DNR Updates: Dinosaurs in the Yard

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Georgia Wild masthead: sweetshrub, Alan Cressler

Birthdays + tags = bonus for wildlife

Eagle wildlife plate

We’re entering the birthday season. And it could be big for wildlife. Here’s why.

July through September is the leading three-month period for when babies are born in the U.S.

In Georgia, eagle and hummingbird wildlife plates are the leading fundraiser for conserving nongame wildlife. And, in almost all Georgia counties, registering your vehicles coincides with your birth date.

So, more birthdays, more potential for wildlife tag sales and annual renewals.

Now this is where you come in. Upgrading to the new flying eagle tag or renewing your current eagle or hummer plate costs only $25 more than a standard peach plate. Even better, $19 of each purchase and $20 per renewal goes directly to conserve Georgia wildlife!

This birthday, treat yourself to a wildlife tag. It's like having your cake and eating it, too.

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War on Georgia’s invasives: part II

American wisteria. Alan Cressler

Why growing native is better for nature

The second installment in a series on invasive species in our state. 

By Elliot Ambrose

With their variety of colors, shapes and textures, exotic plants have taken root in the yards, and hearts, of many Georgia gardeners. Unfortunately, not all exotics stop there.

Those that escape cultivation and spread rapidly into the surrounding environment can cause devastating and long-lasting damage. Displacing native species and destroying the critical habitat they need, exotic invasive plants are one of the biggest threats to our natural heritage.

What can you do? Grow native! Help reestablish native plant populations in your area and stop the introduction of potentially harmful exotics by choosing native species for your lawn and garden.

Many of Georgia’s most destructive invasive plants, such as Chinese tallow (below) and kudzu, started as exotic imports for use in landscaping and gardening. Not all non-native or exotic plants are invasive, of course. Many, like the crape myrtle, are easily controlled and have existed in the state for centuries without issue.

But the effect of exotics on the natural environment is not always readily apparent or easily predicted, according to Dr. Mincy Moffett, a DNR botanist and Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council board member.

“You never really know how an exotic plant is going to behave, so you’re taking a risk when you introduce them,” Moffett said. “Some never become a problem, while others turn out to be real bad actors.”

Chinese tallow. Rebekah Wallace/UGA

Also, past performance is not a reliable indicator of future behavior.

Chinese privet is one example. Introduced in the 1800s, this Asian exotic was widely used as an ornamental hedge until the early 20th century when, for reasons still not clear, it began expanding exponentially. Today, Chinese privet chokes bottomland forest habitat throughout Georgia and is a high priority for invasive species management. (Chinese privet even forms the famous hedges in UGA’s Sanford Stadium -- the hedges thick enough to catch a tight end -- although some insist the plants are English privet.)

“It’s a lesson that we all need to remember because it means that anything could potentially become a problem at any time,” Moffett said. “Really, playing it safe would mean never planting anything but a native.”

Curbing exotic plant use statewide is a lofty goal, but growing native is something all can do. Fortunately, there are many attractive and unique native plants to choose from, and many benefits to using them. …

Read more about Georgia's war on invasives in this post, including native alternatives and where to find them.

Up next month: part III: controlling the invaders at all cost. Also check out part I: We have seen the enemy.

Guides for watching what you plant

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Out my backdoor: yard dinosaurs

Green anole with butterfly. Terry W. Johnson

By Terry W. Johnson

Thanks to Jurassic World, Georgians are again fascinated with dinosaurs. And although the thunder lizards have been extinct for eons, their distant relatives still lurk nearby.

Yes, if you live anywhere in the Peach State except extreme northeast Georgia, there is a good possibility the lizards in your yard are green anoles.

It’s hard to believe that the small, fragile green anole is a relative of dinosaurs, but it is. The male green anole is roughly 8 inches long. Females are about an inch shorter.

That’s a far cry from some of the dinosaurs that measured more than 60 feet long.

But beyond their family tree, green anoles have the look and predatory nature of those ancient creatures. …

Read Terry’s column on green anoles, including why they aren’t chameleons, how to find them in your yard and what happened when one Terry was watching attacked a butterfly. 

Terry W. Johnson is a former Nongame program manager with the DNR and executive director of TERN, the Nongame Conservation Section's friends group. Out my backdoor library.

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Loggerhead after nesting at Cumberland

Strong loggerhead sea turtle nesting has scientists predicting 2,500-2,800 nests this summer, a total that would shatter the state-record 2,289 set in 2013. As of July 5, two weeks past the season’s midpoint, monitoring by the Georgia Sea Turtle Cooperative marked loggerheads more than 200 nests ahead of other big years. Also July 5, the first hatch was recorded on Ossabaw Island. About 30 clutches have hatched since, and the nest count has topped 2,000. Updates. 

A Brunswick man who stole sea turtle eggs from Sapelo Island two years ago has been caught again. DNR rangers arrested Lewis Jackson Sr., 61, on July 8 as he left the Sapelo ferry with 67 loggerhead eggs. In 2013, after pleading guilty to stealing 156 eggs, Jackson was sentenced to six months in prison, two years of probation, 156 hours of community service and a tour of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.

The deadline has passed to comment on the revised State Wildlife Action Plan, but stay tuned to Georgia Wild or subscribe for email updates to follow the progress of the comprehensive strategy that guides efforts statewide to conserve our native nongame wildlife and habitats before they become rarer and more costly to protect. Turnout at three public comment meetings this month was slim.

The public also is encouraged to weigh in on a DNR Wildlife Resources Division initiative to simplify its sporting license fees structure, an effort that includes a proposed fee increase. Following an initial online survey and seven public forums, a more in-depth survey is available at www.georgiawildlife.com/aimforsuccess.

Clay George

DNR Wildlife biologist Clay George (far right) has earned the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Team Member of the Year Award. George, who leads DNR Nongame Conservation Section’s work with North Atlantic right whales and other marine mammals, was recognized by peers at the federal agency for his "contributions to the nation toward the stewardship of living marine resources."

A 2015 version of the Landowner's Guide to Conservation Incentives in Georgia provides a concise overview of conservation programs, qualifications and contacts. View or download a copy, and learn more by contacting forester and guide editor Steve Raper of the Nongame Conservation Section.

Like fishing, photographing and winning? Enter the DNR Wildlife Resources Division’s fishing photo contest on Facebook to land Bass Pro Shop gift cards provided by the Georgia Natural Resources Foundation.

Red-cockaded woodpeckers at Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area near Bainbridge produced an estimated 40 young this year. Nongame Conservation Section surveys documented that 19 of 22 family groups of the endangered birds successfully nested.

Southern hognose snake

A controlled burn recently at Moody Forest Wildlife Management Area covered nearly 170 acres. Jointly managed by DNR and The Nature Conservancy, much of the uplands at this area near Baxley are being restored to longleaf pine/wiregrass habitat through prescribed fire and selective thinning.

Ten reptile and amphibian species petitioned for Endangered Species Act listing in 2012 will require further research to determine whether protection is needed, but five others won’t be listed. Of the Georgia species included, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined the Center for Biological Diversity didn’t provide enough information to warrant listing the pigeon mountain salamander, while a 90-day finding – a first step in assessing the need for listing – is in order for the alligator snapping turtle, gopher frog, green salamander, southern hognose snake (right) and spotted turtle.

Coming up:

What you missed in the last Georgia Wild ...

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   "‘CSI for sea turtles’ uses DNA from eggs in effort to protect loggerheads," SaportaReport
   "Man convicted in 2013 of sea turtle egg theft arrested again," The Brunswick News
   "Sea turtles nesting at record rate in Ga.," Savannah Morning News
   "Black bears are rebounding — what does that mean for people?" National Geographic
   "What's so great about seeing the same bird twice?" (golden-winged warbler caught at migration site and on wintering grounds), Audubon
   (+ audio) "Ga. officials considering climate change in new wildlife plan," WABE-FM/90.1 (Atlanta). Also: "Georgia wildlife management plan examines climate change," Atlanta Business Chronicle
   "Bat research makes a stop at Ocmulgee monument," The (Macon) Telegraph
   "DNR receives grant to monitor bat disease," The (Gainesville) Times (and others via AP)
   "Opinion: How to deal with bats in the home," Madison Journal
   "Southern Co., National Fish and Wildlife Foundation give $4.6 million to foster longleaf pine habitats," Atlanta Business Chronicle
   "Tybee turtle nest is tampered with," WJCL-TV/22 (Savannah)
   "New study reveals mechanism regulating methane emissions in freshwater wetlands," UGA
   "State park, botanical gardens open in Gainesville," Banks News Today
   "Global trends show seabird populations dropped 70 percent since 1950s," University of British Columbia
   "Oil-munching microbes cleaning up Gulf marshes faster than expected," ScienceNews
   "Florida nets more than $3 billion in BP oil spill settlement," WJCT-TV/FM (Jacksonville, Fla.)
   "Rare albino raven murdered," Audubon
   "River launch project nears completion," The Summerville News

Video and audio

   (audio) "Kestrel birds get lift from state, Georgia Power initiative," WABE-FM/90.1 (Atlanta)
   "Video of Yellowstone bear chasing tourists isn't what you think," National Geographic
   "Counting quail – DNR completes breeding bird surveys," Georgia Wildlife Resources Division blog
   "Story Map of 2014 Year in Review," Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture
   "Scientists put a GoPro on a sea turtle -- and it was beautiful," CBS News



** Masthead: Sweetshrub, native to Georgia. Alan Cressler
** American wisteria, native to Georgia. Alan Cressler
** Invasive Chinese tallow. Rebekah Wallace/UGA (bugwood.org)
** Green anole capturing a cloudless sulphur. Terry W. Johnson
** Nesting loggerhead returns to the sea at dawn on Cumberland Island. Doug Hoffman/NPS
** DNR biologist Clay George, at right, during North Atlantic right whale disentanglement training. NOAA Fisheries
** Southern hognose snake. John Jensen/DNR

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