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Ga. DNR nongame e-newsletter
Wildlife Resources Division logo

February 2010
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Also in this issue
* Owls in the backyard?
* Restoring Pine Mtn. longleaf
* DNR chief's call to get out
* Trout lilies all a'bloom

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Image of tax checkoff logo
One wild checkoff

How can you help conserve
wildlife while filing your taxes? Give to the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund checkoff on your state income tax form. What many call the Give Wildlife a Chance checkoff is the first of eight checkoffs listed -- line 27 on Form 500 and line 10 on Form 500EZ. Along with conservation license plate sales and the annual Weekend for Wildlife fundraiser, the checkoff is vital to Georgia DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state general funds for conserving nongame wildlife, depending instead on grants, fundraising and donations. The checkoff has netted nearly $6.2 million since its creation in 1989. But contributions have declined in recent years. You can help reverse that trend. For the checkoff, any donation more than $1 is accepted. Donations can be deducted from refunds or added to payments. More at www.georgiawildlife.com.
Image of license plates.

WILD Facts
Many insect populations die off when cold weather hits, but some species are able to survive through the winter. Adult beetles, aphids and leafhoppers seek shelter under loose tree bark, in ground debris and even in our homes. Honeybees create heat in the middle of their hives by rapidly moving their bodies and wings. Beetle grubs bury themselves several inches deep in the soil. If you look closely at odd-shaped dead leaves, you may find the cocoon of a moth or a butterfly chrysalis. As long as predators don’t find these insects in a dormant state, their life cycles will continue in the spring.
In education
Although our nation and state are blessed with abundant natural resources that invite us outdoors, studies show that children spend less than four minutes a day in outdoor discovery compared with four hours a day watching TV. This imbalance - described by author Richard Louv as “nature-deficit disorder” - is linked to variety of ills, including obesity, depression and attention problems. At DNR, we recognize how important it is for children to establish a connection with the natural world. That’s why we created Get Outdoors Georgia, a statewide initiative to highlight the link between outdoor recreation and improved health for people of all ages and abilities.
   Want to know more? Read the rest of this column by DNR Commissioner Chris Clark and Penelope McPhee, president of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.
   Also check out:D.C. talk
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is putting its money where its mouth is. President Obama's fiscal 2011 budget request of $1.6 billion for the agency spotlights priority conservation initiatives including increases of $18.8 million for Climate Change Adaptation, $15.8 million for ecosystem restoration and $20 million for land acquisition. The spending plan also includes $4 million more for reviewing planned renewable energy development to ensure such projects do not put threatened or endangered species at risk. Chris Nolin, head of the service's budget division, said the proposal reflects a switch in priorities. "We need to start looking at climate change in everything we do," he said.

Ranger reports
Ginseng sting: Howard William Ledford of Hayesville, N.C., was sentenced in January to a year in prison for illegally selling and transporting wild American ginseng into Georgia. According to the U.S. Justice Department, Ledford pleaded guilty on Nov. 9 to two counts of selling and transporting ginseng in violation of the Lacey Act. Ledford admitted that in 2004 and 2005 he sold wild ginseng for about $109,000 without required export certificates, and transported or caused the transport of wild ginseng into Georgia from North Carolina. The conviction is part a three-year, anti-poaching investigation that involved Georgia DNR and focused on documenting unlawful trade in ginseng and bear parts in and along the southern Appalachians. The person to whom Ledford sold the ginseng also pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Red-tailed legwork: On Jan. 3, Cpl. Morty Wood investigated a citizen complaint about shooting a red-tailed hawk off Ga. 94 in Lowndes County. At the home, he interviewed the sister-in-law of the suspect. She said the man had left but would soon return. Wood began searching the area for the hawk carcass and found it in a wooded area off a dirt road in Echols County, about three miles away. He went back to the residence and, after the suspect returned, told him of the investigation and the evidence found. The violator confessed and was cited for killing a protected species.
Blue's-eye: The same day, Cpl. Shaymus McNeely along with Sgt. William Vickers, Cpl. Dave Sims, Rangers 1st Class Debbie Brannen and Brandon Pierce conducted a concentrated patrol focused on hunting violations by small game hunters at Tuckahoe Wildlife Management Area. They identified 11 violations. One subject was cited for damage to DNR property after zeroing in his riflescope using a bluebird nesting box as the target.

Image of diamondback terrapin

Up close
Diamondback terrapin
Malaclemys terrapin
Family: Emydidae. The only turtle in this family that regularly inhabits saltwater and brackish-water habitats in North America.
Key characteristics: Small- to medium-sized turtle with an ornately patterned shell. Angular scutes on carapace are gray, green, brown or almost black with concentric rings.  Plastron is light yellow and may have dark blotches. Skin color ranges from light gray to black with contrasting black dots. Stout head has upper and lower mandibles that appear to be grinning. Feet are strongly webbed, and the back feet are unusually large.
Sexes: Females are larger than males, with a longer carapace and a proportionately bigger head. Males have longer, thicker tails than females.
Range: Atlantic and Gulf coasts of North America, from Cape Cod, Mass., along the Florida peninsula and extending to Corpus Christi, Texas.
Habitat: Coastal salt marshes, estuaries and tidal creeks; rarely strays from brackish water (the zone between freshwater habitats and the ocean). Although good swimmers, individuals seldom travel to other sites. Active during the day most of the year, but hibernate under marsh mud when water temperatures fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Eats: Periwinkle snails and other mollusks, fiddler crabs and other crustaceans, small fish, insects, worms and carrion.
Breeding behavior: Breed in early spring. In late spring and summer, females emerge from the water and lay 7-12 eggs in dry, soft sand or soil, above the high tide line. Young hatch three months later, measuring only an inch long. Hatchlings may overwinter in the nest, emerging during late winter or spring. Two clutches per season are possible. Survival to adulthood is relatively low, but maximum lifespan is about 50 years old.
Current status: No federal status but listed as endangered in Rhode Island. Massachusetts lists as threatened. In Georgia, Delaware, Louisiana, North Carolina and Virginia, it is considered “unusual” or a “species of concern.”
Threats: Diamondback terrapins were heavily harvested in the late 1800s and early 1900s to meet high demand for terrapin soup, which was considered a delicacy. Raccoons, river otters, foxes, gulls and crows are among natural predators. Although no longer harvested, more recent threats include land development, pollution, highway mortality, boat propeller injuries, and incidental drowning in commercial and recreational crab traps. Studies show that male and juvenile terrapins comprise most of the losses in crab traps.
Conservation: Along with governmental agencies, several organizations are working toward diamondback terrapin conservation, including the Diamondback Terrapin Working Group formed in 2004. A recent statewide survey of Georgia’s diamondback terrapin population conducted by the University of Georgia found terrapins relatively abundant in coastal Georgia. However, abundance appeared lower than predicted in some areas, suggesting that threats such as crab trap mortality and coastal development may be influencing the terrapin population in localized areas. Research conducted by the Georgia Marine Extension Service explored the effectiveness of alternative openings for crab traps to reduce terrapin capture, without reducing crab catch. Long-term monitoring of abundance and the use of terrapin excluders by commercial and recreational crabbers may be needed to ensure a population in Georgia.

Sources include: Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia, "Biological Characteristics of Terrestrial Vertebrate Species Residing in Estuaries" (USGS);
Georgia Sea Turtle Center;
Diamondback Terrapin Working Group; Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians; Terrapin Conservation at the Wetlands Institute; UGA Marine Extension Service; Wikipedia

Nongame in the news
Florida Times-Union: "Georgia missing cash potential of vanity plates," about Department of Audits & Accounts review of state's specialty tags, including conservation plates. (Feb. 24)
New York Times: "A base for war training, and species preservation," about conservation push on military bases such as Fort Stewart. (Feb. 21)
Athens Banner-Herald: "Cat plan a bird threat, its foes say," about controversial Athens-Clarke County proposal to legalize trap-neuter-release approach to feral cats. (Feb. 19)
Thomasville Times-Enterprise: "Men charged in snake-hunting case," about four charged in gassing gopher tortoise burrows on Silver Lake WMA. (Feb. 17)
Athens Banner-Herald
(and others via AP): "Botanists play the mating game with dwarf sumac," about Valentine's weekend outplanting of "female" sumacs with males at Broad River WMA. (Feb. 15)
The Brunswick News: "Wildlife meets its friends," about 2010 Weekend for Wildlife. (Feb. 13)
ABC News: "Whales vs. Navy: Fight goes on," about debate involving right whales and proposed Navy sonar projects. (Feb. 13)
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Georgia Aquarium rescues loggerhead turtles from ‘catastrophic' conditions," about aquarium's work involving cold-shocked loggerheads from N.C. (Feb. 12)
Florida Times-Union: "Founder of the Altamaha Riverkeeper is retiring," about James Holland's retirement on April 30. (Feb. 12)
Valdosta Daily Times: "Great Backyard Bird Count runs through Monday," about 2010 citizen-science survey. (Feb. 12)
Florida Times-Union: "Darien hopes nest boxes attract bats, owls and tourists," about city's efforts to translate wildlife into tourism. (Feb. 9)
AmmoLand (blog): "Gov. Perdue Announces DNR Wildlife Partners," about 2009 FWP partners Georgia Power and Plum Creek. (Feb. 5)
The Bayonet: "Relocating the relic trillium," about Fort Benning relocating about 1,300 of the rare plants threatened by bridge construction. (Feb. 5)
Augusta Chronicle: "Tree-killing beetle population might spread," about ambrosia beetle and possible impact on hardwoods. (Feb. 5)
Savannah Morning News: "Georgia's endangered places named," about inclusion of Ogeechee River and right whale calving areas in Southern Environmental Law Center's top 10 U.S. list. (Feb. 2)
Florida Times-Union: "Okefenokee wildfires clear the way for a new habitat," about planting longleaf pines in wake of 2007 fires. (Feb. 1)
Thomasville Times-Enterprise: "State biologist: Roundups impact larger rattlesnakes," interview with NCS' John Jensen regarding roundups effect on wildlife. (Feb. 1)
Savannah Morning News: "As more hummingbirds winter in Savannah, birders try to track them," about regional banding effort to better understand hummer habitat use. (Feb. 1)
Rome News-Tribune: "Cartersville brewery nets 2 certifications," about Anheuser-Busch's certification as a Wildlife at Work location and Corporate Lands for Learning program. (February)
New York Times: "USDA weighs plan to bring GM Eucalyptus to Southeast pinelands," about International Paper and MeadWestvaco Corp. plans to use genetically engineered eucalyptus in place of pines. (Jan. 29)
Griffin Daily News: "Southeastern Reptile Rescue to be featured on Animal Planet," about upcoming show on Griffin-based group. (January)
Cedartown Standard: "Georgia Wildlife hosting poster contest; children of all ages invited to create," about 20th Give Wildlife a Chance contest. (January)
Florida Times-Union: "Controlled burns to improve wildlife habitat, reduce wildfire hazards in Southeast Georgia," about prescribed fires on state lands. (Jan. 8)

March 19-20: Environmental Education Alliance Conference, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw.
March 20: Fitzgerald Wild Chicken Festival, Fitzgerald.
March 23-24: Georgia DNR Board of Natural Resources committee meetings (1 p.m. March 23), monthly meeting (9 a.m. March 24), DNR board room, Atlanta.
April 27-28: Georgia DNR Board of Natural Resources committee meetings (1 p.m. April 27), monthly meeting (9 a.m. April 28), DNR board room, Atlanta.
Submit items.

Photo credits (from top):
* Masthead: Weekend for Wildlife trip on Sapelo Island. Diane Kirkland
* Dwarf sumac. Hugh Nourse
* DNR botanist Mincy Moffett outplanting dwarf sumac at Broad River WMA. Jenny Cruse-Sanders
* Jenny Cruse-Sanders and media during outplanting at Broad River. Shirley Berry
* Great horned owl. Todd Schneider/Ga. DNR
* Diamondback terrapin. Andrew Grosse
* Longleaf pine plug. Rick Lavender/Ga. DNR
* Tractor and C & G tree planter at work on Plum Creek property. Rick Lavender/Ga. DNR
* Trout lilies in bloom at Wolf Creek Preserve. David Moynahan
* Children feeding a giraffe at White Oak Plantation during a 2010 Weekend for Wildlife trip. Ga. DNR
* SCA crew member Lily Walter during a Seminole State Park burn in January. Ga. DNR

Georgia Wild
volume 3, issue 2

Georgia Wild is produced by the Georgia DNR 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 previous issues.

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 depends for funding on grants, donations and fundraisers such as nongame license plate sales,  the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund state income tax checkoff and Weekend for Wildlife. Call (770) 761-3035 for details on direct donations. The nongame plates -- the bald eagle 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. Also, check here for information on TERN, the friends group of the Nongame Conservation Section.

Looking back
Links to three previous issues.
Other archives.

A love story (with leaves)
Botanists matchImage of dwarf sumac
rare plants, with
future in mind

   They may not be fighting off monsters or denying hundreds of would-be suitors, but two small populations of Northeast Georgia plants are living out their own version of the Iliad and Odyssey.
   While Homer’s classics detail two decades of separation between Odysseus and his beloved Penelope, populations of federally endangered dwarf sumacs (Rhus michauxii) in Georgia have faced an unknown number of years apart.
   This small, inconspicuous plant is dioecious: Male and female flowers are on separate plants. Successful fruiting and seed production require both male and female plants.
   Dwarf sumac is known from only Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, and in Georgia, the plant is down to two populations – one in Newtown County and one in Elbert County. Even more tragic, the Newton population on a hill near Covington is all female. The Elbert population at Broad River Wildlife Management Area is all male.
   Each has been separated by nearly 100 miles, waiting for love, or at least the chance to reproduce.
   Now, the wait is over.
Image of Mincy Moffett planting sumac   Recently, with help from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section, The State Botanical Garden of Georgia and Atlanta Botanical Garden, the two populations were, shall we say, introduced.
   On Feb. 12, a group outplanted about 25 female dwarf sumacs at formerly all-male Broad River WMA. Led by Mincy Moffett (pictured), Ph.D., a DNR botanist and plant ecologist, and Jenny Cruse-Sanders, Ph.D., director of Conservation and Research at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the work augmented efforts initiated last year by Heather Alley of the State Botanical Garden. In November, Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance volunteers Elaine Nash and Liese DerVertenian, planted 30 female stems alongside the Broad River males. Then came the Valentine’s Day weekend effort this year.
   "Let's hope it turns into a torrid romance," Moffett told a newspaper reporter.
   With the help of GPCA volunteers, Moffett will keep a close eye on the lovebirds – or in this case, plants. Perhaps these few, fuzzy green plants will become a robust population, bringing this very rare plant back from the brink.
   Truly, a love worth waiting for.

Image of media covering sumac outplanting
The dwarf sumac matchmaking made local and
international headlines. Here, Jenny Cruse-Sanders
talks with media while planting at Broad River WMA.

Out my backdoor
Who’s nesting in your yard?
By Terry W. Johnson
   With the Peach State in winter’s icy grip, it’s hard to imagine that a handful of birds are actually nesting. One of these is the great horned owl, and it may be in your backyard right now.
   In the not too distant past, great horned owls nested almost exclusively in areas little frequented by man. However, over the past several decades as development blanketed much of our countryside, great horned owls have been nesting in increasing numbers in these newly created urban and suburban settings. Today, you are as likely to find great horned owls nesting within sight of high-rise buildings in Atlanta or in wooded residential developments on the outskirts of Albany as you would in Big Lazer Creek Wildlife Management Area.
   I have seen their nests in the front yard of a suburban Sumter County home, the wooded backyard of a Forsyth residence and beside a busy street and construction site on Sea Island.
Image of great horned owl   Great horned owls begin looking for nest sites as early as September. They don’t build a nest. Instead, they commandeer the nests of hawks, crows, ospreys, squirrels and even bald eagles. Once a pair of great horned owls takes up housekeeping, they may use the nest for three to four years, then, for no apparent reason, abandon it.
   Although great horned owls are excellent parents, home repair is not their strong suit. They do little if anything to repair a nest site. It is not uncommon for their eggs or young to fall through holes in a dilapidated nest.
   If a pair of great horned owls nests in your neighborhood, it is unlikely that another pair is nesting nearby. The owls vigorously defend their nesting territory from other owls and hawks. Those territories can range from one-third to 2 square miles.
   The nuances of the great horned owl’s courtship are shrouded in mystery. However, we know that in Georgia the courtship typically takes place in December and early January. This is the best time to listen at night for the birds’ eerie, muffled love calls and their more typical resonant, low-pitched  hoo hoo hoooo hoo hoo. (Listen!)
    In this neck of the woods, female great horned owls usually lay only two eggs, and in the dead of winter. While it is hard to believe birds can nest in weather as cold as it has been this year, great horned owls have coped easily. They are so well adapted to frigid weather they have been found nesting in temperatures below minus-20 degrees Fahrenheit.
  Winter, however, is harsh on the eggs and young. Only the female incubates the eggs. Since they can freeze, she spends little time away during incubation. As for owlets, they’ve been found trying to keep warm by burying themselves beneath tufts of hair from prey brought to them as food.
   Both parents defend their young and provide them a steady food supply. Young owls enter the world about the size of baby chickens and grow rapidly. One biologist found 18 pounds of birds, mammals and fish surrounding two 4-day-old hatchlings. A typical diet might include rabbits, mice, hawks, crows, fish and even skunks. In four weeks, the young are nearly full grown, although they don’t fly well until they are 3 months old.
    As mentioned earlier, young often fall from a nest. Remarkably, when that happens they will climb 40 or more feet up to the nest! If they can’t make the climb, their parents will continue to feed them on the ground.
   Great horned owls swallow their prey whole, regurgitating much of what they can’t digest in masses called owl pellets. If you find a great horned owl nesting in your neighborhood, look for these pellets. They are grayish-brown to black and measure 3-4 inches long and about an inch-and-a-half in diameter. Tear one apart and you will get a pretty good idea what the owl that left it fed on. The pellets commonly contain a mix of bones, hair, teeth, claws and feathers.
   The next time you step out your backdoor on a bitterly cold, clear winter night, ponder on the possibility that great horned owls may be nesting nearby. Realizing that they – unlike you – have no way of escaping the cold, you can’t help but admire these magnificent aerial predators, which can take the worst winter has to offer.
   Read Terry’s full column!
Terry Johnson is a former Nongame program manager with the Wildlife Resources Division, a backyard wildlife expert, and executive director of TERN, the friends group for Wildlife Resources' Nongame Conservation Section. His column is a regular Georgia Wild feature.

Did you know …
   Big brother: Of the two eggs great horned owls usually lay, the second is laid about three days after the first. While most birds begin incubation after an entire clutch is laid, great horned owls start after the first egg. One owlet hatches well before its sibling, meaning these nests often contain an owlet much bigger than its later-hatching sister or brother.
   Big mouths: Some food items great horned owls swallow are large. In one instance, an adult great horned owl bolted down a 1-pound muskrat in one gulp!

Longleaf pine plug
Plum Creek, DNR partnership
plug Pine Mtn. longleaf pines

   Call it an ecological homecoming. On a cold morning this month, a Plum Creek crew of tractors and tree planters rumbled along clearcut slopes near the Talbot/Meriwether County line, trailing rows of fresh-turned earth and bright green longleaf pine plugs.
   By week’s end, Plum Creek had planted more than 73,000 longleaf pines on 121 acres bordering the state-owned Sprewell Bluff State Outdoor Recreation Area.
   To Nathan Klaus, a senior wildlife biologist with DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, the grassy-headed plugs and the company’s commitment to plant them represent a critical step toward restoring part of Pine Mountain to its natural state. These rock-girded ridges most recently lined with loblolly pines were originally a longleaf pine community.
   While most of the longleaf has long been gone, the rest of the natural vegetation, including little bluestem grass, is largely intact.
   “Everything except the longleaf is here,” Klaus said. “… And they’re putting it back today.”
   For Plum Creek, a land and timber company with more than 7 million acres in timber production across the U.S., the investment fits environmentally and financially. Senior Forester Drew Marczak said the company realized the middle Georgia site is better suited for longleaf than loblolly. When DNR’s Forestry for Wildlife Partnership asked for help restoring the site, Marczak said Plum Creek recognized an opportunity.
   “It fits well with this particular site to enhance the vegetation that was here naturally,” he said.
   Forestry for Wildlife Partnership is a voluntary program in which the DNR works with large landholding companies to blend wildlife conservation into forestry practices. Plum Creek has been a part of the program since 2004, earning partnership status again in 2009, along with Georgia Power.
   Programs such as Forestry for Wildlife Partnership and Sustainable Forestry Initiative® balance production and conservation. “They drive us to look at special plants and plant communities,” and other wildlife, said Rob Olszewski, Plum Creek vice president of environmental affairs.
Image of planting longleaf pines.   NatureServe ranks the Plum Creek property on Pine Mountain as G2, or globally imperiled. Klaus said Forestry for Wildlife and SFI don’t mean hands off, but instead emphasize increased conservation-oriented management and sustainability. The aim: Leave the site as good or better than before.
   The outlook is promising for Sprewell Bluff and surrounding lands. In recent months, Georgia Power donated to DNR the former 3,059-acre state park that follows the Flint River between Manchester and Thomaston. Klaus said some adjacent landowners like Plum Creek and The Campbell Group are working with the DNR to conduct controlled burns on their property, helping reinvigorate the area’s fire-dependent plant and wildlife communities.
   Piece by piece, an ecological jigsaw puzzle rich in Georgia wildlife is coming together.
   Sprewell Bluff features some of the best old-growth longleaf pine Klaus has seen in Georgia. Several trees are candidates for the oldest specimens in the state. Some even have old red-cockaded woodpecker nest cavities, although the federally endangered birds are no longer found here.
   The setting, plus the fact that Sprewell Bluff is split into six tracts, underscores the importance of stewardship on nearby lands. At the Plum Creek property, where ridgetops overlook rolling Piedmont forests stretching into the haze, the company’s part goes beyond planting.
   Instead of using a helicopter to broadcast herbicide before planting the pines, Senior Forester Courtney Holt said workers with backpack sprayers will treat a 10-foot-wide band along planted rows. The approach leaves most of the landscape untouched, helping protect native plants.
   Research is another component of the partnership. Plum Creek and the DNR established 12 test plots in the newly planted area. Biologists will compare herbicide treatments to those in longleaf pine tracts farther south along the fall line and near Bainbridge. The focus: How little treatment is needed to get longleaf growing while sparing surrounding vegetation.
   Earlier that chilly morning in February, a group including Courtney, Klaus, Olszewski, Marczak and Plum Creek Senior Forester Jim Bell checked the emerald plugs poking from the dark soil. Klaus said land lottery maps suggest the area contained at least 50 percent longleaf pine 200 years ago.
   Now, with time, thinning and prescribed fire, longleaf will again take a place of prominence on at least 120 acres of Pine Mountain.

Longleaf and fire
   Fire is vital to longleaf pine forests, which before European settlement blanketed much of the Southeast’s Coastal Plain and reached into the Piedmont and even the mountains in Georgia and Alabama. Regular fires clear the ground for grass and wildflower seeds to germinate. Fires also keep at bay brush and trees that can crowd out longleaf.
   In turn, the pines serve as a keystone species for a unique ecosystem. They live more than 400 years, drop needles that fuel the needed fires and allow enough sunlight to feed the grassy forest floor so important to many of the state’s declining plant and animal species, such as pine snakes, Sherman’s fox squirrels, loggerhead shrikes, American chaffseed and a newly discovered species of mint believed endemic to the Pine Mountain region.
   Fire on the Mountain! Learn more and experience Sprewell Bluff, prescribed fire and Pine Mountain's unique wildlife at the annual Fire on the Mountain event, set for March 13.

Image of trout lillies in bloom at Wolf Creek.

Wild encounters
Lilies grace Grady preserve
   Beth Grant of Thomasville reported in early February that the trout lilies were blooming at 142-acre Wolf Creek Preserve near Cairo in southwest Georgia's Grady County. (The photo above was taken by David Moynahan.)
   Writes Beth, "There are more trout lilies (here) than anywhere else on earth - literally millions - covering 15 acres on the rolling hills of a slope forest that goes down toward Wolf Creek. The soil, light, moisture, direction and angle of the slope must be just right for the little yellow flowers, even though this is in the southern edge of their range. They have probably been growing there for thousands of years.
   "Discovered in this generation by biologists several decades ago, (the lilies) were saved from development last year ... by Grady County, through leadership of members of the Magnolia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, a grant from the Georgia Land Conservation Trust Fund, and many generous contributions from nature groups and private citizens, including the former owners."
   Beth said that while it's impossible to predict the extent of the bloom even a day ahead, the lilies (Erythronium americanum) should be "quite beautiful" into early March.
   The preserve is off Wolf Creek Road. Take Ga. 84 west from Cairo about five miles, then turn left on Wolf Creek Road. The entrance is a green gate near the top of the hill on the left.
   The flowers do not fully open until early afternoon and they close in the late afternoon, Beth writes. The flag-marked trail begins inside the gate on the left.
   (Tell us about your wild encounter. E-mail any images and details in 200 words or fewer, with your name, hometown and permission to use the submitted material, to rick.lavender@dnr.state.ga.us.)

   The North Atlantic right whale calving season along the Georgia/Florida coast has been quiet compared to 2008-09. The 12 calves documented by mid-February is fewer than last year – though not surprising – and no right whales have been found entangled in fishing gear, a break from the five entangled whales that had crews scrambling to help last year.
Image of children feeding giraffe.   The 22nd Weekend for Wildlife didn't miss a beat, despite the national recession and a Deep South freeze. With a banquet and adventures  ranging from Sapelo Island to White Oak Plantation (at left), the fundraiser held each February at Sea Island raised $665,000 for Georgia’s Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund, the primary funding source for the Nongame Conservation Section.
   The conservation community is mourning the loss of Fish and Wildlife Service Director Sam Hamilton, 54, who died Feb. 20 after suffering chest pains while skiing in Colorado. The widely respected Fish and Wildlife veteran had been promoted from head of the Southeast region to agency director in September.
   The fungus known as White Nose Syndrome and blamed in the death of thousands of bats in the northeastern U.S. continued its spread south this month, with Tennessee confirming its first cases. While scientists try to sort out the cause of what many call WNS and its effects, Georgia DNR has worked with conservation and caving groups to draft a response plan. Podcast with biologist David Pelren.
   The recovery of bobwhite quail and other species dependent on early successional habitat is the aim of an agreement signed this month by 14 conservation organizations, all part of the Georgia Bobwhite Technical Team. More than 4 million acres of habitat must be enhanced across Georgia’s landscape to achieve Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative recovery goals.
   Robust redhorse research on the Ogeechee River will get an $8,000 boost from the Georgia Aquarium. The State Wildlife Grant project led by Cecil Jennings of the Georgia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit is aimed at determining if robust redhorse stocked in the Ogeechee spawn and if so, do wild offspring survive and grow to adulthood. Support also comes from the Fish and Wildlife Service and Georgia's Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund.
   A crowing contest, wild chicken sprint and wing eating competition: Yep, the Fitzgerald Wild Chicken Festival is back. The popular event that in 2000 replaced the city's rattlesnake roundup with a more flamboyant and conservation-friendly focus -- resident Burmese wild chickens -- is set for March 20 in historic downtown Fitzgerald.
    A Kentucky man trying to kill coyotes will have to pay $5,000 for poisoning three red-tailed hawks and three vultures. Freddy Jordon pleaded guilty this month to lacing bait on his property with Carbofuran, a pesticide also known as Furadan. Officers collected 22 animal carcasses, including coyotes and foxes. A Fish and Wildlife Service agent called Furadan “the most widely misused pesticide” documented in wildlife poisoning investigations in the U.S.

Parting shot
Image of SCA crew member at burn.
With prescribed fire season in full, well, flame, DNR burn boss Shan Cammack says highlights so far include successful large burns at Tallulah Gorge and F.D. Roosevelt state parks, restorative fires on high-priority sandhills sites, and 2,913 acres burned in all, despite frequent rains. The Student Conservation Association fire crew -- including Lily Walter, above! -- has again been a big help. Coming in next month's Georgia Wild: Meet the SCA crew.

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