strong cord or rope. When hunting with a gun, it should be unloaded prior to pulling it up or lowering it.

Hunting is one of the safest outdoor recreational activities. According to American Sports Data and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, hunting ranks lower than basketball, football, tennis, cheerleading, bicycling, golf, and even bowling in the total number of injuries per 100 participants.

However, each hunting season, Futral receives reports on hunting accidents that could have been avoided. Last hunting season in Alabama, 11 nonfatal and two fatal incidents were reported relating to treestands, while seven incidents were attributed to firearms (one fatal and six non-fatal). In all of the treestand-related incidents, the hunter was not wearing a safety harness.
Futral stresses that hunters should carefully inspect their treestand and harness before each use. “Never use a damaged or expired harness, and make sure it can support your body weight,” she said. “And, most importantly, keep it attached to the tree at all times.”

For more information about how to properly use a full-body harness and other hunting safety tips, visit www.outdooralabama.com/tree-stand-safety.

 

Auburn celebrates 45 Years of Women in Forestry, Wildlife and Natural Resources

Auburn University has come a long way since the time the first women students, Katherine Broun, Margaret Teague and Willie Little were admitted in 1892. In honor of their pioneering journey and those of others who followed, Auburn is celebrating 125 Years of Auburn Women. This year, the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences also celebrates an important milestone of 45 years of women in forestry, wildlife and natural resources.

Since 1892, the career options for women have grown and evolved, and so too have those of women pursuing careers in natural resources. The recognition of their positive and critical role in conserving and managing forests, wildlife and other natural resources is on the rise and widely recognized within government and institutions across the globe. We are seeing more women than ever leading our companies, making significant research discoveries and participating in forestry, wildlife, fisheries, range, recreation, soils and the environmental sciences as they relate to natural resources.

“The school welcomed its first female graduate 45 years ago and now boasts over 600 women alumni, and is making significant efforts to recruit, educate and empower women in natural resources,” said Dean Janaki Alavalapati.

Currently women students account for about half of its Wildlife and Natural Resource Management students and 20 percent of its faculty.

“We are actively exploring ways to increase enrollment of women in forestry, where female students presently comprise only 10 percent of all forestry students,” said Alavalapati.

Alabama’s forest production and processing industry contributes nearly $21 billion to the state’s economy. “Given the magnitude and opportunity available within the forestry industry, we’d like to see greater involvement by women in all aspects of natural resources management,” Alavalapati said.

To increase gender diversity in natural resources-related fields, the school seeks to achieve a comprehensive understanding of issues relating to recruiting women into forestry, wildlife and other natural resource programs; providing positive and rewarding experiences within its programs; and supporting career opportunities and advancement after graduation.

As part of Auburn University’s milestone celebration of 125 Years of Auburn Women, the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences recently hosted a panel discussion luncheon and networking coffee in honor of 45 Years of Auburn Women in Forestry, Wildlife and Natural Resources for faculty, staff, students and alumni to explore diversity issues and opportunities within natural resources.

Victoria David, administrative director of the University of Georgia Office of Diversity Affairs, served as moderator for the program.

Invited panelists who were representative of early, mid- and late-career stages spoke about their challenges, inspirations and career experiences as successful women serving within traditionally male-dominated natural resources-based fields.

Panel member Mary Berkstresser, an undergraduate student within the school’s Natural Resources Management program, described the experience as humbling. “I was able to share my limited knowledge, while also learning from the other more experienced panelists. I came away from the luncheon a better person than I was before it began.”

Panelist Nina Dowling Payne ’79, a forest landowner, former consultant and currently a research associate with the Southern Forest Nursery Management Cooperative, said of the experience, “Having three ‘generations’ of women from the forestry and natural resource fields in a forum showed how much change has occurred in the 20 years between each of the three of us.”

“It was wonderful to be back at Auburn and see how much the Wildlife Sciences program has grown and changed,” said Cindy Lowry ’96, executive director of the Alabama Rivers Alliance. “The luncheon made me feel very encouraged that the school is working hard to create an inclusive environment that foster’s the leadership of women and embraces the challenges women face in male dominated fields of study.”

In honor of this important milestone, the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences asked several of its female graduates to share their backgrounds, career perspectives and the influences in their lives that can be attributed to their success.

To read their biographies and full responses, see “45 Years of Auburn Women in Forestry, Wildlife and Natural Resources Alumnae Spotlight” at http://sfws.auburn.edu/125-years-of-auburn-women-sfws-alumnae-spotlight/.

To view a photo gallery from the luncheon, go to https://www.flickr.com/photos/142022913@N06/albums/72157686942571253.

 

Lady of the Garden

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

Surprise! Lily

Lycoris radiata, or more commonly known in Alabama as the Red Surprise Lilly, Red Spider Lily or British Soldier, actually comes from Japan and came over as a garden flower in 1854. The flowers bloom after the first heavy rain in late September through mid October. In Japan the Red Spider Lily signals the arrival of fall. Many Buddhist will use it to celebrate the arrival of fall with a ceremony at the tomb of one of their ancestors. They plant them on graves because it shows a tribute to the dead. People believe that since the Red Spider Lily is mostly associated with death that one should never give a bouquet of these flowers. By Kasey DeCastra, Moundville Times & Sumter County Record Journal Community News Editor

 

Youth Hunt Dates Announced for Field Trial Area

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) announces the youth deer and duck hunt schedules at the M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area (FWFTA) in Hale County. The hunts will take place in late November 2017 through January 2018. Registration will be open September 15 through October 31, 2017. Hunters will be selected via a computerized, random drawing after registration closes.

Registration is only available to parents or adults who are at least 21 years old and have a Conservation ID (CID) number. A hunting license is not required at the time of registration. However, if selected during the random draw, you must have a valid hunting license to accept the hunt permit. If selected for a hunt, you will receive an email requesting you validate/accept the permit. Once the permit is accepted, you will receive an email with the hunt details.
To register for a hunt, visit https://publichunts.dcnr.alabama.gov/Public/AvailableHunts/12.

Youth deer hunt dates:
November 22 and 25
December 20
January 13,17, 20 and 31

Youth duck hunt dates:
November 25
December 20
January 13, 17 and 20

If you have questions about the hunt details or registration process, call Doug Deaton with the ADCNR State Lands Division at 334-242-3484, or email doug.Deaton@dcnr.alabama.gov.

To participate in the youth hunts, youth hunters must be age 15 or younger and accompanied by an adult at least 21 years old (or a parent). Adults must have a valid state hunting license and applicable duck stamp, if duck hunting. Hunters must obtain their license and duck stamp (if duck hunting) before the hunt since they will not be available on-site.
Mandatory reporting of all deer (and turkey) harvests through Alabama’s Game Check system is in effect for the 2017-18 youth hunting dates at FWFTA. Hunters will have 48 hours to report their harvest through the Outdoor Alabama mobile app or online at www.outdooralabama.com.
To learn more about Alabama’s Game Check system, visit www.outdooralabama.com/gamecheck.

The M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area consists of 4,300 acres in Hale County and is managed as a nature preserve and recreation area. In addition to developing a sporting dog Field Trial/Hunt Test grounds and a youth hunting program, the ADCNR State Lands Division is currently restoring the tract’s native prairie grasslands and managing its numerous ponds for future public fishing.

ADCNR does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, age, gender, pregnancy, national origin, genetic information, veteran status, or disability in its hiring or employment practices nor in admission to, access to, or operations of its programs, services, or activities.
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.

 

Baiting Deer Remains Illegal in Alabama

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Contrary to what your buddies at the hunting camp have said or what you’ve read on social media, it is still illegal to bait deer in Alabama.

Similar to previous years, the so-called “corn” bill that was introduced in the Alabama Legislature this year did not become law. Yes, the bill passed the House of Representatives, but that’s as far as it went.

“A lot of folks still think it’s going to be legal to hunt over corn this year,” said Chuck Sykes, Director of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division. “There was a buzz around Facebook and on social media that the House passed the baiting bill.

“But it takes confirmation by the Alabama Senate and then the signature of the governor to become law. So it missed two of the three, and it takes all three. There are a lot of folks who are going to be disappointed on opening day.”

However, that doesn’t mean Alabama landowners and hunters can’t proceed with their supplemental feeding plans for wildlife.
“Feeding is fine as long as you stay within the area definition,” Sykes said.

The area definition was refined several years ago to give hunters and landowners a better understanding of what is deemed supplemental feeding and what constitutes baiting.

The regulation states: “As it applies to the hunting of deer and feral swine, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that any bait or feed . . . located beyond 100 yards from the hunter and not within the line of sight of the hunter is not a lure, attraction or enticement to, on or over the area which the hunter is attempting to kill or take the deer or feral swine. This regulation does not apply to public land. Out of line of sight means obscured from view by natural vegetation or naturally occurring terrain features.”
“Out of sight doesn’t mean putting up a piece a piece of tin in the edge of the food plot where you can’t see the feeder,” Sykes said. “Nor does it mean throwing corn in tall grass. That’s not the essence of the regulation. It has to be natural vegetation or natural terrain.”

Unfortunately, the regulation clarification has not affected the number of tickets that are written annually for baiting.
“Some people are still putting out corn 50 yards from their stand in the wide open,” Sykes said. “They’re just basically ignoring the regulation.”

Another “huge” misconception that Sykes has encountered during interaction with the public at deer shows and other public events is WFF’s ability to change the baiting regulations. He said baiting made up 99 percent of the questions WFF fielded at the public events.

“People are coming up to me and asking when we are going to change the baiting laws,” he said. “Well, we can’t. That’s a legislative matter. The members of the Legislature are the ones who have the power to change the law. We can’t do anything about it.

“The Alabama law says you cannot hunt deer in the area of bait. The only thing we could do at the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources was define what that area was. That area is within 100 yards and/or line of sight. If you’re outside of 100 yards, and the feed is out of sight because of natural vegetation or terrain, you’re okay. That’s as far as the Department could take it with a regulation.”

As he did last year, Sykes is touring the state to give hunters and landowners updates on the mandatory Game Check system that is used to report the harvest of white-tailed deer and turkeys.
Another misconception is this year’s seminars are repeats of last year’s. Sykes, who has held six seminars so far this year, said a great deal of new information is included in this year’s seminars.
“Participation in the seminars is about half what it was last year,” he said. “People think it’s the same seminar they heard last year, and it’s not. We’re going over the Game Check results from last year, and some of the tweaks we’re making to the system and additional programs we’re offering this year, so it’s not the same seminar.”

Those at this year’s seminars who used Game Check last year reported it was an easy process and didn’t have any complaints, Sykes said.

According to the analysis of data, Sykes said about 35 percent of deer hunters reported their harvest through Game Check, while about 40 percent of turkey hunters used Game Check. According to Game Check data, 45,561 bucks and 36,867 does were taken, while 9,174 turkeys were harvested. With other information factored in, the total estimate of deer harvested was 130,000 bucks and 105,000 does. Turkey harvest was estimated at 23,000.

“Deer numbers were down a little, but we’re attributing that to the drought,” Sykes said. “It’s not that it negatively impacted the deer herd, but it negatively impacted people’s deer hunting.”
One of the tweaks WFF made for this year’s Game Check adds another definition in the possibilities for deer harvest. Previously, the options were antlered or unantlered.

“We have had quite a few questions on what to do with button bucks,” Sykes said. “Now, we’ve added another option. Under antlerless deer, you get another option as to whether it was male or female. That will give hunters the answer of how to report button bucks, and it’s also going to give us some good information.

“If we find out that 60 percent of the antlerless harvest turns out to be button bucks, that’s something the public needs to know. That’s something we need to know. We may need to adjust some things, because we don’t need to be hitting that age class of bucks that hard.”

Another Game Check tweak will add more options to the type of land hunted, whether private or public. If public land is clicked, a drop-down box will give options on which public land was hunted, based on the county.

“This helps us drill down to see where people are utilizing public land,” Sykes said.

Additional information will be needed to report turkey harvests as well. Now Game Check will ask for beard length and spur length.
“This will help us determine the age class of turkeys being harvested,” Sykes said.

Deer season dates are basically unchanged from last year with the exception of calendar dates. Bag limits remain the same at three bucks per season. One of those three bucks must have at least four points (1 inch or longer) on one side. Barbour County has a special antler restriction in force in that each buck of the three-buck limit must have at least three points on one side.

A special WMA (Wildlife Management Area) Bonus Buck Program will be in effect this season on specific public land – Lauderdale WMA, William R. Ireland-Cahaba WMA, Lowndes WMA, Barbour WMA, Geneva State Forest WMA and Perdido River WMA.
On those specific WMAs, hunters will have the opportunity to harvest an additional buck on the specific Bonus Buck day. This additional buck will not count against the three-buck limit. To qualify, hunters must obtain a daily permit from the check station at the participating WMA on the Bonus Buck day. Following the harvest, the hunter must bring the animal to the check station for WMA personnel to collect data from the buck and validate the animal. Only WMA personnel can validate the bonus bucks.
The other big addition for the upcoming seasons is the advent of Special Opportunity Areas (SOAs) that offer a different experience for public-land hunters. The new SOAs available are the 6,500-acre Cedar Creek SOA in Dallas County, the 4,500-acre Uchee Creek SOA in Russell County and the 400-acre Crow Creek SOA in Jackson County. The Fred T. Stimpson SOA, a 5,400-acre tract in Clarke County that had been open for youth hunts and limited adult archery deer hunts has transitioned to this hunting mode to assist in reducing deer densities on the area.

Visit https://publichunts.dcnr.alabama.gov/Public/AvailableHunts to register for the limited draw hunts. The computer-controlled, random drawing will occur on October 3.

“The SOA hunts are going to be a big deal,” Sykes said. “Everybody I’ve talked to thinks it’s outstanding. Of course, we’re not going to make everybody happy, but this is a unique opportunity for folks.”

Hurricane Irma drains parts of Mobile Bay

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

 

Sumter gets 8 foot Tuscaloosa alligator
Sumter gator season contemplated

By Tommy McGraw
Publisher
City of Tuscaloosa Employees captured an almost eight foot long alligator Monday morning around 7:40 a. m.
Tuscaloosa Police Officers responded to Liberty Recycling on an alligator siting. Upon arrival, officers were informed that a driver of Liberty Recycling Plant found an alligator measuring close to 8 ft. under his 18 wheeler.

Employees from Tuscaloosa Police Department’s Traffic Division, Lake Patrol and Tuscaloosa Department of Transportation’s Animal Control were able to capture the alligator and secure it until it was turned over to Alabama Game and Fish to be transported to Gainesville, in Sumter County and released back into its natural habitat.

Sumter County Game Warden, Jeff Shaw told the Record Journal in an earlier conversation that most alligators captured in West Alabama were taken to the Tombigbee River near Gainesville and released.
Shaw said he had recently captured a seven foot long alligator in Cuba from a land owner’s pond and taken the gator to another landowner who had requested it to help keep down the wild pig population in his swap land.
Shaw said he was released several alligators he has captured into the Tombigbee River, unless he had received a requests for one of the reptiles for a land owner’s property. Shaw said land owners also request the alligators to help keep down beaver populations in ponds and areas unwanted by the landowner.
Shaw said, in a recent night rescue for a stranded boater near Gaines, Shaw said he saw numerous “red eyes” along the banks of the Tombigbee near the Gainesville Lock and Dam.
The Alabama State Conservationist said there is interest in allowing alligator hunters to hunt the beast during a controlled season on the Tombigbee River, in and around Sumter.
Currently alligators are being taken during short periods or seasons along the Alabama River and around Mobile bay.

Those who like to hunt the gators are required to register for a permit tag form a lottery system controlled by the Alabama Department of Conservation.
The tags are drawn in July for an August hunt time. A limited number of hunters receive the tags.
The hunter is required to take a safety course involving catching the alligators.
The state and world record alligator was caught near Camden on the Alabama River in 2014 by Mandy Stokes and her crew from Thomaston. She and her crew pulled in the 1,011.5 pound, 15 feet, nine inches long beast of an alligator on August 29, 2014.

Stokes’ gator is also, by default, the the new number one in Alabama, though the state doesn’t have an official record-alligator program. The Stokes gator beat the 14-foot, 2-inch, 838-pound animal killed by Keith Fancher and his crew in 2011.

The Stokes gator was 13 inches longer than the current Safari Club International world record 14-foot, 8-inch gator killed by Thomas Bass of Trinity, Texas. Even though Bass killed his alligator in 2007, it has only held SCI’s top spot since June.

 

 

World’s Oldest Cultivated Plant in the Front Yard?

Grass is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. You of course know lawn grass, but corn, wheat, barley, oats, sugar cane and rice are all grasses that humans intentionally bred to eat and feed to livestock. Grasses are used to make paper, used for fuel, as roofing, to weave baskets, build houses, furniture, fences and musical instruments. Some grasses can grow very tall. Bamboo is one of these. It’s the world’s most wide spread plant type.

 

 

Moundville Watertower Sunset

We don’t need to tell you we’ve had a lot of rain this summer. Rita Lewis, your favorite Voice of the Ville Columnist, knows all about the vibrant colors of sunsets that follow the afternoon showers. She took this lovely shot of the water tower Aug. 12.

 

Red bellied woodpecker needed a little help…

Occasionally at the Times office, our feathered friends get confused and fly into the large glass windows of the upstairs portion of the building. That’s what happened to this red bellied woodpecker Tuesday, July 25. The bird was in shock and on the ground right outside our side door but seemed to feel much better after a few drops of water and some time in the shade tree out back.          Photo by Travis Vaughn

Hale County Extension Coordinator
How to get rid of fire ants

Submitted by Tyrone D. Smith, Hale County Extension Coordinator (See more of Tyrone’s articles on our Outdoors page at www.moundvilletime.net.)

Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) specialists recommend a two-step method to deter fire ants from invading your property. The first step is to look for a product that is called broadcast bait.

A bait product consists of a chemical dissolved into a food source. These baits are spread evenly over the entire infested area.

Ants will pick up the bait and take it back to the nest, where they eventually find their way to the queen. The colony will be destroyed once the queen is killed.

The second preventive step is to use individual mound treatments throughout the summer. These products come in the form of dusts, drenches, baits, or granules, and should always be applied according to label directions.

Mounds should be treated mid-day in cold months and early in the morning during summer months.

Over applying mound treatment products, however, can result in the colony relocating to another area on the property.

If using a drench product, it is recommended to mix up two gallons of chemical to apply to the mound. The selection of products you can safely use in vegetable gardens is very limited.

Fire ants can be a nuisance for the whole family, but with a little work they are easily kept away. For additional information contact your Hale County Extension Office.

Go to www.outdooralabama.com/sites/default/files/DeerFoodPlots.pdf for more information on food plots in the free publication authored by Cook and WFF Supervising Biologist Bill Gray.

 

 

Boys and Girls Clubs go fishing at Forever Wild

The Moundville and Greensboro Boys and Girls Clubs went fishing at Forever Wild on July 12. Judge Tim Evans said, “Big thanks to Bill Mason, Sheriff Kenneth W. Ellis, Brandon Croom, Chief Banks, Chief Hamilton, James Evans, and Judge Crawford for coming out to help. The staff/volunteers with the Moundville and Greensboro Boys & Girls Club are very much appreciated for getting these kids to the lake with us.” Above, Evans is shown with Kylon Bates. Moundville Police Chief Toby Banks joined Moundville Boys and Girls Club member Kylon Bates for a little fishing at Forever Wild on July 12. Photos courtesy Moundville B&G Club.

 

MES wins archery grants

By Dr. Yolonda Fields-Trainer, DNP
The Alabama Association / Tombigbee Chapter of the Resource Conservation and Development Organization (RC & D) and the Alabama Division of the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) have awarded Moundville Elementary School over $3,600.00 in grants to fund MES’ archery program. Earlier this year, the RC & D councils generously awarded MES $2,000.00 and recently, the NASP granted MES an additionally $1,600.00. MES was able to equip their physical education department with twelve Genesis Compound Bows, six dozen Easton aluminum arrows, six large mobile targets with stands, and much more.

One of MES’ physical education teacher, Courtney Jackson, a certified instructor through the NASP has been teaching archery for eleven years in the Hale County School System. This year, he started a project at MES titled, “Improving Students’ Learning through Archery”. The objective of this project is to increase students’ achievements in the classroom through archery because he believe introducing archery to students will improve positive behavior, focus, character building, and many other learning skills. The equipment that is designated for this project is suited for students of all ages and will be used during the physical education classes. “Away from school, many students lack opportunities and a safe environment to shot a bow, therefore, this project will allow students to participate in the sport of archery in a safe environment”, said Courtney Jackson.

According to Jackson, while teaching target shooting skills through archery, he believes students will also improve concentration and perseverance. “Archery is fun, but it also allows students of any age or skill level to compete against others or challenge themselves individually,” said Jackson.

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

By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editor
Matt Brock Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources gave a presentation on wild Hog Control at the annual Area III Association of Conservation Districts meeting in Jasper at Beville State Community College July 19.

They are not native to North America. Brought by the Spanish explorers as a mobile form of food back in the 1600’s, the fast repopulating, omnivors have wrecked havic ever since. They displace major game such as deer and turkey. And are known to destroy the habitat of our native amphibians and reptiles by rooting, wallowing and tree rubbing around swamps and water ways. They damage livestock, farming land, forests.

Hogs can live up to 21 years, mature in 6-8 months, reproduce twice a year with 4-10 piglets. They are former domestic pigs and Eurasian wild boar that are a range of colors.

They can spread disease to both animals and people. If you have shot one hunting, protect yourself when butchering the meat with rubber gloves, gogles and try not to breath the gases of the animal. Be sure to cook the meat fully as well.

The two most effective ways of dealing with the animals are hunting and trapping. You will need a permit to hunt wild hogs and should contact local Conservation Enforcement Officer or local Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries District office for more information regarding this permit according to http://www.outdooralabama.com/feral-hogs.

To download a free .pdf on how to take care of hogs visit https://store.aces.edu/ItemDetail.aspx?ReturnTo=0&ProductID=14291

Printed copies may also be ordered through Mississippi State University Extension Service and Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

• Mississippi State University Extension Service: Contact your county Extension office.
• Alabama Cooperative Extension System: Call (334) 844-1592 or e-mail publications@aces.edu

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

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

 

 

 

Moundville Times Musical Visitor

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 https://www.abetterflorist.com/blog/colours-rainbow-colour-bouquet-say/ to learn more about rose color meanings. (By Kasey DeCastra, MVT & SCRJ Community News Editor)

Magnolia’s Are Very Useful

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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.