Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Newspaper Article - Local wildlife biologists monitoring Alabama's hibernating bats

Scientists checking north Alabama bats for deadly disease

By Dennis ShererStaff Writer - Times Daily Newspaper

A team of biologists from state and federal agencies will explore caves in Bankhead National Forest to evaluate the health of bats living in the caverns.
The Bankhead National Forest bat study in Lawrence and Winston counties is part of a nationwide effort to monitor bats, which are being threatened by a deadly fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome. The disease can cause bats to die near the end of their winter hibernation.
During the coming weeks, biologists will explore caves throughout north Alabama where bats commonly hibernate during the winter.
Among the scientists participating in the study is Keith Hudson, a wildlife biologist for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Hudson, who lives in Florence, said he remains hopeful no sick bats will be found, but added he worries the first documented case of white-nose syndrome in Alabama will be found.
The disease, which has killed more than a million bats in the United States and Canada since it was discovered in the New York during the winter of 2006-07, has been found as far south as southwestern North Carolina, according to Hudson.
“We’re hoping white-nose syndrome will never make its way into Alabama, because if it does it will devastate our bat population,” Hudson said. “In a lot of the caves where the bats have been infected, 90 to 100 percent of the bats have died.”
Many rare bats, including the gray bat, live in north Alabama. Several caves in the Shoals are used by gray bats.
Ann Froschauer, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said a sharp decline in the bat population would allow many insects to proliferate.
“Bats are the number one predator of night-flying insects,” Froschauer said. “Many of the beetles and moths that bats feed on are pests for farm crops and forests. If we lose our bats, farmers and foresters are going to have a more difficult time controlling insects pests.”
Froschauer said people who explore caves can help prevent the spread of white-nose syndrome by decontaminating their clothing and equipment after each cave they visit.
Anyone who visits a cave in an area where white-nose syndrome should not use that clothing or equipment to explore caves in areas where the disease has not been detected.
Details on how to decontaminate clothing and caving equipment is available on the Fish and Wildlife Service website at
Dennis Sherer can be reached at 256-740-5746 or

Newspaper Article - Alabama's turtle population threatened by commercial harvest

Asian market's appetite for turtle meat threatens Alabama's population

Published: Sunday, February 26, 2012, 6:12 AM Updated: Tuesday, February 28, 2012, 2:16 PM
By Ben Raines, Press-Register Press-Register

MOBILE, Alabama -- The Mobile-Tensaw Delta ranks as one of the two or three most diverse places on the planet for turtles, home to 18 freshwater species.
But that diversity is under threat, scientists say, because weak regulations are drawing commercial harvesters from as far away as Maine to Alabama’s turtle-rich swamps.
Two Auburn herpetologists have warned the state Conservation Advisory Board that the state’s turtle populations are under siege. Craig Guyer, an Auburn professor, and Jim Godwin, with the Alabama Natural Heritage Program, said the market for turtle meat is fueled by demand in Asian countries where native populations have been decimated by years of overharvest. In addition, some turtles native to Alabama bring hundreds of dollars apiece when sold as exotic pets.
The scientists said stricter regulations, including a total ban on the commercial take of wild-caught turtles, would be the only way to lessen or eliminate the threat.
“That’s why China wants our turtles,“ said Mark Sasser, non-game wildlife coordinator with the state Conservation and Natural Resources department. “They’ve eaten all of theirs.”
A report from the Turtle Conservation Coalition states that 75 percent of Asia’s turtle and tortoise species are threatened as a result of overharvesting.
Increasingly, U.S. turtles are being shipped abroad to satisfy the Asian demand.
In 2008, Florida wildlife officials estimated that about 3,000 pounds of live softshell turtles caught in the swamps of the Sunshine state were shipped out of the Tampa airport each week, destined for China. Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist pushed for much stricter limits on harvest after wildlife officials there reported encountering a pair of turtle harvesters who had filled the entire bed of their pickup with turtles.
Up until the late 1990s, Sasser said, most states didn’t have commercial freshwater turtle harvest regulations because there wasn’t any need for them. As the foreign appetite began to grow, Alabama tried to stay ahead of the problem, first by implementing a 10-turtle-per-person commercial daily limit, then with a reporting system for turtle farmers and commercial dealers.
No harvest is allowed of a handful of species, such as the endangered Alabama red-bellied turtle.
Turtle hobbyists or people who may catch a few on a trotline can keep or possess no more than three turtles per day.
Sasser said the free commercial permit is available to out-of-state residents and there is no license or residency requirement for recreational catches, meaning Alabama’s waters are open to anyone.
Sasser said such open access means the state has no idea how many turtles are being caught each year, and enforcement of the few rules on the books is difficult.
Commercial harvesters “do a lot of their work at night. They don’t go out of their way to get checked,” Sasser said.
While legitimate turtle farms generally follow the commercial permit’s harvest-reporting requirements, there have been a lot of non-compliance issues, he said.
“You know that old saying, figures don’t lie, but liars can figure? That’s what we’ve been dealing with,” he said. “There’s been a lot of what we believe is incorrect information.”
In addition to the Asian market for turtle meat, turtle parts are used there for medicinal purposes.
There is also a thriving worldwide trade in exotic turtles as pets.
Rare Alabama turtles such as the black-knobbed sawback command as much as $269 on various turtle websites, such as Even the common snapping turtle can command prices above $200 in the pet industry.
Freshwater turtles are long-lived, slow-growing and take many years to reach sexual maturity. Coupled with fairly high mortality among baby turtles, the reptiles are highly vulnerable to overharvest.
“Most states in the Southeast have no turtle population monitoring system because there’s no economically feasible way to do it. That means that a turtle population can be in trouble long before we know it,” he said.
The problem in Alabama grows more serious with every new restriction placed on turtle harvest in another state.
“We have some of these turtle catchers coming all the way from Maine. They’re very mobile. They hire people in the area to catch the turtles,” Sasser said. “Some of these turtles being caught for their meat are bringing $25 or $30 apiece and they can ship thousands of them every week.
“There’s no overhead, no license requirements and there’s no expense to keep and feed them. They put them in a box and ship it.”
Turtle laws have been strengthened in neighboring states in recent years. Tennessee began prohibiting commercial harvest of most turtle species in the mid-1990s. Florida banned commercial harvest from public and private waters in 2009. Georgia severely restricted commercial harvest of wild-caught turtles last year.
Sasser said there are legitimate turtle farming operations.
“I had one turtle farmer tell me that he’s selling hatchlings to the Asians who then feed them out to slaughter in one year. If a turtle farmer can sell hatchlings for $10 apiece and is shipping 40,000 to 50,000 hatchlings a year, you do the math.
“If they’ve already got their brood stock and can turn a profit with what they already have, we have no problem with that,” he said. “We do have a problem with someone going to the Alabama River or Tennessee River and catching our native wild turtles, then shipping them overseas for a huge profit and depleting our population.
“It’s already happened in Asia and will happen here without stricter measures.”
After the Auburn herpetologists made their appeal to the conservation board this month, Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries officials said the agency would review the state’s turtle laws. The agency could make recommendations on the commercial and recreational harvest at the next Conservation Advisory Board meeting on March 10 in the Capital Auditorium in Montgomery.
Press-Register reporter Jeff Dute contributed to this report.
Updated on Tuesday, Feb. 28, to correct an error in the headline.
© 2012 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Feral Swine Season - March 1 - 14 - Black Warrior WMA

Feral Swine Season on the Black Warrior Wildlife Management Area is scheduled for March 1 - 14. Visit for more information on feral swine control and hunting opportunities.

On the March 1 - 14 feral swine hunt on Black Warrior WMA, legal arms and ammunition include firearms and archery legal for deer season on the WMA. A license and map permit are required. Hunter orange is required. Feral swine may also be hunted on the WMA during any other open season with the legal arms and ammunition for that open season, for example during squirrel season with legal firearm for squirrel. There is no bag limit on feral swine. Hunters are encouraged to report their feral swine harvest at the WMA headquarters.

Feral hogs are nuisance animals that take a toll on native game animals, like deer and turkey, and cause extensive damage to the land and native plants. Local land managers and land owners use a combination of methods to control the expanding feral swine population.

Monday, February 27, 2012

"I'm with Phil" Documentary Film about the Town of Phil Campbell and April Tornadoes

This article in the Times Daily details a documentary film titled "I'm with Phil" that was created by Andrew Reed, a Phil Campbell native. The film tells the story of the Phil Campbell Convention and the April 27th tornadoes.  Below is the three minute trailer for the movie:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Arbor Week Tree Give Away Big Success

Participant with "got trees?" t-shirt.
The Annual Arbor Week Tree Sale was held at the Alabama Forestry Commission Office on February 23rd.  WCNRC members present included Johnna Franks, John Creed, Mike Henshaw, Jim Hughes, Allison Cochran, and Chris Wright.  Over 50 people participated in the Tree Give Away in the first hour alone, and approximately 1,000 trees were given away.  The Arbor Week Tree Give Away will continue at a slower pace until the supply of seedlings is exhausted.  Johnna prepared information sheets on each species of trees.  Additional photos from the sale are in this photo album.
Young family looks over the information sheets for each species.

Boxes containing free seedlings.

A portion of the sign-in sheet after the first hour.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Professional Logging Manager Initial Training Course In Haleyville

Follow this link for a printable registration form:

Federal Income Tax on Timber Publication

Federal Income Tax on Timber Publication

Bankhead Liaison Panel Meeting

The Bankhead Liaison Panel will meet on Thursday, February 23 at 6 p.m. at the Moulton Recreation Center. Everyone is invited to this public meeting. The agenda includes projects in the Rush-Brushy watershed; the Owl Creek Trail System assessment; and a report from the Restoration Monitoring Team.

For more information, call the Bankhead National Forest office at 205-489-5111.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Campground Hosts Needed at Houston, Corinth, and Clear Creek Recreation Areas

Volunteer Campground Host(s) Needed

Position:  Volunteer Campground Host
Name of Agency: U.S Forest Service

Location: Bankhead National Forest Clear Creek, Corinth, and Houston Recreation Areas
Address: Bankhead Ranger District
1070 Highway 33 North
Double Springs, AL 35553
Telephone Number: 205-489-5111
Contact Person: Jody Tetlow/Terrance Fletcher

Host will be provided with a free electric, water, and sewer campsite from March 18-November 1.

Dates of Assignment: Monday-Saturday
Time and Days of Week: 5 days a week
Hours Needed: Flexible
Suitable for Adults 21 or older
Difficulty Level (Moderate): Campground hosting requires interaction with campground visitors by providing assistance with general information and campground rules and regulations of the campground facility. Duties may require general cleaning and maintenance of the campground.
Opportunity Description:
This volunteer opportunity may include general clean up, picking up trash, restroom cleaning, and assistance with general facility maintenance projects.

Private Pesticide Applicator Permit Training set for Monday, February 27

The Winston County Extension Office will hold a training and exam session needed to get a new private pesticide applicators permit or renew an existing permit.  This program will be held on Monday, February 27, at the First National Bank meeting room in Double Springs.  The meeting will be at 6 p.m.  No pre-registration is needed. 

There will be no charge for this educational program, but the three-year permit from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries costs $25.  At this program, participants will cover the basics needed for the exam.  Participants have the option to use a take-home self-study packet at any time of year; however, most farmers and forestland owners find it more convenient to take the test at this class.

Most farmers in Winston County get this permit so that they can buy Grazon (2,4-D+picloram) for pasture weed control.  However, this permit will allow the holder to purchase many other restricted use pesticides.  For more information, call Mike Henshaw at (205) 489-5376.

Arbor Week Tree Give Away

The Winston County Natural Resources Council will hold their annual tree giveaway on Thursday, February 23, 2012, at 9 a.m.  The tree giveaway will be held at the Alabama Forestry Commission's office at 225 Coats Street in Double Springs.  The office is located approximately .3 mile from the Winston County Courthouse, just off Blake Drive at the old TMA Sawmill site.

Species available this year are Blackgum, Beauty Berry, Shumard Oak, Cherrybark Oak, Nutall Oak, Sawtooth Oak, Overcup Oak, Green Ash, Crepe Myrtle, Redbud, Chinese Elm, Bald Cypress, Japanese Maple, Chickasaw Plum, Oak Leaf Hydrangea, River Birch, Crabapple, and Longleaf Pine.

The tree giveaway is held each year in conjunction with Arbor Week in Alabama, which is celebrated the last full week in February.  Along with the seedling, you will receive a fact sheet about the particular species you have chosen.  For more information, call 205 489-5014.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ron Eakes of Alabama Wins Lifetime Achievement Award For Excellence in Conservation

Ron Eakes of Alabama Wins Lifetime Achievement Award For Excellence in Conservation

National Wild Turkey Federation

EDGEFIELD, S.C. -- Ron Eakes of Trinity, Ala., earned the NWTF's prestigious Wayne Bailey Lifetime Achievement Award for his life-long commitment to conservation.
Eakes accepted the award during the NWTF's 36th annual National Convention and Sport Show in Nashville, Tenn. MidwayUSA was the official show sponsor.
"I was floored to even be considered for this award," Eakes said. "For 40 years I have been studying conservation, volunteering for conservation projects or participating on a professional level. Being honored with this award for simply following my passion means the world to me."
A biologist who recently retired from the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Eakes received the award to honor his 27 years of conservation work that played an important part in restoring wild turkey populations in North America.
"Wayne Bailey was known to many as the godfather of modern turkey management and was a key player in the development of the NWTF," said James Earl Kenammer, Ph.D., NWTF's chief conservation officer. "Ron's work is the embodiment of what Wayne Bailey stood for and he truly deserves this honor. The NWTF could ask for no better partner."
Eakes has a long history of collaborating with the NWTF. He served on the NWTF Technical Committee for 15 years and worked with the Alabama NWTF board of directors on a range of projects. Eakes played an important role in the acquisition of public hunting lands by the Alabama DCNR and the Alabama State Chapter of the NWTF, which purchased 22,000 acres for public use over a 10-year period.
The NWTF is a nonprofit conservation organization that works daily to further its mission of conserving the wild turkey, upland habitat and preserving our hunting heritage.
Through dynamic partnerships with state, federal and provincial wildlife agencies, the NWTF and its members have helped restore wild turkey populations across the country, spending more than $372 million to conserve 17 million acres of habitat for all types of wildlife.