Alabama Receives USDA Funding To Control Feral Swine
Feral swine control projects in Alabama will receive $3.7 million to address the threat wild hogs pose to agriculture, ecosystems, and human and animal health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Nov. 21.
Nationally, USDA will award 10 states more than $16.7 million. Projects are part of the Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program (FSCP) — a joint effort between USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell applauded the announcement.
“We are very pleased to see additional resources being allocated to combat agricultural damage caused by feral swine,” said Parnell, who leads the state’s largest farm organization. “Increased federal funding for control efforts has been a priority for the Federation and this, in addition to increased funding through the annual appropriations process, will go a long way to support our farmers as they manage feral swine.”
Alabama pilot projects, which last three years, include select watersheds in Baldwin, Escambia, Geneva, Henry, Houston and Sumter counties.
Federation Wildlife Division Director William Green thanked USDA’s Fish and Wildlife Service for helping secure funding for Alabama, citing millions of dollars in damage caused by the hogs, which reproduce quickly. Studies show two mature hogs can reproduce to yield 30 hogs in as little as 8 months. Feral swine have been sighted in all 67 counties in Alabama.
“Feral hogs damage forests, cattle range, and fruit and vegetable operations, as well as row crop acreage,” Green said. “No aspect of agriculture is exempt from feral swine destruction.”
NRCS and APHIS are working with the Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee on three projects to notably reduce environmental and economic damage from wild pig rooting. They damage ecosystems and compete with native wildlife for habitat and food. Additionally, wild hogs degrade water quality and pose a serious disease threat to livestock and humans.
“Feral swine are the cause of significant damage to crops and grazing lands, while also impacting the health of our natural resources,” said NRCS State Conservationist Ben Malone. “By collaborating with our partners nationally and here in Alabama, our hope is to control this invasive species — improving operations for farmers while also protecting our natural resources for the future.”
Other pilot project states include Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.
The 2018 Farm Bill provides $75 million for the FSCP over the life of the farm bill.
Alabama’s Fears Fuels Fire for Dutch Oven Revival
By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Now that the weather has finally cooled, the outdoors takes on a whole new appeal for many in Alabama. Hunting and camping are likely on the agenda, and being able to feed a delicious meal to a group of hunters or campers can often hinge on your upbringing.
If you’re like J. Wayne Fears, who calls Tater Knob in Jackson County, Alabama, home, it means breaking out the cast iron, just as his ancestors did while trapping and living off the land in north Alabama.
What Fears finds interesting is that a new generation is discovering the benefits of cast iron.
“Millennials are discovering the advantages of cooking on cast iron,” said Fears, a certified wildlife biologist and prolific outdoor writer. “My grandma knew that. Lodge (Manufacturing in Tennessee) had to build another foundry because of the popularity of both the cast iron skillet and the cast iron dutch oven.”
When it comes to cast iron dutch ovens, two different models are available for distinctly different purposes. The flat-bottom dutch oven is made to be used on conventional stovetops, while the dutch oven with legs is designed for outdoor cooking at campfires with coals from the fire or charcoal briquets.
“For camping, you need a dutch oven with three legs and a recessed lid,” said Fears, who held a seminar recently at the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association annual conference. “The legs keep the bottom of the dutch oven off the coals, so you don’t burn everything. It has a recessed lid so you can put coals on top to use it for baking.”
Fears honed his dutch oven expertise during numerous years of overseeing hunting operations all over North America, including the western U.S., Canada and Alaska.
“Especially in our remote camps, we depended on dutch ovens to do a heck of a lot of our cooking,” he said.
If you’re planning a hunting or camping trip, or just cooking on an outdoor campfire, Fears recommends certain cast iron cookware to achieve a delicious meal. If you expect to draw a crowd when the smell of the cooking spreads, Fears recommends a No. 12 dutch oven. The No. 12 is the diameter in inches of the pot. Fears said you might need more than one, possibly in different sizes.
“It depends on what you’re cooking, whether it’s a stew and a pan of biscuits. You’re going to need one for each,” he said. “For the stew, I’d recommend a No. 12, and a No. 10 dutch oven so you can cook some cathead biscuits.
“If you’re going to make a cobbler, you’re going to need another No. 10. You can cook all three, and all of your meal will come out at the same time.”
Fears also recommends that you don’t look for the cheapest dutch oven you can find.
“I want to stress to get a quality dutch oven,” he said. “There are so many dutch ovens made overseas that are pitted or they’ll shatter if you drop them. If you get good quality cast iron, it can be a lifetime investment. In fact, a lot of my dutch ovens are in their third generation.”
Fears doesn’t discount the value of cooking with coals from the campfire if you’re in remote locations. However, if you can take a sack of charcoal briquets with you, your meals will likely be more palatable.
“Charcoal is just better as far as consistency and heat control,” he said. “Most people who cook with dutch ovens can go either way. With a little practice and good hardwood coals from the campfire, you can cook just as good as you can with charcoal. But most people who are just camping will use charcoal briquets because it’s a lot easier to fool with and the temperature is more consistent on top and on bottom.”
Contrary to what you may have seen in western or pioneer movies and TV shows, veteran dutch oven cooks have more heat on top than on bottom.
“You want to use twice as many coals on the lid as on the bottom,” Fears said. “You’re cooking down more than you’re cooking up. Most people, when they first start, they want to stick a dutch oven right in the middle of the campfire and put a few coals on top. Generally, they’ll burn everything on bottom, and it’ll still be rare on top. That’s why you have the lipped cover so the briquets won’t roll off of the top.”
Fears admits to making a “world of mistakes” while learning the fine art of dutch oven cooking and says adjustments have to be made depending on conditions.
“You may have a recipe that says cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes,” he said. “Well, 45 minutes in a dutch oven in Ely, Minnesota, is different than 45 minutes in Montgomery, Alabama. The wind, humidity and outside temperature have effects. You have to learn to see how the conditions affect the cooking.
“You’ve got to be patient and, every now and then, take a peek at what’s going on in the dutch oven so you can learn what you’re doing. And I rotate the lid about a quarter-turn every 15 minutes so that if you have any hotspots, you’re moving them around.”
Fears also said not to skimp on the amount of charcoal you light when you start cooking.
“Always have plenty of coals,” he said. “If it’s cold, like it is now up on Tater Knob this time of year, you need to have more coals waiting when the first ones are burned up.”
Fears also recommends a pair of heavy-duty gloves because just about everything you touch will be hot. He also recommends lid lifters that are capable of lifting a dutch oven filled with venison stew that might weigh 40 pounds.
“A coat hanger is not going to quite get the job done,” he said.
Fears has also learned that one of the best ways to use a dutch oven is to use it as just that, an oven. He takes a wire rack and places it in the bottom of the cast iron and uses a heavy-duty aluminum pan that fits on top of the wire rack to cook the food.
“The food doesn’t come in contact with the cast iron, and it saves you a ton of time for cleanup,” he said. “Having said that, the easiest way to get started with a dutch oven is to go to the supermarket and get a peach cobbler mix and two cans of peaches. Follow the instructions on the box and cook several cobblers in your dutch oven. You can learn more cooking cobblers than you can anything else.
“Once you have mastered peach cobbler, move up to stew or chili. Then when you get that mastered, you might want to make sourdough cathead biscuits. It’s not difficult. You just have to get out and actually do it. Anything you can cook in your oven at home, you can cook in a dutch oven. But I burned a lot before I figured it out.”
Fears’ “Lodge Book of Dutch Oven Cooking” is about to be translated into a fourth language. It’s filled with cooking tips and recipes.
“The book is selling really well in Japan right now,” Fears said. “They’re cooking a lot of rice dishes, and it’s easy to burn rice if you’re not careful.”
Of course, when the meal is done, it’s time for cleanup. One cardinal rule prevails when cleaning cast iron.
“Never use soap,” Fears said. “You can get these pot scrubbers that look like chain mail that work really well. If your cobbler spills over, pour hot water in it and hit it with that chain mail scrubber.”
For those looking for Christmas gifts, other than his book, Fears recommends a wire rack, heavy aluminum pan, chain mail scrubber, whisk broom for removing ashes from the lid, a small fireplace shovel to move coals around and a quality lid lifter.
“And wear some good boots or shoes,” Fears said. “No sandals or flip flops. If you do, you’re going to have some interesting scars on your toes.”
Prepare Your Lawn for the Fall and Winter Months
ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Cold weather and frosts mark the end of the growing season and the start of fall and winter. Now is a great time to prepare your lawn for the fall and winter months. It is time to get back outside and start clean-ups, preparations and plantings for the spring.
“Here are some actions you can take to prepare your lawn for the fall and winter months,” said Rudy Pacumbaba, an Alabama Extension horticulture specialist.
Remove Finished and Dead Plants
Overwintering plant litter can harbor pests and diseases. Tilling under pest and disease free litter is an option. Be sure to replenish your compost pile with pest and disease free plant litter. Always remove diseased litter to promote good sanitation and to prevent future pest problems.
Build a Compost
Nature also works during winter. A finished compost can be used as a soil amendment. Litter from a finished garden is ideal to replenish the compost pile. Remember the three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle.
Cut the Grass
Cut warm season lawns to a height of 1-2 inches and cool season lawns to a height of 3-4 inches. If you are in an area that receives snow and cold, cutting the grass too short may damage roots and cause sections to die out. If the grass is left too long, blades could mat under snow and develop mold disease that can causes bare spots in the spring.
Fertilize Lawns and Control Weeds
Apply a winter fertilizer to cool season lawns to encourage thicker root growth. Warm-season lawns go dormant and turn to amber shades after frost. Warm-season lawns really don’t benefit from applying fertilizers in the fall.
Fall and winter is the best time to get a head start on controlling lawn weeds. Apply a granular pre-emergent weed control in the fall and late winter. A pre-emergent will control fall, winter and early spring weeds. It will also greatly reduce or eliminate the amount of weeds in your lawn during the growing season.
Drain Irrigation Systems
Turn off your automated sprinkler and irrigation system and properly drain. Blow out the systems to avoid damage from freezing and thawing temperatures. Call the company that installed your system if you’re unsure how to do this. Drain and coil hoses for winter storage. Remove hose nozzles, sprayers and wands. Store these items in a non-freezing spot such as a garage or basement. Cover and insulate outside hose bibs.
Add Mulch to Landscapes
Adding mulch helps to manage soil moisture. Mulch can also help to manage soil temperature and to add organic material to the soil profile as well. Adding a good layer of mulch around dormant perennials can prevent potential winter damage during very cold months. It is recommended to provide a minimum of 3 inches of mulch in and around your planting beds.
Winter is the best time to prune plants and flowering beds. Shrubs and trees require periodic pruning to remove diseased or dead material, to help control and direct growth, and to prevent potential hazards. Ornamental grasses are best pruned during the spring.
Divide and plant perennial bulbs. Late fall and winter is the best time to divide and plant. If it blooms on “new” wood, prune it in winter and spring. If it blooms on “old” wood, prune it in summer and fall. It’s essential that you prune after flowering.
More information about caring for your lawn this winter can be found in the Extension publication Winter Maintenance for Lawns and Landscapes. For further information, visit www.aces.edu or contact your county Extension office.
Special waterfowl hunting days announced for youth, veterans and active military personnel
The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) has designated Saturday, November 23, 2019, as one of the 2019-2020 hunting season’s Special Youth, Veteran and Active Military Personnel Waterfowl Hunting Days. The second of the two special waterfowl hunting days is scheduled for February 8, 2020.
On those days, youth under age 16 who are accompanied by a licensed adult hunter, military personnel on active duty and veterans (as defined in section 101 of U.S. Code: Title 38) may hunt for waterfowl statewide. Regular waterfowl season shooting hours, bag limits, legal arms and ammunitions apply to the special days. Hunting area rules and regulations also apply.
The special waterfowl days were previously reserved for youth hunters. Veterans and active duty military personnel can also hunt waterfowl on these special days outside of the regular season thanks to the recent passage of the federal John D. Dingell, Jr., Conservation, Management and Recreation Act.
To participate in the hunt, youth must be accompanied by a licensed adult supervisor. Only one firearm will be allowed per youth and only the youth hunters will be permitted to utilize the firearm for hunting unless the adult meets the requirements of a veteran or active duty military personnel. The adult supervisor must remain within arm’s length of the youth at all times and may accompany up to two youth participants during the hunt. The adult is also expected to review the rules of firearm safety and hunter ethics with each youth and ensure they are followed.
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. Veterans and active duty military personnel must be in possession of a valid proof of service such as a military ID, Veterans Administration ID, veteran ID, veteran validation on their driver’s license or a copy of their DD Form 214. Possession of the mandatory hunting licenses and stamps is also required.
For more information about the Special Youth, Veteran and Active Military Personnel Waterfowl Hunting Days, contact WFF Migratory Gamebird 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.
GirlTrek outdoor leaders to host hikes across the country as part of National Take a Hike Day on Nov. 17
As a commitment to breaking down barriers to nature access and cultivating a new generation of Black women outdoor enthusiasts and environmental activists, GirlTrek, the largest health movement and nonprofit for Black women and girls in the country, will be leading hikes across the country on Sunday, November 17, National Take a Hike Day.
National Take a Hike Day is an annual event that provides an opportunity to get outside to enjoy the scenery of America’s 60,000 miles of trails, take in fresh air and, of course, to hike. Spending time outdoors has been proven to lower stress and blood pressure, and is one of the fastest ways to improve your health and happiness.
“On November 17, National Take a Hike Day, the women of GirlTrek will be claiming our place in the outdoors all over the country. What makes this so important for GirlTrek is our promise to make sure Black women know that celebrations such as this are just as much for them as they are for everyone else,” said Amber Field, GirlTrek National Director of Training.
“We know there is a history of exclusion in that in some way, the outdoors is only for certain people. With GirlTrek, we counter that narrative, and make a space for all Black women who want to reclaim the outdoors for themselves. Hiking is not only an opportunity to challenge yourself to do something new, but also to find peace in the sanctuary of nature. We want all of our women to know that they do, indeed, belong, and we are here with you on your journey to experience the majesty of the outdoors.”
Since 2016, GirlTrek has worked with national organizations such as the Sierra Club and National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) to train Black women in outdoor leadership skills with the goal of increasing equity in outdoor spaces. Furthering the work of diversity and visibility of black and brown faces in the great outdoors, in 2019, GirlTrek has trained a cohort of women, called the Outdoor Adventure Squad, to lead more than 100 outdoor outings for Black women across the country by June 2020.
On Sunday, November 17, National Take a Hike Day, these leaders will host beginner to experienced-level hikes in rural and urban areas in states like New York, Tennessee, Mississippi, Washington, Indiana, California, Missouri, Illinois, Maryland and Colorado.
Outdoor Adventure Squad leader Zavi Smith leads hikes in her home community of Oakland, Calif. and will host a hike along Dunn Trail in Redwood Regional Park on National Day a Hike Day.
“I hope that the women who participate in my hikes will be more capable, confident, and connected,” said Smith, who has more than 10 years of experience in outdoor leadership with organizations like GirlTrek, NatureBridge and Girl Scouts of the USA.
With 315,000 active members and counting, GirlTrek, as profiled on CNN, encourages Black women — across all backgrounds and walks of life — to use radical self-care and walking as the first practical step to leading healthier, more fulfilled lives. GirlTrek is on a mission to inspire one million Black women to walk in the direction of their healthiest, most fulfilled lives by 2020. It all starts with taking the pledge at GirlTrek.org.
Hunters Can Bag More Than a Buck in Black Belt Adventures Photo Contest
The eighth annual Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association Big Buck Photo Contest is now under way with a muzzleloader, scope and gun case awaiting the winner. The contest will be open until the close of deer season on Feb.10, 2020.
“We are excited to sponsor this contest again this year,” said Pam Swanner, director of the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association. “We’re always happy to encourage people to share their experiences and great memories formed in the Black Belt and this contest always attracts photos from conservation-minded hunters young and old.”
This year’s prize, a CVA .50 caliber Optima Muzzleloader with KonusPro Scope and gun case, is valued at $535.
Photos must be uploaded to AlabamaBlackBeltAdventures.org/bigbuckphotocontest and the deer must be one taken this season in Alabama’s 23-county Black Belt region. The winner will be determined by the number of votes received, also at the ALBBAA contest web page. You can vote once per day, per entry, per email address.
“Our contests were created to further educate the public on the abundance of natural resources found in Alabama’s Black Belt region,” Swanner said. “ALBBAA promotes and encourages ethical hunting and fishing practices.”
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.
In industry Partnership, UA Researchers Test Hemp Grown in Alabama
Biological research at The University of Alabama will assist the emerging hemp industry in the state by examining the plant’s chemical make-up.
In a recently signed agreement with UA, The Wemp Co. will sponsor Dr. Lukasz M. Ciesla, UA assistant professor of biological sciences, to analyze the hemp the company grows. The company operates a 20-acre hemp farm in Dallas County, Alabama, and it is one of 200 licensed growers of industrial hemp by the state.
“Hemp is a new agricultural product in the state of Alabama, and the industry is not sure how the climate and soil make-up of the state is going to impact the levels of certain chemicals,” Ciesla said. “We are excited to fully characterize the product to contribute to a program with great potential to enhance the regional economic system.”
The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, or Farm Bill, declassified hemp as an illegal drug, deeming hemp as an agriculture commodity that can be grown, processed and handled only by those with licenses from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.
This legislation defines hemp as all parts of the cannabis plant containing less than 0.3% of the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, including derivatives, extracts and cannabinoids. THC is the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana.
Hemp is in a range of products, most notably cannabidiol, or CBD, a popular health supplement. Not a regulated medication, CBD supplements can be made up of most any chemical, but they cannot contain more than 0.3% of the psychoactive chemical THC.
Ciesla, who studies chemical compounds in natural products, will examine the plants to check the level of non-psychoactive compounds to help select the best cultivars, and to control the quality of final products, including the CBD isolate. His lab will analyze the full CBD oil chemical profile including selected cannabinoids along with terpenes.
“The only thing anyone cares about right now is the level of THC, so we can know if it’s legal,” Ciesla said.
There are no regulations concerning levels of other chemicals produced by hemp, for example CBD. His work with The Wemp Co. will ensure the hemp grown and processed is not only legal, but contains levels of CBD the company desires in its products and does not contain harmful levels of other chemicals such as pesticide, herbicide or mycotoxin residues, Ciesla said.
Besides ensuring quality in the product, Ciesla said access to hemp will allow his lab group to find other non-psychoactive compounds that could potentially be used in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
CWD Seminars Keep Public Updated on Disease
By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
With archery season underway and the opening day of the gun deer season on the horizon, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division is traveling the state to give hunters and the general public updates on chronic wasting disease (CWD) that affects members of the deer family.
First, CWD has NOT been detected in Alabama’s deer herd, which is estimated at about1.5 million animals.
However, CWD has been confirmed in the neighboring states of Mississippi and Tennessee, which caused the WFF’s CWD Response Plan to be implemented. Positive tests near Pontotoc, Miss., and Franklin, Tenn., were within a 50-mile radius of Alabama, and a specific response plan was initiated for those areas in northwest Alabama.
“We have had a CWD Response Plan in place since 2012,” said Amy Silvano, Assistant Chief of the Wildlife Section, at the recent seminar in Prattville. “When CWD was confirmed in Wisconsin, the first time the disease was detected east of the Mississippi, our agency started surveilling for the disease then and formalized the response plan. This is a fluid document. We are learning things every day. As we do, we update our plan.”
Visit www.outdooralabama.com/CWD-Info and scroll down the page to view the Alabama CWD Strategic Surveillance and Response Plan. CWD has only been shown to affect members of the deer family, including whitetails, blacktails, mule deer, elk, moose and caribou.
CWD is a fatal neurological disease, called transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), which 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 be 5 years old or older before they show symptoms.
“There is a lot of misinformation about what a CWD-infected deer looks like,” said Chris Cook, WFF Deer Program Coordinator. “Some of the deer that have been found positive for CWD look perfectly healthy. Most of the CWD-positive deer have been hunter-harvested deer with no outward signs of CWD.
“When the deer start showing symptoms, it can be a wide range of symptoms. The most common is just abnormal behavior. They don’t act right, because it’s a disease of the central nervous system. They have a drooping, sick posture. You will see that in a deer that’s been wounded by a hunter or hit by a car, so that alone doesn’t indicate a deer has CWD. Other symptoms include trouble with balance, excessive salivation or the loss of weight, but there are a lot of reasons deer lose weight. ”
Cook said the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) is charged with managing the wildlife resources of the state for the benefit of the public now and for future generations.
“Any disease like CWD has the potential to affect any wildlife population,” Cook said. “Anything like that gets our attention. That’s why we do all we can to head it off. And once it shows up, we do everything we can to minimize its impact. It not only affects the wildlife resources but also our hunting heritage.
“A lot of rural areas in Alabama depend heavily on income from hunters and hunting-related activities. Hunting generates an impressive $1.8 billion economic impact in Alabama.”
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 Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming borders. In the late 90s, CWD was detected in Saskatchewan. That incident was traced to live elk from South Dakota that were transported to Canada. CWD continues to spread and now has been found in 26 states and three Canadian provinces. 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. Over the past decade, the movement of live cervids or infected carcasses by humans has contributed to the increased spread of the disease.
Alabama has long had regulations that banned the importation of live deer. The regulations were amended a couple of years ago to prohibit the importation of deer carcasses from all states and countries. Visit www.outdooralabama.com/cwd for regulations about importing deer parts from out-of-state.
Regulations allow for the importation of certain parts of the deer but not whole carcasses. Permitted parts include:
Meat from the family Cervidae (white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose, fallow deer, red deer, sika deer, caribou, reindeer, etc.) that has been completely deboned
Cleaned skull plates with bare attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present
Unattached bare antlers or sheds
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
Finished taxidermy products or tanned hides
Velvet-covered antlers are prohibited unless part of a finished taxidermy product.
The disease is primarily spread by body fluids such as saliva, urine and feces. The infectious agent, called a prion, can even survive outside the animal’s body.
Cook said there is no evidence at this time that CWD can be transmitted to humans.
“Officials have been following hunters who have been hunting in these CWD areas for a long time and, to date, there has not been any connection between human illness and consuming venison from CWD-positive deer,” he said. “We are not a food safety agency. We defer to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations.”
The CDC recommends that hunters who harvest deer in areas with CWD should have the deer tested for the disease before consuming the meat. If the test comes back positive, the CDC recommends the proper disposal of the venison. That venison should not be thrown out by the individual; rather, contact a WFF official or enforcement officer who will ensure its proper disposal.
The WFF’s sampling program will include hunter-harvested deer, roadkills and reported sick deer with a goal of testing 1,500 animals for CWD. WFF is working with Cornell University to help identify areas with the highest likelihood of infection.
Hunters can aid the WFF sampling program by dropping off their deer heads at the WFF CWD Sampling Station freezers located around the state. The goal is to have at least one freezer in each county.
“Our district offices will have freezers,” Cook said. “A lot of our WMAs (wildlife management areas) will have them. People who want to have their deer tested can bring the heads with 3 to 4 inches of the neck intact. The antlers can be taken off. For deer the hunters want to mount, they can go ahead and cape it out. The samples that we use come from the lymph nodes in the upper neck.”
Hunters who drop off deer heads are required to fill out tags that include contact information and location where the deer was harvested. A tear-off tag has an identification number that the hunter should retain. A list of locations will be posted on the CWD page on outdooralabama.com.
“We also started the Sick Deer Report last year,” Cook said. “If you see a sick deer or a deer that doesn’t look or act right, call our district office and give the information to the people who answer the phone. Provide your contact information, location and the symptoms you observed. Somebody will follow up to see if that deer can be sampled.”
Lt. Michael East, the WFF officer in charge of the game breeders program, said the disease is an issue that affects both captive deer and wild deer.
“CWD does not discriminate,” East said. “We have to protect the resource for all involved.”
East said a recent case was made in 2016 for the illegal importation of live deer in Alabama, and the violator was fined $750,000 and lost his game breeder license.
The WFF Enforcement Section has also implemented procedures to intercept the potential illegal importation of deer carcasses into the state with surveillance along state borders in an effort to keep CWD out of the state.
Florida is the latest state to implement a deer carcass importation ban. With exceptions for Alabama and Georgia, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioner (FWC) issued an executive order that bans the importation of deer carcasses, effective Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. The executive order allows exceptions for white-tailed deer legally harvested in Georgia or Alabama with certain requirements. The person who harvested the deer must possess an FWC Georgia/Alabama Carcass Importation Permit prior to the carcass being imported into Florida. The hunter must report the carcass importation within 24 hours of entering Florida using the FWC’s online Georgia/Alabama Carcass Importation Reporting Form and must dispose of any remains using FWC-approved disposal options outlined at www.myfwc.com. Also, white-tailed deer legally harvested from Georgia or Alabama properties that are bisected by the Florida state line and under the same ownership are exempt from importation permit, reporting and disposal requirements.
Meanwhile, the Alabama WFF Division is promoting a campaign titled “Don’t Bring It Home” to highlight the ban on the importation of deer carcasses.
Concerned citizens have numerous opportunities to come to a town hall-style meeting to ask questions concerning CWD. Go to www.outdooralabama.com/node/2747 for a list of upcoming CWD seminars.
As WFF Assistant Director Fred Harders said earlier this year, “We don’t have it. We don’t want it.”
Spearfishers Cash in on Lionfish Money
By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
The red lionfish population off the Alabama Gulf Coast is a little smaller now that the second of two spearfishing tournaments finished a two-week run, with the final weigh-in last weekend at Tacky Jack’s in Orange Beach.
An invasive species from the Indo-Pacific, lionfish have spread throughout Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic waters. Lionfish compete with native reef fish for food resources, and holding spearfishing tournaments is one way to mitigate the invasion.
In 2019, the Coastal Conservation Association of Alabama and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians served as sponsors and provided $10,000 each for the lionfish tournaments. The Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD) and Alabama Spearfishing Association provided support, while the Alabama Reef Foundation distributed the prize money. The tournament payout was based on the number of pounds of lionfish harvested during the event.
Josh Livingston was the top spearfisherman at the most recent event and took home $1,779 for bringing 279 pounds of lionfish to the weigh-in. Livingston spends a great deal of time diving for lionfish, harvesting for the commercial market and research work for several educational entities.
Livingston brought in about 650 pounds of lionfish at the first tournament in the spring. He said the number of fish he spotted over this past weekend was definitely reduced. An ulcerative skin disease has been observed in lionfish, especially in Florida, and Livingston thinks that may be a reason for the reduction.
“Normally, we see 30 to 40 fish per site,” Livingston said. “We’re seeing 15 to 20 now or less. That’s great news. They’re still out there, just not as many. But I did shoot 79 fish on one dive during this tournament.”
Livingston has no doubt the increased prize money will boost participation.
“If there is money involved, people are going to go after them,” he said. “If they can subsidize what they’re doing, paying for fuel or buying a new speargun, they’ll do it.”
Chandra Wright of the Alabama Reef Foundation said the foundation understands the threat lionfish pose to the native reef fish species in the Gulf.
“They are voracious eaters and are competing with our commercially and recreationally important species, like red snapper, grouper and gray triggerfish,” Wright said. “We want to do as much as possible to protect our reefs and native species. So having great partners, like the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and CCA Alabama who donated $10,000 each, gives us a great incentive for divers to bring in lionfish.”
Chas Broughton of the Alabama Spearfishing Association sees a great future for the lionfish tournaments when more divers find out about the cash prizes.
“I believe the new money incentive is helping to bring in more divers,” Broughton said. “If we can do it for another year or two, I think we’ll see it grow much larger. We just need to get the word out to more divers. We probably picked up 10 or more divers for this tournament.”
Craig Newton, MRD’s Artificial Reefs Program Coordinator, said lionfish were introduced to the south Atlantic waters in the late 1980s when Hurricane Andrew caused significant destruction in south Florida. One or more homes in Andrew’s path had aquariums with red lionfish. Andrew swept away the homes and the lionfish were released into the wild.
“Through DNA genetic work, the lionfish population we have in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic is traced back to about eight females from that initial release,” Newton said. “So, the thousands and thousands of lionfish we have today in the Gulf and South Atlantic originated from that handful of females.”
The red lionfish first showed up off the coast of Alabama in 2009. Although there had been rumors of lionfish, the first hard evidence came when a diver speared a lionfish at the Trysler Grounds about 25 miles south of Orange Beach.
Starting in 2013, Marines Resources began directed monitoring efforts to get an idea of how many lionfish actually existed in Alabama waters.
“The trend is that the majority of reefs that are deeper than 100 feet of water have lionfish,” Newton said. “They do occur in waters shallower than that but not in alarming numbers. We have a few documented cases of lionfish inshore around Perdido Pass and Old River.
“Typically, the turbidity of Gulf waters just offshore of Mobile Bay tends to push the lionfish away from the mouth of Mobile Bay. They prefer higher salinity and clearer waters. They don’t seem to be extremely tolerant of sudden changes in water temperature. Lionfish can be found 1,000 feet deep. Those waters are real cold, but they’re real stable. Inshore, the water temperature changes pretty quickly. In the winter, those inshore temperature changes will cause them to leave or die.”
The MRD monitoring started with SCUBA diving surveys and evolved into diving and ROV (remotely operated vehicle) surveys that could monitor much deeper water.
“The high definition cameras on the ROVs allow us to not only evaluate the reef fish population but also include lionfish,” Newton said. “Over the past couple of years, we have seen a significant trend. From 2009 to 2016, there was a significant increase in the abundance of lionfish from year to year. Then from 2016 to present, those numbers seem to have stabilized.”
To mitigate the invasion of lionfish, the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission has marketed the table fare of lionfish with its white, flaky meat. The lionfish filets can be prepared in variety of ways from raw, sashimi-style, to battered and fried like white trout, for example.
Participating in lionfish tournaments is also part of MRD’s mitigation effort. Newton said more research will have to be done to determine how effective these methods are.
“The lionfish tournaments and marketing of lionfish for table fare could have had an effect on the population, or it could mean the lionfish have reached carrying capacity within our waters,” Newton said. “The predator fish have not evolved to prey upon the lionfish with their venomous spines, so the carrying capacity is related to food resources and habitat rather than any control from predation.
“They do compete with our native reef fish. They eat a lot of the same items that vermilion snapper, lane snapper and red snapper do. They do eat crustaceans, but a large part of the diet are small finfish, just like the snappers.
“The lionfish is something we’re going to have to learn to live with. We’re never going to get rid of them. We’re just hoping we can handle the impact from them.”
Newton said lionfish spawn numerous times and release the eggs in a gelatinous mass that is poisonous. The egg mass floats in the current until the fry disperse to the ocean bottom. As they near maturity, they move to some type of structure, whether natural bottom or artificial reefs and petroleum platforms.
Lionfish don’t get nearly as large as the snapper, topping out at about 3 pounds. Typically, a mature lionfish will range from ¾ of a pound to 3 pounds. Obviously, it’s the number of lionfish on each reef that becomes a problem. That is one reason the tournament organizers decided to change the format for the last tournament of the season.
At the spring tournament, prize money went to the first three places and in a random drawing for any spearfisher who brought in a certain amount of lionfish.
“The strategy for the second tournament was to incentivize more people to target lionfish,” Newton said. “The idea was that the average diver who may not shoot lionfish would be encouraged to shoot lionfish. This tournament was based on a bounty. Prize money, $10,000, was awarded based on the number of pounds of lionfish weighed in. This way, each competitor would get some type of prize money. The rate of return would basically be how much effort you put forth to shoot lionfish. This prize structure enables even the novice spearfisher to target lionfish to pay for gas or entry fee money or tank fills.
“We had 45 competitors and some of those wouldn’t have targeted lionfish at all if it hadn’t been for the prize money provided by CCA Alabama and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.”
Preserving Your Jack o’Lantern This Halloween
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Jack-o-lanterns are a Halloween staple, but sadly they seem to fade away in a short amount of time. As Halloween draws closer, people are beginning to select the perfect pumpkin for carving. Before heading to the pumpkin patch, below are a few tricks to keep in mind this Halloween to keep your jack o’ lantern looking fresh.
Picking the Right Pumpkin
Dani Carroll, an Alabama Extension home grounds, gardens and home pests regional agent, said the first way to preserve a jack o’lantern is to initially pick the correct pumpkin.
“Pick a pumpkin without any bacteria or mold that may be growing around the handle and has no soft spots,” Carroll said. “A pumpkin with a nice sized handle is often a better pick than one without.”
Tips at Home
According to Carroll, direct sunlight often breaks pumpkins down faster. Be aware of this when selecting where your jack o’lantern will sit during the day. There are also a few remedies that people can try at home to help preserve their jack o’lantern.
Bleach and Water Solution. This remedy to pumpkin decay might be time-consuming, but it also might solve the problem. Before carving the pumpkin, wash it well to rid the pumpkin of any leftover soil, then dry off with a towel. Once the pumpkin is carved, it will lose moisture. Spray with a weak bleach solution daily (10 percent) along the cuts to enhance moisture.
Use A Commercial Product. Buying a commercial product for pumpkin preservation is another remedy the could prolong its life span. The main components of these commercial preserving solutions are borax, preservative fungicide, sodium and water. Follow the directions on the bottle when spraying on pumpkins. Jack-o-lanterns have been known to last up to 14 days with minimal mold growth. There is only some decay after application of commercial products.
For more information regarding pumpkin preservation this Halloween, visit the Alabama Extension website or contact your county’s Extension office.
Farmers and Drivers: Safety During Harvest Season
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – For farmers in Alabama, fall is one of the busiest times of the year. They are working around the clock to harvest and transport the crops they worked hard to grow. During this time, farmers use many different pieces of large equipment. Using this harvest equipment comes with its own set of risks. Accidents, whether in the field or on the road, are prone to happen. Producers must be aware and follow all safety guidelines for their equipment. People should be mindful of all harvest equipment and exercise caution when encountering them on the road.
Kim Wilkins, an Alabama Extension agronomic crops regional agent, offers the following safety tips that farmers should follow during harvest season.
Wilkins said it is important for farmers to test their harvest equipment before using it.
“Farmers should test their equipment in a shady area when they are not pressed for time,” Wilkins said. ” This can cut down on problems in the field and save time and headaches in the long run.”
Wilkins admitted that the biggest issue she sees with equipment is when farmers tend to get in a hurry. This is when mistakes can easily happen because short cuts are taken.
“Farmers need to remember to slow down and think,” she said. “Getting in a hurry is not worth losing a finger or a life.”
Take Breaks When Necessary
Other issues central to harvest season are dehydration, exhaustion and stress.
“Producers tend to push themselves to get the job done and not take care of themselves,” Wilkins said.
Taking short breaks to refresh and recoup can help farmers prevent many accidents. Health is important, and should not be ignored.
Safety Triangles and Signals
The red reflection of a safety triangle is a universal sign for a slow-moving vehicle. Farmers should ensure that all of their equipment has this triangle where it is easily visible. Also, before moving equipment from one field to another, farmers should make sure that all signals on the equipment are working. This is another way to make drivers aware of the slow-moving equipment.
Watch For Equipment on the Road
Wilkins said it is equally important that drivers understand harvest equipment will be on the roads during this time of year.
“During harvest season, large equipment is on the roads much more frequently,” she said. “Cars that do not yield to these pieces of equipment put everyone’s lives in danger.”
Wilkins emphasized that these pieces of equipment are often many times wider than the lanes they are traveling in.
“Please remember that a lot of harvest equipment, including trucks hauling crops, cannot stop on a dime,” Wilkins said. “It is also difficult for farmers to move this equipment over, especially on a bridge or overpass. Drivers should respect this large equipment.”
To keep everyone safe, both farmers and drivers should follow these safety guidelines this harvest season. For more information on harvest safety, visit Alabama Extension online at www.aces.eduor contact your county Extension office.
By Justin Miller, Alabama Cooperative Extension System
Alabama Producers Harvest Crops Despite Widespread Drought
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala.—Widespread drought continues in Alabama, as nearly 84 percent of the state is in severe drought. In fact, 55 percent of the state’s soil and subsoil moisture is reported to be “very short.” Even with these conditions, producers are still hard at work bringing in this year’s crop. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), 96 percent of the corn planted in Alabama has been harvested. Harvest of other crops—including cotton, peanuts and soybeans—is still underway.
Alabama Extension cotton agronomist, Steve Brown, said though the weather is proving difficult for other harvests and for livestock producers, this is year’s cotton crop has fluffed nicely.
“Early yield reports have been better than what I expected,” Brown said. “I’ve heard some very good yields—more than 1500+ pounds per acre—from a few well-irrigated fields. I’ve also seen dryland acres that have picked 500 to 1,000 pounds per acre.”
Still, he said there are those producers with a “worst case scenario,” bringing in slightly under 300 pounds per acre to slightly over 500 pounds per acre.
The crop progress report indicates 92 percent of cotton bolls were open this week, compared to 87 percent at the same time last year. While the boll opening numbers are not far apart, 25 percent of USDA’s estimated 535,000 acres planted have been harvested compared to 17 percent in 2018.
“One important factor is that the prevailing dry conditions over the past couple of months have resulted in minimal boll rot and excellent conditions for crop opening,” Brown said. “The crop is opening at a very, very rapid pace because of the lack of rainfall. This should be a speedy harvest.”
Brown said it is difficult to assess the impact of drought on cotton yield at this point. USDA’s August and September estimates had Alabama production at 942 pounds per acre. He said it did not change from month to month.
“Because of the sustained heat and drought over many areas of the state, my estimation of yield is 800 to 850 pounds per acre,” he said. “In many areas the crop has been severely stressed for weeks. If my numbers are correct, that would place us over $40 million below USDA’s projection.”
William Birdsong, an Alabama Extension regional crops agent who works in the Wiregrass region, said cotton harvest is running wide open.
However, Birdsong said farmers did plant a lot of cotton early and the heat units have been high, so maturity is on schedule and ahead due these factors.
Tyler Sandlin, an Alabama Extension agronomic crops specialist in north Alabama, said the yields have been just as good as the crop looks.
“Average yields from what growers are reporting have been between 1100 and 1500 pounds per acre,” he said. “Around 40 percent of the cotton acres have been harvested so far.”
Peanut harvest is in full swing. Harvest observations range from “surprisingly good” to “very difficult.”
Kim Wilkins, an Extension regional crops agent in Baldwin County, said some peanuts look surprisingly good.
“I’ve been surprised by the resilience of some peanut fields,” Wilkins said. “However, in the heavier soils they have had a hard time digging. The ground is so hard. Sandy soils are harvesting fairly easily but some northern counties are having a harder time. In southern (sandy) counties the dry weather has let them harvest quickly.”
Brandon Dillard, who is also an Extension agronomic crops agent, said Geneva County producers are having a difficult time harvesting peanuts.
“The dry weather is making harvest very difficult,” Dillard said. “Most are saying they are getting four to 15 acres out of a set of blades on inverters. This adds a lot of money to the cost of an already expensive operation.”
The NASS projections estimate nearly 56 percent of this year’s peanuts have been harvested. This is significantly higher than the 27 percent harvested at this time last year.
Birdsong said early planted peanuts are yielding surprisingly good.
“There are some quality issues with aflatoxin for some producers,” Birdsong said. “The fear is that when it rains this quality issue will explode. Yields of later planted peanuts will be impacted more negatively due to drought.”
Birdsong said some producers can’t dig fields due to hard soil conditions.
“Some farmers are digging peanuts at night when vines are more turgid and peanut vines are not as drought stressed,” Birdsong said.
Corn and Soybeans
Harvested corn acres are right on par with 2018 numbers, with 96 percent of the corn crop in Alabama harvested—compared to 94 in 2019. Wilkins said she has producers in the Baldwin County area with corn so severely drought damaged, that it may not be harvested.
Andy Page, an Extension regional agent in the northwestern part of the state, said the majority of corn harvest is complete. Average dryland corn yields were between 160 and 200 bushels per acre. Those who received rain at the right time were closer to the 200-bushel average.
While there are lower numbers of soybean acres in Alabama in 2019, 40 percent of the soybeans are harvested. This is nearly doubled in comparison to 23 percent harvested in 2018.
Sandlin said the weather through September and early October has felt more like west Texas weather.
“Full season soybeans have been around average yields for this area at 50+ bushels per acre,” Sandlin said. “The double cropped soybeans planted behind wheat seem to be a little below average due to the hot and dry conditions we have been having since corn harvest began.”
For more information on crops in Alabama, contact your county Extension office, or a member of the Alabama Extension crops team. For more information and resources on drought, visit the Alabama Drought website.
By Katie Nichols
ADAI Now Accepting Applications for the 2020 Industrial Hemp Program
MONTGOMERY, Ala.- The Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries (ADAI) is now accepting hemp applications from eligible growers, processors/handlers, and universities. The application period began October 7, 2019, and the final day to apply is November 14, 2019.
In 2016, the Alabama Legislature passed the Alabama Industrial Hemp Research Program Act, Section 2-8-380 Code of Alabama 1975, tasking ADAI with the development of a licensing and inspection program for the production of industrial hemp. The program launched in the beginning of 2019, after The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (i.e. Farm Bill) declassified hemp as a schedule 1 drug and deemed hemp as an agriculture commodity. This legislation defines hemp as all parts of the plant containing less than 0.3% THC, including derivatives, extracts, and cannabinoids.
“As the hemp industry continues to grow in Alabama, critical research data is being collected and evaluated,” said Commissioner of Agriculture & Industries Rick Pate. “The department’s goal is to administer the program in a fair and timely manner to benefit hemp producers and develop industrial hemp as an alternative crop.”
For more information and updates, please visit: www.agi.alabama.gov.
ADAI will receive Industrial Hemp applications until November 14, 2019.
Wheelchair-Bound Stone Bags Gator at Eufaula
By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Mandy Stone worked hard as a paramedic in Roanoke, Alabama, which often required a weekend away to decompress. Stone was on one of those getaways when her life changed forever.
“Ten years ago, I went to north Georgia for the weekend,” Stone said. “On the way home I hydroplaned, went down in a ravine and spent the next two-and-a-half months at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.
“Everything changed in just a split second.”
The accident impact crushed numerous vertebrae in her back. She was left paralyzed from the waist down.
However, the accident did not crush her spirit or her love for the outdoors. Not long after she was discharged from Shepherd, a world-renowned rehabilitation center for people with spinal cord and brain injuries, Stone went to one of her happy places.
“Hunting season is my favorite time, and I think it always has been,” she said. “I’ve been able to go hunting ever since I got hurt. I hunt deer and squirrels mostly. I have one of those Action Trackchairs, and I’ll ride around and shoot them from it.”
The shooting houses on her mom and dad’s property as well as shooting houses on property Stone and her sister own nearby were made handicap-accessible.
The first time in a shooting house after her accident was truly special.
“It was great,” she said. “My mom made sure I had plenty of cover, which was good. It was actually awesome. I think I killed one that day. I know I killed three or four that season.”
Not content to allow any barriers to stop her hunting passion, she decided to kick it up a notch and pursue an alligator during Alabama’s late-summer, early-fall season at Lake Eufaula in southeast Alabama.
“I’m all about hunting everything,” she said. “I told my dad, ‘Look Pop, we’ve got to go alligator hunting.’”
Stone had applied for several years for a tag at Eufaula, which has only 20 tags available annually. The points system, which applies points for each year the applicant is unsuccessful, finally paid off for Stone.
After receiving her tag, Stone went to Lake Eufaula to look around because she didn’t know anything about the reservoir that serves as a border between Alabama and Georgia. Stone emailed Chris Nix, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division’s Alligator Program Coordinator. Nix got Stone in touch with WFF Biologist Richard Tharp, who connected her with guide Mike Gifford, otherwise known at Gator Mike.
“I was talking to Mike, and he was telling me about his alligator hunting, and it sounded great,” Stone said. “Then I told him I was in a wheelchair and asked him if he had ever taken anybody in a wheelchair. He said, ‘Oh, I’ve never done that.’
“I asked him if he was willing to try, and he said he was and when did I want to go.”
Although Gifford has been guiding alligator hunts since Alabama started its season in the late 2000s, he said this was his first outing with someone in a wheelchair.
“I’m kind of old school and think things happen for a reason, that we’re drawn to people for a reason,” Gifford said. “I felt like, no matter what, I was going to make it happen. It’s not common for somebody in her condition to want to do that, but it inspired me.”
With the obstacles Stone presented, Gifford figures divine assistance helped to make it happen.
“What’s really crazy about this is I’ve only got X amount of space on my boat, and I want her to be up on the bow so she can do everything,” he said. “I didn’t want her just riding along watching somebody else gator hunt.”
Stone gave Gifford the measurements of her wheelchair, and he headed to his boat with a tape measure.
“In a custom-built Ranger bass boat, they have what is called a locker-bar system,” he said. “All the deck lids are aligned. In the locker-bar system, a stainless-steel bar goes across the lids, and you can put padlocks on it so none of the deck lids can be lifted.
“I put the locker bar in and started measuring. This is why I believe things happen for a reason. When I measured for that wheelchair, I didn’t have a half-inch of extra space. When that locker bar went in there, the back tires backed up to it perfectly. The front of the wheelchair lined up perfectly to be tied off to the front pedestal, so I could lock her in there.”
The boat ramp, which she had used on two previous trips, was the perfect height for Stone’s wheelchair to roll onto the boat’s front deck.
Gifford thought about idling around near the boat ramp to try to bag the first gator they found, but when he got Stone fitted with a life jacket and locked in the boat, he changed his mind.
“I felt like I had her in there good enough, and that she was strong enough that I thought about getting the boat on plane,” he said. “I told her I was going to try and for her to give me a thumbs up or a thumbs down. I got on plane slow and easy. She gave me a thumbs up, and I knew we were in business.”
A large gator was spotted that was estimated at 12 feet, but he gave them the slip.
The gator hunters found smaller animals, but culling is not allowed during alligator season and they would have failed to reach the 8-foot minimum in effect at Lake Eufaula.
After they spotted another gator they felt would surpass the minimum size, Gator Mike got a hook in the animal and handed the rod to Stone.
“I wanted her to feel the full effects of the hunt,” he said.
“He let me do some of the reeling, which was not easy,” Stone said. “We went in a circle for about 30 minutes with this 8½-foot gator. We finally wore him down, and Mike handed me the harpoon to stick him with. That was a huge challenge. But I got the harpoon in him. Mike got him, taped his mouth and got him into the boat.”
Instead of shooting alligators to finish them off, Gator Mike prefers to severe the spine with a knife with the gator’s head immobilized.
He handed the knife to Stone, who applied the coup de grace.
“It was just as quick and simple as shooting one would be,” Stone said. “I’d never taken anything like that, but it was just as quick. It was done.
“I had been grinning the whole time after the gator was hooked. I was all smiles from there. It was awesome.”
Whooping and hollering and rounds of high-fives went around on both boats after the gator was dispatched.
Gator Mike had lined up a chase boat, which allowed Stone’s mom and dad to join the hunt.
“That was awesome that they got to be there too,” Stone said.
The gator is at the taxidermist for a full-body mount. The meat has been processed, and Stone will make a trip soon to pick it up.
“We hope to get together and have a big alligator cooking celebration,” Stone said.
After time for reflection on the successful hunt, Stone admitted it was harder than she expected.
“Had it not been for Gator Mike, I don’t know if I could have done it,” Stone said. “He makes it look easier. He was so good at slipping up on them.
“The biggest thing was the harpoon. That was hard for me. I was very ill-prepared for that. It was fun nonetheless, but there were no easy tasks.”
Although Stone achieved her ultimate goal by bagging the gator, it doesn’t mean her love of the hunt is completely satisfied.
“I’m happy with one, but I intend to apply again,” she said. “I’m definitely hooked now.”
Gifford said he has relived that night many times and still wonders why he was fortunate enough to be the guide.
“I just hope this inspires other people with handicaps to want to go and do it,” he said. “You can do it. There’s no doubt. Mandy had a will to do it, and she did it. This was the most gratifying hunt that anybody could have ever done.”
Manage Pests in Your Fall and Winter Vegetable Gardens
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Now that fall is upon us, gardeners should take the needed steps to manage pests in their fall and winter vegetable gardens. People often forget that this time of year is when some pest populations are extremely high.
Dani Carroll, an Alabama Extension home grounds, gardens and home pests regional agent, said an often overlooked method for pest management is a type of pest exclusion system.
“Home gardeners can use a pest exclusion system for short-term control,” Carroll said. “These systems involve using floating row covers as a physical barrier between the pest and main crop.”
Floating Row Covers
There are two basic types of floating row covers; heavyweight and lightweight covers.
“You often see heavyweight floating row covers used on strawberries for frost protection,” Carroll said. “Lightweight row covers, often referred to as insect exclusion fabrics, are used as insect barriers.”
These pest exclusion fabrics are made form spun bonded polyester or polypropylene. They are thin enough to allow majority of the light, air and rain or overhead irrigation to pass through, but thick enough to stop the large insect species. The covers can keep moths from laying eggs, preventing the establishment of pest populations.
Perfect for Cool Season Vegetables
According to Carroll, cool season vegetables are perfect for using row covers.
“For cool season vegetables, growers can use row covers as a method to keep pest insects out,” she said. “They also capture extra heat for dampening, fluctuating temperatures which make plants grow faster. Crops like cabbage, turnips and kale are not as tall as other vegetables, like tomatoes, making row covers easier to use on them. With most cool season crops, growers don’t have to worry about excluding pollinating insects.”
Floating row covers are not difficult to install. First, a grower will need to determine the length and the width of the row cover they need.
“Don’t forget, while row covers are laid over the top of plants, the vegetables will grow,” Carroll said. “Make sure to provide enough row cover to allow for that growth.”
Completely cover the crop from top to bottom and side to side. Covers can be laid directly over the crop or affixed to a frame. Carroll said it is not too difficult to bend PVC piping over a raised bed to create a frame to drape the row cover over.
“Leave plenty of fabric so the edges can be secured on all sides,” she said. “Secure the fabric by using bricks, blocks or scoops of soil to completely seal the plants off so insects cannot enter.”
When using row covers on raised beds, attached the cover to the foundation with staples or gem clips. Make sure to check the seal around the bed after storms and other weather events.
Floating row covers are great tools to use for insect control. However, growers can use other control methods in conjunction with these covers. Rotating crops, having healthy soils, using certain plant varieties and even using beneficial insects can all assist in pest control.
Additional details about pest monitoring and scouting can be found on the Integrated Pest Management page of the Alabama Extension website. For further information, contact your county Extension office.
Fall 2019 CWD Public Information Meeting Schedule
This fall, the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) is hosting a series of public meetings throughout the state to provide information about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), WFF’s CWD surveillance efforts in Alabama and how hunters can assist.
CWD is a fatal disease affecting several species in the deer family (cervids). To date, CWD has been diagnosed in free-ranging or captive cervids in 25 states and three Canadian provinces. No cases of CWD have been found in Alabama.
In addition to providing CWD information, the meetings will also give hunters an opportunity to ask questions about the disease. Each meeting will run from 6-8 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The media is encouraged to attend.
Fall 2019 CWD Information Meeting Schedule
Thursday, October 3, 2019
Vernon City Complex
44425 Alabama Highway 17
Vernon, AL 35592
Thursday, October 17, 2019
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Auditorium
3121 Visitor Center Rd.
Decatur, AL 35603
Monday, October 21, 2019
Bass Pro Shop Meeting Room
2553 Rocky Mt. Rd.
Prattville, AL 36066
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Wallace State College
Bailey Center Auditorium
801 Main St. NW
Hanceville, AL 35077
Wednesday, November 6, 2019
School of Forestry and Wildlife Building
Lecture Room 2217
602 Duncan Dr.
Auburn, AL 36849
Thursday, November 7, 2019
Tuscaloosa County Extension Office
2513 7th St.
Tuscaloosa, AL 35402
Tuesday, November 19, 2019
Central Alabama Farmers COOP
2519 US Highway 80 West
Selma, AL 36701
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
Wallace Community College
3235 S. Eufaula Ave.
Eufaula, AL 36027
Thursday, November 21, 2019
5 Rivers Delta Resources Center
30945 Five Rivers Blvd.
Spanish Fort, AL 36527
If Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations are needed, please contact the WFF Wildlife Section at (334) 242-3469. Requests should be made as soon as possible, but at least 72 hours prior to the scheduled meeting.
For more information about CWD and WFF’s efforts to prevent it from occurring in Alabama, visit www.outdooralabama.com/CWD-Info.
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 Department of Agriculture & Industries works with ALDOT to Issue No-Cost Hay Hauler Permits
MONTGOMERY, Ala.- As a result of the extreme drought conditions in Alabama, state transportation and agriculture officials are working to issue special hay hauler permits. This no-cost process is a combined effort of the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries (ADAI) and the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) to provide emergency relief to livestock producers.
Drought conditions in Alabama continue to worsen, not only due to the lack of rain, but intensified by triple-digit, record breaking highs during the past month. According to the Alabama Drought Monitor, in just the past week, areas affected by the drought in the state have increased over 35 percent. A sharp increase in drought intensity and coverage conditions are expected to quickly escalate because current dry conditions often materialize more quickly than the precipitation data indicates due to the intense heat.
“The lack of rainfall and extreme temperatures have left livestock producers with little forage and water to care for their animals. Farmers and ranchers are in dire need of assistance. We hope issuing these special hay hauler permits will allow hay to be transported efficiently within Alabama,” said Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate.
To transport over-dimensional loads of hay within Alabama, dimensions must not exceed 12 feet wide by 14 feet high. A no-cost permit is currently available from ALDOT until December 31, 2019.
Haulers must be registered in ALDOT’s database to receive the no-cost permit. To be added to the ALDOT database as a new hauler, please complete a New Hauler Letter Form available on ALDOT’s website at www.dot.state.al.us.
If you do not have internet access, you may also call 1-800-499-2782. The following information will need to be provided to the ALDOT staff member who answers your call:
Truck/trailer tag numbers
City and state of origin and destination
Additionally, the worsening drought conditions escalate the immediate need for hay producers and livestock producers to communicate their hay availability and needs. The Alabama Hay Listing webpage, www.agi.alabama.gov/s/haylist, provides an avenue for farmers who have hay available to list for sale, the type, size, quality and quantity they have available. Also, on the same page, farmers in need of hay, can search for hay in their area that is available for purchase.
October is National Coop Month
We celebrate the importance of cooperatives across the globe and in our communities. It’s one of our favorite times of the year since the Federation is a non-profit cooperative association rooted in cooperative development, land retention, and advocacy. To begin, our Rural Training and Research Center will host the second annual Co-op Symposium on the 25th of October.
NCBA CLUSA has identified “Co-ops: By the Community, For the Community” special theme to highlight those dedicated to celebrating how co-ops make their communities and the world a better, sustainable, and more economically advanced place.
Second Annual Co-op Symposium (date changed_ Oct.25 at 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Rural Training & Research Center, 575 Federation Rd. Gainesville, RSVP & Information: (205) 652-9676.
Alabama Extension Offers Drought Resources
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala.—Conditions in Alabama are hot and dry. Strings of days with record-breaking heat have made September 2019 one of the hottest Septembers on record. The heat and drought are nothing new, though.
While only .2 percent of the state is in extreme drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s latest release, nearly 83 percent of the state is experiencing droughty conditions.
Producers in the Wiregrass have now had moderate and severe drought for eight weeks. A portion of Shelby County is experiencing extreme drought, after dealing with little to no rain for an extended period of time. Current forecasts indicate a statewide cooldown is on the way. However, there does not look to be any significant chance of rain in the forecast.
Drought Resources Available
Dry weather creates a diverse set of problems for farmers and producers. To help them make the best decisions possible, Alabama Extension has launched a new website focusing on drought related issues. Resources including livestock management, lawn and garden management, pond management and income management are available at www.alabamadrought.com. The website is adding new content daily as Alabama Extension professionals develop information to help homeowners and producers cope with the effects of drought on business and home life.
For additional information, or questions not addressed on the website, contact your local Extension office. The office can direct you to the appropriate person to address your needs.
Report Drought Conditions
The USDA, in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Nebraska in Lincoln has updated the U.S. Drought Monitor to include a reporting feature.
Citizen scientist reports can help U.S. professionals understand the effects of drought on specific areas. The reported information can assist in triggering drought response through USDA disaster relief and IRS tax provisions. These reports will also help state agencies make decisions regarding health and safety-related issues.
The data collection opportunity will allow farmers and homeowners to report conditions in their area. Access the reporting tool for to record the effects of the drought at the following link: http://droughtreporter.unl.edu/submitreport/
Alabama Extension professionals are also compiling reports for U.S. Drought Monitor officials. Alabama producers can email Kim Mullenix, Kent Stanford or Leanne Dillard with the following information.
Rainfall totals by week or month from a particular location.
Evidence of hay feeding.
Cost of feeding hay per head/day or farm totals.
Reports of alternative water sources being utilized.
Number of days since measurable rainfall.
Delayed planting of winter annual forages due to drought.
For more information, visit Alabama Extension online or contact your local Extension office.
By Katie Nichols
New Technology Changes Anglers’ Perspectives on Fish Activity
By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
While perusing social media during this seemingly endless summer, I kept seeing photos of slab crappie that were coming from the Alabama River.
Wait, I thought those slabs were caught in the spring when the crappie are spawning or in the fall when the weather and water temperatures have considerably cooled.
Turns out, these anglers were taking advantage of the latest technology to defy the common theory that big crappie are hard to catch during the dog days of summer, which appear set to last into October this year.
I remember well the first Humminbird flasher my late father installed on his boat and how it helped him locate his favorite structure. It was a big deal way back then.
Considering we hold far more computer power in our hands when we are using our smartphones than the entire Apollo space program had during their trips to the moon, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the latest fish-finding technology could change the way anglers approach a day on the water.
When I asked Joe Allen Dunn how in the world they were catching those slab crappie, he responded, “You need to come see for yourself.”
That’s exactly what happened. While other anglers are using the Humminbird HELIX and Lowrance HDS, Dunn and Brent Crow, a bass-fishing guide and tournament angler on the Tennessee River, opted to go with the Garmin Panoptix with LiveScope.
When Dunn eased his boat into one of the many flats off the main Alabama River at Millers Ferry, I couldn’t imagine crappie of any size would be anywhere but deep water during this oppressive stretch of hot weather.
I was wrong, completely. Over went the trolling motor and Dunn began scanning for the structure that are typically crappie havens during cooler weather, or so I thought.
Rigged with 16-foot poles and spinning reels, we attached minnows to the double-hook rigs with either bare hooks, jigs with curly-tail plastic baits or Road Runner lures.
We dropped the bait about 8 feet down and started easing toward the structure as Dunn eyed the screen.
While I watched the rod tips on my side, Dunn watched the screen as we approached the structure.
Suddenly, a rod tip flexed and the hook was set on a nice crappie.
On the next approach, Dunn said, “You can even see your minnows, look here.” I looked at the screen and, sure enough, I could see the minnows dangling above the structure.
Then I saw something that I never expected. I saw a swirl in the structure and the fish came up and grabbed the bait. “Holy mackerel” was my response as I set the hook.
We started our venture at first light because of the heat and called it a day 4 hours later with 10 nice crappie in the livewell. About twice that many had been caught and released.
“We’ve been trolling for a long time,” Dunn said. “Everybody thinks the slough fish or shallow-water fish are gone or they don’t bite anymore. We proved today that the fish are still there, and they will bite. A lot of people don’t get in the sloughs this time of year and look for structure. Live bait is a big factor until it cools off.”
Dunn said before he was introduced to the new technology, the traditional way to catch crappie was to hit the deep river ledges, bouncing baits off the bottom when power production from the dam created current.
“It all revolved around when they were pulling water,” he said. “For river fish, you have to have that moving water. It keeps them tight to the wood, and you can do better.
“This new technology is not going to make fish magically appear in front of you. You’ve still got to work to find the fish. The down- and side-imaging helps you locate these fish. But you had to fish so hard to find them.
“Now, I can hit the GPS and mark it. I can drop a buoy and get the boat situated to face into the wind, and then you use the LiveScope to move back and forth on the structure. You don’t have to troll all over the place to find it. It keeps you from disturbing the fish. That’s the key to it. You can keep your bait in the strike zone all the time now.”
Dunn learned about the technology from James “Big Daddy” Lawler, who had been out on crappie guide Gerald Overstreet’s boat equipped with technology.
“I’ve been fishing for crappie for 32 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Lawler said. “It’s totally changed the way I look at crappie fishing. I went into Pine Barren Creek and caught fish in 5 feet of water. I never would have believed that.”
Dunn said crappie anglers don’t have to adopt the new technology and will continue to catch fish, but it certainly has changed his thought process.
“Used to, we would just give up on these fish when it’s hot,” Dunn said. “We wouldn’t go into these sloughs and work to find them. Now I will.
“This is all new to me. Each phase of the season will be a new learning experience. Once the water temperature changes and the fish move around, I’ll have to use this to see where they go.”
Typically, Dunn said when temperatures drop in the fall, crappie anglers are hitting river ledges that are 18 to 20 feet deep. He can’t wait to find out if that pattern is the only way to catch fish when fall finally arrives.
“These fish in the sloughs and creeks, I don’t know what they’re going to do,” Dunn said. “They might not even move until it’s time to spawn.”
In the lakes in north Alabama, Crow obviously targets black bass, largemouths and smallmouths.
“When you see a fish within 30 feet of the boat, you can see his tail and fins as he swims with LiveScope,” Crow said. “I’ve been running Panoptix and LiveScope for three years. I can’t fish without it. It’s not just seeing fish. It also shows you stumps, grass, drop-offs and ledges. You know exactly where you sit. It eliminates a lot of the guesswork in positioning your boat.
“For suspended fish, it’s just remarkable. I have caught so many fish that I would never have thrown at without it. I would never have had a clue those fish were there. But even at places that are shallow, like Guntersville, it’ll show you the eel grass. You see the edges or isolated clumps of grass. You don’t have to guess.”
Crow said there are limitations for this technology during certain times of the year.
“You’re not going to see them if they’re spawning in 3 feet of water,” he said. “Any other time – the summer, winter and fall – it works. At Smith Lake or Lake Martin, you pull up on a point and look with the LiveScope. If there’s not any fish there, you don’t have to spend 15 minutes casting to find that out. You can see it in 30 seconds. It makes you way more efficient.
“You can learn about fish behavior too. They don’t necessarily sit still. You can catch one and see that all the rest of them have moved. Sometimes it’s frustrating because you can watch a fish follow your bait to the boat and never bite. It’s an eye-opening deal. If I get in somebody’s boat that doesn’t have it, I feel like I don’t have a chance. I’m kind of lost.”
Crow said the technology is especially impressive when he’s casting surface lures.
“When I’m fishing topwater, you can see your bait on the surface, and then you see the fish come straight up and eat it,” he said. “It’s awesome. When I’m guiding, I’ll watch the client’s bait and see the fish coming. I tell them, ‘He’s fixing to get it.’ They set the hook and say, ‘How’d you know that?’
“I had one guy who told me, ‘Don’t tell me that. I jerk too quick.’”
Of course, the new technology is not for everybody. It’s expensive, but that seldom stops anglers. Crow recommends a graph with at least a 9-inch screen, which will cost you about $1,000. The LiveScope tacks on another $1,500. For Crow, he says the benefits far outweigh the cost.
Crow said he also found out the technology works in muddy water after a tournament on Toledo Bend on the Louisiana-Texas border.
“The water looked like chocolate milk,” he said. “Every fish I caught during the tournament I saw on the graph. It gives you so much of an advantage over somebody who doesn’t have it, it’s unreal.”
People rescuing raccoon need medical attention
ADPH reminds public to leave wildlife alone
The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is issuing a notice of a rabid raccoon that may have exposed people recently in Enterprise, Ala. The sickly raccoon was taken to the Big Bend Wildlife Sanctuary. According the sanctuary owners, the raccoon was found on the road nearby by two individuals traveling through the area. The unknown individuals left the raccoon with a volunteer at the sanctuary without leaving any additional contact the information. The raccoon subsequently died, and testing has confirmed that the raccoon had rabies. If anyone has knowledge or information about any person who may have had contact with this raccoon, please contact the ADPH at 1-800-338-8374.
According to Dr. Dee W. Jones, the ADPH State Public Health Veterinarian, this highlights the importance of good record-keeping and the importance of informing the public to leave wildlife alone. “We really don’t have any information about how to contact the individuals; we don’t know if they were local or traveling through. A situation like this makes it very difficult for us to make contact with people to provide them medical advice for their protection. A scratch or bite from a rabid animal is very dangerous, and we go to great lengths to notify anyone with any exposure a rabid animal.”
Conservation Outreach Specialist Marianne Hudson, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ACNR), said, “TheAlabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division would like to remind the public that possession of live wildlife without a permit is illegal, and violators are subject to ticketing and fines. Leaving found wildlife alone is in the best interest of public safety and is also the best course of action for wildlife populations as a whole.”
Fatal diseases such as rabies can be transmitted to well-meaning humans, and other wildlife diseases are spread when animals are picked up and transported to other locations. If one sees an animal in need of assistance, leave the animal alone and call the nearest ACNR Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division Office to report the issue.
The ACNR website is www.outdooralabama.comand the specific page for contacting district offices is https://www.outdooralabama.com/wildlife-section. People who have found wildlife may call (334) 242-1814.
Marsh received scholarship from the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation and Hale County Farmers Federation
The Alabama Farmers Federation invested in the future of the state’s No. 1 industry by awarding 80 Auburn University (AU) students from 55 counties with $123,500 in scholarships.
Students, who are pursuing degrees in agriculture, forestry or related programs, were recognized during a scholarship reception Sept. 23 at Ham Wilson Livestock Arena.
“It’s a pleasure of our organization to give back to you,” said Federation President Jimmy Parnell, an AU agricultural economics graduate, as he addressed the recipients. “Auburn was an integral part of forming the Alabama Farmers Federation in 1921, and we’re committed to investing in Auburn students. We’re working to provide for the next generation of leaders, who will make a huge difference for Alabama and agriculture.”
The Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation contributed $1,250 for each county Federation providing $500.
Fifty-five students received the $1,750 scholarships. Some counties fully fund additional scholarships. They are Baldwin, Chilton, Covington, Dale, Henry, Houston, Jefferson, Lee and Madison counties. The R.W. Donaldson Endowed Scholarship, named after a longtime Cullman County Farmers Federation member and cattleman, was also awarded to Rusty Yancy.
Cherokee County Farmers Federation President John Bert East told students he appreciated their interest in agriculture, a $70 billion industry in Alabama.
“It makes us proud that we can help you financially and see you mature and be successful,” said East, a cattle and row crop farmer from Centre. “This is an investment in Alfa’s future and your future.”
Recipients included Greene County’s Cal Logan. The senior from Eutaw thanked the county and state organizations for support — through scholarships and relationship-building.
“It’s a great honor to be awarded this scholarship and represent the Farmers Federation,” said Logan, who studies forestry. “Being part of the Alfa Farmers community has allowed me to meet great people and be part of great things, in addition to easing the financial burden of my education.
As the parents of scholarship recipient Noah Runyan, Russ and Linda Runyan shared their thanks for Auburn, the Farmers Federation and scholastic efforts from their three children.
“We’re proud, thankful, grateful and blessed – not just financially but because our children have the desire to apply for honors like this and achieve their dreams,” Linda said.
Russ echoed his wife.
“I thank the county chapters and state level for paying it forward, investing in young men and women who will be in our field for years to come,” he said.
For a list of recipients, click here.
For event photos, visit fb.com/alabamafarmers.
Free Online Beekeeping Course Set for October
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Beekeeping is going digital. Beekeepers across the state will have the opportunity to participate in an online beekeeping course series designed for both hobby and small commercial beekeepers. The workshop, conducted by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, will cover several topics of information important to the industry.
Tony Glover, an Alabama Extension county coordinator in Cullman County, said there are three sessions of the workshop planned.
“These webinars are free and accessible to anyone with a computer, tablet or phone that has internet access,” Glover said.
The hour-long sessions will be on consecutive Tuesday evenings beginning Oct. 15 at 6 p.m.
October 15: Equipment Tips from an Apiarist
Tammy Horn-Potter, Kentucky state apiarist, will offer equipment tips based on her equipment successes and failures.
October 22: Making More Money With Your Honey
Kevin Burkett, Alabama Extension Farm and Agribusiness Management agent, will discuss ways to maximize profits.
October 29: Honeybee Breeds: Choosing the Right Bee for Your Area
Jack Rowe, Alabama Extension’s beekeeping program lead, will share the pros and cons associated with various honeybee lines.
For information or to register for the online beekeeping course, visit the Alabama Extension website.
Allyson Shabel, an Alabama Extension home grounds agent, who also serves on Alabama Extension’s beekeeping program leadership team, said it is important the people pre-register for the course.
“Once people pre-register, we will be able to provide them with instructions on how to connect to the webinar,” Shabel said.
The webinars display through Zoom, a web conferencing service.
“People will want to download and install the Zoom software before the meeting to ensure they don’t have any difficulties connecting to the meeting,” she said.
Participants can download the free Zoom application from the Zoom website.
The Long Drone is Over, Cicada Season Ends in Alabama
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Go outside and just listen.
Frogs may be croaking, owls might be hooting, birds will likely be chirping, singing, screeching or cawing. But what won’t likely be heard any more this year is the loud, incessant droning sound of cicadas that grate on psyches like nails on a chalkboard during Alabama’s spring and summer months.
Around 20 species of cicadas, also falsely known as locusts, claim Sweet Alabama as their home. They crawl from the ground, climb trees and transform into their bulbous-eyed, winged adult forms yearly from May to September, said John Abbott, director of museum research and collections at The University of Alabama.
Abbott said these annual cicadas, as they’re called, emerge after spending two to five years living underground in their nymph forms where they feed on the roots of trees.
Once they emerge, they morph into their flying adult forms, make a bunch of racket – only the males – to attract females, mate, lay eggs in twigs and die in about three to four weeks.
“Adults are flying around, calling for mates – that’s what the noise is, males calling for a mate,” he said. “It is loud. In fact, the loudest insect in the world is a cicada species from Africa.
“The nymphs, whose shells people see, are the longest lived life stage, which is spent underground so you don’t see them most of their lives.”
The annual cicada species are the most common, but there’s also the periodical cicadas that come out infrequently.
“You have annual cicadas every summer, singing in the dog days of summer, which is why they are also called dog day cicadas, and you have the periodical cicadas which come out every 13 or 17 years,” Abbott said.
“We have those around Tuscaloosa, but, right now, we’re seeing the annual ones. The periodical ones aren’t scheduled to emerge here until about 2024.”
Abbott said the reason the periodical cicadas spend 13 or 17 years underground is to throw off the behavioral biorhythm of predators. Just as grizzly bears, for example, instinctively know to head to Alaskan rivers in late summer because ocean salmon annually migrate there to spawn while the bears get to enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Annual cicadas offer this same sort of buffet-style predictable meal to birds and other animals as they emerge to mate yearly. But the periodical cicadas emerge in large broods only in prime number years in different regions of the eastern U.S.
“One reason, it is thought, that they emerge every 13 and 17 years is because coming out in prime years allows them to better avoid predators,” Abbott said. “Consider if you had a cicada that emerged every 12 years. A predator that emerges every two years would be able to attack them.
“And, so would predators that emerge every three, four or six years, but if you emerge in prime numbered intervals, you are likely to avoid large numbers of predators. Another hypothesis suggests that these prime-numbered development times are an adaptation to prevent hybridization between broods.”
Besides being much longer-lived, periodical cicadas also look different from annual cicadas, and their swarms are larger.
“The periodical cicadas have red eyes, are a little bit on the small side and are darker,” Abbott said. “But the big difference between them is sheer numbers. Periodical cicadas come out in numbers as high as 1.5 million individuals per acre.”
Abbott said cicadas are an important part of the ecosystem because they provide protein to insectivorous animals. But, they can also be problematic in large numbers because they can damage trees at the root, and their noise is a considerable threat to peaceful country living.
“They can be very annoying. They can be so abundant and so loud that I’d say annoyance is the biggest issue people have with them. They make noise during the day and in the evenings, but now their season is coming to a close.”
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/
Fall is a Great Time to Make Adjustments to Gardens
Late in the growing season, crop and garden problems, such as disease and insects, can thrive on unattended fields and gardens. After plants have played out, there are a few simple steps growers can take to help prevent these problems. Making adjustments to gardens and fields properly this fall can lead to a better growing season next year.
Chip East, an Alabama Extension commercial horticulture regional agent, said that a cleaning of sorts should take place.
“When you are finished with the garden for the year, it would be beneficial to remove the tomato cages, stakes, trellises, etc. from the plot,” East said. “On a small scale, gardeners may choose to remove and compost plant debris such as spent tomato plants, corn stalks, etc. For large areas, growers can tun plant debris under the soil to destroy the crop.”
East said this practice is commonly done for warm and cool season crops.
Growers can apply lime any time of year. However, now may be an easier time to get spreading equipment into a field. Before applying, growers should perform a soil test to determine if lime is needed.
“It may be best to conduct a soil test a few weeks before terminating a crop so you can have time to make arrangements for applying lime,” East said. “It takes time for lime to change the soil’s pH. If you have a low pH, it would be best to apply the lime well in advance of planting the cash crop.”
If people think they may grow vegetables in the future, it would be beneficial to start planting cover crops.
“Summer and winter cover crops could be planted on the site years before planting a cash crop,” East said.
Popular Winter Cover Crops
Popular Summer Cover Crops
Iron clay cowpea
Maintaining the proper pH and nutrients in the cover crops will benefit future cash crops by building organic matter and reducing erosion. Other uses of cover crops can include breaking through compacted soil, reducing compaction, attracting beneficial insects, reducing weeds, etc.
For more information on making garden and field adjustments this fall, visit www.aces.edu or contact your county Extension office.
By Ann Chambliss
Create New Friendships and Memories Through Alabama’s Adult Mentored Hunting Program
Learning to hunt may seem out of reach for those who didn’t grow up with hunting as part of their family tradition. For those individuals, the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) created an Adult Mentored Hunting Program (AMH) to teach about consumptive outdoor recreation, put wild game on the dinner table and potentially revive or initiate that family tradition.
A resident of Anniston, Alabama, for the past 10 years, Laura Millington grew up in Canada in a family of non-hunters. A curiosity about hunting combined with a drive to improve her diet with healthier, leaner meat is what lead her to participate in two separate AMH hunts.
During a January 2019 adult mentored deer hunt on the Portland Landing Special Opportunity Area (SOA) in Dallas County, she harvested a 160-pound buck and a 115-pound doe. Millington’s buck was the first buck to be harvested during a mentored hunt at Portland Landing. Her second AMH event was a Portland Landing dove hunt in September.
One of Millington’s motivations to learn how to hunt is a desire to take personal responsibility for sourcing her food. In addition to harvesting the animals, she and her husband processed the meat themselves at home.
“Being personally responsible for bringing food to my table was a draw for me to the mentored hunting program,” Millington said. “My goal was to use everything I could from any harvest I made. From the deer I also got hair-on hides, bones and sinew for crafting scrimshaw jewelry and a knife handle. Rendered fat from the deer was also made into tallow soap.”
During the hunts, seasoned hunters guide participants through the experience. WFF mentors Amber Baker and Marianne Hudson joined Millington on her deer hunt. Baker was once again her mentor during the dove hunt.
“Both women were helpful, friendly and put me at ease,” Millington said. “They were as excited as I was when I took my first shot, which unfortunately was a deceptive miss. They were even more excited when I got my buck the next day and then my doe. I think we were all giddy to be going back to the lodge a little early with two deer in the truck bed.”
While having meat in the freezer has been very satisfying, time spent in the field was the best part of the experience for Millington.
“It was calming just watching the wildlife while waiting for a suitable deer to come by and quietly sharing stories in the meantime,” she said. “The dove hunt had a different feel but being out in the field for that was a blast, too! There was a feeling of camaraderie among everybody with playful ribbing back and forth until somebody shouted ‘bird,’ which was followed by a flurry of activity.”
A variety of interests can spark a non-hunter’s desire to hunt. For John Kelly, an electrical engineer in Huntsville, Alabama, establishing a deeper connection with nature was a primary motivation for participating in WFF’s mentored hunting program.
“In so many activities, you are merely an observer,” Kelly said. “You might be in nature, but you aren’t a part of it. With hunting, I feel a connection to the wild unlike anything else.”
Kelly already had a love for nature through exploring his family’s farm, but it was harvesting his first deer, a 95-pound doe, during an AMH deer hunt on the Portland Landing SOA that thrust him into the cycle of life.
“When you take an animal’s life yourself and your hands are on the process at every step of the way from forest to table, you are filled with a very heavy understanding that food is not just a sterile commodity that comes from a store,” he said. “Every meal is a life and a death. And, in the end, each and every one of us is a part of the same cycle. It’s very humbling, and spiritual, and grounding all at the same time.”
The experience of harvesting his own game unexpectedly created not only a deeper connection to nature, but with his family as well.
“I couldn’t believe how proud it made me feel,” Kelly said. “I finally understand how my granny feels when she fixes us a meal and makes sure we know that this ‘squash is from the garden right here on the farm.’ There is something completely different about the food you harvest yourself from the land.”
WFF’s mentored hunting program isn’t just about teaching new hunters how to harvest game and stock the freezer. It’s about creating friendships and shared memories through outdoor recreation. Meeting everyone involved in the hunt and getting to know his mentor, Vance Wood, a WFF Conservation Enforcement Officer, was Kelly’s favorite part of the experience.
“I can’t fully express how friendly and welcoming they were,” he said. “I’ve never met a nicer group of people. They treated us like family through the whole trip. I could tell they genuinely love what they do and love having new hunters there to teach.”
To be eligible to participate in an AMH event, you must be at least 19 years of age, possess a valid driver’s license and be new to hunting or have limited hunting experience. WFF mentored hunts are currently available for deer, turkey, squirrel and rabbit. For most adult mentored hunts, the equipment needed will be provided or offered at no cost to the participant.
To be eligible to attend a three-day AMH event, participants are required to attend one of several one-day hunting workshops that are being offered at various Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) throughout the state this fall. Registration for the workshops is currently open.
The first workshop will take place at the Cahaba River WMA shooting range in Shelby County, Alabama, on October 26, 2019. The workshops are available to everyone ages 19 and up regardless of previous hunting experience. There is a $20 registration fee for the workshops. To learn more about Alabama’s AMH program or to register, visit www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/adult-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.
Grow Your Own Salad this Fall
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Buying all the ingredients and preparing salads at home can become An expensive venture. Gardeners can easily grow a lot of the vegetables that they put in their salads in their backyard. An Extension professional offers advice on growing these vegetables.
According to Bethany O’Rear, an Alabama Extension home grounds, gardens and home pests regional agent, this time of year is perfect for growing lettuce, kale, spinach and tomatoes. Other vegetables people can grow during the fall include carrots, radishes, broccoli and cauliflower. Remember, not all plants are meant to grow at the same time.
“With proper planning and planting, there is always something edible, waiting for harvest,” O’Rear said. “Regardless of the time of the year, one can find a way to grow a salad.”
O’Rear recommends researching the plants to find out their specific needs. She said to find a sunny spot, keep the plants adequately watered and don’t be afraid to try new things.
“If you have trouble with a certain plant, or even if you lose that particular plant or plants, don’t hang up your gardening gloves,” O’Rear said. “Gardening is trial and error.”
Vegetables found in salads need full exposure to the sun. Also, there must be adequate moisture added to the soil. She recommends drip irrigation, but one can also water plants by hand. Before planting these vegetables, O’Rear recommends that gardeners perform a soil test.
“After doing a soil test, you will know the pH level, which is important when it comes to availability of soil nutrients to the plant,” O’Rear said.
A soil test will also allow a gardener to know which nutrients the soil may need. O’Rear said there is no need to put nutrients into the soil that are not needed.
O’Rear said the plants grown in a backyard garden should have the best nutrient value. When it comes to quality, backyard vegetables usually beat grocery store options. The reason being that vegetables grown at home can be picked and eaten at the peak of freshness. The options at the grocery store have to be harvested for days, maybe weeks before they hit the shelves. The quality of produce immediately begins to decrease as soon as it is harvested. The longer the time is between harvest and consumption, the lesser the quality will be.
“There is no feeling like the one you have when you look at your dinner plate and know that you grew a portion or even all of the food that makes up your meal,” O’Rear said.
If you have gardening questions, the Master Gardener Helpline is here to answer them. Call 1-877-252-4769 to connect with a knowledgeable team of master gardeners, armed with research and Alabama Cooperative Extension System publications. There is a Master Gardener waiting to answer your call.