Hunting Hogs, Helping Sea Turtles

Georgia Wild masthead: winning YBC artwork


- "My job is to kill hogs"

- Head-start for rare salamanders

- Sad news for Tallulah Gorge falcons


Codey Elrod takes aim at an Ossabaw Island hog (Dan Chapman/USFWS)
DNR's Codey Elrod takes aim at a wild hog on Ossabaw (Dan Chapman/USFWS)


Codey Elrod has a job most Southern hunters would kill for. Literally.

My job,” Elrod said, “is to kill hogs.”

And he gets paid for it. Elrod, a Georgia DNR technician, lives alone on Ossabaw Island. He works when he wants — daybreak, late afternoon, middle of the night. His office is the salt marshes, sandy beaches, maritime forests and cypress swamps that make up one of Georgia’s most beautiful sea islands.

“I never would’ve imagined that this would be my job,” Elrod says, trundling through Ossabaw’s swampy midsection in a scruffy Chevy truck with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle riding shotgun. “But I sure do enjoy doing it.”

He is, officially, a “hog control technician” – the only full-time, government-paid wild hog hunter in the South. The specialness of his job owes to the rapaciousness of hogs. They’re a nasty, eat-everything, invasive species that is alien to Ossabaw and runs roughshod over flora and fauna.

While shooting pigs is cool, Elrod embraces the program’s main goal: saving rare loggerhead sea turtles. Feral pigs stalk Ossabaw’s unspoiled beaches from May to September scrounging for turtle eggs. …

Read the rest of the story.

Dan Chapman is a public affairs specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.



Jen and Brent Howze release reticulated salamanders at Mayhaw (Jake Rogers/DNR)
Wife and husband Jen (Jones Center) and Brent Howze (DNR) release salamanders at Mayhaw. Below, a metamorph in hand (Jake Rogers/DNR)

Consider this salamander SOS answered.

Thirty-seven reticulated flatwoods salamanders were released this month at Mayhaw Wildlife Management Area. The WMA near Colquitt is Georgia’s only known site for the endangered amphibians.

Reticulated flatwoods salamander metamorph (Jake Rogers/DNR)

The salamanders were raised from eggs found in two wet-season ponds at Mayhaw in February. The ponds hadn’t filled with winter rains, putting the eggs at risk. The Joseph W. Jones Ecological Center at Ichauway reared the salamanders to metamorph stage.

The release, done in stages, was Georgia’s first for the species using eggs collected in the state. It also marked a significant step for these young sallies, said DNR senior wildlife biologist John Jensen.

“It’s definitely a head-start.”

Now it’s up to Mayhaw’s newest flatwoods salamanders to make the most of their rescue.

Project partners included DNR’s Nongame and Game Management sections, the Jones Center and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.




Bad news for peregrine falcons nesting at Tallulah Gorge State Park: If any eyases hatched, it was likely during heavy rains followed by wind and cold in the middle of the month and none survived. The adults are no longer on the nest, Georgia's only known peregrine nest in a natural setting.

Some good news: Ospreys nesting on camera at Skidaway Island have two young. Also, the eaglet at the Berry College bald eagle nest is testing its wings and balance in a pre-fledging behavior called branching.

Canby's dropwort
Canby's dropwort (DNR)

Another population of Canby’s dropwort has been found in South Carolina, increasing that state’s total sites for the endangered plant to five. The population in Berkeley County rates healthy and is protected, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (Also see "Conserving Lee County wetlands," Dec. 8.)

At age 11, Alston Li has an eye for owls. The Duluth sixth-grader’s portrait of a great horned owl was the grand-prize winner in DNR’s Youth Birding Competition T-shirt Art Contest (and the masthead for this newsletter issue). See all winners.

The Youth Birding Competition itself starts at 5 p.m. Friday. Birding enthusiasts, from preK to high school ages, will scour the state to count as many species as possible before the 5 p.m. Saturday check-in at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in Mansfield. Check Monday for results.

Johns Creek 18-year-old Rylan Kang not only won the Georgia Junior Duck Stamp Art Competition for the third straight year, she won this year’s national contest. The 2018-2019 junior duck stamp will feature her emperor goose painting.

The Georgia Wild “Little Snakes” episode drew a crowd when reposted on DNR State Parks & Historic Sites Facebook page. In four days, it received more than 1,700 responses, almost 1,300 shares and more than 100,000 views.

Red-cockaded and phoebe nests

Unique nests: At top is an eastern phoebe nest and eggs that DNR senior wildlife biologist John Jensen found about 10 feet deep – and 10 inches above the waterline – in Anderson Springs Cave on Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area. Phoebe nests in caves and on banks and outcrops were more common before the birds began nesting on manmade structures such as buildings and bridges. On the bottom is the season's first red-cockaded woodpecker nest marked by wildlife biologist Joe Burnam. He "scoped" it April 12 at Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area near Bainbridge.

Hellbenders and other aquatic life in Northeast Georgia’s Betty’s Creek are getting care and attention from Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School. Students are helping lead a school effort to monitor and protect the stream, a keen example of the landowner involvement needed to keep eastern hellbenders off the federal Endangered Species list. (Also see “Helping hellbenders,” June 1, 2016.)

Recent rains have primed areas for growing-season burns. While prescribed fire in spring can raise concerns about wild turkeys and other ground-nesting birds, research shows the benefits trump any negative impacts.

With sea turtle and manatee sightings on the rise along Georgia’s coast, boaters should be on the lookout for these big and rare animals. Boat strikes are a leading cause of sea turtle strandings and manatee injuries and deaths.

Names in the news: Eagle scouts Mark and Timothy Fievet gave a recent presentation at the DNR Board of Natural Resources meeting about their wildlife projects at Sweetwater Creek State Park. Mark built and installed 26 bat houses and Timothy created 45 artificial fish habitats at the Lithia Springs park.



May 4 -- Moonlight through the Pines, The Nature Conservancy annual conservation celebration, Piedmont Park, Atlanta

May 17Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance members' meeting, White Oak Pastures, Bluffton

May 19Keeping Georgia Wild Family Festival, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Charlie Elliott Wildlife Festival, Mansfield. Free. Includes archery, fishing, shooting sports, gun safety, mini-boat rides, solar viewing, outdoor exhibitors, wildlife demonstrations.


In the last Georgia Wild.

—    Georgia’s impressive, and creepy, mygalomorphs

—    Bleak winter for rare North Atlantic right whales

—    Terry W. Johnson on “nature’s barbed wire”



   "Documenting the decline of the North Atlantic right whale," The Washington Post

   "The hunt is on for rare pine snake," White County News

   "On St. Simons, brake for road work ... and turtles," Atlanta Journal-Constitution

   "Fighting to save America’s bats," The New York Times

   "Auburn alum creates conservation site for rare woodpecker," Yellow Hammer

   "As sea turtles, manatees return, state urges boaters to be vigilant," SaportaReport

   "Scientists discover link between magnetic fields, sea turtle nesting," Science Alert, citing Current Biology

   "Counting nests for our most elegant raptor," Savannah Morning News

   "Student’s owl drawing wins bird T-shirt competition," Albany Herald. Also: Gwinnett Daily Post

   "Helping fish get by," Open Spaces (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service blog)

   "WHSRN expands coastal South Carolina site," Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network

   "Scientists discover new butterfly species hidden in drawer for 60 years," Newsweek

   "Head-banging gopher tortoise shows why species matters," National Geographic

   "Pittman-Robertson changes designed to save next endangered species: hunters," Outdoor Life


DNR quail habitat video
DNR Game Management Regional Supervisor Alan Isler talks habitat restoration


   "From the ground up: how restoring habitat boosts quail, other wildlife," DNR

   Migrating cownose rays, videoed by DNR while doing North Atlantic right whale survey about 25 miles east of Cumberland Island Feb. 22

  "It's all yours," National Forest campaign

   "Georgia Wild -- hummingbirds," DNR

   "Global temperature anomalies 1880-2017," NASA


parting shot

Prescribed fire at night in Tallulah Gorge (Philip Juras)
Prescribed fire in Tallulah Gorge (Philip Juras)

There’s fire in the gorge in this night photograph of a 1,300-acre controlled burn winding down at Tallulah Gorge State Park and on Chattahoochee National Forest and Georgia Power lands April 12. Partners included DNR, the U.S. Forest Service, Georgia Forestry Commission, Georgia Power and others. Watch: Before the burn interview with DNR’s Nathan Klaus. See Forest Service photos.

Masthead: great horned owl painting by Alston Li