DNR Updates: Hogs Top Target in War on Invasives

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GaWild Masthead: wild hogs

Good news for golden-wings in Georgia

Golden-winged warbler. Pierre Howard

A golden-winged warbler singing on Fannin County’s Brawley Mountain is renewing hope in Georgia for this declining species.

Wildlife biologists Nathan Klaus of Georgia DNR and Jim Wentworth of the U.S. Forest Service heard and saw the male warbler May 22 as they surveyed nearly 300 acres of early successional habitat managed for golden-wings at Brawley. This marks the first time in two years a golden-wing has been documented in Georgia during breeding season.

Though reported as fairly common in extreme northern Georgia a few decades ago, golden-winged warbler populations have declined steeply in the state. Last year’s surveys detected no birds.

The Brawley Mountain bird “was singing right on the edge of our restoration area,” in a section that wasn’t treated with prescribed fire last year, Klaus said.

“Hopefully we also have a female. And hopefully they’ll produce young.” But, Klaus added, “There's still a long way to go.”

More project details in DNR Nongame Conservation Section’s annual report.

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3 things you need to know about GPCA

GPCA crew outplanting purple pitcherplants. Bill Goldstrohm

As the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance nears its 20th anniversary, here are a few things you should know about one of the most progressive plant conservation organizations in the U.S. 

  1. First, you need to know what it is! Let’s be honest: Many of you haven’t heard about the GPCA. This is a network of public gardens, government agencies, academic institutions, utility companies and environmental organizations committed to conserving rare plants. It’s also the first state-based, plant-focused conservation network in the nation.
  2. The GPCA is effective. Members are working with some 100 rare plant species, 49 they’ve reintroduced to the wild in “safeguarding” sites. Examples vary from dwarf sumac to smooth purple coneflower and Florida Torreya, possibly the world’s most endangered conifer.
  3. Collaboration is how they roll. Many partners and cooperators in last year's Candidate Conservation Agreement that helped keep Georgia aster off the Endangered Species List are GPCA members. The American Public Gardens Association awarded the alliance its Program of Excellence in 2013. 

Starting Sunday: Follow on Facebook as we celebrate seven days of GPCA milestones.

Learn about GPCA's work with mountain bogs in Georgia Outdoors’ “Mountain Magic” episode.

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War on Georgia’s invasives: Part I

We have seen the enemy …

Feral pig poster

By Elliot Ambrose

There are invaders among us. Large and small, they have infiltrated and spread, displacing native inhabitants, upsetting the natural balance. The culprits are known as invasive species, and they pose a real and significant danger to environmental, economic and human health.

Some have been here for years; others recently made an appearance. Even more have the potential to become problems in the near future. Whatever the case, invasive species can have wide-ranging and long-lasting impacts if not addressed.

One invasive that exemplifies this problem is the feral hog.

A prolific and destructive species, feral hogs have been in Georgia for centuries. In the last several decades, however, pig populations – and the cost of damages they cause – have skyrocketed. (One reason why: Wild hogs can breed at 6 months old and have up to 26 piglets a year.)

Trouble varies from agriculture, where hogs root up acres of farmland and transmit diseases to domestic pigs, to rare species conservation, where foraging depletes populations and damages habitat. In the early 2000s, hogs destroyed nearly 70 percent of the loggerhead sea turtle nests laid on Ossabaw Island beaches. Systematic shooting and trapping has shrunk the predation rate to 10 percent. But keeping it there requires relentless work.

“If we stopped hunting them, it would get out of control quick,” said DNR wildlife technician Cody Elrod. ...

Read about our war on invasives, from hogs to cogongrass, in this blog post. Included: Georgia’s least-wanted species, some lesser-known offenders and resources for coping with feral pigs.

(Editor's note: This is the first post in a multi-part series on invasive species in Georgia. Up next: Watch what you plant! Explore the benefits of “growing native” and avoiding exotic invasive plants.) 

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Ties that bind fuel burn near Butler

Prescribed fire in Taylor County

Prescribed fire evokes images of drip torches, smoke plumes and yellow Nomex. We talk about acres burned, rare species helped, habitats restored.

And none of that is off-base.

Rarely, however, do we talk or think about prescribed fire in terms of relationships. Yet the connections that link people focused on fire are critical to successful burns.

Case in point: Workers (yes, in Nomex!) recently burned 50 acres of sandhills and longleaf pine in Taylor County. That habitat is showing the fruit from regular fires.

Less obvious, though, are the connections that fit together like puzzle pieces to make this fire happen. …

Read DNR’s blog about the relationships behind the burn.

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The Atlanta falcons – the peregrines, that is – are finding their wings at the SunTrust Plaza Tower nest. At least one of the four has fledged, and another has been rescued, checked out and returned to the balcony nest site after ending up on the sidewalk more than 50 stories below. Watch online.

The Tallulah Gorge falcons are drawing a crowd. During the busy Memorial Day weekend, many visitors to the state park stopped at key overlooks to look for the two eyases – the first documented in a natural setting in Georgia since 1935 – and watch the adults cruise the gorge (“First wild Georgia nest,” May 19).

TERN’s board voted recently to fund 11 Nongame Conservation Section projects for a total of $51,500. The agency’s friends group favored continuing projects, such as the Youth Birding Competition and Outdoor Wildlife Leadership School, plus new ones including equipment for monitoring red-cockaded woodpeckers and restoring and raising awareness of pollinator habitat.

Eastern hognose snake

Only a few spots are still open for the coastal Georgia Beyond Becoming an Outdoors-Woman. Sign up soon for the July 24-27 workshop at Sapelo Island.

An eastern hognose snake found at Chattahoochee Fall Line Wildlife Management Area by senior DNR wildlife biologist John Jensen provided a performance worthy of the species. Realizing that it had been spotted (top photo), the snake flared its neck threateningly (middle), but then rolled on its back and feigned death, even bleeding from its mouth. The hognose later “recovered” and crawled away.

Sea turtle nesting is going strong on Georgia beaches (updates), but strandings are also on the rise, with nine reported in a recent week, including one confirmed boat strike. The Georgia Marine Turtle Stranding Network also reported five incidental captures, two resulting from boat collisions and two – both involving endangered Kemp’s ridleys – from incidental catches by recreational anglers.

Let your voice be heard about DNR options to simplify and adjust fishing and hunting licenses and fees to help maintain the agency’s hunting and fishing programs and meet customer demand. There are seven public forums next month, plus an online survey.

The Go Fish Education Center is open longer and offering group program reservations this summer. The center off Interstate 75 in Perry has more than 180,000 gallons of aquariums featuring native fish and wildlife, fishing and shooting simulators, museum-styled exhibits, and a casting pond. Also watch the Go Fish cam.

Names in the news: TERN elected Brooks Schoen as president and Jim Kluttz as vice president during the annual May meeting of the Nongame Conservation friends group. Brock Hutchins stepped down after six years as president and remains on the TERN board. With Jim Candler and Charlie Tarver retiring from the board, members elected Joey Slaughter and Kim Kilgore to fill their slots. The Land Trust Alliance announced that Rand Wentworth will step down as president at the end of the year, ending a 14-year tenure that saw the alliance’s budget more than double to $18.6 million.

Coming up:


Articles in the last Georgia Wild included:

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   "Rare peregrine falcon nest found at Georgia's Tallulah Gorge," WABE-FM (Atlanta)
   "U.S. Forest Service research team releases bats treated for WNS," U.S. Forest Service
   "Fungus responsible for bat disease found in Oklahoma," Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
   "Rare bird may go extinct after ISIS onslaught on Palmyra," Haaretz
   "Bald eagle nesting reaches new high in Georgia," Pickens County Progress
   "Little St. Simons Island gets protection from future development," Savannah Morning News
   "Georgia parks and forests are a lasting legacy of FDR’s New Deal," Saporta Report
   "Ecoviews: More snakes are around now than at any other time of year," Aiken (S.C.) Standard
   "Partnership to improve views, streams at Amicalola Falls," The (Gainesville) Times (and others via AP)
   "Birders' Eye View: dealing with bird drama," Savannah Morning News
   "Crows safeguard sticks to speed future food-finding forays," ScienceNews, citing article in Proceedings of the Royal Society B


   "Peregrine falcon banding 2015," Georgia DNR
   "90 seconds to discover a new 'Hope in healthy soil,'" USDA

** Masthead: feral pigs. NASA
** Golden-winged warbler in 2005. Pierre Howard
** GPCA members outplanting purple pitcherplants at a north Georgia mountain bog. Bill Goldstrohm
** Feral pig poster. Eamonn Leonard/GaDNR
** University of Montana-sponsored group helps with a prescribed fire near Butler. Hal Massie/GaDNR
** Eastern hognose snake exhibiting defensive behaviors. John Jensen/GaDNR

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