DNR Wildlife Resources Division nongame newsletter
Wildlife license plates

Your thoughts?

As you probably know, Georgia DNR's  Nongame Conservation Section depends largely on public support – i.e., fundraisers. With that in mind, we wanted to get your thoughts on those efforts. We hope you can take a minute to answer the following six questions. Your participation is appreciated!

On a scale from lowest (least likely) to highest (most likely), how likely are you in 2012 to ….
Buy an eagle or hummingbird license plate? (Click one number.)*|END:POLL|*

Renew an eagle or hummer plate? (Click one.)*|END:POLL|*

Contribute to the Give Wildlife a Chance state income tax checkoff? (Click one.)*|END:POLL|*

Donate directly to the Nongame Conservation Section?(Click one.)*|END:POLL|*

Join TERN, or renew your membership in the Nongame friends group?(Click one.)*|END:POLL|*

That’s all! Thank you! If you have any comments, please email Rick Lavender.

Wild facts

How does a woodpecker repeatedly hammer into trees without hurting its head? An extra layer of cartilage between its strong beak and head serves as a shock absorber, allowing this bird to continually drum in comfort. Stiff tail feathers and sharp-clawed toes also help woodpeckers stay upright while pounding. These federally protected birds bang their beaks into trees and sometimes house siding to announce their territory, find insects for food and excavate nest cavities. The sapsucker, a type of woodpecker, also bores rows of holes in live trees to get sap. But, with fewer insects around in winter, woodpeckers are regular visitors to suet birdfeeders.

Dedication of The Alcovy River at East End


The Georgia Wildlife Federation’s recent dedication of The Alcovy River at East End was a conservation celebration. The 16.7 acres along the Alcovy in Newton County were transformed from a dumping ground for construction debris into a natural area with more than a mile of maintained trails, a public canoe launch and an outdoor classroom, all designed for low impact. Twelve partners including Georgia DNR poured in hundreds of hours of work, restoring the habitat and removing invasive Chinese privet and Japanese honeysuckle. Powered by a Five Star Restoration grant, the effort added another jewel to the Alcovy River Greenway and highlighted the power of partnerships and community. East End is open to the public daily from sunrise to sunset.

Ranger report

DNR's 2010-2011 Law Enforcement Section report offers a region-by-region look at a year's worth of work in the field and off, from investigating poaching incidents to searching for missing people, patrolling for boating safety and confiscating illegally obtained wildlife. Copies are online.

Robust redhorse

Rare species

Robust redhorse
Moxostoma robustum
This large, heavy-bodied sucker was once found in Atlantic slope river drainages from the Altamaha in Georgia to the Pee Dee in the Carolinas. In Georgia, the state-protected fish is now limited to stretches of the Oconee and Savannah rivers, with re-introduced populations in the Broad, Ogeechee and Ocmulgee rivers. The Robust Redhorse Conservation Committee, made up of agencies, companies and conservation groups in three states, has focused on finding new populations, stocking existing ones, re-establishing historical populations and raising public awareness. Thousands of robust redhorse have been stocked in Georgia rivers. Monitoring shows solid survival rates and evidence of spawning. Other work has varied from altering flow regimes to adding gravel for improved spawning habitat to surveying rivers. (A recent aerial survey of the Ogeechee, from the headwaters to Interstate 95 marked the locations of 11 radio-tagged redhorse not detected by boat because of low water levels.) Before DNR biologists found robust redhorse below Lake Sinclair in 1991, the species had not been collected for more than a century.

More in DNR's rare species profiles. Also see Fishes of Georgia.

Did you see?

Image of GPB loggerheads show
  • GPB Georgia Outdoors programs focused on Georgia's loggerhead turtles and gopher frogs, and featuring DNR biologists.
And did you hear?
  • The GPB news interview with Atlanta Botanical Garden biologist Dante Fenolio about a project with DNR, Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center and The Nature Conservancy to re-introduce gopher frogs to an Early County preserve.


   Six juvenile red-cockaded woodpeckers were recently captured in Apalachicola National Forest and moved to unoccupied woodpecker territories on Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area. The translocations will help bolster Silver Lake’s population of the federally endangered birds, previously 21 pairs. (Newcomers settling in,” October 2010) The WMA near Bainbridge is the only state property with red-cockaded woodpeckers.
   Georgia's final sea turtle nest count reached 1,994 loggerhead nests this year, plus 11 leatherbacks and one green sea turtle nest. The loggerhead total and overall count of 2,006 is a record for the state. (Details.)
   An Oconee County teacher at Rocky Branch Elementary School near Watkinsville will receive this year’s $1,000 grant from The Environmental Resources Network and the DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section. Shawna Babin's "Bringing the Outdoors into a Science Lab" proposal topped entries for the Teaching Conservation to Third Graders grant.
   The cause of white-nose syndrome has been identified, and it's no surprise: the fungus Geomyces destructans. U.S. Geological Survey scientists confirmed the long-suspected link in a study that also demonstrated another aspect of white-nose: it can be spread by contact among bats.
   Fifty pounds of native grass seed was recently harvested at Panola Mountain State Park and along Taylor and Talbot counties roadsides by volunteers led by Nongame Conservation Section biologists and Audubon’s Georgia Important Bird Areas Program coordinator. The seed will help restore native grassland habitats at Panola and Fall Line Sandhills Wildlife Management Area, an effort critical to declining grassland birds and already bearing results at Panola.
   The lake sturgeon population in the Coosa River basin is stronger by nearly 4,800 fingerlings. Late last month, Go Fish Education Center and DNR Region 1 fisheries employees stocked the 3- to 6-inch sturgeon into the Oostanaula River, with help from local students.
   Amphibian trade not only spread the chytrid fungus that is killing frogs worldwide, it may have led to the disease's creation. Genetics work has pinpointed a single, virulent strain of the fungus that formed when two strains mated, a union most plausibly blamed on 20th-century global trade, researchers say.  
   North Atlantic right whales are returning south for the winter, bound for calving grounds off the Georgia/Florida coast. Download the latest issue of the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium's newsletter.
   2012 Weekend for Wildlife trips are filling fast! The 24th anniversary of the DNR Nongame Conservation Section's annual fundraiser is Feb. 3-4 at Sea Island.
   What packs a $3.6 billion annual economic punch, complete with support for 68,000 jobs and a $28-for- every-$1-spent return? The fisheries program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in conjunction with state agencies and conservation organizations, according to this report.
   Examples in the Conserving America’s Fisheries report include the economic impact involving hatchery-stocked fish in the Southeast (a $48-to-$1 return on funding). Also cited: cost-saving developments that preserve genetic diversity of rare fish, such as through the Warm Springs, Ga., Fish Technology Center’s Cryopreservation Laboratory, plus genetic research exploring fish and mussels at centers such as at Warm Springs.
  A rash of hellbender reports followed media coverage of DNR’s hellbender project and accompanying YouTube video. Project leader Thomas Floyd of the Nongame Conservation Section has heard about a handful of sightings, and welcomes more on North Georgia occurrences and locations of North America’s largest salamander.


   "Protect the darter: Agency receives funds for ongoing conservation effort," NeighborhoodNewspapers.com
    "Hellbender project aimed at conserving hefty salamander," CummingHome.com
    "GPCA members visit Ohoopee Dunes," The (Swainsboro) Forest-Blade
    "Savannas, forests in a battle of the biomes, Princeton researchers find," Princeton University
    "UC research finds that a duck's boon might be a turtle's bane," University of Cincinnati
    "Forget kudzu bug - new stink bugs are latest invader," Athens Banner-Herald
   "Kudzu bug invasion has homeowners looking for answers," WXIA-TV (Atlanta)
    "From the Brunswick News: Turtle patrol alumni pleased with loggerhead comeback," dickyarbrough.com

* Bird-voiced treefrog in masthead. John Jensen/Ga. DNR
* Jon Ambrose sets traps for small mammals as part of the early work of the Georgia Heritage Natural Inventory Program. Ga. DNR
* Jon Ambrose, then-Heritage Natural Inventory Director Chuck Rabolli and Tom Patrick, part of the program's original staff. Ga. DNR
* A group tours The Alcovy River at East End during the dedication ceremony. Georgia Wildlife Federation
* Rainbow snake. Dirk J. Stevenson/The Orianne Society
* Swallow-tailed kite. Jerry Amerson
* Robust redhorse. Ga. DNR
* Georgia DNR Sea Turtle Program Coordinator Mark Dodd on "Georgia Outdoors." GPTV
* A wildlife hole worth investigating in middle Georgia. Terry W. Johnson
* Eastern chipmunk. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
* Whooping crane with sandhill cranes in Bartow County. Jeff Blose
* No. 2-11 with sandhills in Wisconsin. Tom Schultz

Georgia Wild is free, monthly and focused on rare, endangered and other nongame wildlife. Nongame includes wildlife not legally trapped, fished for or hunted, plus native plants and natural habitats.

DNR's Nongame Conservation Section receives no state funds to conserve nongame wildlife, native plants and natural habitats. We depend on contributions, grants and fundraisers, such as the eagle and hummingbird license plates. How can you help?
   Buy or renew a plate.
   Contribute to the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund tax checkoff.
   Donate directly to Nongame.
   Join our friends group TERN.
   Use GoodSearch (enter "Georgia Nongame Conservation Fund" at "Who do you GoodSearch for").

Volume 4, issue 11
Georgia Wild archives

In this issue:

Jon Ambrose setting small mammal traps.
1,377 and counting,
age turns 25
DNR database tracks rare species, habitats

   Talk about a heritage.
   Twenty-five years after the Georgia Natural Heritage Inventory Program was started, the DNR's Nongame Conservation Section is tracking nearly 1,200 rare plant and animals species and 185 natural communities. Staff regularly document new occurrences of rare species and natural communities, explore exceptional natural areas, and manage populations of Georgia’s rare wildlife, from lipstick darters to loggerhead sea turtles.
   As botanist Tom Patrick, hired by the Heritage Inventory in 1986, said, “I’m still working on plants. … We’re still finding new ones.”
   Nongame Conservation Section Assistant Chief Jon Ambrose, the Natural Heritage Inventory’s original ecologist, said the effort has helped DNR's Wildlife Resources Division “keep a focus on all of the elements that we need to conserve.”
   The Natural Heritage Inventory started as a venture funded by The Nature Conservancy’s Georgia chapter and the DNR in 1986. The job:  Document the distribution and status of the state’s rare plants, animals and natural communities.
Early staff members of the Natural Heritage Inventory.
   Georgia was one of the last states with a Natural Heritage Program, part of a successful nationwide push by The Nature Conservancy to document “elements” of biological diversity in a uniform way. Yet, Georgia had a precedent: Its Heritage Trust Program started in 1972 was the model for the first natural heritage program, established by The Nature Conservancy and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources in 1974.
   Georgia Wildlife Federation President Jerry McCollum supervised the Georgia Natural Heritage Inventory as a director’s assistant in what is now Wildlife Resources. McCollum said the proposal by then-state Nature Conservancy Director Rex Boner linked efforts such as natural areas and protected plants.
   “It has given DNR a capability which it never had before and never would have had without a structured inventory process.”
   Since 1986, the program has changed names, added staff and responsibilities, and become part of the Nongame Conservation Section, formed in 1998. (More Wildlife Resources Division history.) This component of Wildlife Resources is also part of NatureServe, an international conservation data network that grew out of the natural heritage effort.
   Everyone from developers and private landowners to state and federal agencies relies on natural heritage databases and related map products to inform land-use and management programs. The information, available to the public, has guided land acquisition programs, state and regional wildlife conservation plans, and habitat restoration projects.
   Development and use of natural heritage databases has also led to improved communication and collaboration among scientists across state lines, and conservation partnerships that go beyond environmental laws and regulations.
   “We ... have a partnership with people who want to manage for the right things,” Patrick said. "We're always trying to work with people."

By the numbers
Rare “elements” tracked in Georgia:
  • Animals, 482
  • Natural communities, 185
  • Plants, 710
Sites of rare elements in database:
  • Animals, 5,327
  • Natural communities, 1,241
  • Plants, 5,289

Rainbow snake (Dirk J. Stevenson)

All I want for ...
Georgia books give gift of wildlife insights

   Quick, name the Georgia county where red crossbills have been documented nesting. And what big-city park is a veritable nesting hotbed for Baltimore orioles?
    Or, which colorful snake in the state has a strong taste for American eels? What frog common to central Georgia sounds like a bird?
   Scratching your head? You’d do better to reach for “The Breeding Bird Atlas” and “Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia.”
   Both books, published by the University of Georgia Press and edited by DNR biologists and others, are packed with answers about Georgia birds, amphibians and reptiles.
   Both will also make excellent holiday gifts for wildlife enthusiasts on your list.
Swallow-tailed kite. (Jerry Amerson)   The hardback “Breeding Bird Atlas” is a comprehensive record of the 182 bird species documented breeding in the state, from robins to black rails and scissor-tailed flycatchers to swallow-tailed kites. The nearly 500 pages are packed with profiles, maps and color photographs, all based on a statewide survey from 1994-2001.
   “Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia,” another coffee-table-quality book, features detailed accounts of the state’s 170 species of frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, turtles and crocodilians – some you’ve likely never heard of.
   Photos and maps help identify what’s in your neck of the woods, while emphasizing the conservation status and challenges for each species. Herpetological Review calls it an “exquisite book.”
   Now, about those questions, here are the exquisite answers, respectively: Bartow County, Central City Park in Macon, rainbow snake and the bird-voiced treefrog (listen!).

Out my backdoor
Here’s the hole story
By Terry W. Johnson
    By their very nature, holes are dark, mysterious places. Whenever we find one, we can’t help but wonder what creature lurks just beyond the entrance.
   Many folks believe holes should be avoided, worried that the tunnels harbor creatures that might harm them. The more whimsical among us would like to believe that they are passageways to magical worlds. While the holes in our backyards aren’t inhabited by the likes of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, they are home to an array of wildlife.
What creature uses this hole?   Trying to figure out what critters live in them doesn’t require the skills of Sherlock Homes; it can, however, be a test of your outdoor skills. It’s impossible to be absolutely sure what inhabits every hole you find. But let’s take a look at some clues.
   First, consider the location. As we all know, different animals often prefer living in quite different habitats. Your short list of suspects should also include animals that will live close to humans. Don’t expect to find a bobcat raising its young in your yard. While bobcats will hunt close to our homes, they typically raise their young well away from our houses.
   Second, the size of a hole is one of the best clues. As a rule of thumb, the diameter of the entrance prevents some animals from entering. A hole just large enough for a muskrat is too small for a fox. Yet, a hole wide enough for a gopher tortoise is often inhabited by smaller creatures such as snakes and frogs.
   Insects and spiders excavate some of the smallest holes you will find in your yard. A hole that measures a half-inch or less in diameter is made by one of these creatures. For example, wolf spiders live in burrows, and can sometimes be coaxed out by gently probing the hole with a blade of grass.
   Shrews also excavate small holes, usually in very soft soil or leaf litter close to the surface of the ground. Shrews are Georgia’s smallest mammals. They live in holes with entrances measuring 1 inch in diameter.
   Our backyards are home to a variety of rodents such as mice, voles and moles. These usually occupy dens with entrance holes measuring 1½ inches across. If you find an earthen plug at the entrance, chances are good the hole is being used by a mole. On the other hand, voles are fond of creating intricate runways in grassy fields. Mice rarely dig holes and can be found in mole and vole tunnels.
Chipmunk   Throughout much of the state, the holes most commonly found by homeowners are made by the eastern chipmunk. These holes measure about 2 inches in diameter. You won’t find any evidence of digging around the entrances. However, as chipmunks’ tunnels begin caving in, the underground pathways leave depressions in lawns and gardens.
   Even when chipmunks are plentiful, people often have a difficult time identifying their holes because chipmunks often avoid entering one when they know somebody is watching.
   Remarkably, a number of larger animals will also dig holes near homes. One of these animals is the striped skunk. They dig dens in late summer or early fall. The entrances are 5 to 6 inches wide. Skunks like to dig their holes in dry, well-drained sites. You will often find droppings, leaves and grass near the entrances. Skunks will haul leaves and grasses into their holes for use as bedding. Interestingly, during extremely cold weather they will also seal the opening with leaves.
   In you live in an area of south Georgia that has deep, sandy soils, you might have a gopher tortoise burrow on your property. These elliptical-shaped holes can be a foot or more wide, and will have an apron of sand in front of the burrow.
   If you live in north Georgia, you may have woodchucks digging holes in your backyard. These holes measure 5 to 6 inches in diameter and will also have a mound of dirt in front of the entrance. Strangely, in spring, an odor much like chicken stock can often be smelled coming from a woodchuck burrow.
   Although holes are critical to the survival of many animals, they are one of the most overlooked and unappreciated features in backyard habitats. Far too often when homeowners discover a hole, they fill it with dirt, fearing they might contain venomous snakes. This often dooms any animals living there.
   If a hole is not in a place where it poses an injury threat, leave it alone. Then visit it from time to time and use your outdoor skills to figure out if it is occupied. You begin that journey of discovery today. Who knows what you will find.

Bees in a burrow? What makes those mud chimneys? And when do raccoons go underground? Find the answers in Terry’s full column, posted here.

Terry Johnson is a former Nongame program manager with Wildlife Resources and executive director of TERN, the Nongame Conservation Section’s friends group. (Want to reprint Terry’s column? Email rick.lavender@dnr.state.ga.us.)

What about  …
   Nine-banded armadillos? They are showing up in backyards across Georgia. Their burrows are roughly 8 inches wide, and often found near the roots of large trees or in the sides of slopes.
   Snake and rabbit holes? They may use dens, but snakes, eastern cottontails and even opossums don’t dig them.

Parting shots

Whooping crane and sandhill cranes in Bartow County.

Check out the white bird with the black wingtips in the middle of all those sandhill cranes. Yes, that’s a whooping crane, the first documented this migration season in Georgia! Cartersville resident Jeff Blose and his wife were fishing in Bartow County Nov. 12 when they spotted the sandhills, and then the suspicious-looking crane. When the flock took off, Blose recognized the white crane with black wingtips as a whooping crane, an endangered species. “That was a first for me,” Blose said. It was also a first for the young whooper. Hatched this year, the juvenile bird – officially No. 2-11 – had been part of a migration led south from Wisconsin by ultralight aircraft. But the crane became separated from that group and joined hundreds of sandhill cranes. The transmitter on the bird’s leg malfunctioned, and, before mid-November, the whooping crane had last been documented in Wisconsin on Nov. 6 (below). (And see this video, also taken by Tom Schultz.) More recently, Operation Migration reported that No. 2-11 was seen flying over Chatsworth, in the company of sandhills, on Nov. 18.

Whooper No. 2-11 in Wisconsin.

On a related note, not all young whooping cranes flying south toward Georgia are following an ultralight aircraft (or sandhill cranes). Eight of the original 18 tracked this year will learn the migration route by shadowing older cranes, Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership logoa method called Direct Autumn Release and another facet of re-establishing the imperiled cranes in eastern North America. If you spot a whooping crane in Georgia, please contact the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership through this online form.

You are receiving this newsletter because you requested it through the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division. The newsletter also goes to Wildlife Resources Division employees.

Our mailing address is:
Georgia Wildlife Resources Division
Nongame Conservation Section
2070 U.S. Highway 278 S.E.
Social Circle, GA 30025
Phone: (706) 557-3327
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Georgia Wild copyright © 2011 Georgia Wildlife Resources Division Nongame Conservation Section. All rights reserved.


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