1520112.jpgSchool of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Associate Professor of Forestry Silviculture, Edward Loewenstein, was quoted in an article (March 12) that is circulating around the state which discusses the compounded problems of drought and pine beetle infestation expected to have a severe impact on Alabama's forestry industry this year.

"We're in crisis right now because any organism that's under stress is less able to deal with stress, and all of our pine beetles, bark beetles are stressors to trees," Loewenstein said. "When you've got this extraordinary drought like we had this past year, that is a huge stressor put on not only individual trees but entire stands and entire landscapes."

Follow the below link to read the full article.


When Food Plots Fail

fawn.jpgCurrent drought conditions in Alabama left many hunters unable to plant fall food plots. Those that did plant likely have very poor food plots due to the lack of rain. While food plots provide great hunting areas, and food in times of nutritional stress, they are only one very small piece of the puzzle when it comes managing for deer and other wildlife. Those that have been managing for natural food sources likely have healthier deer herds, and increased deer sightings.

Of course, one of the most important sources of food for deer in the fall is acorns. Acorn production can actually be increased by "releasing" oak trees by removing nearby trees. This practice will allow the canopy of the released tree to expand, leaving a bigger canopy and more space for acorns to grow.

Thinning forests to release oak trees has additional benefits to wildlife such as deer. When trees are removed from a forest, sunlight is allowed to reach forest floor and soft plants will grow. Plants such as strawberry bush, grape, and greenbriar are nutritious, and highly preferred by deer. Not only will deer browse on these all year, they also create cover for fawning.

Natural deer foods can also be created by managing fallow fields and pine plantations. Remember, food plots are just a tiny piece of the puzzle when managing for deer and other wildlife. Successful land managers and deer hunters provide a variety of foods.


Drought Conditions and Acorn Production

Many species of wildlife, both game and non-game, feast on the acorns crops that Alabama's native oak trees provide each fall. Hunters are well aware of this, and find success deer and squirrel hunting near mast producing oak trees as the acorns fall. This year, many hunters and land managers are questioning whether the drought will negatively affect the acorn crop this fall.

When considering the production of acorns in oak trees, the most important thing to remember is that acorn production is variable. For example, white oaks, on average, will only produce a quality crop of acorns every 2 out of 5 years. There is also variability within individual trees: some trees are simply better acorn producers than others.

White Tail Buck

This variability can be caused by a number of factors, but research has shown that drought conditions during the summer can have a negative impact on acorn production in several different oak species. Other factors that may influence acorn production are poor pollination, late spring frosts, and acorn weevil depredation.

So, what can land managers do to improve the production of oak trees? Many have tried to fertilize oak trees to increase acorn production, but there is no research that has proven this to work. Thus, it is not recommended and is considered a waste of funds.

What land managers can do to increase acorn production is to manage the trees for large canopies. Acorns grow on the tips of branches, so trees with large canopies usually produce greater acorn crops. To increase the canopy of trees, neighboring trees must be removed to leave room for the remaining trees: this is called releasing the tree. The released trees will receive more sunlight and other nutrients, and will be able to expand. This is demonstrated in urban areas, where tree spacing is large and trees are allowed to grow. Of course, trees that have demonstrated superior acorn production should be the ones chosen for release.


Drought Conditions Leave Deer Susceptible to EHD

dead buck carcas in woodsEpizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) and the closely related blue-tongue disease can kill both deer and cattle. Both diseases are spread to deer, cattle, and other ruminants (but not humans) through tiny biting midges. These midges breed in shallow margins of ponds. Ideal conditions are warm water with low oxygen and high nutrients. Cattle ponds are often perfect areas for the insects to breed.

The current drought creates perfect conditions for the midge. Ponds and other water holes are drying up, and the remaining water will be warm, muddy, and high in nutrient contents. While deer usually receive a large portion of their water from succulent plants, drought conditions cause forage quality and moisture content to drop, forcing deer to head to ponds to drink. This increases the contact that deer will have with the biting midges.

Dead deer found in and around water would be the most obvious sign of EDH. Since the disease causes a fever, deer will seek water to cool off, where they often expire. Earlier signs of EHD include weakness, swollen head, neck, tongue, and eyelids. They may also lose their fear of man, and may show ulcers on their tongue and irregular hoof growth. Deer will usually pass within 10 days of infection.

Land managers can provide clean sources of water for wildlife using plastic swimming pools or cattle troughs. Of course, The water in these will need to be cleaned out frequently to prevent further spread of disease. If you suspect you may have confirmed a case of EHD, please contact your local extension agenet.


By: Spenser Bradley, ACES Forestry, Wildlife & Natural Resource Managament Regional Agent


Current drought conditions have left many Alabama cattle producers scrambling to find hay as pastures dry up. This hay will likely be coming from areas that have received ample amounts of rain. Unfortunately, moving hay may also lead to spreading cogongrass.

Cogongrass is a very aggressive, invasive perennial grass that is native to Japan. It was likely brought into Alabama through packing materials in the early 1900s, and is now designated as the world's seventh worst weed. In natural habitats, it will outcompete native plants and eventually create a continuous "sea" of cogongrass. The grass is highly flammable, and can create a fire hazard that can damage pine plantations, and even property. It will invade pastures, row crops, right-of-ways, and open forests.

 One of the first steps to preventing the spread of cogongrass is learning what it looks like. It will often grow in dense circular shaped mats, and reaches heights of around 4 feet. It has very short stems, and long, finely serrated leaves.  Finally, in the late spring and early summer cogongrass has a fluffy white seed head. Each of these seed heads contain as many as 3,000 seeds. Finally, the plant has long, white rhizomes.

Cogongrass is often spread by inadvertently spreading the seeds and rhizomes. These seeds will stick to trucks, tractors, clothing, and boots. The rhizomes can also be transported through tractor implements and tires. Remember to clean all equipment if you suspect that cogongrass may be present. Early detection of cogongrass makes controlling the invasive plant much easier.



By: Spenser Bradley, Regional Forestry, Wildlife and Natural Resources Agent

Ips are usually not a problem in cooler weather (below 59 degrees F), but our warm, dry September and October this year has stressed trees and made ideal conditions for the rapid reproduction of Ips Bark Beetles. 

To clean up this site and hopefully keep further attacks from happening, the landowner had recently killed trees removed from the site quickly.  This practice will eliminate or slow the spread of this insect.  Move harvested trees (tops and all) away from standing, healthy trees, especially in warm season harvests.  

So, the case of the dying pines has been solved.  Or has it? 

While there is no doubt that the Ips beetle attack contributed to the loss of these trees.  But were they really a symptom/result of something else?   In our final installment, we will look at forest stand factors that could have also contributed to this event.

We decided that the galleries looked more "H" shaped.  As we continued to probe, we found a small brown beetle (pictured here) under the bark in the area of the galleries.  What could it be?  Our list of suspects: Southern Pine Beetle, Black Turpentine Beetle, and Ips Bark Beetle.

Southern Pine Beetles are usually brown to black with a rounded rear end.  This beetle is brown with a more flattened rear.  Southern Pine Beetles make "S" shaped galleries.  Ok, so not Southern Pine Beetle. 

Then we thought about Black Turpentine Beetle, but they make pitch tubes on the lower trunk.  As was mentioned in the last entry, there was no obvious damage on the lower bole of the tree.  So, that probably eliminates Black Turpentine Beetle. 

Then we thought about Ips Bark Beetles.  These beetles are brown, with a flattened or "scooped out" rear end.  They may or may not make pitch tubes, and make "H" or "Y" shaped galleries.  Although they often are found in recently felled trees and logging debris, they can attack weakened, stressed standing trees.  In these cases they are usually found in the upper tree stem and at the base of branches.  Bingo!  Ips Bark Beetle is our offender!!  In future posts we will follow up with what control methods the landowner decided on and information on what could have done to potentially prevent this unfortunate event.


As we continued our investigation into "The case of the dying pines", the landowner stated that his trees were about 22 or so years old.  We looked around the base of the trees for sawdust or other signs of insect activity – like pitch tubes, but didn't see anything.  The landowner then cut down some of the dying trees so we could take a closer look at the stem further up the tree.  Once the trees were on the ground, we noticed bark was missing on the upper bole of the tree.  Upon closer examination we found "galleries" in the wood on the main stem in the area of the tree crown.  The pictures here show those galleries and larva.  Notice the shape of the galleries.  Do they look more "S" shaped, "H" shaped, or "Y" shaped?  Hmmmm...  Time to look for more evidence…  Check back tomorrow as we continue to report on what we found.

IMG_0719.JPG IMG_0711.JPGIMG_0715.JPG

Last week I made a landowner visit to look at some dying loblolly pine.  According to the landowner the trees were dying daily.  A few had turned brown, and so they were cut.  Then about two days later, more turned brown in another spot, and still more were not looking so good.  The images here show what the area looked like when I arrived.  Why were these trees dying?  What do you think is happening? Look for more posts over the next few days as we go through what was causing the death of these trees and what, if anything, could have been done to possibly prevent it. 


Deer Fawn in McNabbs backyardYesterday morning, on the way into work, I saw my 1st roadkilled fawn of the year, so I knew the time was near. Sure enough, this morning I received my 1st phone call of the year about an orphaned fawn. With the occurrence of these 2 events, it seems a good time to re-post a blog by Kelly Knowles and to reference the publication that provides some factual information about fawns that people see this time of year.

Find a Deer Fawn?

A doe spends very little time with her fawn the first weeks after its birth to minimize the chance that predators will find it by tracking her scent. It’s illegal to be in possession of white-tailed deer fawns because its best chance of survival is in the wild, undisturbed by humans. This publication debunks several myths about “abandoned” fawns and offers suggestions about what to do if you find a fawn without its mother.

For more information, please see the ACES Publication Lost, Abandoned, or Orphaned Deer Fawns - ANR-1396


Mark D. Smith, Stephen S. Ditchkoff, Jim Armstrong

               By using trail cameras, many landowners and hunters have some idea of what mature bucks are living on or near their hunting land. But far fewer have a grasp on the overall condition of their deer herd. Trail cameras are a great tool for not only for deciding which big buck you will set your sights on during hunting season, but also for managing and improving your deer herd as a whole. Conducting a camera survey can provide the landowner or manager with information on sex ratio, relative age, general health, antler growth, fawn production, and recruitment, all of which will help to guide harvest and land management decisions.  Perhaps most important, if surveys are conducted over multiple seasons or years, the information gathered can help to track significant changes in herd characteristics and allow for focused, proactive herd and land management​.

                Right now (late summer/early fall) is an ideal time to conduct a camera survey because most fawns have been birthed and are mobile, antlers are close to full-development, and since acorns have yet to drop, most deer will readily come to bait sites. Late winter/early spring (after hunting season has closed) is another good time. The survey should span a length of 10-14 consecutive days and camera density should consist of 1-camera per 100 acres. Be sure to place cameras in areas of high deer activity, such as feeders, deer trails, scrapes, natural funnels, and water sources. Baiting 7-10 days prior and during the survey will greatly improve the survey's success and accuracy; after all, the goal is to get as many deer on camera as possible. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has produced publication ANR-1895 Managing White-Tailed Deer: Camera Surveys which outlines many of the details and considerations to take into account regarding a camera survey. 

                After the survey is complete, photos must be examined for total fawns, does, and bucks and unique bucks must be determined and counted. A free computation form may be found at www.qdma.com which will help calculate the statistics of does: buck, fawns: doe, acres/deer, and deer/square mile. This information can aid in developing sound harvest and management strategies and can be used to provide data that supports the formation of local hunting cooperatives (i.e. those hunting families, clubs, or groups from nearby or surrounding properties that wish to manage towards a common goal). State and private wildlife biologists can assist you with interpreting the results and provide recommendations towards deer harvest and land management to maintain or improve your deer herd.

Deer Camera.jpg

            It is still important to understand that camera surveys are not a substitute for gathering information such as weight, age, and lactation rates from harvested deer. Harvest data provides critical information about herd health and composition and should be used alongside camera survey data to develop appropriate management recommendations. Detail on this important management practice can be found in extension publication ANR-1412 Managing White-tailed Deer: Collecting Data from Harvested Deer.

Information like this and so much more is available at your counties Alabama Cooperative Extension System office or on-line at www.aces.edu. Please give us a call, visit us on the internet, or make a visit!

Norm Haley
Regional Extension Agent I – Forestry, Wildlife, & Natural Resources
Alabama Cooperative Extension System
500 Grand Ave. SW, Suite 300
Fort Payne, AL 35967
Office: 256-845-8595
Cell:    256-630-4248
Fax:    256-845-8596

overgrown earth damWinter offers a great time to inspect and maintain your pond dam and water control structures. Temperatures are cool, the leaves are off the trees, and most snakes have gone to hibernation. Annual inspection and care of your pond dam and water control structures not only serves as peace of mind knowing that your upstream and downstream investments are secure, but also in the safety of others downstream. After all, a breached pond dam can create a staggering amount of force and damage to downstream areas and can be very costly to repair. However, there are several steps that you can take to reduce the risk of dam and drain failure.

One of the most important steps in dam maintenance is mowing throughout the season. Trees and shrubs are some of the leading causes of dam leaks and failures. Large woody plants that are allowed to grow anywhere on the dam may cause leaks as their root systems penetrate the dam’s clay core. Additionally, when the plants die and their roots decompose, voids are left in the dam and leaks can develop. If you’ve already got established trees or shrubs on your dam (anything with a trunk greater than 6” diameter at breast height) your best option is to keep them as healthy as possible. Removing large trees or shrubs from a dam is more likely to cause leaks as their roots decay than if they are left healthy and standing.

Perhaps the simplest form of maintenance is checking and clearing your water control structures from debris. These include your trash rack, standpipe (both ends), and both the principal and emergency spillways. Often times, leaf litter and limbs will accumulate on these structures and this debris slows water movement during high rain or flow through events, increasing the risk of flooding. If a pond level exceeds the height of the dam and begins to wash over; it may only take a few minutes for the dam to erode and wash away…along with the rest of your pond. Be sure to install, repair, or replace trash racks over your ponds standpipe as necessary as they can rust off or the grates can break and bend.

When examining a dam it is very important to keep an eye out for any damage caused by wildlife. If beaver or muskrat are using your pond, they should be removed immediately. Besides the obvious problems of cutting desirable trees and vegetation along the pond, they often attempt to make their homes inside of the pond dam. Beaver or muskrat that burrow into your pond dam can cause substantial leaks and dam failure. Additionally, these and other animals can attempt to clog or nest in the standpipe on the downstream side of the dam so be sure to check that both ends are cleaned out. Also, cattle should not be allowed any access to a pond dam. Cattle that walk on pond dams can create issues with erosion as vegetation is destroyed. It is suggested that cattle be fenced out of the pond or allowed limited access if it is used to water.

Lastly, for those ponds that were constructed with a valve to serve as a control for water level, now is a good time to exercise/operate the control structure. This is done to keep your control valve in good working order. Valves that are left unused for years at a time will often become inoperable. Because of this, caution and best judgment should be used in deciding whether it is safe to open any pond valve. Older ponds or those valves that have not been operated on a regular basis can often fail to open or seize and fail to close leaving a pond to helplessly drain. Use your own discretion!

Checking these pond maintenance chores off of your list will help to prolong the life of your pond and allow for peace of mind knowing that your ponds dam and water control structures are sound. Information like this and so much more is available at your counties Alabama Cooperative Extension System office. Please give us a call or make a visit!

Norm Haley
Regional Extension Agent I – Forestry, Wildlife, & Natural Resources
Alabama Cooperative Extension System
DeKalb County Extension Office
500 Grand Ave. SW, Suite 300
Fort Payne, AL 35967
Office: 256-845-8595
Cell: 256-630-4248
Fax: 256-845-8596

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