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JULY 2010


Click 2 conserve
A hummingbird can beat its wings more than 15,000 times in five minutes. Amazing. Almost as amazing: In the same time you can donate online to help conserve hummers Click&Pledge logoand hundreds of other Georgia plants and animals that need your help! The new Click&Pledge option at is a fast, easy and secure way to support programs for nongame wildlife, from sea turtles to hairy rattleweed and longleaf pine ecosystems. “Because we receive no state general funds, we truly appreciate the generosity of people when they donate to the Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund,” said Lisa Weinstein, Nongame Conservation Section assistant chief. Gifts are tax-deductible. Learn more about this and other ways to support wildlife.

WILD Facts
Warm weather and rain means more mosquitoes buzzing about! These pesky insects lay eggs in the water, and the wiggling red larva can hatch into adults in as few as four days.  To prevent mosquitoes from breeding in your yard, simply dump any standing water and change out birdbath water before larva have time to hatch.  For small bodies of water that can’t be drained, organically-safe "donuts" that kill the larva can be used.  Even with the best precautions, some adult mosquitoes will hatch out.  However, only female mosquitoes bite, and only certain species attack humans.  Insect repellants can help prevent bites and the diseases they may cause.
-- Linda May


Derek with camper

In education
“When deciding how I wanted to spend my summer, I knew I needed to gain some relevant work experience so I could decide what to do with a wildlife degree. I’m extremely interested in research and management, but I’ve always had a passion for outreach and wildlife education. This summer, I decided to explore my passion – best choice I’ve made yet.”
Click to read
about UGA senior Derek Colbert's experiences helping lead summer camps at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center.

After the Assembly
A stakeholders group of turtle trappers, farmers, conservationists and scientists recently met with Wildlife Resources Division staff to begin developing rules for regulating the sale, exportation and farming of Georgia’s freshwater turtles. Senate Bill 474, which passed the 2010 General Assembly, authorized the Board of Natural Resources to regulate export, sale and farming of turtles. Rules will focus on commercial trade and will not prohibit recreational use of turtles. Stakeholders that met in Forsyth July 7 helped identify concepts to include in the rules. The next session later this month is expected to include a review of draft regulations. Public meetings will follow, possibly in September. Pressure on freshwater turtles fed by Asian demand and the pet trade has spiked concerns about over-harvest in the Southeast, a global goldmine of turtle diversity. All of Georgia’s neighbor states have implemented or tightened protections.

Sea turtle icon
Tracking sea turtles

A Georgia sea turtle nesting update from*

Nests: 1,321 (13 lost)
Relocated: 701 (53%)
Eggs estimate: 76,554
Eggs lost: 3,631 (4.7%)
Eggs hatched: 982
Emerged hatchlings: 517
False crawls: 1,630

As of July 19. Here's a complete look at real-time data and beach reports.

Ranger reports
Ginseng gotcha: A Calhoun man received a refresher in gingseng regulations and trespass laws July 3. A hunting club member had called Cpl. Shawn Elmore, saying that a man harvesting ginseng on club property in Gordon County had been run off July 2, but now the same vehicle was back. Elmore found the Calhoun man and another from Adairsville on a nearby tract. The two said they did not know who owned the property, a confession that earned written warnings for trespassing. On further questioning, the Calhoun resident said he was harvesting ginseng and had talked with a hunting club member the day before. Club members then showed up and, after a round of talks, the Calhoun man turned over 116 ginseng roots. Elmore cited him for harvesting ginseng out of season and warned him for harvesting ginseng without written permission.

Georgia plume image

Up close
Georgia plume
Elliotta racemosa Muhlenberg
ex Elliott

Key characteristics: Small tree or shrub (pdf). Reaches up to 33 feet tall. Generally has multiple trunks, forming thickets from the roots up. Bark is gray with vertical cracks. White flower clusters form 3- to 12-inch plumes.
Range: Found only in Georgia (one population known in South Carolina has since been destroyed). Largest population covers about 400 acres at Big Hammock Natural Area south of Glennville in Tattnall County. The largest known Georgia plume grows nearby – 47 feet tall with a 36-inch circumference.
Habitat: Likes sand ridges, evergreen hammocks and ultramafic or serpentine rock outcrops. Can tolerate deep, dry sands, as well as ecotones between dry sands and wet bay forests in Coastal Plain.
Flowering time: Narrow plumes of white flowers seen through June and July. Nectar-laden flowers attract butterflies to evergreen hammocks in which Georgia plume grows.
Fruit: Small, round capsules, approximately 3/8 of an inch, which then split into four to five sections.
ID issues: Similar in appearance to the snowbell (Styrax Americana), which also has showy white flowers but they do not form a cluster, or plume. When not in flower, Georgia plume resembles many plants with which it grows. Bark can be confused with other heath species, such as sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum) and highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum). Leaf buds and shape resemble horse-sugar (Symplocos tinctoria), red bay (Persea borbonia) and devilwood (Osmanthus americanus), but these plants have semi-evergreen leaves while Georgia plume is deciduous.
Fire lover: Can withstand low-intensity fire and may even require it for germination
Status: No federal status, but listed as threatened in Georgia, where more than 50 populations have been discovered – but only nine on conservation lands. None of the protected populations have been known to produce seedlings.
Threats: Clear-cutting of oak forests has caused most destruction to Georgia plume habitat. With fires suppressed, encroaching woody vegetation shades out mature trees and accumulating leaf litter seems to cause Georgia plume stems to rot. Since biologists began tracking it in the wild, Georgia plume has not been known to reproduce by seed. Most populations are made up of one or a few long-lived, genetically identical clones.
How you can help: Support conservation and research of rare plants in Georgia and learn more about the benefits of prescribed fire for rare plant restoration. Share information about the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance’s research efforts specifically for this plant.

Sources include: “Protected Plants of Georgia” (Georgia DNR); “Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Georgia” (Linda G. Chafin)

Nongame in the news
WXIA-TV (Atlanta): "Hundreds cheer rehabbed turtles released off Jekyll," Georgia Sea Turtle Center releases eight rehabilitated sea turtles. (July 19)
USA Today: "Caves may close to protect bats from white nose syndrome," U.S. Forest Service considers closing close caves on federal lands in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming and South Dakota. (July 16)
Savannah Morning News: "Big season for Georgia's smallest turtle," state marks increase in bog turtles and their habitats. (July 13)
SOWEGA Online: "Click to conserve: Donating to Georgia wildlife goes online," DNR release promotes new online donations option. (July 12)
Savannah Morning News: "Wassaw Island volunteers bet on patience, luck to track nesting turtles," a night on the Camera imagebeach with Caretta Research Project's paying vols. Video. (July 11)
ePanorama (Georgia Conservancy newsletter): "Rare habitats identified by Coastal Georgia Land Conservation researchers," insight and updates regarding the Coastal Georgia Land Conservation Initiative. (July)
Savannah Morning News: "Tybee Island still too bright for sea turtles, conservationists say," Tybee Island Marine Science Center volunteers document night lights to educate property owners, aid turtles. (July 10)
Augusta Chronicle: "Vanity tags popular despite economy," south Augusta tag office reports rise in specialty and prestige tag sales. (July 6)
Chattanooga Times Free Press: "Silent summer could sound alarm," impressions from annual frog call survey counts in southeastern Tennessee and North Georgia. (July 6) (Note: If link fails, Google the article title.)
Athens Banner-Herald: "Spill's extent and the effects surprising those studying it," deep-water contamination, particularly by methane, may be causing dead zones. (July 7)
The Macon Telegraph: "Bond Swamp refuge grows by nearly 600 acres," Macon-area national wildlife refuge adds 581 acres, on west side. (July 1)
Reuters: "Groups seek halt to BP oil burnings to save turtles," environmental groups sue BP over controlled burns killing rare sea turtles. (June 30)
Reuters: "Plan hatched to move turtle eggs from oil spill," egg clutches moved from Gulf Coast to Atlantic-side beaches in central Florida. (June 30)
The Florida Times-Union (and others via AP): "Rescued Louisiana pelicans released into Georgia waters," 72 brown pelicans rescued from oil slicks turned loose in Brunswick tidal creek. (June 29)
Athens Banner-Herald: "Kudzu a growing threat to area's air quality?" exotic invasive produces chemicals that could contribute to ozone pollution. (June 28)
The Albany Herald: "Reclaimed habitat leads to rebound for endangered wood storks," birds nesting in Mitchell County site restored through Wetlands Reserve Program. (June 27)
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Butterfly count short of record," Charles Seabrook documents the annual survey at Piedmont NWR/Rum Creek WMA. (The count ended up breaking the record, with some moth species identified later from photographs. See "Annual summer butterfly count" at right in Noteworthy.) (June 25)
Chattanooga Times Free Press: "Heading off white-nose fear," USDA Camera imagescientist Joy O'Keefe discusses syndrome and research, with DNR's Katrina Morris describing Georgia's perspective and upcoming bat blitz. (June 24) (If link fails, Google the article title.)
Rutland (Vermont) Herald: "Conservation group to sue federal government over white nose bat syndrome," Center for Biological Diversity threatens suit in push to list Eastern small-footed and Northern long-eared bats as endangered. (June 24)
Los Angeles Times: "Death by fire in the gulf," burning of oil-soaked sargassum sparks debate over impact on sea turtles and other wildlife. (June 17)
The Associated Press: "Osprey takes high ground for nesting," resurgence marked by nesting increase. (June 13)

July 25-29: Bat Blitz, Fort Mountain State Park, Chatsworth. Family education night, 6:30 p.m. July 25.
Aug. 24-25: Georgia DNR Board of Natural Resources committee meetings (1 p.m. Aug. 24), monthly meeting (9 a.m. Aug. 25), DNR board room, Atlanta. (pdf of schedule)
Nov. 5: Outdoor Classroom Symposium, Zoo Atlanta.

Submit events

Photo credits (from top)
* In masthead: Loggerhead hatchlings crawl for the ocean. Adam Mackinnon/Ga. DNR
* Aerial view of wood storks at Gilman rookery in St. Marys. Tim Keyes/Ga. DNR
* Wood stork at Gilman rookery. Tim Keyes/Ga. DNR
* Derek Colbert with 9-year-old Will Griffin of Winder and a frog during a Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center summer camp. Ga. DNR
* Adult loggerhead sea turtle. Ga. DNR
* Georgia plume in bloom. Lisa Kruse/Ga. DNR
* Cicada skin. Terry W. Johnson
* Wilson's plover. Tim Keyes/Ga. DNR
* Release of brown pelicans outside Coastal Resources Division offices in Brunswick. Kristina Summers/Ga. DNR

Georgia Wild
volume 3, issue 7

Georgia Wild is produced by the Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division. The free monthly newsletter is focused on conserving nongame species, those not legally trapped, fished for or hunted. 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 on grants, donations and fundraisers such as nongame license plate sales, the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund state income tax checkoff and Weekend for Wildlife. Details: (770) 761-3035 or (478) 994-1438. Donate online.

Nongame plates – the bald eagle and ruby-throated hummingbird – are available at county tag offices, by checking the wildlife license plate box on mail-in registration forms or through online renewal.

Check here for information on TERN, the friends group of the Nongame Conservation Section.

And, read more in "Conserving Nongame Wildlife: 2008-2009," a report on Nongame Conservation Section work.


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Wow! year for wood storks
Wood stork rookery

Endangered birds nest in record numbers
Georgia surveys of nesting wood storks documented a record year for the big birds with the bald heads. The estimate of more than 2,500 nests far surpasses the some 2,200 counted in 2008, the previous high since aerial nest surveys of the endangered species began in the 1990s.
   “The success in Georgia may be linked to the early spring failure rate in the Florida rookeries due to bad weather,” said wildlife biologist Tim Keyes of the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division's Nongame Conservation Section.
   “When these colonies failed, many birds probably moved north and re-nested. We know this occurred by tracking two tagged birds that attempted to nest in the Everglades in early Wood storkspring, and have since moved into two different Georgia rookeries, one on St Simons Island and one near Camilla, with some birds moving north.”
   At Gilman rookery in St. Marys (shown above from the air), some chicks are already fledging from an estimated 300 nests, the second-largest wood stork rookery. The largest – at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge near Eulonia – had 478 nests. There are 26 rookeries total across eight counties, from Glynn to Mitchell.
   High water levels earlier in the season when the storks were establishing nests contributed to the record estimate. Productivity also will likely be higher than last year, when cold, wet weather hit before chicks were large enough to thermoregulate, or regulate their body temperature.
   Keyes said this year's weather has been more favorable and he is hoping for a large number of fledglings.

Nest notes

  • Wood storks have been surveyed in Georgia since a colony was found on Wolf Island in 1969.
  • Species federally listed as endangered when breeding populations in Southeast slid to 4,500-5,700 pairs in late 1970s, down from record 15,000-20,000 pairs in 1930s.
  • Original decline blamed largely on habitat loss and alteration due to ditch building in south Florida.
  • Regionally, populations must reach recovery goal – three-year average of 6,000 pairs and 1.5 chicks per nest – to down-list species to threatened.
  • Estimated 1,676 nests in 2009 mirrored wide fluctuation in Georgia nesting populations, due in part to water levels at nesting and feeding sites and quality of nesting sites in Florida.

Georgia SWAP: Part  IV
Ancient reptile’s plight
profiles conservation needs

by Linda May
   With fossil records dating back 40 million years, this scaly-skinned, hard-shelled reptile reaches about 4 feet long and weighs up to 350 pounds. Mostly carnivorous, it has a big head with powerful jaws that crush and devour prey Sea turtle photolike crabs, mollusks, shrimp, sea urchins, fish and jellyfish. Although primarily an ocean dweller, this creature breathes with lungs and lays eggs on land. Revered in many cultures as a symbol of longevity, it lives up to 70 years. With as many as 100 types of animals and plants living on its body, it is a mobile ecosystem unto itself.
   What animal is this? The loggerhead sea turtle, scientifically known as Caretta caretta.
   Despite thriving since prehistoric times and ranging in oceans across the globe, populations of loggerhead sea turtles started dwindling about 200 years ago, with sharper declines in more recent years. Loggerheads are federally listed as threatened and state-listed as endangered. A pending proposal from the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would reclassify the federal status to endangered for Atlantic and Pacific populations of loggerheads. Georgia’s four other sea turtle species – green, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley and leatherback – are all state and federally protected, too.
   In an effort to restore populations and prevent extinction, the State Wildlife Action Plan, or SWAP, considers Georgia’s sea turtles and their habitats high priorities. The plan has management recommendations based on the species’ needs at every stage of life. Where natural history information is lacking, field studies are suggested to better understand what sea turtle populations need to survive.
   Researchers already know that threats to the turtles abound, from nesting to adulthood.
   But to glimpse the challenges sea turtles and wildlife managers face, let's follow the life of Georgia’s primary sea turtle species – the loggerhead ... Continue reading.

How you can help

  • Support sea turtle conservation through the Nongame Conservation Section.
  • Learn more about sea turtles via the Georgia Sea Turtle Center or other Georgia facilities such as Tybee Island Marine Science Center and 4-H Tidelands Nature Center.
  • Minimize beachfront lighting during nesting season so as to not deter turtles from coming ashore. How-to tips.
  • Properly dispose of garbage and refrain from helium balloon releases. Turtles may die from intestinal blockage when they mistake and eat plastic bags, Styrofoam and other trash floating in the water.
  • Remove recreational equipment such as chairs, cabanas and umbrellas from the beach at night. They can interfere with nesting attempts and hatchlings' scramble for the ocean.
  • Leave tracks left by nesting turtles undisturbed. Researchers use the tracks to identify the species and find and mark nests for protection.
  • Protect beach vegetation, which stabilizes sand and the natural coastline.
  • When boating, stay alert to avoid turtles. Also stay in channels, and avoid seagrass beds to protect this important habitat.

See a sea turtle on the beach?

  • Do not disturb it.
  • Once the turtle has begun nesting, observe only from a distance.
  • Do not shine lights in a turtles’ eyes or take flash photography.
  • If you find a hurt, sick or dead sea turtle, call 1-800-2-SAVE-ME (272-8363). What you’ll need to know.

This article is the fourth in a Georgia Wild SWAP series. Read parts 1 (Plan at a glance), II (Toccoa River focus) and III (Restoring montane longleaf). Next month: The next 10 years.

Linda May is the environmental outreach coordinator with the Nongame Conservation Section. Comments?

All about bats
WNS caution: Disinfect gear, limit caving
To minimize risks from the epidemic white-nose syndrome, the Wildlife Resources Division is urging cavers to reduce trips to Georgia caves and follow federal guidelines for disinfecting clothes and gear. The division considered some cave closures – about 15 percent of Georgia's caves and mines are on state-managed lands, mostly on Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area in Walker County – but chose voluntary limits after weighing research, the resource and public interests. Wildlife Resources will work with caving groups to emphasize fewer trips and strict adherence to decontamination protocols, and to help monitor and evaluate caves on state lands. Details. Also: DNR white-nose response plan.

Acoustic work monitors bats on the fly
    Bat conservation interns Beth Oxford and Brannon Knight are hard at work this summer setting up acoustic monitoring transects for bats across the state. The Nongame Conservation Section is following a nationwide survey protocol developed to help bat researchers across the country collect bat call data. “Europeans have used acoustic transects to monitor bats for years,” wildlife biologist Trina Morris said. “Similar protocols have been used for monitoring birds and frogs in the U.S., but this is the first effort of its kind for bats.” Learn more.

Don't forget the Bat Blitz
Set for July 25-29 at Fort Mountain State Park near Chatsworth. Family night starts at 6:30 p.m. July 25.

Out my backdoor
Treasures in the yard
By Terry W. Johnson
My backyard is far from the largest, best trimmed or, in the eyes of many, most beautiful. However, I would not trade it for any other. It is a place where treasure has been found.
   Although I am not talking about jewels or gold coins, the discoveries made in my yard are priceless. They make up a treasure trove of family experiences with the plants and animals that live just outside my backdoor. My wife and I have never used a treasure map to guide my daughter and granddaughter on backyard journeys of discovery. More often, some of our best finds have been made serendipitously.
Cicada image    When the girls were  younger, we were their guides, teaching them to use their senses of sight, hearing, smell and touch. However, it didn’t take them long to begin making their own finds. Now, the distinction between guide and guided is often blurred.
   For example, last summer our then 8-year-old granddaughter noticed the light-brown nymphal skin shed by an adult cicada attached to a pillar beneath my home office. Immediately, she wanted to know what it was. I explained about the insects whose buzzing mating calls are one of the sounds of summer. My wife suggested she might find others. We soon noticed our granddaughter looking for the fragile casings on tree trunks. In a short time, she had dozens.
   That evening, my wife found that she had neatly lined up her discoveries on a shelf in her bedroom. What might have been valueless to most are treasures to her.
   The cicada is just the most recent in a long list of animals the girls have encountered on backyard forays. Years ago, my wife introduced our daughter to the ant lion, or doodle bug. She pointed out how these strange creatures excavate sandy funnels and wait at the bottom for a hapless ant or other small insect to venture into its deadly trap. She demonstrated how you can coax the doodle bug from hiding by gently stroking the sides of the funnel with a blade of grass while repeating, “Doodle bug, doodle bug, come out, your house is on fire.”
   Over the years the girls have helped me build and paint countless nest boxes. They are excited when bluebirds, nuthatches or chickadees use one, and always enjoy peeking inside for glimpses of fragile eggs and fuzzy nestlings. They like helping me restock our bird feeders and watching the parade of birds that dine at my wildlife smorgasbord. They also seem to take delight at my often futile attempts to stop gray squirrels from eating more than their share.
   The wild and cultivated plants in our yard have always fascinated the girls. They enjoy looking for the first crocus poking out of the ground in the spring, admiring the beauty of a dogwood blossom, sucking nectar from a honeysuckle bloom and collecting fall leaves in a kaleidoscope of colors.
   Our adventures don’t stop when the sun goes down. Even on cold winter nights we venture out to view the constellations, comets and falling stars. In the spring we sit outside listening for the calls of whip-poor-wills and chuck-will’s widows. In summer, we all enjoy watching fire flies blinking as they slowly navigate across the yard.
   These are only a smattering of priceless treasures my family has found in our backyard. Summer is a great time to strike out on your own journey with your able-bodied crew of children and grandchildren. You will be amazed how the discovery of something as small as a lady bug can stimulate their curiosity for the natural world.
   If all goes well, and I know it will, they will soon be asking you when they can go again. It is then that you will realize you are having as much fun as they are. And as you heighten their sense of wonder and appreciation for plants and animals with which they share the world, you are giving them a treasure beyond compare.
   For more memories, from a fig-juice sipping hummingbird to blacklight moths, 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. His column is a regular Georgia Wild feature.

Wilson's plover image

Survey shows surge
in Wilson’s plover pairs
   With more than 350 nesting pairs, Wilson’s plovers in Georgia are doing much better than 10 years ago, when the last census was taken.
    There are three times as many birds now, mostly due to improved habitat, said Nongame Conservation Section wildlife biologist Tim Keyes, who led the effort. Of the 19 barrier islands surveyed, Cumberland led with 106 nesting pairs, followed by St. Catherines and Ossabaw with 49 and 44 pairs, respectively.
   “The high numbers of Wilson’s plover this year, coupled with observing many chicks at a number of locations, was an exciting find,” Keyes said.
   “Beach nesting birds face so many challenges, from storms and high tides to avian and terrestrial predators and human and canine disturbances, it often seems remarkable that they ever successfully fledge young.”
   Wilson’s plover is a medium-sized shorebird once numerous on south Atlantic and Gulf Coast beaches. Following declines, the species is state-listed in Georgia as rare and considered a high priority in the State Wildlife Action Plan.
   In addition to counting nesting pairs this May and June, staff placed signs in areas of high nesting concentrations to warn beach-goers of the plovers’ presence.
   Keyes thanked all who helped. “This survey would not have been possible without the full cooperation and at times participation of people working on all of Georgia’s barrier islands, and we are very grateful to them for their assistance.”
   His goal is to repeat the survey every five years, depending on manpower. This year’s census follows estimates of about 100 nesting pairs in the early 2000s, 360 in 1980 and 200-250 in 1986-1987.

   A bumper bog turtle season is in the books, thanks to wetter weather, habitat improvements, and increased trapping and monitoring of the federally endangered turtles. Researchers and summer interns captured and released 40 percent of the state’s 67 known bog turtles plus seven “new” Camera imageturtles, one from a never-sampled wetland in Union County. (Another "new:" DNR's latest bog turtle video!)
   DNR’s “Landowner's Guide to Conservation Incentives” has been updated and re-printed with a grant from The Environmental Resources Network, the Nongame Conservation Section’s friends group. Copies of the free booklet, which summarizes financial incentives, technical help and conservation options available to Georgia landowners, are available by mail or online.
    Transmitter-equipped whimbrels are revealing the birds' amazing migrations, and underscoring the importance of spring staging sites in mid- and southeastern Atlantic states. Maps at track whimbrels Ann and Chinquapin fitted with satellite transmitters in Georgia, plus other birds such as Winnie, which covered 3,106 miles from Virginia to Alaska in 146 hours.
   The annual summer butterfly count at Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge and Rum Creek Wildlife Management Area near Forsyth logged 61 species. The June 21 results marked a record for the area and all Georgia’s "July Fourth counts" for the North American Butterfly Association.
   The Coosa River in Alabama is No. 10 among American Rivers’ 10 Most Endangered Rivers. The river conservation group cited the Coosa’s biological diversity, loss of habitat and species because of hydropower dams, and potential to improve habitat through federal relicensing of the dams.
     Five more Southeastern fishes are proposed for federal endangered status: the Cumberland darter found in Kentucky and Tennessee, the rush darter in Alabama, the yellowcheek darter in Arkansas, and the chucky madtom and laurel dace in Tennessee. Primary threats include habitat and range loss, small population sizes, and vulnerability to catastrophic events such as toxic spills.
    Nongame Conservation Section Assistant Chief Jon Ambrose has been named one of 36 fellows in the 2010-2011 National Conservation Leadership Institute. The five-year-old institute coordinated by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies is described as a “war college” for world-class conservation leaders.
   Georgia landowners can take advantage of an estimated $150,000 in federal incentives to improve habitat for birds migrating south toward the Gulf of Mexico. The initiative, sparked by the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill and announced by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, includes more than 40 Georgia counties and is projected to develop or enhance 100,000-150,000 acres across eight Southern states.
   As the spill spreads, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering management options varying from limiting hunting on some wildlife refuges used by wintering waterfowl to assessing possible long-term impacts on migratory birds. Within weeks, millions of birds will begin fall migrations that feature wintering and stopover sites along the Gulf Coast.
   Cornell Lab of Ornithology says its NestWatch project may help in discovering whether birds passing through or wintering in the Gulf region suffer declines in reproduction. Project leaders point to a possible “oil shadow” of toxins in one region having effects that show up in another.
   Emanuel County commissioners recently approved moves to enroll the county in the National Flood Insurance Program. A $150,000 grant for improvements at Ohoopee Dunes Natural Area hinged on the decision, because federal money cannot be spent in special flood hazard areas if a county is not enrolled.
   The Northwest Georgia Land Protection Fund started by the Open Space Institute in 2007 has disbursed $1.7 million in grants and $408,000 in loans to land trusts and state agencies to protect 5,300 acres. Targeted projects were identified in the State Wildlife Action Plan, according to the institute's report "Protecting the Best: Wildlife Habitat Conservation in Northwest Georgia" (pdf).
   Got an opinion on listing big constrictor snakes as “injurious wildlife” under the Lacey Act? The Fish and Wildlife Service has extended the comment period on the proposed federal rule until Aug. 2, saying it wants the best data before deciding whether to ban the import and interstate transport of the non-native snakes without a permit.
   Birmingham, Ala., faces a nearly $3 million civil penalty from the feds for killing 11,760 endangered watercress darters. The 2008 fish kill, one of the largest in Endangered Species Act history, happened when a maintenance crew removed a beaver dam, draining a spring pool that held the largest known population of the species. The state has a $1 million claim against the city.  
   In other nongame enforcement news, two Florida women have been charged with third-degree felonies for knowingly disturbing a sea turtle nest on private property. In Vermont, a man could be fined more than $2,000 for shooting federally protected songbirds – most of them cedar waxwings – he says were eating his strawberries.

Parting shot: Pelican airlift
Pelican release image

More than 140 brown pelicans rehabilitated from oil exposure in the Gulf of Mexico have been given a fresh start on Georgia’s coast. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with help from U.S. Coast Guard and Nongame Conservation Section staff, recently released the birds in Brunswick. Some of the Louisiana transplants were spotted earlier this month off Florida's Atlantic Coast looking “healthy and active,” according to observers.


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