Sumter County

Record-Journal

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

Email us your photo and a short who, what, when and where to scrjmedia@yahoo.com. We know Outdoors men and women don't like to give away their secret hunting and fishing spots, so you can tell us generic places like town/area if you would like. 
PLEASE DO NOT SEND THEM TO FACEBOOK. We delete those emails/messages automatically, because of the high volume of spam we get everyday.





Carp to the rescue! Say what?!

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

Free Fishing Day is June 10

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

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

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

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

Eighteenth Annual Progressive Agriculture Safety Day

Photos by SCRJ Reporter Thomas Ausborn

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

Outdoor Alabama Weekly Study Affirms Forever Wild's Impact

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magnolia, our sweet smelling southern staple

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

When and where you least expect it...

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

Cobbler Incoming!

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

String Beaning Us Along

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

Aquarium Animals and Plants Should Never Be Released into the Wild

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

When a non-native animal or plant is introduced into an ecosystem, the results are often unpredictable. The national Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force Strategic Plan (2013-2017) indicates that “approximately 49 percent of imperiled species are endangered primarily because of predation or competition with exotic species.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turkey Season Started Strong, Faded Fast at End

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

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do You Have Dying Trees?
You May Have Bark Beetles

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

Algae solution cleanup at UWA Duck Pond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The University of West Alabama’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics invited area students to Science Saturdays on April 22 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. at Bibb Graves Hall on the UWA campus.
Dr. John McCall, dean of UWA’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, presented “Herps! Amphibians and Reptiles of Sumter County” to students. Herps, the short name for herptiles, is a name used to describe a reptile or amphibian. The highlight of Saturday’s conversations will be turtles, frogs, lizards, salamanders, and even snakes.
“It’s important for our children to know about the animals we share our land with, not only to help protect those species, but to protect themselves from animals that could pose a threat to them in certain situations,” McCall explained. “This workshop will help students identify different amphibians and reptiles, know when and how to keep a safe distance, and how these animals are involved in our ecosystem.”
The workshops are offered free of charge to area school children in grades 4-12. Spaces are limited, and registration is encouraged to reserve a seat. For more information or to register for future workshops, contact Rosie Campbell at 205-652-3414 or rmc@uwa.edu.
For further details, visit the Science Saturdays website at http://www.uwa.edu/sciencesaturdays/ or follow on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ScienceSaturdays.



Outdoor Alabama Weekly
Fort Morgan bird banding project revived

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Hunters Reminded Mechanical Turkey Decoys Illegal in Alabama

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alabama State Waters Close for Shrimping

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

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

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

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

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

Big Boss Gobbler taken in “Hale”

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

Outdoor Alabama Weekly
Gulf Council Tries Different Red Snapper Approach

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forever Wild Field Trial Area Accepting Fishing Reservations

The Forever Wild Land Trust announces that the M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area in Hale County will be open for fishing to families and small groups on several Saturdays in upcoming months. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 334-624-9952 starting Monday, April 17, 2017. Two catfish and three bass and bream ponds are scattered around the property.

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

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

Fishing will be from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the following dates:
June 10
June 24
July 8
July 22
August 5
August 19
The M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trail Area consists of 3,340 acres of pasture and a mixture of pine-hardwood forest purchased by the Forever Wild Land Trust in 2008. Historically, the property, known as the “State Cattle Ranch,” was a working cattle ranch and catfish farm operated by the Department of Corrections. The land is now being used as a Nature Preserve and Recreation Area with scheduled field trials and opportunities for hunting and fishing.
If Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations are needed, please contact Doug Deaton at 334-242-3484 or doug.deaton@dcnr.alabama.gov. Requests should be made as soon as possible, but at least 72 hours prior to the scheduled event.

The Forever Wild Land Trust was established by constitutional amendment in 1992 and reauthorized in 2012. Funding for this program is generated by the interest earned from offshore natural gas royalties deposited into the Alabama Trust Fund. For more information on Forever Wild, visit. www.alabamaforeverwild.com.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Pesky Starfish Could Be Repelled With Scent

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

Outdoor Alabama Weekly
Derelict Crab Traps Removed from Mobile Bay

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

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bedwell, Fuller 2017 Star Junior Cattlewomen

On Saturday, March 18 two young people from Sumter County were awarded the 2017 Star Junior Cattlemen and Premier Exhibitor County awards. These two outstanding recipients are involved in or aspire to be part of the livestock industry and each received a $250 award to apply toward their livestock operation. The Sumter County recipients are Carly Bedwell, York, and Ansley Fuller, Emelle. Attached is an image from the awards luncheon held in conjunction with the 2017 Junior Beef Expo in Montgomery. Pictured L-R are Elder Billy Smith, PBCI; Katelyn Stuman, Shelby; Lucas Jones, Shelby; Ansley Fuller, Sumter, and SLE President Walter Crim. Not in attendance was Carly Bedwell.

Photo Contest Celebrates Alabama’s Great Outdoors, Bicentennial

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

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

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

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

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

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

The largest youth archery competition in Alabama, the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) Alabama State Championship, will be held Friday, April 7, 2017, at the Multiplex at Cramton Bowl located at 220 Hall St., Montgomery, Ala., 36104. Archers will begin shooting at 9 a.m. The awards ceremony is scheduled for 5 p.m. The media and public are invited.

This year’s event will feature more than 1,200 young archers in Grades 4-12 from schools across the state who earned a berth to the state championship after competing in one of nine regional qualifying tournaments. These students will compete for the title of state champion and the opportunity to advance to the National Championship on May 11-13, n Louisville, Ky.

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

The state championship would not be possible without the generous sponsorships of the Alabama Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Morrell Manufacturing, the Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Academy Sports + Outdoors.
To learn more about Alabama NASP, contact WFF Hunter Education Coordinator Marisa Futral at 800-245-2740 or Marisa.Futral@dcnr.alabama.gov.

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

Additional Poultry Flocks Test Positive for Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Parks Offer Free Entry with Dirt Pass Donation on Second Saturdays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update on Premises Under Investigation for Avian Influenza in Alabama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop Movement Order Issued on Certain Poultry in Alabama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember Pets during Poison Prevention Awareness Week March 19-25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outdoor Alabama Weekly Advisory Board Approves 'Dog Encroachment' Amendment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second Case of Avian Influenza Found in Tennessee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sumter and Choctaw County growing interest in agriculture through its 4-H program



Ainsley Fuller and Carly Bedwell of SumterCounty are proud of their accomplishments at the 2017 4-H Livestock show.

Carly Bedwell of Sumter with her Reserve Champion Hog, along with auction buyers.

Ainsley Fuller of Sumter County displays her heifer and her awards. First in Intermediate Showmanship and second in middleweight class.

Submitted by David Perry and Trenisha Mack
History repeats itself, one might say! Saturday, Feb. 25, the Lanier Hereford Farm came back to life as the annual 4-H Pig Squeal and Heifer Show was held at the farm. Dr. Johnny Lanier, son of the late W. R. Lanier, owns the Hereford Farm, located in Jachin.

 

Many across our state and probably around the country know the Lanier Hereford Farm. Lanier’s Hereford Farm is synonymous with Hereford cattle and Quarter horses. They also raised hogs and hunting dogs. They are still a working farm today, just on a smaller scale. Choctaw and Sumter County has seen a growing interest in agriculture through its 4-H program, led by 4-H Regional Extension Agent, David Perry.

 

In the past three years, youth have participated in the 4-H poultry and pig project and for two years, several youth have joined in the beef project. This year thirteen youth competed in the event. The 4-H and FFA program are working to instill the importance of agriculture in our youth. Johnny Lanier also attended the livestock show along with approximately 150 others from around the county to support our youth. The youth competed in showmanship and commercial heifer weight classes; all these youth learned sportsmanship, decision-making skills, responsibility, marketing, and life skills that will one day make them leaders in their communities and as members of our ever-growing global society.

As with any event of this type, it would not be possible without our volunteers. There are too many to name, but again we would like to show appreciation to Dr. Johnny Lanier and Lanier Hereford Farm for the use of their facilities; Willow Trace Health & Rehabilitation for sponsoring the concession stand; and, A+ Farm & Home. It would be impossible to name all the individuals who turned out ready to help in any way they could. We appreciate you and look forward to seeing you in 2018.

Joint Forestry Meeting Held to Address Dying Trees Across State

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

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

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

Avian Influenza Detected near Alabama Border

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

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

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

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

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

• Wearing clothing designated for use only at the poultry house

• Minimizing access to people and unsanitized equipment

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

• Sanitizing the facility between flocks

• Cleaning equipment entering and leaving the farm

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

• Properly disposing of bedding material and mortalities

• Avoiding contact with migratory waterfowl

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

Hunters Encouraged to Participate in Avid Turkey Hunter Survey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rooster Wrangler Clee Compton

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

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

They thought immediately of Clee Compton.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coosa Riverkeeper Launches New Fish Guide Program For Alabama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crapemyrtles and the Promise of Good Pruning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Effects of Drought Continue to Plague Trees across State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kalee, Claire and Wayne Smith's granddaughter of Livingston, killed this buck in velvet. She killed it in Bitely, Michigan. It weighed 242 lbs., was a 13 point and scored 139 1/2".



Christopher Greene, Sr., of Livingston bagged this 7 point on Mon., Jan. 23 somewhere in Alabama. The deer weighed in 160 pounds and was killed at 140 yeards. Photo submitted by C. Greene, Sr.





Seth Breaux bagged this 12-point buck in Sumter County on Jan. 3. Click like to vote for Seth and send your entries to photocontest@albbaa.org. From Alabama Black Belt Adventures Facebook

Most State Public Fishing Lakes Reopen in February

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Donations Help Support Alabama’s Wildlife

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

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

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

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

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

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

Students Encouraged to Enter State-Fish Art Contest

Each year, K-12 students from across the country can enter their artwork in the Wildlife Forever State-Fish Art Contest. The contest requires student artists to depict a state fish. Prizes are awarded at the state and national levels in four categories: K-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12, with students in grades 4-12 writing a one-page essay about the fish, its natural habitat and the importance of that habitat in addition to the artwork. Complete contest rules and the entry form can be found on Wildlife Forever’s website, www.wildlifeforever.org/contest.
Artists can choose to depict either of Alabama’s state fish – the largemouth bass or the fighting tarpon. Participants can also choose to draw state fish from other states, which are listed on the Wildlife Forever website. Entries must be postmarked by March 31, 2017, and mailed to Wildlife Forever, 2700 Freeway Blvd., No. 1000, Brooklyn Center, MN, 55430.
For 19 years, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) has promoted this art contest for the students of Alabama.
“This contest uses art as a medium for teaching conservation education,” said Doug Darr, WFF Aquatic Education Coordinator. “Teachers can request information and a lesson plan specific to aquatic natural resources by visiting Wildlife Forever’s website.”
Wildlife Forever is a non-profit organization working to preserve America’s wildlife heritage through conservation education, preservation of habitat and scientific management of fish and wildlife species. Wildlife Forever has funded conservation projects in all 50 states. To learn more, visit www.wildlifeforever.org.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Become an Outdoors-Woman This Spring

Registration is now open for the next Alabama Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) workshop. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) sponsored event takes place at the 4-H Center near Columbiana, Ala., on March 3-5, 2017.
BOW is a three-day workshop designed for women ages 18 years or older who would like to learn new outdoor skills. The workshop offers hands-on instruction in a fun and non-threatening learning environment. Participants choose from courses such as rifle, pistol, precision reloading, archery, fishing, camping, hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, and many more.


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


The registration fee covers meals, dormitory-style lodging, program materials and instruction. Those interested in attending are encouraged to register as soon as possible. Enrollment is limited to 130 applicants, and classes fill up fast.
For more information on the BOW workshop, visit www.outdooralabama.com/becoming-outdoors-woman-bow or call 800-245-2740. To view photos of past BOW workshops, visit Outdoor Alabama’s Flickr at www.flickr.com/photos/outdooralabama/albums/72157629421999224.
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.

New Public Fishing Lake Contour Maps Available Online

Advancements in sonar and GPS technology are now helping anglers catch more fish in Alabama’s state lakes. The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) has updated State Public Fishing Lake contour maps originally produced in the 1970s and 1980s. The new maps are more accurate, have finer detail and are less expensive to produce. Contour maps are available via the State Public Fishing Lakes page on the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website, outdooralabama.com

“The older maps varied in depth and lacked the detail of the newer maps,” said Matt Marshall, WFF State Lakes Supervisor. “By updating the contour maps we hope to provide better information for anglers to catch more fish.”

To access the maps, click “state fishing lakes” in the Fishing drop-down menu on outdooralabama.com. From the state lakes page, click the link titled “Updated Contour and Depth Maps.” Then check State-Public Fishing Lakes, Lake Contours and Lake Depth under the Fishing option to the left of the interactive map and zoom in on the lake you would like to view. The new maps are also available by clicking the “map” icon on the outdooralabama.com homepage.

WFF owns and operates 23 State Public Fishing Lakes in 20 counties throughout Alabama. These lakes range in size from 13 to 184 acres with a total of 1,912 surface acres. For more information about State Public Fishing Lakes, call the WFF Fisheries Section at 334-242-3471, or visit www.outdooralabama.com/alabama-state-public-fishing-lakes.

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.

2017 Eagle Awareness at Lake Guntersville State Park -
New Nest Discovered!

Lake Guntersville State Park will host its popular Eagle Awareness Weekends from January 20 through February 19, 2017. The event features live bird demonstrations, programs delivered by notable speakers, and guided field trips for viewing eagles in their natural habitat. The park is located at 1155 Lodge Dr., Guntersville, Ala., 35976.

Birding has been exceptional this winter at Lake Guntersville including eagle sightings.

“We have a wealth of eagles this year,” said Kate Gribbin, Park Naturalist at Lake Guntersville State Park. “Even during the summer months we were seeing large numbers of eagles around the park, which is a great sign for winter birding. We have seen eagles on most days this winter and they seem to be active in all areas of the park. I expect this year we may break a new record for the number of eagles sighted in a single day.”

Recently, park staff discovered a new eagle nest in the park. Eagle Awareness visitors will be able to view the nest with a guide. Other new programs and activities include live bald eagle demonstrations on each weekend, Sunday afternoon bird of prey programs, Chick-fil-A Adventure Quest for children under 12, Friday story time, and the Gunter School Photo Contest for Marshall County students.

Eagle Awareness events are free to the public. There is no registration needed to attend the programs or field trips. However, the sessions can fill up fast so participants are encouraged to arrive early for the events.

To celebrate Eagle Awareness at Lake Guntersville, the park is offering several overnight accommodation packages and dining specials. Package holder exclusives include priority seating at all programs, exclusive photo opportunities with Sunday presenters, discounts to participating businesses and restaurants in the Guntersville area and a welcome gift provided by the Marshall County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

For more information about the events schedule, Eagle Awareness packages or to make reservations, visit www.alapark.com/lake-guntersville-state-park or call 256-571-5440.

The Eagle Awareness Weekends began in 1985 to coincide with a bald eagle restoration program in Alabama. A loss of habitat, pesticide use and poaching had pushed eagle populations to the brink of extinction nationwide. Alabama’s restoration project was started in 1984 by the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries’ Nongame Wildlife Program. Between the years 1985 and 1991, 91 bald eagles were released throughout the state. Today, bald eagles are a more common site in Alabama than in decades past.
The Alabama State Parks Division relies on visitor fees and the support of other partners like local communities to fund the majority of their operations. To learn more about Alabama State Parks, visit www.alapark.com.

Outdoor Alabama Weekly: Buckmasters help disabled kids hunt

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
It’s been said that delayed gratification is almost always sweeter than the instant variety. Anyone who saw Dudley Luckie’s face last week during the annual Buckmasters Life Hunt at Sedgefields Plantation would most definitely agree with that adage.

Luckie was scheduled to be at last year’s Life Hunt, which brings disabled and seriously ill individuals to one of the premier properties in Alabama to hunt white-tailed deer. But surgery to deal with Luckie’s daily battle with spina bifida kept him from attending.
Luckie and eight other hunters were faced with days that are not considered ideal for deer hunting with a full moon and daytime temperatures in the 70s.

And the three-day event got off to a slow start for Luckie, who was only able to hunt two of those days. On the final afternoon of his time at Sedgefields, the situation lived up to his name.

A little before two o’clock, he saw several deer, including a young buck that was off limits to shoot. “Right after that, the monster showed up,” Luckie said. “We spotted him over in the woods.

“All I could see was antlers. I didn’t see the hide or anything. I said, ‘Oh, my God.’ He walked out into the middle of the field, and I blasted him. I didn’t mess around.”

Luckie’s .243 bullet did the job, although the deer managed to wheel and exit the field before it expired.

One of the best aspects of the hunt for Luckie was sharing it with his grandfather, Rick Lewis, who lives right down the road from Luckie on the outskirts of Montgomery.

“We weren’t sure we were going to get to go,” Lewis said. “Dudley wasn’t feeling real well. He ate lunch and got to feeling better.

“We were expecting to see deer. Six does ran off as we were getting in the stand. We were excited to see those deer. The off-limits buck walked all the way across the field. He was a pretty buck. A little later, two does came out in the field. Less than a minute later, this buck walked in behind them.”

Lewis admits he had a hard time focusing on both the hunter and the prey during those anxious moments.

“I had Dudley’s binoculars,” he said. “I’d look at the deer, and then I’d look at Dudley. He had his rifle ready, and he was shaking a little bit. I was shaking quite a bit. The guide, William (Blakeney), leaned over to Dudley and told him, ‘Here, rest your arm on my shoulder.’ He did and he got steady. The deer stopped and Dudley fired. I was pretty sure it was a good hit because he kicked both hind legs four or five feet high.”

Lewis said they didn’t see the deer fall so, after a nerve-wracking wait of 20 minutes, Blakeney and longtime Buckmasters videographer Elliott Allen went to the edge of the field where the deer had exited.

“When they got just out of the field, they started waving their hands,” Lewis said. “We got to shouting then, high-fiving and hugging. It was a celebration.”

Lewis said Luckie has made lifetime memories by participating in the Life Hunt, not only because of the beautiful buck he harvested but the whole experience.

“This is a special place run by special people for special people,” Lewis said. “It’s a blessing that Dudley had the opportunity to come, and it’s a blessing that I got to come with him. You can’t put a price on something like this. It means a lot to Dudley, and it means just as much to me for us to be here together.

“You couldn’t ask anybody to go out of their way any more than what they’ve done to help make everybody who is hunting successful.”

The Hinton family and a bevy of volunteers work year-round to ensure the Life Hunt participants have every opportunity to harvest a beautiful white-tailed buck, likely the largest deer of their lifetimes.

Luckie’s buck sported 12 points with beautiful symmetry and unusual upcurls on the tips of the main beams.

“He’s got a couple of broken tips, so he was the bad boy in the woods,” he said. “I can’t believe it. This (Life Hunt) has been great.”

This wasn’t Luckie’s first deer. He’d killed a 4-point when he was 10, several does and an 8-point last year hunting with his brother, Jake Williamson.

“I hunt the disabled areas and I hunt with my brother,” Luckie said. “My brother spends a lot of time with me. We hunt 23 acres behind our house. A friend built us a special box blind that both of us can get in. That’s where I killed that 8-point last year.”

Luckie’s mother, Terri Shaw, approached Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Conservation Enforcement Officer (CEO) Vance Wood about possible participation in the Life Hunt. Wood referred Luckie’s application to Rusty Morrow, retired CEO who is head of the Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association, which sponsors a hunter each year for the Life Hunt.

“We’re excited about Dudley and his buck,” Morrow said. “He was a little off after the morning hunt, but he came back strong for the afternoon hunt. He wasn’t going to get to hunt the last day, so he got it done. And he got it done early. We got great daytime pictures, and there was plenty of daylight for the cameraman. We got it all.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time. We love to take people to this beautiful location to hunt. And our hunters have been successful every time during the last 14-15 years. The people at Sedgefields have made it happen every time.”

Jackie Bushman, Buckmasters Founder and CEO, couldn’t have been happier about the outcome of the 2017 Life Hunt.

“To have all nine hunters get a deer is incredible, especially with this 70-degree weather,” Bushman said. “Jimmy (Hinton) and all the guides come in a couple of weeks early to get the ground blinds ready for different winds. It’s been an awesome event. We’ve got some cute kids with some tough disabilities, and they’ve all gotten their best deer or first deer. That means more to me than anything.”

Go to http://buckmasters.com/resources/disabled-hunters/badf-life-hunts to find out more about the Buckmasters-sponsored hunts for hunters with disabilities or life-threatening illnesses.

Visit www.outdooralabama.com/physically-disabled-hunting-and-fishing-trail to discover the opportunities available on Alabama’s Hunting & Fishing Trail for People with Physical Disabilities.

Ala. Natural Resources Council Outreach Symposium & Awards Banquet

Land owners join us Fri., Feb. 17 at the Bryant Conference Center, 240 Paul W Bryant Dr., Tuscaloosa, AL 35401. Symposium 9 – 11:45 a.m.; Perspectives on Prescribed Fire and Hardwoods; Wildlife Values in Pine Hardwood Mixed Forest; What Makes a ‘Grade’ Log. At 2 – 4:45 p.m.: The Importance of Shortleaf Pine; Managing T&E Species in Your Forest & Stream; Managing Rather than High Grading Hardwoods. Awards Banquet will be 5 – 8 p.m. with a reception and dinner. Online Registration at www.alaforestry.org Seating is limited; register early! If you would like to register by phone or have questions please call 334.481.2135.

Don't Use Climbing Spikes When Pruning Trees

Climbing spikes are sharpened steel spikes attached to the climber's leg by leather straps and padded supports. A tree worker should only use them to access trees being removed. When these spikes are used on living trees, it is traumatizing to the tree and creates unnecessary damage.

Each puncture from a climbing spike produces a certain amount of tree tissue death, though this varies from tree to tree. In most cases, isolated wounds will seal, but over time, groupings of spike holes can cause the entire area on the trunk to die back with no chance of recovery. This happens when a tree is repeatedly climbed for pruning while using spikes.

The likelihood of piercing the cambium (living tissue beneath the bark) is high, even with larger trees and thick bark. If soon after the work is performed with spikes there is sap oozing from the wounds, the tree is responding to spike damage. Repeated damage of this type is harmful to the tree.

So why would climbers use spikes if they are harmful to the tree? There are a few exceptional situations where using spikes is appropriate, such as:

· when the tree is being removed.

· when branches are more than throwline distance apart and there is no other means of climbing the tree (for example: when there are no branches lower than 50 feet), with no access for an aerial lift device or crane.
· if the tree is too close to power lines and cannot be accessed safely by other means.
· to reach an injured climber.

Professional tree care companies are aware of the dangers of spikes and use proper tree equipment such as ropes and climbing harnesses to climb (or aerial lift devices or cranes, if accessible). This, coupled with their training and experience, contributes to the future health of the tree.

Homeowners searching for qualified tree care companies should look for the following:

· Good References: Ask for references, and check on the quality of their work. Don't be rushed by a bargain and don't pay in advance.

· Proof of Insurance: Ask for current certificates of liability and workers' compensation insurance, if applicable. Be aware that if the tree care company you hire doesn't have insurance or is not a legal company, you could be held responsible as a contractor.

· Solid Reputation: Verify professional affiliations the company might have, such as memberships in business and/or professional organizations such as the Tree Care Industry Association.

· Up-to-Date Knowledge: Ask if they follow ANSI Standards. A professional arborist will be aware of the current safety, pruning, fertilizing and cabling standards.

· Contract: Insist on a signed contract as to cost, dates when work is to be performed, and exactly what is to be done. Insist that climbing spikes are used only if the tree is to be cut down.

Find a Professional
A professional arborist can assess your landscape and work with you to determine the best trees and shrubs to plant for your existing landscape. Contact the Tree Care Industry Association, a public and professional resource on trees and arboriculture since 1938. Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, TCIA has more than 2,300 member tree care firms and affiliated companies who recognize stringent safety and performance standards and who are required to carry liability insurance. TCIA also has the nation's only Accreditation program that helps consumers find tree care companies that have been inspected and accredited based on: adherence to industry standards for quality and safety; maintenance of trained, professional staff; and dedication to ethics and quality in business practices. For more, visit www.tcia.org or www.treecaretips.org.

*Board Certified Master Arborist, Certified Treecare Safety Professional

Forever Wild Board Meets in Montgomery on February 9

The Board of Trustees of the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust will hold its first quarterly meeting on February 9, 2017, at the Alabama State Capitol Auditorium in Montgomery, Ala. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m.
At this meeting, updates on Forever Wild program activities and tract assessments will be presented. This meeting will also provide an opportunity for any individual who would like to make comments concerning the program to address the board.

The public is invited to attend this meeting and is urged to submit nominations of tracts of land for possible Forever Wild Program purchase. Written nominations may be made by letter addressed to the State Lands Division, Room 464, 64 N. Union St., Montgomery, Ala., 36130. Nominations can also be emailed to Forever.Wild@dcnr.alabama.gov.

Quarterly meetings of the Forever Wild Board are held to maximize public input into the program. Only through active public participation can the best places in Alabama be identified and conserved in order to remain forever wild.

If Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations are needed, please contact Jo Lewis at 334-242-3051 or Jo.Lewis@dcnr.alabama.gov. Requests should be made as soon as possible, but at least 72 hours prior to the scheduled meeting.

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

Outdoor Alabama Weekly: Bowfishing for Buffalo Fish

Nicki Greene and Adam Bearden team up on a variety of fish species that can be taken during bowfishing trips on Alabama lakes. A recent trip resulted in a state record buffalo fish (member of the sucker family) that weighed 70.55 pounds for the diminutive Greene.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
When Adam Bearden and Nicki Greene are planning a date, there’s never any of the usual, “Well, what do you want to do?” “I don’t know. What do you want to do?”

Picking the date activity is easy for this couple. They hop in the boat and go bowfishing for buffalo fish, members of the sucker family that are abundant in Alabama’s lakes and river systems, and carp, both common and grass carp.

One recent date night was special when Greene arrowed a state-record smallmouth buffalo that weighed almost as much as she does. The record fish hit the scales at 70.55 pounds.

On that record-setting night, Bearden said he steered the boat around a secondary point. He made a wide turn and came back past the point.
“As we were coming back in, that fish swam right across the side of the boat that Nicki was on,” Bearden said. “Nicki shot. Eric Pendergrass was with us that night and he shot about same time. Nicki’s arrow hit first and then his hit. We had two arrows in the fish back-to-back. They were fighting the fish and got it close enough for me to shoot the backup shot. You try to get as many arrows in the fish as possible because the arrows can pull out. If the fish gets down in the grass, you can’t tell where the fish is. If the line gets caught in the grass, it can pull the arrow out.”

With three arrows in it, the fish was soon in the bottom of the boat. And now it’s in the Bowfishing Association of America record book as the official Alabama bowfishing record for smallmouth buffalo. Bearden said sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between a smallmouth and black buffalo. Tissue samples have been sent to a lab to determine which species it is. The fish will be an Alabama record whether it’s determined to be a smallmouth or black buffalo.

Not bad for someone who only got serious about bowfishing 10 months ago when she and Bearden started dating.

“I had been bowfishing a couple of times with my brothers,” Nicki said. “I was talking to Adam, and he said he went all the time. I liked it when I went with my brothers, so I started going a lot more when I started dating Adam.”

Bearden said he got an early start with his bowfishing career, thanks to bowhunting legend Fred Bear.

“I started bowfishing before bowfishing became popular,” said Bearden, who has been bowfishing for about 14 years. “Some of my buddies and I got one of those Bear Archery kits that had a bow and spool for the line. We started bowfishing on a dam in a creek. The buffalos, between 10 and 15 pounds, would come up to the dam and we’d shoot them. ”

Bearden, who lives in Albertville, moved up to a bass boat with a trolling motor and started bowfishing with a spotlight on Lake Guntersville.

“We started shooting a lot more fish that way,” he said. “That’s when we started to find out better ways to do it. We got a 14-foot flat-bottom boat with a 5,500-watt generator that’s about as heavy as the boat. We mounted halogen shop lights all the way around it.”

Now he uses a light box with 20 LED lights on an 18-foot duck-hunting boat that is modified with a front deck and a bow rack. The boat sports a 90-horse main motor and a 25-horse kicker motor that is controlled from the front deck with a Powr-Tran electronic steering system.

Bearden said some bowfishermen use high-powered airboats that cost up to $70,000, but he insists that’s not necessary.

“You see these guys in the tournaments with the $50,000 to $70,000 airboats and people think that’s what you have to have,” he said. “Every tournament I get in, I fish the open division, the toughest division, in my 18-foot boat, and I finish in the top five in the Muzzy every year.

“You can buy a 14-foot boat with a 25-horse motor and put one of the forward steering units on it, and you would have a good chance to compete. It’s all about knowing where the fish are and how to fish for them. I want to get the message out that you don’t have to have all that stuff.”

Greene and Bearden, whose team name is the Scale Ignitors, shoot Oneida compound bows at relatively light draw weights of 35 and 45 pounds, respectively.

“We shoot 300-400 times a night so you don’t want something that will wear your arm out,” he said.

The Scale Ignitors compete in as many tournaments as possible, including the All-Out Carp out, Bass Pro Shops U.S. Open and Muzzy Broadheads bowfishing tournaments.

Obviously, competitors have to deal with the weather during the tournaments. When Greene and Bearden are going fun bowfishing, they pick their nights.

“The ideal weather is whatever is comfortable to you,” he said. “At different times of year, where we go depends on which fish are up and spawning. One night you can go and the weather conditions are right. That night you might fill the boat up and the next night they might not be there.

“It seems the bigger fish are out more in the wintertime. I think it has something to do with water temperature. Buffalo are pretty much a deep-water fish that like to stay in a certain temperature range. But the biggest thing is we don’t fish really shallow water much anymore. We fish open-water flats and humps more than back in the sloughs. Most people associate bowfishing with shallow-water sloughs, and that’s where a bunch of smaller fish are. That’s where you find most of the carp. But we’re looking for bigger fish.”

Water clarity has a lot to do with bowfishing tactics.

“Sometimes I’ve been able to see 15 feet down, and sometimes you may not be able to see but a foot,” Bearden said. “That’s one reason we use a kicker motor. Buffalo will usually run from that motor, and when it takes off it will come to the top of the water. Then we’ll chase them, running 6 to 7 miles per hour until we get a shot on top of the water.”

On the record-setting trip, Greene said she had no idea what to think when the big fish surfaced near her.

“I just shot,” she said. “And then I was focused on getting the fish in the boat. It happened so fast that I didn’t have time to think. I wanted to pick it up, but I couldn’t. Adam had to help me hold it.”

Greene, who lives in Douglas, said after shooting the bow several hundred times a night her arms are pretty worn out.

“I love it though,” she said. “When we go, Adam is usually the one who sees the fish first. He yells, ‘Shoot right there.’ Sometimes I see them, but most of the time I shoot wherever he points.”

Greene said they hit the water as long as it’s not too cold. They bowfished three nights during the Christmas holidays, but Greene does prefer warmer weather so they can go more often.

Greene admits the genesis of her relationship with Adam is not the norm for most couples, but their similarities made it a natural fit.

“One of the things that brought us together is we love to hunt and we love to fish,” she said. “With bowfishing, you do both. That makes it easy. We’re not arguing about what we want to do.”



Rennie Huff of Epes killed this 9 point deer on January 1, 2017. The Sumter hunter said, “What a way to bring the year in.” The experienced hunter also added he “lives for hunting.”

Hunting Over Bait Still Illegal in Alabama

Wildlife food plots in Alabama have suffered because of the recent drought and some hunters are trying to increase their chances of harvesting a deer by disregarding a long-standing law. Hunting game over bait is illegal in Alabama, but the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources continues to receive calls asking if the law has changed. “There is a rumor being passed around that we’re allowing hunting over bait because of the drought, and that is absolutely not true,” said Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Director Chuck Sykes.

What Alabama does have is an “area definition” regulation that allows for supplemental feeding, but not baiting of game. The area definition applies to hunting deer and feral swine on private land. It states that there shall be a rebuttable presumption that any bait or feed located beyond 100 yards and not within the line of sight of the hunter, is not a lure or attractant on the area where the hunter is attempting to or taking deer or feral swine. “Not within the line of sight” means hidden from view by natural vegetation or terrain features.

ADCNR regularly uses fixed-wing aircraft to conduct wildlife surveys and aid in law enforcement surveillance efforts. Recently, those flights have documented many illegal bait sites. “In just a two-hour period, we documented more than 50 illegal bait sites in one county,” Sykes said. “So we know that it’s a problem, and our officers will be writing tickets for this violation.

“I know that hunters are frustrated that their food plots greened up late − or not at all − because of the drought, but that doesn’t change our hunting laws,” Sykes said.
To read the full area definition regulation, visit http://www.outdooralabama.com/area-regulation.
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.

Outdoor Alabama Weekly: Game Check's First Year a Learning Process

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Chuck Sykes is a happy guy, at least to a point. Sykes, the Director of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division, has been regularly checking the number of deer reported through the Game Check system, which became mandatory for the 2016-2017 season.

“I figured that only about a third of the deer killed were being reported,” Sykes said.
During a routine road block in which State Troopers conducted checks for public safety and insurance verification, game wardens provided assistance and checked for conservation violations.

“Eight of the hunters checked had harvested deer in their possession,” Sykes said. “Only two of the deer had been properly recorded on the harvest record or reported into Game Check. So, I guess my assumption was pretty close.

“The people who have used Game Check to report their deer harvests are seeing how incredibly easy it is.”

Count me in that category. I hadn’t had the chance to use Game Check until recently when I was sitting in a stand in Choctaw County. A spike with about 4-inch antlers was the first to come into view, followed quickly by an adult doe and then a yearling doe.

My freezer had conked out last spring and I had absolutely zero venison in reserve. I watched for several minutes before I put the crosshairs on the adult doe and squeezed the trigger. The doe dropped in her tracks as the younger deer high-tailed it into the pine thicket.

With the doe obviously not going anywhere, I pulled out my smartphone and opened the Outdoor Alabama app. I swiped one time and got to the page that said “Report Your Harvest.” I clicked through and started the process. When I bought my license in September, I also acquired my Conversation ID. My phone had my Conversation ID stored, and it took me less than two minutes to complete the reporting process while I was still sitting in the stand.

The app stores your harvest record on your phone, plus you can opt to have a copy sent to the email on record. Sykes had been telling me how easy it is. Now I’m a believer.

Sykes, however, said despite WFF’s best efforts to spread the word, some still don’t know about the reporting requirement or are willfully ignoring it. Sykes and his staff traveled extensively across the state last summer and fall to give seminars on Game Check and answer any questions the attendees had.

“I did 44 seminars myself,” he said. “And we did 50 overall. We’ve done YouTube videos. We’ve done TV spots. We’ve done radio spots. We have beaten the bushes as hard as we possibly could, and I’ve got personal friends who have called me to ask questions. I had one who called about his 10-year-old son and whether to report the harvest on his license. This man is an avid hunter and didn’t have a clue.

“Honestly, I don’t know what more we can do than what we’ve done to try to get the word out.”

To answer the question posed by Sykes’ friend: Those hunters who are license-exempt (over 65, under 16, resident landowners hunting on their property) must obtain a free Hunter Exempt License Privilege (HELP) number through the outdooralabama.com website or any place licenses are sold. The HELP number is only good for one hunting season. A better idea is to go to outdooralabama.com and utilize the HELP number to obtain a Conservation ID, which is good for a lifetime.

What’s most frustrating for Sykes is the aforementioned group that doesn’t see the need to comply with Game Check.
“No matter what we do or say, they’re not going to do it,” he said. “The enforcement officer I mentioned earlier gave warnings to those six people who had not Game-Checked their harvests. But, as I promised in my seminars, there is no excuse for not complying with the Harvest Record regulation that has been on the books since 2007, so they were issued tickets. We’re trying to educate people on the Game Check regulation.

“Some people don’t see any reason for it. Honestly, I don’t see why I have to drive 70 on the interstate, but some people saw enough of a need that they made a law for it. Therefore, I abide by it.”
Sykes said people just don’t understand how valuable that information is.

“Hunters in Alabama have never been required to report anything,” he said. “Hunters in other states grow up understanding the need for it. It’s a complete culture change, and it’s going to take a while. We understand that.

“I don’t have problem arguing with somebody over the facts. But the blatant disregard for the facts is where I have a problem, and 90 percent of the issues that we’re running into now comes from campfire talk that has no valid basis in fact. I’ve been there. Some consider it government intrusion, but the wildlife belongs to everybody in Alabama. They may own the land, but the wildlife belongs to the citizens of Alabama, and we are the ones responsible for the management of this natural resource.”

WFF tried voluntary compliance with Game Check for three years, and not many Alabama hunters participated. The first year, about 19,000 deer were reported, but that dwindled to about 15,000 by the third year.
With more than a month left in the season, 45,000 deer have been reported in the first year of mandatory Game Check.

“That’s much better, but our mail survey is saying we’re harvesting 250,000 deer,” Sykes said. “Honestly, I don’t think either one of those is right. I think Georgia has registered about 150,000 on their program, which I think is in line with what it ought to be.

“Now that we’ve gotten some rain and folks have food plots they can sit on, it may bump up a little. I know some people who haven’t been hunting because of the drought and the weather. But the people who have been hunting have killed some big deer, like 196 (Boone and Crockett scoring system) and 203 deer that have come from Bankhead National Forest, and that’s public land.”

Sykes said Alabama hunters need to understand that not reporting a deer or turkey harvest is not going to help the hunters or wildlife.

“They’re not helping by hiding,” he said. “If we see we’ve got more deer, we might be able to give them an extra buck. We don’t know. We just need the numbers.”

Sykes pointed out that management decisions are not going to be made based on one year of harvest information.
“People need to understand this is going to take several years of data,” he said. “This is for trend data. You can look at near real-time harvest data, but we’re not going to make any management decisions until we have several years of data. Keith Gauldin (Wildlife Section Chief) has his research coordinator discussing the use of varying statistical analysis techniques with several universities that can be utilized to generate population and harvest models. This will enable our biologists to make better decisions regarding the management of our deer and turkey populations. But we’re not going to do anything off of one year’s data.”

Sykes is optimistic that compliance will increase as Alabama hunters become more aware of Game Check through outreach efforts and campfire talk.

“Look, I’m happy that we’ve got 45,000 deer reported,” he said. “Do I think that’s how many have been killed? Absolutely not. But we’ve got to start somewhere. It’s more than we’ve had, and people can say, ‘Huh, this wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought.’

“I think compliance is going to get better and better each year. It takes no time to do it. It’s so easy.”
To report a deer or turkey harvest or watch a video on Game Check, visit www.outdooralabama.com/gamecheck.

NRCS Feral Swine Management Funding Available

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently announced that eligible landowners interested in Alabama’s Wild Pig Damage Management Program should apply for financial assistance by Jan. 20, 2017. Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding for 2017 supports the initiative.
Feral swine have been sighted in most of Alabama’s 67 counties and reproduce at an alarming rate. Sows begin breeding at six months of age and produce up to four litters per year, with each litter consisting of four to 12 piglets. Wild pig rooting damages native plant communities that provide habitat and food sources for indigenous wildlife species. Additionally, wild hogs degrade water quality and pose a serious disease threat to humans and livestock.
“Although we have a somewhat fair guess of the damage that wild pigs cause to agriculture – about $1.5 billion per year – I suspect their impact to natural ecosystems and the environment likely double or triple that figure,” said Dr. Mark Smith, Auburn University (AU) Extension specialist and associate professor.
Alabama landowners can apply for financial assistance through EQIP to monitor and manage feral swine on their property. Funding will be distributed according to the following guidelines:
Landowners with 200 or fewer acres will be eligible for a practice payment of $831 (one trapping “scenario”).
Landowners with 400 or more acres will be eligible for a practice payment of $1,662.
An increased payment rate will be applied for new and beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers and limited resource farmers.
Cooperation with at least three landowners in close proximity is required whereby each landowner agrees to sign up for the above mentioned NRCS program and work together to remove feral swine on adjoining properties.
Landowners must agree to complete damage assessment before and after installation of a given practice. Landowners must also agree to complete photo and pig harvest data sheets and an AU damage survey.
For more information, contact your local NRCS or Farm Service Agency office. As with all NRCS programs, applications are accepted on a continuous basis; however, selection is completed through the current batching period closing Jan. 20, 2017.
See more on AlfaFarmers.org.

Outdoor Writer: The best vacation you’ll ever take is right here at home in Alabama in our state parks

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The 2016 fall season has been especially fruitful for the Alabama State Parks System. Starting with the overwhelming approval of Amendment 2 on the ballot in November to encouraging visitor numbers, enthusiasm abounds at State Parks.

And to keep that momentum going, State Parks is offering a substantial discount on overnight accommodations at 11 State Parks.

The Winter Overnight Specials in most of the northern Alabama State Parks provide a 25-percent discount on all overnight accommodations from Sunday through Thursday. The special discount runs all the way through February 28.

Those traveling during the holiday season or people who just want to get away from all the hustle and bustle, can choose among Cathedral Caverns, Cheaha, Chewacla, DeSoto, Joe Wheeler, Lake Guntersville, Lake Lurleen, Lakepoint, Monte Sano, Oak Mountain and Rickwood state parks.

Obviously, accommodations vary from park to park. Campgrounds are the only available accommodations at Cathedral Caverns, Lake Lurleen and Rickwood. Cabins are available at Cheaha, Chewacla, DeSoto, Joe Wheeler, Lake Guntersville, Lakepoint, Monte Sano and Oak Mountain. Cheaha, DeSoto and Lake Guntersville also have chalets, while Joe Wheeler and Lakepoint have cottages available. The state parks with lodge accommodations are Cheaha, DeSoto, Joe Wheeler, Lake Guntersville and Lakepoint. Be aware that the lodge and restaurant at Cheaha will be closed Monday through Thursday from January 3, 2017, through March 1, 2017.

The online web reservations tool is not available for campground reservations for this promotion, so you’ll need to call the respective park office to make campground reservations. As usual, the Winter Overnight Specials discount can’t be combined with other discounts or packages.

If you’re a hunter who likes to explore Alabama’s Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), State Parks has a heck of a deal for you, too.

Hunters can rent lodge rooms at Cheaha (see note above), Lakepoint, Joe Wheeler, DeSoto and Lake Guntersville state parks for $49.95 a night. All you have to do is show your hunting license and your WMA permit to get the discounted rate.

DeSoto has an additional option with its Stay and Hunt Package, which is available through February 10, 2017, and again for turkey season from March 15 through April 30, 2017. Access to Little River WMA from DeSoto State Park is for purchasers of the package only.

The Stay and Hunt Package is available with two options. The two-person rate of $570.20 gets you three days and two nights in a log cabin or chalet with five meals included as well as three bundles of firewood. Grab a couple of extra hunting buddies and take advantage of the four-person deal for $739.79 for a log cabin or chalet for three days and two nights, six meals and three bundles of firewood.

Access to Little River WMA through DeSoto State Park is foot traffic only. Portions of the WMA are bow hunting only. Visit www.alapark.com/stay-and-hunt-package for links and detailed information about hunting on the Little River WMA.

A hunter’s special is also available at Blue Springs State Park in southeast Alabama within driving distance of one of the top WMAs in the nation for deer hunting. The Barbour County WMA has a nationwide reputation of providing quality deer hunting. Be aware that Barbour County has a special antler restriction in force in that each buck of the three-buck limit must have at least three points on one side.

Blue Springs, which is near Clio, offers up to a 70-percent discount to hunters. Cabins 1 and 2 can accommodate up to six hunters, while Cabin 3 can sleep four. A travel trailer that sleeps five is also available. Reservations can be made through the park office at (334) 397-4875 or email bluesprings.stpk@dcnr.alabama.gov for more information. The first night’s rent is due when the reservation is made.

If you like getting some exercise and experiencing the beauty of the Alabama State Parks, then consider ringing in the new year at one of four State Parks with a First Day Hike. The hikes on January 1, 2017, will take place at Cheaha, DeSoto, Gulf, Oak Mountain and Lake Guntersville. Park staff will guide the hikes as part of a nationwide program to hike state parks throughout the nation on New Year’s Day. Last New Year’s Day, more than 55,000 people hiked more than 133,000 miles during the program, which is promoted by the National Association of State Park Directors.

Speaking of hiking, it’s common knowledge that one of the main attractions for many state parks visitors is a place to enjoy nature and get some exercise to boot. The trails system has been a cornerstone of the State Parks System’s mission to offer outdoor recreational opportunities that include hiking, trail running and mountain biking.

The State Parks System also knows a lot of people are passionate about the trails system, which led to the creation of the Dirt Pass Trails Team, which will return for 2017. Those who wish to step up and contribute a little more to the trails program in Alabama State Parks can purchase a $35 annual Dirt Pass, with the proceeds being used to support the entire State Parks trails system. The Dirt Pass bracelets will be sold at the 10 participating parks, and you can go to www.alapark.com/Dirt-Pass to access the Dirt Pass online purchasing tool.

Another way to show your support for Alabama State Parks is by purchasing the new State Parks Supporter car tag. The Alabama Legislature approved the sale of the State Parks tag, starting January 2017. When your tag is up for renewal, request an Alabama State Parks car tag and 80 percent of the specialty tag fee will go directly to help fund the Alabama State Parks.

With the approval of Amendment 2, which passed with an 80-percent majority, the funding for Alabama State Parks is protected and cannot be diverted to any other form of state government. Amendment 2 makes the budgeting process for State Parks significantly easier. A stable funding platform also provides incentive for the many volunteers who assist State Parks staff to make the facilities attractive to visitors, who come from not only Alabama but all over the world.

If you’re absolutely stumped about what to get the nature lover in your family for Christmas, State Parks has the perfect, last-minute gift. An Alabama State Parks gift card is available at 20 State Parks and can open up recreational opportunities like the aforementioned hiking and trail riding to just taking time out of your busy schedule to relax and enjoy the natural beauty available in Alabama’s great outdoors.

Don’t have time to swing by one of the State Parks to get a gift card? Consider another Christmas gift option for the hunter or angler in the family. A lifetime hunting or fishing license is available for residents of Alabama, and the license remains valid even if the recipient moves out of state. If the gift of a lifetime license is for residents age 16 or older, the licenses can be purchased online at outdooralabama.com by clicking on the licenses link. The person's driver's license number, date of birth and demographic information must be provided to make the purchase. If the lifetime license is for someone under age 16 or who doesn't have a driver's license, you’ll have to go to the local probate office or apply by mail. Proof of residency is required.

Outdoor Writer: When is the best time for hunters to harvest does in Alabama?

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

When is the best time for hunters to harvest does in Alabama? According to Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Director Chuck Sykes, the answer is simple: When you have the opportunity.

“I am now a weekend warrior,” Sykes said. “I shoot them when I can. If I need to kill so many does, I have to do it when I can. In a perfect world, it would be better to get it done early. Don’t wait. Get it done, and then concentrate on your buck hunting. That accomplishes a couple of things. It leaves more food for the deer that are left, and bucks have to work a little harder to find a doe during the rut. That means more buck movement, which is good for hunters.”

Alabama hunters have progressed from the philosophy that a doe should never be shot under any circumstances to aggressively thinning the deer herd by taking out does and are now back to a more balanced approach to herd management.

“I’ve got personal experience on one 250-acre tract of land in Choctaw County for the past 40 years,” Sykes said. “We were planting food plots before it was fashionable to plant food plots. I’ve got one four-acre field that has been hunted since probably 1975. The first year we hunted it, if you saw one deer every couple of weeks, that was good. By the time the late 80s and early 90s got here, if I didn’t see 25 to 30 a day, I was upset. Both of those were unhealthy. The first one was there weren’t enough deer. The second one, it had been taken to the extreme and there were too many deer. Both of them were unhealthy situations. Now I can go sit on that food plot and I’ll see eight or 10 deer. That’s what the habitat can support. The deer are healthy.

“We went from a time when it was forbidden to shoot a doe to where we shot everything that was there. We went from one extreme to the other. Now you have to balance it, because there are a lot more people hunting now. There are a lot more predators out there. You just can’t have the blanket policy of kill all the does you can and it’s not going to hurt anything. Those times have passed for most properties. There are still some areas where the deer are overcrowded, but for most areas, it’s not the case.”

Sykes understands why it was forbidden to shoot does back in the middle of the 20th century when deer populations in the state were struggling to remain viable.

“Back then, if you shot the does, you weren’t going to have any babies,” he said. “It went back to the fact that the more females you had in the herd, the more little ones you could have to get the population up. It was beaten into our heads that you don’t shoot a doe: ‘That’s the future of your deer herd.’

“Well, everything has to be held in moderation instead of one extreme or the other. When you have too many, you’ll sit on a food plot and see one little spike and 25 does. Traditional wisdom told you to shoot the spike. It was legal. You could kill a buck a day, and that’s what a lot of people did. The buck-to-doe ratio was skewed terribly toward does and the herd was unhealthy. Now we’re getting back to where it needs to be.”

Alabama went to a statewide three-buck limit in 2007, with the exception of Barbour County, and the results have been noticeable. Hunters can take three bucks per season, one of which must have at least four points an inch in length on one side. All antlered bucks taken in Barbour County must have a minimum of three points on one side, except during the statewide special youth deer hunting dates when any antlered buck can be taken.

“With the three-buck limit, you’ve got more bucks making it into the older age classes,” Sykes said. “People have shot does to get the numbers down. Now it’s a maintenance thing. Instead of a blanket statement of don’t shoot any or shoot all of them, now you’ve got to do more fine-tuning on your management program.”

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) assists landowners with deer management decisions through its Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP). Through the program, landowners and leaseholders can ask for assistance in management strategies to reach the specific goal for a particular parcel of land, whether the goal is to have more deer or more quality deer. WFF biologists will survey the property, review deer harvest data collected from the property and then determine what the hunters on that land should do in terms of strategies like doe harvest and antlered buck restrictions.

For those who are not on the DMAP or some other management program, Sykes said it’s difficult to determine which strategy would be best, but he does offer some guidance for those who are managing without assistance.

“Without having a biologist visit the property to do a habitat assessment, set up game cameras to determine deer densities and review deer harvest data collected from the property, it’s tough,” he said. “A good rule of thumb that I have used over the years is if your club shoots five bucks, you should probably shoot between 15 and 20 does. The optimal buck-to-doe ratio is one-to-one, but that’s basically unrealistic in a natural setting. If it’s three-to-one or four-to-one, you’re probably in pretty good shape.

“And it goes back to your objectives. If you’ve got 100 acres, you can only expect to kill a few deer. If you’ve got 10,000 acres in a club, that’s a little bit different. But you need to have realistic expectations of what you want to accomplish. Do you want to go see a bunch of deer? Or does it not matter that you hardly see any deer, but the one you see is a big one? Then your harvest strategy changes drastically, so it’s hard to give a blanket recommendation on doe harvest.”

WFF asked the Conservation Advisory Board to scale back the antlerless harvest in a portion of north Alabama for the 2016-2017 season.

“Basically, in much of that area, you have a lot of agricultural land with little wood lots, like you do in the Midwest,” Sykes said. “The area also has much smaller hunting tracts on average when compared to other parts of Alabama. For most of the region, either the habitat is just not there to support the numbers of deer you do in Choctaw County in a pine thicket, or management activities on adjoining properties have much more impact due to the smaller average tract size. Property managers up there requested a reduction in antlerless deer harvest because they felt like the numbers were too low. Our biologists looked at it and agreed that it would be a good idea to try it.”

Judging from what I’ve been seeing on social media, Alabama is enjoying another banner year in terms of harvesting bucks with impressive antlers even with the drought conditions of the fall.

“Fortunately, the antler growth was already done by the time we were in the drought,” Sykes said. “We had good rains in the spring and most of the summer. During the antler-growing period, the deer were in good shape. The drought didn’t hit until late August, so the antlers were done.

“Another thing about the drought is the acorn crop. Because of the early rains, we had a good acorn crop. And with the drought, I’ve never seen the metering of acorns like this fall. The trees would drop a few, then a few more. They didn’t drop all at one time, so the deer had quite a bit to eat. I don’t know why that happens. I just noticed it this year. I planted my food plots a week ago, and there was a swamp chestnut oak still dropping acorns. Usually, they’re done dropping by the first week of November.”

2017 Alabama Waterfowl Stamp Art Contest Opens January 1

Alabama artists are invited to enter the 2017 Alabama Waterfowl Stamp art contest, which opens January 1, 2017. The winning artwork will be featured as the design of the 2018-19 Alabama Waterfowl Stamp, which is required along with the Federal Waterfowl Stamp when hunting migratory waterfowl in Alabama. Like the federal waterfowl stamp, revenues from the sale of Alabama stamps are used to purchase, establish or improve migratory waterfowl habitat.

Entries will be accepted from January 1 to February 15, 2017. The competition is open to resident Alabama artists only. Only original horizontal artworks depicting a species of North American migratory duck or goose will be eligible. The Mallard, American Wigeon, and Canada Goose -- depicted in the winning artwork of the three previous year’s contests -- are not eligible as the subject for the 2018-19 waterfowl stamp.
All eligible entries will be on display March 11, 2017, at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, 3121 Visitor Center Road, Decatur, Ala., 35603. Following the showing, three judges from the fields of art, ornithology and wildlife conservation will select the winning waterfowl art. The public is invited to attend the judging.

The judging criteria will emphasize uncluttered design suitable for printing as a stamp, anatomical accuracy of the illustrated species, and artistic rendering. Close attention must be given to tone and detail, since those aspects are prerequisites for printing artwork as a stamp. Wing and feather construction must be particularly well defined. Entries may be drawn or painted in any medium. Entries cannot exceed 9 by 12 inches (15 by 18 inches matted).
For contest information and entry forms, contact Seth Maddox, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, 234 County Rd. 141, Hollywood, Ala., 35752, by email seth.maddox@dcnr.alabama.gov or call 256-437-2788.
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.



Outdoor Writer: Alabama waterfowl hunters who ventured out on opening weekend will probably have to expand their territory after rains

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Alabama waterfowl hunters who ventured out on opening weekend will probably have to expand their territory after several recent rain events have changed the amount of water currently available to the ducks.

“Earlier in the year we were in an extreme drought situation throughout Alabama, especially northeast Alabama,” said Seth Maddox, Waterfowl Coordinator with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. “We had a pretty good number of waterfowl here for the youth hunt and the start of the season.”

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) conducts aerial surveys in the areas that tend to hold the most waterfowl in the state, including the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and the Tennessee River drainage.

“The aerial surveys we conducted showed average to a little above average numbers of waterfowl for this time of year,” Maddox said. “With not much available water on the landscape, it helped concentrate the ducks in larger bodies of water like the reservoirs and the backwater sloughs. In Mobile Bay and the Delta it helped concentrate the birds a little more.”

Normal waterfowl habitat like beaver ponds and farm ponds had little water to hold ducks during the height of the drought, and bottomland hardwoods were not flooded like they have been in previous years. The state is still in a significant rainfall deficit despite several days of rain.

Maddox said as opening weekends go, the weekend of Nov. 26-27 was not bad, probably helped because the waterfowl were concentrated because of the lack of water.

“Hunters had pretty good success in most places on opening weekend,” he said. “A lot of hunters had birds when they were coming out of the field. And the youth Saturday the weekend before the regular season opened was good, too. A lot of the youth had birds. I think that was a big success.”

Now that Alabama finally got some rainfall, Maddox said the ducks will likely be expanding their range significantly.

“That rain makes a lot more habitat available to the waterfowl,” he said. “The ground did soak up quite a bit of the rainfall, but this new round of rain will definitely help the situation. The birds won’t be as concentrated anymore, but there will be a lot more available habitat for the hunters and the birds to take advantage of.”

In Mobile Bay and the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, where water levels aren’t affected as much by the drought, Maddox said the typical array of waterfowl has been seen this fall.

“We saw a lot of gadwalls and some shovelers,” he said. “We did the aerial survey on Nov. 18, right before a cold front came through. The count was about average for that survey. But I talked to Thomas Harms, our biologist down there, and he said the cold front pushed a lot more birds in after we conducted the survey.”

On opening weekend in the Mobile area, the main birds in the hunters’ bags were gadwalls and ringnecks. Gadwalls are dabbling ducks and stay in shallow water where they can eat mostly vegetation. Diving ducks, like ringnecks, will add crustaceans, mollusks and other invertebrates to their diets.

“We didn’t see many divers when we did the survey, but Harms said they’ve got a little bit of everything down there right now – redheads, teal and a few scaup.

“In north Alabama, gadwalls kind of rule the state as far as dabbling ducks. On the west side of the Tennessee River – Wheeler, Wilson and Pickwick (lakes), we have an above average number of ducks for this time of year. Right now, Pickwick probably has the most ducks with gadwalls, green-winged teal and a good many mallards for this time of year. We’ve also observed some divers like canvasbacks, redheads, ringnecks, buffleheads and scaup (bluebill).”

Maddox just hopes the rainy pattern continues through December

“If we get a little more rain, I think it’s going to open up some of the bottomland habitat, especially if it starts flooding some of the hard mast crops in the hardwoods,” he said. “Acorns are a favorite food of wood ducks and mallards. If you’re looking for greenheads (male mallards), that’s one of the best places to find them.

“And if we get some water in the beaver ponds, it will open up habitat for wood ducks to use across the state.”

Maddox said while the reservoirs along the Tennessee River were affected a little by the drought, it was the smaller areas with food sources for the waterfowl that were impacted the most.

“All the reservoirs were below what they normally are this time of year,” he said. “The main problem was we were struggling on the Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) to get any water at all. We struggled to get our agricultural crops to come up this summer. But we had decent luck with our moist-soil vegetation. That native vegetation should provide good food sources for the waterfowl going into the winter.”

Maddox said the most popular places to hunt ducks in Alabama include the Jackson County Waterfowl Management Area, Swan Creek WMA, the Seven-Mile Island area in Lauderdale County and the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

Despite less than favorable conditions for waterfowl hunting, Maddox said Alabama hunters have not been deterred from participating in the season.

“I worked opening weekend in Jackson County, and every boat ramp in the county was full or overflowing,” he said. “From what I’ve seen, I think we’re going to be right on par with what we’ve seen the last few years in the number of duck stamps sold. We sold about 30,000 last year, which has been about what we sold for the last several years.”

Waterfowl hunters are required to have a valid hunting license, federal duck stamp, state duck stamp and HIP (Harvest Information Program) privilege to hunt waterfowl. Only steel shot or other approved waterfowl loads are allowed. The bag limit is six ducks with no more than four mallards, only two of which may be female, three wood ducks, one mottled duck, one black duck, two redheads, two pintails and three scaup. The duck and goose seasons run through January 29, 2017.

There have also been several changes in the waterfowl regulations in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. The 210-acre Apalachee Refuge was created in the triangle-shaped region between I-10 and the Mobile Causeway, west of the Apalachee River. The Refuge provides a resting area for waterfowl, prohibiting any hunting in this area and the operation of gasoline-powered motors from the second Saturday in November through the second Saturday in February. Big Bateau Bay also has the same restriction on the prohibited use of gas-powered motors but is open for hunting. The Waterfowl Management Zone in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta also has new shooting hours and is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Hunting is allowed from 30 minutes before sunrise to 1 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Opelika Bear Killed in Talladega National Forest
A Protected Species in Alabama

Matthew Gage Stewart, 22, of Talladega, Ala., has been arrested and charged with killing a black bear on the Talladega National Forest in Clay County. Stewart killed the bear with a crossbow while hunting earlier this fall. He is scheduled to appear in Clay County District Court on February 7, 2017.

The 315-pound male black bear killed by Stewart made headlines in June 2016 when it was captured in Opelika, Ala., tagged by Auburn University researchers and released on the Tuskegee National Forest in Macon County. Throughout the summer the bear roamed north and was seen several times near Alexander City.

As sightings continue to increase, some have questions about the protected status of black bear. While classified as a game animal in Alabama, there is no established black bear hunting season in the state. Black bears are also protected by state law due to low population numbers.

Capt. Johnny Johnson, Supervising Conservation Enforcement Officer with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) District 2 Office, said anyone shooting at or killing a black bear risks serious consequences.

“Hopefully this arrest will send a message and deter future violations related to our sparse black bear population,” Johnson said. “If you see a black bear, leave it alone. We want them in Alabama.”

This isn’t the first shooting incident to involve a black bear in recent years. In 2015, a Heflin man was arrested for shooting at a black bear seen roaming throughout town. The man received a one-year suspended jail sentence, nine months supervised probation and was fined $2,000 plus court costs. The bear in Heflin was unharmed by the incident.
Other potential penalties for attempting to take a black bear include the loss of hunting and fishing license privileges for three years and possible jail time.
Historically, a small population of black bear has remained rooted in southwest Alabama, primarily in Mobile and Washington counties. In recent years, bears migrating from northwest Georgia have established a small but viable population in northeast Alabama. WFF is currently working with other state and federal agencies to collect data on the state’s black bear population and movements.

Black bears are secretive, shy animals that will avoid human interaction. To avoid accidently attracting a bear to your home, feed pets just enough food that they can consume in one meal. Secure uneaten pet food, trash bins, bird and other wildlife feeders, as they are easy pickings for hungry young bears.

If you are lucky enough to encounter/observe a black bear, WFF offers these suggestions:

• Do not be frightened
• Do not approach the animal
• Do not run from the bear; back away slowly
• Stand tall and upright and make loud noises
• Avoid direct eye contact with the bear
• Make sure the bear has an unobstructed direction to escape
• Never purposely feed a bear

The public is encouraged to report black bear sightings online at https://game.dcnr.alabama.gov/BlackBear/. Black bear sightings can also be reported to WFF district wildlife offices, or by email to Thomas Harms at Thomas.Harms@dcnr.alabama.gov.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

 

Illegal Deer Hunt Leads to Death of Flomaton Woman

In the wake of Alabama’s first fatal firearms hunting accident this season, the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries cautions the public on the consequences of violating hunting laws. Thirty-one-year-old Shannon Heath Bell of Flomaton, Ala, has been charged with hunting from a public road, hunting at night, hunting from motor vehicle and hunting without a permit, all of which represent serious threats to public safety. Even more critical, it appears his actions led to the death of another person.

At approximately 6 p.m. Friday, December 2, 2016, Bell and 35-year-old Donna Loraine Martin, also of Flomaton, were illegally deer hunting from a compact pickup truck on County Road 40 near Pollard Landing in Escambia County. According to a preliminary hunting accident report, Bell was pulling a rifle out of the vehicle, stock first, when it discharged, hitting Martin in the stomach. She was taken to Brewton Hospital where she later died in surgery.

Conservation Enforcement Officer David Smith says that most firearms-related hunting accidents are self-inflicted or involve members of their own hunting party. “Any hunting accident is a tragedy,” he said, “but when the parties know each other, it can be particularly difficult for both families.

“This accident could have been prevented,” said Smith. "Hunting is one of the safest outdoor activities you can participate in—if it’s done in compliance with the law and following all safety rules.”

The incident remains under investigation by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office and the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

The public is asked to report hunting and fishing violations at 1-800-272-4263 (GAME).

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



“Dreams Do Come True.” Kalee bagged a ten point buck on her hunting trip to South Texas last week. It was truly a Monster. I am sending a picture so you can see it and the look on that young lady’s face. She and her mother Sally were entertained by “Brush Country Monsters," Lamar Smith, and the entire camp of folks who made this trip possible . Kalee and her mom shared their feelings as they were driving home that “It was VERY HARD to leave Texas, especially Los Novillos.” Submitted by Claire Smith

Outdoor writer: Feral hog problems in all 67 counties in Alabama

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Despite a combined effort to loosen regulations on removal and to increase awareness of the problem, the feral hog population has now reached all 67 counties in Alabama.

Chuck Sykes has been dealing with the scourge of feral hogs for years, now as Director of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division, and previously as a private wildlife consultant. Sykes said some landowners are making progress. Others, not so much.

“It just depends,” Sykes said. “Some places are; some aren’t. Places that are on year-round trapping programs and practicing whole sounder (family group) removal, yeah, they’re making good headway. People who are trapping sporadically or thinking they’re doing any good night hunting or hunting over bait (both of which are not allowed during deer season), they’re fighting a losing battle.”

Sykes, who has been WFF Director for four years, said he dealt with feral hogs a great deal before he became director.

“Back in the day when I first started trapping hogs with box traps you’d catch one or two and think you were doing a good job,” he said. “With trail cameras you could see you were only catching a portion of what was there with traps they tripped themselves. Now there is a lot of technology out there with corral-type systems that causes the door to fall using your cell phone. That’s the only way to do it now. Everything we do is a learning process. Ten years ago, box traps were the best thing going. Then you had a corral trap with a root stick or a push door. Now you have corral traps with electronic doors. There’s no telling what’s going to be coming in the future.

“I’m not saying people need to quit what they’re doing. I’m just saying that whole sounder removal is the only way to make significant headway, with electronic doors that you can activate when you want to.”

The small farm of Tes and Ron Jolly near Tuskegee is a perfect example of what Sykes just proposed.

The Jollys’ first hog sighting occurred in 2004, and they’ve been in a battle ever since.

“Rumor was a neighboring hunting club brought them in and turned them loose to hunt,” said Ron of a practice of transporting live feral hogs that has now been banned in Alabama. “Since that time, we’ve been losing ground ever since. We tried shooting them. We tried box traps.”

The possession, transportation and/or release of live feral hogs is banned in Alabama. The WFF Enforcement Section recently arrested 13 Alabama residents for possession of live feral hogs and issued warrants for two residents in Florida and one in Mississippi.

The hog problem became so bad for the Jollys that they were unable to grow crops that would benefit the preferred wildlife, mainly white-tailed deer and wild turkeys.

“We can’t grow chufa,” Ron said. “We can’t grow corn. Even in the green fields, when the wheat makes heads the hogs get it. It really limits what we can do. As a result, we haven’t killed a mature buck that weighed more than 200 pounds in a while. Four- to five-year-old bucks used to average between 210 and 215 pounds. The last three years we’ve killed four- and five-year-old bucks that weighed 175 to 185 pounds. I think that’s a direct result of what we had to do, which is not grow corn and stuff they can feed on in the summer time.

“We had to change everything. Quite frankly, the best thing we’ve done is plant clover in our green plots, which provides forage to the middle of June. After that, they’re on their own.”

Tes and Ron finally made the decision to invest in one of the trapping systems with an electronically controlled trap door.

“For the first time in six or seven years at least we feel like we’ve got a fighting chance,” Ron said. “Two different neighbors have also bought the systems, and we’re trying to build a co-op with other landowners. If a sounder comes on the place now, I feel like I’ve got a chance to get them all. It may take me a month to do it, but we’ve caught 47 hogs in the trap since the Fourth of July.”

The system the Jollys purchased allows remote monitoring of the corral and remote activation of the trap door.

“That’s absolutely the way to go. I’m sitting in Montgomery, and if a hog goes in the trap I can catch him,” Ron said. “The main thing it allows me to do is not drop the gate on two of 10. When we drop the gate, we know how many pigs are inside. We can drop the gate when all of them are inside and we can get them all.

“The answer is total sounder removal. And we need to expand our cooperative to get other people helping with the removal. I can do it, but if the guy across the fence is not doing it, all he’s doing is growing pigs for me to catch.”

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) is trying to help with that effort to band landowners together in their battle against the hogs.

ACES has teamed with other agencies such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Alabama Wildlife Federation and Alabama Soil and Water Conservation, to name a few, to develop a pilot program to both educate the public on the feral hog problem and provide information on traps from the cheapest option to the latest technology in hog traps.

The project involves purchasing a trailer that publicizes hog control efforts through a graphics message on each side. The trailer can be transported around Alabama to complement the seminars being conducted on hog control.

The second part of the project is to provide the public with the opportunity to rent one of the trap doors that can be monitored and closed remotely via a smartphone app, though the project is in its infancy and details are still being worked out.

WFF Technical Assistance Wildlife Biologist Matt Brock said there’s no doubt the insidious creep of the feral hog population continues throughout Alabama.

“We have noticed that hogs are showing up on trail cameras in areas they have not been seen before,” Brock said. “I’m getting requests for technical assistance from landowners who have never had hogs on their property before, so it appears they are still expanding their range. They are definitely on the move.

“And I don’t know how the drought is going to affect that. The last few complaints I’ve had were from people with farm ponds they use for livestock. The hogs have shown up because it’s about the only source of water unless they’re on a major creek or river drainage. The farmers don’t know what to think. They’re seeing them for the first time and are concerned about the impact of the hogs. The biggest question is what they need to do.”

Brock said he’s been making site visits to educate the landowners on what to do to prevent the hogs from doing extensive damage. The estimate of agricultural damage done by feral hogs is $1.5 billion annually in the U.S.

“The best answer to hogs is trapping the whole sounder,” Brock said. “That’s what I’ve been encouraging people to do. People will go out and shoot hogs. They think that by shooting two or three it might help eliminate the hog problem. In actuality, it doesn’t. I tell people to be patient and start pre-baiting. Try to find out how many are in the sounder. Then get them all to come into the trap together, even if it takes several weeks. Our goal is total sounder removal. That way you can remove that entire social unit from that particular area. Then monitor the area, and do it again if the hogs move back in.”

16 Arrested in 3 States for Transport, Release or Possession of Live Feral Pigs

Although hunting feral pigs is legal, their live transport and release has been illegal in Alabama since 1997. An investigation by Conservation Officers in the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) has led to arrest warrants issued for 16 people in seven Alabama counties and two other states for the illegal transport, release or live possession of feral pigs.

Thirteen Alabama residents were arrested in Barbour, Choctaw, Fayette, Marengo, Mobile, Monroe and Sumter counties. In addition, two violators in Florida and one in Mississippi will also be served warrants.

For almost two years, WFF investigators concentrated on feral hog related hunting, trapping and sales activities to determine the extent of the transport or release of feral swine in Alabama. Their findings revealed an accepted culture among some hog hunters where laws governing possession or transport of live feral hogs were ignored.

“Contrary to the law, some persons continue to trap pigs for live sale to others, and in some cases carry them across state lines,” said Chief Enforcement Officer Kevin Dodd. “We documented feral pigs being trussed up and transported in car trunks, dog boxes and back seats of vehicles for release elsewhere,” he said.

“In some cases, pigs were purposefully mutilated by cutting off their ears or breaking out their teeth. This mutilation was done during the training and conditioning of hunting dogs. While the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources strongly supports lawful and humane hunting, it does not condone any activity that involves the live possession of feral hogs for the purpose of training dogs.”

Despite the number of arrests in this investigation, Dodd says that much of the illegal transport of feral swine is conducted by individuals. “We are not seeing a large, organized effort with this violation. It seems to be pockets of individuals seeking to benefit.”

Feral swine have been documented in nearly every Alabama county where they cause extensive agricultural damages and compete with native wildlife. Economic damages are severe in many regions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that feral swine in the United States cause more than $1.5 billion in damages and control costs each year. They can damage almost any commercial crop by foraging, feeding, chewing, rooting and trampling it. This animal does not spare trees, either. Hogs will disturb newly planted seedlings and damage larger trees by chewing roots or girdling them by continuously rubbing the bark.

In addition to the rapid reproduction rate of feral swine, much of their expansive growth is attributed to some hog hunters who catch, transport and release the animals for hunting and training hunting dogs. As a deterrent, in 2015 the offense in Alabama increased from a class C to a class B misdemeanor, which carries a mandatory fine of $2,500 and possible jail time of up to 180 days.

Dodd warns violators that WFF will continue to investigate and charge anyone who disregards the law relating to transport, release or live possession of feral swine. “This is a prime example where one individual’s simple violation can negatively affect numerous others,” he said. “We will continue to do everything possible to eliminate this illegal activity.”

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.

Venison Recipes Perfect for Deer Season


AUBURN, Ala. – It is officially that time of year where many of your friends and loved ones go missing for several hours at a time. There is nothing wrong; they are just sitting in the woods waiting to bring home the best buck of the year. People are going to be looking for unique and different ways to cook this sudden supply of venison. These recipes are sure to provide tasty options for your family.

Deluxe Venison Stew
Ingredients
2 pounds venison stew meat, cut into 1 ½ inch cubes
1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 large onion, sliced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon paprika
Allspice, to taste
6 carrots, sliced
12 small white onions
3 potatoes cut into large cubes
Directions
Sauté the meant on all sides in hot oil until brown. Add remaining ingredients except vegetables. Cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaves and garlic. Add carrots, onions and potatoes. Cover and continue cooking for 30 minutes or until vegetables are done. Thicken the liquid for gravy. Serves 6 to 8.
Venison Swiss Steak
Ingredients
½ cup flour
2 pounds venison steak
Bacon drippings
1 package dry onion soup mix
2 cups canned tomatoes
2 bay leaves
¼ cup chopped green pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
1 small jar mushrooms, drained
Directions
Pound flour into meat. Cut meat into strips 1 inch thick. Brown meat quickly in a small amount of bacon drippings. Drain of excess fat. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer slowly for 2 hours or until meat is tender. Salt and pepper are not needed because the onion soup has enough.
Venison Meatballs
Ingredients
3 slices soft bread
¼ cup water
1 ½ pounds ground venison
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2/3 cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup butter
1 tablespoon flour
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ to 1 cup milk
Directions
Soak bread in water for 5 minutes. Break into small pieces, pressing out as much water as possible. Combine bread, ground venison, salt, pepper and onion. Blend lightly but thoroughly. Shape into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Chill for 15 to 20 minutes. Brown on all sides in butter, turning frequently. Cover pan and turn heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Remove meatballs to another pan and keep them hot. Add flour, salt and pepper to pan drippings and stir well. Add milk, stirring constantly until thickened; then simmer 3 or 4 minutes. Serve gravy hot over meatballs.

All of these recipes and many more can be found in Cooking Alabama’s Wild Game, a publication of Alabama Extension.
http://news.aces.edu/blog/2016/11/25/venison-recipes-perfect-deer-season/

Hunters Reminded Statewide Burn Ban in Effect



Due to severe drought conditions across much of the state, an increased risk of wildfire exists when hunters return to the woods for the opening of gun deer season on November 19. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) reminds hunters that a statewide no burn order is in effect. The burn ban affects all outdoor burning including campfires on private lands, all Wildlife Management Areas and in Alabama’s National Forests.

“Until we get sufficient precipitation, the woodlands of Alabama are very prone to wildfires,” said Keith Gauldin, ADCNR’s Wildlife Section Chief. “We encourage hunters to remain cautious and avoid building any campfires during this period until we get some much-needed rain.”

According to the Alabama Forestry Commission, there have been 1,749 wildfires in the state since October 1, 2016, burning more than 21,000 acres. Currently, all 67 Alabama counties are included in the no burn order, which will be in effect until further notice. Penalties for violating the burn ban include up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500.

To lower the risk of accidentally starting a wildfire this hunting season, please practice these fire prevention tips.

Avoid parking in tall dry grass. Vehicle exhaust pipes can potentially ignite the grass.
Be mindful of any sparks generated by discharging a firearm.
Do not discard cigarette butts from a vehicle window or near any potential fire source.
When hauling a trailer avoid dragging chains. Sparks generated against the pavement can ignite grass along the roadway.
If possible, carry a fire extinguisher in your vehicle.
“The most successful hunting trip is a safe one,” Gauldin said. “With this year’s prolonged drought, that includes practicing wildfire prevention.”

For more information about current drought conditions and the state’s no burn order, visit www.forestry.alabama.gov.

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

Alabama Man Charged with Violating State’s CWD Ban

Larry Durham, 51, of Jackson County, Ala., has been charged with violating the state’s new Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) carcass ban for returning to Alabama with a deer harvested in Illinois, a known CWD state. Durham was charged on Sunday, November 6, 2016.

In addition to violating Alabama’s CWD ban, Durham violated Illinois law by harvesting the buck without the proper tag. Charges from Illinois are forthcoming. The deer was sent to Auburn University for CWD testing and disposal.

Earlier this year Alabama enacted a ban on the import of deer carcasses from states where CWD has been confirmed. CWD is a fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of deer. Once introduced into the environment, it is impossible to eradicate.

It was an anonymous tip from another Alabama resident traveling through Illinois that led to the charges against Durham.

“The caller, who knew about the CWD ban, stated they were behind a truck travelling south with Alabama plates that was loaded with hunting gear and a recently harvested buck,” said Chris Champion, a Senior Conservation Enforcement Officer (CEO) with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) District I Office.

Based on that tip WFF, with assistance from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, began a coordinated effort to locate Durham before he entered Alabama.

“Unfortunately, he was able to return to Alabama with the harvested deer,” said Lt. Jim Kirkland, CEO with WFF District II, who charged Durham for violating the CWD ban. “We are grateful for the tip that led to the confiscation of the illegally harvested and imported deer. The caller’s actions will help protect Alabama’s deer herd for future generations.”

“Safeguarding Alabama’s deer resources against CWD merits everyone’s assistance,” said Kevin Dodd, WFF Law Enforcement Chief. “It’s easy to take a ‘not my business’ approach. However, the caller was concerned about protecting his children’s deer hunting future and decided to report the suspicious activity. He is to be commended for being part of the solution.”

Alabamians who hunt in CWD-affected states are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the CWD carcass ban. It is critical to completely debone the animal, remove and dispose of any brain or spinal tissue from skull plates, raw capes and hides before returning to Alabama. Root structures and other soft tissue should also be removed from all teeth. Additionally, skull plates must be cleaned with a bleach-based solution. Finished taxidermy products and tanned hides are not affected by the ban.
For instruction on how to properly sanitize the mount or carcass, contact the nearest WFF district office. For contact information, visit www.outdooralabama.com/contact.

CWD has been found in captive and/or wild deer in 24 states, two Canadian provinces, Norway, and South Korea. It is not known to be transmissible to humans or domestic livestock. For a map of CWD states, visit www.outdooralabama.com/map-cwd-north-america.

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

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.

Special Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days Nov. 19 and Feb. 4

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) has designated November 19, 2016, and February 4, 2017, as Special Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days. On those days, youth under age 16 may hunt when accompanied by a licensed adult hunter. Regular waterfowl season shooting hours, bag limits, legal arms and ammunitions apply to the special days.

To participate in the hunt, individuals must be accompanied by an adult supervisor. The adult supervisor, who may not hunt, must remain within arm’s length of the youth at all times. The adult supervisor may accompany up to two youth participants during the hunt.

Youth is defined as an individual age 15 years and younger. Adult is defined as an individual age 25 years and older, or as the parent of the youth. The adult must have a state hunting license, state and federal waterfowl stamps, and a free harvest information program stamp.

Only one firearm will be allowed per youth, and only the youth hunters will be permitted to utilize the firearm for hunting. The adult is expected to review the rules of firearm safety and hunter ethics with each youth and ensure they are followed.

For more information on the Special Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days, contact the WFF Wildlife Section at (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.

WFF to Host Game Check Help Sessions and WMA Listening Sessions

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) will host Game Check help sessions at each of its five district offices across the state. These help sessions will provide hunters an opportunity to ask questions about mandatory reporting via Game Check, the various methods of reporting deer or turkey harvests, explain how a Hunter Exempt License Privilege (HELP) number and Conservation ID number are used and how to obtain them and more.
WFF will also host a series of Wildlife Management Area (WMA) listening sessions across the state. The listening sessions will focus on the history of Alabama’s WMA system, how it is funded, habitat management efforts, future plans and ongoing research. WFF staff will also answer attendees’ questions.
“It’s important for hunters and others who utilize the state WMA system to understand how our WMAs operate and our management objectives,” said Keith Gauldin, WFF Wildlife Section Chief. “It is equally important for us to listen to the ideas and concerns of those hunters.”
Below is a list of Game Check help sessions and WMA listening sessions. Hunters are encouraged to pre-register for the Game Check help sessions by calling their district offices. No registration is necessary for the WMA listening sessions.

DISTRICT III
WFF District III Office
8211 McFarland Blvd. West
Northport, Ala., 35476
Counties: Autauga, Bibb, Chilton, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Jefferson, Lowndes, Marengo, Perry, Pickens, Shelby, Sumter and Tuscaloosa.
Game Check Help Session
Location: District III Office (see address above)
Date: Tuesday, November 15
Time: 5:30-7:30 p.m.
To register, call 205-339-5716.
WMA Listening Sessions
WMA: Mulberry Fork
Date: Friday, November 25
Time: 6 p.m.
Location: The listening session will be held at the checking station approximately 12 miles north of Oak Grove at 1544 Franklin Ferry Rd., Oakman, Ala., 35579.
WMA: W.R. Ireland Cahaba River
Date: Saturday, November 26
Time: 11 a.m.
Location: The listening session will be held the checking station located at 7774 Highway 10, Pea Ridge, Ala., 35115.
WMA: Oakmulgee
Date: Friday, December 2
Time: 6 p.m.
Location: The listening session will be held at checking station approximately 11 miles east of Moundville on Hale County Road 50, adjacent to the Elliott Creek Work Center.

Outdoor Writer: A dry year for hunting

A cloud of dust trails Josh Cornett of Toxey as he runs his spreader-rigged ATV through a small food plot in Choctaw County. Dirt clods vanish into sand and dust with the slightest pressure.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The dirt clod I picked up last weekend at the hunting camp in Choctaw County crumbled into a cascade of sand and dust with just slight pressure from my thumb.

Hunters and landowners who have been trying to put seeds in the ground in hopes that this extended dry period will finally end find themselves and their equipment caked in dust after the fields are planted. The few sprinkles that moved through the state this week aren’t going to alleviate the lack of moisture.

“You don’t have worry about covering the seeds, the dust will do it,” said my old hunting buddy Larry Norton from Pennington.

I asked Larry if he remembered the last time it had been this dry, 50 days and counting for west central Alabama.
“I’ve been talking to some old-timers, and they don’t ever remember it being this dry,” Norton said.

Chris Cook, Deer Project Leader for the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division, got similar feedback at a meeting with the Civitan Club in Tuscaloosa recently.

“They were saying that 2007 was a dry year, but it’s as dry as I can remember, for sure,” Cook said. “Some of the reservoirs are down to winter pool and it isn’t winter yet. Trey Montgomery at Leavellwood Plantation (Greene County) was talking about how low his lakes are.

“So it’s got to be putting a drain on the reservoirs that are providing water for municipal water supplies and for generating electricity. Regardless of how it affects wildlife, it looks like it’s going to affect everybody.”

Cook said there is a good news-bad news aspect to the current dry spell, depending on the moisture content of the soil in a certain area.

“I guess if there is a positive spin, it was so dry when most people planted that none of the seed germinated,” he said. “The turkeys, doves, crows and other birds have been having a field day on some of the fields. If the seed was able to last, I’ve got pretty good confidence that if it can get some rain, it will start growing. But it’s going to be about a month behind getting started for everybody.

“Then again, if you were one of the ones who planted right after a rain in September, the last time we had a decent shower, they may be out of luck. That seed germinated. It came up and sat there for six weeks, or however long it’s been, without a hint of a rain. It’s probably not going to make it. All hope is not lost, but it’s not looking too good.”

Of course, white-tailed deer have survived many years without the supplemental nutrition of food plots, and those deer will look to other food sources, according to Cook.
“There are a lot of acorns on the ground, at least in the places I’ve been,” he said. “It looks like a pretty good acorn crop. Deer are focusing on the acorns to build fat reserves that they lost when they ate up everything that was available during these dry conditions.
“Deer are pretty hardy animals, so they’ll make do. It’s going to start raining again, eventually. They may be less than typical weights this winter. But as soon as it starts raining again, all will be well in the deer world. The deer will start recovering.”

Cook said those hunters and landowners who are especially concerned about the deer herd’s health can take advantage of supplemental feeding with the clarified area definition where hunting is allowed.

The area definition regulation states: “As it applies to the hunting of deer and feral swine, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that any bait or feed . . . located beyond 100 yards from the hunter and not within the line of sight of the hunter is not a lure, attraction or enticement to, on or over the area which the hunter is attempting to kill or take the deer or feral swine. This regulation does not apply to public land. Out of line of sight means obscured from view by natural vegetation or naturally occurring terrain features.”

“With the area definition, people can still feed and hunt, if that’s what they want to do,” Cook said. “They just have to abide by the rules.

“If somebody wants to supplemental feed, I certainly wouldn’t load feeders up with all corn. I would look at a 50-50 mix with pellets and corn. They’ll be getting carbohydrates from the corn, but they’ll be getting a more complete diet with the pellets.”

Cook said creeks, springs and ponds might be good places to scout for stand placement during the drought.
“Water sources, without doubt, would be places to look for deer, and those trees dropping acorns,” he said. “Deer typically get all the water they need in the moisture of the plants they eat. But it’s been so dry, a lot of the plants are going into dormant stages and are not as lush as they normally are. The plants are more fibrous, which means less nutritious, and water content is lower. With the acorn consumption increasing, they don’t contain much moisture. So the deer are going to need some free water, more so than in a typical year.”

Cook said the Alabama deer herd is estimated at between 1.2 and 1.5 million animals, but that is just a rough guess. He said the implementation of the mandatory Game Check system should be a great tool to gather much more reliable data. Because everyone who takes a deer must report the harvest, those people exempt from the hunting license requirement must acquire a H.E.L.P. (Hunter Exempt License Privilege) or Conservation ID to be able to use the Game Check system. That will give WFF officials an expanded pool for gathering data through Game Check and traditional surveys.

“Hopefully by having the Game Check numbers over the next couple of years, we’ll be able to make an estimate that we have more confidence in,” he said. “It’s not going to happen after one year. We’ll have to look at the harvest rates through the Game Check data as well as the other methods we use to come up with a better estimate.”

Cook said the Game Check numbers from the current archery season have reinforced other data that the deer population densities have been redistributed over the last 20 years.

“We won’t know until we have more data to confirm this is a true reflection of what’s happening or that the hunters in these counties are better about reporting their deer harvests,” he said. “In our early Game Check numbers, Shelby County is up there close to the top. But it’s a big county. Most people don’t think of it as rural, but there are a lot of rural areas in Shelby County. The same is going on in Tuscaloosa, Lamar and Marion counties. The numbers coming from Winston County may have something to do with Bankhead National Forest. Those deer are on a different schedule than most of the deer in Alabama.”

Despite the drought, Cook still thinks Alabama deer hunters will have a good season.

“Food supplies, options for places for deer to eat, are going to be limited,” he said. “When acorns are gone, the foods the deer usually rely on will be of lower quality. The plants they might use as a low-tier winter food have probably already been consumed.

“The folks who are lucky enough to get a decent stand at all in the food plot should have a banner year. If I had to predict, I think the harvest is going to be up this year. I think you’ll see some pretty good deer, too, because they’ll be looking for something to eat.”

Outdoor Writer: Marine Resources Releases 18,000 Redfish Fry

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

This has been a particularly productive year for anglers who target redfish along the Alabama Gulf Coast, and the Alabama Marine Resources Division is doing its best to ensure it stays that way.

When the Claude Peteet Mariculture Center in Gulf Shores was rebuilt from the ground up a couple of years ago, the first project for the included hatchery was to put it through a shakedown phase with one of the most popular species for inshore anglers. The red drum (redfish) is a species that is easily spawned in hatchery settings and can handle the rigors of being transported and released into the wild.

The results of that effort are now being realized with the release of redfish fry into backwater estuaries, where the baby redfish can thrive in a protected area and then move into the general species population when they become large enough to fend for themselves.

The largest release of redfish fry to date occurred earlier this week when almost 18,000 fry from an inch to an inch-and-a-quarter were released into the marsh that is connected to Little Lagoon in Gulf Shores.

We’ve been releasing redfish fry since we opened the hatchery two years ago,” said Chris Blankenship, Director of the Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD). “We are also working to spawn Florida pompano and flounder for restocking efforts.”

“We’ve been releasing red drum fry at different locations around coastal Alabama, such as the Bon Secour River and Weeks Bay. This particular batch added 18,000 red drum into the marsh off of Little Lagoon. With it being the fall, this will give them a good chance to stay in the marsh grass and grow throughout the winter. After they overwinter here in the marsh, they can move into Little Lagoon and then go out the pass (Little Lagoon Pass on West Beach Road) into the Gulf of Mexico when they are ready.”

The excellent fishing for recreational anglers also translates into the easier capture of brood stock for the MRD hatchery.

“We’ve had a very good year for red drum from the Dog River area through Grand Bay and the Mississippi Sound, all the way through the Eastern Shore,” Blankenship said. “We’ve seen a lot of legal redfish in the (16 to 26 inches) slot. It’s been a really good year. I’m hoping that releasing fry like this will continue to build that fishery and continue the restocking efforts on the Gulf Coast.

“The good fishing also allows us to add new fish to the brood stock to change up the genetics a little bit. The brood stock will be overwintered in our tanks and they will be spawning all winter long. Then their fry will be released in the spring.”

Josh Neese, the hatchery manager at Claude Peteet Mariculture Center, said red drum was chosen as the initial hatchery species because of significant research done on the species and the success in spawning programs.

“This is a Sport Fish Restoration project,” Neese said. “Basically, we started off with red drum because it is a hardy species. We used them for the prototype, or guinea pig, for while we were ‘kicking the tires’ of the facility and testing parameters and how we need to operate the facility.

“Also, the homework has been done on red drum. Hatcheries in Texas, south Florida and South Carolina have been producing red drum for decades. So there is not a whole lot of research that is needed on behalf of growing these guys. It’s all been done, so that’s the reason we used red drum as a starting species.”

MRD has released multiple batches from the hatchery into the wild, but this week’s release was the largest to date.

“With each new batch, we improve our process to fine-tune the hatchery operation to increase survivability,” Neese said. “Hopefully, this will get our production up to a million red drum fry per year very soon as well as lead to success with pompano and flounder.”

Neese said the fry will reach 12 to 14 inches in about a year, and the female redfish will reach spawning age in two to three years and will likely be 16 to 18 inches long.

“They will grow exponentially until they reach maturity, when their metabolic budget will be focused on reproduction instead of somatic growth (body size),” he said. “They’ll continue to grow, but it won’t be at the same rate as before they reached maturity.”

The new Claude Peteet Mariculture Center could be a tourist attraction on its on with its state-of-the-art equipment and hatchery.

The original mariculture center was built in 1973 on 45 acres on the Intracoastal Waterway for the purpose of raising striped bass to be restocked in Alabama waters. Since that introduction, Marine Resources has researched and reared a wide variety of fish and crustaceans at the facility. Saltwater corrosion and wear and tear from a number of tropical storms and hurricanes had taken its toll on that facility.

Marine Resources used multiple funding sources to pay the bulk of the $9 million cost of the mariculture center. Funding was provided through the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP), the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (oil production) and the Emergency Disaster Recovery Program (EDRP) associated with the Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.

The new center has dedicated rooms for brood stock, strip-spawning and algae production. Large, walk-in coolers and freezers allow MRD to buy feed and necessary products in bulk to save money on operational costs, according to Blankenship.

The facility uses two saltwater pipelines to provide the proper salinity for the species being spawned. One pipeline is in the Intracoastal Waterway, where brackish water is pumped to the facility. The other pipeline extends to the Gulf State Park Pier for the higher salinity of the Gulf. Neese and his cohorts can mix the saltwater from the two sources to get the optimal salinity for the species that is being studied or spawned.

“MRD is also releasing 400 tagged red drum this week at different locations around Mobile Bay,” Blankenship said. “These fish are 10-12 inches long. This will help us track where the fish move and how well they survive after release.

“At the hatchery, we are also doing multiple research projects with the University of South Alabama and Auburn University. We have a lot going on to improve fishing opportunities for the people in Alabama and beyond. And the best news is we are just getting started.”

Taxidermists’ and Deer Processors’ Assistance Sought in Preventing CWD

Earlier this year Alabama enacted a ban on the import of deer carcasses from states where Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been confirmed. The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) is asking that taxidermists and deer processors help spread the word and keep Alabama CWD-free.

Comparable to mad cow disease, CWD is a fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of deer. The disease attacks the brain of an infected animal causing it to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose bodily functions and subsequently die. Once CWD is introduced into the environment, it is impossible to eradicate. This makes taxidermists and deer processors crucial in preventing the disease from becoming established in Alabama.

Mitchell Bragg, a taxidermist in Jacksonville has first-hand experience with the new CWD ban. Recently, a hunter brought Bragg a deer that had been harvested in Illinois, a state included in the ban. Thanks to an informational poster distributed by WFF, Bragg called his local district wildlife office for guidance on how to handle the situation.

The deer was double bagged and frozen until it can be sent to Auburn University for testing and proper disposal. A bleach-based solution was also recommended for cleaning any surface or tools that came in contact with the deer.

“Mr. Bragg did the right thing in calling us,” said Lt. Carter Hendrix with the WFF Law Enforcement Section. “It often takes a while to spread the word about season changes and new regulations. Thanks to his vigilance more hunters will know about the ban and take extra precautions when returning to Alabama with deer harvested from a known CWD area. To date, there have been no positive tests for CWD in Alabama and it needs to stay that way.”

Bragg said the main issue right now is awareness.

“Lots of folks aren’t fully aware of the CWD regulation change,” he said. “Even I didn’t know how serious it is until this deer was brought in. I didn’t know that once it goes into the ground or contaminates water, you can’t get rid of it. It never goes away. Contaminating one spot could be catastrophic to Alabama’s entire deer herd.”

Bragg’s advice for other taxidermists or processors who might experience similar situations is to make sure they are aware of the new CWD ban. Additionally, hunters, taxidermists and deer processors are encouraged to take every precaution to protect the state’s deer herd and, in turn, their own businesses.

“It’s in our best interest to take care of what we’ve got,” Bragg said.

Prior to returning to Alabama with a deer harvested in a CWD-affected state, it is critical that hunters completely debone the animal, remove and dispose of any brain or spinal tissue from skull plates, raw capes and hides. Root structures and other soft tissue should be removed from all teeth. Additionally, skull plates must be cleaned with a bleach-based solution. Finished taxidermy products and tanned hides are not affected by the ban.

For instruction on how to properly sanitize the mount or carcass, contact the nearest WFF district office. For contact information, visit www.outdooralabama.com/contact.

CWD has been found in captive and/or wild deer in 24 states, two Canadian provinces, Norway, and South Korea. It is not known to be transmissible to humans or domestic livestock. For a map of CWD states, visit www.outdooralabama.com/map-cwd-north-america.

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

WFF needs your support in maintaining Alabama’s CWD-free status. To report the importation of live or harvested deer, call the Operation GameWatch line at 1-800-272-4263. If possible, please provide a name and description of any suspects including vehicle description, license plate, and the time and location of the observation. Resident deer exhibiting signs of CWD can also be reported via GameWatch.
To learn more about CWD, visit www.outdooralabama.com/chronic-wasting-disease-what-you-should-know.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com

Rare White Squirrel Spotted on Auburn University Campus

 Post written by Hunter Reardon
In the novel Moby Dick, Captain Ahab searches for an elusive white whale. Now, Auburn University students and faculty have their own quest trying to spot a rare white squirrel scurrying up and down the trees behind the Fisheries building on campus.

Dr. Troy Best, an Auburn University biological sciences professor, has seen the white squirrel several times from a distance. There are a number of reasons to explain why the squirrel is displaying the unusual color, he said. Albinism, a genetic defect resulting in a loss of melanin, could be the cause. Leucisim, a defect resulting in partial pigmentation loss, is another option. The third possibility is that the squirrel is simply expressing a recessive gene for white hair.

“If you could get a look at the eyes, that would be a good way to tell,” says Best. “The telltale difference is if it has pink eyes.” Animals suffering from albinism always have pink eyes, because eye pigments that normally cover up blood vessels are missing. Leucisitic animals don’t have this issue, but the colors of their coat tend to be only partially white. Any animal with black eyes and a white coat has no major defect. The gene for white hair is just being expressed.

The gray squirrel, the species most commonly seen in Alabama, claims almost all of eastern North America as its habitat. A white squirrel in the far reaches of Canada might benefit from its unique white coat during the winter months. For the majority of the year and the region, however, a white coat is a disadvantage to a squirrel.

“White squirrels can be in more danger than squirrels colored to their environment,” explained Best. “This is one reason why white squirrels are so rare: it is not evolutionally beneficial, especially in places where it rarely snows.”

Chris Jaworowski, a regional Extension agent with the Forestry, Wildlife and Natural Resources team, has seen white deer and white turkeys captured on hunts. He agrees with Best on the coloration of the squirrel. “The trait definitely makes him pretty conspicuous,” says Jaworowski.

It is not the first time that a uniquely colored squirrel darted up and down trees on the Auburn campus. A few years ago, Best fielded questions about certain squirrels on campus with black spots. While, a new leopard-print squirrel would have made for an interesting evolutionary development, the spots turned out to be hair dye applied by a graduate student performing a behavioral study. This time, Best says the coloration is all-natural. “No human has done anything to make this squirrel white,” he said.

While seeing a white squirrel is rare, it is not unheard of. Biological sciences professor Dr. Michael Wooten says that albinism can be a dominant trait, but it often occurs seemingly spontaneously. Albinism is caused by a disruption of the melanin pathway, which influences skin tone.

“There are a lot of different genes for melanin, any one of which can be affected,” says Wooten. “It’s a sporadic occurrence in most cases.

Game Wardens Want Encounters with Hunters to Be Safe, Short

Bowhunting season in Alabama has started and it won’t be long until gun deer hunters join in the pursuit of Alabama’s most popular game animal—the white-tail deer. Conservation Enforcement Officers (CEOs), commonly called game wardens, are taking to the woods to make sure hunters are complying with hunting laws and regulations.

During the fall, the majority of these encounters consist of checks for proper licenses and game bag limits. Officers strive to keep these interruptions as brief as possible so that those checked can get back to hunting.

It is common to experience anxiety when approached by a uniformed law enforcement officer. What hunters may not realize is that the officer may be experiencing some anxiety as well. CEOs often work in remote areas and regularly encounter people with firearms, knives and bows. According to Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Enforcement Chief Kevin Dodd, the goal of the officer is to have a safe and positive experience−for the officer and the hunter. “Our officers are there to ensure that the state’s wildlife and fisheries resources are used in a fair and equitable manner,” he said. “With the hunter’s cooperation, most encounters are short and go smoothly.”

A new question CEOs will be asking hunters this year is if they have reported their deer or turkey harvests. Dodd says officers will have education in mind when speaking to hunters about this new regulation. “Hunters have 48 hours to report their deer and turkey harvests through the Game Check system,” he said. “We will not only be asking hunters if they have checked their game, but we will be educating them on how to use Game Check. We can also determine if the hunter has complied.”

If you are approached by a CEO, here are some courtesies to keep in mind.

If necessary, acknowledge that you have identified the officer’s location by a low whistle or hand motions. Put your firearm on “safe” and keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
Wait until the officer asks that you unload your weapon or allow the officer to do so upon request. Maintain control of any youths bearing firearms who may be hunting with you.
Produce any required licenses and permits, if requested.
If hunting from an elevated stand, wait for instructions from the officer before descending. Licenses and permits can sometimes be dropped to the ground for inspection then tucked into the tree bark for the hunter to retrieve after the hunt.
Remember that the officer is there to ensure that landowner rights against unwanted poachers are protected and that the resource is being used legally.
For more information on hunting regulations, Game Check and more, visit outdooralabama.com.

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

Oak Mountain Deer Management Program on Track for 2016-17 Season

To expand the opportunity for bowhunters to harvest more deer within Oak Mountain State Park near Birmingham, hunt dates are scheduled from November 1, 2016, through January 31, 2017. Hunt dates will be weekday only with the exception of three weekends in January 2017. Those dates are January 14-15, January 21-22 and January 28-29. The program was designed by the Alabama State Parks Division, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) and Bowhunters of Alabama (BHA) in an effort to maximize hunter opportunity and simplify the deer management process within the park.

Oak Mountain State Park will remain open during the hunts. All established park rules and regulations will apply. The park will be divided into 11 zones with each zone accommodating four to five hunters on a first-come, first-serve basis. Up to 40 hunters have been chosen by BHA through a registration process for the 2016-17 season. Visit www.alabamabowhunter.com to learn more about the BHA urban deer control program.

The Oak Mountain hunting format is modeled on other urban deer control programs across the United States and the number of deer harvested met the goal of further reducing the herd. Last year 45 deer were harvested during the hunts (36 does and 9 bucks).

Wildlife experts point to Oak Mountain State Park as a textbook case of how deer tend to multiply in numbers greater than their habitat can support unless controlled through regulated hunting. Past herd health checks and necropsy confirmed the presence of parasites and disease due to overpopulation. After consulting with state wildlife biologists and in consideration of scientific research data, regulated archery hunts were established in 2004 to control the Oak Mountain State Park herd.

Surveys conducted in 1999, 2000 and 2003 found that the Oak Mountain deer herd was causing serious damage to wildflowers, trees and shrubs as a result of feeding on park vegetation. In turn, populations of small mammals and nesting birds were negatively affected. An ongoing independent study reveals a higher percentage of seedlings have survived since the hunts were implemented. As funds allow, future research will be conducted highlighting the improvements to park vegetation and to the health of the whitetail deer population due to the hunts.

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.

Outdoor Writer: Lions on the Line Illustrates Impact of Lionfish on Reefs

 (Chandra Wright, David Rainer) Marine Resources Director Chris Blankenship shows off one of the largest lionfish that was brought to the check station during the Lions on the Line event. This fish was 3mm smaller than the largest lionfish. To illustrate the impact lionfish have on baitfish populations, this fish has three cigar minnows in its mouth. Lionfish filets are excellent table fare, especially in the Lionfish Tacos dish that Haikel Harris, sous chef at Flora-Bama Yacht Club, offered to those in attendance.

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
For those who don’t live near the Alabama Gulf Coast, you might not be aware that Gov. Robert Bentley declared a Lionfish Awareness Day recently.

The reason for the public declaration was to coincide with the Lions on the Line event that was held at the Flora-Bama Marina and Flora-Bama Ole River Bar & Grill, which sit astride the Florida-Alabama line, hence Lions on the Line.

The Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD), Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission and the NUISANCE Group teamed up to hold the event that encouraged the diving community to take as many lionfish as possible from the reefs off the Alabama coast and bring them in to be prepared for the public by well-known chefs from the Gulf Coast.

For those not familiar with the lionfish, it is an invasive species that likely was dumped out of an aquarium into waters in south Florida. The species, which is native to the Indo-Pacific region, has spread like wildfire in the favorable conditions of the Gulf of Mexico and south Atlantic areas.

Because they are voracious consumers of baitfish species and juvenile reef fish, lionfish pose a threat to the native species that inhabit the vast reef system off the Alabama Gulf Coast. Lionfish also are prolific spawners. An adult female lionfish can produce as many as 2 million eggs per year.

Alabama Marine Resources Director Chris Blankenship said lionfish are spreading among the reef system at an alarming rate.

“We have so many reefs out there in shallow and deep water. When we go out and put down cameras we’ll see 25 to 30 lionfish on some reefs,” Blankenship said of the 12,000 or so reefs off the Alabama coast. “On other reefs we may see three or four. But almost every time we take a look at a reef, we see lionfish no matter the depth.

“The populations on our reefs are definitely still increasing. Having events like this to raise awareness of the lionfish threat and get more people to dive and remove lionfish is good for the ecosystem.”

From the seafood marketing aspect of the situation, Blankenship hopes to create an interest from the public for the tasty lionfish filets.

“We’re trying to create a market for lionfish,” Blankenship said. “The demand is there. It’s just a matter of getting people who dive and commercial fishermen to be aware of that. If we can get them to catch these species that are invasive and are harming other native species on the reefs, that would be good for them and the ecosystem.”

The problem with lionfish is they are not often caught on hook and line. The vast majority of lionfish are captured by divers who either spear the fish or use capture devices. Blankenship hopes new technology will allow easier removal of the lionfish from reefs in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Coast and Caribbean.

“There is a lot of research being done now on types of traps or cages,” he said. “NOAA (Fisheries) is funding some research in the Florida Keys to see if they can catch lionfish without damaging the other populations. We should have some results on that next year. A lot of work is being done to find solutions other than having divers go down and shoot them, which is a limiting factor in removing lionfish.

“We’ve seen a few more fish this year that were caught on hook and line. It’s becoming a little more common, but you have to be right over the reef. Most people don’t fish right on top of the reef. Most people anchor up and end up a few hundred feet from the reef. The lionfish don’t venture far from the actual reef. Lionfish are beautiful fish and are delicious fish, but they are damaging to the ecosystem.”

The problem with lionfish is they are not predator forage because of the venomous spines on their fins. Only the spines are venomous and the flesh is not affected.

Videos on YouTube that show larger species of fish, like grouper, swallowing a lionfish only to spit it out a couple of seconds later.

“When people dive or when we have the camera down, lionfish are not really scared of anything,” Blankenship said. “They don’t swim off. You can get right up to them with a pole spear and spear them. They really don’t have any natural enemies so they don’t have that instinct to flee. Without natural enemies, that’s why they’re becoming so prolific.”

The lionfish flesh is perfectly safe, but the spines should be carefully avoided when fileting the fish.

That’s where Lions on the Line provides a public service by demonstrating numerous ways to prepare lionfish in delicious ways.

“That we can bring these groups and chefs together for an event shows there is a concern in the community,” Blankenship said. “There are a lot of people trying to do something about this. It’s great to build those coalitions.”

Chris Sherrill, executive chef at Flora-Bama Yacht Club who started the NUISANCE Group to promote the use of underutilized fish and animal species, said the goal of his group and events like Lions on the Line is to raise public awareness of the lionfish threat.

“We’re trying to educate the public because lionfish are invasive and destroy our reefs,” Sherrill said. “They eat everything they can get their mouths around. They eat juvenile reef species like snapper, grouper and triggerfish. They put a real hurting on them. We’ve seen the devastating effects already.

“By having lionfish derbies, we’re able to educate the public about how safe lionfish are to eat and the destruction they do to our reefs. It’s a really cool event.”

Sherrill and his cohorts provided a demonstration on how to filet lionfish safely.

“I’ve done it blindfolded before just to prove how safe it is,” he said. “We try to show people everything about lionfish. When we talk to people about lionfish, they are shocked with the staggering numbers they hear. Then they want to know how to get involved.

“We had good participation for a first-year event. We had 1,662 lionfish brought in by the six teams of divers. And we had seven chefs that prepared lionfish for the public to sample.”

Sherrill said lionfish filets have endless possibilities when it comes to the kitchen.

“You can have it raw, grilled, sautéed, fried, baked,” he said. “The lionfish lends itself to every way you can possibly prepare it. It’s a fun fish to work with. I’d like to see it show up on more and more menus.

“Whole Foods currently carries the lionfish filets and a handful of Publix in south Florida are carrying them. We hope that continues to spread.”

The Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission provided prize money of $3,500 that was awarded for most lionfish, largest lionfish and smallest lionfish. Team Niuhi (Andy Ross, Barry Shively, Travis Griggs, and Chris Simon) swept first place in all three categories and won $2,000 with 758 lionfish, largest at 409 mm (16.1 inches) and smallest at 62 mm (2.44 inches).

In the culinary competition, Brody Olive of Voyagers at Perdido Beach Resort won the People’s Choice award, while Scott Smith of Key’s Southern Spice, Tim Chyrek of McGuire’s and Brandon Burleson of Central in Montgomery each qualified for the upcoming World Food Championships Steak category for their surf and turf creations with lionfish and steak.

Outdoor Alabama Mobile App Updated for Game Check



Mandatory reporting of all deer and turkey harvests through Alabama’s Game Check system is now required by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). Hunters will have 48 hours to report their harvest through the recently updated Outdoor Alabama mobile app, online at www.outdooralabama.com, or by phone at 1-800-888-7690.

Hunters are encouraged to utilize Game Check via the updated mobile app or go online to report their harvest. Hunters will need to manually update the Outdoor Alabama app through the Apple or Android app stores or reinstall it to make sure they have the most recent version.

Besides providing a convenient way to report your harvest, a smartphone with the Outdoor Alabama app will be accepted in lieu of a paper harvest record. Hunters who plan to Game Check online or by phone are still required to possess a harvest record and hunting license during their hunt.

Reporting via the updated mobile app can be completed offline regardless of cellphone or data coverage. Just input the information and the app will automatically submit it when cellphone or data coverage is restored. The phone number is provided as a service for hunters who do not have internet access.

“It’s a very simple process that takes just a few minutes to complete,” said Chuck Sykes, Director of ADCNR’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF). “With multiple reporting options and a reasonable time frame to input the data, there are no barriers to using the Game Check system.”

Also new for the 2016-17 hunting season is the introduction of the Conservation Identification (CID) number. The 6-digit CID number is unique to each hunter and can be used to purchase future licenses, Harvest Information Program (HIP) permits, and report deer and turkey harvests. Unlike an annual hunting license or Hunter’s Exempt License Privilege (H.E.L.P.) number, the CID number will never change, making it easier to use and remember.

“Hunters are not required to obtain a Conservation ID, but having one will save them time in the future,” Sykes said. “From buying a new hunting license to reporting a harvest, you’ll only need to remember two pieces of information, your birthday and your 6-digit Conservation ID number.”

Information required to Game Check a harvest includes the date of harvest, the type of animal (deer or turkey), sex of deer and age of gobbler (adult or jake), county of harvest, and if the harvest was on public or private land. Once the information has been submitted, you will receive an email confirmation.

To address concerns or questions hunters may have about the Game Check system, ADCNR has produced a how-to video about the reporting system. To watch the video, visit https://youtu.be/NnqkytvbKcg.

Deer archery season opens on October 15 (buck only for the first 10 days of bow season in Zone B). Hunters are encouraged to obtain their annual hunting license, H.E.L.P., or 6-digit CID number prior to the start of the season. For additional season dates, bag limits and hunting information, check out the 2016-17 Alabama Hunting and Fishing Digest or visit www.outdooralabama.com/hunting.

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.

Simon Roberts wins giant cabbage contest

“Over the course of the past 13 years, the Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program has proved to be an exciting, worth-while experience that children, teachers, parents and grandparents across the country have embraced. We're pleased and proud to our ALABAMA State Winner, Simon Roberts! We are grateful to have the opportunity to provide our youth with this enjoyable and enriching opportunity and engage their interest in the art and joy of gardening”, said Cope.

Growing a colossal cabbage may seem like a giant undertaking for young kids, but it’s easier than you think. All you need to do is:

Let the Sunshine In: Cabbages need at least six hours of full sunlight, more if possible.

Survey Your Space: Bonnie O.S. cabbages need at least three feet on each side to spread out. If you don’t have that much space, use a large container.

Supplement Soil: Work some compost into the soil – cabbages love nutrient-rich soil.

Feed Your Food Plant: Start your cabbage off right with an all-purpose vegetable plant food. Follow label directions to keep it growing strong.

Water Wisely: Your cabbage needs at least one inch of rainfall each week. If it doesn’t rain, use a watering can or garden hose to gently water your plant at soil level.

Tend To Trouble: Keep weeds out of the cabbage patch – they compete for the food and water your cabbage needs. Be on the lookout for brown or white moths – these come from worms that love to munch on cabbage. If you see any, get rid of them right away. Cold weather can damage your cabbage. If the weather gets below 32° F, cover your cabbage with a bucket or clothe covering.

Hefty Harvest: In just 10 to 12 weeks, you should have a huge head of cabbage you can be proud of.

Green thumbs and perseverance can pay off, providing participating children with as great sense of pride and accomplishment, a humongous cabbage, and for the lucky state winner…. the beginning of an educational fund for college.

A great way to get kids started in the garden is the National Bonnie Plants Third Grade Cabbage Program, it’s free to any third grade classroom in the country and teachers can register NOW at www.bonnieplants.com for the 2017 program. Bonnie Plants will truck 2” cabbage plants to every registered third grade classroom in the country, delivery will be scheduled based on geographic region.

To see the 2016 winners as they come in, and learn more about the 2017 contest, visit www.bonnieplants.com

Outdoor Writer: Strict regulations for out of state deer and moose hunters because of Chronic Wasting Disease

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Deer hunters who travel out of state to pursue deer, elk and moose as well as bowhunters in Alabama need to be aware of changes in regulations regarding those activities.

Bowhunters will find relaxed regulations, while hunters who harvest deer and other affected cervids in states with confirmed cases of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) will be under strict regulations on the importation of deer carcasses.

Under the new regulations, hunters who harvest white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose in those CWD-affected states are not allowed to bring the whole deer carcass back to Alabama. Any deer body part that contains spinal or brain tissue is specifically banned from Alabama.

“Alabama’s late to the dance, but we’re at least there now,” said Chuck Sykes, Director of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. “We have now joined 36 other states with similar regulations. It’s been prohibited to bring live deer into the state for some time now. The intent of that regulation was to help prevent the potential to spread diseases. A dead deer can transmit diseases just like a live one. So this was just logical. We finally did something that should have been done a long time ago.”

Sykes said to be in compliance with the new regulation, hunters who harvest a deer in a CWD-affected state must debone the meat, cape the deer and cut off the skull plate with the antlers attached. That skull plate must be thoroughly cleaned of all brain material before it is imported into Alabama.

CWD is a disease similar to Mad Cow Disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep that affects deer, elk and moose. CWD is a form of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy that starts to debilitate the affected animal and results in death.

Thankfully, adjoining states have not had any confirmed CWD cases. However, the insidious disease has been confirmed in Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, Ohio and numerous other states and parts of Canada. States with confirmed cases of CWD have been severely impacted by the disease.

“Unfortunately, that’s not that far away,” Sykes said. “The threat for us is the fear of the unknown. I just know what other states are going through. I know I don’t want the state of Alabama to have to go through it. I know people in Ohio and Arkansas, and it’s devastating to the way of the life, to the economy and to the resource. This is something that impacts me, too. I’ve hunted in Ohio. I’ve hunted in Texas. I’ve hunted in Missouri.

“No, you can’t just go kill a deer in those states, throw it in the back of the truck and come back to Alabama. That may be an inconvenience, but it pales compared to the inconvenience if CWD gets to Alabama.”

Sykes said some states with confirmed CWD cases have set up CWD containment zones where every deer harvested in those zones must be taken to a check station.

“Not only is that interfering drastically with what hunters are used to doing, but look at the budget drain it is causing the agencies that are having to devote all this time and manpower to check all those deer,” he said. “We don’t want it here. The only way to stop it is to never let it cross the border. This is one more step to help that.

“Remember, this is just from states with confirmed CWD cases. If you go to Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky or Florida, you’re fine. If the state has CWD, you can’t bring the whole deer back.”

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) has been testing deer since the 2001-2002 season and none of the more than 5,000 deer sampled have tested positive for CWD.

“We sampled about 300 deer from the wild last year,” Sykes said. “All captive cervids over a year old that die, by regulation, have to be tested for CWD.”

Sykes has been traveling all over Alabama conducting seminars to help hunters understand the new regulations, including the Game Check harvest-reporting system, which is mandatory for the upcoming deer and turkey seasons. One thing he discovered during the seminars is that between 60 and 80 percent of the hunters in attendance said they hunted deer in states other than Alabama.

“With that many people hunting out of state, this is a serious, serious matter,” he said. “CWD never goes away. It is 100 percent fatal. If the deer gets it, it dies, plain and simple. If you get it, you never get rid of it, not just in the deer but the environment. It’s always there.

“When I say you never get rid of it, in Colorado where it was first found in captive mule deer, they killed all the deer and waited many years to put more deer back there, and CWD killed those deer, too. Once you get it, you never get rid of it. We don’t want it in Alabama, and the best chance to keep it out is to make sure it never crosses our border.”

Sykes said deer infected with CWD will exhibit symptoms similar to EHD (epizootic hemorrhagic disease) – lethargic, a need to be around water, loss of the fear of humans and emaciated bodies. Hunters who see a deer that has any of those symptoms should contact WFF biologist Chris Cook at 205-399-5716.

On a more upbeat note, WFF has relaxed some of the regulations that govern the use of archery equipment to hunt deer. The minimum draw weight for bows has been reduced from 35 to 30 pounds. The restrictions on arrow length, broadhead weight or blade thickness have been removed. However, arrows must have a broadhead with at least two sharpened edges and a minimum cutting diameter of seven-eighths of an inch.

The revised regulation also states that crossbows must be equipped with a working safety and have a minimum peak tension of 85 pounds at normal draw.

“The technology has improved so that the kinetic energy and speed are there to hunt effectively and be responsible to the resource,” Sykes said. “Things are a lot different from when I started bowhunting with an old Bear Whitetail II. You had to get that thing up to the highest draw weight to get the arrow speed needed.

“These changes are just to make it as simple as possible and make it easier for anyone who wants to get into bowhunting and enjoy the outdoors. This could apply to anybody. My neighbor just had rotator cuff surgery, and he had to dial his bow down to where he could shoot.”

Speaking of new technology, one air gun company has produced a model that uses compressed air to propel full-length arrows at lethal speeds.

Sykes said those type weapons will fall under the air gun regulations and not archery. The air bows will be allowed during the air rifle and muzzleloader season and open gun deer season. Air guns must be at least 30-caliber to hunt deer and are legal during the same seasons as air bows.

New World Screwworm Detected in Deer in Extreme South Florida

Earlier this week, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the presence of New World screwworm (Cochliomyia hominivorax) in three deer from a wildlife refuge in Big Pine Key, Florida. USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, confirms this is a local infestation of New World screwworm. This is the first local infestation in the United States in more than 30 years. Alabama’s State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier has remained in close contact with USDA and Florida’s State Veterinarian as this animal disease situation continues to be closely monitored by officials.

“We want Alabama cattle producers to know that we are keeping a watchful eye on the screwworm issue in south Florida. The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries will continue to monitor further developments," said Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan.

Frazier says, “Even though it has been many years since the New World screwworm fly has been detected here in the U.S., this incident reminds us how important it is that we remain vigilant at looking for these type of infestations and other livestock diseases.” New World screwworm has not been widely present in the U.S. since the 1960s but can be found in South America and in five Caribbean countries. In addition to the samples from three Key deer that were confirmed positive for screwworm, there are other Key deer from the same refuge and a few pets in the local area that exhibited signs of screwworm over the past two months, though no larvae were collected and tested in those cases.

Dr. Billy Powell, Executive Director of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association said, “I appreciate the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, USDA APHIS, and other officials staying on top of this animal disease incident. As a youngster growing up on a diversified livestock farm, I remember the devastating effects of the screwworm outbreak in the late 1950’s, but I am confident that this situation will be contained with the expert response taking place.”

There have been no human or livestock cases detected. All of the potentially affected animals are from the same area of Big Pine Key and No Name Key. Animal health and wildlife officials at the state and federal levels are working jointly to address these findings. “This pest can be devastating to livestock. Farmers who raise cattle, sheep, goats, horses and wildlife should be diligent and report any potential signs of damage from screwworm. This costly insect was eradicated once in the 1960s, but we all need to be aware that it could be moving into Alabama with remnants of Hurricane Matthew,” said Alabama Farmers Federation Beef Division Nathan Jaeger.

Animal health and wildlife officials at the state and federal levels are working jointly to address these findings. Response efforts will include fly trapping to determine the extent of the infestation, release of sterile flies to eliminate the screwworm fly population, and disease surveillance to look for additional cases in animals. The initial goal will be to keep the infestation from spreading to new areas while eradicating the New World screwworm flies from the affected Keys.

Screwworms are typically found on warm-blooded animals that have a draining or enlarging wound. The most obvious sign is a change in the wound’s appearance — as larvae feed, the wound gradually enlarges and deepens. An infested wound also gives off an odor and some bloody discharge. Even if the actual wound on the skin is small, it could have extensive pockets of screwworm larvae beneath it. Infested livestock usually show signs of discomfort, and they may go off their feed and produce less milk. Typically, these animals will separate themselves from the rest of the flock or herd and seek shady or secluded areas to lie down.
Anyone who suspects the presence of screwworms or has questions or concerns can contact the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries State Veterinarian’s office at 334-240-7253.

Auburn University researcher links collapse of Maya civilization with lack of hurricanes, reveals benefits of cyclones

Written by Lindsay Miles Penny
More than a millennium ago, in what is now southern Mexico and northern Central America, the ancient Mayan empire stretched across an area the size of Texas.

The Maya civilization flourished along the Yucatán Peninsula and built temples now regarded as one of the “Seven Wonders of the World,” until approximately A.D. 1000 when the Maya territory inexplicably disappeared.

For centuries, the collapse of the Maya civilization has both intrigued and puzzled researchers as studies have examined sociopolitical factors, endemic warfare, migration and many other circumstances at the time of the Mayan’s demise.

A recent study by Martin Medina, associate professor in Auburn University’s Department of Geosciences, has determined that drought due to low tropical storm activity could be to blame for the Maya civilization collapse.

“Paleoclimate records discovered in the last two decades show that the Mayans experienced severe drought,” said Medina. “We found that during the collapse, the Yucatán Peninsula in particular experienced eight events of droughts. It rained half as much then as it does today. Knowing what we know about the agricultural systems in the region and how they had to capture water in order to sustain their populations, a drop in precipitation by half would have had important implications for the Maya civilization.”

Medina developed a series of paleoclimate records by looking at stalagmites, calcium carbonate structures that grow in caves from the bottom of the floor, and stalactites, which grow from the ceiling of the cave. These structures are formed from drips of rainfall containing specific minerals.

“The way I see a cave is like a library of climate and environmental information that is waiting to be decoded and tapped into,” said Medina. “We extract the stalagmite, slice it, and inside the stalagmite, it has growth bands like tree rings, each corresponding to a certain time. We take little samples and measure the proportions of two forms of oxygen in the carbonate, and these tell us how much it rained in the past. The more it rained, the more of one of those forms of oxygen there will be. We can even determine changes in vegetation through pollen found inside the stalagmite.”

Once Medina determined the droughts existed, he and his team then looked at the reason these droughts occurred.

“We found out there is a strong relationship between tropical cyclone frequency and precipitation variability in the region,” said Medina. “When cyclones were more frequent in the region, it rained more in the Yucatán Peninsula, and vice versa, when the frequency of tropical cyclones was lower, we found that there was a drought. The droughts coincided with times of low tropical cyclone frequency. Cyclones didn’t bring enough rainfall to bring the region above levels of drought in terms of rainfall.”

Medina says the study forced him to look at tropical storms in a new and different way, and allowed him to assess ways that regions can benefit from a hurricane’s rainfall.

“We never thought of tropical storms as being a positive force until we did this research,” said Medina. “Typically you think of tropical cyclones only as destructive forces in terms of flooding and wind strength. If we are able to overcome the negative impacts, that will allow the natural systems to replenish themselves through tropical cyclones, which they’ve been doing for thousands of years. If you can withstand their negative impacts then you will be able to reap the benefits of their rainfall fluxes.”

Global circulation models predict that by the end of this century, the Yucatán Peninsula will become even drier.

“In the Yucatán Peninsula, a tropical cyclone can produce as much rainfall in three days as it rains in the region over the course of a year,” said Medina. “So, thinking about the future, if the Yucatán becomes more arid and the water table becomes more depleted due to climate change and human extraction of freshwater, you can think of tropical cyclones as a source of freshwater that can help restore and support agriculture, drinking and hygiene purposes.”

Medina’s theory has implications here in the United States as well, especially in regions known to experience the devastation of flooding, like Louisiana.

“Flooding is a serious issue for our cities and they are not built to typically withstand dramatic rainfall fluxes like the ones associated with tropical cyclones,” said Medina. “The largest impact from tropical cyclones is in relation to storm surges, or the sea level rising, which causes waves to come inland which floods large extensions of continental territory. There are infrastructures that we can develop like higher levies and levies that can withstand a Category 5 hurricane. Doing this will help mitigate the negative impacts from tropical cyclones.”

Medina’s study appeared as the cover story for the September edition of the scientific journal, Quaternary Research.

His research is featured in the documentary, “In Search of our Lost Future: A Journey to the Past to Find the Key to our Future,” that premiered on Spanish television Sept. 30.

For more information on Medina and his research, visit his website at http://www.medinaelizalde.net/Martin/Welcome.html.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Endangered Status & Critical Habitat for Alabama’s Black Warrior Waterdog

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to protect the Black Warrior waterdog as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) because of low population numbers, habitat fragmentation, and poor water quality in the Black Warrior River Basin. An endangered species is considered in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.


At the same time, the Service also is proposing to designate 669 river miles within 11 tributaries of the Black Warrior River Basin as critical habitat. The Service is including a draft economic analysis for this proposed action. The public is invited to submit comments on all of these actions through a 60-day comment period ending December 5, 2016.


The Black Warrior waterdog is not the only species struggling to survive in the Black Warrior River Basin. Fifteen other aquatic species are currently federally protected in the basin’s rivers and streams, including snails, fish, mussels, turtles, and amphibians. The flattened musk turtle, federally-listed as threatened, has habitat needs similar to the waterdog, and the two species’ ranges overlap.


“The decline of the Black Warrior waterdog indicates a decline in water quality,” said Cindy Dohner, the Service’s Southeast Regional Director. “By proposing to conserve the waterdog, we hope to work with partners to improve water quality within the entire basin to benefit people and all aquatic species.”
“We are committed to improving the waterdog’s status and habitat quality in the basin, which helps fish and wildlife, as well as people,” Dohner said.


The Black Warrior waterdog is a large, aquatic, nocturnal salamander that permanently maintains its larval shape and external gills throughout its life. It is only found in streams within the Black Warrior River Basin in Alabama, including the main channel of the Black Warrior River, parts of the North River, Locust Fork, Mulberry Fork, and Sipsey Fork, and all tributaries in this basin.


Water quality degradation is likely one of the biggest threats to the continued existence of the Black Warrior waterdog, and is considered the primary reason for the extirpation of this species over much of its historical range. Because of their highly permeable skin and external gills, waterdogs are particularly sensitive to declines in water quality and oxygen concentration.


Sources of pollution in the Black Warrior River Basin have been numerous and widespread, and include run-off from industrial plants, landfills, sewage treatment plants, construction, forestry management, and surface mining.


Physical features, such as rocks, submerged ledges, and other instream structures, play an important role in determining habitat suitability for the waterdog. One of the most important habitat features is the presence of semi-permanent leaf packs. These provide both shelter and foraging habitat for larval and adult waterdogs.
The Service will make a final decision in 2017 about whether to extend ESA protection to the Black Warrior waterdog after evaluating comments and all available information. In particular, the Service is looking for information on distribution, status, population size or trends, life history, and threats to these salamanders. If the Black Warrior waterdog is listed under the ESA, the Service will work cooperatively with partners to conserve its habitat. In addition, federal agencies would need to ensure that activities they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the species or destroy or adversely modify designated critical habitat.
Critical Habitat
The ESA requires the Service to identify specific geographic areas essential for the conservation of the Black Warrior waterdog. All of the proposed critical habitat areas, whether occupied or unoccupied by the waterdog, are within its current or historic range.
Although non-federal lands are included in the areas proposed as critical habitat for the Black Warrior waterdog, activities on these lands will not be affected unless they are authorized, funded, or carried out by a federal agency. In such cases, the lead federal agency will need to consult with the Service to ensure actions do not jeopardize the salamanders or adversely modify their critical habitat.


There are currently 165 river miles of existing critical habitat designated for other species including the Alabama moccasinshell, dark pigtoe, Orangenacre mucket, ovate clubshell, upland combshell, triangular kidneyshell, and Southern acornshell in the basin. The proposed designation will overlap with all of this and will add 504 additional river miles. It is limited to the river itself, within the normal high water mark.


The Service is proposing to designate critical habitat in eight units within the historic range of the Black Warrior waterdog. The recommended critical habitat is located in 11 tributaries within the Black Warrior River Basin. Three of the tributaries are in the Bankhead National Forest (Lawrence and Winston Counties) and include Sipsey Fork, Brushy Creek, and Rush Creek; Locust Fork and Gurley Creek (Blount, Etowah, Marshall, and Jefferson Counties); Blackwater Creek and Browns Creek (Walker and Winston Counties); North River, (Fayette and Tuscaloosa Counties); Yellow Creek and Lye Branch (Tuscaloosa County); and Mulberry Fork (Cullman, Walker, and Winston Counties).


To select these eight units proposed for designation as critical habitat, the Service looked to see where the Black Warrior waterdog was known to occur based on collections and reports commonly referred to as its historic range. Then, Service biologists determined whether the potential critical habitat designation contains the physical and biological features the salamander needs. The physical or biological features provide for a species’ life history processes and are essential to its conservation. Finally, biologists examined the bodies of water that are occupied by the waterdog. Four of the proposed critical habitat units are occupied by the waterdog and four are unoccupied by the species, but the waterdog was historically found at these sites, and they contain suitable habitat to support waterdog populations. The waterdog was actually collected from the four unoccupied critical habitat units in the 1990’s but none have been collected in recent times.


Designating critical habitat informs landowners and the public about specific areas that are important to a species’ conservation and recovery. The Service determines critical habitat based on what an animal or plant needs to survive and reproduce by reviewing the best scientific information concerning a species’ present and historical ranges, habitat, and biology.


Designations have no impact on landowner activities that do not require federal funding or federal permits. The designations do not affect land ownership, nor do they allow government or public access to private land. Additionally, impacts to ongoing activities should not be significant because agencies are already consulting on all of these species and existing critical habitat.
Economic Analysis


As part of the rulemaking process, the Service must consider the economic impacts including costs and benefits of the proposed designation of critical habitat. The economic analysis for the Black Warrior waterdog estimates the critical habitat designation is unlikely to result in a significant economic impact in any given year. Most of the estimated costs are administrative in nature and only applicable when projects may diminish the conservation value of the habitat. The costs are borne largely by federal agencies, which are required to consult with the Service when a project they are funding, permitting or working on is located in an area where critical habitat is designated.


According to the draft economic analysis, for the Black Warrior waterdog, the estimated costs of the designation range from $410 to $9,000 per consultation. The proposed listing of this species with proposed critical habitat is part of the Service’s effort to complete work on a court-approved work plan that resolves a series of lawsuits concerning the agency’s ESA Listing Program. The intent of the agreement is to significantly reduce litigation-driven workloads and allow the agency to focus its resources on the species most in need of the ESA’s protections. For more information, please see http://www.fws.gov/southeast/candidateconservation/.
The ESA allows anyone to petition the Service to include a species on the endangered species list. The proposal to list the Black Warrior waterdog with critical habitat comes as the Service works through hundreds of requests that have come from outside groups in recent years. In responding to these requests, the Service is taking a two-pronged approach of evaluating the petitions as required by law and emphasizing conserving plants and animals before they need the protection of the Endangered Species Act. This has led to a broader partner-driven effort in the Southeast to more fully use flexibilities within the Endangered Species Act to put the right conservation in the right places, benefit imperiled species, keep working lands working and reduce regulatory burden. Since the beginning of the Service’s focus on these at-risk plants and animals, more than 75 species have not required listing as a result of conservation efforts, additional information, reevaluation of stressors, or withdrawn petitions.


The complete listing and critical habitat proposals, as well as a copy of the draft economic analysis for the waterdog’s critical habitat designation, can be obtained by visiting the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov at Docket Numbers FWS-R4-ES-2016-0029 (proposed listing) or FWS-R4-ES-2016-0031 (proposed critical habitat). A copy can also be obtained by contacting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1208-B Main Street, Daphne, Alabama, 36526.


Comments and information may be submitted by: (1) online at http://www.regulations.gov by entering FWS-R4-ES-2016-0029 (proposed listing) or FWS-R4-ES-2016-0031 (proposed critical habitat) in the search box and then clicking on “Comment Now”; or (2) mail or hand deliver to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2016-0029 (proposed listing) or FWS-R4-ES-2016-0031 (proposed critical habitat), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Headquarters, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803. All comments must be received on or before December 5, 2016. Requests for a public hearing must be made in writing within 45 days by November 21, 2016, to the Falls Church, VA, address.
All relevant information received during the open comment period from the public, government agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested parties will be considered and addressed in the Service’s final listing determination for the Black Warrior waterdog and the identification of habitat essential to its conservation.


The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfwssoutheast, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwssoutheast, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwssoutheast.

Planting vegetables for the fall

Fall officially begins September 22, but now is the time to begin changing your garden to prepare for fall vegetables.

“The best thing about the fall season is that it lasts a lot longer than our northern neighbors,” said Ellen Huckabay, a regional agent in home grounds, gardens and home pests with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

For the past few years, Alabama has been seeing warm falls, which allows flexibility for your garden.

“A lot of what we plant in the fall we can keep growing through the winter with a little frost protection because our ground doesn’t freeze,” Huckabay said.

Gardeners may want to rely on someone telling them certain dates to plant a vegetable but that is not a good idea.

Deciding when to plant a vegetable is up to you.

“You really have to look at what the weather is going to be like in the next few months to really get a better idea,” Joe Kemble, an Extension specialist and Auburn University professor, said.

Vegetables that will “give a lot of bang for the buck” this fall are lettuce, turnips, collards and radishes, Huckabay said.

People think tomatoes can only be grown in the summer. While a full crop of tomatoes is not guaranteed in the fall, some still will grow.

How you should set up your garden

When you set up your garden, make it get direct sunlight. The sun should hit your garden for six to eight hours, according to Kemble.
Luckily, any soil in Alabama will be successful. The key ingredient is for your soil to drain well, Kemble said.
You do not want your soil to have a lot of pooling water.
Insect issues

Unfortunately, fall means high insect pressure. It is essential for gardeners to have a plan. Several worm pests will impact a traditional fall garden. Armyworms, beet armyworms and pickleworms will most likely be crawling in your garden. Treat these pests with a biological insecticide called dipel, which is a caterpillar stomach poison.

Starting early

You can also can plant your strawberries for an early spring harvest. Begin planting the strawberries in October and November. Then begin protecting the blooms when the new year begins, Huckabay said.

ADCNR Announces Revised Archery Regulation

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) has revised its archery regulation for the 2016-17 hunting season. The changes reflect recent advancements in archery technology and clarify what qualifies as legal archery equipment when hunting deer or turkey. The new regulation will be in effect this fall.

One of the most significant changes is the minimum draw weight has been reduced from 35 to 30 pounds.

“The lighter draw weight will provide more hunting opportunities for those who have difficulty drawing a bow in that 35 pound class,” said Marisa Futral, ADCNR Hunter Education Coordinator. “This will make it easier for women and children to enter the world of bowhunting, while still producing sufficient arrow speed and kinetic energy to ethically harvest an animal.”

Additionally, there is no longer a restriction on arrow length, broadhead weight or blade thickness. However, arrows must have a broadhead with at least two sharpened edges and a minimum cutting diameter of seven-eighths of an inch.

Outdated language related to crossbows was also removed from the previous regulation. The revised regulation states that crossbows must be equipped with a working safety and have a minimum peak tension of 85 pounds at normal draw.

“These changes should help those new to bowhunting feel more confident they are hunting with legal equipment while in the field,” Futral said.

Deer archery season opens on October 15 (buck only for the first 10 days of bow season in Zone B). ADCNR reminds hunters to be safe while hunting this fall. Remember to always wear a safety harness when hunting from an elevated position. Tree stand accidents remain Alabama’s most common hunting accident. Hunters should be connected to the tree from the moment their feet leave the ground until they return back to the ground safely.

Also new for the 2016-17 hunting season, mandatory reporting of all deer and turkey harvests through Alabama’s Game Check system will be in effect. Hunters will have 48 hours to report their harvest through a mobile app, online at www.outdooralabama.com, or by phone at 1-800-888-7690.

For more information about the new archery regulation, Game Check, hunter safety and more, visit www.outdooralabama.com/hunting.

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.

Trapping Workshops Share Historical, Biological Aspects of Furbearer Management

Online registration for youth and adult workshops begins Oct. 3

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) announces that youth and adult trapping workshops will open for registration on October 3, 2016. The workshops are being offered as a cooperative project between ADCNR, the Alabama Trappers and Predator Control Association, USDA Wildlife Services and Safari Club International.

The educational workshops will provide instruction on the historical aspects of trapping, biological information about furbearers and furbearer management, and the proper techniques of using trapping as a sound wildlife management tool.

All workshops are limited to 25 participants. The youth workshops are recommended for ages 7 and up and are free. Youth ages 7-15 must be accompanied by an adult. Youth over 16 are not required to have an adult present, but it is recommended.

Registration for all workshops will be online at www.outdooralabama.com beginning Oct. 3.

Youth Trapping Workshops

December 2-4, 2016: Red Bay, AL (Franklin Co.)

December 2-4, 2016: Greenville, AL (Butler Co.)

December 10-11, 2016: Citronelle, AL (Mobile Co.)

December 16-18, 2016: Kinston, AL (Geneva Co.)

January 6-8, 2017: Greensboro, AL (Hale Co.)

January 20-22, 2017: Scottsboro, AL (Jackson Co)

February 11-12, 2017: Pell City, AL (St. Clair Co.)

February 17-19, 2017: Spanish Fort, AL (Baldwin Co.)

Adult Trapping Workshops

November 5-6, 2016: Hamilton, AL (Marion Co.)

February 25-26, 2017: Lowndesboro, AL (Lowndes Co)

The Lowndesboro workshop will be held at Southern Sportsman Lodge and a registration fee of $75 (payable to Southern Sportsman) includes one night’s lodging, two breakfasts, one lunch and one dinner. For more information on the Lowndesboro workshop, contact Richard Tharp at 334-347-1298.

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.

Outdoor Writer: making artificial reefs out of Alabama Power’s old service boilers



A 195-foot barge loaded with two 100-ton boilers from Alabama Power Company plants in Washington and Mobile counties became the latest artificial reef to be deployed off the Alabama Gulf Coast last week about 25 miles south of the Sand Island Lighthouse. Photos Billy Pope, aerial courtesy of Alabama Power

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Another artificial reef was deployed off the Alabama Gulf Coast this week in Alabama’s vast artificial reef zone. While a reef deployment may not seem like news, this was indeed special because it could change the way industrial and corporate entities view options for recycling materials.

The new reef deployment was the result of a multitude of partners. Alabama Power Company provided a pair of boilers that had been taken out of service from plants in Washington and Mobile counties. Cooper/T. Smith provided a barge and transportation of the reef material. Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) and the Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD) worked as liaisons to start the process and complete the deployment.

“One thing I’m so excited about with this Alabama Power reef project is that it just shows that the more we’re involved with the community, community leaders and business leaders, there are a lot of great things we can do as partners,” said Marine Resources Director Chris Blankenship. “Tim Gothard with the Alabama Wildlife Federation and Matt Bowden with Alabama Power are the ones who reached out to us with this idea. Then it grew with the work with Angus Cooper and Cooper/T. Smith. They had a barge that had neared the end of its useful life, and we needed a barge to transport the material to the deployment site.

“I think there are a lot of opportunities out there to get companies to rethink the ways they’ve always dealt with materials that have reached the end of their service life. The more we get involved with these organizations and companies, the more we can show them there are other opportunities to partner together. It’s good for the companies and good for the marine habitat. That’s why we think it’s important to get the word out about this project, because it can show what we can do with other private companies. I also hope this is a long relationship with Alabama Power as they continue to provide service for their ratepayers and, at the same time, enhance the environment.”

The new reef is located about 25 miles south of the Sand Island Lighthouse in a depth of about 120 feet in the Tatum-Winn North General Permit Area. The boilers are about 18 feet tall and about 40 feet long and weigh about 100 tons each. The barge is 195 feet long.

“A reef this size would take at least a dozen of our super pyramids,” said MRD Artificial Reefs Coordinator Craig Newton. “So this reef is a big cost savings for our artificial reef program. Alabama Power is experiencing cost savings as well because they don’t have to hire skilled personnel to disassemble the boilers and salvage them.”

To prepare for the deployment, Newton said holes were cut in the sides of the boilers to expose an array of small tubes inside the boiler.

“That’s really going to increase the surface area for encrusting organisms to attach to the reef,” Newton said. “It increases the complexity of the reef by providing refuge for small fish, and it’s really going to be easy to find on your bottom machine.

“Within days, the reef will have red snapper on it. Within months, it should have mangrove (gray) snapper on it. Then we’ll start to see the blennies and damselfish and all the little critters that will help support that ecosystem. By the time the season opens again on January 1 (2017), you could see amberjack on the reef because of the vertical relief.”

Blankenship said Cooper/T. Smith’s donation of the barge is a significant enhancement to the reef.

“The barge is part of the reef,” Blankenship said. “The barge and two 100-ton boilers will make a reef that’s going to be there for decades.

“This is the kind of partnership we’re looking for in our reef program. A company like Alabama Power can realize some savings by partnering with us as they upgrade their equipment. That material doesn’t go to the landfill or get cut up for scrap. Instead, we use it for marine habitat. It’s really a win all around. We want to reach out to other companies that might have these same opportunities.”

Angus Cooper III of Cooper/T. Smith said during his time as AWF president, he was able to witness the work Alabama Power is doing to enhance wildlife conservation in the state.

“Alabama Power is truly one of the leaders in our state when it comes to water quality and wildlife conservation,” Cooper said. “We at Cooper/T. Smith are extremely excited to partner with them on this reef project, our first such collaboration. We look forward to seeing the success of this project, both to the ecosystem and in providing a source of outdoor entertainment for our community.”

Wes Anderson, a team leader with Alabama Power’s Environmental Stewardship Projects, said the boilers had reached the end of their useful service, and it was time to either scrap them or find another useful purpose for the material.

“We became aware of other possibilities through our work with Coastal Cleanup and Renew Our Rivers programs on the Alabama Coast,” Anderson said. “Some of our guys said, ‘We sank 60,000 Christmas trees in our freshwater impoundments. Why don’t we make some nice saltwater reefs with some of this salvage equipment?’ When we approached our bosses with the idea, they were very supportive and thought it was a great idea. We were able to show a cost savings for our ratepayers and a great addition to the marine environment.”

Alabama Power Vice President of Environmental Affairs Susan Comensky added, “Being involved in the construction and deployment of this reef is especially exciting for us at Alabama Power because it's a first for us. In the past, we have simply disposed of old equipment like these boilers, so seeing them repurposed to create a habitat for marine life is very gratifying.”

AWF Executive Director Tim Gothard said the organization’s commitment to Alabama’s artificial reef program made it easy to help foster the partnerships that led to the deployment of the Alabama Power reef.

“We were just glad to be able to connect the dots between all the key players,” Gothard said. “It’s a great public-private partnership for Alabama Power Company to be alerted to a piece of equipment they were retiring and its possible use as an artificial reef. Then Marine Resources was able to evaluate the material to make sure it was suitable for an artificial reef. And, finally, Cooper/T. Smith was able to make transportation available and add a barge to enhance the whole project.

“To me, the exciting part is to see the public and private entities work together with the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to accomplish a project that will be great for the reef system. It will provide really great opportunities for our citizens and general public who like to fish our offshore reefs.”

The Alabama Power reef was deployed near the 70-foot Offshore Supply Boat Reef to provide additional habitat for species that anglers can target outside of the short red snapper season. MRD officials expect species like vermilion snapper and triggerfish will inhabit the reef as well as amberjack.

“The more diversified we can make the reef program, the more ecologically sound and more stable the reef system will be,” Newton said. “The size of this reef will make it better suited to handle storm events and other stresses that might happen.”

 

Fall Migration: Plan A Fun Event to an Alabama Birding Trail


Fall migration is the perfect time to plan a visit to an Alabama Birding Trail! The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development (UACED), The Alabama Tourism Department, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, The Birmingham Audubon Society, Alabama Ornithological Society and Federal partners, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers www.usace.army.mil/ and the National Forest Service www.fs.usda.gov/alabama have partnered over the past 10 years to develop the eight birding trails of Alabama. The Alabama Birding Trails include eight regional areas throughout the state that are recognized as North Alabama, West Alabama, Appalachian Highlands, Piedmont Plateau, Black Belt Nature and Heritage, Pineywoods, Wiregrass and the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail. Each region has well-known sites that are currently being used by many birders and visitors as they enjoy their natural surroundings.

UACED has been involved in the promotion of events and provided the leadership role of facilitation and project management for these Alabama birding trails. Visit the website (alabamabirdingtrails.com) and click on “events” to check out 25+ birding events through the end of the year. Several of these events include unveilings of informational panel/signs that are being implemented by The Alabama Birding Trails partners and sponsors. The informational signs include both regional and statewide information about birding trails and the kinds of birds you can spot throughout Alabama.

Fall migration brings the birds that have spent their summers breeding in the northern United States, Canada and beyond, over the Southeast as they head to their winter homes. Exciting and fun educational events are scheduled through December. Check out the website and plan your next event to an Alabama Birding Trail! alabamabirdingtrails.com/events/. Events held in the next few weeks include a Field Trip on October 1 at Oak Mountain; October 8 at Monte Sano State Park; October 9 at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge; October 22, a Photograph Bird Walk at the Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail; November 5 at the Wiregrass Birding Trail, and a host of other events planned through December. Visit the website to get a listing of all events planned through December and plan your next outdoor adventure. Recently, sign unveilings and birding events were held at the Wiregrass Birding Trail at the Florala Wetlands Park in Florala, AL and at the Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail at the Fort Toulouse/Fort Jackson National Historic Park in Wetumpka, AL.

Alabama’s abundant resources offer bird-watching adventures for many; but not just for the avid or seasoned birder. Birders of all ages and skill levels can enjoy watching an extensive variety of our avian friends. People that simply appreciate nature and enjoy learning about the habitats of animals and birds of Alabama are encouraged to enjoy the eight Alabama Birding Trails. The trails include all of Alabama’s landscapes (270 locations), ranging from swampy marshes, beautiful white sandy beaches, rolling fields and pastures to rugged mountains and deep thick forests. Alabama has over 400 species of birds that have been spotted in our borders. Bird watching has become an economic driver for Alabama as it has created a significant cost-effective impact for our state over the past decade attracting visitors from the U. S. and nationally. Now is the time to become aware of the amazing species of birds, animals and plants of Alabama.

UACED, www.uaced.ua.edu/ is staffed with specialists in Community, Economic, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Development and provides a range of services including research, analysis, project development and management, and strategic planning. Often, UACED pulls from external resources throughout the state that can provide added expertise. As an example, UACED and partners have worked over the past 10 years, to enhance the nature-based knowledge of recreational bird watching. Communities across the State of Alabama can look to resources at The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development to become stronger, more economically competitive, and more enjoyable places to live. Also known as “UACED,” the Center was founded in 1987 as a gateway to University of Alabama economic development and technical assistance resources, and for the past 29 years has been a catalyst for economic prosperity in the state.

Visit the Alabama Birding Trails website, alabamabirdingtrails.com/events/ to learn of upcoming educational events planned among the eight birding trails. And Follow us on Facebook to stay up-to-date on all the fun! facebook.com/AlabamaBirdingTrails/

Outdoor writer: hunting season dates significantly different from in the past

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The Alabama hunting seasons for 2016-2017 are significantly different from the past, with changes in the season dates for several popular species and the adoption of the mandatory reporting of deer and turkey harvests through the Game Check system.

Some Alabama small-game hunters are already taking advantage of the changes. The seasons for squirrels and rabbits opened on Sept. 15 and run all the way through March 5, 2017. The daily bag and possession limits of eight of each species remain the same.

Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division Director Chuck Sykes has been on a whirlwind tour of the state to help hunters become familiar with the changes for the upcoming seasons with specific instructions on how to comply with the Game Check requirements.

Sykes cautioned hunters about where they get their information on the upcoming seasons because of an abundance of misinformation that is being spread by uninformed individuals.

“There are a ton of misconceptions about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” Sykes said. “Our hunting buddies can sometimes give us really bad advice. Most of the issues I’m dealing come from people who say, ‘My hunting buddy told me this,’ or ‘I heard this at the hunting camp.’ Please ask one of our officers or biologists, go to the outdooralabama.com website or pick up one of the hunting and fishing digests that are available all over the state.

“And let me get this out of the way: No matter what you’ve heard, no matter what you’ve read, or what your hunting buddy told you, you cannot hunt over bait this year. That legislation didn’t pass. The House (of Representatives) passed it, but it takes both houses of the Legislature to pass a bill. The Senate has to pass it as well. It didn’t make it through the Senate, so the regulation is still that supplemental feed must be at least 100 yards away and out of the line of the sight of the hunter through natural vegetation or naturally occurring changes in the terrain. So, make sure all of your hunting partners know the truth, because we don’t want any of them to get a citation due to misinformation.”

Speaking of Game Check, WFF recommended that the harvest information reporting system become mandatory to the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board, which unanimously passed the proposal. The change went through the legislative review process and became effective on July 19.

“Starting in October, hunters will have to report their deer and turkey harvests,” Sykes said. “This is a huge education process for us, our staff and the public. It’s my job to show the easiest way to comply that gives us the best data.”

Sykes said 60 to 80 percent of hunters who have attended the more than 30 seminars he has conducted across the state have a smartphone, which is the easiest and most reliable way to report the harvest. The second way is to go online to outdooralabama.com and follow the prompts. The third way, which costs WFF money, is to call 1-800-888-7690.

“In the three years we had the voluntary system, about 50 percent of the data we received through the phone service was inaccurate,” he said. “We couldn’t use it. So please help your kids and your buddies to go online or use the app to do the reporting.”

Even those hunters who are exempt from having a license, those 65 or older or 15 and younger or residents hunting on their own property, will still have to report their harvests. Those hunters will have to go online and obtain a HELP (Hunter Exempt License Privilege) number. It is free, like the HIP permit required to hunt migratory birds, but it will be required to access the Game Check system.

After the hunter accesses Game Check with a hunting license or HELP number, the information that is required is the county where the deer or turkey was taken, whether the turkey was an adult or jake, whether the deer was a buck or a doe, the date and whether the animal was taken on public or private land.

Sykes said hunters who use Game Check through the Outdoor Alabama app can kill the proverbial two birds with one stone. If the app is used, it will comply with both the requirement that the harvest is recorded before the animal is moved and the reporting regulation for Game Check.

Those who do not use the app must write down the kill information on their harvest records before the animals are moved and then must obtain confirmation numbers from Game Check within 48 hours. The harvest information for both bucks and does is required this year.

Sykes also recommends that hunters take the time to get a Conservation ID number that will shorten the online reporting process and reduce the number of errors of entering hunting license numbers.

Because the Game Check system became mandatory, WFF was able to expand the hunting seasons for deer. The gun deer season was extended statewide to Feb. 10. There will be no December closure for the upcoming season.

“A lot of changes hinged on whether Game Check became mandatory,” Sykes said. “On July 19, we were able to determine the deer seasons dates. Hunters can hunt deer statewide until February 10. It’s not a mandate. You don’t have to do it. But if you choose to do so, you can. There will be no closure in December. We are setting a season framework where landowners and managers can more effectively manage the deer on their property.

“Archery season in the South Zone will start on Oct. 15 instead of Oct. 25 like it has been the past couple of years, but the first 10 days will be buck-only to stay in line with our fetal data.”

Another change for deer season is in Zone C (see map), where hunters had requested a reduction in the number of antlerless hunting days.

“The habitat is a lot more open with a lot of agricultural fields and small wood lots,” Sykes said. “The hunters and our biologists were reporting that deer numbers were down. So, we reduced the firearms season for antlerless deer in that zone.”

The antlerless season in Zone C on privately owned or leased land is Nov. 19-Nov. 27 and Dec. 23 through Jan. 2. On open-permit and public land, the antlerless season in Zone C is Dec. 23 through Jan. 2.

“If you hunt in that area or own property in Zone C and you have a bunch of deer on your place, it’s not a problem,” Sykes said. “Get with our technical assistance guys and get signed up on the Deer Management Assistance Program. If you need to harvest more does, they will write you a permit to do so.”

Dog deer season is set for Nov. 19 through Jan. 15 statewide, except for Talladega National Forest, which will have a reduced number of days and dog deer hunting must end at noon.

Legal shooting hours for deer were also clarified. Instead of “during daylight hours,” the regulation now reads 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset.

For those worried about coyotes, Sykes said there is no closed season on coyotes. Night hunting permits for coyotes will be issued on a case-by-case basis. There are also no closed seasons on raccoons and opossums.



SW Ala. & SE Miss. Trail Riders Associations 5th annual fishing derby

The South West Alabama and South Eat Mississippi Trail Riders Association’s 5th annual fishing derby was Aug. 20 at the federation in Epes. Trophy winners were Tracy Houston, Lynn Vaheable, Kailin Thomkin, Diann Ware, Zyonia Turner, Shawn Rice, Tyrese Crass, Shanta Colueci, Ruthie Morris, and Riana Hutchins. Submitted by Wilfred Houston

Outdoor Writer: 12’10” Gator takes 2016 Ala. Gator Season

The team of (left to right) Alvin Nelson, Jackson Woodson, Phillip Brooks and tag holder Lee Wright got more than once chance at this monster alligator that was finally subdued on the final night of the season in the Southwest Alabama Zone. The gator measured 12 feet, 10 inches and weighed 684 pounds. Wright’s wife, Kristie, wanted to be among the crew, but she is expecting twins and had to settle for a photo with the big gator.

By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Now that the bulk of the 2016 alligator season is in the books, one hunter and his crew got to experience the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory during one harrowing season in the Southwest Alabama zone.

It’s not often that a hunter gets more than one shot at a trophy animal, but that’s what happened to Lee Wright of Daphne, who drew a tag after seven unsuccessful attempts.

“I’ve been applying for eight years,” he said. “I didn’t even realize I’d gotten one at first. It didn’t say ‘Sorry,’ like it had in the past. When I looked it up, it didn’t say ‘Congratulations’ or anything like that. It asked which (training) class I wanted to attend. I was looking, and said, ‘Did I get one?’

“I sure did. I couldn’t really sleep that night I was so excited.”

Wright quickly assembled a crew of Jackson Woodson, Phillip Brooks and brothers Alvin and James Nelson. The Nelsons are alligator-hunting veterans and have a boat already rigged to pursue one of the huge reptiles that inhabit south Alabama.

“All I had to do was bring a light and the tag,” Wright said. “We knew there was a gator hanging out at the Cutoff (a channel between the Alabama and Mobile rivers) We went up the first Thursday night and saw this big gator. We got two hooks in him, but he broke 100-pound braided line like it was nothing. That’s when we knew it was a pretty big alligator. We hunted him for another six hours that night but couldn’t get another cast at him.”

The team decided to try the lower Delta for the next couple of nights but didn’t have any luck finding a big gator. They saw plenty of 8- and 9-footers. With the season coming to a close, they decided to go back north to the Cutoff.

Instead of going home empty-handed, Wright said he was prepared to take home an 8-footer and call it good on the last night of the season.

“We had hunted all six nights, and I was about worn out,” he said. “We got on the water about 7:30 and finally spotted him about 10 o’clock. We managed to get three hooks in him. We actually fought him for about 45 minutes.”

The team then deployed a grappling hook to put more pressure on the big gator, but the team found out the gator put more pressure on the equipment.

“The gator broke one of the hooks off the grappling hook,” Wright said. “We ended up throwing the grappling hook down again to try to get the gator off the bottom, and he straightened another one of the hooks. We had only one hook left on the grappling hook, but we managed to get him up. Then we got a harpoon in him.”

Wright and crew were then treated to another example of the power in the beast when they tried to loop a snare around the gator’s snout.

“He didn’t like that at all,” Wright said. “He freaked out and turned around and bit the snare. He bit the aluminum pole square in half. He got some of the rope with it. He turned and thrashed and broke all three lines and two ropes with harpoons in him. Everything just snapped. He just about pulled the boat over. He was a monster.

“My heart just sank. We had hunted this thing that long and now he was gone.”

Instead of giving up right away, the team decided to wait a little while because the gator still had a harpoon in him.

“Finally, about 45 minutes later he came back up about 30 yards from us,” Wright said. “We were able to ease up, and, miraculously, Jackson Woodson was able to get a hook in him, right in the tail. We ended up getting four lines in him, the grappling hook and another harpoon before we could get him up. We finally got him secured to the boat and got a shot in the back of the head.

“It was the biggest adrenaline rush of my life. I’ve killed a lot of big deer and been on some great hunts, but nothing compares to this.”

After the woo-hooing and celebrating subsided, Wright and crew realized they had a big task at hand. It was all hands on deck to get the big gator into the 20-foot boat.

“James (Nelson) couldn’t help because he had a wrist injury, so it took the other four of us to get the gator in the boat,” Wright said. “It took about 45 minutes. We tried that Swamp People thing – getting the head over the side and rolling the gator in the boat. That didn’t work for us. We got ropes tied to him and finally got him in the boat.”

At the weigh station on the Causeway, the gator measured 12 feet, 10 inches and weight 684 pounds, the heavyweight of the season so far with only the Lake Eufaula zone still open. Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division’s Chris Nix, the WFF’s Alligator Program Coordinator, said 33 tags were filled from the West Central zone, while 92 from the Southwest Alabama zone were filled.

Wright’s spouse, Kristie, had hoped to watch Lee weigh in a big gator, but she missed it for obvious reasons.

“My wife is pregnant with twins, and she has hunted with me the entire time we’ve been married and dating,” Lee said. “She was very upset she didn’t get to go. She tried to get me to let her go and be the spotlight person. I told her she couldn’t do it. She was not happy. Since she couldn’t go, she wanted to be at the weigh-in, but we were so late she went to sleep. So I had to take the gator for her to see it and get a bunch of pictures.”

Wright had heard Dauphin Island Sea Lab was doing research on alligators, and he contacted the folks at the Sea Lab to see if they were interested in studying his big gator. The Sea Lab jumped at the chance.

“The Sea Lab doesn’t have a chance to get gators that big and that old that come from the wild,” Wright said. “They’re going to do a necropsy and see what he had been eating and other tests. They think he’s about 60 years old. I am going to have a head mount made.”

Wright said that anyone who hasn’t been drawn for the gator season so far should be a little more patient and wait for the full force of the points system to kick in. The points system awards points for every year a person is not drawn. Each year people aren’t drawn, their points are cubed, which means the points are now accumulating very quickly.

“The points system helped me out,” he said. “I had the most points you could have. I thought I had a good shot, but I didn’t know for sure. I think the points system is a great way to do it. If I can get a tag, anybody can get one because my luck’s not that good.”

Until now.

Youth and Archery Hunt Dates Announced for Fred T. Stimpson Community Hunting Area
Online Registration Opens September 27

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) announces the 2016-17 youth and archery hunt schedules for the Fred T. Stimpson Community Hunting Area (CHA) in Clarke County. The hunting area is located off of Clarke County Road 15 approximately 12 miles south of Jackson, Ala. The hunts will take place October 2016 through February 2017.

In an effort to increase hunter satisfaction, WFF has modified the hunt date framework and registration process. This year, registration is a first-come, first-served online permitting process to hunt one of the newly established 15 hunt zones that average 200 acres in size. While this change limits the overall number of hunting permits to 15 per hunt date, it dedicates each of the hunt zones to the sole use of an individual permit holder (and guests, if applicable) on their registered hunt date.

Hunt Dates
Youth Squirrel
• October 8, 2016
• October 22, 2016

Youth Deer – Gun
• November 12, 2016
• November 26, 2016
• December 17, 2016

Deer – Archery (not limited to youth hunters)
• October 29, 2016
• December 31, 2016
• February 4, 2017

Online registration will open at 8 a.m. on September 27. To register, visit https://publichunts.dcnr.alabama.gov/. Once registered, hunters will receive their permits at the Fred T. Stimpson checking station on the day of each hunt – 5 a.m. for the deer hunts and 6 a.m. for the squirrel hunts.

The youth squirrel hunts are by limited quota permit only. The permit holder and youth hunter may have up to four hunting guests, which may consist of three youth hunters and an additional supervising adult, 21 years or older (or parent). Participants are required to hunt together and remain in their assigned zone. The permit holder, youth hunter and guests are allowed to hunt.

The youth deer hunts are by limited quota permit only with a two deer per day limit (one unantlered deer and one antlered buck). The permit holder and youth hunter may have one youth guest hunter accompanied by a properly licensed adult 21 years or older (or parent). Youth hunters are to hunt under the guidance of the supervising adult and only within the specified zone. Only youth are allowed to hunt.

The archery deer hunts are by limited quota permit only with a two deer per day limit (one unantlered deer and one antlered buck). Permit holders must have a valid hunting license and wildlife management area license. One properly licensed hunting guest is allowed. Both the permit holder and guest are allowed to hunt within the specified zone only.

Youth squirrel and deer hunters must be age 15 or younger. All squirrel and deer harvested during the youth and archery hunts must be recorded at the checking station located at 1415 Stimpson Sanctuary Road, Jackson, Ala., 36545. The statewide antlered buck bag limit of three applies.

Mandatory reporting of all deer (and turkey) harvests through Alabama’s Game Check system will be in effect for these youth hunts. Hunters will have 48 hours to report their harvest through a mobile app, online at www.outdooralabama.com, or by phone at 1-800-888-7690.

For more information about the Fred T. Stimpson CHA youth hunts including the complete hunt guidelines and a map, visit www.outdooralabama.com/youth-squirrel-archery-deer-and-youth-deer-hunts-fred-t-stimpson-cha.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.
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Falconry Allowed in Select State Parks for Squirrel and Rabbit Seasons

Falconer Symeon Robins with Red-tailed hawk, Gizmo. Photo by David Rainer, ADCNR

Falconer Larry Mullis with Red-tailed hawk, Dixie. Photo by David Rainer, ADCNR

Falconry is one of the world’s oldest forms of hunting. In Alabama, the most commonly used bird is the red-tailed hawk and squirrel is the most commonly pursued game animal. Photo by David Rainer, ADCNR

In an effort to expand recreational opportunities in Alabama’s state parks, the parks system will allow falconry in the following parks this fall: DeSoto, Joe Wheeler, Lake Guntersville, Lakepoint, Chewacla, Buck's Pocket, Lake Lurleen, Monte Sano, Oak Mountain, Paul Grist, Wind Creek, Frank Jackson, Cheaha and Cathedral Caverns. Park entrance fees will apply.

Falconry will be available in the parks listed above only during squirrel and rabbit seasons, which run from September 15, 2016, to March 5, 2017. Participating falconers are required to check in with the individual park’s management to learn about recommended hunting areas and other falconry program guidance.

“Parks is happy to offer this new hunting opportunity as a pilot project for the 2016-17 seasons,” said Forrest Bailey, Natural Resource Section Chief for Alabama State Parks. “After this first season, we will review the feedback from both falconers and the parks. Based on that information we hope to offer more falconry opportunities in the coming years.”

Alabama falconers must have a valid state hunting license and falconry permit. Falconry permits are issued by the state, but also operate under federal guidelines related to migratory birds.

Falconry is one of the world’s oldest forms of hunting. It involves pursuing wild game in its natural habitat with a trained bird of prey. In Alabama, the most commonly used bird is the red-tailed hawk and squirrel is the most commonly pursued game animal. There are currently 58 permitted falconers in the state.

For more information about Alabama State Parks falconry opportunities, call Forrest Bailey 334-242-3901 or Roger Clay with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries at 251-626-5474. Information about obtaining an Alabama falconry permit can be found at www.outdooralabama.com/resident-commercial-hunting-licenses.

Hunting licenses are available for purchase at probate offices, license commissioners, and many bait and tackle stores. Licenses are available online 24 hours a day at www.outdooralabama.com/alabama-license-information.

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

Huntsville Man Convicted of Illegal Ginseng Possession

On August 25, 2016, Wol Kang, 63, of Huntsville, Ala., was convicted in Madison County district court on two charges pertaining to the possession of wild American ginseng out of season. Kang was fined a total of $2,605 for purchasing ginseng during a closed season and failing to register as a ginseng dealer. He was arrested in July 2016 and released on bond pending the court date.

The arrest and conviction is the result of a months-long cooperative investigation conducted by two divisions of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) – State Lands and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) – with assistance from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI), which is charged with overseeing the laws that regulate the collection and sale of wild ginseng in the state.

“The interagency cooperation is what made the investigation and subsequent arrest on multiple charges successful,” said Luke Lemley, WFF Senior Conservation Enforcement Officer, who along with fellow senior officer Joe Lindsey carried out the arrest of Kang. “The arrest would not have been possible without the expertise of ADAI and the cooperation between State Lands staff and WFF law enforcement districts one and two. Without these agencies working together, this illegal ginseng dealing/purchase could easily have gone unchecked. Everyone involved went outside the scope of their normal duties to make this happen.”

While uncommon in most of the U.S., wild American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) can be abundant in localized parts of north Alabama, but its harvest is regulated by law because of intense overseas demand and high prices on the Asian ginseng market. That demand is driven by ginseng’s perceived medicinal benefits. In recent years, wild American ginseng has fetched $700-$1,200 per pound.

To legally collect ginseng in Alabama, “diggers” must obtain a permit from ADAI. To buy ginseng in Alabama and export it out of state, one must register with ADAI as a ginseng dealer. The permit and registration must be renewed each year in order to continue legally collecting or exporting ginseng. The season for legal ginseng collection is September 1 through December 31. For more information about collecting ginseng in Alabama, visit www.agi.alabama.gov.

WFF relies upon a concerned public to report wildlife law violations. To report these violations, please call the Operation GameWatch line at 1-800-272-4263.

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.

NWTF Donates More Than $142,000 for Wildlife Management

The Alabama Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) recently allocated $142,464 in Hunting Heritage Super Funds and Tag Funds for wild turkey projects in Alabama. Of that total, $68,265 was donated to the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) to fund projects including wildlife habitat management and the publication of the annual wild turkey report, Full Fans & Sharp Spurs.

Approximately $74,000 was approved for other projects statewide including funding to improve wild turkey habitats on public lands as well as to help launch outdoor education programs in schools. Also, $35,000 of NWTF Super Fund revenue has been reserved for land acquisition to help support the purchase of Wildlife Management Area (WMA) tracts. This funding supports the enhancement of turkey habitat, increases access opportunities, funds educational programs and is an excellent fit for the NWTF “Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt” initiative.

According to WFF Division Director Chuck Sykes, most of the WFF dollars will be used on Alabama’s WMAs throughout the state to support habitat management and other wild turkey programs.

“About $43,000 of this generous donation offers us access to federal matching dollars, which makes the donation go even further,” Sykes said. “This federal match is an important part of how our department is funded. The money generated by hunting license sales is matched through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We don’t receive an appropriation from the state’s General Fund, so contributions such as this are extremely important. I thank NWTF and the Alabama Chapter Board of Directors for helping to support our efforts in Alabama.”

Some of the grant money will also be used to purchase much-needed wildlife habitat management equipment. In addition to the monetary donation, the Alabama NWTF chapter provides financial support for prescribed burning projects that help restore longleaf pine habitat, the Archery in the Schools state championship (an annual event for school students across the state), and the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program, which introduces women to a wide variety of outdoor activities.

For more information about the NWTF, visit www.nwtf.org.
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.

 

Outdoor writer: major issue comes up with lifetime licenses with the new madatory game check system



 

By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Since the lifetime hunting and fishing licenses became available in Alabama several decades ago, more than 80,000 people have taken advantage of this opportunity.

It wasn’t until the Game Check harvest reporting system was implemented three years ago that a problem with the lifetime licenses surfaced. It seems a large number of duplicate numbers are among those 80,000 lifetime licenses. This causes a major problem when the holders try to use Game Check, which will be mandatory for the upcoming hunting seasons.

The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division has been hard at work trying to find the duplicate numbers and notify the license holders when possible.

“Of the 80,000 some-odd lifetime licenses, about 48,000 had duplicate license numbers,” said WFF Director Chuck Sykes. “The reason we discovered the duplicates was we had people who called us and told us they had tried to use the voluntary Game Check to report a harvest and it wouldn’t let them do it. It turned out to be a two-fold problem. A lot of the lifetime licenses didn’t have the number of characters needed to access the system. If it was bought 20 years ago, it may have only six digits where it needs 10 to enter the system. The second issue was the database couldn’t identify it to a specific hunter because more than one person might have that license number.

“So we had to figure out a way to solve that problem. The first step was to let people know about the issue with the old licenses and give them an opportunity to have a new license issued. We’ve always allowed people who have lost their lifetime license to get a new license for $5, or, if it was damaged, they could send it in and we would issue a new one at no charge.”

The new system also affects those lifetime license holders whose licenses are in perfectly good shape and in their possession, but they don’t have the number of digits required to enter the Game Check system.

“We have been going back through the license sales and cross-referencing,” Sykes said. “I’ll use myself as an example. I bought my lifetime license in 1992. I tried to utilize Game Check and it wouldn’t let me. So I got a new license with a unique number. There were a lot of people like me. I still get a HIP (Harvest Information Program) license for doves and waterfowl. I buy a Wildlife Management Area license. I buy a trapping license and a state duck stamp. I asked our IT department to cross-reference those licenses with my old lifetime license number. This cross-referencing allowed us to identify those lifetime license holders that we previously had no contact information to reach these individuals.”

After several months of work, Sykes said the IT staff has been able to reduce the number of duplicate licenses in half, but almost 25,000 are still out there.

“Another way we decided to attack this issue – other states already have this – is to issue hunters an individual number that follows them throughout their lives,” he said. “It’s called a Conservation ID number.”

With Game Check mandatory this year, anyone who harvests a deer or turkey must report it through Game Check, including those who are exempt from buying a license – hunters under the age of 16 or over 64 and those who hunt on their own property. To access the Game Check system, those exempt from buying a license must acquire a H.E.L.P. (Hunter Exempt License Privilege) number each year or get a new Conservation ID.

“For example, if you have a 10-year-old child who hunts, they’ll need a way to access the mandatory Game Check system if they harvest a deer or turkey,” Sykes said. “They have to get a H.E.L.P. number each year until they can buy a license. The Conservation ID is a six-digit number versus a 16-digit number. So it’s a lot easier to enter and remember. So for that child’s lifetime, all they will have to remember is their date of birth and that six-digit Conservation ID number. It’s going to simplify the process greatly. Once they get the Conservation ID number, they never have to do it again.”

For those with the lifetime licenses without the required number of digits, WFF is offering two ways to remedy that situation. First, they can get a new lifetime license, or they can go online and create a Conservation ID and use that number to access the Game Check system.

“There is a lot less room for error with a six-digit number versus a 16-digit number,” Sykes said. “Our most common error comes in entering that 16-digit number. And it’s the most time consuming as well. You’ve got to pull your license out and enter that long number. So, right now, you enter a six-digit number and you’re in the system.”

Sykes encourages people to take advantage of the Conservation ID because there is no guarantee that the number will remain at six digits.

“I hope so many people take advantage of the Conservation ID that we may have to go to seven digits,” he said. “But, right now, we’re starting with a simple, six-digit number. If you use the Outdoor Alabama app on your smartphone to use Game Check, it will cut your reporting time down from about two minutes to 45 seconds.”

Purchasing a hunting license online or through the Outdoor Alabama app has another benefit as well.

“What we learned going around the state doing the Game Check seminars is that between 75 and 80 percent of the people who attended have smartphones,” Sykes said. “If you buy your license online or through the app, you do not have to carry a paper license. When I go to the woods, I might forget my bow release or binoculars or ammo, but I’m going to have my smartphone in my pocket. Now you can have everything on your phone. That includes your license information and your harvest record on your phone. I can prove I have a hunting license. I can prove I have a harvest record. I can prove I have Game Check.”

Some critics of the Game Check system insisted the reason for Game Check was to increase the number of tickets issued by the WFF Enforcement Section. Sykes said nothing could be farther from the truth.

“People don’t realize that almost our entire budget comes from license sales,” he said. “Only about 2.2 percent of our budget comes from fines. We hope we don’t have to write tickets for Game Check violations. We’re just trying to make it as simple as possible to be in compliance and for us to have access to data we need to make sound wildlife management decisions.”

Go to https://game.dcnr.alabama.gov/ and look at the top of the page in the far right corner for Conservation ID. Click on that link and enter the information that will allow you to create a Conservation ID. If you just purchased the license online, you will need to wait about 30 minutes for that information to be updated in the system to be able to create the Conservation ID.

ALVMA Promotes World Rabies Day

The Alabama Veterinary Medical Association is aiming to raise awareness about rabies through supporting World Rabies Day, September 28, 2016. Rabies is a deadly disease and people need to realize how easily the disease can be transmitted.

“Veterinarians are seeing an increase in rabies cases, however, rabies can be prevented,” says ALVMA President Hal Pate, D.V.M. “Statistics show 40% of the people bitten are young children. Keep your pets vaccinated and to talk to your children about the risk of contact with wild animals.”

Formed in 2007, the Global Alliance for Rabies Control wanted to create a global opportunity to focus on rabies prevention. The ALVMA supports this effort and encourages pet owners to have their pets vaccinated. Dogs, cats, ferrets, horses and valuable livestock should be vaccinated. Distinct strains of rabies virus have been identified in raccoons, skunks, foxes and coyotes. Several species of insectivorous bats are also reservoirs for strains of the rabies virus. Recently, CDC researchers have suggested that feral cat colonies may also pose a rabies risk.

Some facts to consider:

• In 2015, there were 3,447 cases of animal rabies reported in the U.S. These animals, mostly wildlife, can expose humans or pets to rabies.

• It is estimated that only about 50-60% of the dogs and 20-25% of the cats in Alabama are vaccinated for rabies.

• There were approximately 7,000 dog and cat bites in Alabama last year. A significant percentage of these bites result in post exposure rabies prophylaxis for the person who is bitten at a cost of from $1,000 to $3,000 for each exposure.

• In Alabama, raccoons and bats most frequently are found to be rabid. In 2015 there were 81 cases of rabies diagnosed in animals in Alabama (63% were raccoons and 16% were bats).

• Rabies is caused by a virus that animals and people can get through exposure to the saliva or nervous tissue from a rabid animal and is nearly always fatal without proper post exposure treatment.

• Rabies is zoonotic, which means it can spread from animals to people.

• Rabies is 100% preventable. In most cases, preventing rabies is as simple as ensuring adequate animal vaccination and control, avoiding contact with wild animals, and educating those at risk.

If you or your pet is bitten or scratched by a wild animal, contact your physician/veterinarian immediately. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. The early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses more specific symptoms occur. Rabies vaccinations will protect your pets from rabies infection. Be sure your pet vaccinations are current and take all precautions to avoid contact with any animal that may be infected.

Founded in 1907, The Alabama Veterinary Medical Association is comprised of approximately 700 veterinarians from around the state, all committed to protecting People, Pets and Livestock – Yesterday, Today and Always.



UA Scientist Finds New Species on Ocean Floor

Read the full story at https://www.ua.edu/news/2016/09/ua-scientist-finds-new-species-on-ocean-floor/

“Horse Whisperer” event to be held at Judson College Sept. 21

Judson College will welcome Chance Hill, horse trainer of SPURS Ministries, to the college’s campus for a demonstration on September 21 at 6pm. The presentation will take place under the covered riding arena at the Piper Equine Center on the Judson College campus. The event is co-sponsored by the Cahaba Baptist Association and the Judson College Equine Science Department in memory of Bill Wallace, who for many years served as the Director of Missions for the Cahaba Baptist Association. The event is free and open to the public. Limited seating is available, but guests are encouraged to bring outdoor chairs. Concessions will be available as a fundraiser for the newly formed American Collegiate Horseman’s Association Club at Judson College. SPURS is a ministry that exists to illustrate the gospel of Christ through the unique relationship between a trainer and a young horse. To learn more about SPURS Ministries, visit www.spursministries.org. For more information about the September presentation, contact Dr. Pamela Mitcham at (334) 683-5271.

Auburn University professor combating red tides through NSF CAREER Award

By Lindsay Miles Penny
Auburn University is familiar with battling against a red tide, but this time the foe is coastal red tides that have a significant negative impact on the environment and economy. Steven Mansoorabadi, an assistant professor in Auburn’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has received a five-year, $703,000 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation to study the problem.

His project, “Mechanistic and Biosynthetic Studies of Dinoflagellate Bioluminescence,” looks at dinoflagellates, marine microorganisms found in coastal and freshwater environments that bioluminesce, or glow.

Some species of dinoflagellates produce toxins, which can cause harmful algal blooms and cause coastal waters to become brown or red, known as red tides.

“It’s very costly both to tourism and the seafood industry and is harmful to humans and marine life,” said Mansoorabadi. “It can be detrimental to the environment. Shellfish poisoning is often caused by dinoflagellate toxins, and even breathing in spray from affected waters could cause respiratory problems in humans.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, every coastal state in the U.S. has suffered a red tide over the last decade. Harmful algal blooms occurring in U.S. marine waters are conservatively estimated to have an average annual cost of $82 million due to impacts on public health, tourism and the seafood industry.

Mansoorabadi and his team are looking at a particular enzyme that causes the dinoflagellate to glow to better understand how the enzyme works and how it is regulated. Understanding the biochemical process by which the enzyme is made will allow the researchers to target a specific pathway to treat red tides.

“Once we have a better understanding of the enzyme, come the applications,” said Mansoorabadi. “We can then create algaecides for red tides and even use enzymes that glow as a biological tool for cell imaging and tracking infection in the body. The enzyme can really be developed for a number of potential applications.”

The enzyme is thought to produce light through chlorophyll, the photosynthetic pigment found in plants and algae.

“There’s an unknown pathway in which these dinoflagellates take chlorophyll and produce bioluminescent substrate,” said Mansoorabadi. “We’re a biochemistry lab, so we’re trying to understand the fundamental biochemistry of what is going on and study these processes so we can rationally design a compound to inhibit their function. As far as I know, we are the only lab, nationally, to do this type of research. Woodland Hastings at Harvard University was a big contributor to this area prior to his death in 2014.”

In addition to studying red tides, Mansoorabadi uses part of the NSF funding to collaborate with two K-12 initiatives in Auburn’s College of Sciences and Mathematics–AU Explore and the Summer Science Institute–to teach and inspire students to pursue careers in the sciences.

“Bioluminescence is really a fascinating phenomenon, and it really gets kids excited about biology and chemistry and science in general,” said Mansoorabadi. “We have a lot of hands-on demonstrations and activities that the students can come out and see. For some of the younger students, it’s the first time these kids have been on a college campus, so they get to see what it’s all about.”

The NSF Faculty Early Career Development, or CAREER, program is a foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

Mansoorabadi is one of two CAREER Award winners from the College of Sciences and Mathematics for 2016.

“It’s a very prestigious award, and it’s very humbling,” said Mansoorabadi. “I’m excited that I was selected for the award, and that my science is appreciated by the scientific community. Bringing in the resources to continue this research is great.”

Prior to joining the faculty at Auburn University, Mansoorabadi was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas, and he received a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

For more information on Mansoorabadi, visit his website at http://www.auburn.edu/academic/cosam/faculty/chemistry/mansoorabadi/.

Alabama Bass Trail to Award $5,000 in Scholarships to Student Anglers

The Alabama Bass Trail is pleased to announce the availability of scholarship money for student anglers in 2017. Student anglers who participate in the Alabama Bass Trail Tournament Series (ABTTS) in 2017 may apply for one of five $1,000 scholarships to use to continue their studies at a college or university of their choice. Five scholarships, valued at $1,000 each, are available for any high school senior or college student participating in the ABTTS in 2017. To apply, students must complete an application and submit it along with two letters of recommendation, 200-400 word essay about why they would like to receive the scholarship, and proof of enrollment. Applicants will be judged on participation in the ABTTS, academic performance, and community involvement. Applications are available at:
http://www.alabamabasstrail.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/ABT_StudentScholarshipApp.pdf and must be returned to Alabama Bass Trail, Attention: Student Scholarship, P.O. Box 2537, Decatur, Ala. 35602 no later than May 1, 2017. Scholarships will be awarded at the final tournament in their respective division.

Youth and Physically Disabled Hunt Dates Announced for Field Trial Area

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) announces the youth deer and duck hunt schedules at the M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area (FWFTA) in Hale County. The hunts will take place in late-November 2016 through January 2017. Registration will open September 1.

In addition to the youth deer and duck hunts, the FWFTA will host hunt days for hunters (of any age) with physical disabilities. The hunts will take place on the youth deer hunt dates. Registration for the physically disabled hunting days will open October 1.

To register for the hunts, call or leave a message for Bill Mason with the ADCNR State Lands Division at 334-624-9952. When registering please include a first choice and alternative date for your hunt. Reservations will be filled for the selected dates in the order they are received. If you have questions about the location or hunt details, call the number listed above or email Bill.Mason@dcnr.alabama.gov.

Youth deer and physically disabled hunt dates:
• November 23 and 26
• December 21 and 31
• January 11, 14, 18, 15 and 28
Youth duck hunt dates:
• November 26
• December 21 and 31
• January 11, 14, 18, 15 and 28

To participate in the youth hunts, hunters must be age 15 or younger and accompanied by an adult at least 21 years old (or a parent) who holds a valid state hunting license and a Harvest Information Program (HIP) stamp. Hunters must obtain their license and HIP stamp before the hunt since they will not be available on-site.

Each hunt date can accommodate four youth deer hunters, two groups of youth duck hunters, and three hunters with physically disabilities. The duck hunting groups can consist of one adult and three youth hunters or two adults and two youth hunters.

Hunters with physical disabilities are required to fill out a Disabled Hunter Permit Application prior to the hunt dates. For more information on the permit process, call the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries at 334-242-3465 or visit www.outdooralabama.com/physically-disabled-hunting-and-fishing-trail.

Mandatory reporting of all deer (and turkey) harvests through Alabama’s Game Check system will be in effect for the 2016-17 youth and physically disabled hunting dates at FWFTA. Hunters will have 48 hours to report their harvest through a mobile app, online at www.outdooralabama.com, or by phone at 1-800-888-7690.

Information required to Game Check a harvest includes the date of harvest, the type of animal (deer or turkey), sex of deer (or age of gobbler), county of harvest, public or private land, and a hunting license or H.E.L.P. (Hunter Exempt License Privilege) number.

Hunters are encouraged to utilize Game Check via the Outdoor Alabama mobile app or go online to report their harvest. Reporting via the mobile app can be completed offline regardless of cellphone or data coverage. Just input the information and the app will automatically submit it when cellphone or data coverage is restored. The phone number is provided as a service for hunters who do not have internet access.

Besides providing a convenient way to report your harvest, a smartphone with the Outdoor Alabama app will be accepted in lieu of a paper harvest record. Hunters who plan to Game Check online or by phone are still required to possess a harvest record and hunting license during their hunt.
To learn more about Alabama’s Game Check system, visit www.outdooralabama.com/gamecheck.
The M. Barnett Lawley Forever Wild Field Trial Area consists of 4,300 acres in Hale County and is managed as a nature preserve and recreation area. In addition to developing a sporting dog Field Trial/Hunt Test grounds and a youth hunting program, the ADCNR State Lands Division is currently restoring the tract’s native prairie grasslands and managing its numerous ponds for future public fishing.
ADCNR does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, age, gender, pregnancy, national origin, genetic information, veteran status, or disability in its hiring or employment practices nor in admission to, access to, or operations of its programs, services, or activities.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Mississippi Man Charged with Possessing Protected Wildlife



Allen M. Bowden, 36, of Rienzi, Miss., has been charged with one count of possessing protected wildlife, a violation of Alabama wildlife regulation 220-2-.26, which places restrictions on the possession, sale, importation and/or release of certain animal and fish species.
Saturday, August 20, 2016, Bowden was arrested by Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) Conservation Enforcement Officers (CEO) for attempting to sell three swift foxes at the Noah’s Ark Exotic Animal Auction in Hanceville, Ala. Swift foxes are native to the Western U.S. and do not occur naturally in Alabama.

With the exception of permitted wildlife rehabilitators, personal possession of wild animals in Alabama is illegal.
“This is yet another case of wildlife being better off left in the wild,” said WFF CEO Jonathon Bartlett, who along with CEO Steve Pepper, carried out the arrest. “Attempting to keep captive wildlife never ends well for the animal or the person confining it. Eventually, the animal will be harmed through inappropriate care or it will bite or scratch the person leading to potentially serious injuries.”

Foxes, raccoons, coyotes and bats are known carriers of rabies, a disease that is 100 percent fatal in the absence of timely post-exposure treatment. Rabies is a threat to humans primarily through bites or scratches from wildlife. Permits for the rehabilitation of rabies vector wildlife such as foxes are rarely issued. There is no legally approved rabies vaccine for foxes.
In addition to the potential disease exposure to humans, the import of non-native wildlife threatens Alabama’s native species. Not only can these animals displace native species, they can impact other wildlife populations through the introduction of parasites and pathogens.
“Often people grow tired of their exotic pets and intentionally release them into the wild where they become established and multiply,” said Kevin Dodd, WFF Chief of Law Enforcement. “These animals frequently cause significant damage to native habitats and agricultural crops and serve as carriers of tapeworms, rabies and other diseases.”


The list of exotic animals causing havoc within native ecosystems is steadily growing each year. Apple snails in Alabama and Florida, lionfish in the Gulf of Mexico and pythons in the Everglades are just a few of the exotics that have become established in the U.S. due, in part, to the pet trade.


In recent years, several well-meaning Alabamians have been harmed while attempting to assist wildlife. In one instance, a litter of raccoon kits was transported from south to north Alabama inadvertently exposing several people to rabies. Captive deer in Alabama have also been responsible for severe injuries and one death in 2003.
“Wild animals are not meant to be kept in cages,” Dodd said. “Ultimately, it’s just unfair to the animal.”
An additional layer of wildlife protection is in place for the 2016-17 hunting season. Alabama hunting regulation 220-2-.25, which addresses the importation of game animals, wildlife and furs, was expanded to ban the import of all cervid (deer and other deer-like animals) body parts from states, territories, and foreign countries where Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been confirmed.


Exceptions to the ban include meat that has been completely deboned, cleaned skull plates with attached antlers and no visible brain or spinal cord tissue, raw capes or hides with no visible brain or spinal cord tissue, upper canine teeth with no root structure or other soft tissue, and finished taxidermy products or tanned hides.
To learn more about this regulation change, please visit www.outdooralabama.com/alabama-bans-deer-parts-cwd-affected-areas.
WFF relies upon a concerned public to report wildlife law violations. To report these violations, please call the Operation GameWatch line at 1-800-272-4263.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Alabama Youth Dove Hunt Schedule Announced

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) announces that the state’s 16th Annual Youth Dove Hunts have been scheduled for 2016. The north zone hunts begin on September 10. The south zone hunts begin on September 17. For the complete hunt schedule and registration information, visit www.outdooralabama.com/youth-dove-hunts.

Although the hunts are free, pre-registration is necessary. Online registration is now open for the September hunts. Registration for the October hunts will begin on September 28. Participants without internet access may register by calling their Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries district office listed in the hunt schedule. District office personnel will complete the electronic registration form for you over the phone.

Alabama’s Youth Dove Hunt events are held in open fields and staffed by ADCNR personnel, which encourages a safe, secure environment for both parents and participants. The program also makes use of private lands and fields opened for use by community members, thus fostering good relationships between hunters and private landowners.

To participate in the hunts, youth hunters must be age 15 or younger and accompanied by an adult at least 21 years old (or a parent) who holds a valid state hunting license and a Harvest Information Program (HIP) stamp. Hunters should obtain their license and HIP stamp before the hunt since they will not be available on-site.

Before each hunt, a short welcome session with reminders on hunting safety will be conducted. All hunters are encouraged to wear eye protection and earplugs. While ADCNR and the private land cooperators make every effort to provide quality hunts, there is no guarantee the hunt will be successful.

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

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

Alabama Lifetime Hunting License Holders May Need New Card

If you purchased an Alabama lifetime hunting license before 2008, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) would like to issue you a new card. Hunters are now required to report their deer and turkey harvests through the Game Check program, and a hunting license number is part of the required data. Lifetime licenses issued before 2008 do not contain enough characters to be used with Game Check. In addition, some duplicate numbers were issued through the years. New cards have unique identification numbers.

If a lifetime license is replaced so the hunter can comply with Game Check, there is no charge for a new card. Replacement lifetime licenses may be obtained two different ways. License holders can visit a Probate or License Commissioner’s office and request a new one. A temporary card will be issued until the new one arrives in the mail.

A lifetime license application can also be downloaded from www.outdooralabama.com/resident-lifetime-licenses. A new lifetime license will be issued to you if this completed form accompanies your license when it is mailed to ADCNR headquarters.

If you are unsure if a replacement license is needed, call 334-242-3465.

To eliminate the need for a new lifetime license replacement card, you can obtain a new DCNR Conservation ID#, which is a new, permanent number that will follow you through your fishing and hunting career. For more information, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Outdoor Writer: folks who love the outdoors in the middle of the Alabama Black Belt have experienced a wide range of emotions in the past year concerning one of the area’s iconic destinations



Miller’s Ferry is a popular fishing spot for recreational and tournament anglers. Roland Cooper’s campground is nestled under tall pine trees. Photo by Kim G. Nix

By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The folks who love the outdoors in the middle of the Alabama Black Belt have experienced a wide range of emotions in the past year concerning one of the area’s iconic destinations. Those emotions have gone from disappointment and frustration to hope and, now, celebration.

Roland Cooper State Park near Camden was a casualty of funding shortfalls during last year’s budget crisis. The park has been shuttered, but the Alabama State Parks system hoped to find a qualified company to sign a contract to operate the park.

Much to the folks in west central Alabama’s delight, Recreation Resource Management was awarded the contract to operate the park, and the Arizona company is fast at work to try to get the park, located on the banks of the scenic Miller’s Ferry Reservoir on the Alabama River, open for Labor Day.

Kelly Ezell, State Parks’ Central District Supervisor, said Recreation Resource Management (RRM) operates more than 150 campsites in 11 states and has the expertise to make Roland Cooper successful.

Of course, Ezell said the park’s reopening couldn’t have happened without the cooperation of a number of entities.

“RRM is there working right now,” said Ezell, who also is Oak Mountain State Park Superintendent. “We’ve worked with the city (Camden) and county (Wilcox). They’ve helped us to get things back in shape. We’ve had crews from other state parks in there, removing some trees and limbs. We want to get it cleaned up so it will be opened back up by Labor Day.”

Although the park has only been closed a little more than 10 months, Ezell said the lack of maintenance causes any property to suffer deterioration.

“We’re just trying to get the grounds back in shape,” she said. “Nobody has cut the grass. We tried to get down to Roland Cooper to check on things about once a month, but it’s not like having a crew on the ground to take care of the everyday upkeep. Almost a year is a long time for something to sit idle, and a lot of things happen.

“Right now, we’re making sure all the water and electric are working at the campsites. We’ve been very fortunate to have the City of Camden and Wilcox County to help us get everything in shape.”

Ezell said the state’s equipment has been moved to a secure area to make room for RRM’s equipment in the maintenance building, and that the six cabins are being cleaned and the maintenance brought up to standards.

The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division has used Roland Cooper as the weigh-in site for the annual alligator hunts in the West Central Zone. Although the park is not officially open, State Parks is continuing to allow the gators to be weighed in during the transitional period.

Ezell said Roland Cooper has quality amenities for those who enjoy the outdoors in a rural setting, especially with the quick access to the great fishing offered on Miller’s Ferry.

“The boat launch and the pier at Roland Cooper are basically brand-new,” she said. “There’s a brand-new bath house there. We’ve got a lot to work with and build on at Roland Cooper.”

Ezell said in addition to the City of Camden and Wilcox County, the Wilcox Area Chamber of Commerce has been a constant advocate for the re-opening of the park.

“I think it was such a shock to the area when it closed,” she said. “The park was a very important asset to that area. I think everybody is very invested in getting it open and functioning.”

Hunter Hines, President of the Wilcox Area Chamber of Commerce, agrees with Ezell’s assessment.

“This is about as good news as we could have for our area,” Hines said. “The park is second to none in terms of economic impact for our area. We can’t host a fishing tournament with over 50 boats without the park. It’s hard to put a dollar amount on the economic impact we’ve lost in the last 10 months.”

Hines said areas with large cities aren’t impacted as much by park closures as a rural area like Wilcox County.

“Think about the campers and cabins, not to mention the fishermen, who came to this area and spent their money buying gas and groceries in our little, small community,” he said. “That kind of impact is huge for us and is detrimental when it’s not there.

“Now we’ll be able to get back to marketing little ol’ Camden to the big bass tournaments, fishermen and people who love the outdoors.”

Alabama Bass Trail Program Director Kay Donaldson said the park has been used during its closure for some fishing tournaments. “The willingness of the state park to give the city of Camden the opportunity to continue hosting fishing tournaments while the park was closed was outstanding.” She said. “It was vital to the community to keep those dollars flowing to the gas stations and stores from tournament anglers.”

Hines said there will be a grand re-opening ceremony at Roland Cooper from 3-7 p.m. September 11 with a “Music in the Park” theme. Visitors are urged to bring lawn chairs to enjoy the music and meet the new park managers.

James “Big Daddy” Lawler has been promoting the outdoors in west central Alabama for more years than he would readily admit. He hosts a weekly radio show called “Gettin’ Outdoors Radio with Big Daddy Lawler” that airs from 7-9 a.m. on Saturdays.

“Opening the campgrounds and cabins back up at Roland Cooper is huge,” Lawler said. “You just don’t have much lodging in what I call the rural South, which fits our area to a tee. Because of the uncertainty of being able to use the boat launch at the park, we lost the stop on the Alabama Bass Trail, which was a huge economic loss for our area. Opening the park back up will give us an opportunity to attract those big bass tournaments again with the use of those facilities.”

Lawler, who recently received the Alabama Wildlife Federation’s Conservation Communicator of the Year award, said the Camden area can’t worry about what was lost during the park’s closure, only what the re-opening will mean.

“We can’t look back,” he said. “We’ve got to look ahead. This company (RRM) is very experienced at running venues like this, and I think they’re going to be an asset to the area.”

Lawler said as the nation becomes more urban, there is a renewed appreciation for rural areas that allow visitors to reconnect with nature.

“Being away from everybody is an advantage for us,” he said. “Everybody in the big town wants to come to the rural areas. I’ve been saying this for 35 years; What we have to offer in Wilcox, Marengo, Monroe and Dallas counties is the most diversified natural resources in the nation. And when I say natural resources, I’m not just talking about the hunting and fishing. I’m talking about the birding, native wildflowers and the red hills salamander areas. There is so much we have available.

“I tell everybody, nobody is passing through Wilcox County. We’re not close to the interstate or a big highway. People have got to be coming here for a reason. And Roland Cooper State Park is huge reason to come here.”

2016 Alabama Alligator Season Update

The 2016 alligator season proves to be another popular and successful opportunity for many Alabama residents. During the first weekend of the hunts, a total of 35 alligators were harvested within the Southwest Zone, the largest being 12 feet, 3 inches in length and weighing 615 pounds. Additionally, a total of 17 alligators were harvested within the West Central Zone, the largest being 12 feet, 6 inches in length and weighing 562 pounds. Harvest totals for the Lake Eufaula and Southeast zones are not available at this time.

This is the 11th season of alligator hunting in Alabama. The application process was modified in 2014 to incorporate a preference point system in order to allow applicants who were repeatedly unsuccessful a weighted chance to become selected as they continued to apply for the selection for a tag. After surveying hunters throughout the hunt zones, the application process seems to be an improvement over previous methods. This year, a total of 3,845 applications were received in hopes of obtaining one of the 260 available tags.

The tags are divided between four hunt zones: Southeast Zone located in the Wiregrass Region; Lake Eufaula Zone, including the lake proper and its tributaries; West Central Zone located in the Camden area; and the Southwest Zone located in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

The Southeast Zone was allocated 40 tags and received a total of 480 applications. The Lake Eufaula Zone was allocated 20 tags and received a total of 598 applications. The West Central Zone was allocated 50 tags and received a total of 939 applications. The Southwest Zone was allocated 150 tags and received a total of 1,828 applications.

ADCNR biologists continue to collect necessary data to ensure the longevity of this species. Populations are monitored on an annual basis utilizing established survey routes within each management zone and biological data is collected from harvested animals at check stations during the hunt. These efforts allow for better management of Alabama’s alligator population and ensure the sustainability of the species for future generations.



“Sunday (24 July 2016) after returning from Church, Travelers Rest Missionary Baptist, Rex, GA, Pastor Rev Arthur L Powell. Our Pastor preached the word, from the book of Genesis 15:6 and Genesis 22:7-8. His subject was: “Just Believe” The Bible teaches us how Abraham and Sarah got ahead of God; which we as Christians do that sometimes. In his sermon; he reminded us that if God says he will do something; just believe it and wait on him. He said that God always has a “ram in the bush”. I (Barbara) [native of Sumter County] decided to make potato salad and, while peeling the potato, an image of a cross was discovered inside the potato. Befuddled, I immediately took a photo of the cross with an IPhone and decided to freeze the potato for proof, which we still have. The next day, we (Wayne & Barbara) relooked at the image and decided to enlarge it; and discovered it contained pictures of family members who are now deceased. Our Pastor and other family members were shown these images and they all confirmed likewise to the discovery attached.” - Submitted by Barbara Little

Labor Day Celebration to be Held at Coon Dog Cemetery

On a ridge in the Freedom Hills of Northwest Alabama, in a clearing among century-old oaks and “piney” woods, one may visit the graves of more than 300 coon hounds, all tried and true. For most of the year one hears only the peaceful sounds of nature. On Labor Day, however, the quiet is broken when folks gather for the annual Coon Dog Cemetery Labor Day Celebration. They come to have a good time and to pay tribute to the dogs and to those who loved them, especially the cemetery’s founder, Mr. Key Underwood, and the first dog buried here.

The 2016 Labor Day Celebration, set for Monday, Sept. 5 will begin at 10 a.m. and will close at 4 p.m. According to Janice Williams, president of the Friends of the Coon Dog Cemetery, Inc., “This year’s celebration should prove to be bigger and better than ever. We welcome back the Southern Strangers to play their old-time Bluegrass music and Muscle Shoals Music Legend, Travis Wammack and the Snake Man Band.”

Admission is free, but sales that day will benefit the Friends of the Coon Dog Cemetery’s fund for the preservation of the site, which is part of the Freedom Hills Wildlife Management area, protected by the State of Alabama. FCDC Board Member Mitchell Marks stated that the group hosts the annual Coon Dog Labor Day Celebration and serves as caretaker of the cemetery, providing grounds keeping and decorating it once a year for the celebration and burials, which require meeting certain guidelines.

The Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Cemetery is located at 4945 Coon Dog Cemetery Road in Cherokee, Ala. From Muscle Shoals /Tuscumbia, follow Hwy. 72 West and turn left (south) onto AL Hwy. 247. Drive 12.8 miles and turn right (west) on Coon Dog Cemetery Road. Drive another five miles and the cemetery will be on the left. Parking areas will be marked and shuttle service by golf carts will be available for those needing assistance.

It was Labor Day, 1937, when Underwood lost his beloved canine hunting companion, Troop. Remembering the special times and the special place where Underwood had gathered with friends and other dogs to enjoy the night-time sport and its accompanying camaraderie, he decided that it was the perfect place to lay Troop to rest. The grave was dug by Key, Raymond Wheeler and Wilburn Prater. The dog, wrapped in an old cotton pick sack, was buried. Underwood chiseled his name and the date on a sandstone chimney rock. Today, this grave and its marker remain as a tribute to one man’s love of his dog. Surrounded now by others (many with colorful epitaphs) and with not one, but two, memorial monuments depicting treeing coonhounds, the site rivals human cemeteries in history and in love. The Coon Dog Memorial Cemetery is the only one of its kind in the world.

The Labor Day Celebration, now in its 79th year, is hosted by Friends of the Coon Dog Cemetery, Inc. For additional information, call 256-412-5970, email coondogcemetery@comcast.net or visit www.coondogcemetery.com or www.facebook.com/friendsofthecoondogcemetery.

Annual Counservation Awards



Alabama Marine Resources Division Director Chris Blankenship received the inaugural Fisheries Conservationist of the Year at the recent Alabama Wildlife Federation Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards banquet in Prattville. Presenting the award, from left, are Horace Horn with PowerSouth Energy, AWF President Angus Cooper III, Susan Comensky with Alabama Power Company and Conservation Commissioner N. Gunter Guy Jr. Blankenship was cited for his work to improve red snapper management in the Gulf of Mexico.

By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

While reviewing the Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) annual Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards late last year, the AWF Board and Tim Gothard, AWF’s Executive Director, realized there was a gap in the awards coverage.

Despite having a dozen awards, from Conservationist of the Year to Air Conservationist, not one of those awards was specific to an area near and dear to the hearts of almost all Alabamians who love the outdoors – fisheries.

Hence, the inaugural AWF Fisheries Conservationist of the Year award was presented last week to Chris Blankenship, Director of the Marine Resources Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, during the annual awards banquet in Prattville.

“We created the fisheries category during what we call the off-season,” Gothard said. “We realized that with all of our categories, there was really no category to focus on the fisheries conservation work that goes on in the state. We could have folded it into the wildlife, but fisheries is really not wildlife in the official terminology.

“We felt like the whole fisheries arena, both fresh and saltwater, and all that good work done in that field deserved a category unto itself.”

Gothard said the fisheries award can go to any individual, group, institution, government agency or non-governmental conservation group.

“We look at any contribution to fisheries in the state, whether it’s an agency person, like Chris, or a professor working at a university, or it could be a private organization like the CCA (Coastal Conservation Association) or homeowners or boat owners group who are promoting fisheries conservation in Alabama,” he said. “Because of his efforts to ensure access to Alabama’s red snapper fishery, we felt like Chris was deserving of the initial fisheries award.”

Blankenship has been Marine Resources Director since 2011. Not only has theMarine Resources Division significantly increased marine habitat during his tenure, Blankenship has made numerous trips to Washington, D.C., to address Congress on the red snapper fishery and what it means to Alabama’s economy and recreational and commercial fishing opportunities.

“I’m excited to receive the AWF Fisheries Conservationist of the Year award,” Blankenship said. “But mostly, I think it’s validation of the good work our staff does that is really making a difference for marine resources in coastal Alabama. I have long enjoyed attending the AWF banquet each year, and I’m so proud of the work many people do to enhance the outdoors in Alabama. I’m honored to receive one of those coveted statues.

“One of the things I’m proud of is the artificial reef work. We already had a great program, but I think we’re taking it to the next level with our offshore and inshore programs. The establishment of the new reef area between 6 and 9 miles will be a great addition to the program and will be a great legacy for people who work for Marine Resources.”

Blankenship said one thing he’s most proud of is the State of Alabama’s lead role in working with the federal government and Congress to try to remedy the mismanagement of red snapper.

“It’s a heavy lift to try to do anything in Congress or make changes in the federal government policies, but I think we’re making good strides,” he said. “We’ve gone about it in a very logical and thoughtful way, and I hope we’re going to have some success in the very near future. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished on red snapper.”

Alabama Senator Richard Shelby was presented the Legislative Conservationist of the Year for his work on red snapper, and he inserted language in the Congressional Omnibus Appropriations bill that extended Alabama’s coastal waters boundary from 3 miles to 9 miles for fisheries management.

Dr. David Thrasher of Montgomery was named AWF Conservationist of the Year. Thrasher, a pulmonary and critical care physician, also holds a bachelor and a master’s degree in wildlife and fisheries biology from Auburn University. Thrasher, past AWF president, and current vice president of the Alabama Conservation and Natural Resources Foundation, makes his property in Macon County available to Auburn students for research projects.

The Judicial Conservationist of the Year award went to Justice Jim Main of Montgomery for his work to resolve issues regarding oil and gas royalties and the prevention of proposed closings of the Blakeley and Saint Stephens parks. Main, a supporter of the Forever Wild program, has property in Bullock County that is designated as a Treasure Forest.

Conservation Communicator of the Year James “Big Daddy” Lawler of Camden has shared his love for the outdoors through his radio program, “The Gettin’ Outdoors Radio Network.” Lawler has a special love for his family’s Grampian Hills property outside Camden and the abundant outdoors experiences, including fishing, hunting, birding, hiking and biking, in Alabama’s wildlife-rich Black Belt.

Conservation Educator of the Year Doyle Keasel of Auburn has been an educator for 35 years, the last 13 of which have been in a partnership position with the AWF and Alabama Cooperative Extension System. That partnership has supported the Alabama Outdoor Classroom Program, Discovering Our Heritage Program and Conservation Education Teacher Workshops. More than 4,500 educators have received natural resources-based training through Doyle’s workshops.

Water Conservationist of the Year Dr. Pat O’Neil of Tuscaloosa, Deputy Director of the Geological Survey of Alabama, has made significant discoveries and advances in identifying and protecting Alabama’s water resources. O’Neil has also pioneered work in the aquatic organisms in the Coosa and Tallapoosa river systems, Mobile-Tensaw Delta and coastal rivers and streams. O’Neil co-authored the comprehensive book “Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.”

Forest Conservationist of the Year Jimmy Bullock is Senior Vice President of Forest Sustainability at Resource Management Services in Birmingham. Bullock is responsible for sustainable forest policies and is at the forefront of the restoration of longleaf pine in Alabama. He is one of the leaders of The Coastal Headwaters Longleaf Conservation and Restoration Initiative.

Luis “Wicho” Hechavarria Jr. of Orrville received the Wildlife Conservationist of the Year award for his wildlife conservation efforts on nine tracts of land in Dallas County, where he intensively manages for white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, bobwhite quail and waterfowl.

Greg Gilliland of Munford, recipient of the Conservation Enforcement Officer of the Year award, has served as an officer with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division in Talladega County since 2003. In addition to enforcing the wildlife and fisheries laws, Gilliland contributes to community outreach programs that involve youth, as well as churches, schools and concerned landowners.

Hunter Safety Instructor of the Year Mike O’Neal has been teaching young and inexperienced hunters for more than 20 years. O’Neal has conducted more than 50 hunter education classes that have led to the certification of thousands of students since 1993.

Air Conservationist of the Year award went to the Georgia-Pacific Naheola Plant in Choctaw County. The integrated pulp and paper mill has implemented eco-friendly initiatives in the plant that have saved more than three million kilowatts of energy, reduced sulphur dioxide emissions by 20,000 pounds and nitrogen oxide emissions by 14,000 pounds annually.

Land Conservationist of the Year Blythe Cotton Company is a family farming operation in Town Creek that grows cotton, corn, wheat and soybeans on 3,500 acres. The Blythe family incorporated a no-till conservation method to reduce soil erosion from 15 tons to one ton annually.

Outdoor writer: Want to watch the Alabama ‘gators being weighed in? Here’s where to do it.



Last year’s largest alligator was taken at Lake Eufaula by, from left, Scott Evans, Jeff Gregg and Justin Gregg. The gator measured 13 feet, 6 inches and weighed 920 pounds.

By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The old axiom that patience is a virtue is especially true for those who applied for an alligator tag for Alabama’s upcoming season.

Before 2014, getting picked in the random drawing was truly luck of the draw. In 2014, a preference points system was implemented, but it takes a little time before it influences who gets drawn.

Chris Nix, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division’s Alligator Program Coordinator, said applicants who didn’t get picked this year are frustrated, but he insists that the current preference system just needs a little more time to work as designed.

“The big topic is the lack of clarity of the applications on the selection process,” Nix said. “They want to know why some people are getting tags, and why they’re not getting tags. It’s been a chore this year to explain how our preference points system works.”

The application process starts around the first of June each year and is open for about six weeks. Interested parties can apply one time in each of the four alligator zones. Once the application period ends, WFF officials start the selection process, which involves the preference points system. Those selected have seven days to log back into the same page on outdooralabama.com and confirm their selection.

“Everyone who applied gets one entry for the current year,” Nix said. “Everyone who has applied in previous years and did not receive a tag the prior year will receive preference points. The preference points are accumulated by the number of years you have consistently (without interruption) applied and not received a tag. That number of years is then cubed to give the number of preference points.

“Last year was the first so the most points they could have was one. It’s going to be another year or two before we start seeing the benefits of this. This year, the most points they could have is eight. But next year, it’ll be 27. We’re going to get there, but it’s going to take a little bit of patience. It grows quickly, which is the way we set it up.”

When the selection process starts, all applicants with preference points are separated from those applicants without preference points. When the drawing starts, 85 percent of the available tags will be pulled from applicants with preference points. The other 15 percent of the tags will go to those with no preference points. Those applicants who receive a tag will have all preference points erased.

“It skews odds in favor of people who have consistently applied and not received a tag,” Nix said. “But everyone has the opportunity to get a tag. Those 15 percent are going to go to people who have not applied before or received a tag last year. But because you received a tag last year doesn’t mean you don’t have a chance to get one. We had some people who drew tags in back to back years.”

Nix has to explain to some people that although the preference points system is in place that sometimes it just comes down to the luck of the draw.

“When you pay that $22 administration fee, everyone has the opportunity,” he said. “Some people are lucky and some people aren’t. If I had every $5 I’ve spent on raffle tickets for a Yeti cooler, I could probably go buy three.”

Nix said one example of the luck of the draw is that Mandy Stokes, who caught the world-record alligator at 15 feet 9 inches and 1,011.5 pounds in 2014, did not get drawn this year, much to her chagrin.

Public interest has remained steady to increasing every year, according to Nix. Applications peaked the year after Stokes’ gator drew worldwide attention, coupled with the establishment of a separate zone for Lake Eufaula. This year there were 3,845 applications for 260 tags statewide. There were 3,014 applications in 2014 and 4,137 in 2015.

The Southwest Zone, which had 150 tags available, includes the private and public waters in Baldwin and Mobile Counties and private and public waters in Washington, Clarke, and Monroe Counties that lie east of U.S. Highway 43 and south of U.S. Highway 84.2015 we had 4,137 applications with the addition of a separate zone for Lake Eufaula. This zone was previously called the Mobile-Tensaw Delta Zone. That zone’s hunting dates are from 8 p.m. August 11, 2016 until 6 a.m. August 14, 2016 and from 8 p.m. August 18, 2016 until 6 a.m. August 21, 2016.

“In the Delta, the hunting has been consistent,” Nix said. “The harvest has fluctuated right around the 100-gator mark the last few years. A lot of that has to do with hunter selection. I’m sure all the tags could be filled in the Delta if they just wanted a gator. Human nature is for hunters to target the larger animals. There are a lot of 8- and 9-foot gators out there. But hunters had rather go home empty-handed instead of just killing an animal. For the large majority, if they have the opportunity to take a 10-foot or better gator, they will take it. That’s a very respectable animal.”

The West Central Alabama Zone, where the Stokes gator was taken, includes the private and public waters in Monroe (north of U.S. Highway 84), Wilcox, and Dallas Counties. Last year, hunters filled 25 tags. Hunting dates to fill this year’s 50 tags are the same as the Southwest Zone.

The Southeast Alabama Zone, which has 40 tags, includes the private and public waters in Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston and Russell Counties (excluding public Alabama state waters in Walter F. George Reservoir (Lake Eufaula) and its navigable tributaries). Season dates are from 8 p.m. Aug. 13, 2016 to 6 a.m. Sept. 5, 2016

The Lake Eufaula Zone, which has 20 tags, includes the public Alabama state waters only in the Walter F. George Reservoir (Lake Eufaula) and its navigable tributaries, south of Hwy 208, Omaha Bridge, (excluding Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge). The largest gator from the 2015 season was taken at Lake Eufaula. That gator, caught by Scott Evans and crew, was 13 feet, 6 inches long and weight 920 pounds.

Nix said all the regulations regarding the alligator hunts are covered in detail in the mandatory training, but there is one safety measure that sometimes gets ignored.

“The biggest issue we have is people not wanting to turn on the running lights on their boats,” he said. “We stress that heavily in the class from a safety aspect. One of our officers had a close encounter with a boat because they didn’t have their running lights on.”

Nix said Alabama alligator hunting has come a long way since the season opened in 2006. A total of 50 tags were distributed the first year in only one zone. Three additional zones have been added since, and Nix said there could be more in the future.

“The line for natural breeding populations is somewhere near Montgomery,” he said. “We know there are some alligators north of there. We’re planning to survey the Tallapoosa and Alabama rivers soon, and we’re going to do another on the Tombigbee River. We know alligators are there. We just have to get the data to build trends to make sure additional or expanded hunting zones are justified.”

For those who love to watch the alligators being weighed in, that opportunity will again be available in the West Central Zone at Roland Cooper State Park and in the Southwest Alabama Zone at WFF office on the Causeway.

Managing Wild Pig Damage


Join us Sept. 2 at the ALFA Hall 130 Alfa Drive UWA Campus in Livingston. Topics Covered will be: wild pig history, biology, and ecology overview of wild pig control methods, trapping of wild pigs, how to get money for pig traps :NRCS’s new Alabama wild pig practice (outside demonstration of trap designs and techniques. Continuing education credits available: CFE’s: 1-CF & 2 SAF * PLM’s: 5 Handouts and lunch provided on site. Phone registration call 334-844-1010. Register online at http:www.aces.edu/go655.

Fall Armyworm Outbreak in Alabama

Fall armyworms have been found in 43 counties in Alabama. Armyworm caterpillars are detrimental to cattlemen and forage producers. The damage can seem to appear overnight. Dr. Kathy Flanders, an Alabama Extension Entomologist, said that fall armyworm caterpillar eats the most within its last feeding stage.

“Fall armyworm caterpillars consume around 80 percent of the total amount of food eaten during the last few days of the last feeding stage,” said Flanders. “They then burrow into the ground, and transform into a moth and the life cycle starts all over again.”

It takes about 30 days for a female fall armyworm to develop from an egg to the point where she is ready to lay an egg of her own. This is why early on it appears that the reports of damage come in batches about a month apart. Flanders said that it is especially important to scout forages the last week of June and the first week in July. Later in the season the new generations overlap. The moths are laying eggs almost every day, and all sizes of fall armyworm caterpillars can be found in any given field.
Control for armyworms is best done before they molt into their last stage. If the armyworms are discovered early in the forage cutting cycle, Flanders said that producers should think about using the insecticides that have the longest residual on the foliage.
“No insecticide lasts forever, but three active ingredients with relatively long residual are Prevathon, Intrepid and Dimilin. These insecticides work better when the caterpillars are small, said Flanders” “Producers should be aware that Dimilin only works when the caterpillar molts. The caterpillar keeps on eating until that time. Therefore, it is essential to apply Dimilin before the caterpillars have molted into their largest stage.”

Amy worm damage
A sweep net is a good inexpensive way to find fall armyworms when they are small. Most Alabama Extension county offices have a sweep net that you can borrow to look for fall armyworm caterpillars. If you find armyworms with a sweep net, follow up by checking to see how many caterpillars are present per square foot. If you find more than two caterpillars per square foot it is probably time to apply an insecticide, cut the hay or graze the affected forage.

The following counties have had reports of fall armyworms:
Mobile Week of June 5
Coffee Week of June 12
Dale Week of June 19
Lowndes, Butler Week of June 26
Green, Hale, Lawrence, Macon, Geneva, Calhoun Week of July 10
Blount, Pickens, Randolph, Clarke, Tuscaloosa, Elmore, Dallas, Madison, Marshall, Cullman, Talladega, Pike, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Colbert, Limestone, Lamar, Washington, Monroe, Dekalb, Conecuh, Wilcox Week of July 17
Cherokee, St. Clair, Tallapoosa, Chambers, Autauga, Chilton, Baldwin, Bibb, Franklin, Crenshaw Week of July 24
You can find the latest map on where damaging populations of fall armyworms have been found at http://www.arcgis.com/apps/PanelsLegend/index.html?appid=b978a04cb3484b9aabe1ef5c43eff2b8

Oak Mountain Deer Management Program on Track for 2016-17 Season

To expand the opportunity for bowhunters to harvest more deer within Oak Mountain State Park near Birmingham, hunt dates are scheduled from November 1, 2016, through January 31, 2017. Hunt dates will be weekday only with the exception of three weekends in January 2017. Those dates are January 14-15, January 21-22 and January 28-29. The program was designed by the Alabama State Parks Division, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) and Bowhunters of Alabama (BHA) in an effort to maximize hunter opportunity and simplify the deer management process within the park.

Oak Mountain State Park will remain open during the hunts. All established park rules and regulations will apply. The park will be divided into 11 zones with each zone accommodating four to five hunters on a first-come, first-serve basis. Up to 40 hunters have been chosen by BHA through a registration process for the 2016-17 season. Visit www.alabamabowhunter.com to learn more about the BHA urban deer control program.

The Oak Mountain hunting format is modeled on other urban deer control programs across the United States and the number of deer harvested met the goal of further reducing the herd. Last year 45 deer were harvested during the hunts (36 does and 9 bucks).

Wildlife experts point to Oak Mountain State Park as a textbook case of how deer tend to multiply in numbers greater than their habitat can support unless controlled through regulated hunting. Past herd health checks and necropsy confirmed the presence of parasites and disease due to overpopulation. After consulting with state wildlife biologists and in consideration of scientific research data, regulated archery hunts were established in 2004 to control the Oak Mountain State Park herd.

Surveys conducted in 1999, 2000 and 2003 found that the Oak Mountain deer herd was causing serious damage to wildflowers, trees and shrubs as a result of feeding on park vegetation. In turn, populations of small mammals and nesting birds were negatively affected. An ongoing independent study reveals a higher percentage of seedlings have survived since the hunts were implemented. As funds allow, future research will be conducted highlighting the improvements to park vegetation and to the health of the whitetail deer population due to the hunts.

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

Birmingham Vet Charged with Possessing Protected Wildlife

Birmingham-area veterinarian Dr. William B. Weber has been charged with 30 counts of possessing protected wildlife, a violation of Alabama law 220-2-.26, which places restrictions on the possession, sale, importation and/or release of certain animals and fish.

On July 20, 2016, a total of 24 raccoons and 6 coyotes were confiscated from Dr. Weber’s clinic and residence. According to Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) Conservation Law Enforcement officials, the animals were housed in a variety of cages that indicated long-term captivity. Evidence also suggests some of the animals may have been illegally imported from Louisiana, a violation of both state and federal law.

Raccoons and coyotes are known carriers of rabies, a disease of the central nervous system affecting mammals that is 100 percent fatal in the absence of timely post-exposure treatment. While rabies has been largely eliminated in the U.S. pet population through vaccinations, the disease is still a threat to humans via bites or scratches from wildlife. There is no approved rabies vaccine for raccoons or coyotes.

"Rabies is a very serious public health threat that is always fatal if proper medical treatment is not delivered soon after exposure,” said Dr. Dee W. Jones, State Public Health Veterinarian with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH). “Anyone who suspects they might have been exposed to a rabid animal should consult their doctor or county health department immediately."

The raccoons and coyotes seized by WFF from the Eastwood Animal Clinic in Birmingham and Dr. Weber’s home in Irondale, Ala., have been turned over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for rabies testing.

In addition to being rabies vectors, raccoons are also susceptible to other diseases that affect pets including canine distemper. Of the 24 raccoons confiscated from Dr. Weber, 11 were housed inside the Eastwood Animal Clinic creating the potential for disease exposure to both patients and staff.

The import or possession of wildlife designated as harmful to public health or native wildlife resources is prohibited by Alabama law. With the exception of permitted wildlife rehabilitators, personal possession of wild animals such as raccoons and coyotes is illegal. Permits for the rehabilitation of rabies vector wildlife are issued very sparingly. Dr. Weber is not a legally permitted wildlife rehabilitator.

“Attempting to keep a wild animal never ends well for the animal or the person confining it,” said Kerry Bradford, WFF Senior Conservation Enforcement Officer. “Veterinarians are often placed in a position to educate the public on the differences between domestic pets and wildlife. The violations Dr. Williams has been charged with are contrary to that message.”

In recent years, several well-meaning Alabamians have been exposed to rabies while attempting to “help” wildlife. In one instance, a litter of raccoon kits was transported from south to north Alabama inadvertently exposing several people to rabies. As a result those individuals received a series of post-exposure rabies treatments, which can be both expensive and painful.

“It’s almost always best to leave wildlife in the wild,” Bradford said. “Mother Nature might seem cruel, but she knows what is best for wild animals.”

If you have been exposed to a potentially rabid animal, contact your doctor or county health department as soon as possible. For county health department contact information, visit www.adph.org. Additional rabies information and a current list of permitted wildlife rehabilitation facilities can be found at outdooralabama.com.

WFF relies upon a concerned public to report wildlife law violations. To report wildlife law violations, please call the Operation GameWatch line at 1-800-272-4263.

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



Forever Wild Board Meets in Millbrook August 11

The Board of Trustees of the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust will hold its third quarterly meeting on August 11, 2016, at the Alabama Wildlife Federation NaturePlex, 3050 Lanark Rd., Millbrook, Ala. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m.

At this meeting, updates on Forever Wild program activities and tract assessments will be presented. This meeting will also provide an opportunity for any individual who would like to make comments concerning the program to address the board.

The public is invited to attend this meeting and is urged to submit nominations of tracts of land for possible Forever Wild Program purchase. Written nominations may be made by letter addressed to the State Lands Division, Room 464, 64 N. Union St., Montgomery, Ala., 36130. Nominations can also be emailed to fwlandtrust@gmail.com.

Quarterly meetings of the Forever Wild Board are held to maximize public input into the program. Only through active public participation can the best places in Alabama be identified and protected in order to remain forever wild.

If Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations are needed, please contact Jo Lewis at 334-242-3051 or Jo.Lewis@dcnr.alabama.gov. Requests should be made as soon as possible, but at least 72 hours prior to the scheduled meeting.

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

Fall armyworms reported in 23 Alabama counties

Along with drought, Alabama farmers are now battling the onward march of fall armyworms. Farmers are encouraged to scout crops and hayfields for the caterpillars and report sightings to a local Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) office.

The crawling creatures were officially reported in 14 counties this week, and were found in nine other counties earlier this summer. Affected counties include Blount, Butler, Calhoun, Clarke, Cullman, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Geneva, Greene, Hale, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lowndes, Macon, Madison, Marshall, Mobile, Pickens, Pike, Randolph, Talladega and Tuscaloosa. Another report shows fall armyworms have crept into Lamar County.

Calhoun County farmer Adam Wilson discovered fall armyworms in his fields as he mowed this week.

“The armyworms we found were in or near the final stages of the larvae cycle, which is the timeframe they can do the most damage,” Wilson said. “These caterpillars can become detrimental to many types of forages.”

According to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES), fall armyworms feed on a variety of crops, but they especially enjoy feasting on bermudagrass, which is grown in hayfields and pastures for livestock. The caterpillars can quickly invade an area and defoliate crops or hayfields.

The drought has already hurt Alabama pastures. The U.S. Department of Agriculture rated 24 percent of the state’s hayfields as poor or very poor as of July 17.

However, for Lamar County dairy farmer Will Gilmer, the hungry caterpillars have done more damage than the lack of rain.

“Because of the two-month drought, we’ll only have about 40 percent of our normal corn silage yield this year, but in one night, armyworms stripped 75 to 80 percent of our sorghum crop,” Gilmer said. “You can’t beat farming in the good times, but then there’s also awful years when prices are low, expenses are high, and Mother Nature delivers blow after blow. All you can do is remember that people are depending on you for their food and that there will be better days ahead.”

To scout for armyworms, ACES suggests using a sweep net on fields during early morning and late afternoon. Best practices for control are frequent mowing and insecticides.

To report fall armyworms and get advice on treatment, ask for the animal science and forages regional agent at a local ACES office, or contact Dr. Kathy Flanders at (334) 844-6393.

 

Outdoor Writer: Oil Spill Memories Fade at ADSFR, Dauphin Island

(David Rainer) Longtime judge at the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo Dr. Bob Shipp, center , checks the weight on a red snapper weighed in at the 83rd annual rodeo. Researchers from the University of South Alabama/Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Crystal Hightower and Reid Nelson, place a tag in the 7.1-pound speckled trout caught by Trenny Woodham and then place it into a holding tank to be released back into the wild later. The rodeo’s live weigh-in category included speckled trout and redfish.

By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Dr. Bob Shipp stood in amazement last weekend at the 83rd annual Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo (ADSFR) as he watched the frenetic activity on Dauphin Island.

Shipp, Professor Emeritus at the University of South Alabama’s Marine Sciences Department, never would have imagined the resilience of the Alabama Gulf Coast, its ecosystem and related recreational activities when he was sitting at Dauphin Island Sea Lab six years ago.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill had cast an ominous pall over all life on the Gulf Coast in April 2010, and Shipp thought coastal living had been forever altered. For obvious reasons, ADSFR officials had to cancel the 2010 rodeo.

“When it happened, I thought our way of life was gone,” said Shipp, longtime judge for the ADSFR, which attracts more than 3,000 anglers annually to the Alabama coast. “I really never expected it to rebound like it has. The first year, when things didn’t look too very bad, I was still really suspicious. But as time goes on, there appears to be no impact at all. And the rodeo is a good example. We’re getting the same kind of fish as before, maybe even better than before. Certainly red snapper are bigger and there are more than there’s ever been before.

“From a fisheries standpoint, you’d never notice there has been any impact at all. That’s not to say there’s not stuff going on in the sediments in deep water, but as far as the fisheries are concerned, you’d never know we had an oil spill.”

Although the red snapper season in federal waters is closed, Alabama state waters out to 9 miles are open through July 31 for red snapper. And the rodeo showed how big red snapper can grow this close to shore. The winning red snapper, caught by David Silcox, weighed 29.05 pounds, followed by Matthew O’Brien at 27.63 and Ryan Kennedy at 26.51.

Shipp continues USA’s Marine Sciences research work on the red snapper population off the Alabama coast. In fact, he and his crew made a trip into the Gulf on Wednesday before the rodeo started. Some of the spots checked were not regular sites but had been discovered during by the charter captains while traveling from site to site.

“What we’ve done for the last two years is go to some of these (discovered) spots,” Shipp said. “We don’t know who put what down and don’t know what kind of material it is. We go to the spots and put the camera (via remotely operated vehicle) down and fish them for 15 minutes. Every one of them is totally loaded with red snapper. The people I bring along on the trip don’t believe me that it’s not a honey hole. What you see on the camera is validated by what we catch on hook and line.”

Last week’s research trip consisted of fishing five different spots for 15 minutes at a time. Every red snapper that hit the deck on the boat was either kept for post-mortem research or tagged and released. Shipp said about 250 snapper were caught in about an hour and 15 minutes of fishing.
There was one disturbing aspect of last week’s research trip. Shipp said the ROV camera picked up not only plenty of red snapper but also far too many of the invasive lionfish.

“One of the spots with chicken coops probably had 40 to 50 lionfish on it,” he said. “I think lionfish are a serious, serious threat. I think it’s more of a threat than overfishing. They feed on young, live fish, fish that are an inch or inch-and-a-half long, which means they are competing with other species for food. Plus they’re wreaking havoc on juvenile fish.

“The one fortuitous thing about red snapper is that juvenile red snapper are not on the reef. They are on rubble or rough bottom. By the time the snapper recruit to the reef, they are too big for the lionfish to eat. But they’re still competing for food. With so many red snapper out there, I don’t know why they all don’t starve to death.”

Fortunately, Shipp said examinations of the stomach contents of red snapper indicate they can forage on species like eels and invertebrates that live in the substrate.

“Believe it or not, red snapper can also filter feed,” he said. “Not a whole lot, but it gives them something. But I don’t know what’s going to happen down the line with lionfish.”

From an economic standpoint, Jeff Collier, Dauphin Island Mayor for the past 18 years, said the rodeo, which started in 1929, is part of the fabric of this coastal community.

“The rodeo is one of the biggest events we have on the island,” Collier said. “We’ve found more ways to leverage and partner with the Mobile Jaycees (rodeo sponsors) than we ever have in the past. It’s a very positive impact on our island community.

“Most of the people down here have forgotten about the oil spill. What’s remarkable about our community is that we have recovered to the extent we have. If you roll the clock back six years, we had no idea what we would be doing in the next one year, five years, 10 years or whatever. Here we are six years later and our economy has rebounded to better than pre-oil spill conditions. I think it’s nothing short of a miracle.”

Collier said as bad as the oil spill was, it has provided an opportunity to learn valuable lessons about unexpected catastrophes.

“We know hurricanes and what we have to do in the aftermath,” he said. “The oil spill was a totally different situation. Fortunately, we made lemonade out of the oil spill. We’ve been able to come up with new events and rebranding Dauphin Island. We’re now calling the island the ‘Sunset Capital of the World.’

“So as bad as it was, some of the things that came from the oil spill turned out to be positive. We came out of it a much better community. I’m very proud to have been a part of that recovery process.”

However, Collier is aware there may be consequences from the oil in the future.

“The one thing we have hanging over our heads is the long-term effect of the oil on the fisheries or the environment in general,” he said. “We can easily gauge the economic recovery, but we have to rely on the scientific community to help us determine the impacts, short and long term, to the environment.”

Chris Blankenship, Director of the Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD), said he and the MRD staff will remain vigilant in the monitoring of the marine environment in the aftermath of the oil spill, but he hopes saltwater anglers will take advantage of the great fishing opportunities available right now.

“The fishing in Alabama is really outstanding overall,” Blankenship said. “The spotted seatrout, red snapper and triggerfish fisheries have been off the chart this year. We are also seeing a lot of big yellowfin tuna and some of the biggest ground mullet I have ever seen.

“There are still several fisheries that Marine Resources is concerned about, including blue crabs and flounder. Those fisheries’ landings are still below average. We are continuing to monitor all the fisheries for lingering effects from the oil spill or other factors. But, we are building inshore and offshore reefs like crazy with money from the oil spill, and that should pay great dividends in the future.”

Outdoor Writer: Alabamians increasingly addicted to quack


By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

For most waterfowlers, these dog days of summer dripping with humidity are for daydreaming about the season to come. That doesn’t apply to Seth Maddox, however.

Maddox, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division’s Waterfowl Coordinator, is gleefully slogging through a profusion of sweat to achieve an important task for many waterfowl hunters in Alabama.

The species that Alabamians are most familiar with is the wood duck. Anyone near any kind of water will likely see wood ducks some time during the year, whether it’s mating pairs or a dozen or so falling in acrobatic fashion into flooded timber.

On July 1, the WFF’s annual wood duck banding program started, and Maddox – along with a dozen or so other biologists and their staff members across the state – is smack dab in the middle. Unlike other well-known duck species, the wood duck doesn’t migrate to northern latitudes for breeding but instead chooses hollow trees or man-made nesting boxes to raise their broods right here in Alabama. This provides WFF with an opportunity to learn about survival and movements by using a much more intense survey method that involves capturing and banding the ducks.

Maddox managed to band 42 wood ducks in the first week en route to a band quota of at least 500 birds.

“The banding started out pretty well this year,” he said. “The lack of water had the birds pretty concentrated. Hopefully it will stay that way for a while so we can band more birds.”

Maddox said WFF employs several different methods to capture the wood ducks from funnel-type traps on land and water as well as cannon- and rocket-propelled nets. The banding season can continue through September 30, although WFF personnel try to get finished by the end of August in areas that might have early teal hunting, a special season that runs Sept. 10-25.

“As far as we can tell the wood duck population is steady,” Maddox said. “We’re not able to pick up wood ducks on our aerial surveys. They’re in flooded timber most of the time so we can’t count them from the sky. That’s why the banding is so important. We derive our population numbers from band returns. We can take a look at where the duck was banded and where it was harvested. We can take a look at the percentage of the ducks banded and the number of banded ducks harvested to determine how many we are removing from the population.

“It’s even more important now because in 2008 we went from a two-bird limit to a three-bird limit. The bands tell us what’s driving the population and if we’re harvesting too many wood ducks.”

WFF also has a wood duck nesting box program in progress that will add 700 nesting boxes in areas around the state where wood ducks traditionally have been banded.

The waterfowl seasons for 2016-17 are similar to last season with a 60-day duck season and a bag limit of six birds. The regular duck season will be Nov. 25-26 and Dec. 3 through Jan. 29.

Although the duck season is basically unchanged other than calendar dates, the goose season has had a few adjustments.

“Traditionally, we’ve had a special early goose season, but we decided to get away from a special season and just lengthen the regular season,” Maddox said. “The dark goose season includes Canada geese, white-fronted (specklebellies) geese and Brant.”

The goose season will have a first segment that runs from Sept. 1-30 with an aggregate bag limit not to include more than five Canada geese, five white-fronted and one Brant.

After September, the goose season will follow the duck season dates of Nov. 25-26 and December 3 through January 29. The aggregate bag limit, however, is different during that time period. The five-bird bag in aggregate can include no more than five white-fronted and three Canadas and one Brant.

“The September season is to allow hunters to take more of the resident population of Canada geese,” Maddox said. “We are not getting as many nuisance geese calls as were once were, so it seems the resident population has stabilized over the last couple of years.”

The light goose season includes snow geese, blue geese and Ross geese. The light goose season is the same as the dark goose season with a daily aggregate bag limit of five light geese in any combination.

Maddox just hopes the upcoming waterfowl season is not a repeat of the 2015-16 season.

“It was a tough year,” he said. “The whole season was pretty warm. We never saw a large migration of birds that we would have if it had been a cold winter. We got a little push of birds in January, but that was about it.

“We didn’t have a lot of rain early on, but then we had a huge flood near Christmas. That opened up a lot more habitat that is not normally available to the birds. A lot of that new territory was not available to hunting, so it kind of acted like a refuge for the ducks. It was a tough duck season last year.”

While the high duck numbers nationwide of the last couple of years are expected to continue this year, Maddox warned that Alabama may not be able to take advantage.

“We’re all weather dependent here in Alabama,” he said. “We have to rely on the weather in Alabama to have a spectacular duck season. Those arctic blasts really help us out. If we get the cold fronts and the ice north of us, duck hunting in Alabama can be as good as it is anywhere.”

Although the Tennessee Valley is one of the top spots for waterfowl in Alabama, Maddox said when the weather is right, hunters can find significant populations of waterfowl in the Tombigbee River Valley and the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

“The Eufaula area can be good, too,” he said. “Weiss Lake is hit or miss, but there are other pockets that will hold ducks.”

While he admits the “Duck Dynasty” TV show increased the interest in waterfowl hunting in recent years, Maddox doesn’t think the interest in duck hunting is a passing fad.

“We gauge duck hunter numbers according to duck stamp sales,” Maddox said. “In 2007, we sold a little more than 12,000 duck stamps. Last year, we sold more than 30,000 state duck stamps. We’ve had record numbers the past three or four years.

“I don’t think it’s all ‘Duck Dynasty.’ A lot of younger kids are getting involved in duck hunting. It’s become kind of a lifestyle thing. It’s more of social event compared to deer hunting. You can make noise when you’re duck hunting. There are all these accessories available. I think there are a lot of things that factor into the increase in duck hunting. We’re only one of two states in the Mississippi Flyway with increasing waterfowl hunter numbers. Louisiana is the only other state where the numbers are going up. We’re fortunate to get that extra revenue to put into waterfowl habitat management.”

The youth waterfowl days are set for Nov. 19, 2016 and Feb. 4, 2017. Maddox said it makes sense to have a Saturday for youth to hunt before and after the regular season. The day in February will most likely be colder and there may be more ducks around, but he really likes the idea of the day in November.

“If the youth season is two days in February, then they don’t get to hunt again until the next season rolls around,” Maddox said “November seems to be better weather and the ducks haven’t been shot at. We felt November was a good time to get the youth out there. If you pique an interest early in the year, then you have the opportunity to take them throughout the season.”

Outdoor Writer: Game Check

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Chuck Sykes is on a quest. The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Director is touring the state to educate hunters about the Game Check program and how it can benefit both hunters and wildlife resources in the short term and for many years to come.

The Game Check program, which has been used on a voluntary basis for the past three years, will be mandatory for the 2016-2017 hunting seasons for reporting the harvest of deer and turkeys.

The goal of Sykes’ tour is to make that transition as easy as possible. More than 20 public seminars are planned across the state, and Sykes urges all hunters to visit one of the meetings that will be held through the summer and early fall. Visit www.outdooralabama.com/game-check-seminar-series for the current schedule.

“We need people to come out and understand what Game Check is and why we’re doing it,” Sykes said. “The Conservation Advisory Board passed Game Check unanimously. The Department (Conservation and Natural Resources) understands there is going to be a learning curve. That is why we’re doing these seminars all over the state. There will be at least three seminars a week throughout the summer somewhere in the state.

“My goal is to let our hunters know why we need Game Check. But just as important, I’m showing them the way to do it. I’m walking through, step-by-step, the quickest and easiest way to use Game Check to report your harvest. I’m also talking about other rules and regulations and answering any questions people have.”

When Game Check was first introduced three years ago, WFF decided to try the voluntary route to see if enough Alabama hunters would report their harvests. Alabama is one of only three states without mandatory harvest reporting. Unfortunately, the number of hunters who reported their harvest via Game Check was less than 5 percent during that span.

“We tried voluntary reporting for three years and it didn’t work,” Sykes said. “There were 19,000 deer reported in 2013 and only 15,000 last year.”

Estimates from sampling and mail surveys indicate about 300,000 deer are harvested annually in Alabama.

“That’s our guess,” Sykes said of the harvest estimate. “We need to know. It’s too important an industry to the state ($1.8 billion economic impact), and it’s too important to the way of life to many people, including me, for us to base everything on a guess.”

Sykes said WFF surveys indicated that 77 percent of the respondents did not oppose a mandatory Game Check system, but he continues to have to debunk some of the rumors that were previously spread about the program.

“At the meetings we’ve had so far, people want to know how to do it and what we’re going to use the information for,” he said. “Some people are under the impression that if they give us the data that we’re going to take something away from them. That’s the furthest thing from the truth. If we find we have more deer than we think, if we’re not killing as many as we think, we possibly can give them more hunting opportunities.

“We don’t know. I don’t have enough data to argue pro or con right now. It’s easy to stick your head in the sand when things are going well, but the fingers are going to be pointed at Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries if it’s not. This is too important to guess. We need to know.”

Compliance with the Game Check system is available in three ways. Hunters can use the Outdoor Alabama App, go online at www.outdooralabama.com/gamecheck or call 1-800-888-7690.

“The phone system is the least reliable and the phone line costs us money,” Sykes said. “From the three years of the voluntary Game Check, the phone reporting was about 50-percent unreliable because it allows for more room to import faulty data like missing counties, wrong sex and incorrect license numbers. We offer it for the people who don’t have internet access. The app and online reporting don’t cost us money. For everybody who has internet, we are strongly encouraging them to get the app or go online.”

There is an incentive for hunters to use the Outdoor Alabama App.

“If they do it that way, they don’t have to carry their harvest records anymore,” Sykes said. “We’re trying to make it as easy as possible. We just want people to understand how to do it.

“This is one of the largest efforts the Department has done in a decade that’s going to impact everybody who deer and turkey hunts in the state – not negatively, but it will impact them. We need to educate people on why we’re doing it and how to accomplish it. It’s that simple.”

While Game Check will allow WFF biologists and the public to monitor harvests on a near real-time basis, Sykes said the best information will come a few years down the road.

“We can look at it week-by-week, but we’re not expecting anything significant for two to three years, preferably five years,” he said. “We don’t want one bad season to impact any decisions. You may have bad weather or where gas is $4 a gallon again and people aren’t traveling as much to hunt. So I would love to have five years of data where we can look at that trend and see what the harvest number is doing, see what participation is doing, so we can make sound management decisions.

“We’re not going to make decisions on what people report this year. We’ve got to crawl before we can run. But it will alert us to any situation. More importantly, it will alert the hunters. They can go online and see if the February season is having an impact on buck harvest. They will be able to tell what bucks are being killed in every county. You can look county by county, day by day and see what’s going on.”

Sykes doesn’t know how many hunters will embrace participation in the Game Check program but he is optimistic.

“I would love to have 100-percent compliance, but that’s unrealistic,” he said. “Georgia instituted mandatory reporting during turkey season, and they’re estimating they got about 45-percent compliance this year. That’s huge. Right now, we’re only sampling hunters that have a license, which isn’t that many, unfortunately. With Game Check, everybody who hunts will be sampled. It should blow the database through the roof.

“I just want people to come to these seminars to ask questions and form an opinion based on facts, not what they hear from a friend, not what they read on social media. Come listen. Come ask questions. See what it’s all about, and then form their opinion. So far, even the people who have not been jumping up and down in support of Game Check, once they hear the presentation, ask questions, have those questions answered, they understand why we’re doing it and it’s OK.”

Alabama Bans Deer Parts from CWD-Affected Areas

This spring Alabama’s Conservation Advisory Board took steps to strengthen existing hunting regulations aimed at preventing the unintentional import of disease pathogens associated with game animals harvested outside the state.

Alabama hunting regulation 220-2-.25, which addresses the importation of game animals, wildlife and furs, was expanded to ban the import of all cervid (deer and other deer-like animals) body parts from states, territories, and foreign countries where Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been confirmed. Body parts from infected animals can carry the same deadly risk to Alabama’s deer herd as live animals. Beginning this fall, the regulation change will affect how hunters can return to Alabama with deer harvested during an out-of-state hunting trip.

Exceptions to the ban include meat that has been completely deboned, cleaned skull plates with attached antlers and no visible brain or spinal cord tissue, raw capes or hides with no visible brain or spinal cord tissue, upper canine teeth with no root structure or other soft tissue, and finished taxidermy products or tanned hides.

“Many Alabama hunters commonly hunt deer in states with CWD in their deer populations,” said Lt. Carter Hendrix with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Law Enforcement Section. “Under this new regulation they must take steps to debone the meat or remove all brain tissue from their harvested deer before returning home to Alabama. This ban, in conjunction with the ban on importation of live deer, will aid in reducing the chances of the disease coming to the state.”

Comparable to mad cow disease, CWD is a fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of cervids. The disease attacks the brain of an infected animal causing it to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose bodily functions, and die. CWD has been found in captive and/or wild deer in 24 states, two Canadian provinces, Norway, and South Korea. It is not known to be transmissible to humans or domestic livestock. To date, there have been no positive tests for CWD in Alabama.

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

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

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

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

Alabama Power, partners award longleaf pine grants

Continuing a long-standing tradition of supporting natural resource conservation, Alabama Power and its sister companies, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) will provide $4.3 million in grants this year to help restore and enhance the longleaf pine ecosystem, including five projects in Alabama.

The 2016 grants will support 21 projects that are a part of NFWF’s Longleaf Stewardship Fund, a landmark public-private partnership that includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture's U.S. Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southern Company, International Paper’s Forestland Stewards Initiative and Altria.

These projects will restore more than 14,800 acres and enhance more than 231,000 acres of longleaf pine habitat across the historic longleaf range. The 10 projects within the Southern Company service territory will impact more than 194,000 acres, of which nearly 10,000 acres will be newly planted longleaf.

“We are proud to join our sister companies and others in helping to conserve and protect wildlife habitat across the Southeast,” said Susan Comensky, Alabama Power’s vice president of Environmental Affairs. “Working with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and its partners has helped to expand the positive impact of our efforts to restore the longleaf pine ecosystem.”

The Longleaf Stewardship Fund builds on the success of the Longleaf Legacy program, a partnership between Southern Company and NFWF, which for eight years invested more than $8.7 million to restore more than 87,000 acres of forest and the native species that rely on it. Another 20,000 acres were restored through the company’s closely aligned Power of Flight program with NFWF.

Unique to the United States, the majestic longleaf pine ecosystem once covered more than 90 million acres across nine states, from Virginia to Texas. But because of timbering, development and other factors, the longleaf forest declined over the past century to less than 3 percent of its original area.

In recent years, thanks to the public-private commitment to restoration, land devoted to longleaf pine has increased from roughly 3 million acres to an estimated 4.7 million acres, reversing decades of decline and benefiting many threatened and endangered species that depend on the habitat.

Here are the 2016 Longleaf Stewardship Fund projects that will support restoration in Alabama:
The Chattahoochee Fall Line Conservation Partnership will accelerate and demonstrate longleaf pine conservation on more than 15,000 acres in west Georgia and east Alabama, with an emphasis on privately owned land. The project includes planting longleaf on 1,900 acres and implementing beneficial prescribed fire on 13,800 acres, including lands protected around Fort Benning.

The Talladega Mountain Conservation Longleaf Partnership will establish 236 acres of longleaf pine, and improve 37,000 acres of existing longleaf habitat in west Georgia and east Alabama through prescribed fire. The project will support efforts to develop a conservation plan, improve partnerships with private landowners, and foster greater collaboration among conservation organizations and agencies working in the two states.

The Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership will plant 374 acres of longleaf pine and improve more than 36,000 acres of existing longleaf habitat through prescribed fire and other management practices. Restoration will be in the Yellow River Ravines, an important corridor connecting Eglin Air Force Base in Florida to the larger Blackwater River State Forest/Conecuh National Forest complex in Florida and Alabama, as well as on other public and private lands. Rare species recovery will center on the red-cockaded woodpecker, reticulated salamander, eastern indigo snake and gopher tortoise.

The American Forest Foundation, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and partners will restore 700 acres of longleaf pine in the Coosa County Wildlife Management Area and engage and educate 2,000 adjacent family forest owners on sustainable forest management practices and longleaf restoration. The project will provide long-term habitat benefits for the red-cockaded woodpecker and other species.

The National Wildlife Federation and Alabama Wildlife Federation will restore and enhance 5,000 acres of longleaf pine habitat, and advance longleaf mapping and measurement in Alabama. Ongoing project strategies include identifying priority areas where the impact of longleaf restoration would be highest, providing landowners with technical assistance to develop conservation plans, and offering educational opportunities – including workshops and field days – for private landowners.

For more information about Alabama Power’s efforts to conserve natural resources, visit www.alabamapower.com. Scroll to the Environment tab and then click Stewardship.

For more information about the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and its partnerships and initiatives, visit www.nfwf.org.

Fawns Better Off in the Wild

Photo by Jean Watson

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) encourages anyone who finds a seemingly abandoned fawn to leave it in the wild. Attempting to “rescue” a fawn can actually do more harm than good.

For several weeks after birth, a doe will leave its fawn alone for hours at a time. The fawn may appear lost or abandoned, but its mother’s apparent absence is purposeful. She avoids spending time in the fawn’s location in order to decrease her scent in the area or otherwise attract predators to the fawn. While the mother is feeding nearby, the fawn avoids detection by hiding motionless in a grassy area.

“Fawns raised by their mothers in the wild fare much better than those reared in captivity,” said Keith Gauldin, Wildlife Section Chief for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF). “Well-meaning individuals can actually cause more harm by removing it from its hiding place. The best option is to take a photo and leave the fawn where it was found.”

Most wild birds and mammals, including fawns, are protected by law and may not be legally taken from the wild or kept as pets. In the vast majority of instances, fawns will survive if left alone. Deer and other wildlife are difficult to rear in captivity and have the greatest chance for survival if left in their native habitat.

Fawn Facts
Fawns are often left in protective cover until about three weeks of age.
A doe will return two to eight times per day to feed its fawn.
A doe will continue to care for its fawn, even if it has been touched by a human.
A doe will accept a fawn that has been missing for up to 48 hours.
If fed cow milk, fawns can dehydrate quickly from diarrhea.
Deer raised by humans can become dangerous as they mature.
If a fawn is found with serious injuries or confirmed to be orphaned, contact the nearest wildlife rehabilitator permitted to handle deer. For a list of rehabilitators permitted by WFF, visit www.outdooralabama.com/current-wildlife-rehabbers.

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.

Public Meetings Will Educate Hunters on Game Check

After three years of insufficient reporting into the voluntary Game Check program, Alabama’s Conservation Advisory Board has recommended mandatory reporting of deer and turkey harvests via the Game Check system starting with the 2016-17 hunting season. To educate hunters in Alabama about the Game Check harvesting system, the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries is holding seminars about the program throughout the state this summer.

WFF Director Chuck Sykes will host the seminars, which include an overview of the program followed by a question and answer session. All hunters are encouraged to attend one of these in advance of hunting season.

Topics to be covered:
How to check your game.
Why the data is important.
What it means to you, the hunter.
Changes to the upcoming hunting season.
Alabama is one of only three states without a mandatory data collection system.

The complete Game Check seminar schedule of dates and locations is at www.outdooralabama.com/game-check-seminar-series or call WFF at 334-242-3465.

Selma: July 25, 2016, 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm, Central Alabama Farmer's Cooperative, 2519 US Highway 80, Selma, AL 36701.
Tuscaloosa: July 26, 2016, 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm, Jacksonville State University, Houston Cole Library, Rooms 1103 A & B, 700 Pelham Road North, Jacksonville, AL 36265

Outdoor Writer: Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

After the success of a live weigh-in category at last year’s Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo (ADSFR), rodeo officials will expand the category and lift restrictions for the 83rd rodeo, scheduled July 15-17 at the rodeo site on Dauphin Island.

Last year’s live weigh-in category was limited to the speckled trout jackpot entrants. Anglers in the jackpot who brought live speckled trout to the weigh-in site had their fish weighed and then carefully released.

This year’s rodeo will allow anyone who has a live speckled trout to take advantage of the live weigh-in category. It also will expand the category with the addition of the live weigh-in of redfish (red drum).

“Last year’s live weigh-in was such a success, we decided we would open it up to everybody, instead of just the jackpot participants,” said Capt. Richard Rutland, 83rd Rodeo President. “And the prize money is a lot better for the live weigh-in category thanks to Springhill Medical Center. First place gets $2,000, while second place gets $750 and $250 for third. The live weigh-in for redfish will be a mirror image of speckled trout with the same prize money.”

The rodeo is also tweaking the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation Catch and Release Shark Category. In an effort to promote the conservation of sharks, the rodeo went to catch and release last year. Sharks that were caught and released with video evidence were awarded points according to species. Mako sharks are worth six points, while bull sharks, hammerheads (great or scalloped) and tiger sharks are worth four points each. Blacktip and spinner sharks are worth one point each. Because of the number of entries last year, the rodeo has instituted a cumulative combined entry of 10 per day for blacktips and spinners.

“We’re going to have a daily prize for sharks as well,” Rutland said. “We hope that will encourage the shark fishermen to bring in their videos each day instead of waiting to show us all their videos on Sunday. Last year, it clogged up the weigh station. We were watching videos for three hours on the last day, which just about shut down the weigh station.”
Continuing its conservation theme, the rodeo will have a special category for lionfish, an invasive species that is normally harvested by the diving community. The proliferation of lionfish on the artificial structures in Alabama waters and the Gulf of Mexico has fisheries scientists concerned the species could affect the populations of native fish species. Because most lionfish are taken by divers, the rodeo lionfish category is spear-only.

But to give an indication of how fast lionfish are growing on Alabama’s reefs, some lionfish are being caught on hook and line as proven by the Alabama state records that were set and broken recently. On May 25 a lionfish that weighed 1 pound, 4.6 ounces was submitted for the record book. A week later, a lionfish that weighed 2.86 pounds was landed and became the current state record.

As usual, the rodeo will have the Raymarine Big Game Jackpot for offshore anglers who target yellowfin tuna, dolphin fish, wahoo and swordfish. A Cash Prize Division adds blue marlin to the big game species. A minimum size limit of 110 inches is in effect for blue marlin. Any blue marlin brought to the dock that is less than 110 inches will result in disqualification for all fish weighed in by that boat.

The Pronto Pawn King Mackerel Jackpot will pay the top 10 finishers, while the Yamaha Speckled Trout Jackpot will do the same. There is also a non-motorized speckled trout division for those who prefer to fish from kayaks or other non-motorized platforms.

The mandatory captains’ meetings for the Guy Harvey Shark category, the Raymarine Big Game Jackpot and the Pronto Pawn King Mackerel Jackpot will again have a location in Orange Beach at J&M Tackle in addition to the rodeo site on Dauphin Island. The mandatory captains’ meeting and sign-out for the Guy Harvey Shark category is at 5 p.m., July 14. The mandatory captains’ meetings for the Raymarine Big Game Jackpot, Pronto Pawn King Mackerel Jackpot and the optional cash prize division will be from 6-8 p.m., July 14. Anglers unable to attend the captains’ meetings must sign out at the ADSFR site by 5 a.m. on July 15. Late sign-out is not available in Orange Beach.

Red snapper is again on the rodeo category list thanks to the season in Alabama state waters out to 9 miles. Triggerfish, however, isn’t on the list because that species’ season is closed until July 31.

To set the stage for the big rodeo, the 58th Annual Roy Martin Young Anglers Tournament, sponsored by Exxon-Mobil, will be held Saturday, July 9. The tournament begins at 5 a.m., and the weigh station will be open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. The Roy Martin event is open to all anglers 15 years old and younger. The young anglers will be competing in 31 fish categories. Proceeds from the Roy Martin Young Angler’s Tournament will go toward the annual Children’s Christmas Shopping Tour sponsored by the Mobile Jaycees.

During the big rodeo, the ADSFR weigh station will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Fishing will begin with a ceremonial cannon blast at 5 a.m. on July 15 and will conclude with another cannon blast at 5 p.m. July 17.

The rodeo weigh station draws a big crowd each year and provides a significant boost to the Dauphin Island economy. To provide additional incentive for visitors to head to the island, the rodeo and the Dauphin Island Music Festival have combined efforts and will bring entertainment to the rodeo site throughout the event.

Louisiana native and rising country music entertainer Dylan Scott will headline the music on Friday, July 15, while acts Winston Ramble, Mulligan Brothers and Delta Smoke will take the stage during the rodeo.

Be aware, Rutland said, that the rodeo will not allow coolers or outside food on the rodeo site this year.

The ADSFR, the largest fishing tournament in the nation with more than 3,000 participants each year, has donated more than $200,000 towards marine research and scholarships to the University of South Alabama’s Department of Marine Sciences in the past 10 years.

As usual, the rodeo will give away a 22-foot Contender boat with a 250-horsepower Yamaha outboard in a random drawing from all rodeo participants who weigh in a legal fish or submit a legal entry in the catch and release divisions during the event.

Rodeo festivities kick off on July 14 with live music and the Crown Royal Liar’s Contest.

Visit www.adsfr.com for ticket locations, rodeo rules and other details.

York Fishing Rodeo

Saturday, June 18th was a balmy hot day to start off the York Fishing rodeo. Winners in the ages 1-5 were first place RonNiya May with a 4” bream and second place Juicy Lake with a 3.5” bream. Ages 6-10 year old winners were Precious Lake won first place with a 8” bream, second place was Dashawn Hutcherson with a 7” bream, and Sentella Rowe with a 4.25” bream. First place in the 11-15 year olds was Kaydriana Brown with a 19.5” catfish. Second was Travin Ford with a 8” bream and third place was Dustin Bedwell with a 4.5” bream. Additional fishing rodeo drawing winners to include: Roderick Crawford, Lamont Gratton, Jr., Cordaric Holloway, Melvin Foster, Ashireya Long, and Kayla Skye Carney. Submitted by York Mayor, Gena Robbins. See more photos on SCRJ’s and the City of York’s Facebook pages.

Lake conditions alert: dry conditions affecting summer lake levels

Despite an extremely wet winter season, the dry conditions that developed this spring have reduced the flows in rivers and streams that feed Alabama Power’s reservoirs.


Summer heat and evaporation are also contributing to the reduced flows. In response to these conditions, Alabama Power has minimized water releases from its hydroelectric dams. In addition, recreational releases from Jordan Dam on the Coosa River will be suspended, starting the July 4 holiday weekend.


As these dry conditions persist, Alabama Power expects the levels on Weiss, Neely Henry, and Logan Martin lakes on the Coosa River, Harris and Martin lakes on the Tallapoosa River, and Smith Lake on the Black Warrior River to continue to decline. The company is working with government agencies, municipalities, businesses and industry, and community groups to communicate about its efforts to conserve water.


Alabama Power will continue to closely monitor conditions on the lakes and manage the limited water resources carefully. Individuals with boats and other water-related equipment and facilities should always be alert to changing conditions on Alabama Power reservoirs and be prepared to take the necessary steps to protect their property.


For details about Alabama Power lakes, visit https://apcshorelines.com or add the free Alabama Power Shorelines app to your mobile device. To view specific lake advisories, click on the lake name and then click the circular information icon. Individuals can also call Alabama Power’s automated Reservoir Information Line at 1-800-LAKES11 (1-800-525-3711).

Ala. Forestry Commission urges fire safety during 4th of July

 For those planning to celebrate America’s Independence Day with cookouts and fireworks this coming weekend, the Alabama Forestry Commission reminds everyone to observe fire safety precautions. Acting State Forester Dan Jackson encourages people to be cautious. “We certainly want folks to enjoy their 4th of July holiday, but we ask that they use caution with outdoor fires such as grills, campfires, and fireworks,” said Jackson. “Wildfires do not discriminate; they do not stop at property boundaries. They can quickly spread out of control, threatening not only forestland, but lives and property as well.”


Forestry officials make the following recommendations. Avoid shooting fireworks in or near dry grass, leaves, or other combustible materials. Thoroughly soak the area with water where fireworks are to be discharged, and have a garden hose or other source of water nearby.


The same preventive measures apply when using charcoal grills. Do not dump hot coals in, near, or around dry grass, leaves, or other flammable materials. Do not bury hot coals. Allow briquettes to cool completely; or, soak with lots of water, stir them, and soak again, being sure they are cold to the touch. Never leave a grill unattended.


Finally, if a fire does start, it is strongly recommended that you not attempt to fight it yourself. Instead, call 911 immediately, then wait in a safe place for the arrival of the local fire department.
“We are asking the public to know the fire safety rules and help us protect our communities,” continued Jackson. “With the increased wildfire activity we’ve recently witnessed out West, Alabama has the potential to experience that same type disaster.”

Outdoor Writer: Black bear population expanding, learn how to report a sighting

By David Rainer, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Don’t be surprised if a sighting that occurred recently in Oxford, Ala., becomes more commonplace. A young, male black bear strolled through several neighborhoods in the Oxford area and created somewhat of a stir.

Thomas Harms, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division’s Large Carnivore Coordinator, said the state’s black bear population is expanding and sightings will likely increase.

That is not a cause for alarm, according to Harms, as long as you give the bear plenty of room.

“It’s not uncommon to see one this time of year,” Harms said. “There are a lot of young males moving around this time of year. Usually when you see one in a populated area, it’s a young male that has been pushed out by his mother and is looking for a new home range.”

Wildlife and law enforcement officials looked for the bear in the Oxford area but never saw it again. Harms said that is because a young male may travel a great distance before he finds suitable habitat to call home.

“He will keep pushing out until he comes to a place that meets his needs,” he said. “We had one that went from Georgia, across Alabama and into Mississippi. We had sightings of that bear all the way across. So there’s no telling where that bear that was seen in Oxford will end up.”

When the public spots a black bear near a residential area, Harms says to report the sighting to the district WFF office and stay out of its way.

“Just give the bear its space and let it move through,” he said. “I know people want to take pictures, but keep your distance and let it be a bear and let it move on. Usually in those situations, by the next day, you’re not going to see it again.”

Harms said the main concentration of black bears is in Mobile and Washington counties and the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

I was the outdoors editor at the Mobile newspaper for 14 years and never spotted a black bear. I found bear tracks but never laid eyes on a live one.

“They’re pretty hard to see,” Harms said. “They make it their business not to be seen. Even as big as they are and leaving tracks, they do a really good job of not being found.”

Harms said other areas of Alabama have some bears, but there are only a few breeding populations. He said there are bears in the Little River area in northeast Alabama, but those are a different subspecies (Ursus americanus americanus) of bears migrating from north Georgia. A small group of bears lives in Conecuh National Forest and, like those bears in southwest Alabama, are the Florida subspecies. Mature female bears average about 200 pounds. Males average about 300 pounds.

Harms said WFF is working with Auburn University to study the black bears in Alabama and try to determine the population numbers.

“We’re still working on the data to try to determine the number,” he said. “We’re processing hair samples and we have a few bears collared. We’re probably talking around 450 bears statewide. It could be a little more or a little less.

“We don’t count transient males passing through. They’re not part of the population. Once they mature and find a breeding female, they become part of an actual breeding population.”

Harms said there are eight collared bears in south Alabama and two in north Alabama. The collars are designed to stay on the bears for 14-15 months and then drop off. Biologists then recover the collars to download a full year of data. He also said plans are to trap and collar several more bears this summer.

From the data on hand, Harms said it appears female bears in south Alabama have a home range of 7 to 8 square miles, although there is some overlap with the females. In north Alabama, the female home range is about 12 square miles.

“We’re talking about two completely different habitats,” he said. “Up north, it’s more of a mountainous range and the bears have to cover more ground to find food. In south Alabama, just about everything grows year-round and the bears don’t have to travel as far to forage. Plus, there is a denser population in south Alabama, so that may have something to do with it.

“As far as males, it looks like they have a home range of about 20 square miles. It’s just like a buck covers more area, trying to cover more than one female at one time. And the males do protect their home range, their breeding area. They prefer not to fight, but they will. Most of the time the smaller bear will just run off.”

Harms said Alabama is not alone in an expanding population of black bears. He said the trend extends to the entire Southeast.

In Alabama, black bear is a game species but there is no open season.

“There’s a pretty good fine for killing one,” Harms said. “So whatever you do, don’t shoot one. Because they haven’t been hunted in decades, the population is slowly expanding. Being a predatory species, their growth is a lot slower than a deer or anything like that. So it’s going to take them a lot longer to rebound.

“But we’re seeing sows with three cubs pretty often and sometimes even four. That means they’re eating better and reproducing better. If you’re seeing multiple young, that usually means that population is in good health.”

Harms asks anyone who spots a black bear to go online to www.alabamablackbearalliance.org/ and fill out a report, which will end up in Harms’ data. The public can also contact any of the WFF district offices and report the sighting via email or by telephone.

“If they have photos, we would like to see them,” he said. “If they give permission, we want to post them on Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries’ Facebook page.”

Because the bulk of the bear population is in southwest Alabama, Harms has held outreach and education meetings recently.

“We talk about bear reproduction, how to understand the bears and how to live with them,” he said. “What most people know about bears is what they see in stories or on TV or in the movies, and they can draw the wrong conclusions. We want to give them the latest information on black bears and what to expect when they live in areas with bear populations. Eventually, we’ll be hosting these meetings on a statewide basis.”

Summer Mating Season Has Black Bear on the Move

School is out, the temperature is rising and the beaches are calling – a typical summer in Alabama. Add to that summertime list an increase in black bear sightings outside the animal’s primary ranges in the state. Most recently, numerous sightings of a black bear were reported in both Oxford, Ala., and Tallapoosa County, where the bear was observed eating from trash cans.

Seeing a black bear in Alabama is uncommon and exciting, but it is no cause for alarm.

“All bears sighted this year have been behaving normally and exhibiting a natural fear of humans,” said Steve Bryant, District 2 Supervising Wildlife Biologist for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF). “So far there are no reports of bears acclimating to human activities or causing any property damage.”

Alabama’s relatively low black bear population appears to be on the rise. A small population exists in Mobile and Washington counties, but bears migrating from Georgia have established a viable population in northeast Alabama as well. WFF is currently working with Auburn University researchers and other state and federal agencies to collect data on the state’s black bear population and movements.

“Late spring and early summer is usually when you’ll see sub-adult males that have been expelled from their mother’s territory,” Bryant said. “They are often spotted while searching for a place to establish a new home range. Black bear mothers occasionally allow a sub-adult female to become established within her home range, but she won’t tolerate any of her male offspring doing the same. Additionally, larger adult males will often wander for miles during this time of year in search of receptive females.”

Other potential reasons for the increased visibility of black bear include habitat fragmentation and natural population growth.

Alarmed citizens who have seen a bear in their subdivision, on their property, or crossing a road are encouraged to avoid the bear and report it to their local WFF District Office, county sheriff’s office or local police department.

“Walking through a neighborhood is not considered abnormal activity for a bear,” said Bryant. “It’s just visiting and will pass through as it looks for a less frantic location to enjoy life.”

Black bear is a protected species in Alabama. Shooting at one is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a potential minimum fine of $2,000. Other penalties for firing at a black bear include the potential loss of hunting and fishing license privileges for three years and possible jail time.

In 2015, a Heflin man received a one-year suspended jail sentence, nine months supervised probation and was fined $2,000 plus court costs for shooting at a black bear. The bear was unharmed.

Bears are typically secretive, shy animals that avoid human interaction. To prevent accidently attracting one to your home, feed pets just enough food that they can consume in one meal. If bears have been reported in your area, wait to put your household trash out until the day of pick-up. Secure uneaten pet food, trash bins, bird and other wildlife feeders as they are easy pickings for hungry young bears.

What should you do if you are lucky enough to encounter/observe a black bear? WFF offers these suggestions:
• Do not be frightened.
• Do not approach the animal.
• Do not run from the bear; back away slowly.
• Stand tall and upright and make loud noises.
• Avoid direct eye contact with the bear.
• Make sure the bear has an unobstructed direction to escape.
• Never purposely feed a bear.
• Never approach a bear with cubs; this will provoke an attack.

“These animals are an important wildlife resource in Alabama woodlands,” Bryant said. “If you have an unexpected encounter with a black bear, don’t panic. Consider yourself lucky to have had the experience.”

The public is encouraged to report black bear sightings to WFF district wildlife offices. For WFF district contact information, visit www.outdooralabama.com/wildlife-section. Bear sightings can also be reported online at https://game.dcnr.alabama.gov/BlackBear, www.alabamablackbearalliance.com or by email to Thomas Harms at Thomas.Harms@dcnr.alabama.gov.

For more information about black bears in Alabama, visit www.outdooralabama.com and www.alabamablackbearalliance.org.

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.

AU Fishing Seminar

Auburn University will be hosting a seminar by Dr. Luke Roy at the Alabama Fish Farming Center, 529 S. Centreville Street, Greensboro, AL on Friday, July 1 from 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. Dr. Roy is a candidate for the newly created faculty-extension aquaculture position to be located in West Alabama. All are welcome to attend this seminar and it should be particularly interesting to those in the Alabama catfish and shrimp industries.

Alabama Department of Public Health issues 2016 Fish Consumption Advisories

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

ADEM, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) collected samples of specific fish species for analysis from various waterbodies throughout the state during the fall of 2015 (597 samples; 52 collection stations). ADPH assessed the analytical results to determine whether any of the tested contaminants in the fish may give rise to potential human health effects.

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

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

New and updated consumption advisories issued for the 36 bodies of water tested can be found on the ADPH website. http://www.adph.org/tox/index.asp?id=1360

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

A fish consumption advisory can be issued for one or more specific species of fish within a waterbody or an advisory can be extended to include all fish species within that waterbody. When excess levels of a contaminant are found in a specific species of fish, an advisory is issued for that specific species. For example, if an advisory had been issued for largemouth bass and not for channel catfish, it would be advised that individuals should not eat largemouth bass, but consumption of channel catfish is permissible without endangering health. When excess levels of a contaminant are found in multiple fish species sampled from a specific waterbody, a Do Not Eat Any advisory is issued. Consumption of any fish from a specific waterbody under a Do Not Eat Any advisory may place the consumer at risk for harm from the contaminant.

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

Forest service makes it easier for visitors to enjoy national forests and grasslands

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell today announced steps to make it easier for outfitters, guides, schools, non-profits and other partners to take groups out to enjoy outdoor activities on national forests and grasslands. By streamlining the approach to special-use permitting for national forests and grasslands, our natural resources will be even more accessible to Americans.

"Our national forests and grasslands connect people to nature where they live, providing sustainable recreation opportunities for all Americans," Vilsack said. "The experience of enjoying these lands draws people closer to our vast natural resources and strengthens our connection to what our country has to offer. Today, we are taking steps to make it even easier for people to enjoy our public lands and reap the benefits of our forests, rivers and mountains."

More than 160 million people visit national forest and grasslands annually. The vast majority of families and individual visitors do not need a permit to enjoy outdoor activities in the national forest system.

Forest Service recreation special use permits provide organized access for service providers who take groups of people to national forests and grasslands to experience outdoor recreation, while allowing the Forest Service to manage visitor volume in specific locations and protect resources. Partners and service providers often create opportunities for new visitors, youth, underserved communities, minority visitors and others to experience the great outdoors on our public lands.

"Today, more than ever, people come to know and value places on national forests and grasslands through personal outdoor experiences," said Chief Tidwell. "By modernizing and streamlining our permit processes, we are strengthening our ties to all Americans and their connection to the land. Working with our partners, the Forest Service is connecting citizens with experiences in nature that truly change people's lives."

Outdoor recreation on these public lands also contributes more than $13 billion dollars to the national economy and supports over 205,000 jobs annually. Predominantly based in rural communities, these jobs strengthen local economies through the many small businesses that benefit from proximity to national forests, including more than 5,000 outfitters and guide businesses. The Forest Service currently administers more than 23,000 recreation special use permits a year.

The Forest Service's streamlined approach to special-use permitting will be implemented over time. Ongoing user feedback will help the agency continually evaluate and adjust to provide the best possible customer service. Steps being taken include:

Streamlining the process to receive or renew a recreation special use permit, making it simpler and faster through the use of existing agency authorities.

Increasing staff capacity and the consistency of the permit process across the country by developing new standardized training programs and exploring new staffing strategies.

Encouraging managers to take greater advantage of allowable waivers when a special use permit is not required, for example, where a proposed use would have only nominal impact on lands, resources, and programs or operations.

Investing in technology to improve business tools and data that support recreation special uses, including an electronic permit application process.

"The steps announced today will improve access for groups and help us better meet the needs of the families, friends and individuals who made 160 million fun, memory-making visits to learn and play in our national forests last year," said Vilsack, "But, we still need Congress to take action now to ensure these opportunities continue to be available by passing a real budget fix that stops the chronic drain on Forest Service resources that comes from the growing costs of fighting wildfire."

In a recent report on the cost of fire suppression, the Forest Service reported that money available for recreation, heritage and wilderness is down 15 percent, while dollars for roads, facilities and deferred maintenance are down 46, 68 and 95 percent respectively. Non-fire-related staff has also been cut by 39 percent since 1998. The cost of fire preparedness and suppression activities has grown from 16 percent of the Forest Service's total budget to more than 52 percent over the last two decades. That shift has come at the expense of programs and staff in other critical activities, including the staff that administers permits. A fire funding solution that stems or reverses the reduction of resources for recreation programs is urgently needed.

 

Outdoor Writer: Habitat Enhancement and Restoration Team to incream success for anglers

A boat from the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division heads out with a load of bamboo structures that were deployed on Logan Martin Lake last year as fish attractors. The Fisheries Section is also planting native vegetation, like water willow and buttonbush, to provide cover for small fish to promote their recruitment into the catchable population of popular species like crappie and bass.

By DAVID RAINER Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Most freshwater anglers know if you’re not getting hung up occasionally, you’re not fishing in the right spot. Species like bass and crappie are most often found around structure of some sort.

That is the reason the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division created the Habitat Enhancement and Restoration Team to increase the chance of success for anglers in numerous bodies of water throughout Alabama.

“We established the program in late 2014 and started doing work in 2015,” said Kyle Bolton, WFF’s Fish Habitat Coordinator. “Since the program started, we’ve put out a little more than 1,000 structures. Most of those have been used for fish attraction as opposed to fish production. We are starting to move into fish production enhancement, things like planting native vegetation.”

Bolton said 200 Christmas trees were deployed in Dallas County Lake, and a large artificial habitat project with about 300 structures was completed at Fayette County Lake, which has been drained for renovation and will reopen in 2018.

“Our district fisheries biologists have always added fish attractors to our state lakes whenever possible,” Bolton said. “We’re just now branching out into reservoir habitat enhancement.”

Bolton said 50 bamboo structures have been placed in West Point Lake, Lake Jordan and Logan Martin Lake. Another deployment of bamboo structures is scheduled for Upper Bear Reservoir on Bear Creek on the border of Marion and Franklin counties.

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries also develops partnerships to provide enhancement on a number of lakes and reservoirs.

“We’ve partnered for the past few years with Alabama Power to put out Christmas trees on Lake Martin,” Bolton said. “This year we put about 200 trees on Lake Mitchell on the Coosa River. “Then we partnered with Alabama Power, Weiss Lake Improvement Association and the Cedar Bluff High School bass team to put out 40 bamboo structures on Weiss Lake.”

Bolton said the bamboo structures are from 4 to 10 feet tall with six to eight bamboo stalks set in concrete inside a cinder block. The bamboo stalks are placed in the concrete to simulate a tree-like structure

“Those are really good at attracting crappie and they will attract bass,” Bolton said. “We usually put them in 10 to 20 feet of water.”

Bolton said there are no buoys or other markers for the fish attractors, but the locations are marked with GPS coordinates that can be accessed on outdooralabama.com’s interactive map. Go to http://conservationgis.alabama.gov/dcnr/ and check the fishing box. Then click the plus icon to expand the choices. Check Freshwater Fish Attractors and icons with a fish and hook will pop up on the map. Click on the icon and the coordinates for the fish attractors will pop up.

“It will also tell you how many fish attractors were put out, the depth and the date the attractors were installed so you can tell if it has been in there long enough to attract fish,” Bolton said. “It usually doesn’t take long.”

For the remainder of 2016, WFF plans to deploy 100 spider block structures each in Lewis Smith Lake, Little Bear and Cedar Creek. Bolton said the spider block structures are similar to the bamboo structures, but black half-inch irrigation pipe is set in concrete in the cinderblock instead of bamboo.

“Those irrigation pipes are limber and will kind of curve when they come out of the cinderblock, and it kind of looks like a spider, which is why they call them spider blocks,” he said.

Bolton said Porcupine Fish Attractors will be used for four more artificial fish habitat enhancement projects in four lakes. Plans are to deploy 150 each in Yates Reservoir, Lake Martin, Smith Lake and Lake Mitchell.

“The Porcupine Fish Attractors are really good at attracting bass,” he said.

Bolton said WFF staff will start monitoring the success of the fish attractor program in 2017.

“A lot of places where we have attractors we already have fish data,” he said. “We have some of our standardized electrofishing sampling sites. After we put the structures out, we’ll go back after a certain time and sample those again to see what our catch per unit difference is. We’ll also possibly do some SCUBA diving on those structures and/or some underwater surveys. “We’ll monitor the longevity of the structure and the ability of the structures to grow periphytons. Periphytons are a mixture of algae, cyanobacteria and microbes that attaches to pretty much all submerged surfaces. That’s a food source for invertebrates and smaller fish, which is part of what attracts the larger fish.”

One part of the fish habitat enhancement program is to supplement natural vegetation with planting of preferred species.

“We have started a pilot project where we plant buttonbush,” Bolton said. “We have 50 plants each in Lake Martin, Smith Lake, Logan Martin and Weiss Lake. We hope they will eventually spread. They’re all over Smith Lake, but we’re trying to plant them in areas where they’re void of them.

“This pilot project is to see if they survive. If they do, that’s going to be really interesting habitat enhancement that we could use.”

Bolton said WFF and Alabama Power partnered to transplant water willow on Lake Martin. Alabama Power has completed a similar project on Smith Lake.

“We’re shooting to do that again this year on both Smith and Martin,” he said. “Water willow provides refuge for all types of juvenile fish. Hopefully that refuge will allow those fish to recruit to catchable size.

“That’s more a fish production aspect of the program. The same goes for the buttonbush, which should provide cover for nesting.”

In the next fiscal year, Bolton said the program will expand its fish production efforts with the use of pea gravel to form spawning habitat for a variety of fish species.

“We plan to use the pea gravel in Gantt Reservoir and Point A Reservoir in Covington County near Andalusia,” he said. “Historically, they have been really good bream fishing lakes.”

Because of funding limitations, WFF Fisheries relies on volunteers to get the most out of the habitat enhancement program. Most of the funding for the program comes from Sport Fish Restoration Funds. Some funding also comes from freshwater fishing license plate sales.

“We try to get bass clubs, schools, local homeowners and boat owners associations involved in these habitat enhancement projects,” Bolton said. “A key aspect in any habitat program is developing partnerships.”

Bolton discourages individuals from deploying structure in public lakes and reservoirs.

“You can actually be fined for doing that,” he said. “For those folks interested in doing that, I would recommend they contact the local homeowners and boat owners associations or whoever manages the reservoir, like Alabama Power, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or TVA. Probably the best thing to do is contact me if you’re interested in putting out fish structures.”

Email Kyle.Bolton@dcnr.alabama.gov for more information.

Lake Louise 'Gator

Lake Louise's 2012 Gator interview refrenced from this week's story (6-9-16 edition), "Crime tape marks spot where 12’ ‘gator seen’ "



Auburn professor part of team that discovers redness gene in birds

By Lindsay Miles
Why do some birds have red feathers? Geoffrey Hill, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Auburn University, finally found an answer to this deceptively challenging question. Thanks to modern genomics and a collaborative effort by Hill and an international team of scientists, including colleagues Miguel Carneiro at the University of Porto in Portugal and Joseph Corbo at Washington University in St. Louis, the key gene that enables birds to have red coloring in their feathers and skin is now identified. Their study is in the journal, Current Biology, at http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(16)30401-8.
“Red coloration is a prominent feature of many species of birds,” said Hill. “Most birds that show red coloration get the coloring from a special class of pigments called carotenoids. These are becoming more familiar to the public because carotenoids like lutein are now being put in vitamins. So, the same pigments that help with our vision and serve other vitamin functions are also the basis for red feathers in birds.”
To make the discovery, the team focused on a special breed of canary—red factor canaries—which were developed in pre-World War II Germany. Breeders crossed yellow canaries with a South American finch known as a red siskin and then backcrossed with a canary.
“They created a genotype that was a mix of half canary and half siskin, but then they backcrossed the hybrid line with canaries each generation, keeping the offspring with red feathers,” said Hill. “They kept selecting out all siskin traits except redness. The result was a bird that looks like a normal canary and sounds like a normal canary except it has red feathers. “These birds are called ‘red factor’ canaries because the genetic factor that enables birds to be red was moved from siskins to canaries. With modern genomics, we set out to find the gene that was transferred. We knew what a canary genotype looked like and we knew what the siskin genotype looked like. Using these new tools, the genes that had been inserted into the canary genome lit up like a Christmas tree.”
Not only is this discovery beneficial for basic biology, but the red pigment also has implications in the food industry as well as medicine. “This gives us tremendous insight into the genetic mechanisms that control animal coloration,” said Hill. “As for commercial application, the same pigments that make a bird’s feathers red also make the flesh of salmon and trout red. Farm-raised salmon are not red unless they are color-fed with red carotenoids. This new enzyme is potentially a new synthetic pathway for creating valuable pigments for a global industry.”
The pigments are also linked to cardiovascular health and control of oxidative stress in human bodies, which could be significant in developing new products and medications. The study is a culmination of a decade of work. It was funded, in part, by grants from Auburn University’s Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development along with the National Science Foundation.
The team is patenting the process related to the red carotenoids.
“Things we did in the study like genomic sequencing, which are now routine in modern biology, were unknown 10 years ago,” said Hill. “Our study was a success thanks to the technology becoming available, and also due to a great group of experts working together.”

State Loses More Than 19,000 Acres of Public Hunting Land

Hunters will lose access to 19,480 acres of public hunting land in south Alabama this fall as the Scotch Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Clarke County will no longer be a part of the state WMA system. The removal of Scotch from the WMA system will be effective 90 days from May 25, 2016.

In a letter dated May 25, Scotch Land Management informed the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) that its decision to remove the land from the state’s WMA system was due to an increase in candidate listings under the federal Endangered Species Act, which could restrict its business and land management practices.

The Scotch Land Management company has provided the acreage as public hunting land in cooperation with ADCNR since the 1950s. Deeply valued by the local hunting community, the Scotch WMA was located in Clarke County near Coffeeville, Ala., and was a part of ADCNR’s WMA system for approximately 60 years.

According to a Scotch Land Management press release, the decision was in no way related to the thousands of responsible hunters who utilized the land.

“To the many law-abiding citizens who have enjoyed hunting and other recreational and conservation activities on the land for nearly 60 years, and to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, we say thank you for being such good stewards of the land,” Scotch spokesperson Gray Skipper said in the press release dated May 25, 2016.

“We did not arrive at this decision lightly or without much deliberation, but recognizing our responsibility for ensuring that this land remains available and productive for future generations, we feel we had no other choice.”

ADCNR thanks Scotch Land Management for supporting conservation efforts and providing decades of hunting opportunities in Alabama.

“The Harrigan, O’Melia, and Skipper families who comprise Scotch Land Management continue to be conservation pioneers whose actions benefit Alabama’s wildlife resources and rich hunting heritage,” said N. Gunter Guy, Jr., Conservation Commissioner. “Their willingness to provide public hunting land for inclusion in Alabama’s WMA system has provided an opportunity for thousands of hunters to enjoy the state’s great outdoors. We greatly appreciate their conservation efforts in Alabama.”

While the closure of the Scotch WMA is a significant loss of access to public hunting land in south Alabama, local hunters have other options in the area. Additionally, several Forever Wild tracts in the area offer access to public hunting land. For a complete list of public hunting options in Alabama, visit www.outdooralabama.com/where-hunt.

ADCNR’s Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) manages more than 700,000 acres of public land for Alabamians to explore and hunt. These areas are financed with funds derived from hunting licenses and federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition. To learn more about Alabama’s WMA system, visit www.outdooralabama.com/wildlife-management-areas.

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.

A useful southern plant, Kudzu

By Kasey DeCastra, Moundville Times/ Sumter County Record Journal Editor/Web Designer

Hale and Tuscaloosa Counties are extremely beautiful during the summer.

One thing we see creeping over our fences and covering entire fields as most of the south is, is kudzu. Kudzu first came over to the United States in the 1800’s. It was originally a garden plant used for decoration. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Soil Conservation Service promoted kudzu for erosion control. Hundreds of young men were given work planting kudzu through the Civilian Conservation Corps.

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

The USDA finally declared kudzu to be a weed in 1972. The vines pull down telephone poles, choke crops and cover rural railroad tracks causing problems for trains. However animals, including humans, can eat kudzu! It can be used like spinach, fried like potato chips and made into tea. Make sure that the kudzu you gathered is not sprayed with chemical control agents that may be harmful to humans.

Pick tender kudzu leaves in spring and early summer. Young leaves at the end of the vines may be collected at any time. Make sure it is kudzu that you have picked! It has a three leaf arrangement, but so does poison ivy and poison oak.

Kudzu Fried Chicken

Dredge chicken breast strips in kudzu powder; dip in lightly beaten egg, and dredge in dry Italian seasoned bread crumbs. Deep-fry in hot oil (350) for 3 to 5 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.

Kudzu root powder, also called kuzu, and capsules are available at most health food stores.

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

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