Import Ban Vital to Prevent the Spread of CWD

Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officer On Illegal Deer Importation Detail.
Conservation Enforcement Officers from Tennessee and Alabama confiscate an illegally imported out-of-state deer during the 2018-19 hunting season.
Conservation Enforcement Officers from Tennessee and Alabama working together to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease – a fatal neurological disease of white-tailed deer and other deer species.

As deer season approaches, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) remind hunters that it is illegal to import whole carcasses and certain body parts of any species of deer into either state.

The import ban on deer in Alabama and Tennessee is part of a larger effort throughout the country to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) – a fatal neurological disease of white-tailed deer and other deer species, including mule deer, elk and moose.

“Working closely with our counterparts in neighboring states is one of the best ways we can prevent the spread of CWD,” said Chris Blankenship, ADCNR Commissioner. “It is vital to the health of our deer herd that out-of-state hunters know and follow the hunting regulations in both the state in which they live and the state in which they plan to hunt.”

Under the import bans, no person may import, transport, or possess a carcass or body part from any species of deer harvested anywhere outside of either state without properly processing it before bringing it home.

Importation of the following is allowed in both Alabama and Tennessee: deer meat that has been completely deboned; cleaned skull plates with attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; raw capes, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if no root structure or other soft tissue is present; and finished taxidermy products or tanned hides. Velvet antlers are illegal to import into Alabama unless they are part of a finished taxidermy product.

Similar laws addressing the import of deer carcasses and body parts are on the books in other southern states as well.

“Our greatest allies in the fight against CWD are hunters,” said Chuck Yoest, CWD coordinator for TWRA. “With hunters’ assistance we can help keep CWD from spreading, keep the number of diseased deer to a minimum, and reduce disease rates where possible.”

CWD is caused by a mutated protein called a prion. The disease is infectious, communicable, and always fatal for white-tailed deer. To date, no deer has tested positive for CWD in Alabama. CWD was discovered in parts of Mississippi and Tennessee in 2018. Since then, both states have implemented response plans in order to determine the prevalence of the disease and minimize its spread.

Once CWD arrives, infected deer serve as a reservoir for prions which will shed into the environment through saliva, urine, blood, soft-antler material and feces. There are no known management strategies to lessen the risk of indirect transmission of CWD once an environment has been contaminated. This makes eradication of CWD very difficult, if not impossible.

“Alabama has had a CWD surveillance program in place for white-tailed deer since 2001,” Blankenship said. “We have been fortunate so far, but we need the help of hunters to maintain our CWD-free status. To do so, it is very important for those who hunt out-of-state to know the laws before traveling.”

The public can assist the ADCNR Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division with its CWD monitoring program by reporting any illegal transport of deer or elk on Alabama’s roads and highways. Call the Operation Game Watch line immediately at (800) 272-4263 if you see deer or elk being transported in Alabama. In Tennessee, contact the TWRA Law Enforcement Division at (615) 781-6580.

For more information about how Alabama and Tennessee are working to prevent the spread of CWD, visit www.outdooralabama.com and www.CWDinTennessee.com.

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

Freeze Vegetables This Summer

From tomatoes to squash, summer is filled with a wonderful bounty of garden vegetables. Wouldn’t it be great to have these fresh vegetables all year long? Luckily, people can freeze fresh produce from the local markets or homegrown vegetables this summer and enjoyed throughout the fall and winter.

Janice Hall, an Alabama Extension food safety and quality regional agent, said that when done correctly, freezing is a great way to have fresh vegetables year-round

“When properly selected, prepared and stored, vegetables hold their fresh qualities for about a year,” Hall said. “The flavor, texture and nutritional value doesn’t change.”

The best vegetables to freeze are ones that are tender and just matured. The fresher the vegetable, the better it is after freezing. The rule of thumb is to have vegetables prepped, packed and in the freezer within two hours of picking them.

Prepping Vegetables
The first step to prepping vegetables is to wash them thoroughly. While washing, look for inferior vegetables or overly mature ones and lay them aside. Hall said after washing the vegetables, blanching them is the next step.

“Properly blanching vegetables is a must,” she said “This stops the enzymes from destroying the fresh flavor of the vegetables, while also removing bacteria.”

After blanching, cool the vegetables down quickly to stop the cooking process. This is sometimes known as “shocking”.

“To cool the vegetables, submerge them into cold water that is at least 60ºF or below,” Hall said. “Blanching and cooling should take about the same length of time.”

Packing and Storing
When packing vegetables, choosing the correct container is important. Pack meal-size portions of vegetables firmly in moisture-vapor-resistant freezer containers. Also, use containers that are odor free, crack proof at zero degrees and grease resistant.

“If you are packing butterbeans, peas or snap beans, add enough cold water to just cover the vegetable,” Hall said. “Be sure to leave three-fourths to one inch of space at the top of the container.”

Before placing in the freezer, be sure to write the name of the vegetable and the date on the container. Place the containers in the coldest part of the freezer and store at zero degrees or below.

More Information
Alabama Extension has the publication Freezing Summer’s Bounty of Vegetablesthat includes information and the steps necessary to successfully freeze and store vegetables. For more information, visit Alabama Extension online or contact your county Extension office.

Sunset in Tuscaloosa Sat., Aug. 17 by Kasey DeCastra
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Lightning Bugs: Summer’s Night Light

Many southerners have fond memories of catching lightning bugs on a summer’s night. The fascination surrounding these insects always invoke curious questions. An Alabama Cooperative Extension System professional provides some of the basic information on lightning bugs.

Lightning Bug or Firefly?
It is a debate that ranks with some of the best: are these creatures called lightning bugs or fireflies? Whether you feel strongly about one or the other—in most areas—people use these two terms interchangeably. However, no matter what term you use, Ellen Huckabay, an Alabama Extension county coordinator in Baldwin County, said both of these names can be misleading.

“Actually, they are neither true bugs (Hemiptera) or flies (Diptera), as both of these names would suggest,” Huckabay said. “They are actually beetles (Coleoptera) and you find many different species in the South.”

The “Lightning” in Lightning Bugs
Lightning bugs are one of the few insects that produce bioluminescence on their abdomens. While many may have thought of fanciful reasons as to why these insects glow, Huckabay says the glow they give off is a natural process that is a key to their survival.

“The glow patterns they give off are for the purpose of attracting mates,” she said. “Sometimes, some species will use their glow to attract other lightning bug species for prey.”

Characteristics
Larvae of these beetles are predators of other insect larvae, small insects, earthworms, slugs and snails. People most often find these nocturnal insects active near wooded areas, shrubbery or in grassy areas.

“Lightning bugs are not considered pests, except for the minor annoyance of feeding on larvae of beneficials like earthworms,” Huckabay said. “These are beneficial insects that do not bite, sting, or harm humans or animals.”

More Information
The Alabama Master Gardeners (MGs) are standing by, ready to answer all garden-related questions on the Master Gardener Helpline. Call 1-877-ALA-GROW.

The toll-free helpline, in existence since 2006, connects callers with a knowledgeable team of MGs who can help answer all of your gardening questions. Armed with research and Alabama Cooperative Extension System information, these volunteers also contact specialists to find the answers you need. The Helpline averages about 20,000 calls annually.

The Alabama Master Gardeners program is used to expand the outreach mission of Extension. Volunteers from MG groups around the state work the phones answering questions—running the gamut from vegetable gardens to lawns and trees.

Call 1-877-ALA-GROW (252-4769) to reach the Master Gardener Helpline Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Alabama’s SOAs Offer Unique Hunting Opportunities and Lasting Memories

Registration for the various hunts on Alabama’s Special Opportunity Areas (SOAs) will begin on Monday, August 19, 2019, at 8 a.m. Alabama’s SOA program is offered through the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) in an effort to provide hunters with unique hunting opportunities.

SOAs are typically smaller than Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in acreage and are more suitable to a limited-quota hunting format, which reduces hunting pressure on game species and increases the hunt quality. The program offers a limited number of slots for successful permit holders and their guest(s) to hunt a dedicated 300- to 400-acre location for a two to four-day hunt.

“The SOA format provides our traditional public land hunters with new and exciting hunting options,” said Chuck Sykes, WFF Director. “It also provides hunters who have always been a bit hesitant about hunting on public land with a great opportunity to test the waters.”

Rodney Gilbert from Arab, Alabama, took his daughter on a deer hunt at the Uchee Creek SOA in January 2019. After the experience, he feels this type of opportunity can help renew an interest in hunting for younger generations and create positive lasting memories for families and friends.

“My goal for the hunt was to hopefully give my daughter a chance to harvest her first deer,” Gilbert said. “She was able to harvest a large, mature doe on Friday afternoon. We were both very excited. It was a very special time with my daughter that created lots of memories we will be able to share in the future.”

Dr. Benjamin Harris, an optometrist in Montgomery, Alabama, shares Gilbert’s enthusiasm for Alabama’s SOA program. Dr. Harris was drawn for a turkey hunt on the Portland Landing SOA earlier this year. While he didn’t bring home a bird, the abundance of other wildlife he encountered during his hunt – including several turkey, deer and a juvenile alligator – made for an equally enriching experience.

“At this point in my hunting career, the kill is not the most important thing to me anymore, it’s more about the experience,” said Dr. Harris. “Without question, the experience I had at Portland Landing ranks as one of the top five of my outdoor adventures of my life. I am so very grateful for this opportunity.”

Registration times for the 2019-2020 SOA hunts

Registration for the SOA deer hunts runs from August 19 to September 13, 2019.
Registrations for the youth squirrel hunts at Fred T. Stimpson SOA and adult waterfowl hunt at Crow Creek SOA run from September 16 to September 30, 2019.
Registration for the Fred T. Stimpson SOA youth waterfowl hunt will begin in December 2019.
Registration for the Crow Creek SOA youth waterfowl hunt will begin in January 2020.
Registrations for small game and turkey hunting at the Cedar Creek, Portland Landing and Uchee Creek SOAs run from December 2 to December 16, 2019.
The limited-quota permits to hunt the SOAs are obtained through an online registration and selection process. Applicants apply online for a preferred SOA property hunt date. The cost to hunt an SOA is the purchase of both a state hunting license and a WMA license. Hunters will also need a Conservation ID Number, which is free.

To register for one of the SOA hunts, visit www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/special-opportunity-areas during the dates and times listed above. The 2019-2020 SOA hunt dates are also available on that webpage.

Alabama’s six SOAs include

Crow Creek (400 acres) in Jackson County offers adult archery deer hunting for a permit holder and one guest and waterfowl hunting on select dates throughout the season for a permit holder and four guests.

Cedar Creek (6,400 acres) and Portland Landing (8,700 acres) in Dallas County and Uchee Creek (4,735 acres) in Russell County offer deer, small game and turkey hunting on selected dates throughout those seasons for the permit holder and one guest.

Fred T. Stimpson (5,320 acres) and Upper State Sanctuary (1,920 acres) in Clarke County offer adult archery deer hunts for a permit holder and one guest; youth gun deer hunts for a youth hunter and youth guest with their supervising adult(s); and squirrel hunts for the permit holder, one youth and up to five additional guests, one of which must be a youth.

For more information about Alabama’s SOA program, please visit www.outdooralabama.com/special-opportunity-areas/soa-frequently-asked-questions.

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 Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Youth Dove Hunts Provide a Gateway to the Outdoors

Josh Burnette with his son Logan (age 7) at a Youth Dove Hunt in Jackson County, Alabama.

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) provides several youth dove hunt opportunities throughout the state each fall. A simple hunting setup combined with a fun, family-friendly atmosphere makes WFF’s youth dove hunts an ideal way to introduce young people to the outdoors.

Registration for this year’s hunts will open at 8 a.m. on August 19, 2019. Although the hunts are free, online registration is required. For most of the state, the hunts begin on September 7. For more information including a complete hunt schedule, visit www.outdooralabama.com/youth-hunting/youth-dove-hunts.

Josh Burnette from Gadsden, Alabama, has taken his son Logan to an ADCNR youth dove hunt each year since he was six years old.

“When he was a younger kid, it was a good, safe way to introduce him to the outdoors,” Burnette said. “As he has gotten older, he has progressed to learning more about gun safety and taking good shots.”

Since his introduction to the youth dove hunts, Logan – now 10 years old – has also harvested his first deer, been turkey hunting several times, and even has his own squirrel dog named Clover.

Burnette, who is a forester for the Tennessee Valley Authority, said that in addition to being a gateway to the outdoors for young people, the youth dove hunts help build relationships between landowners and hunters.

“It can be hard to find places to introduce kids to hunting,” Burnette said. “We are thankful for the landowners who donate their time and money to prep their fields for these hunts.”

To participate in the hunts, youth hunters must be age 15 or younger and accompanied by an adult at least 21 years old (or a parent) who has a valid state hunting license, a Harvest Information Program (HIP) stamp and a Conservation ID number.

Alabama’s youth dove hunt events are held in open fields and staffed by WFF personnel, which encourages a safe, secure environment for both parents and participants. Before each hunt, a short welcome session with reminders on hunting safety will be conducted. All hunters are encouraged to wear eye protection and earplugs.

Doves are migratory and covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has special rules and regulations that apply to dove hunting which all hunters must follow. To review the Alabama Cooperative Extension System recommendations for plantings related to dove management, visit www.outdooralabama.com/what-hunt/mourning-dove-hunting-alabama.

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 Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Alabama Power’s Renew Our Rivers named Water Conservationist of the Year

Alabama Power’s Renew Our Rivers campaign has earned one of the state’s most prestigious environmental conservation awards.

The Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) honored Renew Our Rivers Aug. 9 as the Water Conservationist of the Year during the group’s annual Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards ceremony.

For more than 40 years, AWF has presented the awards to people and organizations that work to conserve the state’s wildlife and other natural resources.

The Water Conservationist of the Year award recognizes work in water resources conservation. Efforts focused on protection and improvement of water quality are especially important.

Renew Our Rivers began in the spring of 2000 with one Alabama Power employee’s vision to clean a stretch of the Coosa River near the company’s generating plant in Gadsden. Since then, more than 117,000 volunteers have joined the effort and collected more than 15.5 million pounds of trash and debris from waterways across the Southeast.

“I experienced the positive impact of the Renew Our Rivers program firsthand during my time as executive director of the Freshwater Land Trust,” said Wendy Jackson, executive vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based Land Trust Alliance.

Jackson nominated Renew Our Rivers for the award. “This program truly benefits the rivers while inspiring people and communities to care. I understand the prestigious nature of the conservationist award, and I believe Renew Our Rivers exemplifies great dedication to conservation.”

More than 30 cleanups are taking place in 2019, the program’s 20th year.

“Renew Our Rivers, now celebrating 20 years, has become known nationally as a conservation leader in waterway cleanup,” said Thomas A. Harris, president of Alabama Black Belt Adventures. Harris also nominated Renew Our Rivers for the award. “The natural instinct to conserve and preserve water resources spurred this initiative and grew each year with the help of neighboring community partners, volunteers and organizations.”
In 2018 alone, 4,000 volunteers removed more than 268,000 pounds of trash from Alabama lakes, rivers and shorelines.

“The commitment to Renew Our Rivers continues to grow,” said Susan Comensky, Alabama Power vice president of environmental affairs. “We couldn’t do this without the wonderful partnerships we have made along the way. The campaign’s continued success is a testament to our partners and their passion for protecting our state’s precious natural resources.”

In addition to the Water Conservationist of the Year award, recent Alabama Power retiree Steve Krotzer was honored as the Fisheries Conservationist of the Year. Krotzer worked 37 years with Alabama Power, collaborating on numerous projects with state and federal biologists. This included work on assessing fish communities; discovering the most viable population of the threatened trispot darter; and assisting with data collection and water quality improvements for the Tulotoma snail, which contributed to the first federal “downlisting” of an aquatic snail, from endangered to the less-dire, threatened category. He also worked as the principal biologist on a landmark project to restore flows to a bypassed section of the Coosa River downstream of Weiss Lake.

“Steve’s fisheries career spans nearly 40 years. In that time, he has made significant contributions to the conservation, research and education of Alabama’s fisheries resources,” said Jason Carlee, Alabama Power Environmental Affairs supervisor. Carlee nominated Krotzer for the award. “In addition to his tremendous contributions to fisheries research and conservation throughout Alabama, Steve has served as a mentor for numerous other biologists and naturalists.”

For a list of all the honorees and more details about the ceremony, visit https://www.alabamawildlife.org/governors-conservation-achievement-awards/.

Larry McCray shows off the 51 pound watermelon he grew in his garden this summer. It looks like he has a bumper crop of tomatoes, too! Photo submitted by Peggy McCray

Summer Care Important to Next Year’s Blueberries

As summer continues to sizzle, blueberry season is fizzling out in Alabama. Most years Alabama blueberries continue to grow through late summer, but with mild winter temperatures and an early spring, blueberry bushes in the state are done producing.

Mallory Kelley, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System home grounds, gardens and home pests regional agent, said maintenance now will ensure a healthy blueberry crop next year.

“The most important thing you can do any time of year for a blueberry bush is water and control weeds,” Kelley said. “Now that the plants are finished making berries, the plants will begin to put their energy toward making new shoots and branches.”

Kelley said this is exactly what a grower wants, as new growth will hold the biggest and best berries next year. To promote branch growth, plants will need water, mulch and fertilizer. Avoid fertilizing after mid-September to minimize new tissue susceptibility to frost damage.

“Generally, blueberries need fertilizing twice per year,” Kelley said. “Once in early spring and again as berries fade away.”

Use a urea-based fertilizer labeled for azaleas and camellias. This fertilizer will help acidify the soil, as blueberries like a low pH of 4.5-5.2. Growers should submit samples for a soil test if they have not tested the soil in the previous three years. This will confirm soil nutrient levels and determine soil pH.

Kelley said pruning blueberry bushes now will multiply berry production next year.

“As your plants start to grow long, straight shoots and canes, clip these a little lower than where you would like to have the fruit next year,” she said. “This means if you want the fruit to be chest high, clip those canes about a foot lower.”

More clipping on long canes will mean more branching on the bush. More branches will mean more fruit on those branches next year. Take care to remove any dead or diseased branches while pruning.

Plant more blueberries during the fall. Kelley reminds growers to plant different varieties of “Rabbiteye” to prolong the growing season. Different varieties produce at different times throughout the summer.

Plant blueberries in full sun. Soil should be moist, well-aerated, well-drained and high in organic matter. Incorporate organic matter in the form of peat moss, compost or fine pine bark. Additional organic matter will help the soil retain water, as well as suppress weeds.

For more information about growth and maintenance of blueberries, call the Master Gardener Helpline. The toll-free helpline connects callers with a knowledgeable team of Master Gardeners who can help answer all of your gardening questions. Armed with research and Alabama Cooperative Extension System publications, these volunteers also contact specialists to find the answers you need.

Call 1-877-ALA-GROW (252-4769) to reach the Master Gardener Helpline Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
By Katie Nichols

EcoTourism in Action in Alabama’s Black Belt

From our friends at Birmingham Audubon:
Around 120 people joined Audubon on a tour around Greensboro and Newbern, Alabama, with special guests Dr. Drew Lanham and Jason Ward. The Joe family was delightful, graciously hosting the large group as Audubon participants took turns riding their tractor and exploring their 200+ acre farm. The Audubon crew saw almost all the target birds—Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Mississippi and Swallow-tailed Kites, Wood Storks, Loggerhead Shrikes, Bald Eagles, Eastern Meadowlarks, and many more. Audubon will definitely be back!
The event targeted Hale County for multiple reasons: It is an area with amazing bird diversity, especially in the summer months, it is within driving distance of Alabama’s largest city, Birmingham, and it has been an extreme example of racial inequality for decades. Though bringing 120 people into the area for a day trip won’t change the economic disparity of the region, it does have a much more significant impact on the area than it would in, say, a large metro area. And opening the door to the idea that economic impacts can come from eco-tourism means people in the area can learn from the mantra of “Don’t build it and they will come.” “Don’t destroy it and they will come.” Preservation of the land provides positive economic opportunities.
Help out with Alabama’s First SwiftWatch!
Birmingham Audubon is currently seeking volunteers for their Alabama SwiftWatch project monitoring Chimney Swift roost sites throughout Alabama from late July through October. Email Audubon’s Science & Conservation Director for more info. Learn more about Alabama Sierra Club at https://www.sierraclub.org/alabama.

A Regal Royal night visitor in July

Regal Moth (Citheronia regalis), aka the Royal Walnut Moth, aka The horned Devil, is a large, beautiful month. Usually found in the deciduous forest areas of the eastern United States from as far north as New Jersey, as far west asMissouri and south to central Florida. It’s wingspan can be up to 15.5 cm. with females larger than males. The moths prefer sumac, walnut, sweet gum, hickory and ash trees. This one was found in Tuscaloosa on a back porch during the daylight, but these can be seen at night since they are nocturnal, around porch lights and street lights in late July through mid August. Learn more at https://entnemdept.ifas.ufl.edu/creatures/bfly/regal_moth.htm or https://www.insectidentification.org/insect-description.asp?identification=Regal-Moth Photo and story by Kasey DeCastra

Alabama’s Black Bear

On vacations to the Tennessee or Georgia mountains, many hope to catch a glimpse of a black bear or two. What some don’t realize is there are populations of black bears living right here in Alabama. In fact, the black bear is Alabama’s official state mammal. As with any wildlife, there are certain things about black bears people should know.

Black Bear Populations
These beautiful creatures are native to Alabama, but in years past numbers have declined. However, in recent studies have found these populations could be expanding.

Norm Haley, an Alabama Extension forestry, wildlife and natural resources regional agent, said the decrease in the number of black bears was due to several factors.

“Black bear numbers were sent into severe decline through unregulated market hunting and loss of habitat,” Haley said. “Black bears are game animals, however, there is no hunting season for them in Alabama. It is illegal to kill a black bear unless there is a threat of imminent danger.”

There are two areas of Alabama with established black bear populations. One being in the southwestern portion of the state, primarily within the Mobile-Tensaw Delta region, and the other in northeast Alabama in DeKalb and Cherokee counties.

According to Haley, population studies and monitoring is ongoing.

“The southwestern portion of the state is home to an estimated 85 to 160 bears,” he said. “In the northeastern corner of Alabama, population numbers are estimate to be between 30 and 40 bears.”

Northern Alabama populations are expanding slowly, while southern populations are somewhat steady in number. Haley said Alabama certainly sees a number of transient bears from Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia, particularly in the summer when young males are forced to find new territories.

Characteristics
Southern black bears are not as large as northern bears. In studies performed by Auburn University, the largest trapped bears recorded are just over 300 pounds. On average, adult bears weigh between 150 and 200 pounds.

When it comes to habitats, black bears are highly adaptable. The southern Alabama populations live in the swamps; whereas in northeast Alabama, they live in the mountains.

“In these areas, the bears rely heavily on soft mast (berries), hard mast (acorns), rodents and plant tubers as food sources,” Haley said.

Things That Attract Black Bears
In general, areas near humans attract black bears because they can find food sources there.

“Pet food on porches, garbage in a can, a greasy BBQ grill and even bird feeders are all an attractive and easy meal for a bear,” Haley said. “Ripe fruit trees and vegetable gardens are also attractive.”

Haley said that even an empty pet food dish can attract bears because of the oil residue.

“Clean up and secure these attractions and you will greatly reduce the risk of a bear near your residence,” Haley said.

Encountering a Black Bear
According to Haley, bear attacks are extremely rare and there have been no recorded attacks in Alabama. Black bears are rarely aggressive and are often as scared of humans as humans are of them. However, he said remember that these animals are still wild and people should never feed or approach a bear.

“Attacks are most often prompted by a mother defending her cubs,” Haley said. “If you find yourself close to a black bear or cubs, do your best not to surprise them. Make your presence known.”

Haley said this can be done by saying “hey bear”, and making yourself look big by standing tall, puffing your chest and keeping your arms away from your body.

“Always back away slowly from the encounter,” he said “Do not run or make frantic movements that could entice a chase.”

More Information
For more information about Alabama’s black bear, visit www.aces.edu or contact your county Extension forestry, wildlife and natural resources agent. Outdoor Alabama is also a great online resource for information on wildlife in Alabama.
By Justin Miller

In Dog Days of Summer, Don’t Blame the Dog Star for the Heat

The constellation Cans Major, with Sirius as its brightest star in the top right, is seen from Moundville Archaeological Park. Courtesy of Dr. William Keel.

The dog days of summer are here. It’s hot, sometimes miserably so. Humans are hot. Dogs are hot. All creatures great and small are hot.

Heat is not the reason for the dog days of summer, though. At least, not directly.

The phrase traces to ancient times when the Greeks, and then the Romans, thought the alignment of the sun and the brightest nighttime star in the sky brought added heat to the summer. The five to six weeks Sirius, called the Dog Star, rises with the sun does coincide with some of the hottest days of the year, so it marked the miserable days of summer in the ancient calendars.

Sirius, though, is excessively far away to heat Earth.

“The amount of heat we get from Sirius is absolutely negligible compared to the sun,” said Dr. Ron Buta, professor emeritus of astronomy at The University of Alabama. “The rising of Sirius at the same time as the sun doesn’t add any significant extra heat. It’s a myth.”

Still, for astronomy lovers, this time of year can be a great time to see Sirius just before dawn, and, with a sophisticated telescope, see Sirius during the day, Buta said.

This year, the dog days of summer last from July 3 to Aug. 11. There is a sweet spot near the end of the dog days when Sirius shines bright in the wee hours of the morning.

“If you wait till the end of July, it should be dark enough to see Sirius just before sunrise,” Buta said.

In early August, Sirius begins to rise earlier and earlier until, in December, it appears in the evening sky, he said.

Sirius is the most prominent star in the constellation Canis Major, Greek for “greater dog.” The word “sirius” is Greek for “scorching.”

Even though it’s the brightest star in the night sky, it’s not the closest, Buta said.

Sirius is about 8.5 light years away from Earth. In relatable terms, if the sun were one inch away from Earth on model, Sirius would be nine miles away in the model. However, it’s luminous thanks to being much hotter than the sun.

“It’s a very beautiful star to see,” Buta said.

UWA receives $3 million land gift from Bibb County’s Bill Hubbard: Gift creates ultimate 2k acre classroom and millions of teachable moments

The University of West Alabama Foundation hosted a luncheon honoring Bibb County resident Bill Hubbard along with his friends and family commemorating Hubbard’s $3 million land gift. At the luncheon Hubbard announced his pledge to match up to $200k over the next 24 months for projects related to the property and its research and education initiatives. Pictured left to right are Dr. Chris Thomason, vice president for institutional advancement; Dr. Brian Keener, professor of biological sciences; Bill Hubbard; and Dr. Ken Tucker, university president.

The University of West Alabama Foundation has announced a major land gift from Bibb County resident William D. “Bill” Hubbard valued at more than $3 million for the development of a conservation and research program. The property amasses more than 2,000 acres of land along the Cahaba River in Bibb County, rich in resources that will create opportunities for generations of UWA students to come.

UWA recognized Hubbard at a luncheon with members of his family and friends on campus, offering a glimpse into the vision that Hubbard has shared with UWA for the property. At the luncheon, Hubbard announced his pledge to match up to $200k of funds raised over the next 24 months for projects related to the property and its research and education initiatives.

Located in Centreville, the property boasts some of the most pristine natural resources that researchers say they have experienced.

UWA’s Cahaba Biodiversity Center is the name proposed for the property and the program that will develop through it. Hubbard began acquiring individual tracts of land in 2002, growing it to more than 2,000 acres through seven acquisitions. Initially, he intended to build his retirement home in the woods of Bibb County.

He did build a home there, and a barn, and more, but Hubbard said that he soon realized the property had more far-reaching opportunities that could benefit generations of students to come. He began considering schools that may utilize the land and its resources in a way that would conserve it for posterity and serve as a teaching tool.

“I know that UWA will provide millions of teachable moments here,” Hubbard said. “Land utilization and biological conservation need not be exclusive of each other. I am confident that UWA will fulfill my dream and vision for the property.”

Hubbard’s vision for the property is outlined carefully, and the University intends to honor his vision to the fullest.

“This is a visionary gift that will benefit countless generations to come,” said Dr. Chris Thomason, vice president for institutional advancement at UWA. “We are unmeasurably grateful to Mr. Hubbard for his generosity, his vision, and his commitment to our students and the opportunities they deserve.”

UWA President Ken Tucker echoed the remarks of gratitude and vision.

“We are excited to receive this potentially transformative donation, and are very grateful to Mr. Hubbard for his vision and generosity,” Tucker said. “The primary purpose and use of the property will be for education and conservation. The opportunities for hands-on experience in biology, conservation, and environmental sciences on the Hubbard property will be invaluable in the continuing development of our undergraduate degrees in Conservation and Field Biology and Environmental Sciences, and our new Master of Science in Conservation Biology.”

The water-side property overlooks the resource-rich Cahaba River, and in its banks are countless native species of flora and fauna, many that likely remain undiscovered still. Its center is seven miles downstream from the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge.

Hubbard has built a friendship with Dr. Brian Keener, professor of biological sciences and assistant dean of graduate studies at UWA. Keener is also coordinator of the Alabama Plant Atlas and curator of the UWA Herbarium. Hubbard’s friendship and trust in Keener, he said, made the difference in his decision to donate the natural treasure to UWA. The professor is excited for the student opportunities that the project brings.

“Mr. Hubbard’s gift and his vision for this property will make a tremendous impact on our students and their education,” Keener said. “The biodiversity here is unrivaled in the country. Exposed limestone, the geology, hydrology, caves, rocks, plants—it’s not some of the young cretaceous stuff. When we study biodiversity, the older it is, the better, and this is old and virtually untouched.”

In describing its botanical and zoological assets, Keener said the property boasts, for example, three new populations of Georgia Rock Cress, which is endangered.

“With the research and learning opportunities available at this site, we can draw students from all over the country,” Keener said. “The tract is unrivaled in Alabama and, quite honestly, is and will be envied by many. The possibilities are simply unquantifiable. The upside is off the charts.”

Research activities for UWA faculty and students will focus primarily on botanical and zoological biodiversity, ecology, archaeology, water quality, and conservation land management. Additional options on the table include utilizing the property in other new curricula such as outdoor enterprises and forestry technology.

UWA will manage the facility for researchers at other institutions who participate in similar research endeavors. Likewise, UWA will coordinate with regional K-12 schools for field trips and visits to offer exposure to research and resources for young students.

To learn more about plans for UWA’s Cahaba Biodiversity Center, contact Dr. Brian Keener at bkeener@uwa.edu or call 205-652-3796.

For more information on ways to support the University of West Alabama, contact Dr. Chris Thomason at cthomason@uwa.edu or call 205-652-3898.

Create New Memories and Friends by Becoming an Outdoors-Woman

Julie Bolin from Brookwood, Alabama, learns the art of fly fishing from ADCNR Aquatic Education Coordinator Doug Darr during Alabama’s Becoming an Outdoors-Woman workshop.

Each spring and fall, women from throughout the state and across the country converge on Columbiana, Alabama, for a three-day workshop designed for women ages 18 and older who would like to learn new outdoor skills. In addition to providing that training, the Alabama Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) workshop helps to create positive memories and build friendships for those who attend.

Registration for the next BOW workshop opens on August 7 for first-time attendees and August 12 for both first-timers and those who have previously attended. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources sponsored event takes place at the 4-H Center near Columbiana, Alabama, on October 4-6, 2019.

Alabama BOW offers more than 40 classes taught by experienced instructors in a fun outdoor learning environment. Participants can choose four classes from a list of courses such as rifle, pistol, archery, fishing, camping, hiking, canoeing, ATV riding, mountain biking and many more. Regardless of age, outdoor knowledge or physical capability, there is a class suitable for everyone.

BOW coordinator Hope Grier said the classes are perfect for attendees who are new to the outdoors. “There are many ladies who have not been exposed to these outdoor activities and are apprehensive about trying them,” she said. “BOW is ideal for those women because everything is taught at a beginner level.”

Traci Adams from Charlotte, North Carolina, has attended Alabama’s BOW twice and highly recommends the workshop. “The staff is supportive, patient and wonderful,” she said. “I have made new friends and have experienced things I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to try. Go once and you will be hooked!”

Julie Bolin from Brookwood, Alabama, attended BOW for the first time in 2018 and echoes Traci’s enthusiasm. “I learned the basics of fly fishing – a bucket list item,” she said. “I even caught a bass during the lesson. Now I have the basic equipment I need and love my new hobby.”

“The variety of classes offered at BOW means you can attend multiple workshops and take different classes each time,” Grier said. “Many of the women come back again and bring a friend.”

The registration fee for BOW is $275, which covers meals, dormitory-style lodging, program materials and instruction. For more information about this fall’s workshop including a complete list of classes and class descriptions or to register during the dates listed above, visit www.outdooralabama.com/bow.

“Enrollment is limited, and classes fill up pretty fast,” Grier said. “Those interested in attending BOW should register as soon as possible to make sure they get the classes they want.”

To view photos of past BOW workshops, visit Outdoor Alabama’s Flickr at www.flickr.com/photos/outdooralabama.

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.

Watch Out for These Summer Bugs

Alabama is one of the most biodiverse states in the nation, and bugs play a tremendous part in the circle of life here.

That’s according to Dr. John Abbott, chief curator and director of museum research and collections for The University of Alabama Museums.

Abbott said most of Alabama’s more than 20,000 arthropod species – invertebrates with segmented bodies and jointed limbs such as insects and spiders – don’t cause problems for people. But, some can, and summer is the most likely time for humans and arthropods to clash.

“So, the big arthropods to be concerned with are ticks and mosquitoes,” Abbott said. “Those can be problematic because they can vector diseases. I always like to remind people that it’s not actually the tick or mosquito that’s causing you the problem, it’s the pathogens they’re carrying.”

bbott said the primary disease to be concerned about with mosquito bites in Alabama is West Nile virus. With ticks in the state, it’s Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

“Someone actually brought in a black widow spider the other day that they captured from a house,” Abbott said. “They’re super common.”

Abbott said people view spiders negatively, but they’re actually a boon because they curb pest insect populations. Still, people must be careful around them, especially black widows, brown widows and brown recluses, the state’s most dangerous arachnids.

“They have completely different types of toxins. Black widows have a neurotoxin and can stop you from breathing. The smaller you are, the worse it will be.

“Brown recluses have a hemotoxin, which stops blood flow in infected areas and causes necrosis.”

Abbott said black widow spider bites cause a lot of pain, and seeking immediate hospital attention is highly recommended.

Brown widows, which look like black widows but for their brown or gray coloring, have a similar venom to that of their more dangerous black cousins, but it’s less toxic.

“It’s rare to be bitten by these spiders even though they’re very common, especially in the summer months,” he said. “People aren’t going to encounter them in any regular way. Something can be common, but that doesn’t mean you’ll commonly encounter them.

“Brown recluses are reclusive; it’s in their name. They are in dwellings but in parts not commonly accessed, like attics. Black widows also tend to be in tucked-away places like crevices, so most people aren’t going to casually run into them.”

Other arthropods to watch out for in Alabama are the southern devil scorpion, centipedes, fire ants, yellow jackets and red paper wasps.

“The southern devil scorpion here isn’t any more dangerous than getting stung by a bee,” Abbott said. “With the centipede it’s the same. It’ll hurt, but it’s not anything most people will have to go to the hospital for.”

Though painful, stings from the wasp, bee, yellow jacket and fire ant also don’t require a hospital trip — unless the person stung is allergic. Red paper wasps and yellow jackets can be aggressive, and can sting multiple times, unlike bees, which die after they sting.

“It’s good to take precautions when heading outdoors,” Abbott said. “Wear long pants, and spray the bottom of your pants with DEET or some other insecticide. That will go a long way in keeping things off because they oftentimes gather at your ankles and feet and crawl up.”

To avoid fire ant mounds, walk carefully. Stay away from secluded areas and crevices in the house, and put sulfur powder around ankles. (It stinks and repels insects.) If ticks are discovered on clothing or skin, and they haven’t embedded themselves, remove them using a lint roller or duct tape.

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

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

Be Safe and Smart With Pesticides

Summer is here in full force, bringing with it much warmer weather. With the rising summer temperatures, many pests may start causing problems in gardens and landscapes. Before attempting to control with pesticides, there are a few guidelines that gardeners and homeowners must follow.

Bethany O’Rear, an Alabama Extension home grounds, gardens and home pests regional agent, said before purchasing pesticides, identification of the insect is key.

“Identifying beneficial insects versus insect pests should always occur before purchasing any pesticides,” O’Rear said. “Some insects might actually be helpful and should not be harmed.”

Properly controlling garden pests all starts with reading the pesticide label for the correct recommendations.

“Read the labels thoroughly, as they contain a lot of important information,” O’Rear said. “For example, recently, some manufacturers have introduced new products with similar logos to products already on the market. These products have extremely different applications; one targets weeds in lawns, the other kills any plant it is sprayed on.”

As the example details, confusing one chemical for another could have extreme consequences. If applied incorrectly, pesticides can cause severe damage or kill a plant.

O’Rear said when choosing a pesticide, look for the following information on the label: the pests it controls, plants and sites approved for use, the rate and frequency of application, and protective equipment needed.

When applying the pesticide to the problem area, be careful to only target the pest and not surrounding areas, such as driveways, sidewalks or other hard surface areas.

“Pesticide runoff can infiltrate water supplies,” O’Rear said. “Be sure to only apply the amount you absolutely need to control the pest.”

When storing pesticides, make sure that you store the chemicals:

in the original container
in a cool, dry location
away from food and children
O’Rear said there are important steps to safely disposing of pesticide containers.

“Rinse the container out with water three times. This water should be poured onto the targeted area and not down the drain,” O’Rear said. “If the pesticide came with a sprayer, rinse it out with fresh water and apply the water to the targeted area as well.”

Note that no pesticide container should ever go into a recycling bin. Only dispose of the container in the trash.

For more information on safe and proper use of pesticides, visit www.aces.eduor contact your county Extension office.

Free Range Days Set for WFF Facilities in August

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Public shooting ranges, already one of the best bargains around, are about to be even better as The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division, in partnership with the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), offers free access to five several days during the month of August.

“On Free Range Days, people don’t have to have a hunting license or Wildlife Heritage license to use the range,” said Marisa Futral, WFF’s Hunter Education Coordinator. “It’s an incentive for people to come see these facilities and start using them on a regular basis.”

As part of National Shooting Sports Month, Free Range Days will be held on three Saturdays in August: on August 3 at the Cahaba River WMA Shooting Range, August 10 at Barbour WMA Shooting Range and Etowah Public Shooting Range, and August 17 at Upper Delta WMA Shooting Range and Swan Creek WMA Shooting Range.

Futral said certified firearms instructors will be on-site during the Free Range Days events, which run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Those instructors will monitor the safety of everyone at the range to ensure everyone follows the proper firearm-handling protocols.

“We’ll have instructors to help them sight-in their hunting firearms, or if they just need some help with a firearm they aren’t familiar with or got as a gift,” she said.

In addition to the help of certified firearms instructors, those who don’t have access to a firearm can borrow one from Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

“We have several firearms available for loan under the supervision of the firearms instructors,” Futral said. “We will have rifles and shotguns for them to try out.”

If you choose to borrow a firearm from WFF, ammunition will be provided. If you bring your own firearm, Futral said you should also bring your own ammunition.

“Normally, people have to bring their own targets,” Futral said. “On the Free Range Days, we will provide targets. If somebody is bringing their 30-06 rifle, we won’t have 30-06 ammunition. If they want to use one of our rifles or shotguns, we will have ammunition available for those.

“Also, we will have a special promotion on the Free Range Days. If you bring a new shooter to the range, you will get a free gift from the NSSF as long as supplies last.”

During the Free Range Days, a range safety officer will call whether the range is hot or cold. If the range is hot, everyone must remain seated at or behind the shooting benches. When the range officer calls for the range to go cold, all firearms are to be unloaded with actions open for inspection. All visitors should remain behind the benches until the range officer gives the okay to replace targets down range.

WFF will have eye and ear protection available, but I always bring my own for extra protection to preserve the bit of hearing I have left.

The Cahaba River WMA Shooting Range opens the Free Range Days events on August 3. Cahaba provides shooting opportunities at distances of 25, 50 and 100 yards. A shotgun range for shooting at clay targets is located east of the rifle range and is on the left side of the gravel road as you drive into the rifle range.

Located at 3956 Coalmont Rd., Helena, Ala., approximately 10 minutes southwest of Helena, the Cahaba range is open five days a week and closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

On August 10, the Barbour WMA and Etowah Public ranges will be open free to the public.

The Barbour WMA Shooting Range provides shooting opportunities at distances up to 100 yards. A small concrete pad to shoot shotguns at clay targets is located to the south of the 25-yard pistol range. The 25- and 100-yard ranges are separated by an earthen berm to allow shooters to travel downrange independently on each range.

The Barbour range is located approximately 5 miles south of Comer, Ala., at 370 County Road 49. The range is located about 1 mile north of the Barbour County Public Fishing Lake.

The Etowah Public Shooting Range, which is operated in cooperation with the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office, provides shooting opportunities at distances up to 200 yards. The four ranges are 25, 50, 100 and 200 yards and located side by side with a dividing berm to allow shooters to go downrange independently of each other. A small concrete pad for shotguns shooting at clay targets is located to the south of the 25-yard pistol range.

The range is located approximately 5 miles north of Gadsden at 8302 Owl’s Hollow Road in Etowah County.

On August 17, the Free Range Days promotion will be held at the Upper Delta WMA Shooting Range and the Swan Creek WMA Shooting Range.

The Upper Delta WMA Shooting Range has a unique configuration that uses a large, 20-foot steel tube to ensure that projectiles from firearms hit the large earthen berm at the 100-yard range. The muzzle of the firearm must be inside the steel tube before the firearm is discharged. A small concrete pad to shoot shotguns at clay targets is located to the south of the rifle range.

The Upper Delta range is located approximately 9 miles north of Stockton, Ala., off of St. Luke’s Church Road.

The Swan Creek WMA Shooting Range provides shooting opportunities at distances up to 100 yards. Ranges of 25, 50 and 100 yards are located side by side with a dividing berm to allow shooters to go downrange independently of each other. An area to shoot shotguns at clay targets is located to the north of the 100-yard rifle range. The range is operated by the WFF in cooperation with the Tennessee Valley Authority.

All Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) ranges are wheelchair-accessible and have concrete walkways for downrange access to the target lines.

License and permit requirements will remain in effect for all other ADCNR public shooting ranges.

“The mission of our ranges is to provide a safe, friendly, inexpensive place to have a great time shooting your firearms,” Futral said. “For the cost of a hunting license, fishing license or Wildlife Heritage license, we have 12 ranges where you can practice your marksmanship skills before hunting season or just have fun shooting targets.

“We also want to remind people that the money used to build these ranges comes from the sale of licenses. The license money is then matched three-to-one with funds from the sale of firearms and ammunition through the Pittman-Robertson Act.”

Except on the days and ranges included in Free Range Days, Alabama residents ages 16-64 must have a valid hunting, Wildlife Heritage, fishing, or WMA license to use the ranges.

For non-residents, a valid WMA license is required for all range users age 16 or older.

Certain rules apply to all ADCNR ranges:

Guests under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult while on the property.
Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
Any legal firearm and ammunition, except armor-piercing or tracer, may be used on a target range.
Keep all firearms unloaded and muzzles pointed in a safe direction when not firing. Actions on uncased guns shall be open when not on the firing line.
All persons are to remain behind the shooter while firing is taking place. No firing shall be allowed while anyone is downrange.
All firearms shall only be fired from designated stations on the concrete shooting line into the embankment at stationary paper targets, self-healing or metal automatic-reset targets. Targets must be placed so shots will impact the bottom 5 feet of the embankment.
Only one person may shoot from each designated location at any given time.
Shotguns with no. 4 shot or smaller may be fired at moving clay targets on designated clay areas only.
All used targets, brass, shotgun hulls and other trash shall be placed in a garbage can or removed from the range.
Visit www.outdooralabama.com/activities/shooting-ranges for more information on ADCNR’s public shooting ranges including directions.

For more information about Free Range Days, contact Futral at 334-242-3620 or email Marisa.Futral@dcnr.alabama.gov.

Alabama Department of Public Health issues 2019 Fish Consumption Advisories

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

ADEM, Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources collected samples of specific fish species for analysis from various waterbodies throughout the state during the fall of 2018 (463 samples; 40 collection stations). ADPH assessed the analytical results to determine whether any of the tested contaminants in the fish may give rise to potential human health effects.

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

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

New and updated consumption advisories issued for the 40 bodies of water tested can be found on the ADPH website. http://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/tox/fish-advisories.html.

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

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

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

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

Massive Perennial Yellow Jacket Nest Located in Baldwin County

Reports of perennial yellow jacket nests continue to come in from across Alabama. One of these nests could be one be of the oldest professionals with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, have ever seen. Charles Ray, an Extension entomologist, confirmed a massive yellow jacket nest in a trailer in Baldwin County, Alabama.

Oldest Nest Identified in Alabama
“This colony is at least three years old, and it’s the first nest of this age that I have documented,” said Ray, who is also a research fellow in Auburn University’s Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology.

“More than two cubic yards of nest was visible in the Baldwin County nest,” he said. “Additionally, there were satellite nests scattered around the interior perimeter of the trailer’s skirting.

Yellow jackets are a species of wasp. Entomologists believe that milder winters, combined with an abundant food supply, allow some colonies to survive and enter spring with much larger numbers. These perennial colonies often have multiple queens.

A normal yellow jacket nest is usually located in the ground or a cavity. However, they will build nests in any void, including structures. A nest may peak at 4,000 to 5,000 workers that do not survive cold weather. This leaves the queens to disperse and form new colonies in the spring.

Perennial Nests Discovered in Multiple Counties
Ray warned in late June that 2019 could bring a bumper crop for perennial yellow jacket nests. These latest nest discoveries are validating his concerns.

In addition to the Baldwin County nest, Ray has confirmed perennial nests in Bullock, Chilton, Clay, Coffee, Dallas, Marion, Montgomery, Shelby and Talladega counties. The nest in Marion County marks a new northernmost point for a super nest in Alabama.

Thanks to viral media coverage of the original story, Ray has received reports of suspected nests in another seven counties.

“I want to caution everyone not to approach any suspected nests,” Ray said. “The Shelby County nest is along a county road, and you can see that people have been throwing bottles and other objects at it. Disturbing the nest makes the yellow jackets much more defensive, and people run the very real risk of being stung.”

In 2006, yellow jackets seriously injured three people after receiving multiple stings.

“The body responds to a sting, but most people have no idea if they will have a life-threatening allergic reaction,” he said. “It is important to leave these nests alone.”

Let Professionals Handle Removal
Homeowners should not attempt to remove these nests.

“It is a task only for licensed commercial pest control operators and some commercial operators will not tackle these giant perennial yellow jacket nests,” Ray said.

He adds that when a yellow jacket stings someone, it effectively tags its victims with an alarm pheromone. That pheromone may last 10 or more hours, making the victim a potential target for other yellow jackets.

Ray encourages people to contact him by email at raychah@auburn.edu so he can document the nest and collect specimens. Ray and his partners will do further research into the genetics of the colonies.

Blue-Green Algal Blooms Found in Mississippi, Officials Monitoring Alabama Water

Officials have identified blooms of blue-green algae (also called cyanobacteria) in Hancock County, Mississippi. The confirmation of this algae triggered Mississippi beach closures beginning in June. At this point, officials closed all beaches along the Mississippi coast. While the blooms are 120 miles away from the Alabama coast, officials are monitoring waters for the harmful algal blooms (HAB).

P.J. Waters, an Alabama Extension specialist and interim director of the Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center, said historic flooding and the opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway has resulted in unusually low salinities in the Mississippi Sound. Low salinity is a known contributor to environmental conditions surrounding blue-green algae.

Blue-green Algal Blooms
Alan Wilson, an associate professor in Auburn University’s School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences said blue-green algae includes more than 1,000 microscopic species. While they can be found across the globe, including deserts and oceans, the majority of them are found in freshwater.

Some blue-green algal species can produce liver and/or neurological toxins that can be harmful to animals, including humans. Algal blooms occur when there are rapid increases in the amount of algae in the water. Specific environmental conditions must be present to produce a blue-green algal bloom and red tide.

Blue-green algae, like plants that photosynthesize, need resources to thrive. These include water, carbon dioxide, sunlight and nutrients. Blooms will occur as long as the conditions are right for the blooming species to thrive. Warm temperature and low salinity can promote faster growth.

Freshwater a Factor
Wilson said elevated salinity is likely one of the reasons conditions are not typically conducive for freshwater blue-green algae on the Gulf coast.

“Cyanobacterial blooms happen frequently in inland, freshwater systems,” Wilson said. “They are less common in coastal areas. On the coast, red tides tend to happen, but they are dinoflagellates, not cyanobacteria.”

Waters said an increase in freshwater in the Mississippi Sound has been a factor.

“In two of the last three years, freshwater has been an issue for shellfish in the Mississippi Sound,” Waters said. “Excessive rainfall in June 2016 was one of the main contributors of freshwater in the Sound.”

Health Concerns
Contact with contaminated water can cause rashes. Swallowing water—even accidentally or in small amounts—can cause serious health conditions if toxins are present. Children, adults and pets should not be allowed near the water to prevent touching or swallowing.

Body parts exposed to contaminated water should be washed thoroughly with soap and water immediately.

Do not consume seafood harvested in waters closed to fishing. A wide range of symptoms can be experienced when one consumes contaminated seafood. Seafood sold at markets and in restaurants is safe to eat during a HAB event because seafood must be harvested from waters open to fishing in order to be sold. Symptoms depend on the amount and type of toxin(s) and may include:

abdominal pain
diarrhea
pneumonia
vomiting
fever
numbness
death
Learn more about the health concerns associated with HABs from the Environmental Protection Agency.

More Information
The Alabama Department of Public Health’s (ADPH) Seafood Division is responsible for testing water quality as well as opening and closing waters to protect consumers with enforcement provided by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Marine Resources Division.

Waters said the ADPH Seafood Division conducts routine tests to monitor water quality, including the presence of harmful algal blooms. The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources does the same job in their state.

Check for beach closures by visiting the Alabama Department of Environmental Management online and the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH). Look for signage to indicate beach closures. There are 26 beach access sites, as well as additional water sites, monitored in Alabama.

Brown Marmorated, Red Banded Stink Bugs: Unusual Summer Crop Pests

Each year brings new challenges to the field. Whether it be a crop pest or significant weather events, producers are always adapting inputs and timing to maximize efficiency and yield. This summer, producers will face familiar, but different crop pests: stink bugs.

Aaron Cato, a post-doctoral fellow working with Alabama Extension entomologist Ron Smith, said producers will need to vigilantly watch for stink bugs and stink bug damage in summer crops. Alabama producers are not unfamiliar with stink bugs, but two relatively new species encroaching on summer crops may pose different-than-normal threats in the field.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs
People accidentally introduced the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) to the United States from Asia in the 1990s. First found in Pennsylvania, the pest has now spread to much of the country.

Adult BMSB are about three-quarters of an inch long with the shield-like shape characteristic of stink bugs. While these stink bugs are brown, their whitish antennae bands and patterned abdomen distinguish them from brown stink bugs.

Where there is one BMSB, there are likely more. These pests congregate in large numbers—a BMSB distinguishing feature. These congregations are especially evident in the fall and winter months when they invade houses, barns and other structures.

Cato suspects there are likely two generations per year in Alabama.

“It takes 40 to 60 days for BMSB to go from a fresh egg to an emerging adult, and it is likely Alabama will be closer to the 40-day mark,” Cato said. “Considering that we’ve started seeing emerging adults in early April combined with the record heat we’ve seen, I expect at least two distinct generations.”

Cato reminds growers that the BMSB is a pest of many crops.

“Like our native species, BMSB have a large host range and feed on the developing fruit of many different plant species,” Cato said. “Outside of just their ability to damage our field crops such as corn, cotton, and soybeans, BMSB are a much more serious pest of fruits and vegetables, especially when considering home gardens.”

Control

Cato said bifenthrin works well to kill BMSB when it is available. It is an economical control option.

“It is not a difficult insect to kill and there are many control options,” he said. “Field edge treatments are likely going to be the most economical route because this pest doesn’t move very far from the edges when it gets into a field.”

Scouting should occur on field edges near wooded areas or tree lines, as well as near other crops where it could move from—such as corn. Treatment should occur when scouts find four BMSB per 25 sweeps in soybeans, and as soon as producers observe BMSB in cotton field edges. Cato suggests spraying as far from edges as BMSB are present.

Red Banded Stink Bugs

The Red Banded Stink Bug (RBSB) is a key pest in soybeans throughout South America, and has quickly become a soybean pest in the Southeast. Adults emerge in the spring looking for secondary hosts and move to soybeans when they begin podding—around R3.

RBSB generations overlap—meaning nymphs and adults are present concurrently—making control difficult. These pests are generally half of the size of other stink bugs, and are identifiable by the fixed spine arising from the abdomen and a red band along their back.

“The RBSB showed its ability to cause severe damage in Arkansas in 2017,” Cato said. “This is a very serious pest of soybeans. With the mild Alabama winter, producers should be on the lookout for this pest—particularly in southern Alabama. Producers in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas are already finding RBSB as of early July.”

While these stink bugs are soybean pests, they also feed on other legume crops including beans, peas, lentils and alfalfa.

Control

Thresholds for RBSB in soybeans are four to six insects per 25 sweeps. RBSB do not act like normal stink bug species, and are more likely to run away and hide.

“These stink bugs will drop immediately from plants and run for cover when they hear disturbances, which is one reason thresholds are so low,” Cato said. “Additionally, their reproductive potential is much higher than our native stink bugs, and if populations aren’t controlled early it is difficult to get back on top of them.”

Cato said combination products generally provide the best control. Simple pyrethroids like lambda-cyhalothrin or bifenthrin alone don’t provide as much control. Acephate and bifenthrin or lambda-cyhalothrin and thiamethoxam combinations are going to be the standards for controlling this pest.

More Information
For more information on crop pest control, contact your local agronomic crops agent or visit Alabama Extension online.
by Katie Nichols

State Parks Foundation Seeks to Boost Alabama Opportunities

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

During his career, Dan Hendricks has seen first-hand the impact charitable foundations can have on a wide range of organizations.

Retiring to picturesque Florence, Ala., after a long academic career with a final stop at the University of North Alabama, Hendricks channeled his love of the outdoors and nature toward one of our state’s greatest treasures – the Alabama State Parks System.

With an extensive background in foundation work, Hendricks led a coalition of like-minded individuals to form the Alabama State Parks Foundation, which was officially launched at Oak Mountain State Park this past spring.

“I noticed when I was planning for retirement that Alabama didn’t have a state parks foundation, and they had a beautiful state parks system,” Hendricks said. “My wife (Barb) and I love to be outside hiking. We love gardens and learning about nature. As I was planning retirement, I thought of how I was going to be of use to the community, because I was going to have a lot more time. I also noticed that there were very few states where the parks didn’t have a foundation.”

Shortly after his retirement became official, Hendricks traveled to nearby Joe Wheeler State Park near Rogersville, Ala., and visited with Chad Davis, Northwest District and Wheeler park superintendent. That eventually led to meetings with State Parks North Region Supervisor Tim Haney and State Parks Director Greg Lein.

“I told Chad that state parks might need a foundation, and I shared my background in running foundations,” Hendricks said. “He showed interest, so I ended up meeting with Tim Haney and Greg Lein.”

Hendricks said in 2017 a design team was formed to determine the objectives of the foundation and work out requirements to reach those goals.

“One thing we wanted was a geographically disbursed state board so that all parts of the state would be represented,” Hendricks said. “We tried to identify strategic goals. One goal was to be able to mobilize park people and create a kind of park movement in the state.

“It was not necessarily that they would learn anything new, but they would realize something they already knew – that the state parks were a wonderful treasure for the state, and that other states had foundations that were important private-public partners with the state parks systems.”

Hendricks studied the Iowa State Parks Foundation and how it dealt with the continuing need for strong funding that makes parks sustainable, along with private-public partnerships that complement state funding.

“That is particularly important for Alabama, because the state parks system doesn’t receive much support from state revenue,” Hendricks said. “It is mostly a fee-based system, so parks are run almost like independent businesses. They rely on good business practices and fees for revenue.”

Hendricks said the Iowa Foundation developed a model to divide the state into regional cluster groups with one or more parks that highlight that particular region.

For example, among Alabama’s 21 state parks, Joe Wheeler, DeSoto and Monte Sano would represent north Alabama; Lurleen Wallace, the west; Rickwood Caverns and Oak Mountain, the Birmingham area; Cheaha, Guntersville and Cathedral Caverns, the east; and Lakepoint and Gulf State Park, the south.

“What we’re going to do is try to create working groups for each of these zones, focused on one or more of the parks in that zone,” Hendricks said. “Then we are going to invite municipalities, individuals, businesses and corporations that have the most interest in that particular park.

“Then we want to identify ways we can drastically improve the infrastructure of the parks to do two things – increase the number of people the parks are serving and create sustaining sources of revenue. One of the things that the research done by the Iowa foundation revealed is that cabin and primitive camping and recreational vehicle (RV) camping are services that can increase the number of people and, at the same time, generate additional income.”

Hendricks said Iowa is trying to mobilize businesses, individuals and municipalities to build cabins and amenities for their parks.

“To do that, they are emphasizing how important the parks are for quality of life, elevate the value of communities, provide recreational services for all Alabamians in our case, and they attract individuals,” he said. “If you have a great park in America, people are attracted to those recreational amenities.”

Lein, who has been State Parks Director since 2012, said the work of the Foundation will contribute to the ongoing success of the state’s treasured parks, which continue a current winning streak. Alabama State Parks earned a record 18 Certificate of Excellence Awards from TripAdvisor.com in 2019, and the Eagle Cottages at Gulf State Park were deemed one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World.

“Dr. Hendricks has done a great job of researching the different foundation models that exist across the country and marrying that to how Alabama’s park system operates,” Lein said. “We are especially optimistic about the vision that he and other Board members share in pursuing financial support from other foundations and corporate entities who share our desire to make the parks better for the people. While we have made great strides in addressing the park’s maintenance backlog, we hope that financial support through the Foundation can lead to creating new programs, features and amenities within the parks. These are such positive times for the park system, and we are excited about having the Foundation as a new park partner.”

The Alabama State Parks Foundation officially launched at Oak Mountain State Park for a specific reason.

“The launch was to invite people to become part of a great parks movement in Alabama,” Hendricks said. “Like I said, it was not necessarily to redo their experience, but to simply say let’s join together to not only to preserve this wonderful natural treasure, but let’s see if we can actually expand it and make it better.

“From the kickoff, we’ve been able to identify people who have become First Friends and founding members of the Foundation. I think we have between 350 and 370 individuals who said they would like to do that. I was encouraged by that. Almost half of that number also have made gifts.”

The Alabama State Parks Foundation board meets four times a year with the next meeting scheduled for July to develop a corporate partners program to recruit charitable investors to help improve and expand the infrastructure so state parks can serve more people.

Hendricks, who was the Vice President for University Enhancement at the University of North Alabama before he retired, has extensive foundation experience. He was vice president at the LSU Foundation, VP and executive officer at Western Illinois University, director and chief operations officer for The Campaign for the University of Kentucky, and director of planned giving for Hanover College.

He has also been active in the Audubon Society in Kentucky and Indiana as well as serving as president of the Baton Rouge Audubon Society.

Hendricks said the geographical diversity he’s experienced during his career has given him a perspective on how the various state parks he’s visited are operated and cherished by the communities.

“Running three foundations also has helped,” he said. “I understand how they work and hopefully ways to make them successful. But it’s always difficult to start something new. Something in the charitable world is even more difficult. A lot of people have to be convinced something is valuable enough. So, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to start that park movement and inviting people to be a part of it.

“Historically, the formation of the parks in Alabama is fascinating. A lot of the parks were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Depression. In my speech when we kicked off the Foundation, I said we are also creating this Foundation as a tribute to the young men who built it in the 1930s and who left this as a legacy for us and the six or seven generations who have used those parks since they were built. We want to continue to leave a legacy for our children and their children.”

Do not handle bats, ADPH cautions

Young children’s possible exposure to rabid bats recently has caused local and state health authorities to issue a reminder about the potential dangers of handling bats. Bats, along with raccoons, are the primary reservoirs for rabies in Alabama. Rabies is a viral infection in mammals that is transmitted by bites, scratches or other contact with infected saliva. Rabies virus is present only in saliva and nervous tissue; it is not transmitted through contact with guano (bat feces), blood or urine from infected animals.

Estimates vary, but generally it is estimated that only a small percentage of the bat population is positive for rabies. Oftentimes infected bats will not be able to fly or will be out during the day, but bats can also be infected without showing signs. Therefore, laboratory testing is the only definitive method for identifying rabies-positive bats that may have exposed humans. In 2018, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) reported 9 laboratory-confirmed rabies-positive bats.

Rabies is a fatal disease if left untreated, but is preventable if proper treatment is received soon following the bite or scratch. Anyone exposed to a bat should consult with a medical provider immediately.

According to Dr. Dee W. Jones, State Public Health Veterinarian, the most important step to take following a potential bat exposure is not to kill the bat by blunt-force trauma. He states, “The challenge is collecting the bat without further exposing yourself, so gloves should be worn and a shovel, net or other tools can be used to avoid touching it if possible.”

ADPH recommends putting the bat in a container with air holes and taking it to a licensed veterinarian for euthanasia. Dr. Jones states that trauma to the head of the bat is the most common reason that accurate testing cannot be performed. The result of mauled or damaged specimens is people must take treatment for rabies who otherwise would not have needed to if testing could have been performed. The treatment regimen is one dose of rabies immunoglobulin and a series of four vaccine doses over a two-week period.

Bats are considered to have a higher risk for rabies transmission to humans than other wildlife because of a unique feature not found in most other common rabies carriers. Bats have very small teeth that can puncture the skin. Their bites are often somewhat painless and may not leave characteristic bite wounds.

Although most people should definitely feel a bite from the bat, there are some situations in which a person could be bitten and not be aware of it. Examples of people that could be exposed and either not know it or not be able to tell someone include the following:

· A person sleeping

· A mentally impaired person

· An infant or toddler

For this reason, there are very strict guidelines concerning bat exposures to reduce the chance of rabies infections.

According to Dr. Jones, “Exposure to bats is more complicated than other animal bites because not only is there a lack of awareness that bats can have rabies, but also that their bites may be much more subtle than the typical animal bite.”

Bats have been the sole cause of all human rabies fatalities acquired within the United States over the past 20 years. Alabama has had one human death from rabies in that period, but many more reported exposures that resulted in the need for rabies preventative treatment.

Although, bats do have an associated public health risk, they are a very important species to nature. They consume insects, biting pests and pollinate flowers; the only problem arises when there is human contact.

“Problems arise when bats and humans inhabit the same dwellings,” Dr. Jones said. “It is common for bats to roost in the rafters and attics of houses, schools or other buildings and occasionally some of the bats can get inside of the living quarters. Contrary to popular thought, the age of the building doesn’t necessarily indicate the risk of having a bat roost. We have investigated reports of roosts in newer buildings and sports stadiums on school campuses, as well as older buildings in the community.”

The ADPH recommends that people should follow the advice of wildlife officials, licensed exterminators and contractors on how to exclude bats from a building. Follow these basic steps to best protect yourself from exposure to bats and rabies:

· If you are bitten or scratched by a bat, seek medical attention immediately.

· If you awaken and find a bat in your bedroom or in the room of an unattended child or a mentally impaired person, seek advice from your medical provider and report it to your county health department.

· If possible, collect the bat in an escape-proof container with air holes and take to a local veterinarian for euthanasia. Do not induce trauma by blunt force.

· If you see a bat in your home and you are sure no human or pet exposure has occurred, confine the bat to a room by closing all doors and windows leading out of the room except those to the outside. The bat will probably leave soon.

· Please refer to alabamapublichealth.govfor more advice about bat infestations and exposures.

For more information about rabies risk locally or in Alabama, please call (800) 338-8374.

Blossom-End Rot Possible in Tomatoes

For many, there is nothing better than eating a tomato sandwich using fresh tomatoes from the garden. Tomatoes are often the most common plants in a basic garden. There are many varieties on the market, each one offering something different. With some areas of the state facing drought conditions, tomato growers could see a problem with blossom-end rot (BER) in their plants.

Chris Becker, an Alabama Extension coordinator in Limestone County, said BER is a disorder that affects the fruit of a plant.

“Blossom-end rot is an abiotic disorder, caused by nonliving factors,” Becker said. “It starts out as a brown, dime-sized lesion near the blossom-end and increases in diameter as the condition worsens.”

A calcium deficiency causes BER within a plant. This deficiency is usually a result of a change in a plants water supply, or shortage of calcium in the soil. Becker said even a slight change can affect the plant.

“Calcium is not a highly mobile element in a plant,” he said. “Because of this, even brief changes in the water supply can cause blossom-end rot.”

Water intake can often be affected by drought stressed soil and roots damaged from excessive or improper cultivation. This prevents the plant from getting the calcium it needs for healthy growth. Highly acidic soil and areas that have too much water can also cause a calcium deficiency in plants.

Becker said growers should remove affected fruits if BER problems become severe.

“Once a fruit develops blossom-end rot, it will not regrow or repair the affected area,” Becker said. “In fact, the damaged area could serve as an entry point for disease-causing bacteria or fungi.”

It is generally easier to prevent blossom-end rot rather than wait and treat the problem. The following are a few tips on controlling blossom-end rot.

During fruiting, tomato plants need about 1.5 inches of water each week. It is important that plants get an adequate amount of water. Extreme changes in soil moisture can increase the chances of a plant getting BER. Use mulches like pine straw, composted sawdust and also newspapers to help conserve moisture.

Becker said if plants develop BER, growers can apply a calcium solution.

“Drench the root zone with the solution at the rate of four level tablespoons of calcium nitrate or calcium chloride per gallon of water,” Becker said. “If day temperatures are greater than 85 to 90 degrees, do not use calcium chloride because foliage burn can occur. Calcium nitrate is the better option for hot days”

Some tomato varieties tend to be more sensitive to the conditions that cause BER. Becker suggests growing several varieties of tomatoes and keep notes on their performance.

Becker recommends keeping a pH level between 6.0 and 6.5. Becker said perform a soil test two to four months before planting.

“A soil test will show what levels need to be adjusted. Apply the recommended rate of lime, using dolomitic or high-calcium limestone,” Becker said. “Also, apply fertilizer as recommended, because applying too much fertilizer can induce BER.”

Collecting a soil sample is an easy procedure. For information on how to collect and send a soil sample for testing, visit the Soil, Forage & Water Testing Laboratory’s website. The fee for testing is $7 per sample. Soil test boxes as well as sample forms are available at any county Extension office.

For more information on blossom-end rot, visit Alabama Extension online or contact your county Extension office.

Hydrangea Pruning Times Depend on Variety

With every rule, there is an exception—such is the case with pruning hydrangea bushes, according to Bethany O’Rear, a regional home grounds agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

“Typically, for blooming plants a gardener follows the ‘May Rule,’” O’Rear said. “This rule dictates pruning time based on when a particular plant sets its flower buds.”

Old Wood and New Wood
Some plants flower on “old wood,” meaning blooms are set on stems produced from last year’s buds. These plants are usually the ones blooming during early spring. Since these plants bloom before May 1, prune immediately after blooms fade or finish.

Other plants set buds on this year’s growth, also called “new wood.” If flowering occurs after May 1, prune plants during the dormant season, in late winter or early spring.

“Following this general rule with hydrangeas would lead to a bloomless plant and an unhappy gardener,” O’Rear said.

The correct timing for pruning hydrangeas depends on the particular species of hydrangea. O’Rear says you must first identify the type of hydrangea growing in your garden.

“One of the most common garden varieties is the mophead or French hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla),” O’Rear said. “This is the type with either blue or pink flowers—depending on the soil pH.”

Mophead hydrangeas typically bloom early- to mid-summer. If gardeners followed the May Rule according to timing, these hydrangeas would fall into the dormant season pruning category. However, that is not the case. Mophead hydrangeas bloom on old wood and should be pruned soon after flowering.

“Another type of hydrangea that blooms on old wood is one of our native species, the Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia),” she said. “Pruning should take place just after the blooms have faded. In other words, these two types of hydrangeas are probably due for pruning right about now.”

Take care to put away the pruners by the beginning of August when next year’s buds begin to form.

The Peegee or panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) blooms on new wood. This species can be cut six to 12 in. above the ground—or at half its height—every year in late winter or early spring.

“When it comes to pruning, correct timing is key,” O’Rear said.

Find more information about pruning, as well as site selection, bloom color, watering, fertility and cultivars in ANR-1276, Hydrangeas.
By Katie Nichols

Protect Your Yard From Digging Animals

While working outside, some people may find they are not the only ones digging around. Animals, such as squirrels, chipmunks, armadillos and moles, are known culprits for digging in yards, gardens and flower beds. Controlling these digging animals is possible, but there are a few things to know.

Jim Armstrong, an Alabama Extension wildlife specialist, said the first step to control is identifying the animal.

“Once you know the animal that is causing the problem, it will be easier to come up with a solution,” Armstrong said. “There are several ways to get rid of pests, but not every method will work for every pest.”

According to Armstrong, the armadillo is most often the culprit of complaints about yard damage. Armadillos search for earthworms and grubs, rooting up yards as they go.

Damage from an armadillo is fairly distinctive. When on the hunt, the armadillo uses its long, sharp claws to break the surface of loose soil. This leaves holes on average about 3 inches wide and 5 inches deep.

Another animal troubling to landscapes is the mole.

“Moles dig tunnels through yards in search of food,” Armstrong said. “Moles have an enormous appetites and may eat up to 100 percent of their body weight in a single day.”

These tunnels form ridges in the soil, which can lead to a fairly unattractive yard. In fact, if it wasn’t for these tunnels, many might consider moles beneficial to homeowners.

“Contrary to popular belief, moles do not eat the roots and bulbs of flowers and vegetables,” Armstrong said. “In fact, they may benefit these plants by feeding on grubs and worms that can damage them. However, the tunneling activities of moles may disfigure lawns and gardens.”

There are several options homeowners can use to control digging animals. Installing a fence around your home is a cost effective way to control these pests.

“Mesh fencing is the best option for homeowners,” Armstrong said. “If the mesh does not work, adding chicken wire around the fence will provide more deterrence.”

Armstrong recommends if you are using a fence to exclude digging or burrowing animals, the fence should be buried at least 10 inches into the ground to discourage the animal from digging under the fence. This will make it near impossible for animals to get through.

Sometimes, using lethal traps and measures is needed to control some animals, such as armadillos and moles.

“Homeowners can trap armadillos using a cage and a barrier of boards to help guide them into the mouth of the trap,” Armstrong said. “Once trapped, armadillos should be humanely euthanized.”

Armstrong warns that because armadillos are an invasive species, they should not be relocated to another area.

When dealing with moles, the best solution for control is using lethal traps.

“There are several lethal traps that can be used to eliminate moles,” he said. “You can find many of these traps online or at a local outdoors store.”

There are additional products at gardening stores to purchase for control. They range from poisons to deterrents. These options might prove to be beneficial solutions in small yards with no domestic animals. However, these options could be expensive to use on large yards.

For more information on these and other garden pests, visit Alabama Extension online or contact your county Extension office.
By Justin Miller

Outdoor Alabama Photo Contest Now Open

This photo of a trumpet vine by Carol Eidson placed first in the Shoots and Roots category of last year’s Outdoor Alabama Photo Contest.

Alabama is truly a beautiful and spectacular place! From the mountains of North Alabama through the Montgomery River Region to the coast and everywhere in between, the opportunities for award-winning photography are abundant. Outdoor Alabama would like to recognize the breathtaking images captured in Alabama. The Outdoor Alabama Photo Contest is now accepting entries through October 31, 2019. The contest is a joint project between the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Alabama Tourism Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The photo contest is open to state residents and visitors alike, but qualifying photos must have been taken in Alabama.

This is the 15th year for the photo contest, which encourages people to experience nature, watch wildlife, visit public lands and document it through photos. A new category in this year’s contest is “Find a Refuge,” which is for photos taken on one of Alabama’s 11 National Wildlife Refuges managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alabama. The complete list, which includes Eufaula and Wheeler Refuges, is found at www.fws.gov/refuges/refugeLocatorMaps/Alabama.html.

The contest is open to adults and youth. A total of 10 photos per person may be entered in the following categories:

Birds of a Feather
Bugs and Butterflies
Coastal Life
Cold-Blooded Critters
Find a Refuge
Nature-Based Recreation
Shoots and Roots
State Park Adventures
Sweet Home Alabama
Watchable Wildlife
Waterfalls
Young Photographers
Category explanations and additional entry information may be found at http://www.outdooralabama.com/photo-contest. Entry is restricted to the online upload of digital images, which can be completed from a computer, tablet or mobile phone.

The deadline for entries is October 31, 2019. First, second, third and one honorable mention will be awarded in each category. Winning images will be featured online and in an exhibit traveling to various venues across the state during 2020. The schedule can be found online at https://www.outdooralabama.com/photo-exhibit. An exhibit of the 2019 winning photos is currently on display at the Five Rivers Delta Resource Center in Spanish Fort through July 12.

City of Moundville employees were able to move this swarm of bees safely from the front of city hall on Thursday, June 27 around noon. The bees were taken to a beekeeper in the area. Video submitted by the City of Moundville

Bear captured
193 lb. young male caught, released unharmed in Sumter County

Photos by Jeff Shaw
Conservation officer Jeff Shaw said the paws of the young adult male were very large compared to a human hand, left photo. Shaw said the hind paw or foot, right photo, is similar to a human foot. The bear was sedated, tagged, collared and released on June 1.

By Tommy McGraw, Moundville Times and Sumter County Record Journal Publisher
A landowner in Sumter County discovered he had captured a wild bear instead of a wild hog while checking his hog traps on Saturday, June 1.
The landowner contacted Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries officials to assist with the removal.


Sumter, Greene, and Hale County Conservation Enforcement Officers, Senior Officer Jeff Shaw, Lt. Joe Goddard, and Sgt. Steve Naish responded along with Auburn University biologist, Chris Seals.


The team came to collect data on this black bear. The group affixed an eartag and tracking collar to study its movements through Sumter and Alabama. The information will be added into a database that coincides with an ongoing statewide black bear study being conducted by the ADCNR [Ala. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources] and Auburn University.
Sumter County Game Warden Jeff Shaw said the AU biologist, Chris Seals, also took a hair samples to conduct a DNA test to see where the bear was born.


According to a news article published on Nov. 8, 2017 by Charles Martin with the AU Office of Communications and Marketing, “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.
“Professor Todd Steury of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn says the Mobile bear population’s growth rate is unknown at this time and that the population is continuous with bears in eastern Mississippi.”


Shaw said that this is the fourth bear sighting in Sumter County this year. A deer hunter captured one on video in a green field during hunting season, and another hunter’s game camera caught a bear on his trail camera. The bear that was on video was near Sumter County Rd. 1 near Cuba, and the bear caught on the game camera was near the Payneville and Millville Rds.
The bear caught Saturday was near the Lynn Bennett and Hwy. 80 intersection in South Sumter. Shaw said he was called to another land owner’s property and verified a bear track near Siloam.


Shaw said the AU biologist verified the bear caught Saturday was not the one in the video or the one on camera.
The Sumter bear weighed 193 pounds and was a three year old male. Biologist Seals said the bear is in a feeding mode and should gain another 50 pounds in the next eight to ten months.
To lessen the stress of the young adult male bear and keep him cool from the 90-plus degree heat, bags of ice were pressed against his body during his short “nap.”


After the bear awoke from his chemically-induced slumber, the bear was released unharmed a short time later.
Shaw explained that the bear was never completely out cold. “His temperature is very critical, and if a bear is completely sedated he loses control of his body temperature. That is why we iced the bear and kept a close monitoring on his temperature during the tagging and collaring process.”


Shaw said bears are on the move this time of year and sometimes travel up to ten miles a day looking for a female companion. Most bears are reared by their mothers for two to two-and-a-half years and are sometimes pushed out of the environment they were born in. Females rarely travel and stay homebound to their particular area to raise more young.


Biologists from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources say the increase in sightings may be due to a combination of factors, including changes in bear distribution, habitat fragmentation, seasonal movement and the summer mating season.


Conservations officials remind those who may find themselves facing a bear in an Alabama forest to report the sitings. They give this website available to the public to report bear sightings: https://game.dcnr.alabama.gov/BlackBear or call your District Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Office. Office contacts and other helpful information can be found at www.outdooralabama.com


Game wardens warn Sumter and Alabama residents, “Do not approach a black bear. Give it some space and view it from a distance. Please watch this video for what to do when encountering black bears and BE BEAR WISE ALABAMA! www. youtube.com/watch?v=o6GpRcG4mDc.”


Another warning to land owners who use live traps is to check on those traps at lest every 24 hours.


In Alabama, black bear is a species of highest conservation concern with no open season. Shooting one is a Class A misdemeanor. Other penalties for shooting a black bear include the potential loss of hunting and fishing license privileges for three years and possible jail time.

Wasps: Watch Out This Summer

While helpful in controlling other insects, wasps are more known for their painful stings. The term wasp is somewhat generic. Hornets, mud daubers and yellow jackets are all wasps, with hornets and yellow jackets being the most common. With every occasional sting, a person’s chances of becoming sensitive to the venom increases. Knowing the basic information about these insects may reduce your chances of getting stung.

Yellow Jackets
Yellow jackets get their names from the yellow and black coloring on their bodies. They are commonly mistaken for bees, but they are actually highly aggressive wasps.

Xing Ping Hu, an Alabama Extension entomologist, said yellow jackets are responsible for almost all of the stinging deaths in the United States.

“Unlike other stinging insects, yellow jackets like to sting people,” Hu said. “Unlike honey bees, yellow jackets do not lose their stringer, so each insect can sting repeatedly and generally attack in large numbers. They are especially dangerous in the summer.”

Yellow jackets usually build open nests made of saliva and paper from fibers in wood. These nests are commonly found in wall voids, crawl spaces, attics and cracks. You may also find yellow jacket nests in the ground.

“Be cautious of small areas that are devoid of vegetation because they could be ground nests of yellow jackets,” Hu said.

Hornets
The term hornet can also be a somewhat generic term. All hornets are wasps, but not all wasps are hornets. When most people refer to a hornet, they are usually talking about either the bald-faced hornet or the European hornet. However, the bald-faced hornet is not actually a true hornet.

“Strictly speaking, the only true hornet in the U.S. is the non-native European hornet which grows to be about 1 to 1.5 inches long,” Hu said.

Confusion between wasps and hornets is common because their differences are not that obvious, but they can be distinguished.

“Hornets have a relatively fatter head, rounder abdomen and are often have brown, red and yellowish-orange markings, with little black on the body,” Hu said.

Though they are less aggressive than other wasps, if provoked hornets can deliver even more painful, sometimes fatal, stings to humans.

Hornets usually build nests off the ground, in the leaves of trees, shrubs and under eves and decks. They cover the insides of their nests with a paper-like substance made from chewed-up plant materials and saliva paste.

Management
Hu said people should remove nests when they are small and only have a few wasps to deal with.

“You may be able to knock a nest down and dispose of it before the queen lays eggs,” Hu said. “You can use an insecticide to kill the wasps before removal. Remember to wear protective clothing for this job.”

When using insecticides, treat either early in the morning before the wasps fly out or later in the evening when all the wasps have returned.

According to Hu, the most useful tool for management is a dust applicator. Hand dusters and air dusters are the more common applicators.

“Air dusters carry the particles deep into cavities and voids of the nests,” she said. “The dust particles remain on the concealed surfaces awaiting contact with foraging wasps, which, in turn, contaminates other nest mates.”

If you choose to use a liquid spray, make sure to aim the chemical into the nest entrance so the product reaches the nesting area.

Under no circumstances should anyone attempt to treat ground nests by pouring gasoline or other generic chemicals into the nest.

“Doing this will poison the ground, possibly killing both plants and animals,” Hu said. “It may also prove to be a fire or health hazard to humans.”

More Information
For more information about wasps, and other stinging insects, visit www.aces.edu or contact your county Extension office.
By Justin Miller

Massive Yellow Jacket Nests Appearing

Massive yellow jacket nest on the side of a house

Imagine a colony of yellow jackets the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, filled with 15,000 of the stinging insects. Now, imagine more than 90 of these super nests in Alabama. It happened in 2006, and Charles Ray, an entomologist working with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, said that 2019 may be shaping up to mirror that year.

Perennial Yellow Jacket Nests
It’s called a perennial yellow jacket nest. Entomologists believe that milder winters combined with an abundant food supply allow some colonies to survive and enter spring with much larger numbers. Additionally, the normal cues that would cause queens to disperse may not happen. Researchers have documented that these massive colonies often have multiple queens.

A normal yellow jacket nest is usually located in the ground or a cavity. It may peak at 4,000 to 5,000 workers that do not survive cold weather, leaving queens to disperse and form new colonies in the spring.

The perennial yellow jacket nests that concern Ray bear little resemblance to normal colonies.

“These perennial nests may be several feet wide and have many thousands of workers, far more than an average nest,” Ray said. “We have found them attached to home exteriors and other places you might not expect to find yellow jackets.

“The most workers I have counted in a perennial nest is about 15,000 or about 3 to 4 times more than a normal nest,” said Ray, who is also a research fellow in Auburn University’s Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. “However, one nest in South Carolina was documented with more 250,000 workers.”

Large Numbers
Ray believes that the state may see large numbers of perennial nests this year.

“We confirmed two nests in May and have indications of a third,” he said. “This puts us several weeks earlier than in 2006, when we identified the first giant nest on June 13.

“If we are seeing them a month sooner than we did in 2006, I am very concerned that there will be a large number of them in the state. The nests I have seen this year already have more than 10,000 workers and are expanding rapidly.”

In 2006, nests were located in multiple counties with the most northern location occurring in Talladega County.

Important Tips
Ray offers important tips for people who think they may have a giant yellow jacket colony on their property.

“First and foremost, do not disturb the nest,” said Ray. “While these giant nests often appear less aggressive than smaller colonies, it is important that people do not disturb the nests.”

Next, Ray wants people to contact him so he can document the nest and collect insect specimens. People should contact him by email at raychah@auburn.edu.

Finally, if people need to have nests removed, Ray says it is a task only for licensed commercial pest control operators. He warns that even some commercial operators will not tackle these giant perennial yellow jacket nests.

Department Accepting Century & Heritage Farm and Bicentennial Farm Applications

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) is accepting applications for the annual Century and Heritage (C & H) Farm and Bicentennial Farm programs. The purpose of both programs is to recognize family farms that have played a significant role in Alabama’s history.

A Century Farm is one that has been in the same family continuously for at least 100 years and currently has some agricultural activities on the farm. The farm must include at least 40 acres of land and be owned by the applicant or nominee.

A Heritage Farm is one that has been operated continuously as a family farm for at least 100 years. The farm must possess interesting and important historical and agricultural aspects, including one or more structures at least 40 years old. The farm must also include at least 40 acres of land owned and operated by the applicant, who must reside in Alabama. To date, over 650 farms across the state have been recognized by the C & H Farm program.

The ADAI is also accepting applications for the Bicentennial Farm program. On December 14, 2019, our state will officially observe its 200th birthday. Agriculture is an integral part of our state’s heritage and the love of the land demonstrated by these families deserves recognition.

The Bicentennial Farm program honors family farms that have remained in the same family for 200 years and is administered similarly to the C & H Farm program. To date, only eight farms in the state have been recognized by this program.

A Bicentennial Farm must currently have some agricultural activities, be at least 40 acres in size and owned by an Alabama resident. Applicants for the program are required to complete a registration form that traces the family lineage of property ownership and a description of agricultural activities that took place. The application also requests photos be included of any structures that remain on the property that are 40 years old or older even though structures are not required to qualify for the program.

If your farm meets the qualifications for the 2019 C & H Farm program or 2019 Bicentennial Farm program, contact Amy Belcher at 334/240-7126 or by email amy.belcher@agi.alabama.gov to receive an application. A copy of both applications are attached to this release and are also available on the department’s website www.agi.alabama.gov under the “Forms” tab and by selecting “Bicentennial Farm” or “Century & Heritage Farm.” All applicants must complete the appropriate Ownership Registration Form and return it to the ADAI by August 30, 2019.

Survey: U.S. beekeepers report record rate of colony loss over 2018-19 winter

Beekeepers across the U.S. lost 40.7 percent of their managed honey bee colonies from April 1, 2018, to April 1, 2019, and experienced the highest rate of winter loss in 13 years, preliminary results of the annual nationwide colony loss survey show.

Conducted by the nonprofit Bee Informed Partnership with Auburn University and University of Maryland entomologists collecting and analyzing the data, the survey pegs Oct. 1-April 1 losses at 37.7 percent, which is the highest rate since the survey began in 2006-07 and 8.9 percentage points higher than the survey average.

“These results are very concerning, as high winter losses hit an industry already suffering from a decade of high winter losses,” said Maryland entomology associate professor and Bee Informed Partnership president Dennis vanEngelsdorp.

Honey bees pollinate $15 billion worth of food crops in the U.S., so their health is critical to food production and supply.

Geoff Williams, Auburn assistant professor of entomology and apiology, said that, although the 2018-19 overall loss of 40.7 percent is only slightly above the annual average of 38.7 percent, any increase is troubling.

“Just looking at the overall picture and the 10-year trends, it’s disconcerting that we’re still seeing elevated losses after over a decade of survey and quite intense work to try to understand and reduce colony loss,” Williams said.

Over the summer of 2018, beekeepers reported losing 20.5 percent of their managed colonies. While that is up from summer 2017’s loss rate of 17.1 percent, it is on par with the average rate of summer loss since the annual survey was expanded nine years ago to include April 1-Oct. 1 data.

Since the mid-2000s, when beekeepers began noticing dramatic losses in their colonies, state and federal agricultural agencies, university researchers and the beekeeping industry have worked together to understand the cause and develop best management practices to reduce losses. The annual colony loss survey has been an integral part of that effort.

The survey asks commercial, sideline and backyard beekeeping operations to track the survival rates of their colonies. Nearly 4,700 beekeepers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia responded to the 2018-19 survey. Collectively, the respondents manage 319,787 colonies, or about 12 percent of the nation’s estimated 2.69 million managed colonies.

The Bee Informed Partnership team said multiple factors likely are responsible for the persistently high annual loss rates and this year’s jump in winter losses.

Beekeepers’ top concern, and a leading contributor to winter colony losses, is the varroa mite. The mite is a lethal, disease-transmitting honey bee parasite that can spread from colony to colony, that has been decimating colonies for years and that researchers nationwide are working together to develop sustainable strategies to combat.

“We are increasingly concerned about varroa mites and the viruses they spread,” Maryland’s vanEngelsdorp said. “Last year, many beekeepers reported poor treatment efficacy, and limited field tests showed products that once removed 90 percent of mites or more are now removing far fewer.”

The seeming failure of those once-effective management tools may be evident in the high rates of colony loss in 2018-19, said Karen Rennich, Bee Informed Partnership executive director and Maryland senior faculty specialist. But varroa mites are not the sole culprit. Land-use changes that have led to a lack of nutrition-rich pollen sources as well as pesticide exposure, environmental factors that include extreme weather and beekeeping practices all play some role, too.

“A persistent worry among beekeepers nationwide is that there are fewer and fewer favorable places for bees to land, and that is putting increased pressure on beekeepers, who are already stretched to their limits to keep their bees alive,” Rennich said. “We also think extreme weather conditions we have seen this past year demand investigation, such as wildfires that ravage the landscape and remove already-limited forage and floods that destroy crops, causing losses for the farmer, for the beekeeper and for the public.”

Williams and the other researchers on the survey team said a multi-pronged approach that encompasses research, extension and smart management is needed to combat the problem. They urged beekeepers to stay current on and implement science-based best management practices.

“Beekeepers have to be very dynamic in their response to weather and environmental conditions,” Williams said. “If it is a cold, long winter, they need to be very diligent and make sure they have enough food for their bees to survive. On the other hand, warm winters can create favorable conditions for varroa mites, which means beekeepers need to know how to manage them properly.”

Beekeepers can find best management practices on the Bee Informed website. The survey’s preliminary results are available on the Bee Informed Partnership website. A summary is provided below.

Winter Loss Estimates:

Oct. 1, 2018-April 1, 2019: 37.7 percent losses

7 percentage points higher than winter 2017-2018

8.9 percentage points higher than average winter loss (2006-2019)

Summer Loss Estimates:

April 1, 2018-Oct. 1, 2018: 20.5 percent losses

3.4 percentage points higher than summer 2017

Equal to average summer loss since summer survey began in 2011: 20.5 percent

Total Annual Loss Estimates:

April 1, 2018-April 1, 2019: 40.7 percent losses

0.6 percentage points higher than 2017-2018

2.9 percentage points higher loss since annual survey began in 2010-2011: 37.8 percent

Winter Loss Comparison by Beekeeper Category:

Backyard beekeepers (manage 50 or fewer colonies): 39.8 percent

Sideline (manage 51-500 colonies): 36.5 percent

Commercial (manage more than 500 colonies): 37.5 percent

(Written by Jamie Creamer, Auburn University)

The Buzz: Pollinators are Essential

In the spirit of National Pollinator Week, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System salutes pollinators everywhere who are irreplaceable pieces of the puzzle in gardens, cropland and flowerbeds. Bees are more than honey-makers and hive builders. Bees are essential to the most important part of the food chain—pollination.

Importance of Pollinators
Bees are essential for the pollination of one-third of the food we consume. Sallie Lee, an Urban Extension regional agent, said pollinators have long been taken for granted.

“Honeybees never send a bill. It seems many people have taken their services for granted for far too long,” Lee said.

Lee said many foreign countries caused have caused harm to the pollinator population. In those countries orchard workers are paid to climb into the fruit trees with feathers and pollinate. With high agricultural expectations in the United States, producers cannot afford to pay humans to complete a job pollinators have done cost-free for so long.

Yes, bees do sting, but there is no truth to the saying “the only good bee is a dead bee.” Pollinators are important! Without bees, people wouldn’t be able to enjoy many favorite foods or flowers.

Honeybees
While the U.S. has many valuable native pollinators, none produce harvestable honey. Not all native pollinators are as efficient at pollinating as honeybees.

“All bees pollinate,” Lee said. “Honeybees are unique in their mobility for pollination, as well as their ability to be managed in hives.”

Called flying livestock by the Food and Drug Administration, honeybee numbers are enormous in the hive. Their power in numbers has allowed bees to pollinate crops from one side of the country to the other. Lee said one such example is the almond crop in California.

“California grows eighty percent of the world’s almond crop,” she said. “The volume of almonds produced requires one half of the country’s bees to do the job. For this reason, when it is time to pollinate the almond trees, tractor trailer loads of bees travel across the country to California.”

Protecting Pollinators
While many are just realizing the value of pollinators, others—like producers and home gardeners—are taking steps on larger scales to protect pollinators. Whether you are a farmer or a backyard gardener, Lee lists several ways to protect pollinators.

Get over the fear of bees. Most bees only sting if threatened, or if honey harvest is in progress.
Carefully use insecticides and herbicides. While many major companies are taking steps to protect pollinators, one of the biggest issues is misuse of inputs in the yard and garden. Be sure to read the label and apply per directions on the canister.
Plant things to attract and feed pollinators. An entire landscape can be a pollinator garden — fill with herbs, shrubbery, trees and perennials.
No matter the scale of your operation, Lee said taking these three guidelines to heart has the potential to drastically improve the status of Alabama’s pollinator population.

More Information
For more information on pollinator habitats and alternative pest control planting methods, visit www.aces.edu. Extension professionals are exploring ways to deter insects and promote pollinators through alternative planting methods, like trap cropping.

Best Black Belt Fish Photo Contest Opens with Guided Fishing Trip Awaiting the Winner

Cast that line, wet that hook and enter that contest! The Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association is looking for the Best Black Belt Fish in its fourth annual photo contest spotlighting anglers from across the Black Belt region.

This year’s Best Black Belt Fish Photo Contest is now open online at ALBBAA’s website at AlabamaBlackBeltAdventures.org/bestblackbeltfishcontest and the winner will enjoy a half-day guided fishing trip at Lake Eufaula led by expert fisherman Tony Adams and a night at beautiful Lakepoint State Park. The prize package for this year’s contest, which runs through Sept. 11, is valued at $430.

“Fishing in the Black Belt is a great year-round sport, but we especially enjoy highlighting the many great public and private fishing spots during the warm summer months,” said ALBBAA Director Pam Swanner. “Pictures of lunker bass and slab crappie are fun to see, but we especially like to hear about the family outings and the great memories that will surely last a lifetime.”

The winning photo is determined by the entry that gets the most votes. You can vote once a day, per photo, per email address.

To be eligible, the fish must have been caught this year in a Black Belt county. Contest winners from 2018 and 2017 are ineligible this year. Make sure to include all the information required on the entry page – and share the story of the fishing trip, too.

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

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

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

Free Admission and More on Bicentennial Day at Alabama State Parks, July 19

The Alabama State Parks Division will celebrate 200 years of Alabama statehood on the 200th day of 2019 – Friday, July 19 – by declaring it Bicentennial Day at Alabama State Parks. On that day, Alabama’s state parks will offer free admission, free parking and a 20 percent discount on overnight accommodations (some exceptions apply).

Free admission covers all gate and day use fees and includes free sightseeing and fishing at the Gulf State Park Pier. A saltwater fishing license is still required when fishing from the Gulf State Park Pier or beaches. Free parking includes the Beach Pavilion parking lot at Gulf State Park. The discount on overnight accommodations is for July 19 only and does not apply to groups or include The Lodge at Gulf State Park, a Hilton Hotel; or Bladon Springs, Chickasaw, Paul Grist and Roland Cooper state parks.

In addition to Alabama’s bicentennial, the state parks system is celebrating its 80th anniversary.

“From providing work for veterans in the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) in the early 1900s to providing access to outdoor recreation for all who visit, Alabama’s state parks have been an important part of the state’s history for 80 years now,” said Greg Lein, State Parks Director. “We invite everyone to take advantage of Bicentennial Day and visit their favorite state park or explore one they’ve not yet experienced.”

Alabama became a state on December 14, 1819. Work on what would become Alabama’s oldest continuously operated park, Cheaha, began in the early 1930s. Today, there are 21 parks in the Alabama state parks system.

The state’s history is on display throughout Alabama’s state parks. Park visitors can tour museums dedicated to the CCC, rent CCC-built cabins, hike historic trails like the Pinhoti, and experience the state’s natural history through preserved outdoor spaces and beaches. To plan your Bicentennial Day adventure, visit www.alapark.com.

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

Open Woods Weeks Allow Increased Access to Forever Wild’s Sipsey River Complex

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources State Lands Division announces four Open Woods Weeks at the Forever Wild Sipsey River Complex located in Tuscaloosa County near Buhl, Ala. This year’s dates are June 21-30, July 19-28, August 9-18, and September 6-15, 2019. On those dates, the main gate will be open from 4 p.m. on Friday and remain open through the following week until 4 p.m. on Sunday.

During Open Woods Weeks, the public can drive into the property along the main gravel road leading from the Jack’s Drive parking area to the south gate. Due to seasonal wet conditions and activities related to public hunting opportunities, the gates remain closed to vehicular traffic at other times during the year.

This Forever Wild outdoor recreation area features 7,155 acres of beautiful bottomland forest along the Sipsey River available for canoeing, birding, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, biking, picnicking and wildlife photography. For those wanting to hike, bike or horseback ride during the Open Woods Weeks, be mindful of increased vehicular traffic.

In the event the Sipsey River is out of its banks and flooding the roads, the dates will be rescheduled. Please visit www.alabamaforeverwild.com/sipsey-river-complex for scheduling updates and additional information about the Forever Wild Sipsey River Complex, including directions and an interactive map.

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

Summertime sun safety is very important

With most people spending more time outdoors in late spring and summer, the Alabama Department of Public Health reminds people of all ages to protect their exposed skin from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays and practice sun safety.

Continued skin damage over time increases a person’s risk of developing skin cancer, and UV rays can also damage eyes, which increases the risk of cataracts. Unprotected skin exposure, either from the sun or artificial sources like tanning beds, can cause irreversible damage in as little as 15 minutes.

It is very important to not only protect your skin but also be aware of any changes. A change in your skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. Remember, not all skin cancers look the same. This could be a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a change in a mole.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Research shows that the number of people diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has risen sharply over the past three decades. In men and women ages 50 and older, the number of people diagnosed with melanoma increased 3 percent per year from 2006 to 2015.

Following these recommendations helps protect yourself and your family.

Sunscreen

· It is important to use sunscreen every day, even if it is cloudy.

· Choose a water-resistant sunscreen and lip balm or lipstick with an SPF of 30 or higher.

· Apply at least 1 ounce of sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors. Reapply every hour if swimming or sweating.

· Avoid using sunscreen products that have expired.

Shade

· Seek shade to avoid exposure to UVA and UVB sun rays.

· Limit exposure to the sun during peak hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun rays are most intense.

· Be careful around reflective surfaces that can increase the risk of being sunburned such as water, snow and sand.

· Keep babies younger than 6 months old completely covered and in the shade.

Protective Clothing and Accessories

· Wear protective clothing including long sleeves and pants made from tightly woven fabric.

· Wear sunglasses that are made to block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays.

· Wear a hat with a wide brim to protect face, head, ears and neck.

Tanning

· Avoid tanning and recreational sunbathing, including tanning beds.

· Both can cause skin cancer and wrinkles.

Please visit https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/cancer/skin.htmlfor more information.

Gimme Shelter: Protect your pet

The hot days of summer are here, following the influx of litters, and eventually orphans, born every springtime, and I was reminded by Laurie of the perils associated with “dog days”…namely fleas, ticks, and diseases that your pet needs to be vaccinated against. This is information that I got from the ASPCA (American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) website, ASPCA.org, of which I am a member:

(I must say the following information is kind of gross, but it is all true!): “Fleas and ticks are two of the most frequent pet care concerns in America. Fleas are the most common external parasite to plague our companion animals. They are wingless insects that feed on blood and can jump up to two feet high (you must remember that fleas are so small that most times you can’t even see them). They can live for as few as 2 weeks to as long as a year and will produce millions of offspring.
Here are the symptoms of fleas:
On dogs – they are most commonly found on a dog’s abdomen, the base of the tail and the head. Symptoms include droppings (or “flea dirt”) in the coat (seen as small dark grains of sand), flea eggs (white grains), excessive scratching or biting, hair loss, pale gums, and tapeworms (they are born from parasites in fleas.

On cats – cats will scratch often and persistently, especially around the neck and base of tail… the symptoms are the same as with your pet dog.

Here are some causes of flea infestation: they are easily brought indoors from outdoors, they thrive in warm, humid climates; adult fleas spend most of their lives on the animal, leaving eggs behind; eggs can drop onto rugs, upholstery, bedding, etc. (super gross!).

Flea Treatment:
First it is important to note that flea treatment is different for dogs and cats…the most popular is topical treatment in the form of Frontline, K9 Advantix, or Nexguard, but you CANNOT use the same treatment for dogs as you can for cats!! Consult your veterinarian for appropriate treatments!

Lawn treatment may also be needed if your pet gets re-infected when it goes outside…again consult your veterinarian for outside treatments; there are prescription and over-the-counter formulas available.

Ticks: Ticks are wingless parasites, like mites and spiders, that feed on the blood of pet cats and dogs (and large animals like horses, cows, pigs, etc.), and can transmit many diseases through their bite. The treatments are the same as with fleas. Be aware that people are also vulnerable to ticks that can cause human distresses such as lyme disease deer tick disease, and more.

Vaccinations needed for your pet: Vaccines help prevent many illnesses that affect pets. Vaccinating your pet in infancy has long been considered one of the easiest ways to prevent life-threatening diseases into their lives. There are different types and combinations of vaccines. But note: vaccination is a procedure that has risks and benefits that must be weighed for every pet relative to its size, lifestyle and health (again, your veterinarian will provide your with the best way to protect your pet).

Vaccines help prepare the body’s immune system to fight the invasion of disease-causing organisms…it’s the same with humans and animals. Vaccines prepare the body’s immune system to fight the invasion of disease-causing organisms. Vaccines contain antigens, which look like the disease-causing organism but not the immune system, but don’t actually cause the disease. When the vaccine is introduced to the body, the immune system is mildly stimulated. If a pet is ever exposed to the real disease, the immune system is now prepared to recognize and fight off the severity of the illness.

Vaccines are very important to managing the health of your pet. That said, not every pet needs to be vaccinated against every disease…BUT it is very important to discuss with your veterinarian a vaccination protocol that is right for your pet.

Here are the core vaccines that you should consider to all pets, based on risk of exposure to humans:
For dogs: Canine Parvovirus, canine hepatitis and rabies are very important; vaccines against Bordetella bronchiseptica , Borrelia burgdorferi and Leptosoira bacteria.

For cats: vaccines for panleukopenia (feline distemper), feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus type 1 (rhinotrachetitis), and rabies are considered core vaccines. Others may include vaccines for feline leukemia virus, Bordetella, chlamydophila felis and feline immunodeficiency virus.

Your vet will determine what vaccines are best for your pet!

These are safeguards for your pet especially during the summer months, but should be adhered to throughout the year to ensure your pet is healthy. To me they are family members and should be treated as such! They should be cared for accordingly. And a always, spay and neuter is essential!! Let’s keep feral animals and orphans from becoming statistics!
By Jackye Bonds

WFF Adds Coastal Zone to Alligator Season

(David Rainer, James Lawler) A new Coastal Zone below I-10 has been added for the 2019 Alabama alligator season to tap into an underutilized gator population. Mandy Stokes and team still hold the world record for the American alligator taken in 2014 that measured 15 feet, 9 inches and weighed 1,011.5 pounds

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Two significant changes are in store for those fortunate enough to be selected for a tag in the random drawing for the 2019 Alabama alligator season.

The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division has created a new Coastal Zone and shifted the mandatory alligator hunting training workshop to online only.

“We went from mandatory in-person training to mandatory online training,” said Chris Nix, WFF’s Alligator Program Coordinator. “We did this to try to cut out an obstacle for people to participate. It was always a problem with several people each year, whether it was weddings or vacations or other obligations. It was especially hard on people coming from Birmingham or Huntsville to make the trip all the way to the coast for one class. And, we had just one class per zone each year, so hopefully this will be better.

“I think people that took the in-person training got a lot of really good information and it was effective.”

Registration for the alligator hunts is currently open at www.outdooralabama.com/alligators/alligator-hunt-registration. All entries must be received by 8 a.m. on July 10 to be considered for the random drawing in the five zones.

After the registration period ends, applicants can go to that same online page to check their status. If selected as a hunter or an alternative, a link to the mandatory online training video will be available.

“Those people who are drawn have seven days to complete the online training,” Nix said. “Once the online training is completed, then they can accept their status. The training is in five segments with questions to answer at the end of each segment. It will probably take most people less than 30 minutes to complete the online training.”

Nix said when the first alligator season was sanctioned in 2006, it covered only the southernmost portion of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta from the Causeway (Battleship Parkway) to the CSX railroad to the north. In the years since, the boundaries for the Southwest Zone have been expanded to include all of Mobile and Baldwin counties and private and public waters in Washington, Clarke and Monroe counties that lie east of U.S. Highway 43 and south of U.S. Highway 84.

Nix urged tag holders for several years to try the prime alligator hunting available south of I-10 in Baldwin and Mobile counties, but few gators have been taken in those areas.

The creation of the Coastal Zone with 50 tags for all territory below I-10 in the two coastal counties will target that underutilized population.

“That’s where we get 95 percent of our nuisance alligator complaints,” Nix said. “That’s where everybody lives, but there are also a lot of alligators down there. We would much rather hunters take those alligators out instead of us. Historically, we have averaged less than 5% of the harvest from the area south of the interstate.”

The 50 tags for the Coastal Zone will reduce the number of tags for the rest of the Southwest Zone to 100. Nix said 96 gators were harvested in the whole Southwest Zone last season.

“The Coastal Zone will include the private and public waters in Baldwin and Mobile counties that lie south of I-10,” Nix said. “Any body of water in the two coastal counties will likely have alligators. There are some really good alligators down there, and they’re not hunted at all.”

The Coastal Zone will have the same rules as the Southwest Zone and will utilize the same check station at the WFF’s office on the Causeway at 30571 Five Rivers Blvd., Spanish Fort, AL 36527.

Dates for the Southwest Zone and the Coastal Zone are sunset on August 8 until sunrise on August 11 and sunset on August 15 until sunrise on August 18.

The Southeast Zone, which includes private and public waters in Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston and Russell counties (excluding public Alabama state waters in Walter F. George Reservoir/Lake Eufaula and its navigable tributaries) will have 40 tags with season dates from sunset on August 10 until sunrise on September 2.

The West Central Zone, where Mandy Stokes’ world record gator (15 feet, 9 inches, 1,011.5 pounds) was caught in 2014, will have 50 tags. The West Central boundaries are private and public waters in Monroe (north of U.S. Highway 84), Wilcox and Dallas counties. The season dates will be the same as the Southwest and Coastal zones of sunset on August 8 until sunrise on August 11 and sunset on August 15 until sunrise on August 18. The check station for the West Central Zone is at Roland Cooper State Park near Camden.

Public state waters in the Walter F. George Reservoir/Lake Eufaula and its navigable tributaries, south of Alabama Highway 208 at Omaha Bridge (excludes Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge) are included in the Lake Eufaula Zone, which will have 20 tags and season dates of sunset August 16 until sunrise September 30. An 8-foot minimum length requirement is in effect for alligators harvested in the Lake Eufaula Zone, which is the only zone that allows hunting during daytime and nighttime hours.

Several stories have surfaced recently about alligator sightings in north Alabama, but Nix said those animals are anomalies.

“A lot of the alligators we’re hearing about in Blount and Cullman counties, that’s not the natural range of the American alligator,” he said. “Those were likely put there by somebody. If you draw a line across the state around Montgomery, from a reproductive standpoint, that point south would be the alligator’s natural range in Alabama. You’ll have a few exceptions, like the few alligators that always show up at Lake Tuscaloosa.”

Nix said across the five hunting zones and the alligator’s natural range in the state the population is seen as stable to increasing.

“We did reduce the number of tags at Lake Eufaula several years ago and added a size limit of 8 feet, as did the state of Georgia,” he said. “We wanted to protect that female portion of the population and ensure the hunting efforts had no significant impact on their population as a whole.

“All other areas are stable to increasing. The Southwest Zone still has the densest population. That’s 100% due to the available habitat. It’s by far the best alligator habitat we have.”

Last year, a total of 144 alligators were harvested statewide. John Herthum of Montgomery bagged the heaviest gator in the state last year with a 700-pound gator that measured 11 feet, 10 inches in the Southeast Zone.

The Southwest Zone checked in 96 alligators. The heaviest was 603 pounds and caught by Josh Forbes of Mobile County. The longest gator was a 12-foot, 9-incher taken by Donald White of Stockton. It weighed 588 pounds. Donald Hogue of Alabaster caught the largest alligator in the West Central Zone at 12-3, 538 pounds.

Nix said the average size of the gators harvested has been relatively stable because of personal selection. People almost always want to take the largest gator they can find.

However, a new rule that was implemented last year may affect that average size. The no-cull rule means hunters cannot catch and then release an alligator to try to find a larger one.

“No more culling is allowed,” Nix said. “If you get the alligator next to the boat, it must be dispatched immediately. Once it’s captured, it’s your alligator.”

For those lucky enough to get drawn and complete the online training course, Nix recommends scouting the designated hunting areas before the season starts.

“I would recommend scouting suitable habitat during the daytime hours rather than scouting at night, looking for animals,” he said. “That is especially important if you’re unfamiliar with the body of water. Get to know the navigable waterways and huntable areas. The Delta is always changing and can get tricky, especially at night. If you can, find a hunting partner that is familiar with the waterways where you’re hunting. That goes a long way.”

And be prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws your way during those season dates.

“It’s happening, rain or shine,” Nix said. “We do not change the dates.”

Prevention is key to safeguard against tick and mosquito-borne diseases

Summer months mean more time spent outdoors and fun in the sun for the entire family, but warmer months also bring unwanted visitors – ticks and mosquitoes. While most people think of ticks and mosquitoes as being only a nuisance, they can also transmit diseases, many of which can be extremely dangerous.

“Ticks and mosquitoes can transmit viruses and bacteria when they bite, causing illnesses that range from mild to severe or even fatal,” says Public Health Entomologist Savannah Duke.

West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis and Zika virus are diseases that mosquitoes can carry while Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are tickborne diseases that pose a threat to Alabama residents.

According to State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Dee Jones, “The best way to avoid getting a disease from a tick or mosquito is to reduce the risk of being bitten.” The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer the following recommendations for preventing tick and mosquito bites:

· Use insect repellents with ingredients registered by the Environmental Protection Agency such as DEET, Picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus.

· Always follow instructions when applying insect repellent to children and do not use repellents on babies younger than 2 months or oil of lemon eucalyptus on children under 3 years old.

· Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and use permethrin to treat clothing and gear.

· Make sure window screens are in good repair to reduce the chance of mosquitoes indoors.

· Conduct a yard inspection and tip or toss anything that holds water to reduce mosquito breeding habitats. Fill holes and depressions in your yard where water tends to collect and repair leaky pipes and faucets.

· Walk in the center of trails and conduct a tick check upon returning indoors.

· Remove ticks immediately and correctly. Visit https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.htmlto learn how to safely remove ticks.

See your health provider if you think you have a mosquito or tickborne disease. If you are bitten by a tick, save it for identification and testing. Health providers who suspect mosquito or tickborne diseases in their patients can submit clinical specimens to the ADPH Bureau of Clinical Laboratories. Visit http://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/bcl/index.html. On the home page, click “The Analytes Offered by BCL” and then search under the “Microbiology” heading for more information.

To find out more about ticks and mosquitoes, visit the following resources:

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

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

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

Biology students from UWA hit the beach for summer courses

A group of biology students from the University of West Alabama will study at Dauphin Island Sea Lab for the summer. Pictured left to right are Madison Baker of Grady, Ala., Abigail Clanton of Miami, Fla., Samantha Hearn of Butler, Ala., Aaron Manor of Toomsuba, Miss., Trellany Roberts of Robertsdale, Ala., and Abigail Coley of Lake Helen, Fla. The students are led by Dr. Lee Stanton, associate professor of biological and environmental sciences at UWA, who teaches ecology at DISL during the summer.

The University of West Alabama’s Dr. Lee Stanton and a group of UWA students will work and study at Dauphin Island Sea Lab for the coming weeks as part of the Sea Lab’s University Programs summer session, which kicked off on Monday.

Seven UWA students are registered for courses at the Sea Lab, where the mission is to pursue excellence in marine science education, research, coastal zone management policy and public engagement. While there, they will engage in hands-on experiential learning alongside researchers and expert faculty.

Stanton, an associate professor of biology in UWA’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in the department of biological and environmental sciences, will teach a course on the ecology of the Florida Everglades. A Florida native, Stanton’s course gives students an immersive experience in the Everglades and its ecology.

Located on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, the Dauphin Island Sea Lab is a consortium of 22 colleges and universities in the state of Alabama. The DISL campus is surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound, making it an ideal location for marine science study and research. Its unique geographic location offers researchers and students resources and close proximity for research and application in the same setting.

As the marine science campus of its member institutions, the DISL offers summer college courses for credit in topics ranging from “Dolphins and Whales” to “Hurricanes of the Gulf Coast” to “Shark and Ray Biology.” Undergraduate programs are offered only during the summer months.

For more information on Dauphin Island Sea Lab and its University Programs, visit www.disl.org. To know more about UWA’s partnership with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and its opportunities for students, contact Dr. Lee Stanton at lstanton@uwa.edu.

2019 Alligator Hunt Registration Opens June 4

Photo by Diana Bualk

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) will open online registration for the state’s 14th annual regulated alligator hunts on Tuesday, June 4, at 8 a.m. Registration must be completed by 8 a.m., July 10.

A total of 260 Alligator Possession Tags will be distributed among five hunting zones. The administrative fee to apply for an Alligator Possession Tag is $22 and individuals may register one time per zone. While the tag is free, the selected hunters and their assistants are required to have valid hunting licenses in their possession while hunting.

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

To register for the 2019 alligator hunts, visit www.outdooralabama.com/alligators/alligator-hunt-registration during the registration period listed above.

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

Applicants can check their selection status on July 10, after 12 p.m., at https://publichunts.dcnr.alabama.gov/public. Those selected to receive a tag must confirm their acceptance online by 8 a.m., July 17. After that date, alternates will be notified to fill any vacancies. Applicants drawn for the hunt are required to complete an online Alligator Training Course prior to accepting their hunter/alternate status. The official course will be available on the applicant’s status page upon login.

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

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

SOUTHWEST ALABAMA ZONE – 100 Tags

Locations: Private and public waters in Baldwin and Mobile counties north of interstate 10, and private and public waters in Washington, Clarke and Monroe counties east of U.S. Highway 43 and south of U.S. Highway 84. 2019 Dates: Sunset on August 8, until sunrise on August 11. Sunset on August 15, until sunrise on August 18.

COASTAL ZONE – 50 Tags

Locations: Private and public waters in Baldwin and Mobile counties south of Interstate 10. 2019 Dates: Sunset on August 8, until sunrise on August 11. Sunset on August 15, until sunrise on August 18.

SOUTHEAST ALABAMA ZONE – 40 Tags

Locations: Private and public waters in Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston and Russell counties (excluding public Alabama state waters in Walter F. George Reservoir/Lake Eufaula and its navigable tributaries). 2019 Dates: Sunset on August 10, until sunrise on September 2.

WEST CENTRAL ALABAMA ZONE – 50 Tags

Locations: Private and public waters in Monroe (north of U.S. Highway 84), Wilcox and Dallas counties. 2019 Dates: Sunset on August 8, until sunrise on August 11. Sunset on August 15, until sunrise on August 18.

LAKE EUFAULA ZONE – 20 Tags

Locations: Public state waters only in the Walter F. George Reservoir/Lake Eufaula and its navigable tributaries, south of Alabama Highway 208 at Omaha Bridge (excludes Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge). 2019 Dates: Sunset August 16, until sunrise September 30.

Each person receiving an Alligator Possession Tag will be allowed to harvest one alligator during the season. An 8-foot minimum length requirement is in effect for alligators harvested in the Lake Eufaula Zone. There is no minimum length for hunts in the other zones. The use of bait is prohibited.

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

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

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

Controlling Fire Ants in Vegetable Gardens

Gardeners preparing summer vegetable gardens may find their plots already teeming with life, but not the kind they would like to see. Fire ants are common in yards, flowerbeds, playgrounds and gardens throughout Alabama.

Dr. Fudd Graham, an Alabama Extension entomologist, said there are three approaches used to control fire ants in the lawn and garden:

treating individual mounds with a bait or contact insecticide
broadcasting a fire ant bait that the ants pick up and take back to the nest and feed to the queen
broadcasting a long residual insecticide across the area that will kill smaller colonies and prevent new colonies for a period of time
Baits
Graham recommends fire ant bait as the main means of controlling these pests. Baits have a tiny amount of active ingredient, placed on a biodegradable carrier particle, as well as a food attractant. These baits should be applied in spring and fall for maximum control.

“Baits are relatively inexpensive and are environmentally sound,” Graham said. “The fire ants in the area generally pick up most of the bait particles in a short period of time, meaning there is minimal impact on non-pest ants.”

Baits are most effective when they are broadcast across the infested area. This way, it is possible to control the fire ant colonies that you cannot see because their mounds have not been built yet.

If there are only a few nests of concern, Graham, who is also a researcher in the Auburn University Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, recommends individual mound treatment.

Individual Mound Treatments
As stated on the product labels, each mound should be treated when it is warm outside, but not too hot. It is best to treat in early summer mornings or late evenings. During these times, the ants are closer to the surface of their mounds. Therefore, the treatment is mostly likely to affect the queen ant.

You must kill the queen to control a colony. This may be accomplished in a single application, or it may take two or three. If the queen is not killed, the mound will require additional treatments whether it is a big or small colony.

“Most mound treatments, other than baits, say to water the treatment into the mound. Best results occur using two gallons of water per mound,” Graham said. “For some other mound treatments, sprinkle them on and around the mound according to label directions.”

Fire Ant Control in Vegetable Gardens
Fire ants are like humans; they eat many different foods. Gardeners may see ants crawling on leaves, flowers and fruits in the garden.

“Fire ants search for fats, proteins and sugars. They come to plants to feed on nectar in flowers and extrafloral nectaries,” Graham said. “They also protect aphids on plants because the fire ants feed on the aphid excrement, honeydew. Fire ants also feed on seeds and on other insects.”

Follow the directions on the label for vegetable gardens and fire ant control. Be sure to use control products with vegetables on the label when trying to control fire ants in the vegetable garden. By broadcasting a fire ant bait around—not in—the garden, homeowners can control most fire ant colonies in small gardens. This is helpful since baits labeled for fire ants in vegetable gardens are difficult to find. There are more fire ant baits that are legal to use in home lawns and other grassy areas than there are for use in vegetable gardens.

More Information
For more information on fire ant control in the garden, visit www.aces.edu.

To learn more about how to enhance your garden and landscape, check out Alabama Extension’s “Gardening in the South” series. You can find the series on iBooks.

Based on proven Master Gardener training and seasoned with university research, the “Gardening in the South” series of books is packed with information, tips and tricks to being a successful Southern gardener.

Have a gardening question? Call the Master Gardener Helpline. To reach the helpline, dial 1-877-252-GROW (4769).

Nonvenomous Snakes Can Pose a Health Risk

As the weather gets warmer, snakes and other wildlife will be on the move. Many people will come across a nonvenomous snake at some point. Though they have many good qualities, nonvenomous snakes can still pose a health risk to people.

While they do not have venom, a bite from a nonvenomous snake can cause infections. If left untreated, these infections could cause serious health problems. Knowing basic information about nonvenomous snakes can help reduce your chance of being bitten.

Environment
Snakes are found just about anywhere. Sheds, barns, flower beds, gardens and wood piles are great places for them to hang out. Ironically, the greatest health risk nonvenomous snakes pose to humans has little to do with the snake at all. People trying to get away from nonvenomous snakes when they are frightened is a greater risk for injury than the snake itself.

Dr. Jim Armstrong, an Alabama Extension wildlife specialist, said snakes like to stay in areas where they can find food and feel protected.

“Snakes are most likely to be found in areas that provide cover or shelter for them and their prey,” Armstrong said. “Removing these types of areas from around your house will help reduce, but not eliminate, the possibility of snakes around the home.”

When near these types of areas, be alert for snakes so they do not catch you by surprise. As a general rule, Armstrong said if you are in an area where snakes might be present, closed-toe shoes and long pants are a must.

In general snakes are not aggressive, but put in the right situation they can be.

“Overall, most snakes, regardless of species, are not aggressive. However, any snake, venomous or not, may be aggressive if cornered or picked up,” Armstrong said. “Some species tend to bite more readily than others, but there is great variation even within a species.”

What To Do If Bitten
Nonvenomous snake bites can cause problems because of possible infection. Armstrong said that any time skin is opened, the risk of infection is there.

“All snakes have teeth so, they all have the potential to break the skin,” Armstrong said. “This introduces infection to the area.”

In the event of a person being bitten, Armstrong said that thoroughly washing the wound is usually enough. However, people should always watch the area for any signs of infection.

He said any wound, regardless of the source, should be monitored.

Don’t Pick Up Snakes
When a snake comes near a home, a general first reaction is to want to move the snake far away. Armstrong said that this is the main reason people are bitten by nonvenomous snakes.

“Most bites occur when people are handling snakes,” he said. “I recommend leaving them alone if they are not venomous.”

Armstrong wrote a line to remind people about picking up snakes; “some snakes bite, but others don’t. It’s a chance you shouldn’t take. So, in the wild don’t pick ‘em up and you won’t make a big mistake.”

More Information
Find more information about snakes at Alabama Extension online. For further information, contact your county Extension office.

Celebrate National Fishing and Boating Week, June 1–9

National Fishing and Boating Week celebrates two of America’s favorite outdoor activities by highlighting some of the many fishing and boating opportunities available across the country during the first full week of June each year.

The weeklong recognition was started by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program and coincides with most states’ free fishing days.

Boating and fishing are fun, stress-relieving activities that can be enjoyed with family and friends year-round. From connecting with loved ones to de-stressing after a busy week, boating and fishing help to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Additionally, a portion of the revenue generated by the sale of fishing licenses is federally matched nearly three to one to fund freshwater and saltwater finfish conservation efforts and boating access improvements in Alabama.

If you’ve never been fishing before, it’s easy to get started. All it takes is some simple equipment and a few basic pointers and you can start reeling them in. For fishing tips and more, visit www.outdooralabama.com/freshwater-fishing/fishing-tips or www.outdooralabama.com/saltwater-fishing/saltwater-fishing-tips.

With the exception of Free Fishing Day (June 8), make sure to purchase a fishing license before your fishing trip. Licenses are available at various outdoors retailers throughout the state or online at www.outdooralabama.com/license-information.

Boaters and anglers are reminded to practice safety on the water during National Fishing and Boating Week including wearing a lifejacket. For more safe boating tips, visit www.safeboatingcampaign.com.

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

Practice healthy and safe swimming all season long

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is participating in the annual Healthy and Safe Swimming Week, May 20-26, 2019, which is an initiative of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This year’s goal is to emphasize the importance of taking simple steps to prevent pool chemical injuries and promote healthy swimming habits. Healthy swimming is not just about the steps pool operators and pool inspectors take. Do your part to help keep yourselves, your families and friends healthy this summer and year-round.
Pool chemicals are added to maintain water quality and kill germs that may cause illness. Each year, however, mishandling pool chemicals when treating public or residential pools, hot tubs, spas and water playgrounds leads to 3,000–5,000 visits to U.S. emergency departments. To ensure a safe swimming environment, state and local standards specify how to maintain treated water venues.

ADPH encourages those who plan to participate in recreational water activities this season to take the following steps to prevent illness and injuries:
• Make sure everyone knows how to swim before participating in recreational water activities.
• Before getting in the water, do your own mini-inspection.
• Use a test strip from your local retailer or pool supply store to check basic chemistry levels in pools and spas:
• Always follow the manufacturer’s directions
• PH: 7.2 – 7.8
• Free chlorine: at least 3 parts per million (ppm) in hot tubs and spas and at least 1 ppm in pools and water playgrounds
• Bromine: at least 4 ppm in hot tubs and spas and at least 3 ppm in pools and water playgrounds
• Shower before getting in the water.
• Stay out of the water if sick with diarrhea.

ADPH also encourages safe swimming habits when enjoying natural waters:
• If a person has open wounds, cuts, abrasions and sores, stay out of the water. In brackish and warm sea water, such as bay or gulf waters, Vibriobacteria occur naturally. These bacteria can cause disease in people who eat contaminated seafood and in those with open wounds that are exposed to seawater.
• If a person gets a cut while in the water, immediately wash the wound with soap and fresh water. If the wound shows any signs of infection (redness, pain or swelling) or if the cut is deep, get medical attention immediately.

For more information on Healthy and Safe Swimming Week, visit:
https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/observances/hss-week/index.html
https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/(general healthy swimming tips)

Archaeological Evidence and Experts Determine – Shipwreck Likely Clotilda

After a comprehensive assessment and months of research, the Alabama Historical Commission (AHC) is proud to announce the wreck of the Clotilda, the last known vessel to bring enslaved persons to the United States, has been identified.

For nearly 160 years, the waters around Mobile have concealed the final destination of the Gulf Schooner Clotilda. Residents of Africatown have carried the memory of their ancestors who were forcefully and violently migrated from Africa to the shores of Alabama. Since then, the final chapter of the Clotilda story has been shrouded in mystery.

From February to July 1860, the Clotilda illegally transported 110 people from Benin, Africa to Mobile, Alabama. This gross transgression took place 52 years after the United States banned the importation of enslaved people to the country. Co-conspirators, Timothy Meaher and Captain William Foster made an effort to evade authorities and destroy evidence of their criminal voyage by burning the vessel and dividing the Africans among their captors, where they remained in slavery until the end of the Civil War. A small band of the Clotilda passengers reunited post-war with the hopes of returning to Africa. When that dream was not realized, the survivors and their descendants established a new home for themselves in the Plateau area of Mobile – a community which is now known today as Africatown.

“The discovery of the Clotilda is an extraordinary archaeological find,” said Lisa Demetropoulos Jones, State Historic Preservation Officer and Executive Director of the Alabama Historical Commission. “The voyage represented one of the darkest eras of modern history and is a profound discovery of the tangible evidence of slavery,”

Jones continued, “This new discovery brings the tragedy of slavery into focus while witnessing the triumph and resilience of the human spirit in overcoming the horrific crime that led to the establishment of Africatown.”

Under the federal mandate set forth in the Abandoned Shipwrecks Act of 1999, the Alabama Historical Commission, the State Historic Preservation Office of Alabama, is charged with the management and guardianship of maritime archaeological sites abandoned and embedded in Alabama waters.

In accordance with that mandate, the AHC took action last January after a local reporter broke news with a claim of having located and identified the ship. Though the ship detected was in fact not the Clotilda, the incident renewed interest in resolving the puzzle of what had become of the ship that transplanted the enslaved individuals from Africa to Alabama.

The work and focus of the AHC became to locate the remains and confirm the identity of the storied shipwreck. The Alabama Historical Commission, working in conjunction with the Black Heritage Council, National Geographic Society (NGS), Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC), the Slave Wrecks Project (SWP), Diving with a Purpose (DWP), and the National Park Service (NPS)., assembled a team of foremost experts in maritime archaeology led by Dr. James Delgado and SEARCH, INC to conduct archaeological assessment of a previously unsearched area of the Mobile River.

Initial historical research and archaeological survey revealed up to two dozen vessels from the 19th and 20th centuries.

The survey led to underwater excavation that revealed one wreck that closely matched some of the known characteristics of Clotilda. “Utilizing the latest scientific techniques and in-depth archival research, the team identified a target for further investigation and excavation,” said Eric Sipes, Senior Archaeologist with the State of Alabama.

After a year of study, including forensic analysis in SEARCH and National Geographic’s laboratories, consulting with other experts, exhaustive archival research into original documents, the scientific research concluded the wreck is likely Clotilda.

“The resulting report of findings was sent to an international panel of renowned maritime archaeologists for peer review to ensure the data met the highest standards of scientific research in the field,” said Sipes.

Their conclusions were independently reviewed and agreed upon by an international suite of leading authorities.

“We are cautious about placing names on shipwrecks that no longer bear a name or something like a bell with the ship’s name on it,” notes Delgado, “but the physical and forensic evidence powerfully suggests that this is Clotilda.”

In summary, these revealing details include confirmation of the schooner’s unique size, dimensions, and building materials comprised of locally sourced lumber and “pig iron” that are an exact match to the specifications outlined in historic registries. Experts were able to observe the exceptional construction and determine the ship was built prior to 1870. The vessel remains also showed signs of burning, which is concurrent with Captain Foster’s claim that he burned the Clotilda after scuttling her. A detailed survey of all surviving historical survey records for schooners in the entire Gulf of Mexico region, and including those of the port of Mobile, found only four vessels built in the size range as this wreck; only one, Clotilda, out of some 1,500 vessels assessed in the archival records, matches the wreck.

“Finding the Clotilda represents the final nautical bookend to one of the most horrific periods in American and world history. It is my hope that this discovery brings a comforting peace to the Africatown descendants and begins a process of genuine community and memory restoration,” said Kamau Sadiki, a member of the Slave Wrecks Project and peer review team that confirmed the identity of the Clotilda.

Now that the preponderance of evidence makes a clear statement as to the likelihood of the ship’s identity, the Alabama Historical Commission shifts its focus to the protection of the asset.

“The mission of the Alabama Historical Commission is to protect, preserve and interpret Alabama’s historic resources. We are working diligently with state and local agencies to secure site protections,” said Major General (Ret.) Walter Givhan, Chair of the Alabama Historical Commission. “The State of Alabama holds this artifact as an irreplaceable cultural treasure and will prosecute any tampering or encroachment to the fullest extent of the law. With the confirmation of this discovery, the responsibility to preserve it only increases, and the Alabama Historical Commission will continue to assess security needs and the most effective way to meet them.”

The path to discovery has been heavily dependent upon the necessary corroboration by scientific methodology, which also requires additional research to not only inform next steps, but to make recommendations as to the overall preservation of the site. “Additional archaeological research will help us to learn more details about the story of the Clotilda and its survivors,” remarked Stacye Hathorne, State Archaeologist of Alabama. “It is important to preserve the site so that additional research may be conducted and the story may emerge.”

The search for the remains of this infamous ship has captured the public’s attention over the past two years, and with it, a desire to bring to a conclusion this dark chapter in Alabama’s history and provide answers for the descendants of the Clotilda and members of the Africatown community.

“As archaeologists, we are often asked why the work we do matters,” offered SEARCH, CEO, Anne Stokes. “The story of Clotilda is a powerful testament to how cultural heritage can impact a community, especially one as powerfully connected to this story as Africatown.”

The National Geographic Society is honored to have supported the scientific research behind the discovery of the Clotilda. Supporting bold individuals and organizations who illuminate the wonders of our world, and all that’s in it, is at the heart of the Society’s mission,” said Fredrik Hiebert, archeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society. “We are guided by the belief that science and exploration will help us better understand the human journey.”

The significance of the archaeological find is not limited to the artifact; this resolution has been more than a century in the making for the descendants of the Clotilda survivors and for citizens of Africatown. They established themselves in a foreign land while holding fast to their customs and identity despite the tragedies that befell them.

“Finding this important historical asset is pivotal to reconciliation with the citizens of Africatown, the State of Alabama and the nation,” said Clara Nobles, Alabama Historical Commission Assistant Executive Director. “We should not forget that the larger story here is the people and what they were able to accomplish.”

“The leadership and citizens of Africatown look forward to working with the AHC and project partners to tell our story and move forward as a community,” said Joycelyn Davis, descendent from the Clotilda.

On Thursday, May 30, the Media is invited to the Official Press Conference where the Archaeological Report will be released in conjunction with a celebratory community event at the Robert Hope Community Center at 2pm in the heart of Africatown. Representatives from Alabama Historical Commission, Black Heritage Council, SEARCH, National Geographic, Smithsonian Institution, and others will be on hand with forthcoming announcements from project partners.

The Alabama Historical Commission extends its sincere appreciation to collaborators Black Heritage Council, National Geographic Society (NGS), Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC), the Slave Wrecks Project (SWP), Diving with a Purpose (DWP), and the National Park Service (NPS).

To learn more about the Alabama Historical Commission, please visit www.ahc.alabama.gov.

About the Alabama Historical Commission Located in historic downtown Montgomery at 468 S. Perry Street, the Alabama Historical Commission is the state historic preservation agency for Alabama. The agency was created by an act of the state legislature in 1966 with a mission to protect, preserve and interpret Alabama’s historic places. AHC works to accomplish its mission through two fields of endeavor: Preservation and promotion of state-owned historic sites as public attractions; and, statewide programs to assist people, groups, towns, and cities with local preservation activities. For a complete list of programs and properties owned and operated by the AHC, hours of operation, and admission fees please visit ahc.alabama.gov.

Women in Ag: Basic Hands-On Training Slated for June 14

The United States is home to more than 1.2 million female farmers. As these numbers climb, Alabama Extension is continuing its dedication to providing programming geared specifically toward women. Brenda Glover, an Alabama Extension animal science and forages regional agent, will host a Basic Hands-On Training, June 14 at the Black Belt Research and Extension Center in Marion Junction, Ala. This training will highlight topics that are essential to a successful farming operation.

Women in Agriculture Training
Glover said the training stemmed from a need for knowledge of the basics.

“There are lots of women getting involved on farms for one reason or another,” Glover said. “We would like to help them be more independent, take ownership and be successful.”

Topics include: Fencing: Temporary and Permanent
Sutton Gibbs, NRCS
Tractors and Farm Implements: Driving, Checking oil, Tire pressure, Bushhogs, Sprayers
Wendy Yeager, farm owner
Pasture Pests: Measuring, Pest Control
Dr. Kelly Palmer, Auburn University
Trucks and Trailers: Goosenecks, Bumper Pulls
Katie Gantt, farm owner
Forage Yield Estimation and Soil Testing
Caroline Chappell and Katie Mason, Auburn University
Animal Health: Needle/vaccination selection, Injection sites
Dr. Jessica Rush, Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine
Attendees will have the opportunity to drive and work with equipment, as well as learning to soil sample and administer vaccinations using fruit.

“Hands-on training is important for women who are primary operators, and for those helping someone else on the farm,” Glover said.

Registration
The training will last from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Space is limited to 30 participants, and registration is first come, first served. Before May 31, there os a fee to register, which includes lunch. After May 31, the fee increases. To register, or for more information about the training, contact Brenda Glover at glovebs@aces.edu.

There will also be a two-day Women in Ag workshop in October. Interested parties should watch the ACES calendar for updates.

Avoiding Poisonous Plants

Warmer weather is sending people in droves to participate in many outdoors activities. In many of these instances, people are in close contact with plants. When camping, hiking, playing in the yard and even working in flower beds and gardens, people should watch for poisonous plants that can cause harm.

Plants and Characteristics
Some of the common poisonous plants people see are poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. Dr. Nancy Loewenstein, an Alabama Extension specialist of forestry and wildlife sciences, said there are a few more species besides these that can cause rashes.

“While most people don’t react to English ivy (Hedera helix), individuals who are sensitive to it can develop a rash after working or playing around it in the yard.” Loewenstein said. “Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is covered with stinging hairs that cause a painful sting if touched. Skin irritation resembling hives may result. Spurge nettle, also called tread softly (Cnidoscolus stimulosus) is another plant with stinging hairs to avoid in the woods.”

Unless someone is severely allergic, generally nothing will happen to a person just touching poison ivy, oak or sumac. Andrew Baril, an Alabama Extension regional agent of forestry, wildlife and natural resources, said problems occur with these plants when someone crushes the leaves or stem and releases the oils.

“If the oil is allowed to come in contact with skin, a rash will develop for most people,” Baril said “If one does come in contact with the oils, it is best to wash the area with warm water and a mild soap. Don’t scratch the area; just lightly remove as much of the oil as possible.”

Baril said that in his opinion, encountering the oils while burning the plants is worse than touching or crushing them.

“Smoke encountering the eyes, and inhalation into one’s lungs is extremely painful, and could lead to hospitalization and even death,” Baril said.

Avoid Poisonous Plants
Baril offers a few tips on how to identify poisonous plants and precautions to take to avoid them.

Poison ivy and poison oak have leaves with three leaflets, often with a reddish spot where the leaflets attach to the stem.
Do not burn any part of these plants.
Always wear long pants and close-toed shoes when in wooded areas.
Consider application of a preventive lotion, such as Ivy Block, before going outdoors.
Always wash clothes immediately upon return from walking in wooded areas.
Animals and Humans React Differently
Some plants cause reactions or death in humans, but do not have the same effect on animals. Some animals are deathly effected by some plants, but they do not hurt humans.

“Humans need to look out for poison ivy, poison oak and sumac and don’t touch it,” Baril said. “Animals don’t normally have a problem with the touching these plants, but if your dog rolls in a patch of poison ivy and you rub the dog, it will get on you.”

According to Baril, dog hair can carry the oils found in these plants.

“They can bring them into a home and the oil can get on carpets, rugs, furniture or wherever they lay,” Baril said. “Oils can remain potent for over a year. Therefore, dogs should be bathed after they had been seen playing in the plants.”

Don’t Eat Wild Plants
Baril cautioned that touching a poisonous plant can be bad, but eating one can be even worse.

“If you don’t know for sure what plant you are handling, don’t ingest the plant,” Baril said.

Loewenstein said there are some wild plants that are editable but a person should be sure what the plant is before they eat it.

“Unless you’re 100 percent sure you’ve identified a plant correctly and made sure it is edible, don’t eat any wild plants,” Loewenstein said. “Some plants have fruits that look safe to eat, but are not. A few examples are Chinaberry and the Chinese tallowtree.”

More Information
For more information of poisonous plants, visit Alabama Extension online or contact your county Extension office.

by Justin Miller

Alabama Water Watch Offers Alabama Rivers Educator Workshops

Alabama is home to mighty rivers; providing nourishment, transportation, habitats and recreation for those who call Alabama home. Alabama Water Watch, which is part of the Auburn University Water Resources Center and receives support from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, is providing educators with Alabama rivers teaching tools through a series of workshops.

Mona Dominguez, director of Alabama Water Watch, said rivers play a huge role in Alabama’s identity—shaping aspects of history, culture, ecology and economy.

“Rivers are featured on our state seal. Alabama is the only state to do so,” Dominguez said. “Water resources in Alabama should be source of pride, however, many of us know very little about them. With the book Alabama Rivers: A Celebration & Challenge at the center, these workshops provide educators with a way to increase understanding and get students excited about Alabama’s rivers.”

Alabama Rivers Educator Workshops
Supported by the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, these workshops will allow educators to learn more about Alabama waterways and in turn, share that knowledge in the classroom. The course follows the Alabama Course of Study Standards for Social Studies and Science for grades four through seven. It is also adaptable for older students.

Workshops are $35 and based on An Educator’s Guide to Alabama Rivers Curriculum.

Participants may choose to attend one- or two-day workshops.

Workshop Locations and Dates
June 5-6
Camp McDowell Environmental Center
Nauvoo, Alabama

June 20-21
Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Office
Spanish Fort, Alabama

July 18-19
Lee County Historical Society Pioneer Park
Loachapoka, Alabama
**Lee County workshop includes a Stream Biomonitoring Certification through Alabama Water Watch

Sept. 21
Turtle Point Science Center
Flomaton, Alabama

Nov. 9
Cheaha State Park
Delta, Alabama

Registration for the workshops is $35. Educators can register online through the Alabama Water Watch or by calling the AWW office at 334-844-4785.

Attendees will receive:

Certification as an Alabama Rivers Educator
A copy of Alabama Rivers, A Celebration and Challenge by Dr. Bill Deutsch
A copy of An Educators Guide to Alabama Rivers
Access to online digital resources
Continuing Education Units from Auburn University
More Information
For more information contact Mona Dominguez with the Alabama Water Watch. Find more water resources on www.aces.edu.

Bait Privilege License Provides Options for Hog, Deer Hunting

(Jay Gunn, WFF) Feral pigs create significant damage to agricultural fields and wildlife openings in Alabama. Hunters in Alabama with a bait privilege license can now hunt deer during the open season and feral hogs year-round with the aid of bait.
MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA
(Jay Gunn, WFF) Feral pigs create significant damage to agricultural fields and wildlife openings in Alabama.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

A buddy of mine recently returned from vacation to discover what many landowners have been dealing with for the past couple of decades.

“Hogs tore up my place while we were gone,” the message read.

Now my friend has another tool that he can use to help minimize the impact of the scourge known as feral hogs.

The Alabama Legislature recently passed legislation that allows hunters on privately owned or leased land to purchase a bait privilege license that makes it legal to hunt feral pigs (year-round during daylight hours only) and white-tailed deer (during the deer-hunting season only) with the aid of bait.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) is issuing the new license ($15 for resident individual hunters and $51 for non-residents) through any outlet that sells hunting licenses and online at www.outdooralabama.com.

Hunters who want to thin the destructive hog herd right now can purchase the license, but be aware that license will expire on Aug. 31. If you wish to hunt hogs or deer with the aid of bait during the 2019-2020 hunting seasons, you will need to purchase a new bait privilege license when it becomes available in late August.

The bait privilege license applies to everybody who hunts those species with the aid of bait with no exceptions. That means hunters 65 years old and older and hunters under 16 must have a valid bait license when hunting with the aid of bait. That also includes people hunting on their own property and lifetime license holders.

Plus, each hunter must have his/her own bait privilege license to hunt with the aid of bait.

Also understand that baiting any wildlife – including white-tailed deer and feral pigs – on public lands remains illegal.

Sen. Jack Williams, R-Wilmer, who has been dealing with the destructive feral hogs for years, sponsored the Senate bill. This was the fourth year Williams had submitted similar legislation.

“The biggest thing in my area is the hogs are tearing your property up,” said Williams, who farms and operates a plant nursery in Mobile County. “I’m overrun with them in my area.

“I killed one Easter morning off my porch, in my back yard. They were rooting my driveway up. We’re doing everything we can to kill them. We have more opportunities to kill them during deer season than any other time.”

Williams drew a parallel with how some natural wildlife forage can also congregate animals in tight spaces.

“In my viewpoint, there is not any difference between a group of deer eating the corn spread out or in a trough and white-oak acorns with all the deer up under that tree,” he said. “We’ve fed for years, and I think most people who are trying to grow any deer have too. We haven’t had any problems with it at all.”

Included in the law is a provision that ADCNR can suspend the use of the bait privilege license on a county, regional or statewide basis to prevent the spread of diseases, like chronic wasting disease (CWD), among wildlife.

Williams said he’s received significant feedback on his Facebook page about the bill, and the majority of responses have been positive.

“The polling we had before it was passed was about 84% in favor,” he said. “And it’s a choice. If you don’t want to bait, you don’t have to. If you own property, you can put in your lease that hunters can’t use bait. This is not being forced on you. It’s up to you if you do it or not.”

Williams thinks the use of bait illegally has been a common occurrence in Alabama in the past.

“People have been feeding anyway,” he said. “This is just making a lot of people legal. That’s the way I see it.

“I don’t see it helping the people who grow corn. I know every feed store around here that sells it, and they can’t get it in fast enough during hunting season. It’s not going to make the price of corn go up. That will be market price.”

Williams also mentioned, for those who choose not to hunt with the aid of bait, the Area Definition Regulation remains in effect. The Area Definition Regulation allows for supplemental feeding as long as the feed is more than 100 yards away and out of the line of sight of the hunter because of natural vegetation or naturally occurring terrain features.

Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship said this was not a Department-sponsored bill, but the Department did work with Senator Williams to include the provisions that help prevent the spread of disease.

“We wanted it to be clear in the bill that the Conservation Commissioner had the authority to suspend the baiting privilege if CWD or some other disease was detected,” Blankenship said. “It also says the Commissioner can suspend the feeding of wild game in areas where CWD or other disease might be present.

“This gives us some abilities to ensure that we can protect the deer herd in the case of a disease outbreak in our state.”

Blankenship said there has been much discussion regarding the bill.

“People like that this bill makes it clear that if they want to hunt with aid of bait, they can, like they do in Georgia and other states,” he said. “I’ve also got some calls from people who are unhappy, who don’t think it’s a way that you should hunt.”

Blankenship reiterated what Senator Williams said about choice to participate or not.

“This is not a requirement that people hunt over bait,” he said. “It’s a tool that people can use if that is what they prefer. Somebody who is totally opposed to that type of hunting can hunt the way they always have. This is just an option.”

Like Williams and my friend, Blankenship expects significant participation from people who are dealing with feral pigs.

“This may help us throughout the whole year to better help control the population of feral hogs,” the Commissioner said.

Blankenship said the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division will continue to closely monitor the white-tailed deer herd and any harvest rate trends that might be associated with the use of bait.

“The Department will make sure this is not a detriment to the wildlife and that we have a healthy deer population in our state,” he said. “This is just another factor we will examine as we look at the health of the deer population. With the three-buck limit and other seasons and bag limits, we think our deer population will be fine.”

Revenue from sale of the new bait privilege license will be eligible for federal matching funds to support conservation efforts in the state. That revenue is determined, in part, by the number of licenses sold. Exempt hunters who buy a bait privilege license but don’t buy a hunting license will be eligible to be counted for federal matching funds.

Blankenship said he doesn’t have a projection about the amount of revenue the bait privilege licenses will produce.

“We really don’t know right now,” he said. “After the first season, we’ll have a lot better idea.”

For more information, contact the Alabama WFF Law Enforcement Section at 334-242-3467.

Free Fishing Day is June 8

Photo by Amy Simmons

On Saturday, June 8, 2019, Alabamians and visitors alike will have the opportunity to fish for free in most public waters including both freshwater and saltwater. Free Fishing Day is part of National Fishing and Boating Week, which runs June 1-9. Free Fishing Day allows residents and non-residents to enjoy the outstanding fishing opportunities Alabama has to offer without having to purchase a fishing license.

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

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

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

Fire Ants Cause Issues for Farmers

Fire ants are a great issue for farmers on many levels. Not only do they cost famers time and money but they can cause damage to equipment. Whether it is in pastures or hay fields, farmers must determine the best option to treat fire ants.

Should I Treat My Fields?
Dr. Fudd Graham, an Alabama Extension entomologist, said the first step to treatment is to determine the level of infestation and the treatment it requires.

“First determine if it is necessary to treat the pasture,” said Graham. “Unless it is a calving pasture, it may not be economical to treat. Hayfields are another story since the mounds can damage equipment.”

Extension professionals have developed a worksheet to help farmers decide if their pasture systems would benefit from fire ant treatment.

Choosing Bait
If treatment is necessary, producers must learn how to properly treat fire ants with the most control for the lowest cost. For hayfield and pasture situations, the proper choice is fire ant bait. Farmers must pick a fire ant bait registered for their site use.

Spreading Equipment
Graham, who is also a researcher in the Auburn University department of entomology and plant pathology, said for medium and large sized pastures, it is best to apply bait using a GT-77 Herd Seeder. Alabama Extension has more than 40 of these seeders available for producers to borrow.

Because of the small amount of bait applied, fertilizer spreaders do not work as they apply too much material. Seeders with rotating agitators tend to turn the bait into an oily mush that clogs the seeder. The Herd seeder features a vibrating agitator, which prevents clogging as the bait exits the seeder.

Treatment Recommendations
Farmers should only use fresh fire ant bait. If the bait is rancid, it will not attract ants. Graham recommends broadcast applications only when ants are actively foraging, from spring to fall. Ants do not forage in extreme heat. Therefore, make summer applications in the morning or evening hours. The attractant in the bait is a vegetable oil and will dry out if applied during the heat of the day when ants are not foraging.

Graham said one to two pasture treatments per year should be enough to keep the fire ant population in check.

“Most producers can treat pastures once a year in September, preferably with a bait containing an insect growth regulator, and get good control,” Graham said. “If you require two treatments per year, apply in June and September. Insect growth regulator baits provide a longer fire ant free period than do the fast-acting baits.”

More Information
For more information on fire ant treatment and control, visit Alabama Extension online at www.aces.edu. There is also more information on fire ants that can be found here www.eXtension.org/fire_ants.

Alabama Bait Bill Becomes Law
Bait privilege license on sale now

Hunters in Alabama can now hunt white-tailed deer (when in season) and feral pigs with the aid of bait on privately owned or leased lands if they have purchased and are in possession of an annual bait privilege license issued by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). The new license, $15 for resident individual hunters and $51 for non-residents, is now available anywhere hunting licenses are sold including online at www.outdooralabama.com.

Approved by the Alabama Legislature in April 2019, the new baiting law applies only to white-tailed deer and feral pigs on privately owned or leased lands. Baiting any wildlife – including white-tailed deer and feral pigs – on public lands remains illegal.

Hunters in possession of a valid bait privilege license can hunt feral pigs with the aid of bait as soon as that license is purchased. However, like all recreational hunting and fishing licenses, the bait privilege license will expire annually on August 31. To use bait for white-tailed deer and feral pigs during the 2019-2020 season, hunters must purchase or renew their annual bait privilege license.

There are no exemptions for the bait privilege license. All hunters who choose to hunt white-tailed deer and feral pigs with the aid of bait must purchase the bait privilege license regardless of their age or hunting license status. This includes hunters 65 years of age and older, those under 16 years of age, persons hunting on their own property and lifetime license holders. Additionally, the bait privilege is limited to the bait privilege license holder only. Each hunter must have their own bait privilege license when utilizing bait during hunting.

Under the new law, ADCNR can suspend the use of the bait privilege license on a county, regional or statewide basis to prevent the spread of disease among wildlife.

For those who choose not to hunt with the aid of bait, the Area Definition Regulation, which provides supplemental feeding guidance for landowners, is still in effect.

Revenue generated by the sale of the new bait privilege license will be federally matched nearly three to one to help support conservation efforts in Alabama.

For more information, contact the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Law Enforcement Section at 334-242-3467.

To purchase a bait privilege license online, visit www.outdooralabama.com/license-information.

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.

Pruning Produces Bigger Tomatoes

By Ann Chambliss
For many, a garden is not complete without tomato plants in it. Whether you are a producer or a backyard gardener, growing the biggest and best tomatoes is often the end goal. Pruning tomato plants can help people achieve this goal.

Dr. Joe Kemble, an Alabama Extension commercial vegetable specialist, offers the following information about pruning tomato plants.

Benefits of Pruning
Pruning helps to maintain a balance between vegetative and reproductive growth. If you don’t prune or prune sparingly, your tomato plants will produce excessive vegetative growth with reduced fruit size.

Moderate pruning will leave your plants with shorter vines and larger fruit that will mature earlier. Pruning combined with staking keeps vines and fruit off the ground, helping to manage diseases. Although pruning requires some effort, the benefits of doing so are more marketable fruit and easier harvesting.

Methods of Pruning
The most common method of pruning is to prune to a two-stemmed plant by pinching off lateral branches (suckers) as they develop in the axils of each leaf (see figure 1). To achieve this balance, remove all the suckers up to the one immediately below the first flower cluster. A single pruning will usually be adequate, although a later pruning may be needed to remove suckers growing from the base of the plant.

Suckers should be removed when small, no more than 2 to 4 inches in length. Letting them get large wastes plant energy and provides an entry point for plant pathogens. Prune early in the morning after plants have dried. Ensuring plant health by pruning is an easy pro-active way to gain better fruit and manage diseases.

More Information
For more information on pruning, visit Alabama Extension online or contact your local Extension office.

UA’s Moundville Native American Park gearing up for Summer fun with Saturday’s in the Park
Enjoy learning about native American history and culture while enjoying the great outdoors

By Kasey DeCastra, Moundville Times and Sumter County Record Journal Editor
Moundville’s Native American Park, is most famous for their annual Native American Festival, but did you know about Saturdays in the Park in the Summer?
“We are very excited to be bringing a variety of Native American crafts, music, and dancing demonstrators to the park this summer! Saturday in the Park programs feature some of our treasured festival performers as well as demonstrations you can not experience at any other time of the year, “Exclaimed Kayla Scott, Education Outreach Coordinator at UA’s Moundville Archeological Park.
Events start at 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. in front of or inside Jones Archeological Museum: June 1, 2019 Choctaw Crafts Juanita Gardinski; June 8, 2019 Whistle Making Charlie Mato-Toyela; June 15, 2019 Flintknapping Guy Meador; June 22, 2019 Hoop Dancing/Drumming Lyndon Alec/Southern Pine; June 29, 2019 Tools and Weapons Bill Skinner; July 6, 2019 Hoop Dancing Lyndon Alec; July 13, 2019 Flute Making Charlie Mato-Toyela; July 20, 2019 Pottery Firing Tammy Bean; July 27, 2019 Textile Making Cat Sloan; August 3, 2019 Copper Working Bill Skinner.
“Lyndon Alec is always a highlight of our festival, and we are fortunate to have him on the schedule for two dates this summer. We encourage everyone to come out and be part of these awesome events! Be sure to bring your family, friends, and any questions you may have for our demonstrators,” said Kayla.
The Native American Festival will be Oct. 9-12 this year.

Lyme Disease Symptom Checklist

Fishing Dates Announced for Forever Wild Field Trial Area in Hale County

Jason Creel and family at the FWFTA in 2016

The M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area (FWFTA) in Hale County will be open for youth fishing opportunities on several Wednesdays in upcoming months. The fishing will be available in two catfish and two bass ponds on the property for each date listed below. Fishing spots are limited and reservations are required. To register, call 334-624-9952 starting May 20, 2019.

Reservations for the FWFTA youth fishing dates are only available to parents or adults who are at least 21 years old. Each adult that registers must be accompanied by at least one youth who is 15 years old or younger.

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

Fishing will be from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the following dates:

June 5
June 12
June 19
June 26
July 10
July 17
The M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trail Area consists of 3,340 acres of pasture and a mixture of pine-hardwood forest. Historically, the property was a working cattle ranch and catfish farm. Today it is a nature preserve and recreation area with scheduled field trials and opportunities for hunting and fishing. For more information, visit www.alabamaforeverwild.com/m-barnett-lawley-forever-wild-field-trial-area.

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

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

Giant Hog-zilla evicted from course
This giant wild boar hog did not pay membership dues when he and about ten of his companions showed up at the Livingston Country Club and starting rooting and roaming the greens on the Livingston golf course recently. Country Club Manager Allen Smith said the hogs are not welcome at the country club, so a trap was set, and ‘Hog-zilla’ was captured and evicted 10 days ago. Smith said wild hogs have become a problem and he is afraid the hogs could root away the golf greens at the Livingston facility. Wild hogs are an invasive species present in at least 35 states, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. They cause billions of dollars in crop damage each year, and their rooting causes widespread and lasting environmental damage. Alabama biologists are now blaming the wild hogs for contributing to the declining wild turkey populations in the state.

Carpenter Bees Swarming in Hale County

By Tyrone D. Smith Hale County Extension Coordinator

Carpenter bees (Xylocopaspp.) are large and economically important insects that are active from early spring through summer. Like other bees, carpenter bees pollinate crops and home gardens. However, they tend to hover around houses and other wooden structures when searching for mates and favorable sites to construct their nests. They almost totally depend on man-made structures for the wood used to construct their nests. This might be called the swarming season of carpenter bees which are foraging, mating, and producing. The ones buzzing around with a white/light yellow spot on front head are males, they are aggressive but harmless as they are simply collecting pollen. Homeowners are often frightened about being attacked by the carpenter bees that hover erratically around their homes. Homeowners are also concerned about the holes carpenter bees make in wood, which often lead to more serious damage by woodpeckers when they try to feed on the carpenter larvae deep inside the holes. Carpenter bees are not stinging bees like honeybees and bumblebees. A male carpenter bee is aggressive when protecting its nesting site, but is harmless because it does not have a stinger. Watch out for the female she has a stinger!

Where are they most likely to nest? Eaves, window trim, facial boards, siding, wooden shakes, decks, outdoor furniture, and sometimes fence are all prime locations for carpenter bees.

What damage do they do in the swarming season? After mating, the females burrow into wood, mostly borrow into old or abandoned tunnels, to lay eggs with a series of small cells. Each cell is provisioned with a ball of pollen, this is why you see them come in and out of the holes frequently before the holes are sealed. Each ball of pollen serves one larva. It is easy to identify the holes made by carpenter bees: they are round and about the diameter of a dime. The damage can be considerable if the wood has been utilized for nesting year after year.

What kind of wood they do not like to burrow into? No wood is immune, but painted or pressure treated wood is much less susceptible to attack. In other words, they prefer to attack wood which is bare, weathered and unpainted. Painting all exposed wood surfaces provides protection, to a certain degree. Wood stains and preservatives are less reliable than painting, but will provide some degree of repellency versus bare wood.

How do you control them? Liquid sprays of carbaryl (Sevin), chlorpyrifos (Dursban), or a synthetic pyrethroid (e.g., permethrin or cyfluthrin), and all pesticides labeled for control of dry-wood termites can be applied as a preventive to wood surfaces which are attracting bees. Residual effectiveness of these insecticides is often only 1-2 weeks, however, and the treatment may need to be repeated because carpenter bees are active throughout late-spring and early summer. Tunnels which have already been excavated are best treated by puffing an insecticidal dust (e.g., 5 percent carbaryl, crusader duster, Drione dust) into the nest opening. Aerosol sprays labeled for wasp or bee control also are effective. Do not plug the holes immediately, but leave them open for a few days after treatment to allow the bees to contact and distribute the insecticide throughout the nest galleries. Then plug the entrance hole with a piece of wooden dowel coated with carpenter’s glue, or wood putty, or simply caulk seal the holes. This will protect against future utilization of the old nesting tunnels and reduce the chances of wood decay.

Caution: make the treatment at night when the male bees are not active and wear protective clothing to avoid attack.
Please contact your Hale County Extension Office for additional information.

WFF Enforcement K9 Unit A Different Breed

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

One turkey hunter was extremely grateful that the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Law Enforcement Section has a K9 unit, although there is little public awareness of this enforcement asset.

Of course, the reason few people have heard about it is this K9 unit does not fit the stereotype of large, aggressive dogs trained to bite and take down a suspect.

Nope, the WFF K9 dogs are far, far more likely to lick you than anything else. This K9 unit consists of the loveable beagle breed that uses its nose and tracking abilities to aid the WFF’s Conservation Enforcement Officers (CEOs).

Early in the 2019 spring season, CEO Ben Kiser received a call about an overdue turkey hunter. Kiser loaded up his beagle, Luke, and headed out into rural Calhoun County.

“I just got a call about a lost turkey hunter,” Kiser said. “It turned into a medical emergency because he was diabetic. He had an episode. He got lost and fell and lost his gun.”

Kiser said most of the time when hunters get lost, he can get a cell phone number from the family, call the number and get clues where they might be found. To pinpoint the location, sometimes Kiser gets the lost hunter to fire a shot. He didn’t have that option this spring.

“I found his truck and deployed Luke on his tracks,” Kiser said. “Luke followed the trail a little over a mile and walked right up on the hunter. He was in a location where the ambulance couldn’t travel. He was somewhat coherent, but I basically dragged him out of the woods and got him in my truck. We met his family back at the main road, and they took him to the hospital. He recovered fully from what I understand.

“Without the dog, I would have had a hard time locating the hunter. It’s an area on the edge of a national forest where cell service is very limited. In the past, it’s taken hours to find people. I’ve worked cases like this both with and without a dog. This incident went extremely well, extremely fast, and it was all because of the dog. I can’t say he would have died. But he had his best shot to make it because of the dog.”

Kiser said that was the first time he has used Luke to find a hunter in distress, but the beagle has been used in many of the CEO’s normal duties as well as in assisting local law enforcement in searching for suspects. Luke has made cases for illegal baiting of game and fishing on private property without permission. He’s also helped locate a turkey hunter poaching on property he didn’t have permission to hunt.

“Luke tracked that turkey hunter right up to his blind,” Kiser said.

WFF Assistant Chief of Enforcement Chris Lewis said the K9 program started in 2012. CEO Brad Gavins talked to officers at the Department of Corrections about the tracking dogs used to find escaped prisoners. When Corrections offered to give WFF one of their dogs to try, Gavins got permission and quickly accepted.

“There was some concern about liability, but our beagles just lick people and try to find people so they can get a peanut butter sandwich,” Lewis said. “That’s their reward. That’s how they were trained.”

Gavins worked his dog, Taz, for a couple of years and proved the concept works well. Lewis said the Department of Corrections was generous enough to give WFF several dogs that were not suitable for tracking escapees.

“We prefer dogs that don’t bark because we don’t want to announce our presence,” Lewis said. “Corrections is hunting armed felons or escapees in dangerous situations. So, they turn loose a whole pack of dogs that bark. They work as a team to drive that person. By the time they get there, they want those dogs to run that person to where there’s no fight left in them.

“We want dogs that are good, strong trackers that can work independently and don’t bark. That’s a rare commodity. When Corrections sends us a dog that’s a strong tracker that doesn’t bark, that’s huge for us. These are well-seasoned, very capable dogs. Our people then go to Corrections for handler training. The dogs know what to do. We’re just training the people to learn how to handle and read the dogs.”

Jonathan Howard has a K9 in District 5, while Jason McHenry and Cliff Quinn both have dogs in District 3. Kiser is in District 2, and Gavin is in District 4. Lewis said the next dog available from Corrections will go to District 1.

Gavins recalled one of the early incidents where his dog proved its worth. Coffee County CEO Jason Sutherland was working a complaint when he spotted someone parked in a field.

“The lady in the vehicle said she was arrowhead hunting, but Jason found two sets of tracks,” Gavins said. “He discovered the other set of tracks was from her companion, who was notorious for running afoul of the law. Jason suspected that her companion was poaching.”

Gavins got a call to head over with his dog, which picked up the scent at the vehicle and followed it through the woods for several miles.

“We found where he had squatted down,” he said. “We found an empty cartridge where he shot at a deer.”

The dog tracked to the edge of the road where the suspect had ditched a shotgun and rifle. When confronted with the enormous evidence, the suspect confessed.

“It wound up being a good case that we would have never done anything with without the dog,” Gavins said. “I’ve used the dog to track turkey poachers. Some people will get permission to hunt 10 or 20 acres, a place to park their trucks, and then go to wherever the turkey gobbles. We’ve been able use the dogs to track the hunters to where they sat next to a tree or find feathers where they shot a turkey. I think on one case, the hunter had crossed through three different properties, and we were able to enter that into evidence.”

Another incident happened in Russell County where a hunter witnessed a poacher firing at a deer from a climbing treestand. Gavins was called by CEO Mark Jolly, and they set the dog on the tracks as close as they could. The beagle quickly picked up the track and led them straight to a dead doe, followed by a huge, 11-point buck.

“We backtracked across a pasture, through a fence and up to a house,” Gavins said. “Just before we got to the house, we found the gun hidden in a hay bale.”

After securing the scene, a search warrant was issued, and the officers found even more evidence, which resulted in a conviction.

Gavins said the dogs have also been used to track people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

“The dogs are not aggressive at all,” Gavins said. “That’s why they’re so good to use in our outreach programs.”

Lewis agreed, adding that the dogs help the public lose their reticence about talking to an enforcement officer.

“The public in general and kids just love the dogs, and the dogs love that they get petted and loved on,” Lewis said. “It’s an icebreaker for us. People who normally won’t approach us and ask questions will come up and start petting the dogs. That usually generates a conversation. Then we can tell them what we do and why we do it to get our message out in a different way.”

Kiser does not hesitate to use Luke as a public relations assistant.

“I take him to all the hunting expos,” Kiser said. “I take him to elementary schools two or three times a year. I take him to our youth dove hunts we have every fall where we may have 100 people there.

“Recently, I took Luke to UAB Children’s Hospital. The local FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) had built a wagon that the patients and families can use to get them away from wheelchairs. Luke went with us to take the wagon, and he saw a few kids. I’m working on the process to get Luke cleared to where he can go in the patients’ rooms and do more that type stuff at the hospital.”

Kiser takes Luke on boat patrols as well.

“He pretty much goes wherever I go,” Kiser said. “He’s my only partner in Calhoun County.”

Container Garden of Hope

A lifelong love of gardening should not have to end as mobility and other issues arise in seniors. This leisure pastime provides exercise, stimulation, accomplishment and a host of other benefits that are healthy for the mind and body. The Hale County Extension Office and Colonial Haven Care & Rehabilitation Center Gwen Epps, Activities Director are heeding the special needs of older gardeners. Together they provided a hands on container gardening workshop. The workshop was filled with laughter, gardening stories and questions. Thank you to the Greensboro Farmers Co-op for donating the potting soil for this educational and therapeutic workshop. Michelle Carter, Activities Assistant Director and Sam Boring, Commercial Horticulture, Home Grounds & Gardens Regional Extension Agent. Submitted by Tyrone D. Smith, Hale County Extension Coordinator

Ultimate Jugging Produces Catfish Feeding Frenzy at Millers Ferry

(David Rainer) Hayden Dunn shows off one of the catfish that were caught using what his dad, Joe Allen Dunn, calls the Ultimate Jugging technique on Millers Ferry. Hayden tosses out a jug baited with a small shad. The morning trip yielded an ice chest filled with blue and channel catfish.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Thank goodness some members of the younger generation still enjoy the outdoors. If not, Joe Allen Dunn and I would have been ripe for the making of a comedy video of catfishing bloopers.

Fortunately, Dunn’s son, 19-year-old Hayden, was there to save two old dudes with bum knees from stumbling around the boat as the catfish went on a feeding frenzy. Hayden was netting fish, rebaiting and tossing jugs as fast as he could go.

Dunn and James “Big Daddy” Lawler developed what they call “Ultimate Jug Fishing” for Millers Ferry on the Alabama River. Last September I made a trip to the (Dannelly) reservoir for hot-weather catfishing in deep water using sections of pool noodles as the floats with long lines to reach the fish in 20-30 feet of water.

Dunn invited me back for the spring catfishing bonanza when the fish move onto the shallows during the spawning run. This time, the lines were 3-4 feet long rather than 30. Instead of pool noodles, the floats are 20-ounce Gatorade or Powerade bottles. A 30-inch section of green nylon string is tied to the bottle. A half-ounce lead weight is added before a swivel. About 18 inches of 40- to 50-pound monofilament line is tied on before being snelled to a circle hook. Dunn said snelling the hook is important to get the circle hook to function like it should. He has also revised his recommendations on hook size. After a big catfish straightened out a 3/0 hook, he now sticks with 5/0.

“You catch a lot of medium-sized fish, but every once in a while, you’ll catch a 15- to 20- or 30-pounder,” Dunn said. “If you’re trying to fight him around to get him in, he’s going to straighten that 3/0 out. I’m just going with a heavier hook from now on, and you’ll still catch the smaller fish on the bigger hook.

“The thing about the bottles is when the wind gets a little brisk, the bottles will turn and draft. They don’t catch the wind as bad, so you get a slower drift. You want a little wind for the drift, but you don’t want to be chasing your jugs all over the place.”

Dunn buys bicycle tire inner tubes and uses scissors to cut 1-inch bands to slip over the neck of the jugs. This allows the lines to be wrapped tight so the lead won’t be slapping the bottle during transport, and it gives a place to stick the point of the circle hook to make sure it doesn’t get dull.

The places Dunn looks to deploy the jugs are flats off the main river channel with 2½ to 6 feet of water. After cleaning the fish, we realized why the catfish were on one particular flat. The fish stomachs were full of juvenile mussels.

“These fish are up there feeding and getting ready to spawn,” Dunn said. “The fish will stay in the flats the whole spring and the early part of the summer. When it gets hot, the fish will move out to the river channel.”

Dunn prefers skipjack herring and threadfin shad for catfish bait. He uses a cast net to catch the shad and occasionally lucks up on a school of skipjacks along the river banks. Right now, he said the best way to catch skipjacks is to cast Sabiki rigs below the dam. Depending on the size, he uses a whole shad or cuts them in half. The skipjacks are cut into chunks. When he has a good bait run, Dunn has a specific way to freeze the bait for future use.

“Don’t take a gallon bag and pack all you can in it and zip it up,” he said. “By the time you get them all thawed out like that, the bait gets mushy. I take a gallon bag and put enough bait in it to make one layer. I mash it flat and zip it up. The last time we put up bait, we counted how many we had in one layer, and it was about 50 baits. That’s working out real well.”

Back to the feeding frenzy we had last week, the blue cats (and occasional channel cat) were hungry. We baited the circle hooks and started tossing out jugs about 25 yards apart and let them drift down the flat. Within five minutes, the action was non-stop, and we worked Hayden non-stop. As soon as a fish was thrown in the live well, another jug would start bobbing.

“Every flat is not going to be like that,” Dunn said. “We hit it perfect. You may pick up one or two or nothing. You then pick up and move. You keep going into the flats until you find them. Make sure when you throw out the jugs that you get a good drift either across or down the flat. We hit it perfect last week. We were chasing jugs for an hour and a half. It was on.”

After we had a nice mess of catfish in the box, I insisted we try to find a few crappie. We hit the banks for a couple of hours, but the fish were not in the shallow water. A couple of days later, Dunn found out the fish were in a little deeper water.

Gerald Overstreet, a Millers Ferry crappie guide (251-589-3225), said the receding water is the reason the crappie are not in the super shallow water.

“I’ve seen it for the last several years,” Overstreet said. “What happens at Millers Ferry is when the water is up, the fish will get right beside the bank and will get really shallow, like 1 or 2 feet of water. They’ll get right in the bushes and brush that’s flooded.

“When the water drops back to normal pool and drops out of those bushes, the fish will pull back off the bank. When the water levels settle down, those fish will be in anywhere from 3 to 6 feet of water. They’re still spawning. They just move back. A lot of the stuff they were spawning on when the water was up, unless it’s laying in the water, they’ll move off of it. With the water at normal pool, they’ll find the wood, the laydowns and stumps and things that are in 3 to 6 feet of water.”

Overstreet said he keeps the boat in a little deeper water to fish on the edges of the flats where the water gets deep enough that you can’t see the bottom.

“From that point where you can’t see the bottom on out to about 6 feet of water is where those fish will spawn,” he said. “They’re still on wood and brush, or there may be a laydown tree.”

Overstreet is using a variety of fishing techniques to put crappie in the boat.

“We’re doing corks and minnows,” he said. “We’re trolling some with minnows. And we’re pitching with 11-foot B&M poles and using a small cork with a 1/32-ounce Mid-South Tackle jig. On Millers Ferry, black and chartreuse is about as good a color as you can get.

“We usually pitch it to where you can just see the bottom and work it out. Just let it sit for a second and let that light jig flutter down. Then bump the cork to make a little noise and then let it sit still. That gets the fish’s attention. They hit violently without even a minnow on it.”

If the bite is kind of tough, Overstreet tips the jig with a minnow or a piece of Crappie Nibbles (scent cubes) for extra enticement.

“The problem lately is getting minnows,” Overstreet said. “The folks around the lake are selling out of minnows two or three times a week.

“A lot of people are fishing because the crappie spawn is in full swing right now.”

Barnett Mentors Turkey Hunt Before Retirement

(Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, David Rainer) Steve Barnett, bottom left, participated in the mentored turkey hunt at Portland Landing Special Opportunity Area recently as his last duty before retirement. Gerry Martin, right, and WFF Director Chuck Sykes help Linna Jensen celebrate her first successful turkey hunt, which occurred at the mentored turkey hunt at Portland Landing. Former World Champion turkey caller Larry Norton tries aggressive hen yelps to entice a gobbler to sound off in Wilcox County.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Steve Barnett, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division’s turkey expert for the past two decades, now has more time to spend in the turkey woods.

Barnett, who has been with WFF for 32 years, transitioned to retired status this week as Alabama’s spring turkey season heads toward the peak of breeding season. Barnett actually spent his last weekend serving as a turkey hunting mentor for the Adult Mentored Hunting Program for his last day of official state service.

Barnett recently received the Henry S. Mosby Award from the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) for his work in turkey conservation. Mosby’s research during the mid-1900s set the standard for wild turkey management. Mosby helped found The Wildlife Society and won its Aldo Leopold Medal.

“When I received the award, I said that the individual recognition was really defined by the folks that I work with and the folks I’ve associated with over the years,” Barnett said. “Obviously, that includes my colleagues in Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, the NWTF Alabama Chapter and the USGS Cooperative Research Unit at Auburn University, just to name a few.”

Barnett, who will return to WFF on a part-time basis later this year, has both feelings of encouragement and concern about the Alabama turkey population.

“The promising thing is we’ve seen a lot of jakes this year, so it looks like we had a good hatch last year as our brood survey seemed to indicate for 2018,” Barnett said. “The brood survey number was up. It’s still not up to what we want it to be, but our trend is showing just under two poults per hen. That is for all hens, including hens that don’t have any poults. That’s what drives the numbers down.

“The broods, hens with poults, was still good with a little more than three poults per brood. That seems to be the trend. Hens with broods seem to be doing pretty good. What’s driving the potential for population growth down are the hens that have no poults.”

Nest predation is one limiting factor on population growth with the significant downturn in the number of people trapping furbearers like raccoons, foxes and coyotes.

“And we have a fairly new critter in the landscape that is becoming widespread called feral pigs,” Barnett said. “They are known to eat the eggs. If they can catch the hen, they’ll eat the hen. If they can catch the poults, they’ll eat them too. And they destroy the habitat in the process.”

WFF’s publication Full Fans and Sharp Spurs summarizes the brood survey and the Avid Turkey Hunters Survey. The latest report is at the printer and should be available soon.

The Avid Turkey Hunters Survey enlists turkey hunters who spend a significant time in the woods to report several turkey activities – the number of gobblers heard, the number of gobbles heard, the number of hens and gobblers observed and the harvest data.

“That’s something we ask the public to assist us with,” Barnett said. “The larger our sample size is, the better the data will reflect what’s going on across the state.

“We need a lot more hunters participating. We’ve got a little more than 400 folks enrolled. In 2018, about 240 submitted data. If we had about 10 percent of our turkey hunters participate, we would have much better data. Our hunter survey shows we have about 30,000 turkey hunters in Alabama.”

Barnett said concern still exists in the Southeast that the turkey population continues to decrease across the region.

“The biologists in the Southeast Wild Turkey Working Group still think habitat is the key, having quality habitat to meet wild turkey needs,” he said. “Very important is nesting and brood-rearing habitat.”

Brood-rearing habitat is typically grassy areas where sunlight penetrates the forest canopy. The sunlight stimulates the growth of grasses and forbs, which attracts the small insects the poults depend on for forage for several weeks after hatching. Habitat management includes prescribed fire in mixed pine-hardwood stands and managing soft and hard mast-producing trees.

Barnett said the turkey group is also concerned that hunting seasons may start too early in some areas. Alabama changed its opening day from the traditional March 15 to the third Saturday in March. This year, that date fell on March 16.

“The group has concerns that gobblers are being harvested before they have a chance to maximize their breeding potential,” said Barnett, who teamed up in 2009 with his biologist wife, Victoria, to write The Wild Turkey in Alabama, a publication available for download at www.outdooralabama.com.

The turkey working group and researchers at Auburn University are investigating the impact of different season and bag limits on the turkey population.

“A model gives us a forecast of what turkey numbers are going to look like down the road, say 10 years, under various scenarios of seasons and bag limits,” Barnett said. “The key elements in this model are survival, reproduction and harvest rates.

“According to data from Alabama, statewide, the average peak laying period is about the middle of April,” he said. “We have some that are laying at the end of March and some still laying at the end of April. The Avid Turkey Hunters Survey and Game Check are showing that many gobblers are being killed well before peak laying begins.”

Barnett said hens will lay one egg per day for 11-12 days. If the nesting is successful, the hen takes the poults to a grassy area to feed.

“The farther that hen has to travel to brood habitat, the more likely the poults will succumb to predators or exposure,” he said.

Barnett participated in last weekend’s Adult Mentored Hunt at the Portland Landing Special Opportunity Area, his last duty as a full-time employee.

At the Adult Mentored Hunt, one gobbler was harvested and another missed. Barnett said the weather seemed to have unfortunately dampened the gobbling activity as well.

Unfortunately, the gobbling activity I heard last week was worse. Hunting with Larry Norton, Mark Williams and Doug Shearer in Wilcox County, I didn’t hear a single gobble in two days.

Norton, a two-time World Champion turkey caller who has been hunting Alabama’s tough turkeys for more than 40 years, thinks the dreary February with lots of rain and overcast skies altered his turkey hunting early in the season. Most of Alabama’s rivers were in flood stage from late February through mid-March.

“Where we normally have turkeys this time of year, they’re not there,” Norton said. “Not only were the rivers flooded, there was so much rain there was a lot of standing water. Areas where we would normally have hens with two or three gobblers, the birds just aren’t there.

“I think that has the turkeys dislocated, and they just haven’t started gobbling, at least where I hunt. I’m not even hearing that one dominant gobbler yet. I can remember in the past when we had a lot of rain and dreary days in late January and February that it took forever for the turkeys to get in the mood.”

Barnett said numerous factors are involved in turkey breeding activity, including the length of daylight (photo period) and weather.

“During cold temperatures and windy weather, turkeys don’t gobble as well,” Barnett said. “Environmental factors play a role. Just because turkeys start gobbling doesn’t mean the hens are being bred right then. The hens dictate the breeding activity.”

Barnett said he is getting mixed reports of gobbling activity across the state.

“Where I am in south Alabama, the turkeys are gobbling pretty good,” he said. “I’ve got a cousin who hunts in the northwest part of the state, and he’s not hearing much of anything.”

Red-bellied Woodpecker visits Moundville Times

We had a visitor this morning, March 22, who became confused and hit our window. Don’t worry, he’s ok! After a couple minutes of being stunned, Travis Vaughn, MvT Editor, was able to help him fly home to his tree. According to https://www.outdooralabama.com/woodpeckers/alabamas-woodpeckers he’s a Red-bellied Woodpecker. “One of the more unusual woodpecker species in Alabama, and the only endangered one, is the red-cockaded woodpecker. This medium-sized woodpecker has black and white barring across the back, similar to downy and hairy woodpeckers. It has white cheek patches, which help to distinguish it from the other two smaller species, and a black cap and nape. Males have a red patch on each side of their cap, which is called the cockade. The red-cockaded woodpecker is only found in mature, open pine forests, typically longleaf. It is the only woodpecker in Alabama that excavates a cavity in a live pine tree. This species requires large pine trees that have red-heart disease, which makes the inner wood softer. Excavation of a new cavity can take several years to complete. These woodpeckers will use artificial cavities, so biologists have inserted man-made nest boxes into suitable pine trees to increase this bird’s nesting opportunities. Another unique characteristic of red-cockaded woodpeckers is that they live together in small family groups consisting of a breeding pair and several helpers, which are often offspring from previous years. These birds have seen drastic population declines that coincided with the decline in longleaf pine forest in the Southeast, their preferred habitat.”
Photos and story by Kasey DeCastra, SCRJ & MvT Community News Editor & Travis Vaughn, MvT Editor

Alabama 4-H S.A.F.E. Championships Preview

Starting March 30, young archers and marksmen across Alabama will star in a series of shooting sports championships hosted by Alabama 4-H.

Every year, each 4-H shooting sports discipline offers a state championship event, and the first-place senior team is eligible to attend the National 4-H Shooting Sports Championship.

Alabama 4-H offers instruction within the following disciplines: archery, shotgun, rifle, pistol, western heritage, and hunting and outdoor skills.

Alabama 4-H S.A.F.E. (Shooting Awareness Fun Education) covers firearm safety and teaches responsible handling, use and storage. 4-H S.A.F.E. is a youth development education program that emphasizes peer mentoring and positive interactions between youth and adults.

The program uses the skills and disciplines of safe shooting to teach the principles of responsible firearm ownership and assist young people and their leaders with essential life skills.

Upcoming Championships
March 30: Air Rifle, BB Gun and Air Pistol Championships
April 12-14: Shotgun Championship
April 13: Archery Championship and the .22 Rimfire Pistol Championship
May 4: .22 Smallbore Rifle Championship
May 4-5: Western Heritage and Hunting Skills
Additional event information may be found on the 4-H events calendar. Contact your local Extension office to find out about 4-H events near you.

Alabama 4-H is a part of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. For more information about 4-H S.A.F.E. programs, visit alabama4h.com.

Wesley Mullins spent spring break on Lake Martin with his grandparents, Brod & Regina Davis. Wesley caught 8 bass and 1 catfish.

Advisory from the Alabama Forestry Commission:
Caution Urged with All Burning

With limited amounts of rain predicted for Monday, the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) is advising people to use extreme caution with all debris burning and outdoor fires. For the remainder of the week, drier conditions are expected to return, with no significant precipitation in the weather forecast. At this time of year with lower humidity and March winds, fires can quickly spread out of control, not only threatening lives, but also endangering homes and property, as well as resulting in damage to Alabama’s forests.

 Both number and size of wildfire occurrences have already increased, according to fire officials with the AFC. Over the last three days, 89 wildfires have burned more than 1,265 acres of forestland across the state.

 “The existence of dryer conditions, combined with lower humidity and gusty winds, could potentially contribute to hazardous wildfire behavior,” said State Forester Rick Oates. “Although no burn restrictions have been issued, the Forestry Commission encourages everyone to be very cautious with fire until conditions improve.”

 It is Alabama state law to obtain a burn permit before burning any woodland, grassland, field, or wood debris greater than one quarter acre or within 25 feet of flammable material. All necessary safety precautions should be exercised when doing any type burning. Be sure to clear down to mineral soil around the area to be burned. Have enough tools, equipment, and manpower to safely control any fire. Once started, stay with the fire until it is completely out. To obtain a burn permit or for more information, call the Alabama Forestry Commission at 1(800) 392-5679.

 The mission of the Alabama Forestry Commission is to protect and sustain Alabama’s forest resources using professionally applied stewardship principles and education, ensuring that the state’s forests contribute

to abundant timber and wildlife, clean air and water, and a healthy economy. For more information about the fire situation in your area or any other forestry related issues, contact your local Alabama Forestry Commission office or visit the AFC website at www.forestry.alabama.gov

MRD Considering Changes to Flounder, Trout Limits

The Alabama Marine Resources Division is closely monitoring the flounder fishery, which can be impacted by the efficient harvest method of gigging. Spotted seatrout, aka speckled trout, are also under increased fishing pressure because of a shift toward inshore species. Trout are being studied through several methods, including a tagging program.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Alabama’s inshore anglers are aware that fishing for two of the most popular species – southern flounder and spotted seatrout – has not been up to normal Gulf Coast standards in the past few years.

The Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD) is seeking public input on how to mitigate this downturn in the abundance of the two species. MRD recently held public meetings with commercial and recreational anglers to discuss what management measures would be supported.

“I was very appreciative of the number of people who came to the discussions about the possible changes, and that’s important,” MRD Director Scott Bannon said. “It’s important to us, and it’s important to them.”

Anglers who came to the public meetings at 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center last week heard Bannon and MRD Chief Biologist Kevin Anson present the current status of flounder and trout. MRD is considering options to help the fish stocks recover, including a reduction in bag limits, increased size limits and possible closed seasons.

“I’m kind of surprised by how many people are supportive of a reduced bag limit as a management tool,” Bannon said. “I’m very pleased with the feedback from people about what they see when they’re out fishing and what they think might help.

“Coupling that with what our science says, I think we’re going to be able to make some decisions that are going to be helpful for the resource but also still work with what our fishermen want in Alabama. Believe it not, one of the comments that I’ve received several times is that, even though people understand there is going to be some change, they appreciated the state’s effort to get the public’s opinion. As one person said, it shows we really do care.”

Of the two fish species, flounder is MRD’s biggest concern because of reduced harvest by both commercial and recreational anglers in recent years. The estimated harvest during the past 15 years shows a harvest of about 350,000 flounder in 2002 to about 150,000 in 2017. A significant spike in harvest occurred during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill because of a shift in angler effort from offshore waters to inshore waters.

“I think it’s going to take a multi-pronged approach both to recreational and commercial fishing to assure the stability of that fishery,” Bannon said. “These are hard decisions. On the commercial side, this affects income, but we want to sustain their income long-term.”

Bannon said about 30 commercial fishermen are targeting flounder with gillnets, while a small percentage are reporting harvests using gigs. Bannon is concerned that some giggers are skirting the reporting law.

“There is only a small number of people with commercial licenses who are reporting harvests using a gig,” he said. “All commercial harvests are required to be reported.

“But we think a number of people are recreationally fishing under a commercial license, and those fish aren’t getting reported. They purchase a commercial license to exceed the 10-fish bag limit.”

Bannon said the only management tool that would restrict this practice is a daily bag limit for those who hold a commercial license. Recreational anglers currently have a 10-flounder bag limit with a minimum size of 12 inches total length.

“Some people are truly commercially fishing,” he said. “They are using it to make a living. Others are just exceeding a bag limit. Gigging is a very effective fishery. The technology is helping them with better lights and better boats, like with most fisheries.

“We are going to work with the industry to see what’s a realistic bag limit, looking at the landing numbers. We could be looking at a combination of bag limits, size limits or a seasonal closure.”

MRD data shows that November is a month with a high commercial harvest number because flounder migrate to the Gulf of Mexico to spawn.

“Any time you have fish that have a specific spawning run, it’s beneficial to allow them to make that run, and with flounder, the females do come back inshore,” Bannon said.

Anson said Alabama is not alone in terms of a foundering flounder fishery.

“This isn’t just an Alabama problem,” Anson said. “Other states have seen reductions in flounder landings as well, both commercial and recreational. It just seems that we are ground zero as far as seeing the largest drop in landings.”

Fisheries managers use spawning potential ratio (SPR) to determine the health of a fish stock. For flounder, the target SPR to maintain the population is between 25 and 30 percent.

At the current harvest rate, if the minimum size for flounder remains at 12 inches, the population will not be able to sustain the target SPR. An increase in size also increases the number of eggs the females release during the spawn.

According to MRD data, an increase in the minimum size to 13 inches would allow 20 percent more fish to remain in the water. An increase to a minimum size of 14 inches would allow 38 percent more fish to remain in the water.

MRD’s Claude Peteet Mariculture Center in Gulf Shores is also gearing up to spawn flounder in recently purchased tanks and equipment. Bannon said they hope to eventually release between 50,000 and 60,000 flounder fingerlings annually.

For spotted seatrout (speckled trout), a recent MRD assessment indicated recruitment of juvenile trout back into the fishery has been below traditional levels.

Bannon said a seismic shift in fishing effort has played a role in the fishing pressure on speckled trout. High fuel costs and restrictive bag limits on reef fish species caused many offshore anglers to start fishing inshore waters.

“We went from 50,000 inshore fishing trips annually in the early 90s to more than 500,000 in 2011,” he said. “That’s a ten-fold increase in fishing effort. That’s a concern. All of our habitat is accessible to fishermen. It’s a popular fish, so there’s a lot of effort focused on them, partly due to the short federal fisheries seasons.”

The annual harvest during that time increased 600 percent, and a downturn of landings in 2014 suggests the fishery is unstainable under that intense fishing pressure.

Bannon said anglers who target speckled trout, which has no commercial harvest because of its game-fish status, have indicated support for a reduction in the current 10-fish bag limit. Anglers have also indicated support for a slot limit and/or an increase in the current minimum size, which is 14 inches total length. The red drum (redfish) fishery has a slot limit of 16-26 inches with an allowance of one oversized fish.

“If we do go to a slot limit on trout, there will be an allowance for one oversized fish,” he said. “Most anglers who target these fish understand there are some concerns and agree that if we act responsibly now we will be in better shape. The goal is for anglers to catch larger fish more consistently.”

Anson said increases in size limits that MRD is considering include a bump in the minimum length to 15 inches, which would allow more than 227,000 trout to be returned to the water annually. An increase to a 16-inch minimum size would mean more than 400,000 could be returned to the water each year.

MRD will hold a meeting with the charter-for-hire operators on March 27. Bannon said, depending on feedback from the public, MRD may decide to hold another meeting before finalizing its management proposals.

Bannon said MRD welcomes comments on the proposed changes to the regulations on flounder and trout. Send comments to scott.bannon@dcnr.alabama.gov or kevin.anson@dcnr.alabama.gov by April 13 to ensure the input will be considered before the next Conservation Advisory Board meeting, scheduled May 4 at The Lodge at Gulf State Park, a Hilton Hotel.

“After we complete the meetings and compile the public input, the staff will have discussions, followed by discussions with the Commissioner (Chris Blankenship),” Bannon said. “Then we will develop a proposal for the Conservation Advisory Board on May 4.”

Class 14 Intermediate Division Showmanship winners at the Junior Beef Expo (JBE) were, from left, Curt Williams of Marshall County, first place; Karleigh Allison of Blount County, second; Audrey Marsh of Hale County, third; Emma Wiggins of Mobile County, fourth; and Cole Padgett of Conecuh County, fifth. The contest was March 14 at the Teague Arena in Montgomery. JBE is presented by the Alabama Farmers Federation and held in conjunction with the SLE Rodeo at Garrett Coliseum.
Class 17 Junior Division Showmanship winners at the Junior Beef Expo (JBE) were, from left, Rex Harrison of Cullman County, first place; Hannah Grace McHugh of Lee County, second; Luke Ray of Tuscaloosa County, third; Mary Elliott Martin of Lee County, fourth; and Eliza Downey of Autauga County, fifth. The contest was March 14 at the Teague Arena in Montgomery. JBE is presented by the Alabama Farmers Federation and held in conjunction with the SLE Rodeo at Garrett Coliseum.
Class 21 Junior Division Showmanship winners at the Junior Beef Expo (JBE) were, from left, Silas Gullatt of Lee County, first place; Mylee Stagner of Mobile County, second; Leah Jones of Tuscaloosa County, third; Bryan Lambert of Lowndes County, fourth; and Jackson Redmon of Pike County, fifth. The contest was March 14 at the Teague Arena in Montgomery. JBE is presented by the Alabama Farmers Federation and held in conjunction with the SLE Rodeo at Garrett Coliseum.
Class 3 Senior Division Showmanship winners at the Junior Beef Expo (JBE) were, from left, John Evans Thrower of Marshall County, first place; Will Meadows of Houston County, second; Tucker Hilyer of Chilton County, third; Todd Crim of Tuscaloosa County, fourth; and Naomi Robertson of Tuscaloosa County, fifth. The contest was March 14 at the Teague Arena in Montgomery. JBE is presented by the Alabama Farmers Federation and held in conjunction with the SLE Rodeo at Garrett Coliseum.

Turkey Season Opens Saturday, March 16, in Most Alabama Counties
Delayed season dates on select WMAs

Photo by Gary Mitchell

Spring turkey season will open March 16, 2019, and close April 30 for most Alabama counties. In 2018, the Conservation Advisory Board passed a motion that set the start date for turkey season as the third Saturday in March each year.

The decision was made to allow as many hens as possible to breed before the males are harvested. Research suggests that slightly delaying the season could have a significant impact on increasing the turkey population. No changes were made to the bag limit, which is one gobbler per day with a total of five during the combined spring and fall seasons.

“The Advisory Board’s decision is related to growing concerns of an observed decline in wild turkey population growth in Alabama,” said Steve Barnett, Wild Turkey Project Leader for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. “Harvest data shows that many adult gobblers are harvested in the first two weeks of the season. That’s well before the peak of nest initiation.”

Additionally, spring turkey season will be delayed for research purposes on the following Wildlife Management Areas: Barbour, J.D. Martin-Skyline, Hollins, Oakmulgee, Lowndes, Choccolocco, and Perdido River. The delayed season will run March 23 to April 30, 2019. For more information about the delayed season, call 334-242-3469.

Hunters are reminded that all turkey harvests must be reported through Alabama’s Game Check system either online at www.outdooralabama.com or through the Outdoor Alabama mobile app. The Outdoor Alabama Mobile app is available at www.outdooralabama.com/contact-us/mobile-apps.

For more information about seasons and bag limits, visit www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/seasons-and-bag-limits.

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.

Advisory Board Gets Crash Course in CWD

(deer, Wisconsin DNR; cobia, David Rainer) From a single case discovered in Colorado in 1967, chronic wasting disease (CWD) is now found in 26 states and three Canadian provinces. Infected deer become emaciated and eventually die.
The cobia minimum length limit was increased to 36 inches fork length.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The Alabama Conservation Advisory Board received a crash course in chronic wasting disease (CWD) at the Board’s first meeting of 2019 last weekend in Montgomery.

Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Assistant Director Fred Harders explained the severity of the disease and why WFF has done everything possible to keep it out of Alabama.

“The first point I want to make is that Alabama does not have CWD, contrary to what you might have read, heard from a buddy or whatever,” Harders said. “We do not have chronic wasting disease.”

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and Industries, started sampling deer in 2002. To date, more than 8,000 deer from around the state have been sampled and no CWD has been detected.

“Since Mississippi and Tennessee have found CWD, the Division is intensifying its sampling effort,” Harders said. “About 1,500 deer a year will be sampled with an emphasis around those areas near Mississippi and Tennessee.”

Harders said rumors about new theories that blame CWD on a bacterium are circulating on social media. These rumors also include that a CWD-detection kit will be available to the public and that a couple of years from now a vaccine will be available for all captive and wild deer and other members of the deer family, cervids.

Harders noted that while these theories may sound good, “The vast majority of scientists and researchers who have been working on this disease and continue to work on this disease don’t accept those theories.”

CWD is a fatal neurological disease, called transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), that affects the deer family and causes lesions on the brain. As the disease progresses, the affected animal will develop holes in the brain and eventually die. Infected animals may not show symptoms for two years.

The first case of CWD was discovered in Colorado in 1967. Over the next 30 years, the disease spread very slowly, only taking in a 15- to 20-county region on the CO, NE, and WY borders.

Then, in the late 90s, CWD was detected in Saskatchewan. That incident was traced to live elk from South Dakota that were transported to Canada.

Human movement of live cervids or infected carcasses has contributed to the exponential spread of the disease over the past decade.

CWD continues to spread and now has been found in 26 states and three Canadian provinces. Harders said South Korea and Norway also have detected CWD. South Korea’s CWD-positive animals can be traced back to the live transport of deer from infected areas.

Harders said the disease is spread by bodily fluids – saliva, urine and feces. The infectious agent, called a prion, can survive outside the animal’s body. It can be in the soil and can be taken up by nearby plants through their root systems.

Harders explained that a prion, which cannot be destroyed by cooking, is a misfolded protein.

“Proteins are the molecular machines of our bodies,” he said. “They do just about everything.”

Although no case has been confirmed where CWD has been transmitted to humans from the consumption of venison from an infected animal, Harders pointed out, “The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) doesn’t recommend eating venison from infected deer. And to be careful when you’re gutting that deer or handling any parts.”

Alabama has long had regulations that banned the importation of live deer. The regulations were amended to prohibit the importation of deer carcasses. Visit www.outdooralabama.com/cwd for regulations about importing deer parts from out-of-state.

“That is why we’ve had officers monitoring the highways and giving tickets to people who were bringing field-dressed deer in from out-of-state,” Harders said. “The officers asked why the hunters brought those deer in, and they responded they didn’t think it was a big deal. Now you know why it’s such a big deal.

“That’s why we have the campaign ‘Don’t Bring it Home.’ We don’t have it. We don’t want it.”

Harders also cautioned hunters who travel out-of-state and harvest a member of the deer family only to find out later that the animal had CWD. That venison should not be thrown out by the individual, but rather a WFF official or enforcement officer who will ensure its proper disposal should be contacted,

Despite the CWD threat, Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship said we’re blessed to live in a great state that offers hunting for deer and turkey and great fishing in both freshwater and saltwater.

“We really have a sportsman’s paradise here,” Blankenship said. “We’ve done a lot of work the past year on CWD, trying to keep it out of our state and being able to mitigate it or contain it in the unfortunate circumstance that it does show up here.

“We’re not trying to scare anybody or to unduly concern people about consuming deer or hunting deer. We just felt it was important for us to provide that information as to why it is so important to keep CWD out of our state.”

Blankenship noted that problems surfaced with the Outdoor Alabama app during deer season. Blankenship said the Department has worked with the app developer to correct the glitches.

“They assure us this is fixed now,” he said. “For turkey season and for Snapper Check, it should work for reporting your harvest. We appreciate you reporting the deer, turkeys and snapper. It really gives us valuable information to use when we make management decisions, and it is required by rule.”

Blankenship also encouraged anyone interested in the outdoors to visit outdooralabama.com and sign up for the Department’s emails. Subscribers have the option to receive all communication from DCNR or they can check certain categories, like hunting, freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing or wildlife.

Concerning saltwater fishing, the Board approved several changes to the regulations proposed by Marine Resources.

One change was new hook requirements for certain saltwater species to be consistent with federal regulations. Anglers fishing for, retaining, possessing or landing Gulf reef fish species must use non-stainless circle hooks when using natural bait. Anglers fishing for, retaining, possessing or landing sharks must use non-offset, non-stainless circle hooks when using natural bait.

The minimum size for cobia (ling) was raised from 33 to 36 inches fork length, measured from the fork (middle) of the tail to the tip of the snout, to match the size limit set by NOAA Fisheries in federal waters.

A minimum size limit for shortfin mako sharks was established. Males must be 71 inches fork length and females, 83 inches fork length. Visit https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/atlantic-highly-migratory-species/atlantic-highly-migratory-species-fishery-compliance-guides for information on shark identification and compliance.

A table listing regulated reef fish species was added to allow anglers to identify which species are included in management plans.

Shrimping regulations were updated to prevent the use of any form of trawling, not just for shrimp, in nursery or permanently closed areas.

Once the regulations become effective, the outdooralabama.com saltwater regulations page will be updated and the full text will be available at www.alabamaadministrativecode.state.al.us/docs/con_/220-3.pdf.

The next Conservation Advisory Board meeting is scheduled for The Lodge at Gulf State Park, a Hilton Hotel, in Gulf Shores on May 4.

PHOTOS: (deer, Wisconsin DNR; cobia, David Rainer) From a single case discovered in Colorado in 1967, chronic wasting disease (CWD) is now found in 26 states and three Canadian provinces. Infected deer become emaciated and eventually die. The cobia minimum length limit was increased to 36 inches fork length.

Big Gobbler Photo Contest Opens Along with Alabama Turkey Season

Kacy Noland – Pickens

Alabama hunters are heading into the woods this weekend to begin the spring turkey season with hopes of bagging a big gobbler. The hunters will be using all their skills in trying to attract the wily birds, particularly in the state’s 23-county Black Belt region – home to some great turkey habitat.

For the seventh straight year, the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association will conduct its Big Gobbler Photo Contest to showcase these hunters and the big birds they bag. This year’s contest conducted at AlabamaBlackBeltAdventures.org/biggobblercontest will feature prizes valued at $175 for the winner. The contest runs the length of Alabama’s spring season, from March 16 through April 30.

“We know that some of the best turkey hunters in the state – and across the Southeast – come to the Black Belt to test their abilities and we’re always glad to see the big birds they harvest,” said Pam Swanner, executive director of the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association. “The great turkey habitats from Aliceville to Eufaula produce some really fine birds and we’re happy to help hunters find great places to hunt in the Black Belt.”

This year’s Big Gobbler Photo Contest is sponsored by Josh Cumbee, owner of Jager Calls in Barbour County. The winner will receive a handcrafted one-of-a-kind Jager Call with striker, a Summit Predator Blind, a Thermacell Mosquito Repellent and a Jager Calls T-shirt.

Hunters may submit only one entry, but visitors to AlabamaBlackBeltAdventures.org/ biggobblercontest may vote once per day per entry. Entrants need to fully complete the form at the website, making sure to identify the person (or persons) in the photo. Please share the general area where the gobbler was taken, too.

Only photos of turkeys taken in the Black Belt during the 2018-19 season (including those taken in Clarke and Monroe counties during the fall season) are eligible. Big Gobbler Contest winners from 2017-18 and 2016-17 are not eligible this year.

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 promotes and encourages ethical hunting and fishing practices. Our Big Gobbler Photo Contest was created to further educate the public on the abundance of natural resources found in Alabama’s Black Belt region.

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.

Dr. Anita Kelly joins the Ala. Fish Farming Center in Greensboro

Dr. Anita Kelly has joined the faculty of the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture, & Aquatic Sciences and will be stationed in Greensboro at the Alabama Fish Farming Center. Dr. Kelly will be continuing the fish health diagnostic program established by Bill Hemstreet and will develop an applied research program in aquatic animal health that will complement existing programs on campus. Prior to joining the faculty at Auburn, Dr. Kelly was Interim Director of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) Fish Health Inspection Laboratory in Lonoke, Arkansas. In that role she served as an Extension Fish Health Specialist and Extension Unit Leader for UAPB’s Cooperative Extension Program in Aquaculture and Fisheries. Dr. Kelly joined UAPB in 2007 and served as Associate Director of the Aquaculture/Fisheries Center from 2012 – 2019. In Arkansas, Dr. Kelly’s research focus included laboratory and applied field work with baitfish, sportfish and catfish. Most recently, her research activities were directed at the practical use of kaolin clay to prevent Columnaris in sportfish/catfish hatcheries and evaluating the toxic effects of hydrogen sulfide on baitfish production.
Dr. Kelly received both a M.S. and Ph.D. in Zoology from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and a B.S. in Biology from the University of Iowa. Previously, she has served on the faculty of both Mississippi State University and Southern Illinois University. In addition to jobs in academia, Dr. Kelly managed two commercial farming operations in the Midwest and served as an Instructor in the School of Field Studies on the Island of South Caicos in the British West Indies.

Severe Weather Preparedness Workshop
Tuscaloosa County EMA and the University of Alabama are hosting a Severe Weather Preparedness Workshop at the Alabama Fire College on March 28. This workshop is free and open to the public – please invite friends, family, and members of your communities to join us for this event. Beginning at 6 p.m., this workshop will focus on risk communication and severe weather preparedness to provide tips and suggestions on receiving weather warnings and having good emergency plans to prepare for severe weather. There will be several guest presenters and an expert panel to answer any questions you may have. Panel members include Tuscaloosa County EMA, Alabama EMA, University of Alabama Departments of Communication Studies and Geography, and Southern Alabama’s Red Zone Weather. Please consider joining us for this event and inviting anyone who may be interested in learning more about severe weather preparedness. There is a Facebook event for this workshop if you would like to RSVP and share with your friends: https://www.facebook.com/events/258372685104579/


Raised Bed Gardening
The Hale County Extension Office will be hosting a Raised Bed Gardening workshop April 10 from 3-5 pm at the Hale County Extension Office, 701 Hall Street, Greensboro. Topics covered will include why grow in a raised bed, how to build a raised bed, what soil to fill it with, and what and when to plant in the raised bed. There will be a small registration fee for workshop materials and refreshments. To preregister or for more information please contact the Hale County Extension office at 334-624-8710.

Farm Business Training Workshop
Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension will be hosting free workshops designed to teach farmers how to understand and implement farm business planning principles, risk management and decision making. The workshops will be held April 6 and May 4 from 9 a.m. – 4: p.m. at the Federation of Southern Cooperative Rural Training & Research Center, Epes. Pre-registration is required and space is limited to 50 participants that must attend all three workshops. To register contact Gertrude Wall at 334-875-9343 or Hale County Extension Office at 334-624-8710.

Shelton State Community College’s Bass Fishing Sports Club inaugural year a success

Shelton State Community College’s Bass Fishing Sports Club is making the sport’s inaugural year at the College a success. The team is currently ranked 11th in the nation.

On February 8, club members participated in the YETI Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) College Fishing Southeastern Conference Bass Tournament in Bainbridge, Georgia. Club members Will Delaney and Hunter Porter finished in second place securing $1,000 for the organization and qualifying to represent the College in the 2020 YETI FLW College Fishing National Championship.

On March 2, members competed at an FLW event at Lake Guntersville with Cade Crocker and Grant Rogers also qualifying for the 2020 YETI FLW National Championship. An additional team finished in the top 32.

“In keeping with the athletic excellence of Shelton State, we are proud of what the Bass Fishing Club has accomplished within this first year,” said club sponsor Neal Parker. “We are proud of these young men who had faith in our program and made the decision to be part of this inaugural year.”

The mission of the Shelton State Bass Fishing Sports Club is to encourage camaraderie, sportsmanship, integrity, leadership, and conservation. Skills and knowledge are developed to create successful, competitive anglers.

For more information about the Shelton State Bass Fishing Sports Club, contact Neal Parker at 205.391.5886 or goparker@sheltonstate.edu.

Students Encouraged to Enter State-Fish Art Contest

Each year, K-12 students from across the country can enter their artwork in the Wildlife Forever State-Fish Art Contest. The contest requires student artists to depict a state fish. Prizes are awarded at the state and national levels in four categories: K-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12, with students in grades 4-12 writing a one-page essay about the fish, its natural habitat and the importance of that habitat in addition to the artwork. Complete contest rules and the entry form can be found on the Wildlife Forever website, www.wildlifeforever.org.

Artists can choose to depict either of Alabama’s state fish – ¬the largemouth bass or the fighting tarpon. Participants can also choose to draw state fish from other states, which are listed on the Wildlife Forever website. Entries must be postmarked by March 31, 2019, and mailed to Wildlife Forever, 5350 Highway 61 North, Suite 7, White Bear Lake, MN 55110.

For more than 20 years, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) has promoted this art contest for the students of Alabama.

“This contest uses art as a medium for teaching conservation education,” said Doug Darr, WFF Aquatic Education Coordinator. “Teachers can request information and a lesson plan specific to aquatic natural resources by visiting Wildlife Forever’s website.”

Wildlife Forever is a non-profit organization working to preserve America’s wildlife heritage through conservation education, preservation of habitat and scientific management of fish and wildlife species. Wildlife Forever has funded conservation projects in all 50 states. To learn more, visit www.wildlifeforever.org.

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

Young Farmers Conference Features Farm Tours

Overcast skies couldn’t keep the smiles off nearly 400 faces as they crisscrossed central and east Alabama during the 2019 Young Farmers Conference in Montgomery.

The Alabama Farmers Federation’s annual conference was March 1-3. Farm tours, back by popular demand for the third consecutive year, showcased some of the state’s most impressive operations, lending invaluable insight to agriculture’s up-and-coming generation.

“For me, this is a reunion. A lot of Young Farmers went to school together, built relationships there, and we only see them once a year — at Young Farmers Conference. You also build connections through other people,” said State Young Farmers Committee Chair Garrett Dixon of Lee County. “By going on farm tours, you can apply that to your farm. We grow cotton, but we didn’t see a row crop operation all day long. Even by visiting operations like nurseries and tree orchards, you learn knowledge to apply to your farm.”

Tour A visited Chilton County’s Parnell Land & Timber and agritourism operation Penton Farms, in addition to Hickory Hill Farm & 3E Cattle Co. in Billingsley. Tour B was eastbound to Lee County, with tours at Auburn University’s JT Vaughn Large Animal Teaching Hospital, the Southeastern Raptor Center and Golden State Foods Meat Processing Plant.

Shelby Thompson, an ag teacher in Dale County, went on Tour C, which stopped at Selma-based Bush Hog, seed orchard ArborGen and Dennis Nursery & Greenhouses.

“We attend every year to learn more about agriculture operations in the state and take home new ideas to our family farm,” Thompson said.

Finally, Tour D journeyed to Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, Blue Ribbon Dairy and Whippoorwill Vineyards.

Federation President Jimmy Parnell welcomed Young Farmers, who are 18-35 years old, to the Capital City Friday evening. The Chilton County farmer encouraged the crowd, which packed the Renaissance Hotel in Montgomery.

“I have lifelong friends I made years ago in a room just like this,” said Parnell, a former State Young Farmers Committee chairman.

A live auction featuring handmade goods, Young Farmers gear, tools and agriculture-themed toys raised $7,530 for the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation, which benefits ag and forestry scholarships. The next evening, entertainment by River Dan Band closed the meeting.

Also during the conference, contestants competed in interviews to be Alabama’s 2019 Outstanding Young Farm Family (OYFF).

Top 3 finalists were Lindsey and Jamie Roberts of DeKalb County, Luke Smelley of Hale Countyand Ben and Bethany Johnson of Randolph County. All finalists received an iPad. They will compete during on-farm judging this summer before the winner is named at the Federation’s Commodity Producers Conference Aug. 4 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Alabama’s OYFF will receive more than $70,000 in prizes.

OYFF division finalists were also named. They were Luke Smelley of Hale County, Beef; Ben and Tamera Brown of Etowah County, Dairy; Ben and Jessica Johnson of DeKalb County, Soybean; Jonathan and Sara Sanders of Coffee County, Peanuts; and Jamie and Lindsey Roberts of DeKalb County, Wheat & Feed Grain.

A bass fisherman visits Lost Creek. Photo by Nelson Brooke.

Black Warrior Riverkeeper Sues EPA to Protect Imperiled Streams

Black Warrior Riverkeeper filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in U.S. District Court to ensure two of the Black Warrior River watershed’s most vulnerable streams get the protection they deserve from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM).

While Alabama has some of the most beautiful rivers and streams in the nation and is #1 in the U.S. for freshwater biodiversity, it also has many polluted waterways. State and federal regulators have recently failed in their duty to provide the necessary protections for two imperiled creeks.

Every two years, the Clean Water Act requires ADEM to identify all of the rivers, streams, lakes and coastlines that are impaired by pollution and submit a list of those waterways to the EPA. Placement on that list, known as the Section 303(d) List, is important because it prioritizes improving those impaired waters. The list’s ultimate goal is restoring those waters so they can fully support their designated uses for fish & wildlife, recreation, and drinking water.

Lost Creek and Big Yellow Creek have been on Alabama’s Section 303(d) List since 1998, waiting for necessary action to reduce their pollution levels. However, ADEM dropped them from the 2018 Section 303(d) List because the agency stated, without merit, it had new evidence that these streams were no longer impaired. ADEM made these decisions without following their own procedures and without proper evidence that these streams are meeting minimum water quality standards.

Dropping these waters from the list means they are no longer scheduled for the establishment of pollutant limits, called Total Maximum Daily Loads, and will be similarly excluded from the implementation of important pollution control measures needed to improve water quality in these streams. The EPA is supposed to oversee this process, but failed in its duty of requiring Alabama to adequately support its decision to remove Lost Creek and Big Yellow Creek from Alabama’s 2018 Section 303(d) List.

Lost Creek, a major tributary to the Mulberry Fork in Walker County, is a scenic gem enjoyed by homeowners, boaters, and fishermen. Lost Creek is home to the endangered Black Warrior waterdog and the threatened flattened musk turtle, which are imperiled by habitat destruction, sedimentation, and water pollution from coal mines, logging operations, and sewage treatment plants.

Big Yellow Creek, a tributary which flows into the Black Warrior River just upstream of Bankhead Lock & Dam, is used for drinking water and swimming by homeowners and is frequented by boaters and fishermen. Big Yellow Creek is polluted by coal mining, logging operations, and widespread coalbed methane drilling.

“Lost Creek and Big Yellow Creek are important streams which deserve to be fully protected for fishing, swimming, drinking water, recreation, and wildlife habitat,” said Nelson Brooke, Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s staff Riverkeeper. “It is a shame the state of Alabama ignores pollution problems just so a few polluters can make more money.”

Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s lawsuit asks the court to set aside EPA’s approval of the 2018 List and instruct EPA to reject Alabama’s 2018 List and replace it with its own, including the two omitted streams, within 60 days.

“EPA allowed Alabama to remove sensitive waterbodies in the Black Warrior basin from the 2018 List without basic supporting evidence that they are meeting applicable water quality standards,” said Eva Dillard, Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s Staff Attorney. “We want to ensure that agencies like ADEM and EPA follow the Clean Water Act and implement all necessary measures to make these vulnerable streams healthy again.”

Dees Graduates Young Cattlemen’s Leadership Program Class V

Denzil Dees of Epes graduated from the Young Cattlemen’s Leadership Program (YCLP) Class V on Saturday, February 16 at the 76th annual Alabama Cattlemen’s Association (ACA) Convention and Trade Show Awards Banquet. He was part of a class of 22 students.

The YCLP is sponsored by the Alabama Beef Checkoff Program and in partnership with the Auburn Department of Animal Sciences, exposes young cattle producers and industry partners ages 20-40 to the many facets of Alabama’s beef cattle industry while exploring their leadership potential. Students of the program tour cattle farms across the state, participate in immersive leadership and team building exercises and explore the legislative process, all within a year’s time.

A Monroeville native, Denzil didn’t know much about life on the farm until age 15 when he began working alongside friend, Chris Joyner, on his family’s farm. It was from then on that he knew agriculture would be his life’s work. After graduating high school, Denzil went on to earn his welding certificate and traveled performing welding jobs for several years before deciding to come home and go back to school. It was then in 2010 that he started his journey at the College of Agriculture at Auburn University which culminated in 2015 with a degree in agricultural business and economics.

That wasn’t his biggest accomplishment at Auburn, however. His biggest accomplishment came by way of his wife, Alex, whose father hired Denzil to work full time Penala Farms in Epes. Now, Denzil works alongside his father-in-law Sid Nelson daily as they operate a 300-head cow/calf operation and 20 catfish ponds. He has even started his own heifer development program developing 70 F1 Brafords annually with the help of his wife. Now, the couple has the opportunity to raise the next generation on the farm as they recently welcomed a son who they named Kirk.

When he’s not on the farm- which is where you’ll find him most of the time- Denzil stays involved in the industry as he is on the Sumter County Farmers Federation board and is the chairman of the Young Farmers of Sumter County. 

He said he joined in on the Young Cattlemen’s Leadership Program because close friends and alumni of the program had “been trying to get [him] to do the program for three years now.” After convincing, he realized it was an excellent opportunity to learn more about the cattle industry.

“I thought this opportunity would help me meet new people in the industry, which I feel in very important in being successful,” he said. “You never know what someone could teach you or how you could help them.”

For more information or for those interested in learning more on the program, visit www.BamaBeef.org/YCLP.

Photos by Chuck Sykes, Billy Pope With turkey season less than a month away, several lucky individuals will get to experience hunts with an experienced turkey hunter at one of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Special Opportunity Areas as part of the Adult Mentored Hunting Program. WFF’s Drew Nix shows members of a mentored hunt what properly placed game cameras can reveal about a hunting area. WFF Wildlife Chief Keith Gauldin shows participants in a mentored hunt how to look for deer sign, like this rub on a cedar tree.

Mentored hunts renew enthusiasm for mentors

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

One of the mantras adopted by those who love the outdoors is “pass it on,” which means introducing somebody to hunting, fishing or other outdoors activities when you get the opportunity.

For the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division, one facet of that effort comes in the form of the Adult Mentored Hunting Program, where seasoned hunters take new or inexperienced adult hunters to one of WFF’s Special Opportunity Areas (SOAs) for a weekend in the woods hunting deer, turkeys or small game.

What WFF has realized is the mentors, who have many years of experience in the hunting field, are benefitting from their role as much or more than the folks who are being mentored.

One case in point is Bill Gray, Supervising Wildlife Biologist in WFF’s District IV. The longtime WFF biologist was admittedly reluctant to head out just before Christmas to fulfill a mentor’s role at the hunt at the Portland Landing SOA.

By the end of the weekend, Gray had a new outlook on the experience, and he had gained a new friend.

“When you’ve hunted for a long time, you take a lot of things for granted,” Gray said. “You kind of lose the magic like when you were young and first learning to hunt.

“Through the progression over the weekend, I got to watch him (James Hopper) learn and be excited and notice some things that were special to him.”

One example was how excited Hopper became when he viewed a deer for the first time through a riflescope.

“That was an eye-opener for me and how important this program can be and what a great opportunity we have to share our world as hunters,” Gray said. “Really for me, it was a way for me to bring back some of that wide-eyed wonder and true joy.

“It’s not that I don’t enjoy hunting anymore. I do. I love it, but you get kind of numb to some of the things that are old hat to you. To these guys, it’s not. And to see how excited they get has renewed my interest in hunting and being able to usher more people across that threshold who may be interested in becoming a hunter.”

On Hopper’s first hunt, the deer came in late and were too far for his comfort zone in terms of making a quality shot.

On the second day, a buck came through about 35-40 yards from the blind, but Gray had to make sure the deer met the minimum requirements for harvest. By the time Gray saw the deer, it was weaving through the trees and disappeared.

Gray said Hopper couldn’t hide his disappointment on Sunday morning when the rest of the hunt’s participants were busy cleaning deer and feral hogs.

“I said I’ve got to try to help this out,” Gray said. “We exchanged phone numbers. I got him down to my place the first week in January. He drove five hours south to my place in Barbour County.”

One of those aspects of hunting that experience often mitigates turned into the deciding factor on the Barbour County hunt.

“He came very close to taking a deer,” Gray said. “But he spooked the deer with the safety. He was using the safety like he was taught on the range. When he clicked that safety off, he said the deer trotted away and didn’t look back. I didn’t think to show him how to put some downward pressure on the safety and slide it forward real quietly. As much as he has to learn about being a good hunter, I have as much to learn about being a good mentor.

“But he was very excited and not dejected about not getting a buck for the second time. I sent him home with some deer meat, and they loved it.”

Since then, Hopper purchased a deer rifle similar to the one he used on the mentored hunt to get ready for a new season.

“Part of my experience was I felt like I made a new friend,” Gray said. “We weren’t able to get together before the season ended, but I’m as excited about being there with him when he gets his first deer as he is about getting his first deer.”

As unlucky as Gray’s hunter was, Drew Nix had the opposite experience on his mentored hunt at the Cedar Creek SOA.

Nix, the WFF Forester, has been mentoring hunters for many, many years and has recruited quite a few people into the realm of license-buying hunters. Nix said those people he introduced to hunting included youth, adult non-hunters and physically disabled individuals.

His hunter on the Cedar Creek SOA happened to be a person who was very familiar with firearms, a retired Army guy who now serves as a military contractor to teach marksmanship.

“He was from rural New York and was very well-versed in firearms, but he had never been hunting,” Nix said. “During his active duty, he never had the opportunity to pursue hunting.”

On the adult mentored hunts, the person who draws the spot is allowed to bring a hunting companion. However, sickness forced the hunter’s companion to drop out. The hunter was then given permission to bring his 11-year-old son.

On the first hunt, several deer came into one of the fields that had recently been constructed on the SOA, including one buck that met the criteria for permissible harvest.

“I told the gentleman it was a legal buck, but I would wait because we were sitting on an exceptional piece of property,” Nix said. “He held his composure. After about 10 minutes, no other deer came in. He said, ‘If you’re telling me that’s a legal deer, I would like to go ahead and harvest that deer.’”

Nix said when the hunter got the rifle up he noticed a significant anomaly.

“It cracked me up,” he said. “From the waist up, he was rock solid. From the waist down, it was like a small earthquake was going on. His legs were vibrating the whole blind.

“But he took a good shot and made a clean kill. The deer ran out of the food plot about 5 yards. He and his son were really charged up and wanted to put their hands on the deer, but I told them to wait and see if a doe came in. Sure enough, he took a doe later that afternoon with another clean, ethical shot. They were just ecstatic.”

The hunter even added another doe to his take before the weekend was over, which meant he went home with a cooler stuffed with venison.

“When we were butchering the deer, the guy I mentored let me get finished with half of the first deer and then he took over,” Nix said. “He pretty well cleaned and quartered the rest of the deer. Then he called his buddies and had a processor lined up in Pelham before he left Cedar Creek.”

Nix admitted to the group of hunters at dinner one night that he wasn’t too enthusiastic to miss rutting activity where he hunts, but that he had a “great” time as a mentor.

“The big takeaway from this is this used to be done by family members – dads, uncles or grandfathers,” he said. “In today’s world, we’ve kind of skipped a generation of folks who did not hunt and are not hunters.

“That seems so foreign to us. For someone who has been hunting for a long time, you may not see the value in doing this until you’ve done it.”

Justin Gilchrist is the wildlife biologist in charge of the Dallas County SOAs, Portland Landing and Cedar Creek, and he is grateful to see a lot of hard work reach fruition during the mentored hunts.

“For me, these hunts have been very rewarding,” Gilchrist said. “We put in a lot of time managing the resources and getting things ready for the hunts. Getting to mentor these people who have never been in the woods in their life is very special to me. We get to take people out and teach them about firearms and hunting. We show them deer sign and what to look for when scouting, like a hard mast (acorns, etc.) crop.

“Nothing compares to watching their reaction when a deer walks out. Then you watch them be successful and get excited about their first deer. To see them take a deer on land where we’ve done a lot of work is very rewarding. It pumps me up.”

Visit www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/adult-mentored-hunting-program for more information.

Notasulga 9-year-old wins Alabama Black Belt Adventures Big Buck Photo Contest

The seventh annual Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association Big Buck Photo Contest drew more than 8,800 votes this year, with Brolen Hornsby of Notasulga emerging as the winner.

The 9-year-old third-grader at Reeltown Elementary attracted 2,238 votes in the contest that ran throughout the 2018-19 deer season on the ALBBAA website. His buck was taken on Camp Creek Hunting Club property in Lowndes County.

“Once again, we’re happy that our contest was able to spotlight some of the great hunting opportunities we have in the Black Belt,” said Pam Swanner, executive director of the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association. “Brolen and the many other young people whose photos were entered in our contest show that there’s a bright future for hunting in the region. It’s a great family activity that builds lifelong memories.”

The 169-pound, 5-point buck was Brolen’s first. He bagged a doe last season, said his father, Brandon Hornsby. “He is beyond excited to win,” Hornsby said. “He told me he couldn’t believe how many people had voted for him.” The Hornsbys shared Brolen’s entry on their social media channels and heard from people from Wyoming, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, Kansas and Colorado who said they had voted for him.

Brolen, who hunts with his father about twice a month during deer season, was joined on his successful deer hunt by his father; his brother, Jake; his stepmother, Tiffany Hornsby; his stepsister, Jackie Dorn; and family friend Chris Arthur.

The contest winner is the son of Brandon and Tiffany Hornsby and Ryan and Heather Fulford. Brolen will receive a Wildgame WiFi Action Camera from Wildgame Innovations, valued at $169.

This year’s contest drew 82 entries from 22 of the 23 Black Belt counties in Alabama. To be eligible for the contest, the deer must have been taken in the Black Belt during the 2018-2019 season and uploaded to the website. To see all the entries, visit AlabamaBlackBeltAdventures.org/bigbuckcontest.

The Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association promotes and encourages ethical hunting and fishing practices. Our Big Buck Photo Contest was created to further educate the public on the abundance of natural resources found in Alabama’s Black Belt region.

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

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

Todd Wilson was recently in Illinois on business and got to get in on a hunt, while there. After about an hour, he was able to take this 7×7 bull elk, which scored 354 and weighted 1004 lbs.

Alabama 2019 Private Angler Red Snapper Fishing Season

For the second year, Alabama is operating under an Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) from NOAA Fisheries to allow state fisheries management agencies more flexibility to set private angler red snapper fishing seasons. In accordance with the EFP requirements, the Marine Resources Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announces the following red snapper season information:

The 2019 red snapper fishing season for anglers fishing from a private vessel or state-licensed guide boat will be three-day weekends (Friday-Sunday) from June 1 through July 28, 2019, including Thursday, July 4. Except for the opening weekend, which begins on a Saturday, weekends are defined as 12:01 a.m. Friday through 11:59 p.m. Sunday. This season only applies to private anglers and state-licensed Alabama commercial party boats that do not hold federal for-hire fishing permits.
The 2019 red snapper fishing season for anglers fishing from a federally permitted charter boat or headboat will be announced by NOAA Fisheries in the coming weeks. Federally-permitted for-hire vessels must adhere to the federal season.
One representative from any recreational vessel landing red snapper in Alabama, including private vessels, state-licensed guide boats and federally permitted charter vessels, is required to report red snapper landings before fish are landed in Alabama.
2019 is the second year of a two-year NOAA Fisheries study to examine the viability of limited state management for Gulf of Mexico red snapper in federal waters.
The 2019 private angling season is based on the fishing effort and average size of fish collected during 2018. Under the EFP, Alabama is provided a percentage of the Gulf-wide recreational quota for red snapper. Alabama’s 2019 private vessel quota is 1,079,573 pounds. Under the terms of the EFP, Alabama will use Snapper Check to monitor the landings during the season and may adjust the season length to provide maximum access for fishermen while adhering to the quota.

“In 2018, the first year of the EFP, Alabama’s quota was 984,291 pounds and we estimated a 47-day season,” said Marine Resources Division Director Scott Bannon. “What we did not anticipate were the ideal weather conditions and the tremendous effort by Alabama anglers, which caused us to close the season after 28 days. We were required to adhere to the quota and, for the most part, we did, as we exceeded the quota by only 0.2 percent. Although the season was shortened, a tremendous number of people took advantage of the amazing red snapper fishery off Alabama’s coast, and we have shown that Alabama can manage the season effectively and make adjustments necessary to maintain this valuable fishery.”

Anglers are reminded to report their red snapper through the mandatory Snapper Check reporting program. Reports can be submitted via the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Outdoor Alabama app, available for both iOS and Android users, or paper reports available at select public boat ramps. Only one report is required for each vessel landing red snapper in Alabama. The fish must be reported prior to the fish being landed, which is defined as when fish are removed from the boat or the boat containing the fish is removed from the water.

“I am looking forward to another great summer of fishing for red snapper with my family and friends,” said Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship. “I also want to thank Gov. Kay Ivey, Rep. Bradley Byrne and Sen. Richard Shelby for their continued support toward state management of this important species for Alabama’s coastal economy.”

Other Gulf states will be announcing their 2019 seasons in the coming weeks, and Alabama anglers may fish in those waters as long as they meet the requirements of that state and land red snapper in a state that is open to landing of red snapper. When Alabama’s recreational season is closed, anglers are not permitted to be in possession of red snapper on Alabama’s waters or land red snapper in Alabama, no matter where they were caught.

More information is available at OutdoorAlabama.com or by contacting Marine Resources Division offices at Dauphin Island, 251-861-2882; or Gulf Shores, 251-968-7576.

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 http://www.outdooralabama.com.

(Billy Pope, Ericha Shelton-Nix) A single gopher tortoise can dig three to five burrows, which are used by a variety of animals other than the tortoise.

Landowner’s help needed to count gopher tortoises

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division and Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) are on an enlistment drive to help count one of the iconic species in Alabama’s longleaf pine forests, the beloved gopher tortoise.

Considered a keystone species of the longleaf ecosystem, the gopher tortoise is crucial for the survival and health of a variety of animal species, including the federally threatened Eastern indigo snake. In fact, more than 360 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates are known to spend all or a portion of their lives in either active or abandoned gopher tortoise burrows.

The reason the agencies must ask for help to estimate the population is that the vast majority of gopher tortoises live on private land in Alabama as well as throughout most of its range in the Southeast U.S.

The gopher tortoise is already listed as federally threatened in three Alabama counties – Washington, Mobile and Choctaw – and a decision on a possible listing as threatened in other parts of Alabama is expected in 2022. WFF, AFC and other partners are working together to determine if the population is large enough to preclude the gopher tortoise’s listing as federal threatened.

WFF and the AFC teamed with other concerned partners to conduct a series of presentations in south Alabama to encourage landowners to participate in the survey program. These workshops were funded by the American Forest Foundation.

Ericha Shelton-Nix, WFF’s Gopher Tortoise Program Coordinator, said the presentations focused on several issues, including whether gopher tortoises can be protected without further regulation.

“We have surveyed most of the public lands in Alabama managed by the ADCNR,” Shelton-Nix said. “More than 95 percent of gopher tortoise habitat is in private ownership. So, there’s pretty much nothing more we can do as a state agency to catalogue the population of gopher tortoises without private landowners stepping up. We have to know where gopher tortoise populations are and assess the populations to see what the status of the species is. We need to assess the populations on private lands. We discussed conservation efforts taking place across the range. We went over all the conservation efforts taking place in Alabama.

“The big take-home message is that we as state and federal agencies, and NGOs (non-governmental organizations), have done all we can do without private landowner help.”

Different agencies are offering cost-share for habitat management – incentives for habitat management like prescribed burning. WFF, AFC and other partners have secured grants to provide gopher tortoise surveys on private land free of charge. Several agencies and organizations offer technical assistance on improving habitat.

The verified gopher tortoise populations in Alabama are in the Conecuh National Forest and Fort Rucker near Enterprise, Ala. A follow-up survey is ongoing on Fort Rucker.

“Conecuh has one viable population and Fort Rucker has one,” Shelton-Nix said. “Those are our largest, most contiguous blocks of land with high-priority gopher tortoise soils. It is likely there are others that have yet to be identified in Alabama, but we are working on it.”

Gopher tortoises are mostly limited to deep, sandy soils that make construction of their burrows easier.

The preferred gopher tortoise habitat is open-canopy pine forests with no mid-story growth that allows light to reach the forest floor to promote an abundance of herbaceous ground cover for tortoise forage.

“A species that becomes reproductively mature that late in life, combined with high nesting and hatchling predation rates, creates a long lag time for a tortoise to contribute to a population,” Shelton-Nix said. “In poor habitat, we see small isolated islands, like wildlife openings and roadsides, with only a handful of tortoises. Remember this is a long-lived species. As habitat quality decreases, tortoises will move to areas with food availability. They will survive, but they are not reproducing, therefore, not a viable population. That’s why the social structure is so important.”

The USFWS will consider the three Rs – representation, redundancy and resiliency – during deliberation on the gopher tortoise listing status. Representation covers where it is important to have tortoises on the landscape factored with population level. Redundancy refers to multiple populations that are needed per unit to protect against unit-wide extirpation (local extinction). Resiliency refers to populations large enough to protect against extirpation by catastrophic events.

Shelton-Nix said owners who agree to participate should expect a site visit from biologists to determine suitable habitat.

“We have a limited amount of survey dollars,” Shelton-Nix said. “We need to determine the percentage of suitable soils. We are looking for landowners with 50 or more burrows, so we can be efficient and get the most bang for our bucks.”

If the property is deemed suitable for a survey, the WFF grant will cover the cost of a consultant to conduct a survey, using the Line Transect Distance Sampling method. Each burrow that is found is scoped with video equipment to check for the presence of animals, which helps determine density rate.

Shelton-Nix said the number of burrows doesn’t translate to the number of tortoises.

“Each gopher tortoise can make three to five burrows,” she said. “If someone has 10 burrows on their property, most likely they have two to three tortoises.”

Shelton-Nix said 140 folks attended the four workshops with 30 landowners who were interested in being surveyed.

“We received great feedback,” she said. “But we’re still finding people who didn’t know they are being considered as a threatened species. The gopher tortoise is a very charismatic species, and people who have them love their tortoises.”

The exception are cattle and horse owners who are worried about the burrows.

“There are easy fixes around that,” Shelton-Nix said. “If people call me, we want to help people find solutions to their problems. It is illegal to move them. Another thing unique about gopher tortoises is they have a homing instinct. If you move them, they’re just going to try to go back home and may end up squished on the highway.”

Ray Metzler, who is the AFC’s threatened and endangered species coordinator, said the effort must overcome the concern from citizens when they hear, “We’re from the government and we’re here to help.”

“We do have ways to provide the information to the USFWS without actually sharing names and addresses,” Metzler said. “We can just tell them that Landowner A has 175 tortoises in Escambia County with a density of whatever. That’s not intrusive and doesn’t share any private information.”

Metzler said the impact of the USFWS decision on the gopher tortoise can’t be determined right now.

“We don’t know if they (USFWS) would limit activities related to the tortoise,” Metzler said. “There might not be any impacts. We really don’t know. The USFWS won’t say until they review the information provided by the states to make the decision. Our goal is to keep it from being listed.

“We are trying to get more private landowners engaged in the process and hopefully allow us to come to their property and do a survey.”

Metzler hopes to acquire more grant money for more outreach to the affected landowners later this year.

“Our first four meetings led to more landowners finding out about the need for this program,” he said. “We’ve actually been on a few pieces of property that we didn’t know existed, that have good habitat and have some tortoises. If we have a few more meetings, it might lead to a few more properties like that.”

Although current research sets a viable population at 250 animals at a certain density, Metzler thinks support populations could have considerably lower numbers.

“You might have a support population at 50 tortoises,” he said. “There’s probably a lot more properties that have 50 tortoises as opposed to 250 at the appropriate density. And we need to find those properties.”

Visit www.outdooralabama.com/nongame-wildlife-species-projects/gopher-tortoise-project for a variety of information, including on the Alabama Tortoise Alliance, which will meet February 28 in Andalusia.

Brantley Harris, 13, killed first buck, a 8 point killed in Greensboro! His parents are Bobbi Spencer and Brandon Harris. Photo submitted by Bobbi Harris
Pam Payne Bailey of Stewart took this 12 pt. buck on January 17 in Marengo Co. It scored 158 7/8. Submitted photo
In the first picture, the shadow of the Earth begins creeping across the face of the Moon on Jan. 20 during Sunday night’s lunar eclipse. In the second, the Moon is shown during maximum eclipse. The reddish color is due to sunlight being scattered by the earth’s atmosphere. Sunday night’s eclipse was called the “Super Blood Wolf Moon” in many reports. It was a super Moon because it occurred when the Moon comes closest to the Earth in its elliptic orbit—resulting in a slightly larger-than-usual apparent size of the lunar disk as viewed from Earth. The “blood” part of the description refers to the red color, while January’s full Moon is traditionally named the “Wolf Moon.”
Photos by Isaac Vaughn
The sun coming up through the fog over the town of Moundville Wednesday, Jan. 16. Photo by Marty Wheat

Most public fishing lakes reopen in February

February 1 marks the beginning of fishing season for 21 of Alabama’s 23 State-owned Public Fishing Lakes. Located throughout the state, these lakes are noted for their quality fishing for bream, largemouth bass, channel catfish, and crappie (in most lakes). Because these smaller lakes warm more quickly than larger bodies of water, early spring fishing can be excellent.

In addition to the 21 lakes opening in February, Fayette County Public Fishing Lake will reopen to fishing this spring and anglers can expect excellent numbers of quality-size Florida largemouth bass. More information about the reopening of Fayette County lake will be announced soon.

Washington County Public Fishing Lake remains closed while restocking efforts are underway.

Fishing is an affordable and easily accessible recreational opportunity for all Alabamians. Each State Public Fishing Lake offers boats for rent ($5) and launching of private fishing boats ($3). A daily permit and state fishing license are required to fish in the lakes. Anglers may fish from the pier, bank, rental boat or personal boat.

“Alabama’s public fishing lakes are a great family fishing destination,” said Matthew Marshall, State Lakes Supervisor for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF). “Not only do the lakes offer great fishing, they have concession buildings with snacks, drinks, restrooms, and personnel who can provide fishing advice.”

The WFF Fisheries Section carefully stocks and manages the lakes for optimum fishing. The lakes are also fertilized to maximize fish production and fishing piers allow anglers easy access to deeper water.

No General Fund money is used to operate Alabama’s State Public Fishing Lakes. Anglers pay for the management of the lakes through license fees, excise taxes on certain outdoors equipment, and daily fishing permits.

Anglers can call their district fisheries office for specific information about the types of fish and average sizes caught at each lake. Contact information: District 1 in Tanner, Ala., 256-353-2634; District 2 in Eastaboga, Ala., 256-831-6860; District 3 in Northport, Ala., 205-339-5716; District 4 in Enterprise, Ala. 334-347-9467; District 5 in Spanish Fort, Ala., 251-626-5153.

Before traveling to a State Public Fishing Lake, anglers should call ahead to determine the operational schedule. A complete list of state lakes and contact information can be found in the fishing section of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website, www.outdooralabama.com.

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

Early bird: America’s beloved Purple Martins return to Alabama

In a sure sign that spring is not far behind, the first Purple Martins of the year have touched down in the southeastern Alabama city of Enterprise.

The birds were spotted on Jan. 21 by a Purple Martin enthusiast–one of many throughout the eastern and central United States who track and report on the birds’ annual migration on behalf of the Purple Martin Conservation Association.

“Alabama is always one of the early states to welcome back Purple Martins, and the birds were right on schedule again this year,” said Joe Siegrist, President of the Purple Martin Conservation Association. “Tracking the migration is not only fun, it also provides us with valuable information that helps inform our research and strengthen our efforts to make sure we’re doing everything possible to sustain the population of these amazing birds.”

North America’s largest species of swallow, Purple Martins winter in the rainforests of Brazil before making up to a 7000-mile migration north into the eastern United States and Canada. The birds first made landfall in the U.S. this year near Orlando, Fla. on Dec. 29 and since then have been making their way northward.

The annual migration is a testament the martins’ resilience as well as the unwavering dedication of thousands of ‘martin landlords’ who maintain multi-compartment nest ‘condos’ that are essential for the birds’ survival. Once widespread in rural America, this species, that eats billions of flying insects annually, has been disappearing at an alarming rate, experiencing a loss of one-third of its population over the last 50 years.

“The decline seems to be the combination of a few factors: nesting habitat loss, competing invasive species, decreasing prey availability, and climate change,” said Siegrist. “Over the majority of the Purple Martins’ range, they are unable to nest naturally any longer. Human-provided nest boxes are the only thing keeping the species alive east of the Rocky Mountains.”

Siegrist says the very survival of the species is due in large part to scores of dedicated conservationists who invest their time, money and hearts into maintaining housing for the martins.

“The landlords provide critical shelter for the martins,” Siegrist said. “In return, they are rewarded with a family-like bond with the birds who return to the same colony year after year like clockwork.”

So even as winter tightens its grip on the north, the first sign of spring has started heading that way, bringing hope for the new year.

To follow along with the Purple Martins’ migration and learn more about how you can help conserve this treasured bird, visit www.purplemartin.org. In addition, people interested in learning more about how to attract and care for Purple Martins can receive a free booklet by contacting the Purple Martin Conservation Association by emailing info@purplemartin.org or calling 814-833-7656.

Based in Erie, Pa. the Purple Martin Conservation Association is an international tax exempt, nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of the Purple Martin through scientific research, state of the art wildlife management techniques and public education. The PMCA serves as a centralized data-gathering and information source on the species, serving both the scientist and Purple Martin enthusiast. The PMCA’s mission is educating martin enthusiasts in the proper techniques for managing this human-dependent species.

Special youth Water Hunting Day Feb. 2

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) has designated Saturday, February 2, 2019, as the second of the 2018-19 hunting season’s Special Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days. On that day, youth under age 16 may hunt for waterfowl statewide when accompanied by a licensed adult hunter. Regular waterfowl season shooting hours, bag limits, legal arms and ammunitions apply to the special days. Hunting area rules and regulations also apply.

To participate in the hunt, individuals must be accompanied by an adult supervisor. The adult supervisor, who may not hunt, must remain within arm’s length of the youth at all times. The adult supervisor may accompany up to two youth participants during the hunt.

Youth is defined as an individual age 15 years and younger. Adult is defined as an individual age 21 years and older, or as the parent of the youth. The adult must have a state hunting license, state and federal waterfowl stamp, and a free harvest information program registration.

Only one firearm will be allowed per youth, and only the youth hunters will be permitted to utilize the firearm for hunting. The adult is expected to review the rules of firearm safety and hunter ethics with each youth and ensure they are followed.

For more information on the Special Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days, contact WFF Migratory Game Bird Coordinator Seth Maddox at Seth.Maddox@dcnr.alabama.gov or 334-242-3469, or visit www.outdooralabama.com/waterfowl.

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

AFC elects new officers

New officers were elected at the January 17 meeting of the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) at state forestry headquarters in Montgomery. The board selected Katrenia Pruitt Kier of Huntsville as new Chair, and Robert N. Turner of Sulligent as Vice-Chair. Both Kier and Turner have served on the Commission since February 2016.

“We look forward to working with Mrs. Kier and Mr. Turner as our leaders in this coming year,” commented State Forester Rick Oates. “Her combined professional leadership abilities and corporate experience, along with his knowledge as an Alabama landowner should be of great benefit to the AFC.”

With over 30 years of professional experience in business management, corporate training, and customer service, Katrenia Kier is the owner of Kier Realestate, LLC, a real estate brokerage firm in Huntsville. Her prior corporate experience includes human resource and information management positions in the defense industry at McDonnell Douglas and Boeing Corporation. Currently an officer with the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, she also serves as minister and youth committee coordinator for the Greater Huntsville Interdenominational Ministerial Fellowship. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and received a Business Management Certificate from the University of Alabama at Huntsville as well.

Kier previously served six years on the State Forester’s Outreach Advisory Council for underserved and minority landowners. In addition to completing master forester classes and training on

best management practices for forestry, she has also attended forest industry conferences and coordinated workshops for North Alabama landowners, introducing them to services offered by the Forestry Commission.

After a 45-year career in the field of education, Robert Turner now stays busy with cattle and farming in Lamar County. Upon completion of a Bachelor of Art degree in Social Studies at Mississippi Industrial College, he attended Rust College, University of Alabama, University of Mississippi, and Mississippi State University, receiving a master’s degree in Administration in 1984. Over the years, he served as teacher, coach, assistant principal, and principal at Caledonia High School in Shugualak, Mississippi. He then worked as Director of Transportation & Maintenance for the Lowndes County (Mississippi) School District and later in Natchez, Mississippi, before returning to Alabama where he spent several years in the same position in Lamar County prior to his retirement in 2011.

Turner’s organizational memberships have included the State Forester’s Outreach Advisory Council for underserved and minority landowners, Executive Committee of the Alabama TREASURE Forest Association, and chairman of LRLEAN (Limited Resource Landowner Education & Assistance Network) an association of African American landowners organized to promote increased sustainable forestry management/certification in the Black Belt region of Alabama by working with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative/Tree Farm program. This organization has also connected many Black landowners to USDA financial assistance programs.

Other members of the AFC Board of Commissioners include immediate past Chairman Jane T. Russell of Lapine; Jerry M. Dwyer of Auburn; Stephen W. May, III of Sawyerville; Dr. Bill Sudduth of Tuscaloosa; and Joseph H. Twardy of Auburn. This seven-member board, appointed by the Governor and approved by the State Senate, is responsible for setting policy for the Alabama Forestry Commission, the state agency charged with protecting and sustaining Alabama’s forest resources. To learn more about the AFC, visit www.forestry.alabama.gov.

2019 Ala. Waterfowl Stamp Contest open

Photo: 2018 Waterfowl Stamp Art Contest Winner – Wood Ducks by Eric Greene.

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) is now accepting entries for the 2019 Alabama Waterfowl Stamp art contest. The winning artwork will be featured as the design of the 2020-21 stamp. The Alabama stamp is currently required for all licensed hunters when hunting migratory waterfowl in the state. Revenue from the sale of the stamp is used to purchase, establish or improve migratory waterfowl habitat.

The competition is open to resident Alabama artists only. Only original horizontal artworks depicting a species of North American migratory duck or goose will be eligible. The Canada Goose, American Green-winged Teal, and Wood Duck — depicted in the winning artwork of the three previous years’ contests — are not eligible as the subject for the 2020-21 waterfowl stamp. Entries must be postmarked no later than March 1, 2019.

Judging criteria will emphasize uncluttered design suitable for printing as a stamp, anatomical accuracy of the illustrated species, and artistic rendering. Close attention must be given to tone and detail, since those aspects are prerequisites for printing artwork as a stamp. Wing and feather construction must be particularly well defined. Entries may be drawn or painted in any medium. Entries cannot exceed 9 by 12 inches (15 by 18 inches matted).

The contest winner will be announced in March 2019.

Revenue generated from the sale of the 2019 waterfowl stamp will continue to work towards benefitting waterfowl and their associated habitats. However, following this year’s contest, the State will be transitioning from the physical stamp to a license privilege and the contest will be discontinued.

“With the implementation of the lifetime waterfowl stamp and the added waterfowl stamp privilege section on the regular hunting license, the number of individuals wanting the physical stamp has continued to decline,” said Seth Maddox, WFF Migratory Game Bird Coordinator. “Declining demand for the actual stamp combined with a decreased participation in the art contest has made it cost prohibitive to continue creating a physical stamp or conduct the contest. Funds generated by the license privilege will provide the same benefits to Alabama’s waterfowl as the funds generated by the sale of the actual stamp.”

Complete contest rules and entry forms for the 2019 contest are available online at www.outdooralabama.com/programs/waterfowl-stamp-art-contest-ruless. Artists may also receive an entry form by emailing Seth Maddox at seth.maddox@dcnr.alabama.gov, or by calling 334-242-3469.

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.

Gage Mitchell took his first deer while he was hunting with stepdad Kevin Davis at Kevin’s brother’s hunting club, Indian Creek, on Jan. 4. Submitted photo

Life Hunt participants bags bucks of lifetime

(Ryan Noffsinger, David Rainer) Aaron Causey and Buckmasters CEO Jackie Bushman celebrate a successful hunt during the Buckmasters Life Hunt Classic at Sedgefields Plantation in Dallas County. McKenzie Clark is all smiles after she took her first deer during the Life Hunt as mom, Shauna, and dad, Shannon, try to maintain their composure. Brandi McCormack and guide Robert Almon show off the results of a successful hunt during the Buckmasters event recently.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Aaron Causey of Riverside, Ala., has been all over the world to hunt, but he considers none of his hunts more special than the Buckmasters Life Hunt Classic last week at Sedgefields Plantation.

Causey’s world changed in 2011 when an improvised explosive device (IED) left him clinging to life in Afghanistan. A member of the military bomb squad, Causey had to undergo more than 40 surgeries. He lost both legs above the knees. He has recovered to the point that he has resumed his favorite pastime and joined in the Buckmasters hunt, which hosts wounded veterans and others with disabling injuries or illnesses.

“This is an amazing hunt,” Causey said. “It’s not just about the deer. It’s about the people you’re here with. It’s talking to people and getting to know everybody, especially watching these kids come out here and bring home a deer. Oh, that’s amazing. And I’m an avid hunter. I’ve hunted Africa, Montana and Wyoming.”

Causey also managed to bag one of the largest bucks, an eight-point, taken during the Buckmasters event.

Causey’s buck played hide-and-seek for a while before he committed to coming into the field where the blind was erected.

“We watched four does probably for about three hours,” Causey said. “At about 3 o’clock, this massive buck came into the field, looked around and disappeared. He came back, stared straight at us and disappeared again. He was about 250 yards at the first sighting and about 225 yards the second sighting. The first sighting, it was too tight of a shot between the trees, and I wasn’t going to take a chance.”

A couple of hours later, does were still in the field when several bucks started to file into the area. A pair of six-points came in first, followed by an eight-point. Causey and his guide were about ready to take the eight-point when they had a change of mind.

“My guide said, ‘Wait a minute. Let me scan the field with my binoculars,’” Causey said. “Then he said, ‘Look to the right.’ I looked out and there was that big boy coming back in.”

Causey and his crew had to wait for the big buck to get a little closer and get in a position where he was comfortable with the shot.

“He kept walking toward us and wouldn’t give me a broadside,” Causey said. “He finally kept coming and gave me a broadside. He was 120 (yards) when I shot him. He went about 35 yards into the woods. The guide immediately went out in the field to check for blood. It was pretty wet back there, so we went and got the (blood-trailing) dog. The dog went up the field and he was already on the deer before anybody had a clue. He went straight to my deer.”

One of the first deer taken at Sedgefields last week was by McKenzie Clark, who is dealing with giant axonal neuropathy. It also happened to be her first deer ever, which left her dad, Shannon, a little teary eyed.

Clark, who is from Woodville, Ala., and crew had been sitting on a green field for about 2½ hours before any deer showed up.

“We saw about six does,” she said. “The buck I shot came in about 5 o’clock. My guide, Jay (Hatcher), said since it’s your first one you can shoot or you can wait. I said, ‘I’m gonna shoot it. I’m not gonna wait.’

“I had the gun up, looking for the deer. But I was shaking. I told them they were going to have to give me just a minute. I found the deer in the scope and squeezed the trigger real slow.”

Her dad will now have to look for ways for McKenzie to continue to hunt.

“She’s already confiscated my deer rifle,” Shannon said. “But that’s okay.”

During the photo session back at the camp, Shannon had to wipe away a few tears.

“That one is more special than any I’ve ever killed, and I’ve been hunting since I was 14,” he said. “My first buck was a spike, so she really outdid me on that. I think I’ve got a hunting partner for life. I was just happy. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

This wasn’t the first Buckmasters Life Hunt Classic for Brandi McCormack of Northport. She had bagged a nice buck several years ago but requested a return trip.

McCormack, a paraplegic who was injured in a fall from a balcony, got treated to some deer-camp shenanigans on her hunt. She had previously worked for her guide, Robert Almon, and he knew she was a good sport.

“There were so many deer in the field, you couldn’t even count them,” McCormack said. “Halfway across the field you’d lose count. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was unreal. And seven or eight were bucks. We had one deer right in front of us chewing on a vine, looking straight at me.”

Almon recounted the episode, saying, “We’re in a ground blind, and a group of does fed up to within 10 feet from us. There was one right in front chewing on some leaves. She looked up straight into the blind, and Brandi said, ‘I think she’s looking straight into my soul.’ The buck we want to kill is 75 yards away standing broadside, and we can’t take a shot. We can’t move an inch. Finally, a little nub buck came in and ran the does out from in front of the blind, so we could get the gun up.”

When the does finally moved, McCormack said she remained calm and practiced her breathing before she put the crosshairs on the buck.

When she squeezed the trigger, the buck bolted. That’s when Almon and the camera man got a little mischievous.

“I was afraid I missed, but Robert said he was sure I hit it,” McCormack said. “They went out and started looking for blood. I couldn’t hear their conversation. They got further and further away. Then they started hanging their heads low, shaking their heads. I was sick to my stomach. They came back to the blind and said, ‘Okay, we’re going to be quiet and see if anything else comes out.’ I said ‘Huh-uh.’ Then they told me they found the deer. They got me. They got me good.”

A couple of baseball celebrities made return visits to the Classic. Relief pitcher David Robertson from Tuscaloosa, who just signed a two-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, and Craig Kimbrel of Huntsville, who was a relief pitcher with the World Champion Boston Red Sox last season, showed up to help the Classic participants celebrate being in the great outdoors.

This year’s event was particularly poignant for Kimbrel, who missed last year’s Classic because of his daughter, Lydia Joy, who was born with heart defects.

Lydia Joy has had a couple of surgeries already and another is planned soon.

“Going through some difficult times with my daughter and spending a lot of time in the hospital gives me a new perspective,” said Kimbrel, who is exploring the free-agent market after completing his Red Sox contract. “I’ve been coming for quite a few years, and I get to hear these families’ stories about the struggles they go through. And then I go through something similar last year. It was tough. You learn from it. You grow from it. We got a beautiful daughter out of everything we went through. Now she’s doing great. She acts like surgery is no big deal.

“But it is special to come out and help these hunters do something different. I’m sure it’s fresh air to be able to do something they don’t always get to do and be able to do it in the outdoors.”

APT to highlight AU’s forestry, wildlife and environmental research and Ala. natural resource industries

As part of Alabama Public Television’s ongoing “Spotlight on Agriculture” documentary series, the network is producing three episodes focused on Auburn University’s forestry, wildlife and natural resources research and the industry’s importance to the state.

The episodes will air in the first three quarters of 2019, with the first episode on “Forestry” scheduled to air Monday, Feb. 18, at 8 p.m. CST. To celebrate the launch of the three-part segment of the series, Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences will host a public screening and reception for the premiere of the “Forestry” episode.

The campus-wide screening will be held at the school, located at 602 Duncan Drive, in the Conference Hall, room 1101, at 3:30 p.m. CST on Wednesday, Feb. 13. The screening is free and open to the public.

The episode trilogy will highlight the importance of forests, wildlife and natural resources to the state’s economy and quality of life.

“These programs will help Alabamians to better understand the value of our state’s abundant natural resources and the innovative research being done at Auburn to assure we manage those resources for the wellbeing and enjoyment of future generations,” said Roy Clem, executive director of Alabama Public Television.

Through interviews with landowners, business, government and industry representatives, the documentary series will showcase how Auburn University’s research and Extension programs serve to convey science-based information to sustainably manage those resources for the future.

During the “Forestry” episode, viewers will learn how Auburn’s research is improving timber harvesting and forestry operations, developing sustainable products from forest biomass and discovering solutions to many of today’s most critical challenges facing wildlife and natural landscapes such as drought, habitat loss, pests and invasive species.

The “Wildlife” episode, to air in the second quarter of the year, will examine Auburn’s wildlife research and partnerships with landowners, agencies and other stakeholders to aid the development of policies that will assure healthy and sustainable game and non-game wildlife populations and their habitats.

The episode will also discuss the complex relationships between land use, climate change and population growth that alter the health-related interactions among people, animals and the environment that contribute to the presence of diseases such as rabies, Lyme disease and the West Nile and Zika viruses.

Finally, the episode on “Environment and Society,” to air in the third quarter of 2019, will discuss Auburn’s research to examine the relationships between humans and the environment as they relate to economics, policies and other organizational aspects of society.

“We are grateful to Alabama Public Television and the many organizations who participated in the series to showcase the collaborative research partnership between academia, industry and government,” said Janaki Alavalapati, dean of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

“This collaborative work and sharing of knowledge and resources is vital to the preservation of Alabama’s quality of life and the sustainable future of our society.”

For more information about the Alabama Public Television broadcast, visit http://aptv.org/episodes/1816735/Spotlight-On-Agriculture/Forestry-Management/. Written by Jamie Anderson, Auburn University

Renew our Rivers celebrates 20th year

In February, Renew Our Rivers will kick off its 20th year of lake and river cleanups. More than 30 cleanups are planned in 2019 across Alabama.
Renew Our Rivers began in the spring of 2000 with Gene Phifer’s vision to clean a stretch of the Coosa River near Alabama Power’s Plant Gadsden, where he worked. Since then, more than 117,000 volunteers have joined the effort and collected more than 15.5 million pounds of trash and debris from waterways across the Southeast.
“As we begin the 20th year of Renew Our Rivers, it’s time to celebrate this environmental
success story. And what better way than with more cleanups,” said Mike Clelland, an Alabama Power Environmental Affairs specialist who helps coordinate the cleanups.
Employees and volunteers assist Clelland and other community partners at every Renew Our Rivers cleanup. In 2018 alone, 4,000 volunteers removed more than 268,000 pounds of trash from Alabama lakes, rivers and shorelines.
“The commitment by Alabama Power employees to Renew Our Rivers continues to grow,” said Susan Comensky, Alabama Power’s vice president for Environmental Affairs. “But it is the Renew Our Rivers partnerships, which bring together our employees with homeowner and boat owner organizations, community volunteers, students and other groups, that have made this effort truly sustainable.”
Renew Our Rivers is one of many initiatives in which Alabama Power partners with others to promote conservation and environmental stewardship in communities across the state.
Please see below the 2019 schedule of Renew Our Rivers cleanups. For updates to the schedule, please visit https://apcshorelines.com/blog/.

Alabama WFF ramp up CWD sampling effort

(Billy Pope) Amy Silvano, WFF’s Assistant Chief of Wildlife and Jerremy Ferguson, WFF’s Technical Assistance Coordinator, take tissue samples from deer taken in northwest Alabama during a voluntary sampling event recently at Hackleburg in Marion County.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

With positive tests for chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Tennessee and additional positives in Mississippi, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division has ramped up testing in north Alabama.

WFF officials set up manned sampling stations in Hackleburg the first weekend of the new year and followed with sampling last weekend in Waterloo.

Self-service sampling stations were recently set up by WFF in north Alabama to accommodate drop-offs 24 hours a day.

WFF Director Chuck Sykes said testing for the always-fatal disease, which is caused by a rogue protein called a prion, has been ongoing since 2002, but the positive tests in neighboring states caused WFF to increase its sampling effort.

“The Mississippi positives made us test more in the areas that joined Mississippi,” Sykes said. “When the deer in Tennessee tested positive, it prompted an increased level of testing where it fell within the response zone. Those positives just prompted us to increase our surveillance in those areas.”

Sixteen deer were brought in for sampling at the Hackleburg station, but Sykes said the interaction with hunters who didn’t harvest deer may have been the most productive aspect of the manned sampling station.

“We didn’t know what to expect, but I consider it a success for a volunteer check station,” Sykes said. “More important than the 16 deer brought in, we had two times that many hunters stop by and ask questions.

“It was a really good way for our staff to get in front of the public, and the public to be able to ask questions one-on-one.”

Sykes and the WFF staff discovered that, although the Division has been immersed in the CWD Response Plan, it has yet to be widely discussed in the public.

“We (WFF) are up to our eyeballs in CWD,” Sykes said. “Even though we’ve offered seminars, done articles and put up billboards, a lot of people don’t pay attention until it hits close to home. A lot of the questions were just basic CWD knowledge that the average hunter in Alabama doesn’t understand. What is it? Why is it a problem? What makes it different from other diseases?

“These were very positive interactions. There was nothing negative about it.”

Sykes said the self-service sampling stations are part of the standard protocols of the CWD Response Plan (https://www.outdooralabama.com/deer-hunting-alabama/chronic-wasting-disease-what-you-should-know).

“With the positives in Mississippi and Tennessee within 50 miles of our border, that prompts us to do more testing in those areas,” he said. “It’s been shown time and time again that hunter-harvested deer and road-kills are the best ways to achieve samples and to get the most out of those samples.

“Just going in and randomly shooting deer is okay, but in areas that have had CWD for a long time, there is a higher predominance in road-kill deer and hunter-harvested deer because they lose their sense of wariness. The most effective way to sample is by hunter-harvested deer and working with ALDOT (Alabama Department of Transportation) to identify road-kills.”

Above all, Sykes said he wants hunters to continue to pursue deer just like they always have.

“Again, this is not something to cause people to quit hunting,” he said. “We need them to become educated on what CWD is. Don’t rely on what they’ve heard at hunting camp or what they saw on Facebook.

“Talk to us to try to understand the disease and what we’re doing to try to prevent it.”

Sykes reiterated how hunting, especially deer hunting, is a cornerstone in Alabama’s culture and economy. Hunting has an almost $2 billion impact annually on Alabama’s economy.

“This is not a hunter issue,” he said. “This is not even a deer hunting issue. This is a State of Alabama economic issue and a way of life issue. We need people to understand what’s going on, and we need their assistance to gather these samples in the most efficient way so we can stay on top of it.

“Heaven forbid, if it does get here, we will be prepared to mitigate the risks as much as possible.”

Previously, tissue samples had to be sent out of state to be tested for CWD. In 2018, WFF provided funds for the Alabama Department of Agriculture to purchase CWD testing equipment, which was set up at Auburn University. The equipment and technician have been certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and can test up to 90 samples per day.

Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship said the new CWD testing equipment speeds up the state’s response time considerably.

“We don’t have to wait on anybody,” Blankenship said. “We take our samples to the Department of Agriculture lab at Auburn University. We will get those test results quickly and be able to respond as soon as possible.”

The freezers for the self-service sample stations are located in Fayette, Lamar, Marion, Franklin, Lauderdale, and Colbert counties and are available to receive deer head samples 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

At the self-service locations, hunters must first remove the deer’s head with 4-6 inches of neck attached. For bucks, antlers can be removed at the base of each antler or by removing the skull plate before bagging the head. Hunters will then place the head in the provided plastic bag and tie it closed. They will need to complete all sections of the Biological Sample Tag, and attach the tag to the bag with a zip tie. Hunters will take the bottom receipt portion of the Biological Sample Tag before placing the bagged head in the freezer. All materials needed to drop off a sample are provided at each freezer location.

Locations of the self-service CWD drop-off sampling sites are:

Fayette County, Fayette County Extension Office, 650 McConnell Loop, Fayette, Ala., 35555

Lamar County, Hunter’s Gold Processing, 11634 County Rd. 9, Millport, Ala., 35576

Marion County, Watson’s Grocery, 5658 State Highway 19, Detroit, Ala., 35552

Franklin County, Fancher’s Taxidermy, 715 Newell Rd., Red Bay, Ala., 35582

Lauderdale County, Florence Frozen Meats, 1050 South Court St., Florence, Ala., 35630

Colbert County, Yogi’s Texaco, 17750 US Highway 72, Tuscumbia, Ala., 35674

Hunters can also have deer sampled at any WFF District Office (www.outdooralabama.com/wildlife-section) or at the WFF office in Marengo County at 1105 Bailey Dr., Demopolis, Ala., 36732, phone number 334-289-8030. WFF offices are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Before dropping off the sample, hunters should call ahead to make sure a biologist is available.

Sykes said the test results will be emailed to the hunter within three to four weeks.

Currently, self-service freezers are located throughout northwest Alabama only because of the increased surveillance samples needed in the response zones of the CWD-positive locations in Mississippi and Tennessee.

Dawson Stokes killed this 6 point on new years day in Perry County. Submitted by Jennifer Stokes

AU scientists gaining insight on how fish navigate the Alabama River

For months now, an Auburn University research team has been keeping close tabs on roughly 250 tagged paddlefish and smallmouth buffalo in the Alabama River in an effort to learn more about how lock-and-dam systems on a waterway impact fish movement upstream and down.

In the study, led by School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences faculty Dennis DeVries and Russell Wright, they and a cadre of graduate students have tagged each fish with a tiny transmitter that “pings” the fish’s location every 3 seconds. If the fish is in range of an array of receivers the team has placed around three Alabama River lock-and-dam systems—Claiborne, Millers Ferry and Jones Bluff— the pings are registered, and the fish’s location is recorded. As the tagged fish swim around the dams, the system generates thousands of data points that show where and how the fish move.

“That allows us to get a two-dimensional position on a relatively fine scale of where that fish actually is,” Wright said. “We can determine, as they approach the dam moving upstream, whether they choose a path through slower-moving water or whether they just come racing up and try to go over the spillway, regardless of water velocity. What is it about any particular area that they use that allows that fish to make it past the dam or not?”

Dams affect river ecosystems by altering flow and creating reservoirs. Since some aquatic species require specific river conditions to grow and reproduce properly, dams can negatively impact those populations.

“In a normal, uninterrupted river fish move freely upstream and downstream,” DeVries said. “”But if you build a dam, that blocks the passageway.”

Many fish species migrate upriver each spring to spawn, but dams can interfere with the spawning runs, causing the fish to either turn around, spawn at the dam or not spawn at all, DeVries said.

“The idea is to see if there’s a way to get those fish past that dam and move upriver,” he said.

The researchers’ current investigation stemmed from a smaller study they were involved with a few years ago in which the Nature Conservancy attempted to move fish past dams the same way boats manage passage: through lock systems. A lock system allows a vessel to enter a chamber where the water level can be raised or lowered to bring the boat to the top or bottom of the dam. The Nature Conservancy conducted “conservation lockages” daily in an effort to mitigate the effects of the dams on fish.

The theory was that fish would enter the chamber downstream and exit it above the dam, thereby bypassing the obstacle. It was virtually impossible, however, to determine if that technique was effective. That’s where DeVries and Wright entered the picture.

With funding from an internal Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station grant, they tagged fish with transmitters and started tracking the movement to discover whether fish were actually using the lockages. Their findings? Among the three dams, fish moved up- and downstream at Claiborne Lock and Dam only, and most of that movement was not through the lock system, but by going over a crested spillway at the dam.

During high flooding, water levels are high enough that fish can sometimes make it over a crested spillway. The Millers Ferry and Jones Bluff dams, which registered no fish moving past them at all, are much higher and have only gated spillways, so that a navigational lock is the only way a fish could move upstream past these structures.

Their findings demonstrated the importance of tracking fishes’ actual movements instead of managing them based on assumptions, so DeVries and Wright expanded the project to investigate other questions related to fish movement and populations.

“We’re trying to see what they’re doing below the dam,” DeVries said. “There are areas that are shallower, deeper, higher flow, lower flow, and when we watch the movement of these fish, they’re not just going straight up the river.

“We want to figure out whether they are energetically optimizing their pathway up to the dam, and then, if they can’t make it up over the dam, conserving energy and testing the dam from time to time.”

Initial funding for the expanded study came from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2016, and the scientists have received additional funding each year since, for a total of close to $3 million.

The movement data from the tagged fish is giving the research team insight into how to potentially mitigate the dams’ negative impact. For example, the team has discovered that some fish are attracted to the still water in the lock chamber and are content to stay there, even when the water level rises above the dam.

“Are there things we can do to get them more efficiently into and out of the lock?” Wright said. “Possibly so.”

One option might be to install fish ladders to facilitate the natural migration of the fish over the spillway.

“If we can do things to the dam, the design of the dam, or the holding area that makes it easier for them to get past the dam, then at least at Claiborne, we can make a more efficient use of this crested spillway to move fish past the dam,” Wright said.

DeVries and Wright are focusing largely on paddlefish in the project because it is a highly migratory species, making it ideal for a dam passage study. Paddlefish also have economic value in that they produce large eggs that can replace the smaller sturgeon eggs used in caviar.

“One paddlefish can be worth thousands of dollars in terms of the value of the eggs,” Wright said, adding that the species also is a conservation concern.

Currently, six graduate students and a technician are involved in the project, performing electrofishing and gillnetting to collect fish, inserting the tags in fish, downloading data from the receivers, helping analyze that data and working in the lab with the fish and samples that have been collected.

“Our students are out there in a lot of really taxing, trying conditions,” said DeVries.

The team has tagged about 250 fish so far. Each tag costs $400 to $600. To perform the procedure, the students anesthetize a fish if necessary and make a small opening in the body cavity to insert the tag just inside.

“They then use sutures to close the opening, put veterinary-grade superglue on it, clean the incision, and then make sure the fish fully recovers and swims away,” DeVries said. “They’re to the point where they can do the procedure in under two minutes.”

The students also place the receivers, which cost a couple thousand dollars each, near the three dams. They have installed receivers in the lock chambers, above and below the dams and further downriver, using concrete parking bumpers to anchor them in place.

The receivers cycle through the different tag frequencies every 10-20 seconds, generating a data point every time they detect a tag ping. As a result, DeVries said the team has, “millions of data points,” to work with.

DeVries and Wright said their project should provide significant factual data on which management decisions could help protect Alabama’s fish populations.

“Our work will yield evidence on what impact dams are having on fish ecology right now: Are they contributing to declining populations of some species, causing genetic shifts or providing population barriers?” Wright said. “Documenting a problem is important. That way, if you make a judgement call about things, such as flood control versus fish passage, you at least know if there is a reason to even have this argument.”
Written by Olivia Wilkes, Auburn University

Chocolate lab Coco on point in bobtail quail fields

(David Rainer) Yano Serra’s chocolate Labrador retriever, Coco, locks up in a point during a quail hunt at Taylor Creek Shooting Preserve in south Mobile County. A bird flushes in front of Coco as Serra raises the 20-gauge to fire. Coco had to dig deep into the cogon grass to find a winged quail. Coco gently holds a quail as she gets ready to hand it over to her proud owner.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Without a doubt, the sometimes heated argument of who has the best hunting dog came up during the holidays and almost certainly continues today at hunting camps throughout Alabama.

To Yano Serra of Bayou La Batre, there is no argument. Serra says his chocolate Labrador retriever is a wonder dog that deserves special recognition for what he calls his “universal” hunting companion.

I’d seen numerous photos of Coco on social media with tons of ribbons she’d received during numerous field trials, but her versatility wasn’t evident until Serra called me one day.

“Ever seen a Labrador point a quail?” Serra asked.

“Not lately,” I responded, trying to remember if I had ever seen a Lab point a quail.

I’ve always appreciated a quality pointing dog. My late father was an avid “bird” hunter and always had at least a couple of quality English pointers and/or English setters for his numerous bobwhite excursions back during the days when wild quail were still abundant.

When Serra got Coco from Steve Layton of Brewton, he didn’t know he was getting a pointing dog. He wanted a Lab for his frequent trips to the marshes and brackish water of Mississippi Sound south of Bayou La Batre to hunt ducks, mainly bluebills (scaup), redheads, scoters and an occasional canvasback.

“I knew the mama dog, and I called Steve when I found out she was going to have a litter and told him I wanted the female runt,” said Serra, who guides hunting and fishing trips. “The reason I wanted the runt was I wanted a small dog. I do a lot of duck hunting. I’ve had big Labs in the past. My last one was over 90 pounds. He was a good dog. He’d jump through fire to get a duck, but when you had to get him back in the boat, it would almost take two people to get him in the boat. Then when you got him in the boat, you’d have to turn the bilge pump on.”

Coco weighs in at 52 pounds, which Serra considers the perfect size.

“She can pick up a goose,” he said. “She can pick up a duck, and she can pick up a dove.”

At four months old, Coco’s whistle training started. Serra said Coco went everywhere with him, and he used the whistle to make her stop and come. Retrieving everything from sticks to bedroom slippers followed before Serra got into obedience.

“I would spend from 30 minutes to an hour each day on ‘heel’ and ‘sit’ and ‘stay,’” he said. “Then we got into force fetch (making the dog reliable on bird/bumper handling and retrieve). That took about a month, and then we worked on force-to-pile (bumper). That’s when you teach them to go straight back. They’re not going to go right or left. They’re just going to go.

“Some of my buddies told me I needed to take her to some hunt tests. She blew right through the hunt tests right off the bat. When she was a year old, she already had her (Hunt Retriever Club) senior title.”

Next up for Coco was the AKC (American Kennel Club) Master Hunt test. Coco passed with flying colors again.

After Coco added an Upland title, Serra went in a new direction – finding deer antler sheds. He trained Coco to “find the bone.”

Coco’s quail hunting ability came about quite by accident. Serra’s friend, Keith Walker, owns and operates Taylor Creek Shooting Preserve in south Mobile County. Taylor Creek offers sporting clays, quail hunts and pheasant shoots on acreage not far from Bellingrath Gardens. Serra had been using Walker’s property to train Coco and a couple of other dogs because the ponds on the preserve were perfect for water training. He found out Coco would point a quail quite by accident.

“Keith told me if I wanted that I could come out and he would teach me about guiding quail hunts,” Serra said. “I came out with my pointer and left Coco in the truck. After we did a little training, Keith told me to let Coco out. He said, ‘You’ve already got her trained to sit. See if she’ll do it on a quail.’ She did, and then Keith wanted to see if she would flush. I let her flush the bird, and she chased it. When we came walking out, we looked over on this little hill and there was Coco locked up on full point with her right leg in the air, nose in the air and tail stuck out. There was a quail about 4 feet in front of her. After that, she just started pointing. From then on when she’d get birdy, I’d tell her ‘easy’ to calm her down because she gets so excited.”

Serra has trained Coco to hold birds as well as circle around birds to push them in certain directions to keep them from flushing into thick cover.

“And she loves to duck hunt,” he said. “When you’ve got her in the boat, you won’t even know she’s in the boat. She just lays there. Every duck she picks up is strictly a blind retrieve because I keep her in the boat. She doesn’t see them fall. She’ll go right on through the decoys to the bird, strictly on hand signals.

“She’s great in a dove field. She won’t go after other people’s birds. I take her fishing all the time. She’ll hold a rod and reel in her mouth. If a fish flops off in the boat, I’ll tell her to fetch it up.”

Serra admits the key to a good dog has breeding involved, but a lot of it is in the training. Repetition is the key.

“Some people think it’s hard to train a dog, but it’s really not,” he said. “It’s really fun to me. When you train a dog to really listen to you, you enjoy working with the dog. The first two months is the hardest. Then you start coming down the hill. When you get that force fetch, a lot of the obedience is already there. She’ll tree a squirrel or blood-trail a deer. If I put her on a trail, that’s where she’ll go. Everybody loves that dog. I take her everywhere I go.

“She’s just a universal dog. She just turned four, and she’s getting better and better.”

Go to https://taylorcreekshooting.com/ for more information about the full-day and half-day quail hunts and pheasant shoots at Taylor Creek Shooting Preserve.

Alabama Power earns EEI Emergency Recovery Award

The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) today presented Alabama Power with the association’s “Emergency Recovery Award” for its outstanding power restoration efforts after severe weather and tornadoes in March 2018 and a derecho wind event in June 2018.
The Emergency Recovery Award is given to select EEI member companies to recognize their extraordinary efforts to restore power to customers after service disruptions caused by severe weather conditions or other natural events. The winners are chosen by a panel of judges following an international nomination process. Alabama Power received the award during EEI’s Winter Board and Chief Executives Meeting in Palm Beach, Fla.
An EF-3 tornado struck Alabama on March 19, with a damage path of 34.29 miles, and resulted in 31,071 service outages in Alabama Power’s territory. Due to their tireless work, Alabama Power’s crews restored service within two and a half days of the storm, dedicating 70,600 man-hours to the recovery.
The June 28 derecho wind event featured complex thunderstorms that resulted in wind damage along a track nearly 400 miles long, resulting in 230,038 service outages in Alabama Power Company’s territory. Due to their tireless work, Alabama Power’s crews restored service to 100 percent of customers three days after the storm, dedicating 86,016 man-hours to the recovery.
“The dedication of Alabama Power’s crews to restore service throughout Alabama after severe weather, tornadoes, and a derecho wind event illustrates our industry’s commitment to customers,” said EEI President Tom Kuhn. “Alabama Power’s crews worked tirelessly in hazardous conditions to quickly and safely restore power. They are truly deserving of these awards.”
EEI is the association that represents all U.S. investor-owned electric companies.
Our members provide electricity for 220 million Americans and operate in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. As a whole, the electric power industry supports more than 7 million jobs in communities across the United States. In addition to our U.S. members, EEI has more than 65 international electric companies as International Members, and hundreds of industry suppliers and related organizations as Associate Members.

Scholarships awarded by Alabama Power/B.A.S.S. to Tuscaloosa, Mobile students

Grey Terry
Brenton Godwin

Two Alabama students were each awarded a $5,000 scholarship from B.A.S.S. and Alabama Power, the companies announced today.
“We are proud to partner with Alabama Power to support students who want to further their education in a trade,” said Bruce Akin, B.A.S.S. CEO. “And, we’re even more pleased to provide additional scholarship opportunities for students.”
Brenton Godwin of Stapleton and Grey Terry of Tuscaloosa are the recipients.
Godwin is currently a senior at Baldwin County High School (BCHS) in Bay Minette, and plans to attend Coastal Alabama Community College.
“I plan on starting my college career at Coastal Alabama Community College, then transferring to Auburn University to obtain my Bachelor’s Degree in Poultry Science Production,” said Godwin. “While in college, I aspire to fish at Auburn on the collegiate level.”
He has been an active member of the Baldwin County Fishing Team for the past three seasons, as well as several activities at school and in his community. He participates in Key Club, French Club, Technology Student Association, Future Farmers of America, National Honor Society and the BCHS Varsity baseball team.
“It means so much to me to have been chosen for this scholarship,” said Godwin. “I’ve always loved the sport of bass fishing, and the fact that I’m able to pay for college through this sport is something I never would have imagined 5 years ago.”
Terry, a senior at Northridge High School, has been a student in the welding program at Tuscaloosa Career and Technology Academy and Shelton State Community College’s Dual Enrollment Welding class.
“My goal is to complete an Associate’s Degree at Shelton State and pursue a career in welding,” Terry said. “Since I began taking these courses, I have learned so much about the importance of skilled trades.”
“Congratulations to Brenton and Grey for this acknowledgement of their environmental stewardship and hard work in the classroom,” said Zeke Smith, Alabama Power executive vice president of External Affairs.
“These scholarships continue to help students develop the high-demand skills needed for a career in the future workforce of Alabama, and we are proud to partner with BASS to make it happen.”
Applications were open to students currently attending, or planning to attend, a technical school in the state of Alabama.
The scholarship recipients are able to apply the award toward tuition, textbooks or living expenses. Applications for the 2019-2020 school year will open early this year. Visit Bassmaster.com for details.
About Alabama Power Company
Alabama Power, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE:SO), provides affordable, reliable electricity to more than 1.4 million customers across the state. Learn more atwww.alabamapower.com [bassmaster.us6.list-manage.com].
About B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it.
Headquartered in Birmingham, the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2 and Pursuit Channel), radio show (Bassmaster Radio), social media programs and events. For 50 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, BassPro.com Bassmaster Open Series, Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Series presented by Magellan Outdoors, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series, Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

Deer CWD Sampling Jan. 4-6 in Hackleburg, Jan. 12-13 in Waterloo

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is increasing Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) sampling surveillance efforts in northwest Alabama after deer in nearby Mississippi and Tennessee counties tested CWD-positive. CWD is a contagious and deadly neurological disorder that affects members of the deer family. To date, no deer in Alabama have tested positive for CWD.

The Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) will conduct a voluntary CWD-sampling station Jan. 4-6 in Hackleburg, Alabama, in Marion County, and Jan. 12-13 in Waterloo, Alabama, in Lauderdale County.

The sampling station in Marion County will be set up in the parking lot of Hackleburg Hardware, 125 Boyd Street, Hackleburg, AL 35564. This is located at the intersection of Boyd Street and Highway 172.

Deer may be brought to Hackleburg for sampling during the following dates and times:

Friday, January 4 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday, January 5 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday, January 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The sampling station in Lauderdale County will be set up in the parking lot of Waterloo Fire Station #1, 6390 County Road 14, Waterloo, AL 35677.

Deer may be brought to Waterloo for sampling during the following dates and times:

Saturday, January 12 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday, January 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Deer harvested in Franklin, Marion, Lamar, Lauderdale and Colbert counties are being targeted, but biologists will sample deer from surrounding counties as well. Sampling involves removing the retropharyngeal lymph nodes from the head of a deer. Hunters may bring in a whole deer, field-dressed deer, or just the head from the harvested animal. Collecting a sample from a harvested deer takes only a few minutes.

Since 2002, WFF has relied on the assistance of hunters who have volunteered their harvested deer for CWD surveillance sampling. WFF is again seeking the assistance of hunters to help conserve Alabama’s natural resources by taking their harvested deer to the Hackleburg or Waterloo CWD-sampling stations. All hunters who volunteer their harvested deer for sampling will receive the CWD surveillance test result.

To learn more about CWD and to get information on future pubic sampling sites, visit www.outdooralabama.com/cwd.

Registration for spring BOW workshop opens Jan. 9

Registration for the next Alabama Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) workshop opens on January 9 for first-time attendees and January 15 for both first-timers and those who have previously attended. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) sponsored event takes place at the 4-H Center near Columbiana, Ala., on March 1-3, 2019.

New for 2019, purchase an Alabama resident hunting, fishing or wildlife heritage license and receive a $25 discount on your BOW registration. The discount is for online registration only. To receive the discount, enter your current license number when registering for spring BOW. You must purchase a license prior to BOW registration to receive the discount. Nonresidents can also receive the discount with the purchase of a Wildlife Management Area license or any nonresident license.

BOW is a three-day workshop designed for women ages 18 years or older who would like to learn new outdoor skills. The workshop offers hands-on instruction in a fun, outdoor learning environment. Participants choose from courses such as rifle, pistol, archery, fishing, camping, hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, and many more.

BOW coordinator Hope Grier said the classes offer basic outdoor skills training. “There are many ladies who have not been exposed to these outdoor activities and are apprehensive about trying them,” she said. “BOW is ideal for those women because everything is taught at a beginner level.”

The registration fee of $275 covers meals, dormitory-style lodging, program materials and instruction. Those interested in attending are encouraged to register as soon as possible because enrollment is limited and classes fill up fast.

The purchase of a hunting, fishing or wildlife heritage license not only provides you with a discount on BOW registration, that money is federally matched nearly three-to-one through Pittman-Robertson Act and Sport Fish Restoration Act funding. Those funds are then used to support conservation efforts in Alabama such as the operation and maintenance of the state’s Wildlife Management Area system and State Public Fishing Lakes, providing technical assistance to landowners for the improvement of freshwater fish and wildlife habitats and populations, operation of the state’s Nongame Wildlife Program, providing conservation law enforcement, and much more.

For more information on the BOW workshop including the class schedule, visit www.outdooralabama.com/activities/becoming-outdoors-woman or call Hope Grier at 334-242-3620.

To view photos of past BOW workshops, visit Outdoor Alabama’s Flickr at www.flickr.com/photos/outdooralabama/albums/72157629421999224.

Alabama hunting, fishing or wildlife heritage licenses are available at various retailers throughout the state or online at https://www.alabamainteractive.org/dcnr.

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.

archery

BOW participants choose from courses such as archery, rifle, pistol, fishing, camping, hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, and many more.

Bassett named Officer of the Year by International Conservation Org.

WFF Law Enforcement Chief Matt Weathers presents Officer Jason Bassett with the SSCI Alabama Wildlife Officer of the Year Award. Photo by Billy Pope, ADCNR.

Jason Bassett has been named Alabama Wildlife Officer of the Year by the Shikar-Safari Club International (SSCI). Bassett currently serves as a Senior Conservation Enforcement Officer with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) in St. Clair County.

Each year SSCI honors one officer from each state with the award. Recently, Bassett was presented with the award at WFF headquarters in Montgomery, Ala.

“What truly sets Officer Bassett apart are his personal qualities,” said Lt. Jerry Fincher, WFF District Two Law Enforcement Supervisor. “He is loyal to a fault, honorable, level-headed and a true team player. You will never hear Jason boasting. Instead, he’ll stand in the shadows of his own accomplishments realizing he is blessed to be a link in the chain of conservation stewardship.”

Officer Bassett routinely makes a high number of quality arrests including some unusual cases involving electrofishing and cheating in bass tournaments. Recently, Officer Bassett played a vital role in stopping the overharvest of game fish in St. Clair County. The case involved the illegal taking of massive amounts of striped and hybrid bass from public waters to be sold in restaurants and fish markets across the Southeast. Bassett hid himself on dams and among rocks to observe and record the illegal activity, while his fellow officers stood by at off-site locations to intercept the violators. Thanks in part to his efforts, regulations are now in place to prevent this type wildlife violation in the future.

In the more than 15 years that Bassett has served the people of Alabama as a Conservation Enforcement Officer, he has not only prevented hundreds of wildlife violations, he has also saved the lives of some of his fellow officers.

“Every Alabamian may owe Officer Bassett a debt of gratitude, but I owe him much more,” said Lt. Fincher. “While eating at a local restaurant with Jason, I became choked. Unable to breathe I could feel myself losing consciousness. He immediately put his first aid training to work by pulling me from my seat and successfully performing the Heimlich maneuver. He saved my life.”

Additionally, while working alongside Bassett, Conservation Enforcement Officer Greg Gilliland became involved in a confrontation which resulted in his arm becoming trapped in a vehicle’s steering wheel as the driver attempted to back over him. Rushing to his aid, Officer Bassett pulled both men from the vehicle and made the arrest.

“Officer Bassett’s selfless service to his state and his fellow officers is an example for us all to follow,” said Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “For these reasons and many more, Jason is very deserving of this award.”

In addition to his duties with WFF, Officer Bassett is a FBI-certified firearms instructor, defensive tactics instructor, Glock and M16 armorer, and a Becoming an Outdoors-Woman instructor. He also serves as an adjunct instructor at the Northeast Alabama Law Enforcement Academy where he teaches firearms and self-defense tactics to new recruits.

SSCI is an international conservation organization that funds and supports a variety of conservation projects and scholarships around the world. In addition to recognizing outstanding officers in wildlife conservation, SSCI also provides a $20,000 death benefit to the officer’s family in the event the officer is killed in the line of duty.

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.

Forever Wild board meets Feb. 7

The Board of Trustees of the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust will hold its first quarterly meeting on February 7, 2019, at the Richard Beard Building, Agriculture and Industries Auditorium, 1445 Federal Dr., in Montgomery, Ala. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m.

At this meeting, updates on Forever Wild program activities and tract assessments will be presented. This meeting will also provide an opportunity for any individual who would like to make comments concerning the program to address the board.

The public is invited to attend this meeting and is encouraged to submit nominations of tracts of land for possible Forever Wild program purchase. Written nominations may be submitted by email to Forever.Wild@dcnr.alabama.gov or by letter to the State Lands Division, Room 464, 64 N. Union St., Montgomery, Ala., 36130. Nominations can also be made online at www.alabamaforeverwild.com/contact/nominate_land_tracts.

Quarterly meetings of the Forever Wild Board are held to maximize public input into the program. Only through active public participation can the best places in Alabama be identified and conserved in order to remain forever wild.

If Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations are needed, please contact Jo Lewis at 334-242-3051 or Jo.Lewis@dcnr.alabama.gov. Requests should be made as soon as possible, but at least 72 hours prior to the scheduled meeting.

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

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Alabama duck hunters hope for repeat of last season

(Seth Maddox) These young hunters had a successful outing during Special Youth Waterfowl Hunt weekend. Alabama duck hunters will likely encounter a wide variety of duck species from mallards to pintails during the season. A couple of young hunters managed to bag a wood duck each during the youth season.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The snowstorm that skirted just north of the state recently should be good news for Alabama’s duck hunters.

The waterfowl seasons in Alabama are always weather-dependent. If it’s cold and snowy north of us, the birds will migrate in significant numbers into Alabama. Without the cold or precipitation to cover their food sources, the birds won’t make it this far south.

Seth Maddox, Migratory Gamebird Program Coordinator with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division, said duck numbers should be increasing soon even though the numbers were down when the annual aerial survey took place the week before the season opened.

“We were down a little bit on our preseason counts,” Maddox said. “We had a few cold fronts and a lot of rain. That spread the birds out a lot. I think it pushed some of the early migrators further south.

“That left us with a decent amount of birds, but not a good number for opening weekend. On opening weekend, people killed birds but it wasn’t a great opener. When the season opened back up, it got better. Most of the birds are just a little north of us. I hope with another cold front or two, it will push birds into Alabama. We got a small push from that snowstorm, but I hope we get a larger push soon.

Maddox said the long-term weather forecast bodes well for waterfowl hunters in Alabama.

“It’s shaping up to be similar to last year,” he said. “They’re predicting several disturbances up in the Arctic region with some polar vortexes, which will give us some cold weather. Last year, we had some sub-freezing temperatures, below average temperatures, for a week or so throughout the season. I think that’s going to end up giving us a season similar to last season.”

That would be great news for waterfowlers, considering the harvest for the 2017-2018 season was up 85 percent over the similar period a year earlier.

“That’s a significant increase,” Maddox said. “We had about 14 days during the season where temperatures stayed below freezing. That cold weather and snow north of us really pushed birds into Alabama.”

Maddox said the wood duck harvest last season was especially high, which means a good many woodies came from the north.

“The cold weather pushed lots of wood ducks down,” he said. “We get some migration of wood ducks from northern states every year. Sometimes our wood ducks will move further south, but most of the time they hang tight here in Alabama.

“What we do see, when we see a lot of wood duck migrants from the north, a lot of our males will pair up with northern females. The males will follow the females back to their breeding grounds in the spring because the females go back to the same breeding grounds every year.”

Maddox said the banding program that the WFF conducts annually on wood ducks gives him the data needed to come to those conclusions.

“A lot of our male wood ducks get killed north of us,” he said. “For example, I had one that I banded in Jackson County a couple of years ago that was killed in Ontario (Canada) earlier this year. We had one of our males killed in Minnesota as well.”

Back to the preseason survey, the survey team looks for dabblers (mallards, gadwall, teal) and divers (canvasbacks, redheads, scaup) during the flyovers.

Gadwalls led the count with 12,000 observed statewide, although the survey covers only a small portion of the state. The mallard count totaled 1,500, followed by 1,000 green-winged teal. The total dabbler count was 15,651.

The diver count turned out to be a pleasant surprise with 7,000 birds counted, which is higher than the five-year average.

“There were a bunch of canvasbacks here early,” Maddox said. “Ringnecks led the way, as they usually do. We also had scaup and redheads.

“The migrant geese don’t show up until the middle of December, so you might be able to get a Christmas goose here soon.”

Mike Carter, a renowned fishing guide on the Tennessee River lakes, switches to waterfowl hunting in north Alabama this time of year and keeps an eye on the duck population by regularly looking for ducks at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. Carter is expecting a big increase in duck numbers any day now.

“We got some gadwalls and ringnecks, but we haven’t gotten a big push yet,” Carter said. “I’m expecting the ducks to show up really soon. We’ve got ice and snow north of us. I do my scouting by watching the Refuge, and I haven’t seen a big increase yet.”

Carter would be a happy duck hunter if the current season matches last year’s.

“It seems the ducks got here a little quicker last year,” he said. “Last year was great. I think we’re going to get that at some point. We’ve got flooded timber and buckbrush, so they’ve got plenty of places to feed and find cover. We’ve got a lot more water this year, so I think it’s going to be even better when the ducks finally make their move.”

The most likely duck spots in Alabama include the Tennessee River basin in north Alabama, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta in south Alabama as well as the Lake Eufaula area and west central Alabama in the Demopolis area and other lakes on the Tombigbee River and Millers Ferry on the Alabama River near Camden.

The number of duck hunters in Alabama has apparently peaked with no downturn in the past several years.

“The number of licensed duck hunters seems to be holding steady around 30,000 for the last 3 to 4 years,” Maddox said. “That’s a good thing.”

Maddox said WFF has plans to expand enhancements for the waterfowl population in the coming years.

“We’ve got big plans ahead, partnering with Ducks Unlimited, to spend some substantial expenditures over the next several years on waterfowl habitat management,” he said.

WFF manages several public hunting locations in north Alabama, the Jackson County Waterfowl Areas. Waterfowl hunting is allowed on Mud Creek, Raccoon Creek and Crow Creek, although special seasons and restrictions apply. No waterfowl hunting in Mud Creek (Wannville) and Raccoon Creek dewatering units or Crow Creek WMA on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. All activity is prohibited in these locations on those days. The drawing for the limited quota hunt units on the Crow Creek Special Opportunity Area has already been held.

A limit of one 25-round box of shells in possession is in effect on all Jackson County WMAs while waterfowl hunting. No gasoline-powered motors are allowed in Mud Creek (Wannville) dewatering unit and Raccoon Creek dewatering unit (North of Hwy 117). Visit https://www.outdooralabama.com/sites/default/files/Wildlife/wildlife-management-areas/2018-2019%20WMA%20Maps/2018-2019%20Jackson%20County%20Finalv2.pdf for more information.

“Most of the people we talked to are happy with these restrictions that allow the birds to rest for a few days,” Maddox said. “The 25-shell rule cuts down on the extra shooting, the sky busting. People perceive that as a good thing.”

For the Mobile-Tensaw Delta/W.L. Holland Waterfowl Management Zone in south Alabama, one new restriction is in place for the current season. The use of gasoline motor prohibition zone that was in effect for Big Bateau Bay last year has been expanded to include Bay Grass. A no-hunting refuge zone remains in effect in the area west of the Apalachee River, occupying the area between the Causeway (Battleship Parkway) and I-10 to its intersection.

Hunting in the Waterfowl Management Zone is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Hunting is allowed from a half hour before sunrise until 1 p.m. on Wednesdays through Sundays during the season.

Go to www.outdooralabama.com/sites/default/files/Hunting/Waterfowl/2018-Waterfowl-Leaflet.pdf for the 2018-2019 Alabama Waterfowl Hunting Guide.

NWTF donates over $166 K to wildlife management

Chuck Sykes (WFF Director), Steve Barnett (Wild Turkey Project Leader), Craig Scruggs (Alabama NWTF State Chapter President), Keith Gauldin (Wildlife Section Chief), and Executive Committee members of the Alabama Chapter NWTF Board of Directors Craig Harris, Charlie Duckett, and Scott Brandon.

The Alabama Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) recently allocated $166,175 in Hunting Heritage Super Funds for wild turkey projects in Alabama. Of that total, $80,821 was donated to the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) to fund projects including wildlife habitat management and the publication of the annual wild turkey report, Full Fans & Sharp Spurs.
More than $85,000 was approved for other projects statewide including funding to improve wild turkey habitat on public lands as well as to help launch outdoor education programs in schools. This funding supports the enhancement of turkey habitat, increases access opportunities, funds educational programs and is an excellent fit for the NWTF “Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt” initiative.
Most of the WFF dollars will be used on Wildlife Management Areas throughout the state to support habitat management and other wild turkey programs.
“Close to $62,000 of this generous donation offers us access to federal matching dollars, which makes the donation go even further,” said Chuck Sykes, WFF Director. “Since federal matching dollars play such a major role in how our division is funded, contributions like this are extremely important.”
WFF is primarily funded by money generated through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. That money is then matched nearly three to one by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. WFF does not receive an appropriation from the state’s General Fund.
“I thank NWTF and the Alabama Chapter Board of Directors for helping to support our efforts in Alabama,” Sykes said.
Some of the grant money will also be used to purchase much-needed wildlife habitat management equipment. In addition to the monetary donation, the Alabama NWTF chapter provides financial support for prescribed burning projects that help restore longleaf pine habitat, the Archery in the Schools State Championship (an annual event for school students across the state), and the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program, which introduces women to a wide variety of outdoor 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.

MES Pre-K new playground

In the Spring of 2018 Moundville Elementary was awarded a $30,000 enhancement grant by the Office of School Readiness to build a Pre-K specific playground at the school. The grant was used to purchase a playset in the April of 2018 and the playset was installed in August 2018.  The school’s goal is to continue to add to the playground in order to provide more developmentally appropriate play structures for our Pre-K students to use at recess. The Pre-K students are so excited to have the new playground. Submitted by Allyson Jacobs, MES Pre-K and HCHS JV Softball Coach

WWF Enforcement Increases Deer Carcass Surveillance

Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers have increased surveillance for banned deer carcasses that have been harvested in other states. Officer Myron Murray checks outs a passing truck for signs of a deer carcass. Senior Officer Joe Lindsey makes a case for a buck taken in Kentucky. One vehicle was discovered with multiple deer carcasses that came from Kentucky. Photo by Billy Pope

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Hunters who travel out of state should be aware that the Enforcement Section of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division has significantly increased its surveillance of roads along state borders, looking for persons illegally importing deer carcasses.

The regulation that banned the import of cervid body parts from states known to be CWD-positive was enacted three years ago to safeguard against disease transmission. When a Mississippi deer tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD) earlier this year, DCNR was already in the process of expanding its prohibition of the importation of carcasses of white-tailed deer and other cervids (elk, mule deer, moose, etc.) to include all states.

“Those thoroughfares in close proximity to the state borders are where we have concentrated our efforts,” WFF Enforcement Chief Matt Weathers said. “This is important for the defense of the state – though it is a labor-intensive undertaking.”

Weathers said the surveillance puts extra pressure on the Enforcement Officers, who still must perform other duties.

“It is the middle of deer season, so we’ve got lots of other tasks and calls to conduct,” he said. “But keeping CWD out of Alabama is extremely important, so we’re conducting details on the state lines to attempt to ensure no deer are brought into Alabama from other states.

“We are concentrating our efforts to match those peak hunting seasons in the West and Midwest when people would be bringing deer carcasses into the state. To some extent it will go throughout the entirety of our deer season.”

Since 1907, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) has been tasked with protecting Alabama’s natural resources on behalf of its citizens. The Alabama Legislature recognized that commercial exploitation was having a significant adverse impact on the state’s natural resources and founded the ADCNR. Although some exploitation of resources continues today, it has been minimized by the promulgation and enforcement of laws that protect those natural resources.

Although the ADCNR’s basic mission has changed very little over the last eleven decades, the types of threats facing Alabama’s natural resources have changed.

Today, the largest threat is CWD and the impact it could have on Alabama’s hunting industry and our hunting heritage.

“If you hunt deer in Alabama, enjoy watching deer in our state, or if you benefit from the nearly $2 billion industry that exists in Alabama surrounding these activities, you should be aware that your very way of life could change greatly in the coming years if we all do not work together to keep CWD out of Alabama,” said Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship.

CWD is a 100-percent-fatal, communicable disease that is very similar to Mad Cow Disease in cattle. The prion that causes CWD can be found concentrated in the brain, spinal cord and bone tissue well after the infected animal dies.

“If those infected parts are brought into our state and thrown out where deer from our herd can come into contact with them, we could become a CWD-positive state overnight,” Blankenship said.

One of the disconcerting aspects of the new regulations is the attitude of hunters toward those restrictions. A case in point occurred when Alabama and Tennessee wildlife officials conducted a joint operation at Alabama’s northern border.

That effort resulted in six citations for hunters bringing back field-dressed deer into Alabama from other states.

Alabama’s Enforcement Section has made several other cases since, and there seems to be a disturbing thread.

“We’ve got guys bringing deer back to Alabama that originated many states away,” Weathers said. “Many, if not all, of the states they passed through have similar regulations. For the limited amount of time we’ve conducted this operation, it is a concerning number of violations. It speaks to the volume of the problem.

“We’ve had several folks we questioned who were as aware and fluent in the law as we were. They just thought that it didn’t matter. It’s troubling that not everybody takes this as the serious issue it is.”

WFF has long recognized the potential threat of CWD and started testing deer in our state in a preemptive manner in 2002. To date, WFF has tested more than 8,000 deer with no positive CWD samples found.

“This is NOT something that you can pour bleach or Lysol on and make it no longer a threat,” Weathers said. “It’s going to be there beyond any kind of chemical you pour on it. And time doesn’t seem to have any effect on it either.”

This past August, ADCNR unveiled an extensive advertising campaign to educate those hunters who travel to hunt out of state. Billboards and various other informational materials were placed along highway routes at state lines providing information about CWD and the regulations regarding the importation of deer parts returning from a hunting trip out of state. The regulations require that all deer meat be deboned and only cleaned skull plates with bare antlers without visible brain or spinal tissue can be imported. Raw capes with no visible brain or spinal tissue can be brought in as well as upper canine teeth with no root structure or soft tissue present. Finished taxidermy products and tanned hides can be imported. Velvet-covered antlers are prohibited unless they are part of a finished taxidermy project.

“Despite our best efforts at education, unlawful import of those prohibited parts remains a problem,” Weathers said. “ADCNR has gone to great lengths to provide a sustainable white-tailed deer herd for the citizens of Alabama to enjoy. Today, however, simply providing this herd isn’t enough. We must protect it. We protect it not only for ourselves but for those who will come after us. I once heard someone say, ‘In the gravest of situations, doing your best isn’t enough; you must do what is required.’

“So, when you see your local Conservation Enforcement Officer patrolling near a state line, know that what you are actually seeing is the front line in the fight against CWD.”

WFF Director Chuck Sykes has been in Washington, D.C., meeting with Congressional staffs about the CWD threat, as well as other issues.

“Senator Doug Jones is co-sponsoring a bill to provide funding for more CWD research and more money for the states to manage it,” Sykes said. “CWD is a big deal. Once it’s here, it’s here forever, so our best strategy is to keep it out. One of the best ways to keep it out is to not bring carcasses back from any other state.”

Alabama’s CWD Response Plan (www.outdooralabama.com/deer-hunting-alabama/chronic-wasting-disease-what-you-should-know) has response protocols established to delineate those out-of-state cases using concentric circles around the positive test site in increments of 25 miles, 50 miles and more than 50 miles and to implement specific action plans accordingly.

When a case of CWD in a 1½-year-old buck was confirmed recently in Pontotoc County, Miss., portions of three counties in Alabama fell within the 50-mile-radius protocol – Franklin, Marion and Lamar counties.

Sykes said Mississippi is getting pretty good compliance at their drop-off stations and with hunter-harvested deer for sampling.

“But it’s a scary thing,” Sykes said. “I was with some of the legislators from Mississippi at a conference I just attended. It’s a concern for our way of life and a huge economic driver in our states.”

Sykes said the most disappointing aspect of the CWD threat is the nonchalant attitude of hunters who were caught bringing deer carcasses into the state illegally.

“Everybody we issued citations to knew they were breaking the law,” Sykes said. “Nobody pled ignorance. Their attitude was, ‘Ain’t no big deal.’ They knew what they were doing. You just don’t want to be that guy. Why would you take a chance in bringing something into Alabama and the CWD transmission being credited to you just because you didn’t take a few extra minutes to do things right?

“I couldn’t live with myself if I did that.”

Alabama Hunters Take 144 Alligators

One of the largest alligators taken during the 2018 season was a 12-foot, 537-pounder taken by (from left) Tyler Dees, Thomas Dees, Mike Odom and Crystal Dees.

Alabama hunters harvested 144 alligators during the 2018 seasons with the heaviest weighing in at 700 pounds. A total of 260 tags were issued in the four hunting zones.

John Herthum of Montgomery took the 700-pound gator that measured 11 feet, 10 inches in the Southeast Zone, which includes private and public waters in Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston, and Russell counties. Herthum’s big gator was among 10 harvested in that zone, which issued 40 tags.

The Southwest Zone, which includes the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, checked in 96 alligators, including the heaviest at 603 pounds, caught by Josh Forbes of Mobile County. The longest gator was a 12-foot, 9-incher taken by Donald White of Stockton. It weighed 588 pounds. Of the gators harvested in the Southwest Zone, which had 150 tags, 73 were males and 23 females.

“There was nothing abnormal about this past season,” said Chris Nix, Alligator Program Coordinator with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. “The alligators were a little smaller on average weight and length. There were more females harvested, which definitely had an effect on the average size.

“The weather was great this year. The number of tags filled just had to do with hunter selection. We still only had a few alligators harvested south of I-10. There are a lot of big alligators down there that are not being hunted.”

In the West Central Zone, where Mandy Stokes’ record alligator of 1,011.5 pounds and 15 feet long was taken in 2014, the 50 tag holders harvested 31 alligators. Of the 19 males and 12 females harvested, Donald Hogue of Alabaster harvested the largest at 12-feet, 3 inches and 538 pounds.

Seven alligators were taken in the Lake Eufaula Zone with the longest at 11-7, which was taken by Shannon Brasher of Odenville.

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.

Hale County Farmers Fed. Members Recognized at National ALFA Meeting

New Hale County Farmers Federation President Chris Thomas and outgoing President Ray Duncan were recognized during the Presidents Luncheon at the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 97th Annual Meeting Dec. 3 in Montgomery. Duncan, center, received a plaque for his three years of service, and Thomas, right, received a pin to commemorate his election. The two are pictured with Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell.
Evan Broussard of Hale County was elected to a two-year term on the State Young Farmers Committee during the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 97th annual meeting in Montgomery Dec. 3. He will serve District 4, which includes Bibb, Greene, Fayette, Hale, Jefferson, Lamar, Pickens, Tuscaloosa and Walker counties. As a member of the 10-person committee, he will help organize the 2019 Young Farmers Conference and work to grow involvement throughout his district. From left are State Young Farmers Committee Chair Garrett Dixon and Broussard.

Written by Marlee Moore


Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich told tales of politics, President Donald Trump and predictions for the next election cycle to over 1,200 farmers in Montgomery Dec. 3.


Gingrich’s keynote address concluded two days of business sessions and awards presentations during the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 97th annual meeting.


“Tension is building because it is real. There are really radically different visions of America,” Gingrich said of the current political climate. “I wish I could reach into each of your hearts and convince you how important it is to protect this country…and how big of a difference you can make.”


Gov. Kay Ivey also addressed the crowd, thanking them for trust and support as she begins her first full term as governor.


“Please know that you have a friend in the governor’s chair,” Ivey said. “After all, we are only successful when we’re successful together.”


Federation President Jimmy Parnell emphasized the importance of political involvement by members of the state’s largest farm organization citing the conference theme: “I Farm. I Grow. I Lead. I Vote,” Parnell quoted. “That says it all. Your leadership is important in our communities, state and nation.”


On the heels of midterm elections, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Vice President Scott VanderWal joined fellow farmers in the Capital City, where he thanked them — and their rural communities — for political enthusiasm and high voter turnout. He also updated attendees on AFBF’s work benefiting farmers nationwide.


“New and young members of Congress have a steep learning curve,” said VanderWal, also the South Dakota Farm Bureau president. “It’s up to all of us to help them understand agriculture and fill that knowledge gap. Invite them to your farm; share your story.”


Earlier in the meeting, lifelong agribusinessman and Agriculture & Industries Commissioner John McMillan received the Service To Agriculture Award, the Federation’s highest honor. McMillan served eight years as commissioner and was elected state treasurer last month.


For their service to farmers and rural families, Jim Donald and Gene Simpson received the Federation’s Cultivator Award. They founded the National Poultry Technology Center in Auburn. Communications Awards were also presented to Adam Smith of the News Courier in Limestone County and WSFA-TV’s Desmond Wingard and Vince Hodges of Montgomery.


Elections for the Federation state board, Women’s Leadership and Young Farmers committees were held, and outstanding county boards, committees and individual leaders were also honored.


A silent auction raised $9,450 for the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation, which benefits agricultural scholarships and Ag in the Classroom. Additionally, the Federation honored leaders who passed away in 2018 during a tribute breakfast.


During the business session, a $5 dues increase was approved, effective July 2019.


For more photos, visit the Federation’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

Big Buck Photo Contest opens to celebrate Black Belt Deer Hunting Season

There’s no season like deer season, and this year hunters in Alabama have the potential to bring home more than just their wild game. The annual Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association Big Buck Photo Contest is under way with a Wildgame WiFi Action Camera and SD card awaiting the winner.

“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 getting to see people who are encouraged by this contest to get outside and hunt – especially those who may not have hunted in the Black Belt before. We usually get a lot of entries from young people and it’s a wonderful thing to see our great hunting tradition being carried forward by the younger generation.”

The Wildgame WiFi Action Camera is valued at $169. The compact camera is designed for recording movies while in motion and will also take 5MP still images. The lens provides a 170-degree angle of view with an auto rotation feature that corrects the image if the camera is mounted upside down or on its side. The camera captures full HD 1080/30p video, is waterproof with a depth rating of 30 feet and is protected by an aluminum housing. It has built-in flash to help you take photos at night.

To enter the contest, upload a single photo of a deer taken in one of the 23 Black Belt counties in the state this season at alabamablackbeltadventures.org/bigbuckcontest. The winner will be determined by the number of votes received on the website at that page. You may vote once per day through the deadline, Valentine’s Day 2019.

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

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

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

Bow hunting is a great challenge that requires special skills to be proficient – and great opportunities to enjoy the Alabama outdoors. (ADCNR Photo/Billy Pope)

Creating a Alabama Hunter

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) works to protect, manage and enhance the state’s fish and wildlife resources. Alabama hunters and anglers are an essential part of these efforts: it takes resources to manage natural resources. Hunting and fishing license fees, along with matching federal dollars, pay the costs of managing Alabama’s white-tailed deer herd, its Eastern wild turkey population, its bountiful fisheries, and all other game and nongame wildlife species. The WFF receives no tax monies from Alabama’s General Fund. Deer hunters, bass fishermen, and birdwatchers all benefit from the activities of Alabama’s hunters, anglers, and other sportsmen.

To continue to preserve our wildlife heritage in this age of smart phones and video games, WFF also works to educate our citizens about how wildlife management works in our country. Hunting is an essential part of effective wildlife management, and a hunter’s activities are important not only to the wildlife populations on a certain property, but also to supporting the system as a whole. With fewer people growing up with a tradition of hunting, WFF is stepping forward to create new hunters and encourage active participation in its wildlife conservation endeavors. In addition to Youth Hunts and Trapping Seminars, WFF now has an Adult Mentored Hunting Program for newcomers, and Special Opportunity Areas that give a boost to hunters seeking a chance at success on public land.

The Adult Mentored Hunting Program is designed to provide the new hunter, or the hunter with limited experience, with a one-on-one hunt under the guidance of a veteran mentor. Adult Mentored Hunts are for those interested in learning how to hunt, whether they are looking to revive a family tradition, to learn more about consumptive outdoor recreation, or to put wild game on the dinner table. Applicants with a variety of backgrounds and motivations put their name in the hat for a random draw that selects participants for instruction on firearm safety, equipment needs, scouting, hunting, game cleaning, and cooking. Events are conducted in a safe and constructive environment that allows participants the opportunity to learn from skilled teachers. These experienced hunters share their knowledge and time afield, hoping to kindle a passion for the outdoors. All of this for just the cost of required licenses: gear is provided. Mentored hunts are available for deer, turkey, squirrel and rabbit.

“In the past, most recruitment programs focused on kids. Our research has found that many youth participants don’t have a support system through family members or friends that allows them to continue to hunt, and, therefore, we haven’t created a new hunter,” said WFF Director Chuck Sykes. “We are not suspending our youth programs, but we are focusing all new efforts on the adult segment of the population. We are extremely optimistic that the AMH Program will provide us an exceptional return on our investment by creating new consumptive wildlife users and license buyers.”

While Alabama Wildlife Management Areas – land set aside and managed for public hunting – total more than 720,000 acres in the state, the WFF also manages Special Opportunity Areas. These properties are typically smaller than Wildlife Management Areas and offer a limited quota (via random draw permit) hunting format to reduce pressure and increase the quality of the hunt. In 2018, four SOAs offer a limited number of slots for a successful permit holder and guest(s) to hunt a dedicated 300-400 acre unit for a two or four day hunt. Special Opportunity Areas allow hunters low-stress access to first-rate hunting and can jumpstart a lapsed hunter’s interest in taking advantage of public lands.

Deer, squirrel, and adult waterfowl hunt registrations have already been accepted, but youth waterfowl hunts at Fred T. Stimpson SOA in Clarke County will be in December and Crow Creek SOA in Jackson County will be in January 2019. Small game and turkey hunts offered at Cedar Creek (Dallas County), Portland Landing (also Dallas County) and Uchee Creek (Russell) SOAs registration begins Dec. 3 and will close Jan. 3, 2019. To apply, visit www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/special-opportunity-areas.

Portland Landing is our state’s newest Special Opportunity Area property. This amazingly diverse tract of about 5,000 acres (set to increase next year with an additional 4,000 acres) was purchased as a joint effort by WFF and Forever Wild. Portland Landing features creek bottoms to river frontage to upland hardwood stands, mixed pine and hardwoods to cedar glades. It’s a fine piece of Alabama’s Black Belt. As WFF Director Chuck Sykes said, “It’s some of the best land in the state, some of the best dirt, some of the best genetics. It’s just one of those special places.”

Sykes said that the Adult Mentored Hunting Program and Special Opportunity Areas are part of Alabama’s implementation of the R3 National Plan – Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation of hunters. “If we can’t figure out a way to move the needle in a positive direction by adding new license buyers to the hunting fold, the future of wildlife conservations efforts doesn’t look promising,” Sykes said. “So, we are looking into non-traditional markets for our new R3 efforts. Our Adult Mentored Hunting Program targets people from 19 to 60. By going after this audience, they have made up their minds they want to hunt. We’re going to a different market. We have to think outside the box.”

Recruiting new hunters through the AMH program and retaining and reactivating hunters at the SOAs are efforts to ensure the future of wildlife conservation in Alabama. From bald eagles to big bucks, all of Alabama’s wildlife is depending on the creation of new Alabama hunters. If you are already a sportsman, you can help by mentoring a friend or associate. You might be surprised at who’s been waiting for an invite. If you’re looking to get started, ask to accompany a sportsman you know, or contact us for more information at: www. outdooralabama.com/hunting/adult-mentored-hunting-program.

Chris Blankenship is Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Senators Jones, Barrasso, and Bennett introduce bipartisian bill to tackle Chronic Wasting Diease

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) joined Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) in introducing legislation to increase wildlife managers’ ability to keep wildlife healthy.


The bill authorizes a special resource study to determine how chronic wasting disease (CWD) spreads and could be prevented in deer and elk. CWD can affect both wild and domestic herds of deer and elk in 25 states. However, state recommendations for preventing the spread of the disease vary. The bill would give state wildlife agencies and wildlife experts information to conduct targeted research on how the disease is transmitted, determine which areas are most at risk, and develop consistent advice for hunters to prevent further spread.


“As an avid outdoorsman and hunter, I am deeply troubled by the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease,” said Senator Jones. “This disease is threatening to impact the wildlife population in Alabama just as it has in a number of other states throughout the country. That’s why it is so vital for the Senate to pass legislation that will ultimately give state and local wildlife officials the tools they need to contain the spread of CWD.”


“Chronic wasting disease has negatively affected white-tailed and mule deer in Wyoming for decades,” said Senator Barrasso. “To protect our wildlife populations and our hunters, we need to know more about how this disease is spread and which areas are most at risk. Our bill gives wildlife managers the tools they need to research and identify exactly where chronic wasting disease is most prominent and how we can better prevent it. It’s a critical first step to addressing this debilitating disease and keeping our wildlife herds healthy.”


“The deer and elk herds affected by Chronic Wasting Disease are a critical part of Colorado’s wildlife heritage and economy,” said Senator Bennet. “We need to learn more about containing CWD, and this bipartisan legislation will provide the information state wildlife professionals need to align their work and prevent further spread.”


Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Ron Johnson (R-WI), John Thune (R-SD), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) cosponsored the legislation.


The “Chronic Wasting Disease Transmission in Cervidae Study Act” addresses the needs identified by state wildlife agencies. The bill requires the USDA secretary to enter into an arrangement with the National Academies of Sciences to review current data and best management practices (BMPs) from the CWD Herd Certification Program and state agencies regarding:

  1. Pathways and mechanisms for CWD transmission
  2. Areas at risk and geographical patterns of CWD transmission
  3. Gaps in current scientific knowledge regarding transmission to prioritize research to address gaps

EPA announces availability of 1.5 Million in Environmental Justice Small Grants


Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of $1.5 million for Environmental Justice Small Grants (EJSG). These funds will be distributed to approximately 50 community-based organizations nationwide that will work to address environmental justice issues in local communities. Each recipient will receive up to $30,000 for one-year, community-driven projects that engage, educate, and empower communities to better understand local environmental and public health issues and to identify ways to address these issues at the local level.

“EPA is committed to assisting low-income and disadvantaged communities that are often disproportionally impacted by environmental risks or hazards,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “These grants will help local communities across the country address critical environmental challenges, such as reducing air pollution, combatting lead exposure, and improving water quality.”

As part of their projects, grant recipients will also collaborate with other stakeholders from across business, industry, local government, academia, and/or other grassroots organizations in an effort to realize project goals and build project sustainability.

Given projected increases in extreme weather events and the vulnerability of underserved populations, this opportunity will emphasize projects that address emergency preparedness and increase resiliency, as well as projects that include the needs of US military veterans and homeless populations.

This year’s Environmental Justice Small Grants program will also include $300,000 in support from EPA’s Urban Waters program. EPA’s Environmental Justice and Urban Waters programs partnered on the 2018 Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving (EJCPS) Cooperative Agreement program, with Urban Waters funding two of the ten projects awarded. This latest support from Urban Waters will promote continued collaboration between the two EPA programs and further benefit communities disproportionately impacted by environmental and public health issues by reconnecting urban communities with their waterways while encouraging community stewardship.

The application period for the 2018 EJSG will remain open until February 15, 2019. All eligible organizations are encouraged to apply.

For more information about EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grants program: https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/environmental-justice-small-grants-program

For a full description of the 2017 Environmental Justice Small Grant projects: https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/environmental-justice-small-grants-program-project-descriptions-2017

Connect with EPA Region 4 on Facebook: www.facebook.com/eparegion4

And on Twitter: @EPASoutheast

Alabama WFF closely monitoring Mississippi CWD case

(Courtesy of Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism) This Kansas buck tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

By Davide Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

While Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) officials continue to do all they can to keep chronic wasting disease (CWD) out of Alabama, unfortunately the latest news from our neighbors in Mississippi is not good.

Another deer in the lower Mississippi Delta in Issaquena County, a 2½-year-old doe, tested positive for CWD last week. The initial CWD case in Mississippi last January was also in Issaquena County, confirmed in a 4½-year-old buck.

These are in addition to the Mississippi deer in a different county that tested positive for CWD about two weeks ago. A 1½-year-old buck tested positive in Pontotoc County in north central Mississippi, about 200 miles from the initial case.

WFF Director Chuck Sykes is watching and analyzing all of these developments very closely.

“These last two cases are concerning,” Sykes said. “Typically, you think of CWD as being found in older age-class males.”

Also gaining Sykes’ full and immediate attention, the Pontotoc County CWD-positive deer was within 50 miles of Alabama’s border.

“With the Pontotoc deer being within the 50-mile radius of Alabama, we’re doing exactly what we said we would do in our response plan,” Sykes said.

The section of the Alabama CWD Response Plan (www.outdooralabama.com/deer-hunting-alabama/chronic-wasting-disease-what-you-should-know) that deals with out-of-state cases uses concentric circles around the positive test site in increments of 25 miles, 50 miles and more than 50 miles. With the case confirmed in Pontotoc County, portions of three counties in Alabama fall within the 50-mile-radius protocol – Franklin, Marion and Lamar counties.

“We have met with DOT (Alabama Department of Transportation) engineers to help us in locating road-killed deer that will be tested,” Sykes said. “Our technical assistance staff will continue their efforts in working with hunting clubs, taxidermists and meat processors in those counties to collect samples.

“I don’t want people to panic, but they need to understand that we’re doing everything we can to keep it out of Alabama. The main thing I want to get across is that we are not targeting any one particular group. This is not a deer breeder versus a non-breeder. This is not a high fence versus a no fence. This isn’t a dog hunter versus a stalk hunter issue. Honestly, this isn’t even just a hunting issue. This is an Alabama issue concerning the protection of a public-trust natural resource. We really need people to focus on facts about CWD, not what they hear about or read on Facebook.”

Sykes said deer hunting is such a cherished thread that runs through Alabama’s heritage and way of life that any effect on that endeavor could have far-reaching consequences.

“Whether you hunt or not, the economic impacts of deer hunting generate more than $1 billion annually into Alabama,” he said. “In one way, form or fashion, most everybody in the state is positively impacted by deer hunting. So, we’re doing everything we can to keep it out of Alabama.

“In the chance CWD gets here, we have a plan in place to mitigate the risk. It’s all in black and white on outdooralabama.com. What I need the public to know about this is that we have had a CWD response plan in place since 2012. It updates constantly, based on the latest scientific research. I have a whole team that works on this. It’s not done by one person behind closed doors in Montgomery. It’s done on a national level. We look at what works, what doesn’t work, what states have tried and what states have failed–the good, the bad and the ugly. This is a methodical process. Our plan is based on the latest nationwide scientific research.”

Sykes said there is no way to know what will happen in Alabama if CWD is confirmed.

“It’s hard to say how Alabama will be impacted compared to other states,” he said. “Each state is different.”

At a recent Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) Law Enforcement Chiefs meeting, a conversation between WFF Enforcement Chief Matt Weathers and a member of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission highlighted the vulnerability of Alabama in this situation.

“Northwest Arkansas has a high prevalence rate of CWD,” Sykes said. “Chief Weathers asked his Arkansas counterpart at SEAFWA how CWD was impacting their hunting licenses and budget. In Arkansas it isn’t a major concern because their agency gets one-eighth of 1 percent of sales tax. It does matter to us because we don’t get that. We can’t handle people not deer hunting, not eating deer meat and not buying hunting licenses. It will change the ability of our agency to manage and enhance wildlife and fisheries in Alabama forever.

“I don’t want people to think we are never going to deer-hunt again, that all the deer in the state are going to die. That hasn’t been shown to happen in the CWD-positive states. However, they never go back to the same. We will have to adjust to a new normal. But, we want to prevent it as long as we can. In the event it does come here, we are fully prepared to address it to minimize the risk.”

Alabama has tested more than 8,000 deer during the past 15 years, and no deer has tested positive for CWD.

“We don’t have our heads in the sand,” Sykes said. “We’re doing everything we can. That involves making rules and regulations that are, at times, unpopular. It’s been illegal to bring a live deer into Alabama since the early ’70s. However, we caught someone in 2016 bringing in deer from Indiana for breeding purposes. It’s been illegal to bring a carcass in from a CWD-positive state for three years. This year, we had to ban carcasses from every state. That’s an inconvenience on everybody, us included. A lot of us hunt out of state, so it’s impacting us as well. But it’s something we have to do to protect the natural resources of Alabama because not every state tests for CWD as judiciously as we do.

“We had a joint law enforcement detail with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency along the Tennessee-Alabama state line on Sunday November 11th, checking for illegal carcasses being brought back into Alabama. We made six cases on hunters bringing back field-dressed deer into Alabama from Kansas and Kentucky. In all six arrests, the individuals knew it was illegal to bring the carcass through Alabama. In addition to violating Alabama law, they also violated Tennessee law. Several of the carcasses were destined for Florida, jeopardizing yet another state.”

An old friend, Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland of Mossy Oak camouflage fame, has been directly impacted by the positive CWD test in Pontotoc County, Miss. Strickland has a farm in Lee County, Miss.

“This is a black cloud, no doubt,” said Strickland, who sits on the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) Board. “My farm borders Pontotoc County. We’re just outside the containment zone, but I’m afraid it’s just a matter of time.

“You think that it’s something that’s going on somewhere else, like Colorado, where it started. Or Wisconsin or Wyoming. Then, bam, it’s in the Delta, and now Pontotoc County. It’s happened so fast, it’s kind of scary.”

Strickland said it’s difficult for the average hunter to determine how CWD is going to impact hunting in the South because of the wide range of reactions.

“On one end of the scale, you have people saying the sky is falling,” he said. “On the other end of the scale, depending on who you talk to, they say, ‘Aww, it’s been around for a thousand years.’ I’m assuming it’s somewhere in the middle as to where the truth lies.

“I don’t know if people are taking this as seriously as I have. We’re kind of in the hunting business at Mossy Oak.”

Strickland has been taking his grandson, who has been affectionately nicknamed Cranky, on a variety of hunting adventures in recent years. Strickland doesn’t have any inclination to alter their behavior.

“We’re going to continue to hunt,” Strickland said. “I’m going to assume the people that really attack this and know what they’re doing are going to lead us down the right road.”

Strickland is concerned the CWD threat will have a detrimental effect on the recreational opportunities that have so positively impacted his way of life.

“Hunting license sales are already down,” he said. “This is just another hurdle. We’re battling more than just CWD. We’re battling time, more than anything. The new people, the 30- to 40-year-olds with kids and everything, are having trouble finding time to go hunting. There’s a lot chipping away at our lifestyle.

“Hunting is what we lived for when I was growing up. I used to could sleep like baby the night before Christmas. But the night before hunting season opened, I literally would lie down with my hunting clothes on to make sure I wouldn’t be late.”

Nov. 17 Special Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) has designated Saturday, November 17, 2018, as one of the 2018-19 hunting season’s Special Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days. On that day, youth under age 16 may hunt for waterfowl statewide when accompanied by a licensed adult hunter. Regular waterfowl season shooting hours, bag limits, legal arms and ammunitions apply to the special days. Hunting area rules and regulations also apply.

The second of the two Special Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days for the 2018-19 season is scheduled for February 2, 2019.

To participate in the hunt, individuals must be accompanied by an adult supervisor. The adult supervisor, who may not hunt, must remain within arm’s length of the youth at all times. The adult supervisor may accompany up to two youth participants during the hunt.

Youth is defined as an individual age 15 years and younger. Adult is defined as an individual age 21 years and older, or as the parent of the youth. The adult must have a state hunting license, state and federal waterfowl stamp, and a free harvest information program registration.

Only one firearm will be allowed per youth, and only the youth hunters will be permitted to utilize the firearm for hunting. The adult is expected to review the rules of firearm safety and hunter ethics with each youth and ensure they are followed.

For more information on the Special Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days, contact WFF Migratory Gamebird Coordinator Seth Maddox at Seth.Maddox@dcnr.alabama.gov or 334-353-2057, or visit www.outdooralabama.com/waterfowl.

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.

Snow? In Moundville?! IN NOVEMBER?! Jennifer Stokes sent us this from last night (11-14-18). We know we’re excited to see it, but unfortunately ground temperature is too warm for any accumulation. Bundle up and drive safe folks.

Chronic Wasting Disease Found in Pontotoc County, Mississippi, White-tailed Deer

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) has received confirmation from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) that a white-tailed deer from Pontotoc County, Mississippi, tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). According to MDWFP, a 1.5-year-old, free-ranging male white-tailed deer, that appeared to be emaciated and was behaving abnormally, was euthanized on October 8, 2018. The sample was confirmed CWD-positive by the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, Iowa, on October 30, 2018. This is the second case of CWD documented in Mississippi.

WFF has tested nearly 8,000 deer since 2002 and has not detected CWD within Alabama. As part of WFF’s CWD Strategic Surveillance and Response Plan, WFF will increase its CWD surveillance sampling efforts beyond typical surveillance rates in those counties within the 50-mile radius of the Pontotoc County CWD-positive white-tailed deer. These counties include Franklin, Lamar, and Marion counties. Standard CWD surveillance methods will be used to collect additional samples for these counties including, but not limited to, voluntary samples from hunter-harvested deer as well as focused efforts on road kills and abnormally behaving deer.

CWD is a neurodegenerative disease found in most deer species, including moose, elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer. It is infectious and always fatal. It is part of a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies and is similar to mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep. These diseases cause irreversible damage to brain tissue that leads to neurological symptoms, emaciation and death of the animal.

Deer infected with CWD can spread the disease to other deer even before symptoms develop. It can take one to two years for infected animals to become symptomatic. When symptoms appear, they can include emaciation, lethargy, abnormal behavior, and loss of bodily functions. Other signs include excessive salivation, loss of appetite, progressive weight loss, excessive thirst and urination, and drooping head/ears.

More information on CWD can be found at http://www.outdooralabama.com/cwd.

Trapping workshops share historical, biological aspects of furbearer management

These educational workshops provide instruction on the historical aspects of trapping, biological information about furbearers and furbearer management, and the proper techniques of using trapping as a sound wildlife management tool.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) is offering a series of youth and adult trapping workshops throughout the state this winter. The workshops are free to attend, but registration is required. To register, visit www.outdooralabama.com/trapping-workshops.

All workshops are limited to 25 participants. The youth workshops are recommended for ages 7 and up. Youth ages 7-15 must be accompanied by an adult. Youth over 16 are not required to have an adult present, but it is recommended.

Youth Trapping Workshops

December 8-9, 2018, in Citronelle, Ala.
December 15-16, 2018, in Red Bay, Ala.
December 29-30, 2018, in Greensboro, Ala.
January 12-13, 2019, in Atmore, Ala.
February 9-10, 2019, in Scottsboro, Ala.
February 16-17, 2019, in Spanish Fort, Ala.
Adult Trapping Workshops

November 3-4, 2018, in Hamilton, Ala.
February 23-24, 2019, at Portland Landing in Dallas County, Ala.
For more information, contact Mike Sievering with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division at Mike.Sievering@dcnr.alabama.gov or call 205-339-5716.

The workshops are a cooperative project between ADCNR, the Alabama Trappers and Predator Control Association, USDA Wildlife Services and Safari Club International. To learn more about trapping as a wildlife management tool, visit www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/trapping-alabama.

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.

Deaton honored by UWA

Doug Deaton was recently awarded the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award from the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the University of West Alabama (UWA) for his career in conservation and land management. Deaton currently serves as the State Lands Manager with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), State Lands Division.

“We appreciate the work Doug does every day to promote conservation in Alabama, and we are so glad he has received this recognition from UWA,” said Chris Blankenship, ADCNR Commissioner.

Before joining the State Lands Division, Deaton worked for the Alabama Marine Resources Division and in the Environmental Technical Section of the Alabama Department of Transportation. With more than 13 years of experience in conservation, Deaton is passionate about his role and responsibilities as a land manager and public servant.

“It was an honor to receive the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award from my alma mater,” Deaton said. “I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by many great people who have invested in me to be successful throughout my career.”

In his current job, Deaton is instrumental in the administration of the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust Program, which acquires and manages property for public recreational use and habitat protection. He is also responsible for overseeing the M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area in Hale County, the Wehle Land Conservation Center in Bullock County, the Alabama State Lands Natural Heritage Section, and the Forever Wild Land Trust Recreational Program.

While at UWA, Deaton was an active member of the Sigma Pi fraternity, president of both Omicron Delta Kappa and the Blue Key Honor Society, co-captain of the varsity cheerleading squad, and was selected as Mr. University of West Alabama before graduating in December of 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences. He also serves as a member of the diaconate at Trinity Presbyterian Church of Montgomery.

A native of Semmes, Ala., Deaton currently resides in Montgomery with his wife Jenna and their two children. Their third child is expected in November of 2018. He enjoys spending time with his family, hunting, fishing and serving others.

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.

Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts from Hale, Greene, Marengo and Sumter counties gathered this past weekend (6-7 October) in Greensboro, AL to enjoy their Bobcat Day and Fishing Derby. A record 70 scouts attended the annual event which took place at the State Cattle Ranch, Hwy 69, where scouts participated in various games, camping, shooting and fishing sports. Trophies were awarded for biggest, smallest and ugliest fish. A ceremony was also held for the scouts who earned the rank of Bobcat, Cub Scouts first rank. The event was designed for boys, young men, and young women to encourage them to be faithful in their religious duties, build desirable qualities of character, and involve them in citizenship. For information on the Boy Scouts or how to become involved, call Scott Veum (865) 253-5635 or email scott.veum@scouting.org.”
Class 8 Intermediate Division winners at the 2018 Youth Beef Cattle Showmanship contest were, from left, Curt Williams of Marshall County, first; Tyler Crim of Tuscaloosa County, second; Makayla Walker of Madison County, third; Lauren Jones of Chilton County, fourth; and Audrey Marsh of Hale County, fifth. The contest was Sept. 29 at the Teague Arena in Montgomery during the Alabama National Fair and was sponsored by the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance.

New Degree at Auburn combines wildlife, business, and hospitality

(Auburn Deer Lab, David Rainer) The Auburn University Deer Lab will be one study location for students who are working on the new Wildlife Enterprise Management degree. Graduates with the new degree can pursue employment with a variety of outdoors-related industries, including the numerous hunting lodges in Alabama.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Pay attention, high schoolers and parents. Students who love the outdoors and plan to continue their education after graduation will have a new option for a college degree rooted in the outdoors at Auburn University in 2019.

The undergraduate degree will be in Wildlife Enterprise Management with training in wildlife sciences, business and hospitality. Auburn professors Steve Ditchkoff and Mark Smith collaborated on developing the major in an effort to fill a need in the outdoors community that doesn’t require a wildlife biologist degree.

Heather Crozier, Director of Development at the Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences unveiled the program to outdoor writers recently at the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association Conference in Florence, S.C.

Outdoor recreation generates about a $14 billion impact on the Alabama economy and about $887 billion nationwide. Outdoors-related businesses and companies support 135,000 jobs in Alabama.

“Our faculty did some surveys, and they found that in a 250-mile radius of Auburn that there are 1,000 businesses that are wildlife enterprise-related,” Crozier said. “This major will give us a unique skillset for that industry. The students will also get a minor in business so they will understand basic business principals.”

Crozier said the new degree program will utilize the facilities connected to Auburn. The Deer Lab is a 400-plus-acre facility near Auburn at Camp Hill where researchers study the genetics and physiology of white-tailed deer. The Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center near Andalusia gives students hands-on instruction in forestry, wildlife and natural resources management. The Kreher Preserve and Nature Center on the outskirts of Auburn provides an outdoors venue for a variety of nature programs.

Crozier said only one other college, Kansas State, offers a similar degree with about 100 students in that program annually.

“When our students graduate with a Wildlife Enterprise Management degree, we hope they will apply the principles of wildlife enterprise, understand and apply the ecological principles in conservation biology and eco-tourism and be a well-rounded student in hospitality and understand customer service in food and beverage production and lodging,” Crozier said. “They will have the skillset to be able to run a business as well as be able to effectively market and advertise the wildlife- and outdoor-based enterprise.”

This curriculum will have a wildlife core with about 60 percent of the courses in wildlife sciences and about 40 percent in business and hospitality.

“Most of our students who go to work for fish and wildlife departments are wildlife sciences majors and end up being wildlife biologists,” Crozier said. “The students in the new program will not be wildlife biologists.”

Crozier said the graduates in the new degree can pursue jobs at hunting lodges, shooting facilities, fishing resorts as well as guide services and outdoor sport/adventure promotions.

“Dr. Ditchkoff and Dr. Smith were talking with people in the industry, and they kept hearing, ‘We need students who understand business, who understand customer expectations and who know about wildlife,’” she said. “What they learned was several of the outfitters they talked to were going to colleges and universities and recruiting wildlife students and teaching them about hospitality and business. Or, they were recruiting hospitality and business students and teaching them about wildlife. The industry said it would really be nice if you could develop this specific product. We feel like there is a market for it. They started exploring and realized how many outdoor-enterprise businesses there were in that 250-mile radius of Auburn. They realized, hey, there really is a niche for this type of degree.

“With Kansas State being the only other place that offered a similar program, we just felt like we could fill that need.”

Pam Swanner of Alabama Black Belt Adventures agrees wholeheartedly.

“The Black Belt region has a rich history in the traditions of hunting and fishing,” Swanner said. “It’s a natural fit that Auburn would create a unique degree program to provide a skilled workforce trained in land management, business and hospitality. At Auburn’s back door are more than 50 outfitters that can provide opportunities for student internships.

“Alabama Black Belt Adventures is partnering with AU’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences to assist in organizing internship placement in the Black Belt region. We’re also introducing the faculty to the industry’s many product companies and other organizations that have an interest in supporting such a worthwhile program with scholarship funds to ensure a prosperous future for our industry.”

Crozier said if you venture outside that 250-mile radius, the possibilities become considerably greater. She said 40 students currently enrolled at Auburn are waiting to pursue the new degree, and she expects the program will eventually graduate between 100 and 150 annually.

“Just think about international,” she said. “It’s amazing how many opportunities are out there. We expect these students to not only go to work for hunting lodges, fishing lodges and shooting facilities, but also do safaris in Africa, outdoor adventures anywhere in the world or become representatives for outdoors companies. This is an extremely broad major that does not limit our students to a specific area.

“We’re expecting the demand for this major to blossom and really increase.”

Crozier said an internship is not a part of the curriculum, but it is highly suggested so that the students who go into this major will get some industry experience.

“Dr. Ditchkoff and Dr. Smith are putting together a list of industry contacts who are looking for interns,” she said. “It will be up to the student to go find their internship. If we have a company or business that wants to interview students, we will provide a place to do that and line the students up to interview.

Crozier said the faculty plans to reach out to the outdoors industry to identify what might be a current need or emerging need that could become an area of focus or to adjust the curriculum.

“Being a brand new program, we do have some needs. We need to be able to create partnerships with industry so that our students have places and opportunities to intern,” she said. “We’re looking for corporate sponsorships. Academic scholarships attract your best and brightest students. We need mentors, speakers for classes, places to take students for field tours, travel stipends for our students and faculty.”

Prospective students and parents can visit sfws.auburn.edu for more information or call recruiter Wendy Franklin in the Student Services office at 334-844-1001.

1st daddy/daughter fishing trip. Bradley and Brier Cook caught a whopper of a Carp in the Lock 5 area. Great job you two! Submitted
This picture of the sunset on Main Street was captured Thursday the 14th of Sept., 2018, by Presleigh Wheat. Submitted by Presleigh Wheat.

Black Warrior Electric Sends Crews to North Carolina To Help Restore Power in Wake of Hurricane Florence

Black Warrior Electric Membership Corp. is sending manpower and equipment to North Carolina to help utilities there restore electricity in the wake of Hurricane Florence, which knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of residents and businesses.

Black Warrior crews left early Friday morning for Rockingham, N.C., just as the storm came ashore at Wilmington and began its slow move across the state, dumping record levels of rain and causing catastrophic flooding. The crews consisted of 10 linesmen and five trucks, including three bucket trucks. They will be assisting Pee Dee Electric in the south central part of the state.

“This storm obviously is devastating for residents of North Carolina, and it places a tremendous burden on all public services, especially utilities,” said Daryl Jones, manager of Black Warrior Electric. “In times like these, electric co-ops and utility companies in Alabama and other states are quick to respond because we know how critical restoring power is to helping an area. We certainly want to help in any way we can.”

Michael Barnes, who works out of Black Warrior’s Demopolis division, is foreman of the crews, which also include linesmen from Eutaw, Butler, Linden and Greensboro.

“We have two big buckets, a derrick truck, a small bucket, a pickup and a trailer full of equipment,” Barnes said. “We are going to do our best to help them out.”

After working with Pee Dee Electric, Barnes said he expects his crews to move closer to the shore to help other utilities.

Crews from 17 of Alabama’s 22 rural electric cooperatives are expected to deploy to the Carolinas, according to Alabama Rural Electric Association. The cooperatives pledged to send a total of 152 crew members. Crews from Central Alabama Electric Cooperative and Southern Pine Electric Cooperative left Thursday for North Carolina, with the other crews will leaving Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Alabama electric co-ops often send crews to other service areas and other states to help with the recovery after storms. In return, co-ops from other states come to Alabama to assist in the aftermath of storms here.

“We assist them, they assist us,” Jones. “The most important thing is to help people in need. The next time it could be us.”

In recent years, Black Warrior and other Alabama co-ops have sent crews to Florida and Georgia. Jones said he doesn’t know how long his crews could be in North Carolina, but past deployments have lasted three to four weeks.

Black Warrior Electric is a member-owned cooperative that serves about 26,000 residents and businesses in 12 counties in west central Alabama.

Opening-Day Dove Hunt Focuses on Youth

(David Rainer) During the 2012 hunt at Gulf Farms, Jack Guarino, center, used a .410 shotgun instead of BB gun during the hunt with his father, Eric, and sister, Molly.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Sweat trickled into my eyes as a mourning dove turned and came straight at me. Hidden in the sunflower stalks, I was undetected until it was too late. A shot at the approaching dove dropped it between rows.

A short time later, another dove flew even closer. Two shots later and the dove continued flying unscathed. I’ll blame it on the sweat.

As usual, the opening day of dove season in the North Zone was an exercise in trying to find shade as the onset of fall temperatures is likely still a few weeks away. But that didn’t deter the participants at the annual dove hunt at Gulf Farms near Orrville in Dallas County.

Hosts Mike Eubanks and Lamar Harrison make a point to emphasize that dove hunting is an ideal method to introduce youngsters and inexperienced hunters to the outdoors.

During the pre-hunt safety briefing and discussion, Eubanks celebrated a record turnout of young people at the hunt.

“We had 38 hunters age 15 and under,” Eubanks said. “That’s fantastic. That’s the most we’ve ever had. What we’re trying to do is get these younger people involved in the outdoors. And we appreciate these dads and moms who bring their kids with them to hunt.

“Mr. Harrison (his father-in-law) and I want to give these kids a chance to hunt doves in a safe environment. We stress safety before we head to the dove fields.”

Gulf Farms goes to a great deal of effort to provide top-quality fields for the hunters, planting a combination of corn, soybeans, grain sorghum, sunflowers and wheat.

“We can’t control how many doves we have,” Eubanks said. “But we do everything by the guidelines to provide everything we think a dove might need from food to water to places to roost.

“We had a decent number of doves this year. It was better than last year, but it wasn’t the best hunt we’ve had at Gulf Farms. But those kids got to shoot a lot, and their enjoyment of being outdoors is what we like to see.”

Eric Guarino and his 14-year-old son, Jack, have been fixtures at the Gulf Farms hunt during the last decade. Last weekend’s hunt made the seventh hunt for the father-son team in the last eight years.

“I think Jack was probably six when we started coming,” Eric said. “My daughter even came one year. I just wanted to get them outside and get them involved in something that I always enjoyed doing.”

Eric’s outdoors adventures started out with a fishing rod in his hands. It was a few years before it was replaced with a firearm.

“When my dad opened his own business, my mom was working there,” he said. “Five days a week when we weren’t in school, my mom would put me out at Fisherman’s Wharf on Dog River. She would come pick me up at five o’clock when she got off work. I fished all day, every day. I caught more redfish and flounder out of Dog River than anybody else.”

Guarino was in high school when he went deer hunting for the first time with friends. Then one of his friends was dating a girl whose dad was a member of a dove club in Baldwin County, which led to his introduction to dove hunting.

“Then I really got into duck hunting,” he said “I was fanatical about it for a very long time. I still am, but it is suppressed by kids, career and other obligations. I don’t have time to go scout for ducks anymore.”

Despite the other outdoors endeavors, the Guarinos try to make it to Gulf Farms for the September opening-day hunt.

“Mike and Mr. Harrison invite me every year,” Eric said. “Actually, they invite Jack, and I get to drive him. In a couple of years, he’ll be driving, and I may not get to come.”

Eric said the atmosphere at the Gulf Farms hunt makes them come back year after year.

“This is a good bunch of folks, good fellowship, good eats in a safe, clean environment,” he said. “It’s just a good time being around a lot of good folks.

“Jack is really into camping and hiking and backpacking, so, we do that together. We don’t do a whole lot of hunting, but when this dove hunt came up, he said, ‘We have got to go to that.’ He wouldn’t miss this for the world.”

Jack said he remembers his first Gulf Farms hunt like it was yesterday.

“When I was six, I was happy to be here,” Jack said. “I had my little BB gun. My dad would shoot one, and I’d go over with my BB gun and say, ‘I got it.’

“It’s been fun. I’ve been coming half of my life. I get to shoot guns all day, which is a fun thing to do. A couple of my friends go deer hunting but not many dove hunt. I love dove hunting. It’s special because we come here every year. It’s just a good time.”

Jack and his dad had an especially fruitful afternoon in the dove field, retrieving almost a two-man limit (15 per person) of birds. Like most hunters, Jack relishes the preparation and consumption of the wild game.

“I get to eat what I kill,” Jack said. “It’s a special connection that I took this game for myself, and now I get to enjoy it.”

Eric said he doesn’t have an elaborate recipe to prepare doves for his family, but it doesn’t matter.

“I just wrap them in bacon and put them in the oven and cook them until the bacon is done,” Eric said. “Then I don’t get to eat any of them because my wife and daughter will eat them all. I’ve got to kill quite a few to be able to have enough for me to get some.”

Kent Yrabedra joined the Gulf Farms fun last weekend, and he also sticks to the basics when it comes to preparing his dove breasts for the table.

“I like them the old-fashioned way,” Yrabedra said. “Fried doves are hard to beat. I soak them in buttermilk, roll them in flour seasoned with salt and pepper and fry them golden brown. Just don’t over-fry them or they’ll get tough.”

The Alabama Wildlife Federation’s Wild Game Cook-Off series has yielded several delicious ways to prepare doves, including this one from the Choctaw Bluff cooking team.

Dove Boats

Ingredients:

20 dove breasts

Teriyaki, Worcestershire and yellow mustard for marinade

10 jalapeños

8 ounces cream cheese

1 can water chestnuts

Bacon

Preparation: The Choctaw Bluff team starts by pounding the dove breasts to tenderize. Combine marinade ingredients to taste and dip dove breasts. Slice jalapeños lengthwise and seed. Take jalapeno half, fill with cream cheese, top with water chestnut and dove breast. Wrap in bacon. Cook on hot grill until bacon is done.

The Mobile County Wildlife Association prepared another AWF Cook-Off winner.

Uncle Tom’s Banded Dove Bombs

Ingredients:

20 dove breasts

Half gallon buttermilk

2 pounds Jimmy Dean Hot sausage

3 cans Pillsbury Crescent rolls

Large (2-pound) block Velveeta cheese

Peanut oil

Preparation: Soak doves in buttermilk overnight. Cut dove breasts into strips and mix with sausage. Brown mixture until cooked. Put in refrigerator to cool. Take single crescent roll, add scoop of Velveeta cheese and scoop of dove-sausage mixture. Wrap carefully to form something akin to a Hot Pocket. Return to refrigerator until ready to fry. Drop in 400-degree peanut oil for about 4 minutes and enjoy.

By the way, those preparing to hunt the opening day of the South Zone, which is September 15, or hunt for the first time in the North Zone need to be aware that a HIP (Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program) license is needed to hunt migratory birds like doves, ducks, woodcocks and geese.

It was obvious from a few people I talked to at the Gulf Farms hunt that the requirement is not well understood. The HIP license, which is free at www.outdooralabama.com/mourning-dove-hunting-alabama/what-hip, is required of Alabama residents ages 16-64 and non-residents 16 and older who hunt migratory birds. Hunters who are exempt from hunting license requirements are also exempt from the HIP requirement.

Alabama Extension offering farming basics online course

More people than ever are interested in giving farming a try. In the past, people turned to farming family members for help. Today, most people are generations removed from farming.

To help budding farmers get started, Alabama Extension now offers a free online course, Farming Basics. Launched Sept. 10, the course addresses critical topics in agriculture.

Alabama Extension Director Gary Lemme calls the course a groundbreaking digital effort.

“Anyone who is considering farming but has little to no experience will reap rewards by completing the course,” Lemme said. He adds that Farming Basics is a valuable tool for experienced farm owners as well.

“Established producers can use the course as a refresher in best practices,” Lemme said. “Additionally, they can use it to train new employees.”

Jewell and Russell Bean of S & B Farm in Barbour County agree the course is exactly what beginning farmers need.

“Farming Basics is filled with good information,” Russell Bean said. “We recommend it as a resource not only for beginning farmers but seasoned producers as well.”

Farming Basics’ five chapters feature video presentations and additional resources that enhance the course’s content depth. A short quiz at the end of each chapter offers participants the opportunity to review and reinforce content concepts. The course takes about two hours to complete. Upon completion, participants receive a certificate.

Extension Specialist Ayanava Majumdar, Farming Basics project leader, says more than 200 people have already preregistered for the course.

“Farming is challenging for experienced farmers, and it can be overwhelming to people new to it,” said Majumdar. “Our goal with Farming Basics is to help new producers develop knowledge and critical skills, enabling them to reduce mistakes and achieve profitability more rapidly.”

The course covers farm management and marketing, pesticide safety, food safety, basic crop production and pest management. Find the course at https://aces.catalog.auburn.edu/.

Farming Basics follows the proven model of Beef Basics, Alabama Extension’s first online agriculture course.

Lemme says these courses serve as the foundation of the organization’s growing commitment to online learning.

“Because of programs like this, we are becoming a nationally recognized leader in digital learning.”

This course is part of Alabama Extension’s overarching Beginning Farmer program, a collaborative effort of a wide range of institutions, producer organizations and nonprofit agencies. The Alabama Beginning Farmer Program is funded by a grant from the USDA Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program.

Currently, the Beginning Farmer program provides intense on-farm guidance to more than 60 beginning farmers, including military veterans, women and socially disabled individuals. The advisory service has an 85 percent adoption rate and has increased yields by improving crop quality and reducing insecticide use with pest prevention.

Alabama Extension operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn universities.

(Written by Maggie Lawrence.)

Physically Disabled Hunt Dates Announced for Field Trial Area

The M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area (FWFTA) in Hale County will host a series of deer hunts for hunters with physical disabilities from late November 2018 through January 2019. Registration for the hunts will open September 17 and run through October 19, 2018.

“Access to outdoor activities such as hunting should be available to everyone who has an interest,” said Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). “We are honored to provide hunting opportunities for all Alabamians including those with physical disabilities.”

Hunt availability is limited and will be assigned on a first come, first served basis. Hunters are limited to registering for only one hunt for the season and must bring an assistant to help with the hunt. Hunters will need a Conservation ID number prior to registering. To register for a hunt, call 334-289-8030 during the registration period listed above.

FWFTA physically disabled hunt dates:
• November 21, 28
• December 1, 26, 29
• January 9, 12, 16, 19, 23, 30

Hunters with physical disabilities are required to fill out a Disabled Hunter Permit Application prior to the hunt dates. The permit can be downloaded from the “Physically Disabled Hunting Areas” section of www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/where-hunt-alabama.

Hunters must obtain their license before the hunt since they will not be available on-site. Licenses are available for purchase at various retailers throughout the state or online at www.outdooralabama.com.

All deer harvested during the FWFTA physically disabled hunts must be reported via Alabama’s Game Check system. Hunters will have 48 hours to Game Check their harvest through the Outdoor AL mobile app or online at www.outdooralabama.com.

In addition to being required when registering for the FWFTA physically disabled hunts, a Conservation ID number is the fastest and easiest way to report a deer or turkey harvest. This number is unique to each hunter and can also be used to purchase future licenses, obtain Harvest Information Program permits, register for Special Opportunity Area hunts and more. For information about how to obtain a Conservation ID number, visit www.outdooralabama.com/hunting.

If you have questions about the FWFTA physically disabled hunts, please call or email Justin Gilchrist with the ADCNR Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division at 334-289-8030 or Justin.Gilchrist@dcnr.alabama.gov.

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.

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.

Jug Fishing Producing Plenty of Alabama River Catfish

(David Rainer) Jug fishing on the Alabama River is yielding nice boxes of catfish during the hotter months. The technique should produce nice catches for at least another month. Joe Dunn, who has a cabin on Millers Ferry, shows off a nice blue cat and swings in one of many smaller catfish into the boat.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The ripples emanating from the sides of the 2-foot-long piece of pool noodle was just what Joe Dunn hoped to see.

It meant there was something attached to the line that dropped some 15 feet into the murky waters of the Alabama River near Camden.

During the dog days of summer, this fishing tactic is what Dunn prefers because the heat makes it unbearable to crappie fish in hopes of catching seven or eight keepers. The same goes for bass fishing.

So, Dunn turns to the plentiful catfish that inhabit Alabama’s many rivers, and lets the jugs, or noodles in this case, do the fishing while he enjoys a restful night of sleep. If he’s ambitious, he’ll run the 20 or so jugs during the night. If not, he’ll head out at dawn to find out what’s been biting.

Catching bait might be the only real work involved in “jug” fishing.

“The predominant bait on Millers Ferry is going to be shad that you catch with your cast net,” Dunn said. “But skipjacks (members of the herring family) are another excellent bait. It’s a little harder, sometimes, to catch skipjacks. Most people use Sabiki rigs and go behind the power house to catch the skipjacks. But sometimes there’s another way to catch them. If you’re on the river, sometimes you will see skipjacks chasing little river minnows or small shad. You ease over into that area, and when they come up to feed, you throw your cast net and load it up with skipjacks. We did that just the other day with the cast net.

“The key is good, fresh bait.”

Dunn said if you’re planning to do a little tightlining for catfish before you head back to camp to get out of the heat, the skipjacks will stay alive for a little while in the livewell. If you see a couple floating in the livewell, it’s best to get them all out, put them in a plastic bag and get them on ice before they degrade.

Dunn says the best way to deal with leftover skipjacks is to freeze them as soon as possible.

“Freezing skipjacks in water doesn’t work well,” he said. “When you thaw them out, they’re all mushy and just don’t work well. I found out if you put them on a cookie sheet and freeze them individually before putting them in freezer bags, they work a lot better. That’s a big plus.”

When Dunn is targeting flathead catfish, he tries to catch small bream to bait the jugs. Flathead, also known as yellow cats, prefer the bait to be live and swimming.

“Most of the time, flatheads are going to hit something live, whether it’s a 3-inch bream (taken by hook and line) or a skipjack you’ve just caught in the cast net,” he said. “If you have a good live skipjack, you just hook him in the middle of the back so he can swim and stay alive.

“If you’re looking for a mess of small fish for a fish fry, just use those small shad and thread them on the hook. If you’re keying on bigger fish, you’re better off with a live bait, even your bigger blue cats like live bait.”

Most people tend to shun keeping a larger blue cat because the flesh is not as suitable for consumption as any size flathead. However, Dunn said large blue cats can be delicious if they’re prepared correctly.

“The key is learning how to clean them to where they taste good,” he said. “It’s best to bleed them. I cut the tail off and throw them in the splash well. When I clean them, I get all the red meat off, and then I soak the meat in an ice-water slush. You soak it and get all the blood out, changing the water when needed to get that meat snowball white.

“Then you fry it, and it’s good. I’ve had people tell me it was the best blue cat they’ve ever eaten.”

Now Dunn is not saying he can make big blue cats taste like a flathead, which doesn’t seem to lose any appeal to the palate the larger the fish gets.

“I fried some flathead for my brother, Bubba, and he kept asking me, ‘What did you do to this fish? What did you do to this fish?’” Dunn said. “I didn’t do anything to it. It was just the fish. The flathead is just the primo catfish catch out of the river.”

Dunn said a couple of techniques seem to work when he’s specifically targeting flatheads. He focuses on the inside bends in the river and rock walls. At the start of the bend, most will have a small sandbar. He said the flathead like to hang out at the drop-off behind the sandbar.

“They’re sitting below that bar where the current is running over the top of them, waiting on that bait to come to them,” he said. “I also like to fish where a cut is coming into the main river where the depth goes from 12 to 14 feet down to 30. They like to hang underneath that drop-off. But big blue cats like those spots too.”

Even though Millers Ferry has a reputation as a fantastic crappie fishery, Dunn thinks catfish are overlooked at times.

“This is a super good catfish fishery.”

Dunn said the hot weather pattern for catfish starts around the middle of June and usually runs through October, depending on when we get enough of a cold front to lower the water temperature.

“The hotter it gets, the more you stay in the main river channel,” he said. “I use the noodles because you use a lot longer lines, 15 to 20 feet, and it’s easier to wrap the lines around the noodles when I take them up.”

When he’s targeting the larger fish, Dunn uses a tarred nylon twine for the main lines with a 1½-ounce lead, swivel, monofilament leader and a 5/0 circle hook.

Dunn said the largest flathead catfish he’s hauled in at the Ferry weighed 65 pounds, and the largest blue cat he’s seen weighed 55 pounds.

For “fry ’em whole” small fish, he uses double-hook rigs with smaller hooks and smaller shad for bait.

Dunn takes a break from catfishing during the winter to head to the deer woods. The water gets high during the winter, but he’s back on the river fairly early in the new year.

“We usually start on February 17,” he said. “We’ve always started on that date because that’s my oldest son’s birthday. We would come up to the river and get our jugs ready. But that time of year, you go up in the shallow flats. The catfish will move into the shallow flats before anything else.”

In February, Dunn changes his “jugs” to 20-ounce drink bottles and 1½- to 2-foot lines with a ½-ounce to 1-ounce weight, swivel and foot of 20-pound-test monofilament leader tied to a 3/0 circle hook.

“That’s when I go in places like Gee’s Bend, Buzzard’s Roost, River Bluff, Alligator,” he said. “You just get in the backs of the creeks and throw your jugs out. You can wear them out in the springtime doing that.”

Alabama’s creel limit on catfish is determined by size. For catfish under 34 inches there is no limit. Anglers can keep one catfish 34 inches or longer in most areas of the state. Several river basins – Perdido, Conecuh, Blackwater, Yellow, Choctawhatchee, Chipola and Chattahoochee – are exempt from the size limit. Also, it is unlawful to transport live catfish 34 inches or longer beyond the boundaries of Alabama.

Youngster Wins Black Belt’s Best Fish Photo Contest

The Alabama Black Belt once again proved its reputation as a hotbed for great fishing this summer and the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association’s winner in its annual Best Black Belt Fish Photo Contest is 9-year-old William Booker of Homewood, Ala.

“William’s photo of a really nice bass that he caught at a family pond in Dallas County attracted the most votes in our contest this year,” said Pam Swanner, director of the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association. “We had a great cross section of photos, including largemouth bass, bream, catfish and crappie from the Black Belt. As always, we had some really nice photos of young people enjoying the outdoors while taking pride in their catch, whether big or small fish, and sporting huge smiles.”

William, a third-grader at Shades Cahaba Elementary, spends most summer weekends at his grandparents’ farm in Orrville in Dallas County. The family pond, built and stocked by his grandfather, is William’s favorite fishing hole, though he and his family also spend time fishing closer to home, too. The contest champ, who wins $100 worth of fishing gear from the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association, most often fishes with his mom and dad, Deidre and George Robert Booker, and his grandparents, Jule and Terry Booker.

“I can’t believe I won!” William said. “I can’t wait to use my new fishing gear.”

Entries came in from almost half the counties in the Black Belt, with anglers sharing their photos of their catches from public and private waters. The winner was determined by the number of “likes” the photo received on the ALBBAA Facebook page (Facebook.com/AlabamaBlackBeltAdventures).

The rules were simple, asking only that the fish in the photo be one – or several – caught in the Black Belt in 2018. 

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.

Coast Guard urges boating safety during holiday weekend

The Coast Guard urges boaters to use extra caution while out on the water this Labor Day weekend.

Coast Guard crews, along with local and state law enforcement agencies, will be patrolling, conducting safety checks, and watching for people boating while intoxicated or operating in an unsafe manner.

Never boat under the influence: It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There are stringent penalties for violating BUI/BWI laws, which can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges and jail time. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.

Take a boating safety course: Statistics show that more than 80 percent of those involved in boating fatalities have never taken a boating safety course or had any other type of formal boating education. The public can find courses at uscgboating.org or by contacting their state wildlife or natural resources departments, the Power Squadron or the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

File a float plan: Leave a detailed float plan with a friend or family member who is staying back. The sooner a party can be reported overdue, the more likely a positive outcome will result. Facts need to be quickly conveyed in an emergency. Your float plan should include information that rescue personnel need to find you. For examples of a float plan, visit http://floatplancentral.cgaux.org/

Wear a life jacket: Life jackets save lives. In 2017, 76 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those, approximately 85 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Accidents can leave even a strong swimmer injured, unconscious, or exhausted in the water.

Get a free vessel safety check: Boats that are properly equipped, in good operating condition and safe from hazards are less likely to be involved in accidents and fatalities. Contact representatives of the Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadron to request a free vessel safety check by visiting www.safetyseal.net and clicking on “I want a VSC.” 

Take a VHF-FM marine radio: Cell phones may lose signal off shore or run out of battery power. They are helpful, but not reliable for emergencies. VHF channel 16 is the marine emergency channel. It should only be used for emergencies.

Monitor weather broadcasts: Watch for current storm advisories. The National Weather Service broadcasts marine weather forecasts regularly. Forecasts can be heard by tuning in to Channels 1 to 5 on a VHF marine radio or by checking the NWS website at www.weather.gov

Bring a Signaling Device: Have a portable device to communicate an emergency on the water. In addition to a marine-band radio, boaters should have signal flares or an emergency position-indicating radio beacon to alert first responders.

Download the USCG app: The U.S. Coast Guard mobile app features information most commonly requested by boaters to include: weather, electronic float plans, safety equipment requirements, etc. it also includes and emergency assistance button to call the nearest Coast Guard command center an it’s available on the App Store and Google Play.

Mentored Hunt starts Welch’s outdoors journey

Andrea Mills took this 11-foot, 5-inch gator near McIntosh.
Leslie Welch managed to tag this 10½-foot alligator on the second weekend of the Southwest Zone season.
Welch said shooting a rifle under Jeremy Doss’ supervision at an Adult Mentored Hunt made her want to pursue more outdoors opportunities. Welch wasn’t the only female hunter to bag an alligator recently.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

As far as Leslie Welch is concerned, she was hooked at “Boom.” That report from the deer rifle happened a couple of years ago when she was among the lucky people who were selected to go on an Adult Mentored Hunt in Mobile County.

That experience set in motion Welch’s latest episode in her outdoors journey – alligator hunting. On her third try, Welch was drawn for one of the 150 tags in the Southwest Alabama Zone that includes private and public waters in Baldwin and Mobile counties and private and public waters in Washington, Clarke and Monroe counties that lie east of U.S. Highway 43 and south of U.S. Highway 84.

Welch, who grew up in a household that seldom ventured outdoors, had never even fired a gun before the mentored hunt, which made it even more interesting that she would pursue an alligator tag. However, Welch said that first outdoors experience opened a whole new world of adventure. Duck hunting is next on her to-do list.

“I grew up with a daddy who was a professor of religious studies at Alabama and a mom who did IT (Information Technology) before she became an industrial engineer in computer science,” Welch said. “We didn’t have these opportunities because my parents never presented it. I dated a boy in high school who hunted. He asked me to go hunting, but I never went.”

Welch, a former teacher, once worked with Amy Doss, wife of Jeremy Doss, a State Lands Division Enforcement Officer with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“Amy would always have good stories for me about the outdoors,” Welch said. “And Amy was telling me about this hunt for first-timers.”

Jeremy Doss and Daniel Musselwhite, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries’ South Regional Hunter Education Coordinator, were involved in starting the Adult Mentored Hunt (AMH) program in Mobile County. Welch fit the AMH target profile of a non-hunter and was chosen to go on her first deer hunt. She didn’t even see a deer, but several of the other hunters bagged their first deer that day.

“It was fun to watch and fun to be a part of,” Welch said. “Everybody was so welcoming, and nobody made you feel like an idiot for not knowing things, which is important, especially to a first-time person. Everything was explained to me.

“When I got to shoot the gun, oooh, I loved it. It scared the bejesus out of me, but I was really good at it. Then I bought a gun after that.”

She still hasn’t been able to squeeze the trigger on a deer, but that hasn’t quelled her enthusiasm.

Then Amy shared another outdoors story about gator hunting after a friend of the Dosses got a tag. Welch started applying for alligator tags until she was finally drawn this year.

“I was shocked I got a tag,” Welch said. “I texted Jeremy and Amy that they had to take me.”

The Dosses agreed, and Welch entered an environment she had never imagined in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

“I had never been on a boat at night except for a cruise ship,” Welch said. “It was fabulous. It was gorgeous. It was peaceful. It’s a totally different world at night. I got to go under the bridge on the Causeway. There were all kinds of things I got to experience that I’d never done before. And we saw lots and lots of gators, but they were spooked that first night.

“We didn’t get a gator, but I was ready to go again.”

With the Causeway gators somewhat leery because of all the boat traffic, Welch and the Dosses moved to the upper Delta for the second round. With a little help from Matt Horton of the Upper Delta Gobblers NWTF chapter, their luck changed quickly after launching the boat near Stockton.

“This gator popped up right after we launched the boat,” Welch said. “I named him ‘George’ by the way.”

Welch quickly hooked the gator, but she didn’t realize it at the time.

“I thought I was hooked on the bottom,” she said. “Then I told Jeremy the line was moving. He said, ‘The gator is walking on the bottom.’ I said, ‘What?’ I didn’t know they walked on the bottom.”

Doss said, “He was pulling the boat. It’s dark, so you don’t realize he’s pulling the boat because you have no frame of reference. He was just easing us down the river.”

Welch was soon up for another surprise when the alligator finally decided to come to the surface.

“When everybody put their spotlights on him, I literally backed up behind Jeremy,” she said. “I said, ‘Oh, heck, that thing is real.’”

Doss said the fifth time Welch was able to reel the animal to the surface they were able to get a harpoon in the gator.

“He was in 36 feet of water,” Doss said. “The problem was when he came up, he wouldn’t come straight up, he came up away from the boat. We finally got him up close enough to get a harpoon in him.”

Minutes later, the 10½-foot gator was dispatched and the celebration began.

“I’m sure there was a lot of squealing going on,” Welch said. “I tried not to because I was with a bunch of guys, but I’m afraid to say there was some squealing.

“Then I was just staring at the gator. I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is real.’ Then I got to touch the gator. I had never touched an alligator before. I had never even been to Alligator Alley and touched one of the baby alligators.”

Doss added, “I don’t believe we would have gotten the gator so quickly without Matt’s help. Matt also helps with the mentored hunts, and he helped put us on the gator.”

In this world of social media, it’s no surprise that Welch shared her gator hunt on Facebook.

“I did brag,” she said. “Since then, I’ve had people asking me when I’m going again. I told them it doesn’t work that way, but let me tell you how to apply for a tag. So, there are at least seven people more who are going to put in for tags next year.”

Musselwhite said Welch’s story and her outreach to friends about her outdoors experiences are exactly what the AMH program is designed to do.

“It’s important that we did make her a hunter, but she has that ripple effect to go out and recruit new hunters,” Musselwhite said. “By creating one hunter, we may be able to recruit several more hunters.”

Last year, Brian Nettles was highlighted as a newly recruited hunter through the AMH program, and Musselwhite has followed Nettles’ outdoors journey.

“Since last year, Brian has killed his first buck,” Musselwhite said. “Two of his kids have killed bucks. He came to me pretty raw and had no idea what to do. Now, he’s got two kids that maybe wouldn’t be hunters if not for the program.

“And Leslie shows that it’s not about killing a deer. There’s so much more to hunting than killing deer. It’s enjoying the little things you see in the woods. That’s the demographic we’re going after.”

Welch said it’s hard to describe the sensory input she has experienced during her outdoors adventures.

“How do you explain to someone the sound of the wind coming through the trees while you’re sitting out there in the blind?” Welch said. “I didn’t know what that sound was. I’d never been still in nature long enough to know what it was. It’s the prettiest sound I’ve ever heard. It was so calming.

“It’s one of the reasons I want to experience more of the outdoors. I want to try these things I was not offered as a teenager growing up in Tuscaloosa. I want to go duck hunting, and I’m going deer hunting again.”

And, rest assured, her name will also be on an application for an alligator tag again next year.

The gator application process will come next year. However, applications are being accepted now for AMH events throughout the state. You must be at least 19 years old, have a valid driver’s license and be new to hunting (or have limited hunting experience) to apply for an AMH hunt. You can apply for up to three AMH events with a single application. Depending on the number of applicants, you may be limited to a single event. The AMH application must be completed online at www.outdooralabama.com/mentored-application.

All AMH program correspondence is through email, so a valid email address must be included on the application. You will be notified by email if you are selected for a mentored hunt event. Email Justin.Grider@dcnr.alabama.gov with questions about the application or selection process.

Visit www.outdooralabama.com/mentored-hunting-program for more information about the AMH program including hunt dates/locations and complete instructions on how to apply.

UA Building Innovative Radars to Help Flood, Drought Management

Researchers at The University of Alabama will lead a project to develop and deploy radars that obtain information about snow and soil moisture to help manage the nation’s water resources.

The project is funded through $6 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, in partnership with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, or UCAR.

It includes $5 million for the University and $1 million to UCAR to establish new capabilities enabling the National Water Model, the nation’s first-ever continental-scale hydrologic prediction system operated by the NOAA’s National Water Center, located on the UA campus.

“This is excellent news for The University of Alabama, our state and the nation,” said U.S. Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama. “The research made possible by this $6 million grant will drive scientific advances to help improve the nation’s water prediction capabilities and forecasts. I am proud to have helped secure this funding that will better protect the lives and property of all Americans.”

UA President Stuart R. Bell said, “This award further demonstrates the University’s commitment to cultivating a research culture that will have a far-reaching impact. We are very pleased to see our research efforts making a significant difference for water resources and for the nation at large.”

Faculty, students and staff with the UA Remote Sensing Center, part of the Alabama Water Institute, will lead the development of radars capable of high-resolution measurements from radar fixed to airplanes flying at medium and high altitudes

“This award leverages existing partnerships, boosting opportunities for our researchers to be successful in addressing challenges facing society,” said Dr. John C. Higginbotham, UA interim vice president for research and economic development. “Our expertise in remote sensing is an asset in our nation’s efforts to prepare and manage hydrological events.”

Dr. Prasad Gogineni, the Cudworth Professor of Engineering at UA and an internationally recognized expert in the field of remote sensing, directs the center established by UA trustees in 2017.

“We are developing a world-class remote sensing center on campus to contribute to the efforts of the National Water Center to improve flood and drought forecasts and manage operations during floods,” Gogineni said.

Precise measurements of snow depth and water in the soil can help those who manage water resources, such as reservoirs, and officials who prepare and manage for flood or drought events, Gogineni said. Researchers with UCAR and NOAA will model and analyze the data.

“Water managers, public safety officials and business leaders are seeking this kind of intelligence to protect lives and property and safeguard our economy,” said Dr. Antonio Busalacchi, the president of UCAR. “This project is further evidence of the productive and maturing relationship that exists among UCAR, UA and NOAA to grow the nation’s water prediction capabilities. It is a perfect example of an academic-government partnership that we need more of to move cutting edge research into operational forecasting.”

The support of Shelby and others in Congress has been instrumental in advancing the nation’s water prediction capabilities, Busalacchi added.

As part of its mission, the National Water Center models and forecasts flood and droughts, and data from the radar imaging developed by UA will improve those forecasts, Gogineni said.

“If you want to manage water resources effectively, you need better information,” he said. “The information that exists is not sufficient.”

Dr. Ying-Hwa “Bill” Kuo, director of UCAR Community Programs, said the data will serve a vital role.

“This research will fill a critical gap needed to continue to improve the performance of the National Water Model,” he said. “UCAR is very pleased to partner with UA and the National Water Center on this important effort.”

UA researchers, with an assist from colleagues at the University of Kansas, will develop ultra-wideband, or UWB, radars for aircraft to begin field testing in the spring of 2019.

UWB radar operates over a large bandwidth to penetrate deep into snow and soil, as opposed to commercial radios or satellites that use microwave frequencies with large antennas to transmit over longer distances.

The proposed radar will image not just below the aircraft, but on the sides as well, allowing it to view a larger swath of earth.

“This is going to be a state-of-the-art system with multiple receivers and multiple transmitters to be able to look straight down as well as to the sides,” Gogineni said.

Over the longer term, the UWB radars will be made smaller and integrated with sensors operating on other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum to provide high-resolution, fine-scale imaging over large areas. The system should be able to image snow as thin as 3 centimeters to as thick as 2 meters from high altitudes.

Funding will support new technical and administrative support staff for the Remote Sensing Center along with providing leading-edge technological research to a post-doctoral researcher, 15 graduate students and 15 undergraduate students.

“Education and training is integrated in all aspects of the research,” Gogineni said.

CWD Restrictions Expanded to All States, Canada

Chronic Wasting Disease leaves deer emaciated and the disease is always fatal.
(buck photo courtesy of Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism/Michael Hopper, CWD Alliance)

By Davide Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) catapulted into the world of deer hunters all over the South when an afflicted white-tailed deer was discovered in the Mississippi Delta this past January.

It was the first case so close to Alabama, and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division immediately responded by adding Mississippi to the list of states where special precautions were in effect to minimize the chance of spreading the disease.

At the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board meeting in May, WFF asked that the rules regarding the importation of carcasses from members of the cervid family (deer, elk, moose, caribou, etc.) be extended to all states and Canada.

Those rules state that hunters should completely debone the animal and remove and dispose of any brain or spinal tissue from skull plates, raw capes and hides before returning to Alabama. Those skull plates must be free of any brain or spinal cord material. Velvet-covered antlers are also included in the prohibited materials. Root structures and other soft tissue should also be removed from all teeth. Finished taxidermy products and tanned hides are not affected by the ban.

Starting with the 2019-2020 seasons, Alabama will implement a ban on the use of natural deer urine products as well. Synthetic deer urine products are not affected.

CWD is a disease similar to mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep. CWD is a form of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy that starts to debilitate the affected animal and always results in death.

At last weekend’s Buckmasters Expo in Montgomery, game biologists and law enforcement officers at the WFF booth tried to spread the word about the threat of CWD and how it could change hunting, which is a $1.8 billion industry in Alabama.

The WFF outreach on CWD education will ramp up significantly right away with seminars, billboards and media promotions.

“We are doing our seminar series that will focus on CWD,” said WFF Director Chuck Sykes, who travels the state to conduct the seminars. “We are purchasing billboard advertisement up and down our major road systems. We’re also doing some outreach at gas pumps and ice machines at convenience stores in strategic places around the state.”

Sykes said there is so much misinformation in the public square, whether online or around the campfire, that WFF is doing everything it can to ensure people are getting the correct information.

“There are rumors that it is already here in Alabama, which is not true,” Sykes said. “There are rumors that it’s made up; there’s no such thing as CWD. The best one I’ve heard is it’s just a way for the state to make money. I wish they would show me how we’re going to make money when we’re having to move resources and money to help test animals and educate the public. It’s typical anti-government rhetoric that doesn’t have any basis in reality. So, we’re trying our best to get the facts out.”

Sykes said the decision to ban natural deer urine products after the upcoming seasons was done to err on the side of caution.

“We knew that people already had orders,” he said. “We knew stores had the product on the shelf, and manufacturers already had purchase orders. The Board expressed a desire to ban urine products, so we made our recommendation to start the ban in 2019. So, hunters can buy and use those natural deer urine products through the upcoming season, but starting in the fall of 2019, they won’t be able to use them.

“It’s just a precaution. We know the prion (rogue protein) that causes CWD can be found in urine, saliva and feces. That’s just one hole that we can plug. A lot of the facilities that bottle urine are in states with CWD. We just don’t want to take that risk. Granted, it’s not as big of a risk as bringing in a live deer or a deer carcass, but it’s a risk we don’t want to take.”

Most CWD-positive states have experienced a slow but gradual spread of additional cases once the disease is established. However, there have been a few exceptions. Mississippi has tested about 650 deer since that one incident and hasn’t found any other infected deer at this point. Sykes said only one state other than Mississippi, New York, had a confirmed case of CWD in 2005 and no other deer have tested positive since.

“The best thing we can do is to keep CWD out of our state,” said Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship. “We’ve passed the regulations regarding bringing carcasses into Alabama. The best offense is to play good defense to keep it out of Alabama.

“I think a lot of people are getting the message, but we still have a lot of work we need to do. Some people think CWD is so far away that it doesn’t affect us. When it showed up in Mississippi, it put a lot of people on notice that it is a lot closer to us than it had been and that we need to be very vigilant to keep it out of our state by being mindful of what we do.”

Buckmasters founder and CEO Jackie Bushman hunts all over the U.S. and Canada, and he is fully aware of the threat CWD poses.

“I’ve been in Canada where they’ve had CWD and in Montana, and I hope we don’t get it,” Bushman said as crowds filled the Montgomery Convention Center for the annual Expo. “I’m sure the game and fish guys are on top of it. Chuck (Sykes) and his staff are doing a good job of being prepared if it ever does come here. I think people really have to pay attention, especially if you’re going on a hunt out of state, you’ve got to be careful about what you’re bringing back.

“This is something serious for the deer hunters, but also the whole financial part of the hunting industry. It would be devastating to people who sell or lease hunting land, the deer processors and sporting goods stores. It would be across the board in Alabama. But the way I look at it is we’ve got some smart folks that are working on it. Just pay attention to what they say. This is serious, but if we do the right things, we can keep it out of Alabama.”

Speaking of the people who sell hunting land, National Land Realty was one of several companies with booths at the Expo. Former Deputy Conservation Commissioner Curtis Jones now works with National Land Realty and understands the impact CWD could have.

“Right now, hunting land sales have picked up with the improving economy,” Jones said. “If CWD shows up anywhere in the state, the whole state would be affected. The value of property throughout the state would decline.

“So, I don’t have any problems with anything the Conservation Department can do to prevent the spread of that disease. I just hope our hunters and wildlife enthusiasts will read more about it and understand how devastating CWD would be if it got here.”

Andy Whitaker of Wildlife Trends has also tried to increase CWD awareness through their magazine, and he realizes the impact it would have on businesses like the tree nursery he promotes.

“Look what happened up North,” Whitaker said. “They closed whole seasons in places up there. I think it would be devastating for Alabama.

“The thing is people don’t seem to think it can happen here. But, if you remember, people said the same thing about feral hogs. And now, some places are overrun with hogs.”

Other entities are also working to understand CWD and ways to curtail the spread of the disease. The Boone and Crockett Club recently voted to fund more research into the disease. The CWD Alliance (cwd-info.org) provides the latest updates on research and the implementation of rules and regulations related to CWD.

After the deer in Mississippi tested positive for the disease, WFF staff thoroughly reviewed their current CWD Response Plan and revised it to address more recent concerns with the latest available science. The plan will be continually reviewed and updated as new research and scientific information is produced. Visit www.outdooralabama.com/cwd to read the 35-page plan.

Learn How to Hunt Through Alabama’s Adult Mentored Hunting Program

Are you new to hunting and interested in learning how to hunt, or has it been a while since you’ve been hunting? If so, Alabama’s Adult Mentored Hunting (AMH) program was designed with you in mind. Applications for AMH program events are now being accepted. The first AMH events for 2018 will take place on October 27.

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) created the AMH program to provide new hunters with a one-on-one hunt under the guidance of a veteran mentor. AMH events are for individuals interested in learning how to hunt, be it to revive a family tradition, learn more about consumptive outdoor recreation, or simply put wild game on the dinner table.

To apply for an AMH event, you must be at least 19 years old, have a valid driver’s license and be new to hunting (or have limited hunting experience). You can apply for up to three AMH events with a single application. However, depending on the number of applicants, you might only be selected for a single event. The AMH application must be completed online at www.outdooralabama.com/mentored-application.

All AMH program correspondence is through email, so please be sure to include a valid email address on your application. You will be notified by email if you are selected for a mentored hunt event. If you have questions about the application or selection process, email Justin.Grider@dcnr.alabama.gov.

The mentored hunts will be conducted in a safe, constructive environment and provide participants with the opportunity to learn from skilled hunting mentors. Participants will be exposed to many facets of hunting including:

• Firearms safety and familiarization
• Equipment overview and needs
• Scouting techniques
• On-site hunts
• Game cleaning and preparation
• Wild game cooking techniques

For most of the mentored hunts, the equipment needed will be provided or offered at no cost to the participant. Mentored hunts are currently available for deer, turkey, squirrel and rabbit.

More information about the AMH program including hunt dates/locations and complete instructions on how to apply can be found at www.outdooralabama.com/mentored-hunting-program.

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

Alabama Youth Dove Hunt Schedule Announced

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) announces that the state’s 18th Annual Youth Dove Hunts have been scheduled for 2018. For most of the state, the hunts begin on September 8.

Although the hunts are free, registration is required. Online registration is scheduled to open August 27, 2018, at 8 a.m. For more information including a complete hunt schedule, visit www.outdooralabama.com/youth-hunting/youth-dove-hunts.

Hunters submitting a registration for participation in a youth dove hunt must be a parent or an adult at least 21 years old and have a Conservation ID number. Once you receive a registration confirmation email and accept the hunt you wish to attend, you cannot register for a second hunt until the date of your registered hunt has passed. For information about how to obtain a Conservation ID number, visit www.outdooralabama.com/hunting.

Alabama’s Youth Dove Hunt events are held in open fields and staffed by WFF personnel, which encourages a safe, secure environment for both parents and participants. The program also makes use of private lands and fields opened for use by community members, which fosters good relationships between hunters and private landowners.

To participate in the hunts, youth hunters must be age 15 or younger and accompanied by an adult at least 21 years old (or a parent) who holds a valid state hunting license and a Harvest Information Program (HIP) stamp. Hunters should obtain their license and HIP stamp before the hunt since they will not be available on-site.

Before each hunt, a short welcome session with reminders on hunting safety will be conducted. All hunters are encouraged to wear eye protection and earplugs.

Doves are migratory and covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has special rules and regulations that apply to dove hunting which all hunters must follow. To review the Alabama Cooperative Extension System recommendations for plantings related to dove management, visit www.outdooralabama.com/what-hunt/mourning-dove-hunting-alabama.

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 Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.