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Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division
July-August  2008

Delivering the news
* Computer problems delayed this issue of Georgia Wild. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience.
* The e-newsletter switches to monthly delivery starting in September. The change from bimonthly means more timely nongame news. And maybe no more computer glitches.

WILD Facts
Flycatchers on the fly
If you hear an ascending “wheep” whistled from the treetops, a great crested flycatcher is nearby. As its name suggests, this large songbird is a pest controller. It eats not only flies, but also beetles, wasps, bees, crickets, moths and caterpillars, plus fruits, berries and, rarely, hummingbirds. Great crested flycatchers breed in eastern North America but migrate toward Central and South America every fall. Typical nest sites are hardwood tree cavities near clearings, although they sometimes use bird boxes in suitable habitat.
In education
Teachers learn forestry, wildlife
University of Georgia student and future teacher Abbie Whitaker can’t wait to use what she learned during this year's Teacher Conservation Workshop at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center. “I wasn’t aware of the magnitude of the aspects of the forestry industry but feel like I have learned so much this week,” said Whitaker, one of 30 participants in the workshop that teaches educators about forestry, wildlife and conservation.
* Learn more in this day-by-day look.
* Also from Charlie Elliott: A grandfather's volunteerism is passed along.

Legislative updates
Big issues, few answers
* Wildlife agencies are digging through the new farm bill. Supporters say it promises more funding for forest management that benefits wildlife. Critics question claims that billions more will go to conservation. Understanding what changed will take months to filter down to the public and even key organizations.
* The Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008 fell 12 votes short of the 60 needed for passage in the U.S. Senate in June. But six senators not present indicated they would have voted yes. John McCain and Barack Obama were among them.

Get involved
Loggerhead plan drafted
A draft update of the loggerhead sea turtle recovery plan is open for public comment until July 29. First written in the late 1970s and updated in 1991, the revised plan reflects new research on the threatened sea turtles and two years of work by a panel including DNR Wildlife Resources senior biologist Mark Dodd.   The 306-page draft was done in concert with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The goal: De-list loggerheads, first listed under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1978.  The plan's wide-ranging impacts will vary from education to shrimpers and other businesses affected by turtle regulations. Comment to or:
MFS National Sea Turtle Coordinator
Attn: Draft Loggerhead Recovery Plan
Office of Protected Resources
National Marine Fisheries Service
1315 East-West Highway
Room 13657,
Silver Spring, MD 20910
USFWS National Sea Turtle Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
6620 Southpoint Drive South
Suite 310
Jacksonville, FL 32216
(fax: 301-713-0376; Attn: NMFS National Sea Turtle Coordinator)

Photo of two wood storks.
Up close
Wood stork
Mycteria americana
Home bird: Wood storks are the only true stork found regularly in the U.S.
Status: Federally and state-listed as endangered.
Breeding range: Includes the southeastern U.S. (Georgia, Florida and S.C.), coastal Mexico, Central America, Cuba, Hispaniola, and South America from Columbia to Argentina.
Description: Long legs, bald black heads, mostly white plumage and thick curved bills. These lanky wading birds stand about 3 feet tall.
On the prowl: They feed by wading with beaks open and partially submerged, snapping them shut on fish and other prey.
On the wind: Wood storks, also called wood ibis and Spanish buzzards, are often seen soaring on thermal updrafts. Water required: Freshwater and estuarine wetlands are critical for breeding, feeding and roosting.
Nesting upswing: DNR aerial surveys in May estimated a record 2,255 nests in 24 colonies across 14 south Georgia counties, from Chatham to Thomas. The annual survey's previous high: 1,928 nests in 2006.
Good news II: Florida is pursuing the $1.75 billion purchase of nearly 300 square miles of the Everglades. The deal could restore critical stork habitat.
Threats: Habitat loss is the No. 1 threat. Most colonies in Georgia are on private land, underscoring the need to work with private landowners to preserve healthy wetland systems.
Source: Georgia DNR

Your money at work
Resurrecting the redhorse
Nongame license plate sales, the Give Wildlife a Chance income tax checkoff and donations to the Georgia Wildlife Resources' Nongame Conservation Section primarily support conservation, education and land acquisition projects. One ongoing project is re-establishing the state-endangered robust redhorse, a rare member of the sucker fish family thought extinct until 1991 when it was found in the Oconee River. Nongame funds are supporting research into whether a redhorse population stocked in the Broad River is self-sustaining. Fish movement patterns in the Oconee River are also being radio-tracked. The efforts are aimed at creating self-sustaining redhorse populations in Georgia and the Carolinas. The opportunity is rare, offered by a fish "lost to science for over a hundred years," Wildlife Resources fisheries biologist Jimmy Evans said.

Ask a biologist
How best to water wildlife?
Try these conservation-oriented tips from waterSmart for watering backyard wildlife:
1. Set up a birdbath. They're excellent water sources for birds and require little maintenance.
2. Use rain barrels to collect water (and use this water for native plant gardens and ponds).
3. If you garden, choose drought-tolerant plants and group plants with similar watering needs.
4. Remember that manmade ponds that support existing aquatic wildlife such as fish or frogs can be maintained under state water restrictions.

E-mail your questions about nongame wildlife, plants or habitats and look for the answer in your in-box or the next Georgia Wild.

Nongame in the news
* Moultrie Observer: "Park continues fight against invasive weeds," about aquatic invader at Reed Bingham State Park and Georgia's draft Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plan. (July 5)
* WTOC (Savannah): "Injured dolphin rescued in the Wilmington River," about Southeast Regional Marine Mammal Stranding Network rescue of an entangled dolphin. (July 2)
* Florida Times-Union (and other newspapers and TV stations): "Endangered wood storks double number of nests," about increase in wood stork nests. (July 2).
* Associated Press: "Sea turtle Dylan is released back into the wild," about Georgia Sea Turtle Center release of captive-reared loggerhead at Jekyll.
* Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Rare Georgia plume tree protected, but still endangered," about Georgia Botanical Society trip led by WRD botanist at Big Hammock Natural Area. (June 29)
* Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Program releases 17 adults back into the wild," about bog turtle recovery efforts. (June 22)
* The (Dalton) Daily Citizen: "Events highlight role of butterflies, other pollinators," on Pollinator Week and butterfly counts in Georgia. (June 17)
* "Don't fear, but snakes are here," about summer encounters with snakes. (June 12)
* WXIA-TV (11Alive): "Teamwork to help a rare bird In Georgia," about banding, nest boxes for southeastern American kestrels near Butler (June 2).
Also: Macon Telegraph story (June 5).
* "State DNR talks Silver Lake," about Silver Lake WMA session with DNR Commissioner Noel Holcomb. (May 21)
* Savannah Morning News: “Loggerheads nesting again,” about sea turtles' return to Georgia beaches.
(May 14)  
* Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Baby peregrine falcons find home up in Atlanta skyscraper," about downtown peregrine nest. (May 14)

* July (recreation and parks month): Events at Environmental Education in Georgia.
* Aug. 26-27: DNR Board committee (1 p.m. Aug. 26) and full meeting (9 a.m. Aug. 27), DNR offices, Atlanta.
* Aug. 27-29: Georgia Environmental Conference, Savannah.
* Sept. 27: National Public Lands Day.
Submit items here.

Parting shot
Photo of Prentice Eager with a 72-pound snapping turtle

Prentice Eager shows a 72-pound snapping turtle caught during a research trip to southwest Georgia's Spring Creek. Eager won the trip through a silent auction at the 2008 Weekend for Wildlife, an annual fundraiser for Wildlife Resources' Nongame Conservation Section. Want to see your favorite photo of nongame wildlife or conservation efforts in Georgia? E-mail them and the needed details to Rick Lavender.

Photo credits (from top):
* Sea turtle in masthead. Ga. DNR
* Tangerine darter. Ga. DNR
* Deb Weiler and Brett Albanese check underwater visibility for identifying fish in the Toccoa River. Ga. DNR
* Intern Ben Morrison collects samples from rare "day-nester" loggerhead on Little Cumberland. Mark Dodd/Ga. DNR
* Wood storks. Brad Winn/Ga. DNR
* TERN board members and DNR Wildlife Resources staff on a recent Ossabaw Island trip. Ga. DNR
* Prentice Eager with snapping turtle. John Jensen/Ga. DNR
*  Actor Chevy Chase with bog turtle replica. Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance

Georgia Wild

volume 1, issue 4

Georgia Wild is an e-newsletter produced by the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division and focused on conserving nongame species, those not legally trapped, fished for or hunted. The newsletter is delivered free to subscribers. Subscribe or see archive issues here.

Wildlife Resources' Nongame Conservation Section conserves and protects Georgia's diversity of native animals and plants and their habitats through research, management and education. The section receives no state funds, depending on grants, donations and fundraisers such as nongame license plate sales, the Give Wildlife a Chance state income tax checkoff and Weekend for Wildlife.

Call (770) 761-3035 for details on direct donations. The nongame plates -- the bald eagle/U.S. flag and ruby-throated hummingbird -- are available for a one-time $25 fee at all county tag offices, by checking the wildlife license plate box on mail-in registration forms or through online renewal.
Photo of an oliver darter.

Toccoa survey documents
rare fish and promising science
   A unique survey on the Toccoa River this summer is searching out the river’s rare fish, testing new sampling protocols and helping chart a conservation course for this clear-water gem of northeast Georgia.
   Using snorkels, kayaks and backpack electrofishing units, Georgia Wildlife Resources Division staff are exploring the Toccoa, which tumbles north from Suches into Tennessee, where it is called the Ocoee. The Toccoa is home to Georgia’s only known populations of wounded, olive and tangerine darters (above), state-protected perches sensitive to habitat changes and hard to sample in rivers so wide, swift and deep.
Photo of researchers checking Toccoa survey method.   But senior wildlife biologist Brett Albanese hopes to reliably gauge the proportion of sites where the darters and the state-endangered blotched chub live by using visual samples to estimate the detection probability, or the chance a species will be seen or caught when present. That probability is factored into the estimated percentage of occupied sites, accounting for a significant bias in rare species surveys.
   The aim: baseline data for monitoring changes in fish populations.
   Findings could prove useful for studying imperiled fishes on other Southeastern rivers. Yet, one local goal is informing residents about the aquatic diversity at risk from development along the Toccoa. “We’re encouraging people to restore the riparian habitat and also not disturb riparian zone vegetation when new homes and cottages are built,” Albanese said.

Photo of intern collecting sea turtle biopsy sample.
Study maps sea turtle lineage
DNA research reveals loggerhead family trees, diversity

   The beach is deserted at dawn. But turtle-crawl tracks zigzagging from surf to dunes show that it wasn't the night before. Through a joint research project, biologists can now tell which turtles made the tracks.
   DNA samples are revealing the genetic relationships of loggerhead sea turtles nesting on Georgia's barrier islands. The research by Georgia Wildlife Resources Division biologists and University of Georgia researchers is "fingerprinting" specific turtles and their descendants, providing insight into the population structure and genetic diversity of loggerheads that nest in Georgia and Florida.
   Genetic diversity is important for adaptation to environmental changes, and the survival of the federally threatened turtles. The project is "generating nesting data on a scale unimaginable a few years ago,” said Brian Shamblin, a doctoral student leading the genetic analysis at UGA.
   A pilot study in 2006 revealed four instances of mother-daughter pairs nesting. Senior wildlife biologist Mark Dodd of Wildlife Resources' Nongame Conservation Section said the turtles are not sexually mature until they're 30 to 35 years old.
   “If you have a mother-daughter pair nesting on the coast, then you know the mom is at least 60-70 years old and has been reproductively active for 30 years or longer. That is an incredibly long period,” Dodd said.
   The DNA database will delineate differences in the population and provide details on how long the turtles live, how long they are capable of reproducing, how many times they nest and where. These are critical questions to consider, said Dodd, when creating a conservation plan. (See "Loggerhead plan drafted" at left.)

TERN: A friend in conservation
   TERN's start was as simple as a question: How can we help? Sixteen years later, The Environmental Resources Network is still answering that question.
   Since 1992, the friends group of the Wildlife Resources Division’s Nongame Conservation Section has raised more than $510,000 for nongame wildlife projects. The list approved at the annual TERN meeting in May totaled $78,000. Each project will further the work of the Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state funding.
  That was the vision nearly two decades ago when volunteer Eva Persons took on the challenge of starting a support group for the funding-strapped program. She drafted bylaws, had an attorney friend review them “and we were on our way,” said Persons, a founding board member.
   The first board proved hard working and influential. The emphasis was on environmental education. The support was needed. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit built a Weekend for Wildlife "store" into auctions that netted more than $45,000 this year. TERN also helped initiate the wildlife license plates program that has raised millions for Nongame Conservation.
   TERN Executive Director Terry Johnson, the former Nongame Program manager, believes the backing has allowed Nongame Conservation to touch the lives of a wide range of Georgians, an impact on natural resources “that cannot be measured.”
Photo of TERN board members and DNR staff at Ossabaw Island.
Joining TERN
: (478) 994-1438; 116 Rum Creek Drive, Forsyth, Ga. 31029
Annual membership: student ($10), individual ($20), family ($25), hummingbird ($100), peregrine falcon ($500), golden eagle ($1,000), bald eagle ($5,000)
Member benefits include a vote on which projects are funded, TERN newsletter subscription, invitations to TERN meetings, volunteer opportunities. All donations and membership fees are tax deductible.

Insight sought on turtle harvest
   What do you know about the commercial harvest of turtles in Georgia? The Wildlife Resources Division wants to know. Make  that, really wants to know.
   In March, the California-based Center for Biological Diversity and state groups such as the Satilla Riverkeeper  petitioned Georgia for an emergency rule to halt the unregulated commercial harvest of freshwater  turtles. Concern centered on declining turtle populations and health risks from eating turtles that might be laced with toxins. Among freshwater turtles, Georgia protects only bog, spotted, common map, Alabama map, Barbour's map and alligator snapping turtles.
   Similar petitions went to Florida, Oklahoma and Texas, other states where the lack of regulations help feed a global pet turtle trade and Asian appetite for turtle meat. (From 2002-2005, more than a quarter-million adult wild-caught turtles were exported to Asia from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, according to a survey cited.)
   The Georgia Board of Natural Resources cannot enact rules that conflict with state law, which allows unregulated harvest of freshwater turtles. But Wildlife Resources is developing recommendations on turtle legislation for the board's review in August and, if approved, for lawmakers in the  2009 General Assembly.
   Data and other states' regulations are being reviewed. A stakeholders meeting July 10 in Macon drew more than 20 people. The consensus, though some disagreed: Establish harvest limits, require licensing and bar the export of wild-caught turtles. At least one public comment session will be held after recommendations are drafted. Nongame Conservation Section wildlife biologist John Jensen said inquiries of commercial fishing license holders and others who might have insight into the local turtle trade have so far revealed "how little anyone knows about it in Georgia ... though everyone knows it's happening."

Comment by July 30 to:
John Jensen:; Georgia DNR, 116 Rum Creek Dr., Forsyth, GA 31029; (478) 994-1438

Draft plan targets aquatic aliens
   Comments are also sought on a plan that puts a bull’s-eye on Georgia’s aquatic invaders. The draft Aquatic Nuisance Species Management is available at or the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division office in Social Circle.
   The comment deadline is July 30.
   Jon Ambrose, assistant chief of Wildlife Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section, said the five-year plan is the first statewide attempt at prioritizing non-native species that threaten Georgia waters and identifying what can be done. The work of the Georgia Invasive Species Management Plan Advisory Committee, representing public and private organizations, is designed to “maximize our efficiency in dealing with these (species),” Ambrose said.
   Troublesome exotics include hydrilla, an Asian water plant that has infested several reservoirs, and the island apple snail, a South American mollusk threatening aquatic communities in south Georgia. The plan even addresses land-dwellers that pose aquatic risks, such as feral hogs, which can damage streams and wetlands by rooting up soil and vegetation.
   The committee is also developing a broader plan that includes terrestrial invaders. The state Wildlife Action Plan rates invasives a top threat to biodiversity and lists development of a statewide plan to monitor and control them as high priority.

Comment to:
Jon Ambrose:; Georgia Wildlife Resources Division, 2070 U.S. Highway 278 S.E., Social Circle, GA 30025; (770) 761-3035

Public lands profile: by Matt Elliott
Zahnd blends bizarre, wonderful
   Zahnd Natural Area in Walker County is about 1,380 acres of the Cumberland Plateau physiographic region with a sometimes bizarre twist.
   Sitting on the eastern edge of Lookout Mountain, the original 163 acres donated by the Zahnd family in 1940 contains spectacular sandstone rock formations similar to those in better-known Rock Town at nearby Photo of sandstone formation at Zahnd.Pigeon Mountain. The 1,208 acres acquired in 2003 through the state’s Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund and the State Wildlife Grants Program feature large sandstone bluffs on Lookout Mountain’s brow, several waterfalls (except during dry periods) and three caves.
   The dominant forest is oak-hickory, but there are drier pine stands and more moist hardwoods. Rare species include the state-listed Ozark bunchflower, green salamander and mountain witch-alder, plus the granite gooseberry, which is not listed.
   Hiking, hunting, rock climbing, bird watching and nature study are popular. (Camping, horseback riding and use of ATVs or mountain bikes is not permitted.) There are no designated hiking trails, but one path starting at the Ga. 157 kiosk runs past sometimes-bizarre sandstone formations. An old road leading from the lower kiosk leads across Cedar Grove Creek, past a cave and into a cove-like hardwood stand, another glimpse of the wonderful and occasionally unexpected at Zahnd. More details; kiosk directions

   * About six nesting platforms are planned for ospreys at Lake Lanier. The Wildlife Resources and Georgia Power Co. project will add to Lanier's limited osprey nesting habitat, according to wildlife biologist Scott Frazier.
   * A bottlenose dolphin is facing better odds of survival after a Southeast Regional Marine Mammal Stranding Network team removed a life-threatening rubber strap that had encircled the dolphin's head for months. Wildlife Resources personnel also assessed a dolphin stranded in a tidal pool on St. Simons Island June 24, helping keep the dolphin safe until high tide freed it.
   * Georgia Outdoors earned an Emmy in the Health/Science category for its citizen scientist episode that featured Wildlife Resources' Youth Birding Competition.
   * Seventeen projects varying from a frog exhibit at Georgia Southern University to the enviro-hip UrbanWatch Atlanta program at Fernbank Museum of Natural History will benefit from Nongame Educational and Watchable Wildlife funding this year.
   * An Army Corps of Engineers island built in 2007 in St. Simons Sound is attracting the rare bird species it was created for. Least terns, gull-billed terns, black skimmers, Wilson's plovers and American oystercatchers all nested on the 14-acre island this spring and summer.
   * Two of three young peregrine falcons ran into trouble after leaving a high-rise Atlanta nest monitored by One was treated for a hurt wing; the other for a broken jaw. No word on the third.
   Photo of Chevy Chase with bog turtle replica.* No one fell over anything, but the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance display at the U.S. Botanic Garden exhibit in Washington attracted Chevy Chase's attention. The actor (right), who was speaking at a Botanic Garden event, stopped for a look at Flossie, the exhibit's bog turtle replica.
   * Whooping cranes deserted the 11 nests monitored this spring (nine at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, Wisconsin). But the fertilized eggs recovered produced three surviving chicks, candidates for the ultralight-led migration of possibly about 20 whoopers come fall.
   * A federal judge's ruling against extending Endangered Species Act protection to Florida's black bears has drawn an appeal, which the U.S. Court of Appeals will consider.
   * A Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites board member and his family are promoting parks by visiting 30 parks in 30 days and posting related videos on YouTube. "I'm passionate about the parks and I want others to share that passion," Tom Mills said.


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